Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review by Lorilyn Roberts of "Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense" by J. Steve Miller and Cherie K. Miller


When I began reading "Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense," I was surprised to discover people who I thought were brilliant—like Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein—sometimes believed nonsense. They might have been brilliant, but their thinking was also flawed at times in significant ways. The number of examples J. Miller gives showing how successful people succumb to fallacious thinking surprised me.

Dozens of illustrations of fallacious thinking are cited, including misinterpreting data, drawing erroneous conclusions, asking incorrect questions, exuding overconfidence, being under-confident, married to brands, blinded by prejudices, and on and on. I had a few "ouch" moments myself. I have fallen into some of these ridiculous ways of thinking without even being aware of it.

As an author, I found many parts of the book enlightening. For example, how to ask deeper questions when developing the plot, taking the time to reflect and not make quick assumptions.  I write historical fiction—know my sources, if they are authentic. Are they accurate? (As I work on "The City in the Seventh Dimension Series," I found this especially convicting as I've come across many conspiracy series dealing with the last days).

J. Miller used the example of author Dan Brown and “The Da Vinci Code.” Mr. Brown relied too heavily on conspiracy theories and not enough on solid historical facts. Thus, his book lacked the authenticity it needed to be true, and too many people "bought" into the idea of it being accurate without a thorough examination of the sources.  This is just one example of many that Mr. Miller expounded on to show why brilliant people believe nonsense.

If the smartest people in history have made some of these common mistakes, how many more have the rest of us made? And can we become better thinkers? "Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense" can make us aware of these fallacies and challenge us to think more creatively and intuitively.

Hopefully, the insights I've gleaned will allow me to write more thought-provoking books and be aware of the pitfalls of erroneous thinking. “Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense” is a great read for anyone who enjoys learning how to be a better thinker, and the fascinating stories woven through the pages about people we all know and respect makes this book a delightfully entertaining read.



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