wheening and curmudging

I finished Francis Wheen’s book Idiot Proof, which I really wanted to like. It was billed as a defense of Enlightenment ideals against modern medievalism and stupidity, a cause which I support. And there is a lot of good stuff in there. Wheen doesn’t hold back against his targets, most of whom deserve a good tongue-lashing: New Agers, religious zealots, “New Economy” jerks, and other fuzzy-minded failures.

Unfortunately there isn’t much holding all this together. He had a good thesis, that the Enlightenment ideal of rationality is under attack. However he spends most of the book just ranting at various individuals and groups he can’t stand rather than making a reasoned argument. So what could have been a rallying point turns out to be a list of things this one guy doesn’t like. I’m not sure how the dot-com mania fits in, for example. It was dumb and silly, but just the way businesspeople always are.

Three stars out of five. Pick it up used for five bucks, or check it out of the library, for a few laughs. Not worth $25.

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