- 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 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 246 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,036 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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In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. A no-holds-barred assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, with more than 80,000 copies in print, Why People Believe Weird Things debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter, "Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things," Michael Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science.
Shermer, science historian and true crusader, also reveals the more dangerous side of such illogical thinking, including Holocaust denial, the recovered-memory movement, the satanic ritual abuse scare, and other modern crazes. Why People Believe Strange Things is an eye-opening resource for the most gullible among us and those who want to protect them.
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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.