Posts Tagged ‘why people believe weird things’

There is a particular type of person who self-identifies as ‘rational.’ They sometimes use other words– inquisitive, logical, open-minded– but the intent is much the same: to place themselves on an intellectual hierarchy above those simple creatures that make decisions based on emotions and irrational beliefs. They don’t say that, of course, because that would make them look egocentric, but it doesn’t take too much thought to figure out that that is exactly what they mean.

These people should read Why People Believe Weird Things. It’s a fascinating book that lays out the reasons why otherwise ‘rational’ people believe in things like creationism, ESP, and the non-existence of the Holocaust.* What’s nice is that Michael Shermer manages to do this without sounding like a self-important ass chuckling at the folly of lesser human beings.

I hate to boil the book down to a few sentences, because it really is worth a read (or several), but the gist of it is that human beings selectively remember things that support their beliefs and ignore those things that don’t. It’s not a groundbreaking idea by any means, but Shermer’s writing is engaging, and it’s refreshing to see someone use evolutionary psychology for something besides justifying patriarchal gender roles.

This post brought to you by the realisation that I don’t do nearly enough reading these days.

*I use ‘rational’ in quotes because at the end of the day, we are all still monkeys running from the thunder.


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