The following are some books and DVDs on skeptically related subjects that I have found useful and interesting, and that I recommend. Where noted, I have also written more detailed reviews. Clicking the Amazon Icon will take you straight to the Amazon.com page where you can place your order. And if you do, a few cents even goes to Skeptico. Don’t worry, Amazon can afford it.
In no particular order, and subject to update, are my recommendations.
Why Evolution Is True
|Full review to follow.|
The Greatest Show On Earth
|Full review to follow.|
The Mask of Nostradamus
|This is a fascinating book by James Randi that should permanently debunk the idea that Nostradamus could ever predict anything. Randi examines the many predictions Nostradamus made for people during his lifetime, and discovers that virtually nothing he predicted, when it could be checked, came true. All of Nostradamus’ well known supposed successes are explained and debunked.
I wrote a more detailed review of this book –Nostradumass, which is not a typo.
|Phil Plait’s excellent first book where he debunks (among other things), the idea that the Apollo Moon landings were faked. But there’s more than just debunkings. From explanations as to why we have the seasons to examples of bad astronomy in Hollywood movies (yes, I was shocked too), this is an invaluable reference to what really is going on in the skies.|
Penn & Teller’s Bullsh*t!
|These are the DVDs from Penn Teller’s “Bullshit!” TV show. It’s P&T’s expose of things that they think are, well, bullshit.
I’ve found this series to be a good way of introducing non-skeptics to skeptical thinking. While few people will want to wade through Shermer’s book (good though it is), you can persuade most people to watch a funny half hour DVD segment. And it’s certainly funny. From exposing how three feng shui experts all recommend entirely different furniture arrangement schemes (despite supposedly using the same “science”), to how bottled water drinkers waxed lyrical about several different specialty spring waters (despite the fact that they all came from the same garden hose), humor is always an aim.
I don’t always agree with every episode or every subject they tackle, but they get more right than they get wrong and they are always entertaining. The DVDs also contain bonus material such as an interview with James Randi.
I wrote a more detailed review of disk one of the series, here: Featured DVD – Penn & Teller.
Why People Believe Weird things
|Michael Shermer's masterpiece on “Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time.” Shermer insists it’s not (just) dumb people who believe in dumb things. Later versions of this book include the reason even smart people can believe in weird things: smart people believe in weird things because they are very good at defending positions they arrived at through non-smart reasons. Which explains the problems skeptics have in changing people’s minds: you can’t reason someone out of a belief they didn’t reason in in the first place.|
|Another book by The Amazing Randi. Here Randi exposes many paranormal frauds, from the (rather dated) Cottingley Fairies, through more modern parapsychologists such as Targ and Puthoff (“The Laurel & Hardy of Psi”). It also includes many hilarious tests of dowsers. (Spoiler alert – they all failed.) As a skilled conjurer, Randi can spot a trickster where a mere scientist would be fooled. Over 300 pages of fascinating insights into the world of deception.|
The Selfish Gene
|This is by that master in explaining the beauty of evolution – Richard Dawkins. From the basic biology to the detailed explanations of how specific traits within individual species, evolved, this book represent the most informative read on the subject of evolution that the layman will probably get anywhere. You’ll understand evolution much better for reading it.
The Demon-Haunted World
|Carl Sagan’s “Science as a Candle in the Dark”. Includes his original “pink unicorn in my garage” analogy, as well as his famous “fine art of baloney detection.” This is a elegant and very readable explanation of why science is "the most precious thing" we have. No one could explain science and skepticism the way Sagan could, without talking down to those who disagreed with him, but while still getting his point across.||
Cosmos: Carl Sagan (7 DVD Set)
|More from Sagan. Billions and billions! Sagan never actually said that, although he does say “billions” quite a bit on these DVDs.
A superb DVD set digitally remastered, that has for the most part stood the test of time. The history of the cosmos, from the big bang to how all life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor. Hard to imagine that people are still debating this 30 years after Sagan dealt with it so well.
The Atheism Tapes
|Despite the name this is actually two DVDs. They consist of Jonathan Miller's interviews, on the subject of atheism, with:
Full review of The Atheism Tapes.