Why People Believe Weird Things Book Summary - Why People Believe Weird Things Book explained in key points

Why People Believe Weird Things summary

Michael Shermer

Pseudoscience, Superstition and Other Confusions of Our Time

3.7 (36 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

'Why People Believe Weird Things' by Michael Shermer is a fascinating exploration of the human mind's capacity for irrational beliefs. It examines common fallacies and biases, and provides valuable insights into critical thinking.

Table of Contents

    Why People Believe Weird Things
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    Science is based on facts – pseudoscience is based on belief.

    What separates real science from pseudoscience? Pseudosciences like astrology or creationism claim to be “scientific,” but they actually reject scientific laws and methods.

    Science is based on laws that can be measured. A scientific law describes an action in nature that can be proved by tests. Once we’ve determined a certain law, we can use it as a basis for further theories and research.

    Consider the law of gravity. We can test it again and again, and confirm that it’s always true. Scientists can research the physical world further, knowing that the law of gravity will always be a part of it.

    A scientific theory can also be tested, but it’s different from a law, because it’s possible to prove a theory wrong. The fact that theories don’t have to be correct is actually one of science’s greatest strengths. Anyone can research a theory, and correct and improve it if necessary.

    Pseudoscientific theories, however, aren’t based on facts. They’re based on belief, which also means they can’t be proven wrong, because you can’t disprove someone’s subjective belief.

    Unlike science, pseudosciences don’t involve any sort of laws or evidence. Instead, they’re based on intangible ideas or assumptions.

    Divination, for instance, is based on the assumption that certain people have innate psychic powers. Yet throughout human history, no one has ever been able to prove that psychic powers exist. Because divination isn’t based on evidence, it can’t be tested.

    Ultimately, pseudosciences can never be proven wrong – or right – which is where they differ from science. A scientist would say, “x is true because I can prove that x is true,” whereas a pseudoscientist would say, “x is true because you can’t prove that x is wrong.”

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    What is Why People Believe Weird Things about?

    Why People Believe Weird Things provides an overview of the most common pseudoscientific and supernatural theories. It’ll teach you why so many people believe in them, why they’re wrong, and what methods proponents of pseudosciences use to assert their incorrect theories. It also offers both rational arguments for science, and rational arguments against pseudoscience.

    Why People Believe Weird Things Review

    Why People Believe Weird Things (1997) is a thought-provoking exploration of the human tendency to embrace and defend bizarre beliefs. Here are three reasons why this book is a must-read:

    • It offers a compelling analysis of the psychological, social, and cultural factors that contribute to embracing weird beliefs, giving readers a deeper understanding of human behavior.
    • The book presents a wide range of examples, from UFO sightings to pseudoscience, providing an enlightening journey through the strange and often irrational corners of our minds.
    • With its insightful reasoning and clear arguments, the book challenges readers to critically evaluate their own beliefs, making it a stimulating and thought-provoking read.

    Who should read Why People Believe Weird Things?

    • Anyone interested in science or psychology
    • Anyone who wants to learn about incorrect but widely held beliefs
    • Anyone interested in the difference between science and faith

    About the Author

    Michael Shermer is a science journalist, historian and founder of The Skeptics Society – a non-profit organization of over 55,000 members that promotes scientific skepticism and fights pseudoscience. He’s the editor in chief of Skeptic, and writes monthly for Scientific American. He’s also published many other books, such as Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design and The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share and Follow the Golden Rule.

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    Why People Believe Weird Things FAQs 

    What is the main message of Why People Believe Weird Things?

    The main message of Why People Believe Weird Things is to understand the psychology behind bizarre beliefs and the importance of critical thinking.

    How long does it take to read Why People Believe Weird Things?

    The reading time for Why People Believe Weird Things varies, but it takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is Why People Believe Weird Things a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Why People Believe Weird Things is an insightful and thought-provoking book. It provides valuable insights into the reasons behind bizarre beliefs and the ways to evaluate them critically. Highly recommended!

    Who is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things?

    The author of Why People Believe Weird Things is Michael Shermer.

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