Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Book Report- Why People Believe Weird Things

The book I decided to read was "Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer. This book is great to read for people who want to learn about the reasoning behind why people believe in weird things. Throughout the whole book, Shermer uses his knowledge in science and his critical thinking to debunk many different pseudoscience topics like alien abductions, psychics, and many others. He explores the human reasons as to not only why people believe in these strange phenomenas but also why they find them so appealing. There are many chapters in this book that were very interesting to read.

My first favorite chapter was chapter 6 which was about his story about having an "encounter with aliens". Shermer was in the inaugural 1982 race and was never able to get much sleep during it. At one point he was so tired, his crew tried to get him to a motorhome. He then ended up falling to some kind of altered state of consciousness and was then convinced that his entire crew were aliens who were trying to kill him. He was confused because the aliens looked exactly like his crew so he began to ask them questions that the aliens would never know the answers to. He vividly remembers his hallucination still to this day. Shermer believes that humans are not being abducted by aliens but simply experiencing altered states of consciousness and then translating them to be in the context of what tends to be popular in our world today with strange phenomenas.
This is a link to scientific explanations for alien abductions to try and debunk this topic.

My second favorite chapter was Chapter 14 which is How We Know The Holocaust Happened. Throughout this chapter, Shermer explains that the holocaust deniers have methods for their reasons on this topic. Although there is evidence physically, photographs of the event, handwritten letters, and so much more from this devastating time in our history, all of the holocaust deniers simply avoid all of it. They try to find anything they can that would help to benefit and be used in their reasons and explanations for when they don't believe this event really occurred. This chapter includes a lot of dialogue, specifically from an interview that Shermer had with a holocaust denier named David Irving. There is also a lot of text that appears from other books that is about holocaust denial. Although all the evidence found from the holocaust is crystal clear, and that there is no way a holocaust denier could not believe after all of it, the deniers tend to move forward and keep defending their position. This chapter proves how ignorant people can be just to annoy the other side and not give in to believe them.
This article is from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and is an article about combating holocaust denial. It talks about all of the evidence found that the holocaust happened that was presented at Nuremberg.

My third favorite chapter was Chapter 17 which is about why people believe weird things. This is towards the end of the book to give a conclusion to it. This was an interesting chapter because it gives reasons for why people believe in strange phenomenas. The first reason is because they choose to believe it, they think it feels good and it is consoling and comforting. It tends to help them believe in something other than themselves. The second reason is because the belief is able to provide immediate gratification. The example he uses in the book is a psychic hotline. People are able to find out anything with a just a phone call that is able to give them satisfaction even though they try to keep the caller on the phone to make as much money as possible. The third reason is whatever their belief is, it is able to offer them a morality and a meaning that they can accept and embrace that doesn't appear to them as purposeless, or cold while science is unsatisfying and gives cold and brutal logic. The fourth reason explained in the chapter was that the belief gives them the opportunity to be in an environment where the hope springs eternal. They are always trying to find greater levels of happiness/satisfaction which believing in these strange things helps them to do.
This is a link to a YouTube video that is a TED talk by Michael Shermer.

In conclusion, this book is every interesting to read and learn about the reasons and explanations for why people believe in many different strange phenomenas like alien abductions or things that have actually happened in the world like the holocaust. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in learning more about science and would like to learn about different kinds of topics that have to do with pseudoscience and debunking the claims. This book is also helpful because it is able to relate to a lot of the things that we learned about in this course. What I liked about the book was learning more about the holocaust deniers because it is extremely relevant to our history and still is today. What I didn't like about the book was the part about evolution and creationism simply because it isn't something I am interested in. This book is still extremely relevant today and would be interesting to see it have a continuation because there is more strange ideas that have been developed since this book has been published. There is a lot more strange phenomenas that can be explained and debunked but the reasons for why people believe in weird things has not changed at all and will continue to hopefully always be relevant.

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