Book Review – Counterknowledge (Damian Thompson)

Posted: January 2, 2014 in Books

A rather short but interesting read by Damian Thompson which ticks the boxes of your middle-aged cynic.


The premise is pretty straight forward, it’s an attempt at highlighting some of the main sources of ‘pseudo-science.’ A couple of examples being ‘Intelligent Design’/Creationism and homeopathy. Thompson throws a few more into the mix but you get the idea. The book does this pretty well illustrating the tricks the guys behind this kind of marketing use to get their message across. The attempts at passing off anecdotal opinion as being genuine fact and in some cases just plain old outright lying because it suits their message better than the truth.

Thompson also does well by illustrating these activities and in some cases how well they have infiltrated modern belief. He cites some great examples of people being scared to call ‘bunkum’ on the those issuing this kind of bullshit in case they appear politically incorrect and in some cases racist. I particularly liked his point that by calling out a Holocaust denier the world would pat your back, but call out a black person who has written an inaccurate account of African history and suddenly you’re looking at a very different can of worms.

It’s an interesting subject and the author makes some great points, so it’s a good read then, right? Alas, not quite so much. It’s certainly an interesting read and I’ll always find time for someone prepared to hit out at Creationism being passed off as science. I really liked the subject, but despite this the book didn’t really grip me. Somehow it felt a bit dull. I can’t help but think the books put out by the very people he would try to expose as ‘quacks’ and snake-oil salesmen would have been better written, and that’s just one of the reasons they will still continue to sell, no matter how little truth is in them.

Final verdict: 3/5, short (140 pages plus references), worth a read but not worth paying full price for.


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