Strong Claims Need Strong Documentation. Ultimately, the greatest weakness of this book comes down to the title of the review – and the reason for both star deductions here. The text is barely documented at all, coming in at just 10% or so of the overall text – well below the 20-30% which is more typical in my extensive experience reading advance reviewer copies of nonfiction texts. Though as I’ve begun noting of late, I may need to revise that expectation down a touch – to 15%, not 10%. The other star deduction comes from the other part of the title – while the overall premise about the titular Outrage Machine seems sound and the explanations directly on it seem fairly spot-on, Rose-Stockwell uses the sciences, history, and even semi-current events in a way that actually brings to mind the practice rampant in the Christian nonfiction space known as “prooftexting”, wherein Bible verses are cited outside of their context, and often even contrary to their original context, in “proof” of some point or another. Here, Rose-Stockwell does this with the sciences and history, both near and far. Yes, many of the examples he cites seem at least somewhat relevant, but even in the most relevant of them (such as his discussion of COVID), he ignores and even denigrates needed context which deviates from his intention. At other times, he simply gets the needed context quite wrong, which was particularly noticeable in his treatment of some of the issues surrounding the Founding of the United States and which other, far more well documented, texts have explored in much more and more even depth.
All of this noted, to be crystal clear, this really is an important book that when focusing on its central premise of the Outrage Machine and how it works both now and throughout history, is actually quite good. I was simply hoping for a better argued, perhaps slightly more academically rigorous, explanation of the topic at hand – and this is almost more of a memoir form of discussing how Rose-Stockwell realized the idea himself and came to explain it to himself, if that makes any sense. But again, truly an important work that can legitimately add to the overall discussion, and thus recommended.
This review of Outrage Machine by Tobias Rose-Stockwell was originally written on May 2, 2023.
Contempt Is The Dissolver Of Unions. Yes, that is a particularly memorable line from the book – and a warning. Here, Samson discusses the history, biology, and sociology of our “Tribe Drive” – ongoing and apparently bleeding edge research in all three fields – and shows how it has brought us to where we are… and how we can better utilize it to achieve a more peaceable and prosperous future for all. Yes, some of this book is a touch… out there… for some, such as Samson’s admitting to basing some of his thinking of this topic on his use of psychedelic mushrooms, peyote, and similar compounds. And yes, there are things here that partisans left and right will likely complain about – some legitimately, some less so. And yes, in ultimately recommending a form of at minimum confederation of federated governments – if not outright anarchism, which he discusses without ever using the term, yet never precludes that the groups he discusses could become official “governments” – perhaps Samson is even a touch idealistic. And yet, the documentation is solid at around 20% of the text (not counting footnote discussions at the end of each chapter, which may bump that to around 22-25% of the text). Further, the book lays bare in scientific terms that which I’ve largely understood and have been advocating at various points for the last 15 years or so, through my own active political activism days and into my efforts to promote reading and literacy now.
Overall an intriguing, thought out book and one that adds greatly to the overall conversation around groups, governments, coalitions, and politics, and thus one that anyone who seeks to truly understand and use these concepts truly needs to read and understand. Very much recommended.
This review of Our Tribal Future by David R. Samson was originally written on April 1, 2023.
Come For The Twin / Mental Illness / Addiction / Mob Story. Stay For The Badass Twin Tattoo. This story is some interesting/ weird melding of a twin study and most any mob-based story. The driving focus is a pair of mirror twins and one of the twins’ mental illness and descent into addiction, and this slow burn story – taking place over roughly a decade of their lives – does a great job of showing the havoc it can wreak. And yet, the story never actually feels preachy, and Kain even manages to convey just how giving the one twin is and how menacing the other twin can be. Along the way we even get elements of The Hundred Foot Journey, which was an interesting addition to the overall tale. A strong work for a promising debut author, and very much recommended.
This review of Secrets In The Mirror by Leslie Kain was originally written on September 10, 2022.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. On the one hand, if this text is true, the words often attributed to Mark Twain have likely never been more true. If this text is true, you can effectively toss out any and all probaballistic claims you’ve ever heard. Which means virtually everything about any social science (psychology, sociology, etc). The vast bulk of climate science. Indeed, most anything that cannot be repeatedly accurately measured in verifiable ways is pretty much *gone*. On the other, the claims herein could be seen as constituting yet another battle in yet another Ivory Tower world with little real-world implications at all. Indeed, one section in particular – where the author imagines a super computer trained in the ways of the opposing camp and an unknowing statistics student – could be argued as being little more than a straight up straw man attack. And it is these very points – regarding the possibility of this being little more than an Ivory Tower battle and the seeming straw man – that form part of the reasoning for the star deduction. The other two points are these: 1) Lack of bibliography. As the text repeatedly and painfully makes the point of astounding claims requiring astounding proof, the fact that this bibliography is only about 10% of this (advance reader copy, so potentially fixable before publication) copy is quite remarkable. Particularly when considering that other science books this reader has read within the last few weeks have made far less astounding claims and yet had much lengthier bibliographies. 2) There isn’t a way around this one: This is one *dense* book. I fully cop to not being able to follow *all* of the math, but the explanations seem reasonable themselves. This is simply an extremely dense book that someone that hasn’t had at least Statistics 1 in college likely won’t be able to follow at all, even as it not only proposes new systems of statistics but also follows the historical development of statistics and statistical thinking. And it is based, largely, on a paper that came out roughly when this reader was indeed *in* said Statistics 1 class in college – 2003. As to the actual mathematical arguments presented here and their validity, this reader will simply note that he has but a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – and thus at least *some* knowledge of the field, but isn’t anywhere near being able to confirm or refute someone possessing a PhD in some Statistics-adjacent field. But as someone who reads many books across many genres and disciplines, the overall points made in this one… well, go back to the beginning of the review. If true, they are indeed earth quaking if not shattering. But one could easily see them to just as likely be just another academic war. In the end, this is a book that is indeed recommended, though one may wish to assess their own mathematical and statistical knowledge before attempting to read this polemic.
This review of Bernoulli’s Fallacy by Aubrey Clayton was originally written on April 5, 2021.
The Chances Are Good That This Is A Solid Book. Blatchley does an excellent job of looking at the various reasons why we believe in luck, from the societal to the social to the psychological and even the biological. And she does it with enough precision to do justice to the mathematics involved, but with enough generality to be enjoyable to a non-mathematics-oriented public. Overall an excellent “popular science” level look at the subject at hand, and very much recommended.
This review of What Are The Chances by Barbara Blatchley was originally written on March 10, 2021.
Blatantly Hypocritical, Yet Strong Discussion Regardless. Davis repeatedly claims that he is not “selling a particular religion, creed, or cause”… and yet the very subtitle of the book is “The *CASE* for Commitment…” (emphasis mine). Though to be fair, the examples Davis cites tend to be individual trees, while making the case that they are representative of the forest they are in. Davis, in this text, isn’t selling a tree – he is trying to sell the forest. Yet he *is* trying to sell a *particular* forest – the forest of long standing and wide reaching oaks, rather than the taller, shallower, and less connected pines. Still, the case he makes (and I’m forgiving the lack of bibliography, for the moment, as this was an ARC – though I *do* expect an extensive one to be provided in the published edition), is at minimum worthy of consideration and discussion. Yes, the language choices are a bit leftist at times, and yes, there are a few holes in the logic and reasonings, but overall, the case made is an interesting contrast to the currently dominant thinking, and this is why I’m willing to overlook the lack of bibliography in this ARC and rate the book at 4, rather than 3, stars. In the end, an interesting take on things that perhaps goes a bit *too* far at times, but is a refreshing change of pace at others. Recommended.
This review of Dedicated by Pete Davis was originally written on February 20, 2021.