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Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered To Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science And Fake History

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  294 ratings  ·  65 reviews
We are being overwhelmed by nonsense about science, medicine and history. False information - 'counterknowledge' - has reached epidemic proportions. This hard-hitting and controversial book leads the fight back.We are being swamped by dangerous nonsense. From 9/11 conspiracy theories to Holocaust denial, creationism to alternative medicine, there is now an epidemic of demo ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published 2008
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I wanted to like this book. Honestly I did. But Damian Thompson was just such an unappealing advocate for the forces of reason. Although not as overtly obnoxious as - say - Christopher Hitchens (or Richard Dawkins, in his more recent writings), he doesn't manage to avoid the trap of self-righteous superiority. After a couple of chapters, it's like being trapped at a dinner party with a know-it-all guest - you don't care how right he is - you just wish he'd shut up already.

Not that his targets ar
Eric Woodard
I had high hopes for this book, hoping to find studies and facts refuting modern conspiracy theories like alternative medicine and 9/11 truthers. However, what I found was a slim volume that spent more time asserting its truth than proving it (ironic, considering that was the tactic he criticized in his opponents).

The main problem with the book was its tone. It was written for somebody who already believed that this counterknowledge was pseudoscience--that audience was invited to sneer and deri
Damian Thompson lays out the very considerable problem of a failure in critical thinking that has so deeply permeated popular culture. In many ways I found his assessment to be quite significant, if not specifically enumerated in ways that exclude certain issues that do indeed have solid scientific bases. On the whole he is quite on the mark as far as he goes.

My concern is that he becomes rather redundant in his complaint and offers little in the way of a prescription that would solve the probl
Counterknowledge is a slim book about a big problem: the rising tide of pseudo-science and conspiracy-mongering that threatens to drown out real, empirical science and history in the public consciousness. It gets off to a promising start, but unfortunately it drifts for a dozen chapters before sputtering to a non-finish.

Thompson makes noises indicating that he'll address (at least in his eyes) the root causes of his rising tide. What he does is rant for a couple hundred pages about trends that a
You think all of this Aztec calendar stuff is bizarre? It’s just a U.S. tradition. Damian Thompson’s Counterknowledge: How we surrendered to conspiracy theories, quack medicine, bogus science, and fake history has an amazing number of them. [Please note that all page numbers in this review correspond to my eBook edition.] For example, Samuel Davies Baldwin published a book in 1854 that asserted that Armageddon would be fought on U.S. soil, that the Semites were an inferior “yellow” race, that th ...more
I had an odd experience with this book, in that I agreed with pretty much everything the author said, but I didn't like the book. One of my main problems with it is that it has a pervasive hateful tone. It would have been better with less emotion and more analysis. Instead of a well thought out response to people who embrace conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and pseudo-history, it comes off as an angry rant, which makes it hard to take very seriously. secondly, and admittedly this is probably ...more
Having had time to digest this book, I think a lot of people's reviews on this book miss the point. Read the subtitle again: "How We Surrendered To Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science And Fake History."

Notice the subtitle is not "How to Refute Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science And Fake History" or "How to Stop Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science And Fake History."

"Counterknowledge" does not dive deep into refuting pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and w
This review is a little low in stars because I think the book could have used some editing and some deeper analysis in parts. But perhaps 2 stars is too low, because some this author presented some excellent points, albeit from a seemingly conservative view (meaning that he harped on the left wing too much), about the rise of "knowledge" that is not empirically based that is being touted as such. Examples he describes are beliefs in creationism, despite the near universal acceptance in the scien ...more
Jul 07, 2009 Andrew rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Do yourself a favour and don't bother with this book. I enjoy reading books about skepticism and science, so thought this would be an interesting and informative read. While I agree with just about everything written here, this book is useless in its stated purpose of combating what the author refers to as “counterknowledge” (belief in information that is demonstrably false).

A book about facts and reason should probably not rely so much on logical fallacies, faulty premises, and ad hominem attac
Krishna Kumar
The author describes how pseudo-science is being packaged and marketed heavily today and becoming more popular than ever. He shows how professional tricksters (without any professional credentials) have hijacked discussion on nutrition, medicine and vaccination. More people are falling prey to these tricks, making them rich and, thus, further encouraging more of the same. Respected publishing houses, not wanting to be left behind in the money game, are actively encouraging conspiracy theorists a ...more
The author warns us: 'Credulous thinking is spreading through society as fast and silently as a virus, and no one has a clue how long the epidemic will last'. Indeed and, such book is therefore more than welcomed, just because it is an attempt among others to debunk all the bullshit circling around -from alternative medicine to conspiracy theories and fake history to creationism. That Damian Thompson here points fingers and laughs surely is very enjoyable and entertaining. However, as for his go ...more
The author debunks the pseudoscience and pseudohistory that have allowed what would once have been marginal ideas believed only be a few eccentrics and extremists to become mainstream. Not the book to read to debunk any individual idea or theory as he does not include enough detail, but worth reading to get a handle on the growth of "counterknowledge".
Pat Shackleford
I expected some PC hitpiece against the fringe right wing. Not only does this book rail against creation science it also goes against the feminist anti-vaccination movement and the rewriting of African history of afrocentrism. This book has some bad reviews just because of the confirmation biased left wingers who only dislike christian pseudoscience. If you like left wing hit pieces this book isn't for you.

An other complaint is that the book doesn't spend much time "debunking" the myths but mos
We are drowning in a sea of lies and fakery, aided and abetted by the Internet culture's anything-goes mentality, warns Thompson (Waiting for Antichrist, 2005, etc.).In this slim but tough-minded book, the editor in chief of Britain's Catholic Herald newspaper argues that the Web-enabled proliferation of alternative theories and speculations challenging orthodox beliefs on everything from evolution to 9/11 are nothing short of a looming disaster for civilization. Thompson takes a cold chisel to ...more
I was going to give this book 1 star, but it did make me think and got my "dander up" so for that reason i gave it 2. I found myself a little angry over all the "ridiculous, batty, ludicrous, and horseshit": terms he used to describe Mormonism, creation theory, Scientology, and alien abductions. The author rants about all this and more, but never really quite puts forth "evidence" backing up his ways of thinking. His obvious disdain for the public being able to think/believe what we want, floore ...more
In many ways this is a complementary volume to Andrew Keen's 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur and, going back a little earlier, Francis Wheen's 2004 polemic How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World: all three are concerned with how, in the name of in other contexts laudable principles like democracy and freedom of speech, we're selling out to the ignorant, the biased, the secret corporation shills, the bullies, and the batshit crazy. It's a fairly short book, and it romps lightly and very readably t ...more
I would actually rate this book a 2 1/2. It definitely makes one think about the seemingly endless information swirling around that gets a foothold with a large segment of the population even though it is largely unchallenged in terms of scientific rigor. This view feeds into my fear (perhaps also counterknowledge?) that the world is becoming, generally speaking, less educated even though so many now have access to "information". Though parts of the world do have greater access to books, the int ...more
This is a quick read that clearly reflects the dismay that many people feel about the retreat from rationalism - a retreat that seems to be on the increase.
The author makes a useful distinction between counterknowledge, described as misinformation packaged to look like fact, and non-fundamentalist religion, which is based on the faith of the individual.
There isn't a lot of new ground covered here. One only has to scan the media for all sorts of accounts of crazy ideas without a shred of scienti
Strictly 3 stars. Not half a star more, not half a star less.

It took me some time to decide in which genre exactly I'd place this book after I was done reading it. And after much thought, I settled upon 'socio-political commentary'.

To start with what's good about this book - it takes up the responsibility of bashing up conspiracy theorists, bogus historians, quack medicine practitioners & anti-Darwin theorists. Without sounding anti-Islamic, he rightly states that Islamic studies desperately
Jeremiah Genest
This book was going along okay, not the best I had read on the topic but tolerable. To be fair, the author's British perspective was refreshing on many of the issues he decided to cover (by no means a comprehensive one, for example he ignores climate change deniers). His coverage of intelligent design among Muslim groups was new to me, though I should have become suspicious at this point about his manner of blaming the "leftist" press. And then it came together in the final chapter where the aut ...more
An important polemic, but begs the question - if the placebo effect is so powerful, why doesn't modern medicine make more use of it? Also, his conflation of Homeopathy with other traditional forms of medicine like Chinese or Ayurveda is simplistic. Traditional cultures have used herbs and potions that they've noticed work for some diseases over the years. Not all such medicines probably work and I'm sure they don't work as well as modern medicines where the active ingredient of these herbs has b ...more
Nicole Daley
The book Counterknowledge by Damian Thompson is about conpiracy's. Conspiracy's such as 9/11,Holocaust,medicine and other things throughout history. For example for 9/11 they uses different things to state that it was planned. Another example is for medicine and how the MMR vaccine is linked to autism.
I like how Damian was trying to raise awarness to these conspiracy's in history. I also liked how the book made you question your own thoughts on what you believe with things lsuch as 9/11.
I did n
Steve Duffy
It's interesting that at the very beginning of the postscript to his Counterknowledge", Damian Thompson mentions exactly the two books that I kept thinking of all the way through reading his own. Francis Wheen's "How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions" and Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time" cover much of the same ground as Thompson's short volume, and I'd recommend them both as being ...more
Brad Forbes
This book was not too bad, but could have been better. The author theorizes that we are devolving in to a society where there is no difference between fiction and reality; that people are buying in to worldviews that can be proven false. For example, he goes in to a good discussion of historical fiction, which is presented as fact in most cases (such as a book that leads the reader to believe that the Chinese landed in America decades before Columbus). Governments have used popular historical fi ...more
Jay Eckard
There are very few books about which I would say to my friends "Stop whatever you're doing and read this NOW!" But this is such a book. It cogently examines deeply disturbing trends in our society: essentially, our collectively diminishing ability to think critically and skeptically.

The author examines three fringe areas -- 'alternative' medicine, conspiracy theory and pseudohistory -- and examines their recent rise in popularity and how all their claims can easily dismissed. He also discusses
Casper Gasper
This is an angry, brilliant rant on the growing culture of misinformation. Are you a 9/11 conspiracy theorist? Sceptical about global warming, think the moon landings were fake, the Holocaust was exaggerated and the evidence for evolution isn't compelling? Perhaps you think China discovered America in 1421, or that Homeopathy does actually work? If you answer yes to any of these questions, this book is for you.

Although all these principles have been demolished elsewhere, what makes this book so
Well written. I expected the author to just bash right wing views but he bashed both right and left views. He was bold enough to point out that nobody will address the growing radical Muslim counter culture in Europe.
This book launches a brilliantly concerted attack on quackery, conspirary theories, and fake history. It is a very interesting read and, albeit sadly, a very necessary one in today's anxious world.
Христо Блажев
“Counterknowledge” – още една доза трезва рационалност

Знайно е, че обичам такива книги и ми се ще в България да се превеждаха (а защо не и пишеха?) повече от тях – рационално-скептични, безценни помощници в разгромяването на безбройните шарлатанщини, които пълнят публичното пространство и си осигуряват баснословни печалби от масовото невежество и лековерие (шишетата “Флашка” са добър пример). За беда човек предпочита да вярва в красиво опакованата лъжа, а
Katherine Rowland
In the main, I agreed with a lot of what this author had to say: we are swamped as never before with misinformation disguised as fact. The tone of the book--glib and condescending--was off-putting. The book did what the title said it would: it explored and examined pseudoknowledge. In the end, however, it was very much like listening to someone complain about how winter is cold, or how summer is hot: that's all well and miserable, but what do we do about it? Being angry and smug doesn't seem ver ...more
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English journalist, editor and author.

He has written two books about apocalyptic belief and one about conspiracy theories or "counterknowledge", which he describes as "misinformation packaged to look like fact"
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