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Why People Believe Weird Things  By  cover art

Why People Believe Weird Things

By: Michael Shermer
Narrated by: Michael Shermer
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Publisher's summary

UFO abductions, television psychics, paranormal phenomena, skeptics and believers alike, find themselves debating truths and lies in the strange web of pseudoscience and the occult. With everyday normal life moving too fast to comprehend, people are turning to the bizarre and wacky for comfort. Now, director of the Skeptics Society Michael Shermer explores the very human reasons why we find other worldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. The eternal search for meaning and spiritual fulfillment leads us astray by extraordinary claims and controversial ideas, particularly those in the realms of superstition and the supernatural. This celebrates the scientific spirit and the joy to be found in rationally exploring the world's greatest mysteries.
©1997, 2002 Michael Shermer

What listeners say about Why People Believe Weird Things

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

No Why, not Know Why

I was very interested in this topic, as a research psychologist who knows quite a bit about the depth of studies that examine the biases in how people make inferences. I found this book immensely disappointing. It "reads" (listens) much more like a diatribe against specific beliefs some people hold than any reasoned explanation in depth about "why" people believe what they believew when others do not, and when much evidence is to the contrary.

I did find the section on the holocost deniers interesing, but the book could have just as well been all about that (which is what the author really seemed mostly to want to write about). I could say so much more, but the key is that he focuses on the weird things far far more than anything about the "why," where there could have been so much more depth--which does not seem to exist in his examination.

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20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

This book sadly misses the point.

When I brought this book, I was expecting an audiobook focused on the philosophical and psychological causes of false beliefs. Instead, this book is just a long skeptic diatribe directed towards fraudulent psychics, creationists, UFO abductees and holocaust deniers. The author even took the time to launch himself in a poorly and bitter attack on Ayn Rand that, in my opinion, reeks of personal bitterness. The last ten minutes are dedicated, almost as an afterthought, to summarily explain the "excuses" humans use to believe in "Weird Things".

I was expecting something close to Malcom Gladwell, Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. Mr. Shermer fell short.

If you want a book to refute Creationism, Holocaust Denial or encounters of the third kind, this Audiobook is pure ammunition for your cause. If you REALLY want to know why people believe in real things, please invest your credit/money elsewhere.

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13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Ok but not as good as How We Believe

This book contained many of the same arguments in the author's other book, How We Believe, with additional discussion of topics such as the Holocaust deniers as well creation scientists. There was too much debunking of the deniers and creationists and not enough analysis of why people believe such things. I suppose the reasons why people believe nonsense is really limited to a few reasons, such as hope, fear, laziness, etc., that are applicable to a variety of situations. There's not a whole lot more that can be said about this.
No need to read both of the author's book. I liked How We Believe much better than this one.

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11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Misleading Title

I was hoping to get a better understanding of how our brains work and why we believe inexplicable things. Instead this is a book about things that people believe and why they are weird or wrong for believing them. I disagreed with a number of his critical analyses, and I was somewhat offended by his self-appointed position of intellectual superiority. This book could have been much better researched and more imaginative than it was.

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7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Smart

Learn to think for yourself. How come I have never asked myself these questions? This book is so revealing.

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7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

informative

michael at his best, again. all books are highly recomended

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6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Read the reviews ...

Why didn't I read the reviews? Wasted a credit on this book. The other reviewers nailed it: Michael Shermer has an axe to grind. I wanted to be entertained, not listen to Shermer drone on about his personal opinions.

Worse yet, in addition to talking off the top of his head (he don't need no stinkin' research), Shermer fails to apply the rules to his own cherished beliefs.

For example, he describes the odds against alien abduction as astronomical. (For the record, I don't subscribe to ailien abductions.) I doubt he understands the term "astronomical" (1 chance in 10 to 50th power) because he easily accepts evolution, which requires belief in an incredulous 1 chance in 10 to the 117th power for the formation of the simplest protein, let alone animated life. (By the way that's not twice as unlikely, but rather 67 magnitudes less likely.)

Go ahead, believe in evolution if you must, preach it if you want, but don't try to justify your religion by invoking the virtues of math. (All praise be to Darwin! Darwin saves!)

Save you money and your credits! It's not even entertaining.

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6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Tricky concepts made easy

This book is really clear and easy to follow without being patronising. I love the section on logical fallacies.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

great read

What made the experience of listening to Why People Believe Weird Things the most enjoyable?

I like all of Michael Shermer's books. He makes science understandable for non science people like me.

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2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Worth reading.

The author explains in clear manner why we are afraid of many things and are willing to accept absurd things.

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2 people found this helpful