Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Report Post
Meghan Jirkovsky
Why People Believe Weird Things

            Mike Shermer is known to be one of the leading debunkers of falsehoods and has written several books on which he examines beliefs, science, pseudoscience and bogus history.  He is a powerful activist and essayist of the operational form of reason. His book Why People Believe Weird Things stimulates the readers mind to begin thinking about their beliefs and question their uncertainties. Shermer serves to prove that one of our most powerful tools we as humans have, is the ability to question whatever we may wish. Shermer states that humans search for the meaning of this complex world but one must remember that a meaning can be easily debauched by mistaken beliefs that are often influenced by groups who stand to benefit from people's acceptance of their views. Covering topics from the differences between science and pseudoscience, twenty-five fallacies that lead us to believe weird things, immortality, irrationalism of creationism and Holocaust denial, Shermer uses experiences and interactions from his past to help him conclude why people believe weird things. While introducing his beliefs on skepticism and what he is skeptical of, the author proclaims that one must not have preconceived that a claim is bogus, but must investigate whether or not a claim is bogus.
            Shermer presents "Twenty-five Fallacies that Lead Us to Believe Weird Things", which is my favorite part of his book. These twenty-five fallacies are a primer for skeptical thinking. From alien abductions, ESP, witch-hunts, to recovered memories and thoughts, the author shows how these fallacies and skeptical thinking can determine fact from unfounded belief. When reading about these fallacies, I was reminding of the section of our textbook that focuses on the myths of childhood development. Much like Shermer, the author of our book reveals why people commonly believe certain childhood myths to be true and also reveals why they are in fact, myths. Shermer’s book is a book for self-insight as well as providing criticism of others belief systems.
           What I have learned from Shermer is that much belief of pseudoscience, superstition, ect. are the result of a person’s perspective in conjunction with their previous knowledge of the subject. Our minds are one of the most powerful tools we have; they are machines that are constantly demanding and questioning; humans are constantly training to attain answers to the unanswerable. Shermer’s book made me want to dive deeper into exploring areas that I thought to be questionable. In doing so, I youtubed “psychiatry is a pseudoscience” and found this amazing clip of the Rosenhan Experiment, or THUD Experiment. After watching, more-so listening, to the clip and taking what I learned from Shermer’s book, the mind to each individual is so incredibly unique; so many people believe what they do because they were taught to, rather than questioning these uncertainties and digging for answers of their own. 


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