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50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True Paperback – December 20, 2011
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- Booklist starred review
"This book will blow readers' minds (and it should) by making them realize how easy it is to hold a strong belief without applying either critical thinking or skepticism. Harrison…pokes gaping holes into common beliefs in the supernatural…and the tendency to believe that only personal religious tenets are correct despite total ignorance about other religious doctrine… Harrison guides us gently but firmly along an explorative path of our collective illogic, strong tendencies toward easy answers and magical thinking, and susceptibility to confirmation bias. He doesn't judge readers for buying into beliefs that have no real basis in fact and science, but instead asks them to second-guess the tendency to readily accept the unproven and the illogical as true. VERDICT: An outstanding book that is required reading no matter what you believe."
“A journalist turns a skeptical eye on beliefs ranging from astrology to Atlantis, showing that scientific discovery can be just as fascinating as myth.”
“[A]n entertaining look at why some people believe in astrology (instead of astronomy) or are still looking for Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Others believe that aliens from outer space helped build the pyramids or their bodies are stored in Area 51. Harrison says that humans are a believing species and, as such, prone to believe in things that lack any scientific proof and can be absurd.”
-Bookviews by Alan Caruba
“Rarely has a skeptic gone to battle against nonsense with the warmth and humor found in 50 Popular Beliefs….[A] grand tour though the bizarre ecosystem of irrational beliefs and extraordinary claims. Harrison deftly and compellingly demonstrates how science and reality are preferable to superstition and delusion.... It is an ideal text for an introductory Science and Pseudoscience or Critical Thinking course. It is clear, comprehensive, non-threatening yet thought provoking while remaining accessible. It’s also a much welcomed and needed addition to every skeptic’s reading list.”
“This book is a must-read for skeptics and non-skeptics alike. It will excite all critical thinkers and will get believers to reexamine many popular beliefs that they think are true. I recommend it to all who are concerned and deeply worried about the ‘gigantic cloud of danger’ looming large over our world today due to popular dogmatic and irrational beliefs.”
“[An] absolute ‘must read’… Each belief is covered with a general overview, the rational behind them and the scientific research that fails to support them, all presented with liberal witticism. Harrison champions the need for maintaining constant vigilance to avoid becoming prey to unfounded beliefs that on the face of things, probably won’t cause any harm but could well lead to falling victim to more dangerous, erroneous beliefs. Well written, thoroughly researched and entertaining, this important book teaches the importance of being a skeptic.”
-Monsters and Critics
“[I]f you do not want your teenagers growing up believing that an angel is watching over them, or the Bible contains a code that reveals the future, or that global warming is purely a political issue, then give them this book.”
-Science Fact and Fiction Concatenation
About the Author
More About the Author
I write about many things but my primary focus is on science and skepticism. I believe that our world could be a little better - and a lot less crazy - if more people simply understood how science works and appreciated the protective value of skeptical thinking in everyday life.
I've held numerous positions in the news industry, including editorial writer, world news editor, sports editor, photographer, page designer, and columnist. I'm a veteran travel writer, having visited and written about more than 25 countries on five continents. I have also had some very rewarding jobs teaching history and science to bright kids. My degree is in history and anthropology (University of South Florida). I've won some big awards for my writing, including the WHO (World Health Organization) Award for Health Reporting and the Commonwealth Media Award for Excellence in Journalism, but doubt anyone really cares about that stuff other than my sweet mother.
What I am most proud of in relation to my work is that my writing has touched many people. I receive messages from around the world and it's always rewarding to learn that my words have inspired one more person to think in new ways and become a good skeptic. This is what all my books to date are about: encouraging readers to turn away from the madness in order to live more sensible and honest lives, both for themselves and for the world.
When I'm not staring at a blank computer screen hoping that words will appear, I'm likely to be running, hiking, reading a science or history book, working out at a gym, or teaching critical life lessons to my children via repeated viewings of Star Trek. When normal people are consumed with thoughts about politics, economics, and the Kardashian family, I'm likely to be daydreaming about time travel, the singularity (nerd rapture) ancient Greece, extremophiles, the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and robots.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT THINKING
One of the biggest mistakes we can make in life is to ignore or reject the possibility that we might be dead wrong about something that is very important to us.
Don't do this!
Question everything. Embrace doubt. Second guess conclusions. Be humble; after all you could be wrong. You might be the first perfect person in all of history and prehistory who is incapable of being fooled by the mistakes, lies and delusions of others. But I doubt it. You might be the first ever to rise above and see through all the deceptive quirks, traps and biases that come standard with a human brain. But I doubt it.
What good is it to hold tight to a position against every challenge if that position is in error? The goal is not to avoid ever changing your mind. The goal is to be right, or as close to it as you can be. If you value wisdom and honesty then you ought to value skepticism. Wisdom is recognizing that you don't know everything and can be fooled just like every other human who has ever lived. Wise people change their minds when evidence demands it. Honest people don't pretend to know things that they don't know.
This fundamental error in thinking crops up most often in politics and religion, of course. These two fertile fields of human thought, passion and silliness encourage if not demand that participants sacrifice their ability to think independently. This treasure is given away freely as rigid lines are drawn and feet set in cement. How can something of such value--the ability and the courage to think freely--be sacrificed by so many people with so little reluctance? Why the haste to become one more zombie in the mob? Why no remorse for the loss of so much humanity?
Please do not undervalue your ability to think independently, to grow intellectually over a lifetime, and to always do your best to move closer to truth and reality. The warmth of mindless membership may be appealing at a glance but it's fool's gold.
Change. Grow. Improve. Think and be fully human.
--Guy P. Harrison
Top Customer Reviews
"50 popular beliefs that people think are true" is a fascinating book about skepticism and critical thinking applied to fifty popular beliefs. In a true open-minded and respectful manner, Guy Harrison takes us on a wonderful journey of applying the best current evidence to popular beliefs. This 458-page book is broken out by the following eight sections: Magical Thinking, Out There, Science and Reason, Strange Healings, Lure of the Gods, Bizarre Beings, Weird Places, and Dreaming of the End.
1. As accessible a book as you will find and written in an elegant and engaging conversational tone. A fun, page turner of a book to read.
2. A well-researched book evidenced by the number of books referenced and comprehensive bibliography.
3. Excellent format! Each chapter begins with an appropriate quote or two about the popular belief and ends with a "Go Deeper" section of further reading.
4. A respectful and sympathetic tone used throughout. Mr. Harrison treats his topics with utmost respect and care. He's one of the few authors that can take on "sensitive" topics in a considerate manner. A rare quality indeed.
5. Fascinating topics! There is something for everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The book covers a great and diverse selection of popular beliefs. Bravo!
6. The ability to express his thoughts in a logical and lucid manner. It's such a treat to read a book in which the author makes clear and succinct points.
7. Thought-provoking quotes and comments. "Being a skeptic means being honest and mature enough to seek answers that are based on evidence and logic rather than hopes and dreams."
8. A great defender of science and logic.Read more ›
If the reader is inclined to believe in the topics discussed (the previous reviewer has helpfully set out a detailed list) he might wish to give this book a solitary star. I gave it five stars because I agree with virtually all the author's views. I had hitherto been ignorant about how scientific homeopathy is; Harrison described homeopathy as a failed method of alternative medicine. The ingredients used are so diluted that they have no effect whatsoever, and consequently, homeopathy has, at best, only a placebo effect. He traced the origins of homeopathic medicine and discussed what goes on in modern practices and why they are futile exercises.Read more ›
Hard evidence along with reason and logic is what drives this book's main ideas. Some beliefs can be explained quite simply, without the need for magic, pseudoscience, superstition or a conspiracy being involved. Without evidence, people tend to fill in the gaps with thoughts or ideas that fit a person's belief in whatever subject is at hand. Confirmation bias, which is counting the hits, and forgetting the misses is a contributing factor in this thought process. Sometimes, like the author says, it's ok to say you don't know. That does not mean something unusual or strange is going on.
Some of my favorite chapters include conspiracy theories, religion, and the Bermuda Triangle. I found myself rather amazed at some beliefs I have never heard of before.
The style in which the book presents itself is not mean spirited or a put down in any way. But after reading this gem of a book, you'll find yourself asking the question, "Did I really believe in this stuff"?? Also enjoyed the "GO DEEPER" at end of each chapter for further reading on each subject.
Would also recommend JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think about Claims of Conspiracy and The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I would have given this book one star. The only good thing is that it makes me chuckle about how many popular beliefs that are unfounded. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Howard H. Phung
This book is a joke. No science or numbers behind anything, just brief personal views from the author's random past experiences. Read morePublished 1 month ago by J
This is - hands down - the silliest, most naive book I have ever read.
The breathtaking ignorance/arrogance of the author drips from every page as he asserts, over and over... Read more
I like this sort of debunking theme. Helps keep one open to self evaluation. Is that really true? How do I know for sure?Published 6 months ago by Don S
“50 popular beliefs that people think are true” is an overview and a discussion of 50 beliefs that people often hold, but for which there is very little evidence and sometimes... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Thomas Wikman
A great book that offers insight on an array of topics. The authors goal is to encourage skepticism. Blind belief without proof has proven to be dangerous. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Paul Galloway