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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Subversive Thinking responds to Mesner review of The Spiritual Brain

Jime Sanaka kindly writes to say:
I wrote in my blog a long reply to Doug Mesner's uncharitable review of your book Any feedback or comments would be much appreciated.
Sanaka has this episode in mind. He writes,
(Remember that Mesner's review was written for the Skeptic Magazine; thus, his rhetorical tactics explained in this post makes full sense if you keep in mind to what audience his review is presented to. He's trying to reach the audience of that magazine and prevent the readers to actually read the book. Given that most of the readers of that magazine are materialistic atheists or agnostics, and many of them openly hostile to religion, Mesner's rhetorical strategy to discredit the book associating it with creationism and religion will work for that audience)

Note that Mesner quoted part of the information in the inside flap of the book (an information likely added by the publisher, not by the authors; omitting this possibility, Mesner uses such information to cast doubts about the authors' intellectual honesty).
Sanaka is certainly correct about that. Authors have very little to say, usually, about the promotional copy written for their book, beyond correcting the most basic errors of fact. I have been formally advised by literary coaches to be cautious about bugging the publicist about anything else, because publishers' staff can lose interest in a book whose authors are a pain to work with.

Anyway, you are quite right: If someone wants to review a book, positively or negatively, it is best to focus on what the authors say in their own words, not what the publicist says.

For example, for the record, I am not Denis Leary (a man) and do not have a degree from MIT, as some have claimed on the Internet. I have an honours degree in English Language and Literature from Sir Wilfred Laurier University ('71). That's the level at which I have the right to protest what is said about me.

My main complaint about the approach of the Skeptics at Skeptic Magazine is that, so far as I can see, they major in one-way skepticism. They are skeptical about some things, but not others. So there is no internal check for their own biases.

For example, faced with a story about healing through prayer, they would immediately seek to debunk it, irrespective of evidence.

As a Catholic, I believe that healing through prayer happens - but that, of course, does not require me to believe every such story I hear - or even most of them. Mine is a two-way skepticism about such matters.

Again, thanks much, Mr. Sanaka, and by the way, your English is very good.

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