Thermalsatsuma's Reviews > Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, And Other Confusions Of Our Time

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
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's review
Mar 22, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: book-a-week-2009
Read in March, 2009

Creationists, holocaust deniers, alien abductees, psychic mediums. It's very easy to mock weird beliefs but why do people believe in such things, given the lack of any sort of evidence? More pertinently why do otherwise smart, well educated people believe in weird things?

This book presents a study of different areas of pseudo science and examines how each belief gains credence through a feedback loop of self reinforcement. One particularly interesting chapter looks at how the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand - surely the last word in coldly rational self interest - turned into a self destructive personality cult in defiance of all logic.

Shermer explains the principles of scientific and sceptical thought, with the important point that scepticism is a method not a position. Another important chapter deals with the confirmation bias - the tendency to look for evidence that supports an existing belief and to ignore anything that contradicts it - which is why the scientific process of peer review and evaluation is so important in rooting out bad science.

I would recommend this book as an excellent introduction to sceptical and critical thinking.
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