Various well-informed interlocutors review 'The Scout Mindset' by Julia Galef

Cover, The Scout Mindset book

Noted rationalist and speaker on issues around clearheaded thinking, Julia Galef, has a new book out over the last week, The Scout Mindset. It’s a book about training your mind to function in a truth-seeking way rather than a belief-defending way.

In military campaigns, scouts want to know the truth about the lay of the land. Soldiers defend positions. It’s just a metaphor, though, so don’t get too fixated on where it might run out of gas., being the vaunted and widely regarded forum of discourse that it is, sought out a number of people who hold different viewpoints about the world and got them to read The Scout Mindset and offer their perspective here. Because we are so venerable and influential, a diverse array of socially engaged people were eager to take part!

Here’s a selection of reviews from folks we brought in to give their honest take:

🐚 Spiritual lesbian, I’m-Still-With-Her Twitter user (she/her)
What else do you expect from an upper class white woman who made her name in Silicon Valley than to write a book that says we can learn from people we disagree with. We don’t have time to break bread with deplorables. People are dying out here, Julia. Can you update your priors with that?

Midwestern, God-fearing church go’er
While I appreciated the fact that Galef includes the story of a Christian pastor in her book, I couldn’t help but notice that the only Christian she cited is one who ultimately found himself to be wrong in his convictions. Shows a lot. I have a lot of doubt that Galef would listen seriously to testimony from someone who has strong, tangible reason to believe something greater. Though I know many such people. Praise, God.

Radical, intersectional anti-fascist, they/them
While I felt there was a lot of useful food for thought in Galef’s earlier chapters I couldn’t help but notice the coded language in her final ones, “How Beliefs Become Identities” and “Hold Your Identities Lightly.” Sorry but I was born with my identities and lived with them my whole life, but I wouldn’t expect a white person writing a 250 page lecture on “open-mindedness” to understand.

🐍 Democratic strategist, he/him
Look all I know is the Republicans shouldn’t have the votes they do but they got there by setting an agenda in the 60s and falling in line and if my party has to basically fall in line with their own cause to get our Ws in the D column that’s what I’m going to do. Wish I could write more but I gotta take this.

🔬 Scientist (sociology)
I couldn’t help but read this whole book as an attack on my field. She lost my in the intro when she said she was going to include a lot of studies and then decided to throw them out because the methodology didn’t hold up. I’m tired of people rejecting scientific work like some armchair thesis defense panel.

🚚 Trump fan, engineer, MAGA forever, babe
Look not bad points but Galef never deals with the real issue here: most people are just stupid. The end.


Tough crowd!

I really liked the book, though. I felt like I already did a lot of the practices she describes but of course that’s confirmation bias, right? We all want to make teacher happy.

I came away with actionable items to optimize some of the things I think I already do, even if not quite so explicitly as I could. If you care about living realistically and effectively in the world, I bet you will too.

📖 This is a helpful book for folks who do really want to live better in the world and maybe even want to help the world be a better place to live in.