Friday, May 1, 2020

Why People Believe Wierd Things; Final Report

          For this class, I read Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. As explained at the beginning of the novel Shermer is a skeptic, he is the type of person to question all types of claims of supposed truth, whether it goes from tested methods to improve physical fitness or claims of the supernatural from psychics. throughout the books, he explains concepts from research as well as from his own experiences of pseudoscience to give a better understanding of why people seem to believe in essentially weird things, and how best to avoid them. I chose to read this book because I thought the concept of busting myths and legends would be cool and interesting, Shermer's mission for the book was to shed light on how skepticism is not as bad as people think and that by being reasonable and using what the class described as slow thinking would people be able to see past the veil of pseudoscience, which to me sounded very appealing

          As such one of my favorite chapters of the book was in chapter 5 the near-death experience section. You ever have those moments in life when you may or may not have been close to getting hit with a car, slipping off a ridge, or having your parents call you by your full name? and then afterward seeing your life flash before your eyes? think about those times if they did indeed happen and think to yourself if it did happen what comes after death because groups of people such as certain religions, believers of the paranormal, and self-appointed psychics believe and work towards finding out what comes after death. In this chapter Shermer talks about NDE's or near-death experience which as described earlier is when someone on the brink of death sees and hears visions and feels sensations of what comes after. examples include being in a bright white room, being a pitch-black room, seeing colors beyond human understanding, and seeing stars. Those are examples from an article detailing what 24 people felt on the brink of death, but are they real? According to Shermer, these experiences can be explained by past memories resurfacing, and the different chemicals in the brain. However, will we ever know?
    Another favorite of mine in the book was in chapter 6 which detailed about alien abductions. As a kid, I loved watching videos of supposed alien abductions. there are tons of youtube videos that show supposed alien apperaences but the videos are always of terrible quality. However, the biggest question that comes to mind about these alien abductions is, are they even real? As explained by Shermer in chapter 6 when he was competing for the ultra-marathon which brought a heavy physical toll on his body as he was doing things that were unhealthy that eventually caused him to collapse and bring him into an altered state of mind. In this state of mind, he imagined his crew during the marathon to be aliens from space. It's explained that alien abductions could be the construct of entering a different state of mind and a person recalling memories from the past that have been influenced by past traumas and media about aliens and space. But are aliens truly out there in space, we may never know.

          lastly, another favorite part of the book was in chapter 10 which was about evolution. Evolution, as described in the numerous science I have taken throughout my life, is when the population of a species goes through a change in order to better adapt to their environment to increase their chances of survival. Prime examples include the peppered moth of London during the industrial revolution, the Galapagos finches when they arrived there from the mainland and developed different traits to survive. All in all, evolution is considered a fact, however a long time ago in America, it was not considered truth, and when the idea that human being evolved from primates surfaced it stoked the anger of many religious leaders. In the bible, it is said that God created humans in his image. Shermer explains that science deals with answering questions of the physical world and how it really can't answer why some things happened in the past. Regardless I like this part of the book since I like the topic of religion vs science and how humanity may have found ways to prove aspects of the physical world and have come up with techniques s to avoid jumping to conclusions and falling for myths, and creating new technology, discovering species in both land and sea. However, there are still some mysteries that still need to be unraveled in both the earth and beyond it.

          In conclusion after reading the book during school and at home due to corona, this book was decent. What I liked about the book was the 1st hand experience given by Shermer, what I didn't like about the book was how complicated some of the chapters got, and how the ideas seemed to jump from one thing to another as the chapters went on. I personally would not recommend the book purely because this type of book is not the type of genre I would not read in my free time. sometimes part of the book would be pretty boring and confusing, but overall if anyone wished to read a book, about skepticism and find better ways to think smarter from an expert in the field then this is the book for you.

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