The Irrational Ape (Europe / UK title)
/ Good Thinking (North American title)
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Why did revolutionary China consider the humble sparrow an "animal of capitalism", and what was the unintended consequence of their audacious plan to wipe them out?
Pope Formosus’s silence during a trial condemned him – why did he not speak out in his defence?
If one in 10,000 suffer from an illness, and the test is 99.99 per cent accurate – what are the odds that a positive result means one has the disease?
What are conspiracy theories so popular, and what do conspiracy theorists consistently get wrong?
Just how much can we trust our memories and perceptions?
Why are topics like climate change and vaccination still so contentious in the public mind, when the scientific evidence is so clear?
It may seem like a big claim, but knowing how to think clearly and critically has literally saved the world. In September 1983, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s early warning system showed five US missiles heading towards the country. Stanislaw Petrov knew his duty: he was to inform Moscow that nuclear war had begun, so that they could launch an immediate and devastating response. Instead, he made a call to say the system was faulty and should be switched off. He’d assessed the situation and reasoned that an error was more likely than such a limited attack.
In The Irrational Ape, Dr. David Robert Grimes shows how easy it is to be lured into making critical mistakes or drawing false conclusions, and how to avoid such errors. We may not have to save the planet from nuclear annihilation, of course, but our ability to think critically has never been more important. In a world where fake news, mistrust of experts, prejudice and ignorance all too often hold sway, we can all too easily be misled. Access to all the knowledge in the world is at our fingertips, yet that also means misinformation and falsehoods can perpetuate further and faster than ever before. From healthcare to geo-politics, no subject is immune to the assertions of the misguided or the malicious, with detrimental consequences for all of us. In an era where we are constantly bombarded with misinformation, skewed logic, devious rhetoric, and our own psychological biases can leave us less informed, and more divided.
Fortunately, we can learn from our mistakes, and by critical thinking and scientific method we can discover how to apply the techniques outlined here to everything from deciding what insurance to buy to averting global disaster. Packed with fascinating case studies and an eccentric cast of real characters from murderous popes, to conspiracy theorists, ancient cults, snake-oil salesmen, fraudulent psychics, unethical doctors, reality TV stars, and superstitious pigeons, The Irrational Ape (Good Thinking in North America) shows how we can marshal reason and reflection to ensure we are ready for the modern world.