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50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True Paperback – December 20, 2011
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“What would it take to create a world in which fantasy is not confused for fact and public policy is based on objective reality? I don't know for sure. But a good place to start would be for everyone on Earth to read this book."
—Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium
"Prometheus, the premiere publisher of skeptical literature, here issues a book that deserves to be shelved alongside the works of such giants of the field as [James] Randi, [Michael] Shermer, [Paul] Kurtz, and [Joe] Nickell. With a combination of lively prose and keen analytical reasoning, the author examines some of contemporary culture's most commonly held beliefs… A valuable, not to mention very entertainingly written, addition to the literature of skepticism."
- 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
GUY P. HARRISON (San Diego, CA) is an award-winning journalist and the author of Think, 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian, 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True, 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God, and Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know about Our Biological Diversity. Find him on online at www.guypharrison.com, www.facebook.com/guypharrisonauthor, and on Twitter @Harrisonauthor.
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So the author doesn't really have any scientific references backing up what he's saying, instead he writes a claim, then has an opinion as a reference. That opinion comes from Paul Offit, a man with a patent on an ineffective and dangerous vaccine that also gets paid by vaccine manufacturers to go around the country lying to parents about their products.
Even with the research the author cites, he either dind't bother to read it, or doesn't understand the scientific method because anyone that reads it can see it's junk science, and much of that has even been admitted by the mainstream medical community yet this author didn't even bother to look at that, he simply repeated a sales pitch.
I stopped reading after this chapter on vaccines because while I know little about the previous chapter and couldn't tell if the author was honest or not, I know more than enough concerning vaccines and saw the author did little work on his part.
One of the topics he dismisses is the belief that Near Death Experiences are evidence of a soul and an afterlife for that soul. He cites the work of British psychologist Susan Blackmore to invoke the dying brain / loss of oxygen hypothesis as the ultimate disproof of the entire study of near death experiences (NDE's).
Ironically, Harrison also cites Dr. Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine, in an examination of Holocaust Deniers. Shermer accuses them of "[pointing] to data that fit their claims and ignoring data that do not fit." And while Harrison may not be a Holocaust Denier, he is certainly guilty of this sin of selectivity.
In one medical study, cardiac patients who had died and been resuscitated in a hospital setting and reported NDE's, were asked about details of the procedures used to revive them. The results were compared with a control group of patients who were medically saavy, but had not experienced a life-threatening situation. The doctors were surprised to learn that the NDE group, claiming out of body experiences, were highly accurate in reporting details that could only have been observed if the patients' consciousness were external to their bodies at the times of resuscitation. The control group were almost entirely wrong in all cases. (Sabom, 1994, Atlanta study)
So, if the author of this book is as sloppy with his research of the forty-nine other topics as he is of NDE's, then he is merely waving his skeptic's flag, while sticking out his tongue at genuine open-minded investigation. Since this book is published by Prometheus Books, (one of my favorite publishers) I'm sure that he'll have no trouble at all in finding other readers whose minds are already made up, and are just looking for even more rationalizations to remain close minded to anything that threatens their limited world view.
I will close with a favorite passage from Shakespear's Hamlet:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." I strongly suspect the same is true of Messrs. Harrison, Shermere, et al.
I suspect more thought was given to getting to a nice round 50 than the answers.
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If you have no critical thinking skills don't waste your time.