Customer Reviews for

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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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2012

    Nice explanations of these wierd things. But this explanation ar

    Nice explanations of these wierd things. But this explanation are superficial. So, author didn't penetrate into people like, for instance, Anatoliy Obraztsov in "a crossing or the drop's history". But. it's difficult to call this book badly. It's just book for people who don't like to read really spiritual things.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

    Firekit

    O-okay.

    •Firekit•

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2012

    V

    Did the people who started this used to be in TreeClan? Or they visited TreeClan? Or having anything to do with TreeClan?

    Ps. What is this rp?

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2012

    Snowy

    That was good too! But maybe a little more story instead of just fighting. (Where are u from Lunas?)

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    Dovestar to lunas

    You are a demented fool. Their is something totally wrong with you you are like a juvenial delinquent. Stay out of my clan or change that act.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

    Recommend

    Very interesting to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

    Whateverstar

    Whytail, go jump off a cliff. And quit complaining, it's annoying.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2011

    Decent~ Intriguing, but often dry.

    After reading the book Why People Believe Weird Things, I would consider recommending it. While the points that are made in it are undeniably valid and intriguing, I didn't always find myself captivated by what Shermer was saying. Even though this novel can open up discussions debating the "weird things" that some people may still believe, and therefore would be good for a class to read together, I would not recommend it for a personal read because it is too easy to put down and mildly dry.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2011

    Interesting and educational

    I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a whole new outlook and introduced me to very interesting ideas about society and human nature. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to either read a humorous narrative on today's superstitions or gain a new view point on the modern world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2010

    An intriguing and fasincating topic

    Michael Shermer's novel, "Why People Believe Weird Things" is a rather successful attempt to teach the general public about a variety of complex, controversial, and ever-intriguing topics. This novel is by no means an easy or quick read. One must put time and effort into processing the information that is presented, and progress through the chapters comes fairly slowly. Certainly any skeptic, or person interested in skepticism would find this book a thrill. If you are not a believer, or one who is not even remotely intrigued by the question "why do people believe weird things?," then this book is definitely not for you. This question was the very fact as to why I chose to read it. Shermer presents a wide variety of topics, in which he extricates and explores the scientific reasoning, psychology, perception, comprehension, and explanation as to why we truly believe weird things. For those who are actually interested in what Shermer has to say, this book will expand the mind to great lengths, and open the eyes of those with shadowed perception. Though his explanations and examples are difficult to understand at times, he still manages to effectively convey his point. This book is certainly a read for skeptic, yet the odd thing is that it seems like Shermer is trying to teach the audience to be skeptical. However, at the same time, he expects readers to accept the information presented as truth, which is easier said than done for any skeptic. Skeptic or not, the topics explored leave a reader unsettled, or at least that is what it has done for me. I definitely recommend this novel, but only for those who are interested in spending time on a topic that stretches your brain to ways you probably have never thought to before.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great for Some Audiences

    Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things" is a mostly successful attempt to teach the public about a complex, controversial, confusing, and fascinating topic. Any skeptic, or person interested in skepticism would find this book interesting and relevant. Although the book would be informative and valuable to believers, I doubt that it would interest anyone who is not completely intrigued by the question "why do people believe weird things?" Shermer delves so deeply into the nuances of comprehension, perception, psychology, and scientific reasoning that the book would be all but intolerable to those not interested in these topics. Similarly, he displays a somewhat condescending attitude towards believers, so many people could be offended by the book. If the audience is appropriate, "Why People Believe Weird Things" is a book that will stretch the mind and open the eyes. Shermer tackles concepts that are difficult to comprehend in an organized fashion. At times, the explanations and examples he utilizes are unclear, but for the most part, he effectively conveys his point. The bizarre thing about this book is that Shermer is teaching the audience to be skeptical, but at the same time, expecting readers to accept the information he presents as truth. This is a bit of a conundrum, which makes reading the book a bit unsettling. It is as if an instructor is teaching a class on the benefits of orchestrating a revolution, while expecting students to refrain from revolting. This book is excellent for anyone who likes to think until his/her brain hurts and would be ideal for a book group.

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  • Posted May 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An Interesting Read

    Michael Shermer's novel "Why People Believe Weird Things" is not a quick, easy, or light read. One must put time and effort into processing the information presented on each page, and progress through the chapters comes slowly. However, the reader is rewarded for his dedication to the novel, as a variety of mind-boggling topics are discussed, myths are debunked, and the psuedoscience behind many odd beliefs is examined. From studying the motives behind those who believe in ghosts and psychic experiences, to those who fully support Creationist theories about the beginning of the world, Shermer presents a variety of topics that will surely hold one's attention.
    I have a mind for numbers, so I particularly enjoyed the intriguing stats found in the novel, describing the percentages of people who have faith in astrology and other oddities. The figures shocked me and forced me to continue reading to find out the thought processes that caused them, and soon had me hooked on the novel. While it may take time and thought to understand Shermer's work, it is well worth it.

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

    An interesting and well thought-out argument

    The issues and topics discussed within this book are intriguing. It covers everything from believers in ghosts, the paranormal and U.F.O.s to the adamant creationists and holocaust deniers. This book covers such a wide array of topics in an interesting and analytical. It breaks down the means and methods that every cult following unknowingly (or sometimes knowingly) employs to gain a follow and use psuedoscience to justify. This book could very well be a skeptics reference book.

    Readers who want to leave their odd interests and beliefs unchecked or unchallenged should avoid this book because it will cause you to think about them and analyze them yourself.

    Overall a well-researched inviting book with its share of anecdotes and personality to counter the austere delineation of cult mentality. I would recommend this to anyone looking to broaden his sociological understanding and gain a thorough understanding of the issues contained within.

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  • Posted June 8, 2009

    To believe in weird things, or not.

    It is difficult for me to conclude whether or not I can concur with Michael Shermer's overall theories. For numerous reasons, such as his exploitations of the juvenile foundations behind various beliefs and superstitions in our society and myself as an individual, I applaud his conclusions. Shermer has successfully implanted in me a stronger sense of skepticism, adjusting the way I perceive things. His exemplifications reveal the effect my childhood has had on my decision making, and the strong correlation it has had on my superstitions which are inherently just ridiculous in a scientific outlook. Regardless if I am a scientific person, the way he dissects specific examples of his life displaying his thoughts with out, and then with bold skepticism, it purely makes sense for me to let go of certain things which have held me back due to fear and false notion. However, I do believe that he had lost a sense of his spirit in looking for such skeptical, straight forward answer, so in many respects his novel has left miniscule impact on me.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Skepticism?

    Michael Shermer's 'Why People Believe Weird Things' is a thought provoking piece that allows you to examine your own way of thinking. He pokes holes in skepticism, ESP, UFO theory, creationism, and holocaust denial merely to prove that belief is not necesarily based on fact or scientific proof. He delves into what causes people to cling to beliefs that are not necesarily sound. He points out an eye opening revelation that smarter people are actually more succeptable to strange beliefs. His debunking is a cleansing experience that clears away the nonsense using a skeptical view of the world. The only dilema is that he first critcizes skepticism in general. So do we believe the skepticist who debunks himself?

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  • Posted May 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Cure for Nonsense

    I'm still reading this book, but the author makes a great start. He believes he's a skeptic, and I won't argue with his personal idiology. So many are loosing their age appropriate morals that it's estimated that the average 17 year old has the moral maturity of an 8 year old. Mine's 13, so I'm using this as neural fuel for a quality time theme. How can children learn age appropriately if they have no such reference to think about what they really believe in? I'd hoped to recommend, The Danger of Prediction, but apparently it's not on the market right now. Aisac Asimov also has some intellectually challenging books about the Old and New Testament from the Point of view of an Athiest. This reminds me of CS Lewis, too.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2009

    A piece to chew over

    Michael Shermer is an exceptional piece that hooks you in from the first sentence in the prologue and keeps you interested until the book is finished. In his non fiction writing, he dispels all mysteries surrounding everything from mediums to religion. I like the fact that Shermer is a believer at first and then through lots of research and scientific studies, he becomes a skeptic. I enjoyed this piece thoroughly because it made me question many things I have always believed in, without looking for the proof behind it. It gets rather wordy at points when he uses lots of scientific data in his argument but overall I loved his work. The stories are funny and relative and I would suggest this read to anyone who wants to challenge themselves and their beliefs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2009

    Rave Review for Weird Things

    Michael Shermer's 'Why People Believe Weird Things' is an exceptional novel that opens the door into the mind's skeptics and believers alike. In each section of the book, Shermer explores the different beliefs of a given subject. For example, in part two he examines the ideas of Science versus Pseudoscience. This book not only educates it's readers on the weird beliefs of others, but also debunks popular misconceptions. Although this was an interesting read, the endless supply of scientific data was quite a turnoff. This disappointment was made up by the interesting commentary of Shermer and his relevant stories, for instance, the Prologue where he discusses the methods of a median on Oprah.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    Why people believe weird things

    If you want to wash away all of the beliefs that you have like alien abductions and what not then do not read this book. This was an insightful read where it discusses the numerous reasons why Shermer thinks that people believe weird things. The countless pages on scientific theory was some what of a bore considering I prefer to read fast pace stories. There was a lot of reasoning behind religious and scientific belief and the differences between the two ideas, though I would rather have read countless stories then to hear about theories. Without the explanation of the theories, then it would be hard for Shermer to develop an argument. The book was still up to interpretation and allowed room to still think and imagine for yourself, to why we believe such things.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2006

    Unsatisfying

    I am a big fan of what the author does for Skeptic magazine, but found this book to be filled with too many fluffy anecdotes and not much meat. Each subject could have been dealt with by presenting more information and less of the conversational style of writing, which was hardly engaging. Some can write about science in a way that is fascinating and almost poetic. This author is not one of them.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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