Sunday, April 19, 2020

Book Report for Why People Believe Weird Things

          In the book “Why People Believe Weird Things” written by Michael Shermer, talks about well-known conspiracy theories, superstitions, false beliefs, and irrationalities in society and the world of the paranormal. Shermer is a science author who makes it his goal during the entire book to ridicule topics such as encounters with aliens, ESP belief, psychic powers, the quest for immorality, etc. Shermer has divided his book into five parts each with subchapters relating to the specific part in the book. Shermer even breaks down certain fallacies and thought processes that can lead to abnormal thinking. The reason I chose this book and even this class was because I was always fascinated and intrigued with different conspiracy theories and superstitions people have. I would spend many summer nights on YouTube watching different conspiracies and alternate explanations of events that took place. Although I don’t believe in these conspiracies it is very entertaining and interesting to learn what people truly believe in. So, after reading many reviews it was a no brainer for me to want to read this book and to understand why people believe weird things. 
My first favorite section is chapter 6 (part 2) “Abducted! Encounters with Aliens” where the author shares a story from his 3,000-mile nonstop transcontinental Race Across America. The author explains that racers would go long periods without sleep, riding an average of twenty-two out of every twenty-four hours. Sleep deprivation caused the author to enter an alternate state of consciousness and as result, he believed that his entire support crew were aliens from another planet that were going to kill him. I liked this section because of the point the author was trying to make. People who claim they’ve seen aliens or had interactions with them most likely were under an alternate state of consciousness. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation and substances such as psilocybin mushrooms have caused people to hallucinate and see images like what the author is describing.
My second favorite section is chapter 14 “How we know the holocaust happened Debunking the Deniers.” In this section, the author points out many flaws in people that deny the Holocaust ever happened. They deny things such as forensic studies and eyewitness accounts. Shermer states at the beginning of the chapter that debunking has a lot of negative connotations but in scenarios like this one, it can be a very useful tool.  Deniers focus on the inconsistencies in eyewitness accounts. Deniers quote leading Nazis and other public figures out of context to strengthen their own argument. They concentrate on their opponents' weak points, without providing any strong context that support’s their own position. In my opinion, a good debate should never drift away from the topic being discussed and should not focus primarily on your opponent’s weak points. There is evidence that proves that the Holocaust took place, but you will always have your naysayers.
            My third favorite section is chapter 5 “Through the Invisible Near-Death Experiences and the Quest for Immortality”. In this section, the author talks about how he attended many seminars given by Jack Schwarz, a man known to practitioners of alternative medicine and altered states of consciousness. Jack's course taught the basics of mind control using meditation. Jack claims to be a survivor of a concentration camp which taught him to go to a spiritual place where he could not be hurt. Jack even shoved a needle into his biceps to prove to the class that he doesn’t feel pain. Shermer at one specific seminar wanted to learn how he could use mind control and enter a state of physical and psychospiritual realms. Some people in the class were able to achieve this state of mind but Shermer ultimately could not feel any difference. His conclusion was that “spiritual experiences are nothing more than the product of fantasy and suggestion.” I completely agree with Shermer I’ve seen some of my own friends from high school enter a state of hypnosis, but this is nothing more than a product of fantasy instead of reality. 
            I would recommend this book to anyone interested in pseudoscience and the paranormal, this was book was a great read. The book fits in perfectly with the theme of this course and topics covered in lectures. Shermer did a great job of intertwining his own experiences and providing fact-based data when trying to present topics covered in the book. Shermer wasn’t afraid to debunk a lot of popular conspiracies despite all the controversy around them. This was one of my favorite books that I had read this semester.   

Michael Shermer on a recent Joe Rogan Podcast-
Other books written by Michael Shermer-

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