Critical Thinking

Early in higher education I taught incoming students how to succeed in college. Shockingly, I discovered that 24 out of 25 of my students had never been exposed to critical thinking tools such as identifying logical fallacies. Later, teaching students from all levels, I found extremely few were being taught such skills in college.

Writing a book as a text for a class that’s not typically taught isn’t good business. To make it even worse business, besides selling in hard copy, I offer it free as a .pdf on Kennesaw State’s Digital Commons. That way, high school or college professors or home schoolers can use it, in whole or in part, free of charge with their students. Hey, I’m serious about getting this out there!

Recent surveys of over 1,000 recruiters rank creative and strategic thinking at the top of their lists for both what they’re looking for in candidates, and what they’re having a hard time finding. This book, in an accessible, practical and entertaining way, equips readers to meet these needs, as well as to:

•Think more clearly

•Innovate more creatively

•Manage life’s decisions with more confidence

•Simplify complex and convoluted arguments

•Express convictions more powerfully

Targeting high school seniors and college freshmen, but useful to all adult readers, Cherie and I examine surprising and costly mental errors made by respected business leaders, entertainment moguls, musicians, scientists, civic leaders, generals and academics. Then, we draw practical applications to help readers avoid such mistakes and think more creatively in each field.

Twenty-five chapters address innovation, outside-the-box thinking, creativity, questioning expert opinion, developing idea-driven cultures in businesses, research, logic, worldviews, crowd sourcing, paradigms, harnessing the power of teams, deductive and inductive thinking, etc.

Chapter Titles

Why do brilliant people believe nonsense?

Chapter 1 – They’re Overconfident

Chapter 2 – They’re Under Confident

Chapter 3 – They’re Married to Brands

Chapter 4 – They’re Blinded by Prejudices, Preconceptions and Biases

Chapter 5 – They Believe What They Want to Believe

Chapter 6 – They’re Trapped by Traditions

Chapter 7 – They Fail to Identify Hidden Assumptions

Chapter 8 – They Underestimate the Power of the Paradigm

Chapter 9 – They Fail to Account for Worldviews

Chapter 10 – They Contradict, Leave Out Valid Options, and Knock Down Straw Men

Chapter 11 – They Fall for Other Common Fallacies

Chapter 12 – They Either Fail to Recognize Fallacies, or Misapply The Ones They Know

Chapter 13 – They Draw Conclusions from Inadequate Evidence

Chapter 14 – They’re Snowed by Success Bias

Chapter 15 – They “Discover” Meaningless Patterns

Chapter 16 – They Fail to Closely Examine Statistics

Chapter 17 – They Make Common Statistical Blunders

Chapter 18 – They Fail to Learn from History

Chapter 19 – They Learn the Wrong Lessons from History

Chapter 20 – They Miss Subtle Shifts in Word Meanings

Chapter 21 – They Misinterpret Phrases and Sentences

Chapter 22 – They Use Faulty Parallels and Analogies

Chapter 23 – They Fail to Identify and Interpret Fiction and Figurative Language

Chapter 24 – They’re Overwhelmed by Their Emotions and Passions

Chapter 25 – They Fail to Reason with Emotional Intelligence and Common Sense


“Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense should be must reading, not just for every college freshman, but for anyone who wants to think clearly and rationally…an exceptionally fine book. Having taught science at Harvard, I’m well aware of how even the brightest students can draw wrong conclusions. This book would be a great foundation for anyone beginning college, or simply beginning adult life.”Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, former professor of Environmental Physics, Harvard University

“Brilliant! Every high school senior and college freshman should devour this book.” – Dr. Robert McGinnis, educator and author.

“Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense” is a tour-de-force comprised of eight sections, twenty-five chapters, eight (count ’em, eight) appendices, and 400+pages, all directed to the end of inculcating in the reader the ability to reason well. In this compulsively readable work Steve Miller and Cherie Miller offer an invaluable tour of critical thinking and life wisdom. Countless fascinating anecdotes keep the reader turning the pages, and every story has a lesson to teach, an insight to bestow. “Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense” is an ideal handbook for good reasoning and wise living in the twenty-first century.Dr. Randal Rauser, Professor of Historical Theology, Taylor Seminary.

Over a span of 25 chapters and 400 plus pages, the Millers show how people’s attitudes, prejudices and biases, wishful thinking, traditions, paradigms, worldviews, failure to recognize fallacies, jumping to conclusions without adequate evidence, misreading statistics, drawing the wrong conclusions from history, their emotions, and much more, lead them astray. By the time one finishes the book one is bound to have a far better understanding of why the leading intellects of every age have so often gotten it wrong. More importantly, the careful reader of the book will be far better equipped to guard against such blunders in his or her own thinking.

Unlike many academic texts, “Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense” does not dwell in the realm of abstract theory or contrived examples. Instead, at every step the Millers use real-life examples from history and daily life to illustrate their points. We learn, for instance, why Lenin and the Soviet scientists were so resistant to the Big Bang Theory, how the presuppositions of the British forces contributed to their losing the Revolutionary War, why “the smartest guys in the room” bankrupted Enron, and how the assumptions of Starbucks’ founders almost kept them from becoming an internationally-known brand.

“Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense” should be must reading not just for every college freshman but for anyone who wants to think clearly and rationally. As someone who taught college-level logic and critical thinking classes for more than two decades, I found the book fascinating from cover to cover and a real aid to my own understanding.Dr. Doug Erlandson, former assistant professor of philosophy, University of Nebraska.

“With poignant examples, organized contentions, and dry wit, Miller’s gook is a mental rout that will turn exclamation points into question marks.” – Dr. Orin C. Davis, Lecturer in Critical and Creative Thinking, University of Massachusetts, Boston.

“From birth, I was taught to mindlessly believe whatever the smartest and most successful people said. This book taught me to learn from everyone, but to think for myself. Often, the author tells fascinating stories to make his points, so that even deep concepts are easy to understand and remember. Do you want to learn how to think for yourself? Read this book.”Katarina Kocsisova, first year college student.

“High school proved that I can retain information lon enough to pass tests, but with this book I have started learning how to critically think through issues and find the real truth in information.”Nick Dodenhoff, college sophomore.

“The author has a way of writing that comes across very personal, like he genuinely cares about helping his readers in their quest for wisdom. I seldom sense that degree of passion and compassion in the books I read.” Erica Lundak, college sophomore.