Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

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9781559275132: Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
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Argues that the search for meaning and spiritual fulfillment often results in the embracing of extraordinary claims and controversial ideas.

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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

About the Author:

Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, the director of the Skeptics Society, and the host of the Skeptics Lecture Series at the California Institute of Technology. He is a tireless and highly-sought after speaker on radio and television and has recently appeared on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. He is also the author of Denying History and teaches the history of science, technology, and evolutionary thought in the Cultural Studies Program at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

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Shermer, Michael
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