Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

by Michael Shermer | Nonfiction | This book has not been rated.
ISBN: 0805070893 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingmelydiawing of Rockville, Maryland USA on 10/5/2012
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingmelydiawing from Rockville, Maryland USA on Friday, October 05, 2012
I've had this on my shelf for years, and only just now got around to actually reading it.

I think, perhaps, that this book was not quite what I thought it was going to be. What I wanted - and this is no fault of the author's - was a book debunking specific "weird things". While I got a decent amount of that in the (fascinating) chapter on Holocaust deniers, by and large it was more about the psychological and emotional reasons people believe things that don't make any sense. Which is fine, as far as that goes, but it seemed to keep returning to the same few theories each time. I guess you could say he was making his case with additional evidence, but I got a sort of "okay, I got it, move on" feeling about the whole thing. In short, it's an interesting read but probably something you'd more enjoy reading a chapter here and there rather than straight through,

Registered in Centreville, Virginia, USA.

Journal Entry 2 by ResQgeek at Alexandria, Virginia USA on Monday, October 22, 2012
As someone who generally finds weird things *very* hard to believe, I'm often confused about why other people believe them so strongly. Will this answer my questions? We'll see...

Journal Entry 3 by ResQgeek at Alexandria, Virginia USA on Monday, August 11, 2014
People believe all manner of weird things, from literal interpretations of the bible, to abductions by aliens, to the mystical powers of pyramids, and beyond. None of these beliefs stands up to scientific analysis, in that there is either no verifiable physical evidence to support the claims, or the claims are simply not falsifiable by experiment (or both). Yet, in spite of this lack of credible grounding for such beliefs, adherents continue to hold on to their faith in the validity of their claims.

This book is an effort to examine why people should hold so strongly to such beliefs, in spite of any rational, science based evidence to support them. It also explores a number of such belief systems, showing the tactics used by believers in attempting to convince others of the validity of their beliefs. It is not, as the author takes great pains to point out, an attack on people who hold such beliefs, but rather an effort to hold such beliefs up to rational examination to see what (if any) merits such beliefs might have.

In the end, it seems that evolution has programmed our brains to be susceptible to such beliefs. It appears that this susceptibility is a side effect of our neural development that allowed us to survive. In particular, we are particularly adept at identifying patterns, so much so that we often find patterns where none exist, giving rise to any number of weird beliefs. This robust pattern detection ability is coupled to a strong tendency towards confirmation bias, where we readily accept any evidence that supports our beliefs, while ignoring, discounting or rationalizing any contrary evidence. This innate confirmation bias is universal, and is the reason that scientific inquiry requires independent verification of results from repeated experiments before results can be considered conclusive. On top of these, there are many other factors that cause people to believe weird things, even in the face of strong contrary evidence.

For anyone that wants understand how to use skepticism to properly evaluate various claims, this is a useful book for understanding how to evaluate so-called “weird” claims and for understanding the ways in which our own brains can fool us into believing things that simply are not true.

Released 4 yrs ago (8/12/2014 UTC) at US Patent & Trademark Off. - Knox Bldg in Alexandria, Virginia USA


This book is available on the Book Exchange shelf in the pantry in room 9C68 of the Knox Building (USPTO employees and authorized visitors only - this area is not open to the general public).

Journal Entry 5 by wingKnox9thFloorwing at Alexandria, Virginia USA on Friday, April 22, 2016
This book has been absent from the book exchange shelf for a while, but reappeared this morning and is ready for another reader.

Journal Entry 6 by wingKnox9thFloorwing at Alexandria, Virginia USA on Tuesday, August 07, 2018
This book is being pulled from the book exchange shelf to make room for some new arrivals. It will be released elsewhere.

Journal Entry 7 by ResQgeek at Alexandria, Virginia USA on Sunday, August 19, 2018

Released 3 mos ago (8/19/2018 UTC) at Alexandria, Virginia USA


This will be available at the BC-in-DC meeting.

Journal Entry 8 by wing6of8wing at -- Mail or by hand-rings, RABCK, meetings, etc, Virginia USA on Monday, August 20, 2018
I have taken a solemn oath not to bring home any of ResQgeek's books because I have a huge backlog of them. I could get all lawyerly and cite the Melydia registered it loophole. Or I could justify it on the grounds of research into human psychology to go along with my studies. Or I can just accept a lapse in willpower and move on. However it goes, the book came home with me.

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