- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Revised & enlarged edition (September 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805070893
- ISBN-13: 978-0805070897
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 202.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 241 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time Revised & enlarged Edition
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Few can talk with more personal authority about the range of human beliefs than Michael Shermer. At various times in the past, Shermer has believed in fundamentalist Christianity, alien abductions, Ayn Rand, megavitamin therapy, and deep-tissue massage. Now he believes in skepticism, and his motto is "Cognite tute--think for yourself." This updated edition of Why People Believe Weird Things covers Holocaust denial and creationism in considerable detail, and has chapters on abductions, Satanism, Afrocentrism, near-death experiences, Randian positivism, and psychics. Shermer has five basic answers to the implied question in his title: for consolation, for immediate gratification, for simplicity, for moral meaning, and because hope springs eternal. He shows the kinds of errors in thinking that lead people to believe weird (that is, unsubstantiated) things, especially the built-in human need to see patterns, even where there is no pattern to be seen. Throughout, Shermer emphasizes that skepticism (in his sense) does not need to be cynicism: "Rationality tied to moral decency is the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known." --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.
From School Library Journal
YA?Dedicated to Carl Sagan, with a foreword by Stephen Jay Gould, this book by the publisher of Skeptic magazine and the Director of the Skeptics Lecture Series at California Institute of Technology, has the pedigree to be accepted as a work of scholarly value. Fortunately, it is also readable, interesting, and well indexed and provides an extensive bibliography. The author discusses such topics of current interest as alien abduction, near-death experiences, psychics, recovered memories, and denial of the Holocaust. Never patronizing to his opponents, Shermer explains why people may truly believe that they were held by aliens (he had a similar experience himself) or have recovered a memory of childhood satanic-ritual abuse. He clearly explains, often with pictures, tables, or graphs, the fallacy of such beliefs in terms of scientific reasoning. While teens may find the first section of the book about "Science and Skepticism" a bit too philosophical and ponderous, the rest of it will surely captivate them. Read cover to cover or by section, or used as a reference tool, this book is highly recommended for young adults.?Carol DeAngelo, Garcia Consulting Inc., EPA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.
Top customer reviews
I found his objective analysis of Holocaust deniers and their beliefs to be sound and free from the emotional rantings of those who simply devolve into ad hominem attacks. What was most interesting was Shermer's posing of a model for odd beliefs. Using the witch trials of the middle ages and a more recent event in rural America (the mad gasser of Mattoon, Illinois to be precise!), Shermer demonstrates how odd beliefs rise and fall in society. Given the speed and nature of the world wide web, one might expect odd beliefs to rise and fall with even more frequency and speed.
Pick up this book in order to refresh your critical thinking skills. As he points out in his Skeptic's Manifesto chapter, the role of the skeptic is not to perpetually doubt, but to maintain an open mind - just not so open one's brains fall out.
Shermer has an engaging style and appropriately discloses some of his personal experiences in relevant contexts