…We must always be on guard against errors in our reasoning. Eternal vigilance is the watchphrase not just of freedom, but also of thinking. That is the very nature of skepticism.

                                                                                                       Dr. Michael Shermer, at page 59

Dr. Michael Shermer is the founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine. His latest work, Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye, is a collection of seventy-five of his essays originally published as monthly columns in Scientific American.

He describes the unifying theme of his essays as “the interplay of data and theory”. He has grouped them into separate sections by topic including: pseudoscience and quackery; borderlands science and alternative medicine; psychology and the brain; and human nature.

Dr. Shermer follows in the footsteps of the late Carl Sagan by writing about the methods and the results of scientific inquiry in a manner that is accessible to the general public. The clarity of his writing is an inspiration for lawyers who must also explain complex legal issues in a way that is meaningful to laypersons, including clients and juries.

Taken as a whole, Dr. Shermer’s essays allow counsel to develop a better understanding of the scientific method. This knowledge is critical when confronting expert evidence tendered by the Crown.

His essays also serve to sharpen our critical thinking skills and to alert us to erroneous thought processes that may lead us to make bad decisions when an individual’s liberty is at stake.

The tools of the skeptic are the tools of the criminal defence lawyer.

P.S. After your next cross-examination of an obstinate expert witness, you may take solace in the following quote from Dr. Shermer at page 16:

My friend James Randi speculates – with only partial facetiousness – that when one receives a PhD a chemical is secreted from the diploma parchment that enters the brain and prevents the recipient from ever again saying “I don’t know” and “I was wrong.”

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