Monday, August 10, 2015

Why People Believe Weird Things - Book Report

In the book, Why People Believe Weird Things, written by Michael Shermer, nonsensical claims are debunked and the exploration of why people believe in conspiracies and phenomenons are explained. Shermer begins by discussing his ideas about skepticism from how he became a skeptic, when skepticism began, to comparing science and skepticism. Within this he gives examples of skepticism, such as the “Hundredth Monkey phenomenon”. He then talks about the difference between science and pseudoscience, explaining paranormal thinking and how people begin to believe ideas without any evidence. Shermer explains 25 fallacies that lead people to believe weird things in the third part of his book. From how theory influences observations, to the ‘Planck Problem’, this is a very in depth section of where believing in weird things arise.
            Skipping to a further section in his book, Shermer begins to talk about encounters with aliens, including his own abduction. Shermer then goes into witch crazes, cults, and 25 creationist arguments with 25 evolutionist answers. Further into the book, Shermer debunks the deniers of the Holocaust, explaining how we know it happened. In part five of his book, Shermer discusses how smart people are actually deceiving themselves, and why these people believe weird things.
            My favorite part of this book was actually the last chapter. This chapter was about why smart people believe in weird things, and Shermer explains reasons the completely make sense. Shermer states, “smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons” (Shermer, 282). I thought this was very interesting, because what Shermer is basically saying, is that smart people can better explain why they believe this weird thing is true. This really makes sense to me in two ways. First, that obviously better educated people can defend something they believe in than less educated people; secondly, because it shows that even though they are defending these weird things with good reasons, doesn’t mean that they are true. The way that this relates to our book is, in chapter 8 about past-life hypnotic regression. People create these past life fantasies that they begin to leave, and lead the ‘smart’ people to create studies about these beliefs. With elaborate and detailed reports, these researchers are the ones who are skilled at defending their beliefs.
            I think that this book is actually important to the real world without people even realizing it. With Shermer debunking multiple theories that many people truly believe in, it shows us the reality of the world. It shows me personally, that even when studies are conducted, they could be completely wrong and filled with evidence that really doesn’t make a theory true. I enjoyed reading this book, as I do believe in some weird things, where sometimes I even question myself. Therefore, I do not believe that this book could solve a real world problem, but I do believe that it could definitely address current issues, such as the ‘zombie apocalypse’ that so many people believe in.

This is a picture that I took of a real UFO!
(Just kidding, I recreated the picture that Shermer discussed in his TED Talk!)

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