Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
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In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. A no-holds-barred assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, with more than 80,000 copies in print, Why People Believe Weird Things debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter, "Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things," Michael Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science.
Shermer, science historian and true crusader, also reveals the more dangerous side of such illogical thinking, including Holocaust denial, the recovered-memory movement, the satanic ritual abuse scare, and other modern crazes. Why People Believe Strange Things is an eye-opening resource for the most gullible among us and those who want to protect them.
of the socially marginalized. Still, as historian of science Frank Sulloway has shown in his controversial 1996 book, Born to Rebel, historical hypotheses can be tested (see chapter 16 for discussion of Sulloway’s model). For the past hundred years, for example, historians have hypothesized that social class and social class conflict have been the driving forces behind revolutions, both political and scientific. Sulloway has tested this Marxian hypothesis by coding thousands of individuals in
after twelve years of Reagan and Bush, was to be nurtured back to health under the new administration. Like anecdotes, analogies and metaphors do not constitute proof. They are merely tools of rhetoric. 16. Ad Ignorantiam This is an appeal to ignorance or lack of knowledge and is related to the burden of proof and unexplained is not inexplicable fallacies, where someone argues that if you cannot disprove a claim it must be true. For example, if you cannot prove that there isn’t any psychic
disappearing, are shifted to the margins of belief. So it went for the medieval witch crazes. So it will likely go for modern witch crazes such as the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s and the “recovered memory movement” of the 1990s. Is it really possible that thousands of Satanic cults have secretly infiltrated our society and that their members are torturing, mutilating, and sexually abusing tens of thousands of children and animals? No. Is it really possible that millions of adult women were
movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. —Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 1871 9 * * * In the Beginning An Evening with Duane T. Gish * * * On the the evening of March 10, 1995, I entered a 400-seat lecture hall at the University of California, Los Angeles, five minutes before the debate was to begin. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house, and the aisles
with myself hundreds of times, ‘I would turn my back on my Jewish heritage. If I don’t take the case, I would turn my back on everything I’ve worked for in the last fifteen years. To be true to my work, I must judge the case as I have judged every case before it. If there are problems with the eyewitness identifications I must testify. It’s the consistent thing to do’” (p.232). Loftus then asked a close Jewish friend for advice. The answer was clear: “‘Beth, please. Tell me you said no. Tell me