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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Handle With Some Caution...

... like an aggressive but delicious hot dog, this book takes some muscling around to subdue and digest in its entirety. It is a great find for scholarly readers looking for fistfuls of deep material (and size 10 font) per page! Shermer has definitely done his homework ...
... like an aggressive but delicious hot dog, this book takes some muscling around to subdue and digest in its entirety. It is a great find for scholarly readers looking for fistfuls of deep material (and size 10 font) per page! Shermer has definitely done his homework here; there are plenty of citations to good sources for his work, and he has the personal experience of a rennaissance man. He is not afraid to admit that he has dabbled in a belief of "weird things" himself before becoming a skeptic.
One caution I would render is that it is not a casual or light read. And even if you are interested in the material, it is so dense that reading goes slowly. It is a good book to read in as much as it is a good area of science and human nature to be acquainted with and knowledgeable about. It does a great job analyzing rhetorical argument strategies and fallacies. However, it could be made easier for a high school senior (like me) to absorb by rewriting it with coherent, flowing chapters and a theme. It sounds like it should be a collection of schloarly theses or essays. Of course, like Freakonomics, it IS non-fiction and the topic is not exactly captivating, so all Mr. Shermer can really be blamed for is his somewhat dry narrative voice.
A good challenge and a good read, all in all!

posted by Alex_APLit on May 4, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Why People Believe Weird Things

Michael Shermer's book, Why People Believe Weird Things, delves into an interesting topic, which debunks skeptics, and leaves you wondering who or what to believe. Shermer takes examples from his life and pop culture ranging from everything from ghosts and skeptics to t...
Michael Shermer's book, Why People Believe Weird Things, delves into an interesting topic, which debunks skeptics, and leaves you wondering who or what to believe. Shermer takes examples from his life and pop culture ranging from everything from ghosts and skeptics to the holocaust. I found the topic interesting, but at times it seemed like Shermer was just filling space when talking about the scientific method. The book got good when Shermer began proving all the myths wrong, but overall it didn't seem to have enough of a cohesive thread. I had high expectations and unfortunately they weren't completely fulfilled. I expected something interesting and controversial, which this book was at times, but there was too much on what constitutes a skeptic and unnecessary information that was erroneous. In fact I would not recommend anyone to read this book unless they are interested in skepticism AND the scientific method. Someone needed to go through the book and cut out the fat so we could get to the good stuff. I think about this book like I think about a nice prime rib. A lot of times there's fat on the meat and the outside is too well cooked. I have to cut away a lot of stuff that no one wants in order to get to the good juicy center. In this books case it's about 100 pages of boring nothing. Plus how can you read an entire book which disproves myths and not think that the book itself could be wrong.

posted by Jacquisha on May 5, 2009

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  • Posted May 4, 2010

    Handle With Some Caution...

    ... like an aggressive but delicious hot dog, this book takes some muscling around to subdue and digest in its entirety. It is a great find for scholarly readers looking for fistfuls of deep material (and size 10 font) per page! Shermer has definitely done his homework here; there are plenty of citations to good sources for his work, and he has the personal experience of a rennaissance man. He is not afraid to admit that he has dabbled in a belief of "weird things" himself before becoming a skeptic.
    One caution I would render is that it is not a casual or light read. And even if you are interested in the material, it is so dense that reading goes slowly. It is a good book to read in as much as it is a good area of science and human nature to be acquainted with and knowledgeable about. It does a great job analyzing rhetorical argument strategies and fallacies. However, it could be made easier for a high school senior (like me) to absorb by rewriting it with coherent, flowing chapters and a theme. It sounds like it should be a collection of schloarly theses or essays. Of course, like Freakonomics, it IS non-fiction and the topic is not exactly captivating, so all Mr. Shermer can really be blamed for is his somewhat dry narrative voice.
    A good challenge and a good read, all in all!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 2, 2010

    An interesting read

    I would recommend Why People believe weird things.It is an interesting read that touches on many points. I like how the authors take ordinary circumstances and relate it in the text. The book is educational and logical and this is why it is interesting.
    The most interesting points were the internalist and externalist views and the twenty-five fallacies that make people believe wierd things. I like how the authors were able to thoroughly explain these topics. One of the twenty-five fallacies was the use of ad ignorantiam. The two sides of the arguement were peculiar yet true. The logic behing the internal and external views were also interesting. One relates to theories while the other relates to history.
    This is an interesting text and I would recommend this book to everyone.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2009

    To Believe or Not to Believe

    Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things" is a provocative and compelling text that forces us to examine our imperfections by exposing how simplistic and juvenile our beliefs may be even at a mature age. Shermer explores the many different reasons a person may have a particular propensity to believe in superstitions or the like from hidden anxieties and childish habits never lost to misleading and false affirmations. Throughout this book Shermer often refers to the skeptic, emphasizing the importance of logic and rationality when considering the many things in this world for which the human race has provided explanations, but which may not be scientifically sound. Not only does this book strive to disprove and denounce the various superstitions and illogical beliefs of our world, it may unintentionally create a sense of skepticism in the reader in regards to believing what has been written in this very book. After reading about how important it is to be skeptical, do we believe Shermer? In the end, who is to say what to believe? And when someone does claim to know what is true and scientifically sound, how do we know if to believe them or not? Above all, this is a wonderfully philosophical book that either confuses the daylights out of you, further solidifies your beliefs or completely destroys all faith in the immaterial and unknown. It is all up to you and your personal proclivity to change your way of thinking.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    Why People Believe Weird Things

    It is quite difficult to completely debunk a whole bunch of theories and phenomenona, but Shermer did a compelling job of providing his insights. This book is particularly interesting because Shermer writes from experience as he once was a true believer, but is now a hard-core skeptic that tries to let nothing get past him without questioning. He also critiques issues or claims that he only partially believes in, and this certainly is a brave step for such a book as this.

    Shermer also addresses the harm that has been or can be caused by a lack of skepticism. Think about people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened. Think about repressed memory therapy that can implant false memories of alien abductions or sexual abuse. These are dangerous when not approached skeptically.

    I definitely learned a lot from this book and it does a good job of spreading awareness of what's going on in this world, exactly. It is apparent that Shermer is not a mean-spirited person, but one that really cares about sharing his views and perhaps answering questions about weird and crazy superstitions that millions of people in the world share. You'll be surprised about a lot of the things you'll read in this book, but in a good way.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    Interesting

    I have never been interested in science but this book has opened by eyes to wierd things. Shermer has a whole chapter on Skepticism. This book has made me think about what I hear and what I do with it. Often times statistics are thrown at you and people believe them so easily. This book has made me realize that everything people tell you isn't true, numbers may sound true but they aren't always. Another reason why people may believe in wierd things. Coming from a students point of view. I definately recommend this book. It makes you think from all different points of view.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Why People Believe Weird Things

    Michael Shermer's book, Why People Believe Weird Things, delves into an interesting topic, which debunks skeptics, and leaves you wondering who or what to believe. Shermer takes examples from his life and pop culture ranging from everything from ghosts and skeptics to the holocaust. I found the topic interesting, but at times it seemed like Shermer was just filling space when talking about the scientific method. The book got good when Shermer began proving all the myths wrong, but overall it didn't seem to have enough of a cohesive thread. I had high expectations and unfortunately they weren't completely fulfilled. I expected something interesting and controversial, which this book was at times, but there was too much on what constitutes a skeptic and unnecessary information that was erroneous. In fact I would not recommend anyone to read this book unless they are interested in skepticism AND the scientific method. Someone needed to go through the book and cut out the fat so we could get to the good stuff. I think about this book like I think about a nice prime rib. A lot of times there's fat on the meat and the outside is too well cooked. I have to cut away a lot of stuff that no one wants in order to get to the good juicy center. In this books case it's about 100 pages of boring nothing. Plus how can you read an entire book which disproves myths and not think that the book itself could be wrong.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    What Do You Believe In?

    Michael Shermer wrote a must read for all generations. He shows readers the truth about why people believe weird things. When people deny facts and insist opinions are true there becomes conflict in what is right and wrong. He doesn't push certain beliefs on his readers. He uses science and common sense to provide factual information as to why the "weird thing" people believe in is real or not. Shermer discusses very realistic reasoning as to why people believe in what they do. Such as when someone believes they have been abducted by aliens, he uses science to explain why they believe in what they do. He explains by using sleep apnea and a vivid imagination as a possible explanation. As for unraveling if the holocaust had or had not happened he explained many people choose not to believe in such a thing because they just don't want to come to terms that such an event has actually happened. He doesn't give readers elaborate stories on weird beliefs such as ghost stories or alien encounters, but uses theories to explain them. By using facts and a scientific outlook he doesn't tell readers what to believe he presents them with factual information. They can either take it or leave it. I do not recommend Why People Believe in Weird Things to strong believers in any debatable "weird thing". Such as people who strongly believe in creationism, ghosts or aliens. If you are not sure if you believe in weird things, this book is a must read because it opens your eyes to much reasoning. The things you learn while reading this book can be used to assess many situations and gives you an advantage on friendly debates based on the weird things people believe.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    Debunking Beliefs

    Michael Shermer explains so many controversies and goes in as a believer and then challenges it. Reading this book I have figured out that people have their own opinions on things, like believing the Holocaust but these are opinions not facts. He tries to explain the difference of science and pseudoscience. After reading this book I had a better understanding as to what is a factual statement and what is my own opinion. When believing something you most likely think it is true, but if you want it to be true doesn't necessarily make it true. Shermer debunks many things people think are true. He talks about the Holocaust and why people do not believe it happened (because they want to and it gives them immediate gratification) and the belief of creationism. Are there really alien abductions or is it just your imagination? Each chapter is a new belief that Shermer explains is wrong or exaggerated.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2006

    Shermer a great science author.

    Michael Shermer belongs in the ranks of great science authors. He explains why so many people lack critical thinking skills and fail to question their beliefs.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    Derp

    DERPITY DERP DERP MOMANA DERP BONANA MAN!
    Post derpy things on derpy books!
    Mr.Derp

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An Introduction to Pseudoscience

    Historian of science and editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer published this book in 1997, after which it went on to become something of a classic on the subject of skepticism and pseudoscience. The book was expanded and revised in 2002, and it's still a highly entertaining and thought-provoking book. Containing a good introduction to critical thinking and a rundown of common logical fallacies, the book is a great place to start for readers new to skepticism or the scientific method. Even if that was all the book contained, it would still be worth a read, but there are also fun, hilarious chapters debunking everything from creationism to alien abductions to spirit mediums to witch panics. There is also a very useful chapter containing quick arguments against the 25 most common creationist canards. Shermer is an engaging writer, and uses examples from his own life to illustrate various points in a humorous way. He gets serious when he needs to - as in the two chapters discussing Holocaust deniers - but overall this is a fast, satisfying read that will make you laugh and make you think, and whet your appetite for more books in a similar vein.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2009

    Why People Believe Weird Things

    Michael Shermer's 'Why People Believe Weird Things' is an alright book in the sense that the theories that were presented had good reason behind it but at the same time to me was a stretch. For example, in part two he examines the ideas of Science versus Pseudoscience and discusses the quest for immortality. But even though some of the things are a stretch i feel that this book was the best out of the other books that were offered up to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2009

    Why People Believe Weird Things

    This book opens the eyes of gullible readers and explores the mysteries of scientific phenomenons. Out of all the choices my teacher gave me for our assignment, I have to say this was the best possible one. Although I did have trouble with some of the tables and graphs that were added. It answers several questions about unanswered myths or skeptical procedures. The most interesting section I think would have to be his exploration of immortality. Part Two, Pseudoscience and Superstition discusses the quest for immortality and how people search for a way to live forever and the obstacle that stands in their way: death. With three major causes, trauma, disease, and entropy (letting nature take its course, aging). It's amazing how people today still want to live forever while fighting the different ways to die. The scientific justification provides readers, no matter the intelligence level, with some sort of explanation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    A Worthy Skimmer

    Michael Shermer's chosen topic for "Why People Believe Weird Things" is undeniably interesting. Shermer lays out both the most subversive and commonplace quirks of society from groups such as creationalists to holocaust deniers and explains their beliefs with these explainations 1) sheer ignorance 2) faith provides an easy answer to unanswered questions 3) believe provides hope and solace. Shermer's writing is typically matter of fact and usually easy to follow. He does write towards an audience with a certain understanding of science and familiarity with todays culture.

    At times Shermer's explanations for people's beliefs are less than satisfactory. He quickly debunked theories of witch hunts by rather simple methods which may leave the reader with a few more questions. Yet this stays within the books spirit of constant questioning. Although Shermer's writing is often wrought with an air of haughtiness he makes sure to remind his readers that he enjoys the scientific process of discovering the truth rather than destroying people's faith. His book is a celebration of science and playfully encourages its readers to think and to learn before subscribing themselves to one belief.

    Why People Believe Weird Things is at times dry and repetitive but overall provides excellent insight into the mysteries the public would otherwise be unable to explain. It ignites curiousity and often has a touch of humor in its pages. Sure to intrigue, Weird Things is worth having around the house for rainy days.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    An Interesting Read

    I thought that Michael Shermer did a great job debunking the many weird things that people believe. His methods are respectable since he sometimes puts himself through situations to try to understand the conditions that lead people to believe such things. He recounted a time when he was abducted by aliens only to explain later that he was extremely sleep deprived during a bike marathon and started hallucinating. To prepare for the bike marathon itself he explained that he tried many things such as deep tissue massages and a special diet only to find that they didn't improve his overall performance. I've seen a number of Michael Shermer's specials on YouTube and found it remarkable how he was able to debunk things like remote viewing and spoon bending through simple experiments. Overall I enjoyed Shermer's book despite a few slow spots where he goes in depth into some research and explanations.definitely something to pick up if you're interested in learning scientific explanations to some of the unexplained phenomena of our time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2008

    Great book

    Micheal Shermer is the voice of reason amongst the Sea of confusion. I have seen him do alot of debunking and once again he is at his best in explaining why people believe weird things. I defineatly recommend this book for anyone who wants to use solid reasoning

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2001

    What being open minded is really about

    If you want to better understand how science and critical thinking work this book is an excellent starting point. Also if you want a better understanding of how cults, witch hunts, psuedo-science(such as creation science) find there way into the minds of otherwise rational people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

    Molly to Lunas

    Hi Lunas

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    Boring

    Try actually reading it the next time it's "re-edited", spell check cannot replace grammar

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2013

    nook study????

    why cant I or why didnt I recive this in my Nook study! i can on view this book online and not through my desktop?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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