Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why People Believe Weird Things

     Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer was actually an interesting read.  First off he begins the book with a few chapters on skepticism and how we as humans think.  In this first part of the book Shermer talks about what actually causes us to believe things that aren't actually true.  This section called 25 Fallacies That Lead Us to Believe Weird Things is a great way to wrap up the beginning of the book.  It is a part of the book that you definitely can connect with if you haven't already.  Shermer covers topics such as rumors, coincidence, after the fact reasoning and rationalized failures among quite a few others that provide incite on ways the reader would have processed information in the past.  The next section of the book covers pseudoscience and superstition.  Two sections that stood out for me in this part of the book were about alien abductions and medieval and modern witch crazes.  But in particular I found the later to be the most interesting.

     Besides covering the general history of witch hysteria it also talked about the recovered memory movement.  This movement occurred during the later half of the 20th century, during which psychologists and doctors administered hallucination inducing drugs as well as hypnosis and other forms of treatments to help people recall past memories; particularly those about sexual abuse.  A study from 1995 mentions that since 1988 over one million people had recovered memories of sexual abuse.  Now where have we heard about something like this before?  Yes, false memory recall.  A doctor makes a patient recall false memories under the influence of something whether it be drugs or just hypnosis, and the patient is actually making up a story that will become reality to them.  This was of course terrible because people were being charged with crimes that they didn't commit.  One woman was charged with over 3,200 acts of sexual abuse.  Shermer draws similarities to the victims of these false claims from the accusations of witch craft in medieval times.  The victims were poor men and women who could not afford a proper legal counsel. This I think was definitely my favorite part of the book just because it tied so many pieces together for me so fast, and was about something that I was already interested in.

     Part three of the book was about evolution and Creationism, a debate that can get pretty entertaining, especially when you watch Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate the topic.  I highly encourage you to watch it the link is below!  But anyway Shermer gives great background on Creationism as well as a whole section about confronting Creationists in which he gives 25 Creationist arguments and 25 Evolutionist answers.  I personally am a fan of the "Science only deals with the here and now and thus cannot answer historical questions about the creation of the universe and the origins of life and human species," argument.  Finally part four covers what I cannot believe is a debated topic, the Holocaust.  It was not long ago that I found out that there are people who believe that the Holocaust didn't really happen and it still strikes me that people can deny the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.  Now I grew up on Discovery Channel, Animal Planet National Geographic and well a lot of cartoons but that's beside the point.  My views have been shaped by science and history since I was little.  I consider myself very lucky and very thankful that my parents allowed me to develop my own views.  But at the same time I do not know if I will ever be able to wrap my head around the way some radical people think because of the way I formed my own beliefs.  This does not mean that I will never try to understand, I most certainly will, but I will also continue to be fascinated by the things other people are able to come up with.

And this is an interesting article I found about modern day witches.
This article about a person becoming a modern witch also provides good incite.


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