THE CORE

 

This page exists for Derren to inform you about skills and areas of knowledge that are of interest to him, or relevant to his work.  Here you can find suggestions for further reading and resources. Derren has written in more detail about some of these areas in his book Tricks Of The Mind, and will continue to add to this page as he finds material that he thinks may be of interest to you.

 

RELIGION, SCEPTICISM
& THE PARANORMAL

 

I am an atheist and a sceptic of all things paranormal. As an atheist, I merely do not believe, which is not the same as having an anti-theist agenda, and as a sceptic, I am open to evidence, unlike a cynic who refuses to believe regardless of the evidence. Much of my work over the years has been concerned with de-bunking charlatans and investigating paranormal claims. Derren Brown Investigates was a series of three films looking at claims regarding mediumship, ghost-hunting and psychic-development. Messiah looked at a number of paranormal belief systems while undercover in the US, and in Miracles For Sale I trained and took a fake evangelical faith-healer into Texas to pass him off as the real thing. The earlier Séance was a roller-coaster look at whether the tricks of the fraudulent Victorian spiritualists would work on a modern audience. Here are a number of favourite books that offer a sceptical or scientific look at areas prone to paranormal claims or pseudo-science.

 

 

FURTHER READING

 

RELIGION

 

Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion
Whatever your feelings are about its author – one of the world’s leading and most brilliant environmental biologists and science writers – The God Delusion is now a classic defence of atheism and systematically looks at every aspect of faith and ‘proofs’ of God’s existence. Any brave believer (ie not of the cowardly, deaf-blind variety) intelligent enough to want to challenge and strengthen his faith would be advised to read this book. For many, including those who float around agnosticism or guilty half-belief, it’s a big fat life-changing work. For atheists like me it’s an addictive and wonderful read which argues comprehensively and convincingly for the fallacy of religious belief.

 

Richard Dawkins: The Devil’s Chaplain
For those not immediately drawn to Dawkins’ well-known scientific works, here is a wonderful collection of essays on various subjects, but underpinned by the joy to be found in this world without recourse to religious or other paranormal beliefs. This was the first book by Dawkins I read, and it made me a huge fan.
His essay following the horror of 9/11 was clearly a springboard for further thoughts which led to The God Delusion and the heroic Channel 4 two-parter Root of all Evil?

 

AC Grayling: Against All Gods and To Set Prometheus Free
AC Grayling is a crystal-clear, warm and engaging philosophical voice in the literature of scepticism and atheism and these two small books are my current favourites from his body of work.

 

Bertrand Russell: Sceptical Essays and Why I’m not a Christian
Classic and powerful reading from the master of rationalism. Required reading on the subject.

 

Robert Mack: Who Wrote the New Testament?
A very readable and thorough book on how the New Testament was put together. I started this book as a half-believer and finished with my belief in tatters: once you realise that the Bible isn’t history and therefore you can’t point to the Biblical story of the resurrection as proof of God’s reality, it all falls apart. Excellent stuff.

 

Tim Callahan: Secret Origins of the Bible
Interesting and enjoyable work placing the Good Book into a context of comparative mythology. Though the Mack book above is a better way of getting a good grasp of the necessary history.

 

Randall Helms: Gospel Fictions
A briefer guide to the historical howlers of the New Testament.

 

Sam Harris: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason
An excellent book arguing for the dangers of religious belief in these times, and a great companion to Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Harris is a terrific writer and the book is very compelling, although I think he ignores many of the reasons as to why some young Muslims get involved in terrorist activities.

 

Juergensmeyer: Terror in the Mind of God: The Global use of Religious Violence
If you like the Harris book and want more, this is a good next book to read on the subject.

 

Daniel C. Dennett: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Great deconstruction of religion, but perhaps not as vivid and addictive for the newcomer as The God Delusion.

 

 

PARANORMAL AND PSEUDO-SCIENCE

 

Richard Wiseman: Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There
Richard Wiseman has written many highly accessible and enjoyable books offering an insight into the science behind such areas as the paranormal, luck and better living. This offers a terrific overview of why we might come to believe in the supernatural.

 

Richard Wiseman: Deception And Self-Deception
This book looks specifically at investigating psychics.

 

Michael Shermer: How We Believe and Why People Believe Weird Things
Shermer is a great writer on the nature of belief and these two books are worth reading on the subject.

 

Vyse: Believing in Magic
A good alternative to Why People Believe Weird Things. Both cover the essentials.

 

John Diamond: Snake Oil
Written as he was dying from cancer, this is a powerful attack on the alternative medicine scene which was thrusting itself at Diamond during his final months. It’s also an unsentimentally heroic statement from a man refusing to surrender his dignity to an industry which any desperate person would find hard to resist.

 

Francis Wheen: How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World
A very enjoyable look at the rise of superstition and irrationality against a socio-political backdrop. Very much recommended.

 

David Marks: The Psychology of the Psychic
Enjoyable reading covering some juicy subjects around pseudo-science and why people believe in such stuff, including much on Geller.

 

Carroll: Skeptic’s Dictionary
Randi: Encyclopaedia of Claims, Frauds and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
Enjoyable resource books on all sorts of pseudo-scientific nonsense.

 

Ian Rowland: Full Facts Book of Cold Reading
There are a few books about on Cold Reading – the technique generally used by psychics to tell you everything about yourself and your dead relatives – but Rowland’s book is the best. Currently available only from his website.

 

Anonymous: Confessions of a Medium (1976), Micky Hades International
You may need to hunt around for this one. Equally, a search on ‘fraudulent mediums’ will yield alternatives. Many old books deal with exposing the dark-séance mediums (or ‘media’, I suppose) of the Victorian era, but Confessions is a how-to guide for the modern fake.

 

Dick Taverne: The March of Unreason
A terrific attack on the nonsenses and dangers of anti-science lobbying within the worlds of medicine and agriculture. Particularly informative about the realities of organic and GM farming.