Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Report Why People Believe in Weird Things

Why People Believe in Weird Things is a book written by a known skeptic named Michael Shermer. This book gives readers a whole new perspective on what makes people believers and what makes people skeptics. This book is a series of stories written by believers and he proves them differently. His focus is why people believe in the existence of things that have no evidence of this existence or that there is evidence that contradicts their beliefs.

Shermer describes this as an error of thinking. He names two errors, Type 1 error which is believing in a falsehood and Type 2 error which is what leads to rejecting truths. Throughout the book he gives his theory on why intelligent people are more susceptible to “crazy” beliefs. He also gives examples as to why we should not believe but also why we believe and that it is normal for these “errors” to occur.

One of my favorite parts was a chapter towards the end of the book about why people believe that the Holocaust never happened. It’s my favorite part because it shocks me to learn that there are people out there who believe that the Holocaust never happened, that 6 million Jews did not die from torture, crucial labor, gas chambers and more. Shermer mentioned why people were deniers and one belief that stood out to me was they believed that the Holocaust was a myth invented by Allies. These deniers all ignore the hard evidence thrown their way because they have it in their heads that it never happened and they refuse to believe otherwise. A heuristic that this example fits well with is confirmation bias. People believe some kind of information given to them rather than collecting more to prove the case. If they collected more information than it would be easier for them to come to the realization of the truth rather than their own beliefs.

This example and this whole book relate to the heuristic of confirmation bias along with almost all of the elements of thought such as information, point of view, assumptions and interpretation. Overall, I enjoyed this book and loved the way he disproved common beliefs and beliefs that I had no idea people believed in such as the Holocaust never existing. Below is a video of why people deny the Holocaust and who the deniers are:

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