TITLE: The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science
AUTHOR: Will Storr
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Science, Religion
PUBLISHED: March 2014
MOBILISM LINK: Read now
PURCHASE LINK: Amazon
Description: While excavating fossils in the tropics of Australia with a celebrity creationist, Will Storr asked himself a simple question. Why don’t facts work? Why, that is, did the obviously intelligent man beside him sincerely believe in Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden and a six-thousand-year-old Earth, in spite of the evidence against them?
It was the start of a journey that would lead Storr all over the world — from Texas to Warsaw to the Outer Hebrides — meeting an extraordinary cast of modern heretics whom he tries his best to understand. Storr tours Holocaust sites with famed denier David Irving and a band of neo-Nazis, experiences his own murder during "past life regression" hypnosis, discusses the looming One World Government with an iconic climate skeptic, and investigates the tragic life and death of a woman who believed her parents were high priests in a baby-eating cult.
Using a unique mix of highly personal memoir, investigative journalism, and the latest research from neuroscience and experimental psychology, Storr reveals how the stories we tell ourselves about the world invisibly shape our beliefs, and how the neurological "hero maker" inside us all can so easily lead to self-deception, toxic partisanship and science denial.
Review: After reading The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science by Will Storr last week, its message has stayed with me. Thanks to this book, some of my fondly held beliefs have become less rigid. I cannot help now wanting to encourage others to read it.
Storr provides a timely lesson in the tolerance of people whose beliefs oppose, even strongly, one's own. His uncomfortable and compelling conclusion: Each one of us is an 'unpersuadable'.
We all have biases formed by our brains that are not based on reason, but on instinct, hunch, and gut-level emotion. These biases form during childhood, and by adolescence have hardened and receded into our unconscious. From thence forward, these biases underlie the stories we tell ourselves, both about ourselves and about our social and physical environments. We continually expand on and embellish these narratives, which in turn form our beliefs and shape our behaviour. Because none of us can escape our humanity, skeptics are no less immune to holding unexamined, rigid attitudes.
Storr writes in an engaging, self-effacing style, which makes this book easy and fun to read.
The philosopher Dr James Garvey told me...
"Most people would say that something’s true if it corresponds to the way the world is. This view goes back to Aristotle. But there are other people who prefer the coherence theory of truth, which says that if you have a completely coherent set of beliefs, that tends to be a true set of beliefs."
Over the last few days, I have become convinced that the coherence theory could not be more wrong. If a person’s set of beliefs all cohere, it means that they are telling themselves a highly successful story. It means that their confabulation is so rich and deep and all-enveloping that almost every living particle of nuance and doubt has been suffocated. Which says to me, their brains are working brilliantly, and their confabulated tale is not to be trusted.
For me, The Unpersuadables has been a necessary and humbling reading experience, a lesson in humility. I cannot thank the author enough for that.
(With the escalation of intolerance in the U.S. and globally, to the point of reaching even the top-most echelons of power, people really should read books such as The Unpersuadables. I can't escape a feeling of urgency. We all must take a step back, read, and reflect.)