By Loren Collins
Prometheus Books, $19.00, 267 pages
In Bullspotting, author Collins walks the reader through common logical fallacies and the habit of critical thinking to do as the title suggests – spot “bull,” or nonsense. The book began as a response to the “birther” movement – the belief that President Obama, despite all evidence to the contrary, was not born in the United States, thus negating his eligibility as President. The project then expanded to other such extraordinary claims that ignore evidence from the more common of Creationism; that the earth is 5,000 years old, to the more bizarre of shape-shifting reptilians; that our leaders are really lizards in disguise. Collins groups these odd beliefs by chapter: “conspiracy theories,” “hoaxes,” “pseudoscience,” examining them to show that although each may actually be true – maybe the pyramids were built by space aliens – the evidence to date suggests otherwise.
“As little as I think of David Icke and his theory of shape-shifting reptilians, if I were to watch President Obama turn into a lizard-man during the State of the Union address, I would be forced to reconsider my previous stance.”
This is a valuable book, particularly in an age of more misinformation than not. Collins introduces the reader to a series of tools for critical thinking, such as Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is probably the correct. (Obama probably was born in the Honolulu hospital down the street from his family home; his mother didn’t smuggle him into Kenya to be born then sneak him back into the U.S. and fake his birth certificate). Such tools may preserve the reader’s sanity if not convince a diehard birther.
Reviewed by Stacia Levy