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Lewis Wolpert

Six impossible things before breakfast

Beliefs are strange things - people tend to stick to them despite contrary evidence. In Six impossible things before breakfast Lewis Wolpert looks at how we come by our beliefs, and puts forward a theory that we naturally try to find a causal explanation for things, even when there is insufficient information to do so. He shows how tool use goes hand in hand with a causal view of the world. If you're interested in the nature of belief then you'll find plenty of useful information in this book. However, I did have severe misgivings about some of Wolpert's arguments.

Firstly Wolpert claims that he tries not to belittle other people's beliefs. I feel that he fails in this attempt. Clearly he is very knowledgeable, but rather than critically examining his own beliefs he gives the impression that he knows better than everyone else. Wolpert's breadth of knowledge brings me on to my second complaint - he doesn't always stick to the point in an argument, and sometimes a sentence seems to change tack in the middle. Another thing that irritated me was his comments on the difficulty people have in logical thinking, such as assessing the validity of syllogisms. I can't help feeling 'so what' - some things are difficult to work out and we shouldn't expect them to come naturally. They don't to me and they don't to Wolpert either it seems (as far as I can tell he gets the third example wrong)  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews