Sure. This describes many of those who strive to blame most climate change on man-made carbon dioxide emissions. RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 2011. It is not religion but proto-science—an attempt to explain natural phenomena by analogy with the one causative power our ancestors knew well: their own agency. Every time an expert explains a little more, learnt through scientific study and controlled experiments, this becomes quite helpful.… Belief in God is hardwired into our brains through patternicity and agenticity. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. That’s how belief systems work: On both sides, there is huge belief, buttressed by confirmation bias, and equally huge belief that the belief and the conspiracy are all on the other side. Shermer’s exploration of cognitive biases alone will make even the most rational readers recognise the flaws in their thinking and more closely evaluate their beliefs. A timely, reasoned reflection on the nature of belief, offering a level-headed corrective to the divisiveness of extreme partisanship. His latest publication is The Good Book. Our brains, he says, have evolved to find meaningful patterns around us. Shermer seeks to answer the question of why “so many people believe in what most scientists would consider to be the unbelievable?” While admitting that scientists often believe in unproven hypotheses—e.g., the origin of our universe and what might have preceded the Big Bang—the author holds firmly to the “built-in self-correcting machinery” that is inherent in the scientific method: e.g., double-bind controlled experiments which are replicable, testing results against the null hypothesis, etc. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project. The answer is science. He also acknowledges that the pendulum can swing the other way—as in the case of Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and current director of the US National Institutes of Health. Thunderstorms are caused by natural processes of electricity in clouds, not by a god throwing thunderbolts. As for his own political bias, Mr. Shermer says that he’s “a fiscally conservative civil libertarian.” He is a fan of old-style liberalism, as in liberality of outlook, and cites The Science of Liberty author Timothy Ferris’s splendid formulation: “Liberalism and science are methods, not ideologies.” The “scientific solution to the political problem of oppressive governments,” Mr. Shermer says, “is the tried-and-true method of spreading liberal democracy and market capitalism through the open exchange of information, products, and services across porous economic borders.”. In an experiment where food is delivered randomly, pigeons will note what they were doing when the pellet arrived, such as twirling to the left and then pecking a button, and perform the maneuver over and over until the next pellet arrives. 'The Believing Brain is a fascinating account of the origins of all manner of beliefs, replete with cutting-edge evidence from the best scientific research, packed with nuggets of truths and then for good measure, studded with real world examples to deliver to the reader, a very personable, engaging and ultimately, convincing set of explanations for why we believe' - Professor Bruce Hood, Bristol University … I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe, but because I want to know. The Believing Brain ... Review Discussion Additional Sources Why do we Believe? Since early man had only a split second to make such decisions, Mr. Shermer says, we are descendants of ancestors whose “default position is to assume that all patterns are real; that is, assume that all rustles in the grass are dangerous predators and not the wind.”. Mr. Shermer is aware of this risk, and is at pains to reassure readers that his conclusions apply to everyone, even himself. Jumping to false conclusions is an outgrowth of pattern recognition, an essential function of our brain that evolved to allow birds as well as mammals to anticipate danger and respond to their environment. Mr. Shermer offers a handy guide for those who are confused. Beliefs come first; reasons second. Skeptic magazine founding publisher Shermer (The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics, 2007, etc.) “An emotional leap of faith beyond reason is often required,” writes the author. In this book Michael Shermer lucidly describes why and how we are hard wired to ‘want to believe’. Shermer takes gleeful potshots at conspiracy theorists, including the 9/11-truthers, giving a detailed refutation of their claim that planted explosives brought down the Twin Towers, and the belief in extrasensory perception demonstrated by the apparent abilities of psychics and other mediums, which have been replicated by magicians. —Lawrence M. Krauss, Foundation Professor and Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and author of The Physics of Star Trek, Quantum Man and A Universe from Nothing, Michael Shermer has long been one of the world’s deepest thinkers when it comes to explaining where our beliefs come from, and he brings it all together in this important, engaging, and ambitious book. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. Nonetheless, the author fully recognizes the importance of belief in our lives. The brain thus becomes invested in the beliefs, and reinforces them by looking for supporting evidence while blinding itself to anything contrary. The book is oddly organised and a chapter on politics strays from the point, but The Believing Brain should nonetheless be required reading. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. There was a time, when I was younger, when I was confident that I knew how to tell a barmy belief from a rational deduction. writes entertainingly about the scientific basis of belief. Shermer offers a very personal account of his transition from door-to-door evangelical Christian to publisher of Skeptic magazine. And if we all do it, then how do we know that our own rational rejections of conspiracy theories are not themselves infected with beliefs so strong that they are, in effect, conspiracy theories, too? Even pigeons are superstitious. We seldom change our minds. Spotting a significant pattern in the data may have meant an intentional agent was about to pounce. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. God, they say, is in the details. Shermer takes gleeful potshots at conspiracy theorists, including the 9/11-truthers, giving a detailed refutation of their claim that planted explosives brought down the Twin Towers, and the belief in extrasensory perception demonstrated by the apparent abilities of psychics and other mediums, which have been replicated by magicians. CILIPS COVID-19 Book Reviews – The Believing Brain Reviewer name: Scott Main Book title: The Believing Brain Author name: Michael Shermer Genre: Psychology - belief Overall Rating: Excellent Brief summary: One thought troubles me greatly. Home » The Believing Brain review. Belief comes quickly and naturally, skepticism is slow and unnatural, and most people have a low tolerance for ambiguity. This is an entertaining and thoughtful exploration of the beliefs that shape our lives.”, —Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works. 1 of 5 stars 2 of 5 stars 3 of 5 stars 4 of 5 stars 5 of 5 stars The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer 6,973 ratings, 3.93 average rating, 472 reviews One professor of mathematics accused Galileo of putting the moons of Jupiter inside the tube. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. He dubs this concept “beliefdependent realism”, though it is far from a new idea: philosophers of science have long argued that our theories, or beliefs, are the lenses through which we see the world, making it difficult for us to access an objective reality. Michael Shermer Science hopes to counteract false beliefs by recoupling through counterarguments with even better reasons and evidence. It’s not a peculiarity of the uneducated or the fanatical. Just try clearing some space in your own believing brain. God is the ultimate pattern and agent that explains everything. It remains, sadly, an uncommon combination. Mr. Spock is science fiction; humans are often illogical and emotional. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. It infuses patterns with meaning, and imagines intention and agency in inanimate objects and chance occurrences. That experience gives one useful definition of a sceptic, as Mr. Shermer understands the term: one who is aware of the fallibility of intuitions, and willing to take steps to minimise them. Shermer describes this process as “belief-dependent realism”—what we believe determines our reality, not the other way around. He is an able skewerer of sloppy thinking. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Robert Greene We form our beliefs on multiple accounts of subjective, emotional, and psychological reasons. We do not like to admit we are wrong. We just believe things, and then make our world fit our perceptions. The second story is about a man whom you will most definitely have heard of as he is one of … These two interpretations of the same event exemplify Michael Shermer’s view that our beliefs come first and our explanations—or rationalisations—follow. In that simple statement is the key to science. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire. The animism that preceded these religions, and which survives today in some traditional societies such as those of New Guinea and the Kalahari Desert, is fully explained by Shermer’s agenticity concept. Drawing on evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience, Shermer considers not only supernatural beliefs but political and economic ones as well. False beliefs arise from the same thought processes that our brains evolved to enable them to learn about the world. “As a back-of-the-envelope calculation within an order-of-magnitude accuracy, we can safely say that over the past ten thousand years of history humans have created about ten thousand different religions and about one thousand gods,” Mr. Shermer writes. I particularly got a kick out of one of Shermer’s examples. In The Believing Brain, he has written a wonderfully lucid, accessible, and wide-ranging account of the boundary between justified and unjustified belief. Trouble signing in? RELEASE DATE: June 1, 2011. The Believing Brain - by Michael Shermer Everyone gets something different out of a book. But as much as Dr. Shermer declares that there is no mind, only the brain, most of his descriptions do not explain why these processes take place. If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. The section on conspiracy theories, for instance, memorably exposes the bizarre leaps of logic that adherents often make: “If I cannot explain every single minutia [about the collapse of the twin towers]…that lack of knowledge equates to direct proof that 9/11 was orchestrated by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the CIA.”. “As skeptics like to say, everyone is an atheist about these gods; some of us just go one god further.”. This is a result of wide-open pattern detection filters and to the assumption that there must be a conscious agent behind everything. But it is science itself that Mr. Shermer most heartily embraces. I say “we” because, after reading Mr. Shermer’s book and others like it, my uneasy conclusion is that we all do this, even when we think we do not. We need emotion to motivate us and help us function. And Public Affairs/Princeton Univ. when we need to believe ’ had survival value for human life to survive continue! 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