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.
Classics, history, historical fiction, marketing, Napoleonic stuff and of course 'Boys own Adventure'. This is my bent. Occasional self help as well.
I was knocked out once. Nothing. Can't even remember the time I was out. I am guessing death is the same. I am also finding this book to back up a lot of my other ideas. Your brain has to make sense out of the world, stimuli and memories and so fills it in with voices, ghosts and flying saucers. Then you have to make up a reason for all this, after all it can't just be me otherwise I would fit in better, surely! Well Michael Shemer explains it all, lost me a little in the bit about the universe and alternative universes, but I will go back to that another time. Once you listen to Michael, who narrates his (not the best to listen to but passable) book, you start to see that it might just be time to stop believing and get on with it, living that is. He dose not say it does not exist, but as a scientist, or at least someone using science, just because it does not have a normal reason does not mean it is supernormal, it means we just don't have a normal answer yet. Worth listening to and once you have, you can discuss with your brainy intelligent friends his theories and feel a little more wiser than the 'spoon benders'.
Michael gave logical explanations for some of the most fanciful beliefs. Anyone who considers themselves to be superstitious or, knowingly believes in fanciful ideas should listen to this.
No, if anything it has encouraged me to listen to more.
I think it was just nice to hear it read by the person who wrote it. He read it well, stressing points where HE wanted to emphasise.
Instead of just saying that conspiracy theorists are nuts, the author does an outstanding job of explaining how otherwise intelligent, rational people can end up believing things that are either patently false or, at best, highly unlikely. The only reason you should doubt his reasoning would be if you do not believe in the scientific method. If you do, then the his arguments are solid and quite well-explained. If you somehow don't believe in the scientific method, well, I'm not sure what to say about that but you probably won't like this book or much about modern society in general.
My only quibble is that the last few chapters, while interesting, seem incongruous with the rest of the book. This shouldn't stop you from buying the book nor listening to it all of the way through, but it's just a warning in case you find yourself asking what is the point he is trying to make and what does it have to do with the Believing Brain?
This audiobook was engaging and interesting for the 1st half, but went downhill from there. The first half references brain research and neuropsychology to support Shermer's positions and it was an enjoyable listen. The second half left me yearning for it to come to an end. The second half is mostly an opinion piece on politics, in which Shermer is the best example of forming a belief then filtering the evidence to support it, and a LENGTHY exposition on the history of astronomy that went way beyond what was needed to prove his point. Astronomy is interesting, but I purchased this audiobook to hear about brain science. I rated this audiobook a 3 to average a 4 for the first half and a 2 for the second half.
without hesitation. It allows the reader to look at different beliefs/superstitions from the outside
l'enfer c'est les autres
The author gives us many anecdotes and stories which are all done better in other books I have listened to with Audible, but no one has them all in once place as this book does. Your choice than would be to listen to about a dozen other good books or listen to this one and sacrifice some quality of exposition.
He almost always gives credit for thoughts he borrowed from other authors and than summarizes them in his own words. (One exception, I don't think he gave credit to Brian Greene when he seemed to be borrowing from him).
The book does read mostly like a series of essays. The author does a workmanlike job of putting the pieces together and does have a interesting theme he is working towards, 'belief comes before understanding', and 'patternicity' and 'agentnicity' influence our beliefs.
The author is not a very good reader and I wished he had hired a professional reader. Soon after I finished this book I started listening to another book by a professional reader and I thought, 'what a difference a good reader makes'.
Shermer draws together much of the rationale of why people believe as they do. A real revelation for me in many areas. I'd recommend for any enquiring minds out there.