Friday, May 1, 2020

Why People Believe Weird Things - Book Report

Why People Believe Weird Things: Excerpt » Michael ShermerIn Michael Shermer's book, Why People Believe Weird Things, his goal is to debunk popular pseudoscientific beliefs. He does this by explaining his past weird experiences, providing scientific evidence to back up his opinions, and exploring the reasons why people gravitate towards these irrational ideas. Shermer doesn't insult the ones who don't agree with him, but he'd like to open people's eyes to see where they're going wrong, and make sure that others don't go down this slippery path.

In chapter three, Michael Shermer discussed many explanations for why people believe in things, when there's no true evidence to support them. For one example, subjects act differently if they know that researchers are examining what they do. This is why in psychology and other types of sciences, they'll perform tests where both the subject and the one testing them is clueless as to what drug the participant is taking. That eliminates the chances of the researcher treating the subject differently, and the chances that the results were wrong because the participant was reacting how they thought they were supposed to. In pseudoscience, this isn't taken into consideration. In pseudoscience, stories of people's experiences is a main form of "proof". But, you can't have proof without either physical evidence or supporting evidence from other researchers. Shermer doesn't think that people who believe in things like alien abductions and near- death experiences are intellectually challenged. He just goes on to say that their thinking is wrong in these situations and he's going to explain why.

While many people may just be faking it to fit in, this author believes that some people are actually good at letting themselves go into different states of consciousness. He goes on to write about the life changing events of out- of- body experiences and near- death experiences. Shermer explains that injured people wake up all the time, after having a dream where their body is completely healthy, thinking that it magically will be again. So, it isn't shocking that the same thing would happen during these near- death experiences. He gives an explanation that it could very well be a mixture of drugs and not enough oxygen before dying that causes streaks that looks like tunnels in the patients vision. When people see loved ones from heaven, it could simply be because people have this detailed fantasy that there's a life after this one. Humans have this fear of dying, so, many would probably love to see a life where they don't have to.
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A likely explanation for alien abductions

Michael Shermer starts chapter six off with a little anecdote about the time that he was dragged into a vehicle by aliens. I was shocked to be hearing this from a skeptic, like himself. But from reading on, you quickly find out that his extreme sleep deprivation during this bicycle racing caused absurd hallucinations. He isn't saying that there's no chance that there's intelligent life living on planets other than ours. But he also goes on about how if a person has particularly odd mental experiences, and then reads and watches films about others experiencing the same situations which they have understood to be abductions, that person will then understand their experience to be one. People who have had altered states of consciousness are most likely creating alien abduction stories, because they feel like that is more culturally accepted.

 As someone who is incredibly interested in psychology, I thought it was interesting to hear some possible reasons for why people believe the irrational things that they do. I liked that Michael Shermer never seemed to be bashing the pseudoscience believers. He simply spoke his opinions on the topics and provided clear evidence. I would most definitely recommend this book. All the subjects were very intriguing and I never felt like the book was dragging.

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