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The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,985 ratings  ·  289 reviews
Will Storr was in the tropical north of Australia, excavating fossils with a celebrity creationist, when he 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 jou
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 6th 2014 by Harry N. Abrams (first published January 1st 2013)
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Petra X insecurity is paranoia
I don't understand this, Christianity is a monothesist religion but sound more like a dualism with two supremely opposed Gods each with their own realm in the hereafter:

"When God says something's wrong, the Devil's out to do anything to convince us it's right."
"But if you follow that logic, any thought we have that goes against the Bible is the Devil. So we're not allowed to think for ourselves."
"We are allowed to think for ourselves. Your first step is thinking that God's wiser than me so I wi
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to David by: Peter Mcloughlin
This is a fascinating work of investigative journalism. The author, Will Storr, examines a range of beliefs that are antithetical to science, history, and even common sense. He interviews people who have these strange beliefs, and digs in deep. He tries to understand why people have these beliefs, their motivations, their way of thinking. Storr sometimes mentions the contradictions between these crazy ideas and reality--and listens carefully as these people rationalize their beliefs.

Storr interv
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the beginning of this book the author sets out a simple concept in a way that hadn’t previously occurred to me. It’s self-evident that each of us thinks our opinions are correct, but none of us will ever encounter another person who agrees with us 100%. It follows that either an individual considers themselves the cleverest person in the world, or each of us accepts that some of our opinions are wrong. It’s in this spirit that the author seeks to find out more about those who hold unconventio ...more
B Schrodinger
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, atheism
In my mind Will Storr is the brilliant love-child of Mary Roach and Louis Theroux, both of whom I adore. I think Will may have to join their lofty heights in my respectability/adoration mind shrine.

Will's "Will Storr vs the Supernatural" was a wonderful and random find that I made several years ago. Will took it upon himself, Louis Theroux style, to get immersed in the lore and activity of the supernatural. What was different about the other supernatural books is that Will approached it from a
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not a "debunker" book as I originally expected. Storr not only meets with intelligent people who believe in non-scientific ideas (Holocaust deniers, young-earthers, past life explorers, etc.), he investigates recent studies in psychology and neuroscience to learn why people will ignore overwhelming evidence to the contrary to passionately pursue such outsider lifestyles. His discoveries point out, not so much how different they are, but how alike we all are in the way we construct our versions o ...more
Manuel Antão
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Closed Shop Approach: "The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science" by Will Storr

One obvious reason for this failure to communicate is the lack of science education beyond school. So that those who didn't succeed at it when young are forever excluded. If chemistry, for example, was offered more as a adult education class science would appear less as an exclusive group that only a small number can be part of.

That early en
Jun 22, 2014 rated it liked it
A book about cognitive biases leading people astray wherein the author is led astray by his own cognitive biases.

To back up, the author of this book spends his time interviewing various eccentric characters, including famous creationists who think the world is literally 6,000 years old, swammis who believe deep meditation can cure any ailment (well, except for AIDS), Hitler enthusiasts who think that the Holocaust was made up (or at least grossly exaggerated), climate change deniers and famous
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a fascinating read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn't what I expected going in. Instead of just being tales of wacky people with wacky beliefs, it was really an examination of why we believe what we do, sometimes even in the face of contrary facts. It's a reminder that none of us are ever entirely free of bias. ...more
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: societies
I once read that many psychiatrists enter the field because they have issues of their own to work out. I thought about that as I read this book. Will Storr is certainly brave, baring his soul about his bouts with alcoholism, kleptomania, and destructive personal relationships, and the years of therapy that resulted. Some of this is cringe-inducing to read. It made me wonder if writing the book was partly therapy, an attempt to confront his own demons and understand what thinking processes had le ...more
Book Riot Community
Not the most festive of books but bloody gripping all the same, this is Storr’s attempts to understand why people believe the things they do, even if the world tells them they’re wrong. Storr meets religious leaders, hardcore sceptics and bunch of quirky characters inbetween and even delves into the neuroscience. (Realising how untrustworthy your own beliefs are is a little unnerving.) It’s the sort of book you’ll feel the need to share fascinating facts from at regular intervals. — Rachel Weber ...more
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
It was not until the chapter during which Storr describes attending the exact same Austin, Texas conference of Morgellons sufferers that Leslie Jamison describes in a chapter of The Empathy Exams - and quotes the same/similar overheard conversations - that I grasped what this book was actually achieving: The Unpersuadables is a series of empathy exams absent the high-minded literary experiments or the self-regard Jamison required to explore the capacity. And Storr passes every exam. He doesn't r ...more
Journalist and author, Will Storr, did an outstanding job on this treatise about the "Enemies of Science". Reading the jacket blurb, I thought at first that this book might be a timely accounting of those deplorable "unpersuadables" who balk at rationality and facts and cling wholeheartedly to their beliefs in conspiracy theories, literal creationism, impending alien invasion, or any other of myriad pet models of alternative reality. Storr starts out in this vein, but I really like the way he co ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read but I feel like Mr Storr might have bitten off a bit more than he can chew. Ostensibly a book about 'why people believe things which are clearly crazy', this tome bounces from false memories, to confirmation bias, to psychosomatic illnesses, to holocaust deniers, to hearing voices, to homeopathy.... he seems to be trying to answer the question 'how do people formulate ideas' and that, in my opinion, is just too broad for any single person to answer.

Storr is brillian
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Unpersuadables is sold as an exploration into groups of people who hold wacky beliefs, such as young-earth creationists, holocaust deniers, UFO enthusiasts, people convinced they are infected with parasites that excrete fibers through their skin, and those who believe homeopathy or meditation can cure cancer and diabetes. These exposes are as fascinating as you would expect, and Storr does an excellent job of conveying the real vigor with which the supporters of these ideas defend them, how ...more
Terry Noel
May 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Storr promises to document and explain why some people cling to beliefs that are completely at odds with reality. Instead, he delivers a stream of half-digested doubt that humans are capable of rational behavior at all.

To his credit, Storr sources credible authorities on the mechanisms that stand between us and a clear-headed view of the world. Biases and acculturation are the major drivers of human behavior, we are told repeatedly. He despairs of any of us being able to examine our own thought
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating read, primarily, from my vantage point, because the author's interviews were with people I have never really listened to. When someone tells me they are a creationist, I dismiss them or avoid going further, and thus never hear what they really think and why. I appreciated his effort to understand them and why people believe what they do, even in the face of reason or science. And it was probably important for me to hear that the skeptics (read Randi as an example) are badl ...more
Christopher Farnsworth
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is, as the saying goes, a wholly remarkable book. Anyone who read Storr's earlier Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural knows about Storr's gifts as a journalist: his honesty and his ability to reach into the stranger reaches of belief without condescension or snark. This could have been a book that just went from one outpost of the fringe to the next, with an occasional aside about the anti-vaxxer and creationist crowd. And that would have been an entertaining and useful read. But Storr goes far ...more
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: highly-readable
Irritating but righteous. Not quite what it looks like: another Ronson-Theroux journalist, accosting another set of tragicomic kooks).

OK, it is that, but it's also a grim reflection on how confusing and muddy the world is, on the universality of extreme bias - plus dollops of Storr's personal traumas and peccadilloes. (Half the book is his confessing to childhood theft, psychosis, academic failure, and petty vendettas.) Rather than getting to the bottom of ESP, or morgellons, or homeopathy, or
Don’t judge this book by its cover. From it, we expect to learn what is wrong with all those other people who believe in superstitious nonsense. And indeed we go down that route, but he gradually turns on those of us on the “right” side, showing how we are subject to the same types of confirmation bias as the crazies. Some reviewers who prefer their biases to be confirmed complain the book is not the one they wanted to read. Where is the righteous damnation of the deluded ones?

It is clear that o
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: what-happened
There are people who believe that creationism should be taught in science class, that we can visit past lives, and/or that climate change is a hoax. Nothing can convince them they're wrong. Storr's The Unpersuadables attempts to figure out how the rest of us should understand such people. What are the things that make people unpersuadable, or as I tend to think of them, unreachable? Information and identity, it turns out.

Storr visits creationists. It's become fashionable to find the New Atheists
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite what I was expecting but enjoyable none the less.

I initially gave it a three star review but had to give it a grudging fourth star because while I feel he comes a bit close to, as the aphorism quoted in the book goes to "having so open a mind that it falls out", his concerns about the absolute certainty of the Skeptics and Materialist Fundamentalists (Dawkins et al) resonated with me. In a phone conversation with the author, Professor David Eagleman encapsulates how I feel; after firs
Aug 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was really excited about the premise of the book, but I guess I shouldn't have let my excitement persuade me that this book would be more than what the synopsis says it is. This book is really just a collection of stories about 'heretics' (people who believe 'fringe' or non-traditional world-views), with very little in the form of cohesion or analysis. Although Storr goes to great lengths to point out that he is potentially no more 'right' about the world than they are, he continually uses lan ...more
Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler
While I have a rather more optimistic view of the human situation than the one at which Will Storr arrives in this book, I think he sets a very good example through his approach to investigating deviant belief systems. He has also written a supremely entertaining book, at times very funny and at other times disturbing. He has a fine sense of ironic detail when relating his encounters with the heretics and also those who might be viewed as orthodox, but who are capable of their own absurdities.

Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly engrossing selection of essays recounting Storr's encounters with science rejectionists and others of similar worldview, from climate-change denier and compulsive self-aggrandizer Christopher Monckton to creationist John Mackay to revisionist historian David Irving to the guru and faith healer Swami Ramdev to . . .

. . . well, to Rupert Sheldrake, who exemplifies one of the problems I have with this book, which is that a few of the interview subjects can't really be described as "ene
Spandan Sharma
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Without a doubt one of THE best books I've read in 2019. A fascinating study into how belief systems and what we CHOOSE to believe in can influence -- and even shape -- the reality we see around us. 11/10, would definitely recommend as a must-read for everyone! ...more
Steve Rainwater
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Creationists, past life regressionists, climate science deniers, holocaust deniers, alien abductees, anti-vaxxers; the list of bizarre beliefs that contradict science, facts, and reason seems to be growing.

There are many books debunking these things but Will Storr has a unique approach to the subject. He wants to get to know the people who have weird beliefs and try to understand why they have them. He approaches the subject with journalistic objectivity rather than skepticism. No matter how cr
Peter Colclasure
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on the title, you might presume that this a book where some smug, condescending liberal goes around mocking his intellectual inferiors.

This is not that book.

Here’s what he writes in the first chapter:

“I consider—as everyone surely does—that my opinions are the correct ones. And yet, I have never met anyone whose every single thought I agreed with. When you take these two positions together, they have a way of saying, ‘Nobody is as right about as many things as me.’ And that cannot be true
Fred Forbes
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Looking for answers to why folks believe the things they do, despite strong evidence to the contrary was my main attraction to this book as I see it play out daily on social media. Unfortunately, much of the book is taken up with digressions into the author's personal mental and family issues and it is quite distracting. I did find the recap of the meetings with the holocaust deniers, alien abduction victims, alternate medicine believers, creationists, etc. to be interesting and enjoyed some of ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book begins with a story that hooked me right from the get go: The author, Will Storr, spends a few days hunting fossils with a celebrated and highly intelligent creationist. The creationist feels that fossil evidence proves, in a scientific sense, the existence of a 6000 year old earth as commonly interpreted from the bible. A debate ensues between the two of them and both sides feel like their respective facts just slide right off of the other. Both leave the room unhappy that the other r ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
The upside: Storr is a skillful and humane writer, who structures the narrative flawlessly, is honest about his shortcomings and treats his subjects with far more respect than I would have been able to give them, so that they come off looking perhaps (certainly!) deluded but neither stupid nor evil. In that, he is superior to the majority of skeptical writing. This is one of the best overviews of quackery and charlatanry, with interesting asides on brain function and belief formation, even thoug ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine of "Heretics" dupes 2 22 Mar 07, 2013 02:26PM  

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Will Storr is a long-form journalist, novelist and reportage photographer. His features have appeared in The Guardian Weekend, The Telegraph Magazine, The Times Magazine, The Observer Magazine, The Sunday Times Style and GQ, and he is a contributing editor at Esquire. He has reported from the refugee camps of Africa, the war-torn departments of rural Colombia and the remote Aboriginal communities ...more

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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
16 likes · 5 comments
“By the time you have reached adulthood, your brain has decided how the world works–how a table looks and feels, how liquids and authority figures behave, how scary are rats. It has made countless billions of little insights and decisions. It has made its mind up. From then on in, its treatment of any new information that runs counter to those views can sometimes be brutal. Your brain is surprisingly reluctant to change its mind. Rather than going through the difficulties involved in rearranging itself to reflect the truth, it often prefers to fool you. So it distorts. It forgets. It projects. It lies.” 12 likes
“We typically have a bias that tells us we are less susceptible to bias than everyone else.” 11 likes
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