The tag line of Will Storr’s The Heretics is Adventures with the Enemies of Science and it is a book about science and about people who don’t believe the scientific “facts”. It is also a deeply thought-provoking book because it forces you to question your assumptions about the things that you believe.
Storr meets a variety of people, from Creationists to people who believe that they’ve been abducted by aliens to rationalists, and actually listens to what the people are saying with an open mind and, in the process, ends up opening your mind to the unstated assumptions that we all make about the things that we believe in.
I hesitate to write about the book in these terms because it sounds like I’m talking about a book about thinking or philosophy. At its heart, The Heretics is a fascinating reportage-cum-commentary on different “belief systems” that people have and the sort of continuum on which those belief systems lie.
In the aftermath of the Donald Trump election, when people were talking about books to recommend to understand liberal versus conservative perspectives, I thought that The Heretics would be a good book to read because it shows you how to understand points of view that you think might even be absurd and with that understanding there is a chance of empathy.
I think that we could all use a little more empathy in our lives.
PS: I’ve a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that this “review” has not done justice to the book, so if you feel that way, please check out this interview with Will Storr, which has a nice background of the book and the author explaining why he wrote the book.