The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

Book rating: 05 Hardback

By (author) Michael Shermer

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  • Publisher: TIMES BOOKS
  • Format: Hardback | 400 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 235mm x 36mm | 635g
  • Publication date: 15 July 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 0805091254
  • ISBN 13: 9780805091250
  • Illustrations note: 30-35 b&w illustrations throughout
  • Sales rank: 39,972

Product description

In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world's best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths. Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.

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Author information

Michael Shermer is the author of "The Believing Brain," "Why People Believe Weird Things," "The Science of Good and Evil," "The Mind Of The Market," "Why Darwin Matters," "Science Friction," "How We Believe" and other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior. He is the founding publisher of "Skeptic" magazine, the editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for "Scientific American," and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Southern California.

Customer reviews

By Susan Freiman 11 Sep 2011 5

An excellent review of the biology, psychology, physics, chemistry, neurology, evolution, sociology of how the brain produces belief. It's also very readable, treating topics including faith, conspiracy theories such as doubts about the explanations for the World Trade Center collapse, morals. I'd give it a 6 if I could.

Review quote

"Michael Shermer has long been one of our most committed champions of scientific thinking in the face of popular delusion. In "The Believing Brain," he has written a wonderfully lucid, accessible, and wide-ranging account of the boundary between justified and unjustified belief. We have all fallen more deeply in his debt." -Sam Harris, author of the "New York Times" bestsellers "The Moral Landscape," "Letter to a Christian Nation," and "The End of Faith.""The physicist Richard Feynman once said that the easiest person to fool is yourself, and as a result he argued that as a scientist one has to be especially careful to try and find out not only what is right about one's theories, but what might also be wrong with them. If we all followed this maxim of skepticism in everyday life, the world would probably be a better place. But we don't. In this book Michael Shermer lucidly describes why and how we are hard wired to 'want to believe'. With a narrative that gently flows from the personal to the profound, Shermer shares what he has learned after spending a lifetime pondering the relationship between beliefs and reality, and how to be prepared to tell the difference between the two."--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. Shermer knows all the science, he tells great stories, he is funny, and he is" fearless," delving into hot-button topics like 9-11 Truthers, life after death, capitalism, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, and the existence of God. This is an entertaining and thoughtful exploration of the beliefs that shape our lives."--Paul Bloom, author of" How Pleasure Works"""The Believing Brain" is a tour de for