Thursday, April 30, 2020

Why People Believe Weird Things Book report

Why People Believe Weird Things

In the novel, Why People Believe Weird Things, author Michael Shermer takes a psychologist's view on why we are so susceptible to accepting strange ideas, and writes about his own personal experiences. It's quite interesting how so many intelligent people find such appeal in superstition and extraordinary claims, and this book debunks and explains the lure. Three chapters I found especially intriguing were “Through the Invisible, Near Death Experiences and the Quest for your Immortality”, “The Unluckiest Colt, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and the Cult of Personality”, and “In the Beginning, An Evening with Duane T. Gish.”

The author of this book states that a near death experience, or NDE, is “One of the most compelling phenomena in psychology” so of course this chapter intrigued me. As a psychology major myself, I'm always interested in other people‘s viewpoints, and death is a common discussion where viewpoints clash. Shermer explains that the effects of an NDE can be explained through DMT, a drug that is naturally produced when under intense trauma like dying or being born. There are theories out there that say DMT is a window into the next life, and I’m somewhat surprised he doesn’t address these ideas. In addition, he explains we search for immortality as though it doesn’t exist, but yet we can find the concept of everlasting life in our own history books. He talks about how something very small in your life can be perceived as something larger in the future… I find it hard to agree, and see our lives as nothing but future dust. Nonetheless, this author's insight on death and the meaning of life makes this chapter my favorite.

The chapter of the unlikeliest cult is about a particular cult that thrives on objectivism, the philosophy of unadulterated individualism, but yet a cult innately thrives on group thinking. The main flaw of Rand’s philosophy stems from the concept that if you do not believe in her ideas on objectivism you are considered a heretic. It is ironic that later another double standard would be the downfall of the cult. When two separated lovers found love elsewhere, even though it was an affair to begin with, the cult crumbled. The author points out that once a group has decided their standards of what was right and wrong, they separate themselves from reason, and thereby, that is where they no longer tolerate others beliefs. It’s interesting that these courts are so relatable to religion. Ironically, one of the reasons why this cult was so unlikely was because it was based on the fact that people should all be tolerant, and have individual thoughts. Since a cult is dependent on their followers thinking the same and following a leader, this made them an anomaly, making this a chapter well worth reading. However, the true gem of this chapter is at the end when Shermer writes, “In science, knowledge is fluid and certainly fleeting. That is at the heart of its limitations. It is also its greatest strength.” (Pg: 124) Not only is this quote meaningful, but also in exemplifying his ideas, the author ties this book together.

Intrigued by death, of course I was definitely drawn to the chapter about the beginning of life. That being said, chapter nine is all about creationists, and the debate held between Michael Shermer and Duane T. Gish. While the book’s author, Shermer, made many points, and so did his opponent Gish, unfortunately the debate was lost, for no knowledge was truly gained. Besides the debate, there are many points made in this chapter that are important to acknowledge. One thing Mr. Shermer states multiple times is that he believes science and religion can coexist, and shouldn’t war with one another. It’s hard for him to get this point across however, for people mislabel him as an atheist, and dismiss his thoughts as that of a heretic.

Truly, I enjoyed reading all of the interesting and important topics in this book, but especially the chapters I’ve written about. I think it’s extremely important to discuss the concepts of life and death, therefore creationism and near death experiences are quintessential topics as well. I also picked the Unlikeliest Cult because not only am I fascinated by cults and groupthink, I also enjoy the sheer irony of it. This novel puts rational thought into why people think irrationally, and it’s very respectable how Shermer deals with differing opinions. Every chapter really compels you to think, and consider different information, making this well worth the read.

No comments:

Post a Comment