You must be astroturfing, Mr Unwin

1 10 2006

PZ Myers: “I can see why Unwin might be motivated to respond to Dawkins’ book, but alas, I don’t see any reason why anyone should regard Unwin as anything but yet another goofy crank.”

1400054788.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgWishing to see whether Dr. Stephen D. Unwin Ph.D is really a goofy crank or not, I visited Amazon to read what other reviewers thought of his book. What I found is a handful of reviews that expose the silliness of his arguments and a relatively large number of reviews that give it 5 stars.

Given a previous experience of mine, I tend to look at books, particularly controversial ones, getting too many 5-star reviews with a certain amount of suspicion. So I did a bit of analysis on the 38 reviews that Unwin’s book currently has and found 13 of them to be somewhat suspect.

All these reviewers have something in common:

  • They use pseudonyms, nicknames of only use the initial of their surname.
  • They wrote exactly one review on Amazon, the one of Unwin’s book.
  • They seem to have no other activity on Amazon besides their single review: no picture, no friends, no interesting people, no wishlists, no recent purchases.
  • Their review is just one paragraph long.
  • Their review was found “helpful” by a high percentage of people.

I have to admit this is not exactly overwhelming evidence of astroturfing on the part of Unwin or some of his fans, but if I were to compute its probability using Bayesan formulas and the same flawed logic that Unwin exhibits, I am pretty sure that I would come up with a number at least a bit higher than the 67% he derives for the probability of the existence of god.

In any case, you can judge for yourself. Here’s the list of reviewers I find highly suspicious:

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