Book Review: Stuart Sutherland ~ Irrationality: The enemy within (with Ben Goldacre and James Bell) (1992)(2013)

This book trampled on my intellectual pretensions. Sutherland’s 23 chapters whittle away confidence until you wonder how you managed to get out of bed successfully.

His case studies are stunning. Chapter 10 Ignoring the evidence concerns Admiral Kimmel’s belief that the Japanese weren’t going to attack Pearl Harbour in 1941. “In consequence, at weekends there were sixty American warships anchored in Pearl Harbor and the airports on Hawaii contained lines of planes wing-tip to wing-tip.” P95ff The Japanese promptly destroyed virtually the entire armed might of the US Pacific fleet and air force in one fell swoop.

Chapter 19 False Inferences discusses risks and true probability, “The irrationality of the extreme fear of nuclear reactors can be illustrated by contrasting it with people’s attitudes to X-rays. Each radiologist in Britain administers to his patients annually a dose of radiation equivalent to the entire output of the Sellafield reprocessing plant. This is equivalent to about 1,600 reactors spread over Britain ‘disguised as hospitals’….“p186

If you want a bracing read this well written book is for you.

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