The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
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The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

3.8 29
by Michael Shermer
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0805091254

ISBN-13: 9780805091250

Pub. Date: 05/24/2011

Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.

The Believing Brain is bestselling author Michael Shermer's comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born, formed, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished.

In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world's best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking

Overview

The Believing Brain is bestselling author Michael Shermer's comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born, formed, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished.

In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world's best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.

Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805091250
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
05/24/2011
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
855,036
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: I Want to Believe 1

Part I Journeys of Belief

1 Mr. D'Arpino's Dilemma 11

2 Dr. Collins's Conversion 26

3 A Skeptic's Journey 37

Part II The Biology of Belief

4 Patternicity 59

5 Agenticity 87

6 The Believing Neuron 111

Part III Belief in Things Unseen

7 Belief in the Afterlife 141

8 Belief in God 164

9 Belief in Aliens 188

10 Belief in Conspiracies 207

Part IV Belief in Things Seen

11 Policts of Belief 231

12 Confirmations of Belief 256

13 Gepgraphies of Belief 280

14 Cosmologies of Belief 304

Epilogue: The Truth Is Out There 334

Notes 345

Acknowledgments 369

Index 373

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Believing Brain 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Knowledge70 More than 1 year ago
Clearly the current 'reviewers' have not read it. Funny how one uses thier lack of belief in evolution to dismiss a book that explains how those beliefs are formed. (And by the way it's 'Scientific theory' which if you didn't know is not 'guesswork'. It's also the theory of gravity.... do you think that is made up too?). As for the book.... a great read and an eye opener (if only some would actually remove thier blinkers and read it).
Willcutz More than 1 year ago
Thoughts plus feelings equal beliefs. Michael Shermer has brought to light what we all need to understand about ourselves and others. What you believe is the core indicator of how your life will perform. As Shermer infers in his subtitle, our beliefs become our truths and out-picture in who and what shows up in our experience. As we maximize and stay mindful of this process, we will truly make the quality of our lives the greatest they can be. I use the tools I learned in "Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self" and "The Power of Decision" to be conscious and consistent with my best thinking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It goes beyond why people believe odd things and examines why we believe anything. He makes a very good argument that we formulate our beliefs first and then use evidence to justify them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a skeptic and an atheist, and I always seem to find it difficult to enjoy Shermer's works. It seems to me he rarely keeps to the topic of his books. The section on astronomy is the best example of this, as it dithers on into a rote science history lesson. And what do the differences between one side of an island and another have to do with "the believing brain?" I may never know.
chas3 More than 1 year ago
This is excellent book illustrating how our basic beliefs, based on cultural values, are hard wired into our psyches when we are children. We are not the objective rational beings that we like to think we are. That¿s why cultures believe in so many ridicules myths to the detriment of society as a whole.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just skimmed the sample and I won't be buying the book. The man writes as if he is the smartest person in the world and is teaching the poor ignorant masses. I doubt he has studied most of the subjects he sneers at.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well-articulated explanation of how human beings form beliefs. Beliefs come first, based on emotional factors or ease of understanding, followed by "logical" explanations. Anyone who has dealt with human beings can see that this is indeed true. It's helpful to have books like this to remind us of our tendencies, so we can counteract them with scientific reason.  
The_hibernators More than 1 year ago
Skepticism In The Believing Brain Michael Shermer, the founder and editor of Skeptic Magazine, shows the reader how and why we believe. He begins the book with a discussion of religious beliefs, providing a few examples of life-altering religious (or irreligious) experiences, including his own. I found these stories engaging and enjoyed Shermer's philosophical discussion. Then Shermer defines "agenticity"--the tendency to assume patterns have meaning and intention (an outside agent) instead of seeing them as non-intentional or even random events. He describes the cellular mechanics of our brains and why we would have evolved "agenticity," and then provides many examples of how we see patterns even when they don't exist. This part was pretty funny. I enjoyed his examples. Shermer describes how we can become convinced that our own beliefs are accurate and unbiased, how confirmation bias leads to unconsciously ignoring data that contradict our ideas while noticing in minute detail all the examples in which the data confirm our ideas. This leads to a political discussion of liberals versus conservatives versus libertarianism (because, after all, we simply MUST hear about Shermer's libertarian beliefs!). The final third of the book describes the progress of scientific beliefs from world-is-flat to the multi-verse (again, Shermer inserts a commentary about what HE believes, which seemed a small digression from his main point). This third of the book also describes how the scientific method works. I found the final third of the book less interesting than the first two thirds. It seemed a little less organized than the first two parts, but that may have been because my mind was wandering since I was already familiar with the material he covered. In the end, this was a fun and interesting read, but nothing I'm going to read again.
Anonymous 9 months ago
For those who are still stuck in the place of not knowing anything about concepts like confirmation bias, patternicity, illusions, and other things our brains "like", this book is an excellent place to start. However, Shermer definitely walks the line of humor and arrogance which did make the book less enjoyable. Personally, I find this information fascinating but I don't find it necessary to stretch into the realm of considering believers fools. Believing is what we do and I don't know anyone who can say there isn't anything they trust without needing scientific confirmation before believing it. This is something we should all be aware of but a healthy dose of "beleiving" brings joy. Let the people be happy. Don't shame them . I could be misunderstanding his mindset here, but anyway it's MY review.
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The book is especially written for people like the 1st two reviewers. Ofcourse, it's not easy for them to understand since they lack that.