Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Book Report - Why People Believe Weird Things

Image result for why people believe in weird things meme

We, as humans believe in things that could be considered “weird” – religions, superstitions, medicine remedies, odd diets astrology, magic, etc. All of which Michael Shermer addresses in his book, “Why People Believe Weird Things, Pseudoscience, Superstition, and other Confusions of Our Time”. In the beginning of the book, Michael Shermer introduces his readers to his earlier career and life and discusses certain topics throughout the book; Skepticism, science, history, philosophers, and problems in certain ways of thinking, racism, and belief. 

In chapter one, he emphasized the external validation through observation and testing which he believes is one of the key characteristics of science. In chapters four, five and six he goes into detail on psychic power, altered states of consciousness and alien abduction. He claims most believers in miracles, monsters and mysteries are not hoaxers, flimflam artists or lunatics. They are simply people whose normal thinking has gone wrong in some way.   In chapter 13 and 14 he begs the question of history and pseudohistory. 
According to Shermer, the number one reason why people believe weird things is because they're smart – they have a high IQ or they have an exceptionally creative intellect. Because he can rationalize away evidence, an intelligent person is better able to defend weird ideas to himself. The last chapter of this book outlined why smart people believe weird things including the Attribution Bias, and the Confirmation Bias. Shermer says that “myths are not about truth. Myths are about the human struggle to deal with the great passages of time and life – birth, death, marriage, the transitions from childhood to adulthood to old age.” (page 130) In discussing the tension between evolution and religion in some people’s minds, he says that “evolution theory cannot replace faith and religion, and science has no interest in pretending that it can. The theory of evolution is a scientific theory, not a religious doctrine. It stands or falls on evidence alone. Religious faith, by definition, depends on belief when evidence is absent or unimportant. They fill different niches in the human psyche.” (page 135)

In particular, how do we really know if historical events really happened since they do not repeat. He introduces to a few Holocaust deniers and pro-Nazi propagandalists. He touches on topics that everyone else may find a bit uncomfortable to talk about, but he believes in being able to deal with a subject that others are not dealing with in a way that we feel helps provide information on what is relevant. Finally in chapter 17 is where he addresses the big question, “Why do people believe weird things”. He believes “humans are all too often willing to grasp at unrealistic problems of a better life or to believe that a better life can only be attained by clinging to intolerance and ignorance, by lessening their lives of others” (474).  He ends the book by begging the question related to alien abduction- does the experience represent something exclusively inside the mind or outside in the real world. (528)

No comments:

Post a Comment