- 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (241 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,184 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I cannot emphasize enough what an enjoyable read this book is for anybody tired of being surrounded by people who view the world as some sort of unsolvable supernatural puzzle. Because the world isn't!
Sure, we can't explain the entire world. If we could, we wouldn't need science or reason or philosophy or psychology or logic or anything--if we could, we could just recite the same dogmas and platitudes of earlier generations and never have to bother thinking about anything beyond how things make us feel.
...Like a lot of people do.
This book systematically moves through a large number of the more persistent myths of our age--from Biblical creationism, to Holocaust denial, to psychic detectives--and while it spends quite a bit of time exploring the strangeness and the details of such ideas, it also spends quite a bit exploring why such beliefs are ultimately false, why people choose to believe such things, and how we can avoid such errors in our own thoughts.
Reading it, I constantly found myself wanting to force it onto everyone I talked with, whether they would agree with me about it or not. This book is a weapon against lazy thinking--particularly its chapter, "How Thinking Goes Wrong: Twenty-five Fallacies that Lead Us to Believe Weird Things"--a chapter that I wouldn't mind seeing expanded into an entire book of its own--and I really could not recommend it more highly.
Most of the book originally appeared as essays in "Skeptic" magazine, so it may feel a bit episodic at points--but holy cow, what great episodes! Also, there's a huge section in the middle dedicated to Holocaust denial--perhaps more than the subject warrants, as arguing down people who believe the Holocaust never happened is not all that difficult. All right, all right, all right already, the sky is blue, humans need water, you got me. (Shermer wrote an entire book about Holocaust denial, "Denying History," so it's obviously an important topic to him, and he does make it interesting.) Also, some of the slower pieces seem to have been saved for the end, and the book does feel a bit uneven at times, but overall, I just felt absolutely gleeful reading this.
The famous alien autopsy video, TV psychics, Edgar Cayce, the 1980s Satanic Panic, even the cult of writer Ayn Rand--all are not safe here, and the book is worth its cost just for the many brilliant parallels it draws between Creationism and Holocaust Denial.
There is just so much nonsense out there threatening to indoctrinate our children, dictate our lives, and make us afraid, that this is just nothing but refreshing; this exudes truth and reason; this should be read by everyone, and I do mean everyone.
Read it, read it, read it--and be enlightened.