Book Review: Th!nk

Why crucial decisions can’t be made in the blink of an eye
by Michael R. LeGault
2006, THRESHOLD EDITIONS, 336 pages

Think_1On the heels of the popular 2005 book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell—which argues that we know things a lot more subconsciously and immediately than we often realize—Michael LeGault says, “We make knowledge the old-fashioned way, we noodle it out.”

LeGault holds that to arrive at knowledge requires a good deal of work in the pedestrian fields of logic.  And the book, mainly by reference to modern-day omissions of that logic, shows us the importance of the fading art of thinking.

Think! is best when identifying widespread symptoms of unreason:

  • By objective measures, performance in science, math, reading, and problem-solving skills is worsening dramatically, across all levels of American education.
  • The number of people believing in paranormal phenomena continues to advance at an alarming pace.
  • Americans spend 170 minutes daily watching TV or video images vs. 35 minutes reading.
  • Children are becoming addicts to psychotropic drugs, chiefly Ritalin and Prozac, in record numbers in the drug-free zones of government schools.
  • Assuring that children feel good about themselves has become more important than giving them the conceptual tools to survive and prosper.
  • Political correctness in academia overrules science: when studies—particularly those concerning race and gender—conflict with emotions, emotions dictate policy.
  • Many social commentators, particularly environmental advocates, slip shoddy reasoning into their pointed analyses.

Reading the author’s comments on that last observation, it brings to mind that 75% of the American public believed Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 911.  Or that some incredibly high number of people do not believe in anthropogenic (man-caused) global warming.

LeGault doesn’t lay any gloves on these errors, though.

Conservative in the mold of the Reason Foundation or The Ayn Rand Institute, the author seems to imply Republicans are virtuous market capitalists, the US government (esp. when controlled by Republicans) commits no egregious crimes against humanity, and that when it comes to ecology, ExxonMobil’s PR machinery is far more reliable than communities of government-funded scientists.

That’s not completely fair.  LeGault would give a balanced analytical approach to any assertion, from left or right.  He simply tends to omit documenting excesses of unreason when they originate from corporatists and their apologists.

Plus, it seems if you’re going to talk about lack of reason, you need to hook horns with all matter of logical problems with religious faith.  Yet, a Sam Harris Michael LeGault is not.  Nor need be.

Any elaborate prescription LeGault may have for this rampant emotionalism and faulty noodling he identifies is hard to locate.  I can see the author putting his hands on the shoulders of millions of people, shaking them vigorously and admonishing, “Doggone it, dudes, think, will you?!”

Not sure how useful that is for everyone, but it works for me.  And I’m happy to see some balance to the impression that may have been wrongly given in Blink that genuine knowledge should be automatic.

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