Why People Believe Weird Things; Pseudoscience, Supersition, and Other Confusions of Our Timeby Michael Shermer, Stephen Jay Gould (Foreword by)
With his no-holds-barred assault on popular myths and prejudices, Shermer debunks psychobabble and extraordinary, nonsensical claims. 20 illustrations.
- Freeman, W. H. & Company
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- 6.13(w) x 9.17(h) x 0.90(d)
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I found it very appropriate that Shermer had Gould write the foreward. I thought that his writing style was similar to that of Shermer's, and I believe that he did a good job setting the scene for the book. (I was later personally drawn in with the Prologue being about the United States fasination with Oprah Winfrey. Although I am a fan, it's interesting how persuasive she is towards America, and the world.) One thing that I particulsrly liked about Shermer was his qoute that part one was based off of, when Shermer stated "I think Therefore I am." I like that qoute and the power that it holds. It speaks of the power of knowledge and how important it is to think for yourself, and not just "go with the flow" of others opinions and ideas. Obviously it is good to collaborate, and just beacuse you may agree with someone does not mean that you are unoriginal. In fact it shows that you or the other party has the ability to open others minds to a similar way of thinking and comprehension. In part four, there is a section that speaks of "free speech." This reminded me of an essay that was once read in class about the "controversy" of free speech. Do we provide the right of free speech because we actually care about what everyone else has to say, or do we just want the opportunity to speak when we see fit? Causing us to only "tolerate" what everyone else speaks of. I believe that Shermer's novel on skepticism is interesting, controversial, but most importantly and productivily allows the reader to think-and hopefully think for him/herself.
The title caught my eye at first, but I was hooked when I browsed the chapter on the 25 fallacious and supposedly-logical arguments people use to provide a basis for belief. It has an excellent synopsis of the Creationism/Evolution debate and a more-or-less objective analysis of Objectivism. I'd highly recommend this book for people who've got the will to think for themselves. I have only two suggestions to improve the book. First, Mr. Shermer establishes his credibility as an authority on skepticism by using a tactic normally employed by the religious right in their publications. Essentially, he says, 'I used to believe in all sorts of crazy stuff. Now I don't. Here's why.' A number of Christian fundamentalist publications use the same approach when trying to convince us that we should follow Jesus. It sounds contrived in both cases. And secondly, the chapter on Holocaust deniers came across to me as a rogues' gallery of revisionists. Perhaps this chapter should be called 'Which People Believe Weird Things?'