Michael Shermer is the publisher of Sceptic magazine. He looks for rational and scientific explanations, rather than those based on folk wisdom and superstition. Here he explains some of the biological basis of our will to believe in causation that defies rationality.
Why you should listen:
As founder and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Shermer has exposed fallacies behind intelligent design, 9/11 conspiracies, the low-carb craze, alien sightings and other popular beliefs and paranoias. But it’s not about debunking for debunking’s sake. Shermer defends the notion that we can understand our world better only by matching good theory with good science. So his work offers cognitive context for our often misguided beliefs: In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can powerfully combine with the power of suggestion. In fact, a common thread that runs through beliefs of all sorts, he says, is our tendency to convince ourselves: We overvalue the shreds of evidence that support our preferred outcome, and ignore the facts we aren’t looking for.
Who is he:
Michael Shermer writes a monthly column for Scientific American, and is an adjunct at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University. His latest book is The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.
- Shermer says that pseudoscience can be dangerous. Give an example.
- He claims that we are predisposed to belief. He calls this Patternicity. What example does he give for how this came about?
- Cognitive priming enables us to see patterns that we have been primed for, even after the priming cue has been withdrawn. False or True?
- Patternicity, or the tendency to ascribe items belonging to a pattern of events, goes (A) down, or ( B) up, when we have feelings of loss of control?
- Jay thinks that twenty-somethings should do these 4 things. Select the letters of the correct statements.
A) Claim their adulthood
B) Plan to make a lot of money
C) Use close friends
D) Get some identity capitol
E) Become entrepreneurs
F) Use weak ties
G) Find a best friend
H) Pick their family
- Dopamine levels affect Patternicity in what ways?
- What was demonstrated in the lip balm hoax?
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