Unlike The Moral Arc, Shermer gave this a strong ending. Arc went into his "feelings" and "beliefs" about libertarianism at the end, rather than a "purely" scientific realm. Trying to "prove" libertarianism is somewhat farfetched after all the books I've read on both sides. It's not like there is any consensus as there is in the scientific community for Global Warming... I was more excited about science in Believing Brain at the end. Overall it was a good learning experience. RTC
Underhand's chief engineer
It's a good listen. Shermer has a great rhythm that keeps almost the entire narration from feeling tedious. The arguments he presents are compelling and based on his decades of research. However, the one chapter he dedicates to political ideology seems a bit too biased. He plainly states his views and after discouraging stereotypes, seems to imply that political leanings are one area where reason can't trump impulse. Indeed, the chapter almost feels like a justification for his own political beliefs.
The main detractor... Despite all of his evidence, he never addressed whether behavioral traits are really inherent or encouraged through social norms.
I very much enjoyed this audiobook! There were some odd mistakes and mispronunciations, but it didn't detract from the content too much. Even if one disagrees with Shermer's beliefs or messages, which even I do on occasion, there is plenty to be garnered from this book, and that is due in large part to how accessible Shermer wrote this book to be. I highly recommend it!
I really did not enjoy this book. I have a rule that I listen all the way through every book that I get -- and I was glad this one was over. His ultimate premise -- that science is great and everything that cannot be proven by the scientific method is a trick of the mind and cannot be trusted -- is all well and good, but the book could have been half as long and make the same point. There was a whole section on the history of science that seemed forced in toward the end of the book and didn't seem to contribute at all to the thesis. In fact, there was a number of times throughout the book that I was left thinking: so what's the point? Why is this discussion here? In short, it may just be my "believing brain" --- but I believe that I should have passed on this one.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
A conundrum is a difficult problem or question. Michael Sherman deals with the biggest conundrum of all. Shermer is an academic psychologist, writer, myth buster, and faith breaker. Shermer characterizes himself as a religious skeptic.
Shermer notes that science is the key to knowledge. Science requires experimentally reproducible results, and when experimental results cannot be precisely reproduced, knowledge changes. Man is on the verge of scientifically proving that Higgs Boson particles exist, 16 years after they were conceptually discovered.
“Patternicity” and “agenticity” are essential characteristics of an inquiring, scientific mind. One must presume that is why Shermer chooses to call himself a skeptic rather than an atheist when asked if he believes in God; i.e. more like a person losing faith rather than God.
Yes - when Michael Shermer read's his own book, it feels like I'm listening to a lecture or debate of his - which I enjoy.
I liked Shermer's unbiased approach - to everything. I also appreciated his personal testimony in the beginning as I have always wondered what his personal belief structure was like and where it came from.
He did a fine job.
No extreme reaction, but I supposed I was impressed by his unbiased approach.
"The Believing Brain" was an excellent read on belief systems ranging from religion, to the paranormal, and even to politics. I didn't expect the section on politics to be that engaging, but I felt that Shermer did an excellent job presenting an unbiased approach to discussing political beliefs. Bias is something that has to be avoided in science, so I greatly appreciated his ability to remain unbiased when discussing topics that tend to polarize people.
I thought the section towards the end regarding the history of cosmology was a bit stretching and really brought the book's momentum to a screeching halt.
Overall it was an excellent read and I would read this again, as well as recommend to my friends. I also took great insight to Shermer's arching thesis in the book: people first establish their belief and then justify their belief system.
Shermer's approach obviously is personal. While during the first half of the book he sums up current brain science/mind theory's point of view quite fascinatingly, in the second half he more or less concentrates on a "kind of vendetta" against personal critics towards his person or position.
So five stars for about 50-60 percent of the book, 2 stars for the rest. I would rate it four stars, but Shemer only repeats the same old experiments and studies that have been ridden to death by so many other books, articles and discussions before, without bringing anything new to the table, that - even though his performance, his to-the-point style are great to listen to and "do make you think" (if you didn't do so before) - in the end you ask yourself: What's new about it? That's all kind of all day knowledge for an educated grown up.
I guess this book has been wrongly categorized by Audible, since there is no "character" (except, maybe, for some "Gods" that ever now and then pop up and whom I find to be quite silly).
Shermer's performance is good, professional and convincing. If he had left out all those pokes towards his personal issues with readers or colleagues in the "scientific" community, it might have been great.
I am not going to believe in that any scientist who calls himself a scientist knows ANYTHING for sure. Shermer wants me to believe he does, but this book is a good base for being a skeptic :-)
There are quite a lot of passages that make you go "huh?". It really isn't of much interest to an European reader/listener, what the American politics system looks like, but if the author insists in this (the US system) being the ONLY ONE in the world, it's quite funny to listen to. You even laugh out loud when the author explains that you just cannot take anything for granted that other people just tell you, and in the next sentence states "this and that, of course, is a fact that everyone knows".
In general you get the most out of this book by listen closely and finding all the moments in which the author directly contradicts himself.
Read by the author, it's a mix of fact, personal experience and opinion. Very interesting and a great way to kill time in traffic.
First, let me get the performance aspect out of the way. Some of the other reviews are pretty hard on Mr. Shermer's efforts here at reading his own work. While it's true that the reading is not as good as one done by a more professional reader, it's still perfectly acceptable and doesn't distract.
Now, on to the content!
In the subtitle, Shermer lists the main topics he will touch on: ghosts, gods, politics, and conspiracies. I am familiar with Shermer's work in the excellent book "Why People Believe Weird Things" as well as an occasion article I've read, so I felt like I knew what I was getting into, and I did with 1 minor exception.
I did get what I expected in the ghosts, gods, and conspiracies: a clear approach to understanding and explaining why people believe in such nonsensical flights of fancy, with lots of examples, references to current research and well-thought out arguments. I found the underlying question of "why do people believe in _anything_" quite rich and fascinating, and handled well.
Those are the "3 out of 4 well-covered"...
I was very disappointed in the political treatment. Shermer dropped the ball here in a 2 ways.
For one, Shermer strongly promoted his Libertarian viewpoint. Without getting into the details, if you've ran across Libertarian discourses on the internet (and if you are on a message board of any substantial size, I know you have), you've heard everything Shermer has to say on that political position. I don't think any well-read person will hear anything new here, regardless of what politics you hold.
The larger disappointment, which only makes the Libertarian focus worse, was an over-reliance on putting political discussion into the left-right American political spectrum. Only after a long initial discussion confined to the American left-right spectrum, did we get a few brief sentences on a larger global perspective on politics, and then only to simplify them down into the same American left-right spectrum. There was virtually no consideration given to political thought outside of a strict American perspective.
Badly managed and highly disappointed with the political topic handling, I must say.
However, the rest of the content was quite well done, and even the political stuff was worth listening to, if only to reinforce my own personal theory that there is no such thing as true intellectual or rational commentary possible on modern American politics, from any perspective!
Overall, this is a skeptical book written by a deep thinking skeptic, and if that sort of thing is of interest to you, this is worth a listen.