Why do so many people believe in mind-reading, past-life regression, abductions by extraterrestials and ghosts? What has given rise to belief in "scientific creationism?" And why do some people claim that the Holocaust "never happened?" This book asaults modern, popular superstitions and prejudices.
This book opens your eyes to so much that is going on around us. It covers everything from Alien Abductees to the Holocaust to Creantionists. You will disagree with the author's views on several issues, but you will find yourself questioning your own beliefs. A great read for any skeptic.
While I respect and enjoy Michael Shermer's work, particularly his "Skeptic" column in Scientific American, I was a bit disappointed with this book. After hearing a radio interview he did to promote the book when it first came out, I was chomping at the bit to read it. It was definitely interesting, but the title should have been "Weird Things People Believe," because the book never answered its own question. It's more of a catalog and history of various irrational convictions. Had I known this going in, I probably would have enjoyed it more, but I couldn't help missing the inquiry I'd been anticipating.
Dedicated to Carl Sagan, with a foreword by Stephen Jay Gould, this book by the publisher of Skeptic magazine and the Director of the Skeptics Lecture Series at California Institute of Technology, has the pedigree to be accepted as a work of scholarly value. Fortunately, it is also readable, interesting, and well indexed and provides an extensive bibliography. The author discusses such topics of current interest as alien abduction, near-death experiences, psychics, recovered memories, and denial of the Holocaust. Never patronizing to his opponents, Shermer explains why people may truly believe that they were held by aliens (he had a similar experience himself) or have recovered a memory of childhood satanic-ritual abuse. He clearly explains, often with pictures, tables, or graphs, the fallacy of such beliefs in terms of scientific reasoning. While teens may find the first section of the book about "Science and Skepticism" a bit too philosophical and ponderous, the rest of it will surely captivate them. Read cover to cover or by section, or used as a reference tool, this book is highly recommended for young adults.--Carol DeAngelo, Garcia Consulting Inc., EPA Headquarters, Washington, DC
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With so many articles and books today about the sometimes-irrational economic behavior of our species, this book from the '90s might feel a little thin, but it's still a decent introduction to some concepts.
In a way, this is two books. The first part highlights the top superstitions of the time, such as the recovered memory movement, Satanic or sex-abuse cults, astrology, ESP, etc. Shermer outlines the psychological reasons why belief persists in the face of contrary evidence. (For example, many of us suck at probability, me included!)
The second half spends a significant amount of time on Holocaust denial, including interviews with some of the people involved in that movement. While that's a great topic, I felt like the book had veered away from why I picked it up in the first place: the why.