2017, Books, Non-Fiction

Weaponized Lies (2017) by Daniel J. Levitin

This is a layman’s summary of how to understand probability and statistics and other critical thinking tools Levitin feels are necessary to have in the era of “Post-Truth”. It’s very much meant for the lay reader and it’s likely an expert in statistics or (especially) probability will be bored and possibly even annoyed. At this point I must note that I listened to the audio book, which is a mistake. This is a book with lots of graphics. I didn’t know that going in but had I known I would have taken that book out instead.

This is, on the whole, a pretty great summary of how to think critically about the news and what you can and can’t trust on the internet. The coverage of probability and statistics reminds me of what I learned in introductory classes in University, but they are classes I hadn’t taken in a decade and a half, so the refresher was good. (Also, this is a more entertaining version, even if it’s still a little dry.)

But this is very much the primary focus of the book. Though Levitin does go into other forms of critical thinking, his approach is much more skin-deep with these other approaches, particularly logical fallacies. His treatment of logical fallacies could be heavily criticized because there are way better (and more entertaining and less formal) treatments out there. It begs the question, why even cover it? (The answer is because he has to given his subject matter.)

But I still think it’s worth the read, especially if you find yourself arguing with other people who insist you are completely wrong about the nature of the world. Before telling them you are right, read this book and then apply these standards to your sources of knowledge. If your sources hold up, then you can start arguing with other people.

8/10 I guess

Note: This book originally appeared in 2016 as A Field Guide to Lies.

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