The Believing Brain---Believe It Or Not !!!
The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
Daniel @ 2011-05-29
Michael Shermer's new book is an inside look on why people believe what they do and how they reinforce that belief. Whether talking about ghosts, gods, conspiracies or politics, this book will not disappoint.
The author explains that we look for patterns in world events or beliefs. People then associate these patterns with "agents", or unseen beings or powers that seem to control the world. Once we form beliefs and make commitments to them, we maintain and reinforce them through what the author calls "a number of cognitive heuristics that guarantee they are correct". For example, conspiricies. Some people believe that our govenment was behind the 9/11 attack. They point to issues such as melting steel melts at 2,777 degrees when jet fuel burns only at 1,517. This is debunked by an engineering professor who states that steel loses 50 percent of its strength at 1,200 degrees, along with other combustable items which in turns caused the horizontal trusses to sag, which caused the angle clips that hold the vertical columns. This causes one truss then another to fail, until you have a pancake effect that caused the 500,00 ton building to collapse. Pure simple facts, not a controlled demolition carried out by a hidden agent---our government.
In general, conspirices are likely to be false if: 1)The agents behind the pattern of conspiracy are elevated to near superhuman power to pull it off. Human behavior is flawed and have a tendency to have flaws. 2) The more complex the conspiricy and the more people involved, the less likely people would keep silent and to have the event unfold successfully. 3) Extreme hostility about and strong suspicions of any and all government agencies or private organizations in an indiscriminate manner indicates that the conspiracy theorist is unable to differentiate between true and false conspiracies.
Another area covered is God. God is considered the ultimate pattern that explains everything that happens, from the beginning of the universe to the end of time and everything in between. God is the ultimate intentional agent who gives the universe meaning and our lives purpose. In reality, such beliefs are hardwired into our brains and behaviorally expressed in consistent patterns throughout history and culture. This evidentiary lines come from evolutionary theory,behavior genetics, and comparative world religions, all of which support the larger thesis of the book that the belief comes first and the reasons for the belief follow.
The book covers other areas of interest, but what it really boils down to is this. If we truly want to seek out the truth, not what we would like to be true but what actually is true, science is the answer. It is the best guide we have and the most reliable. The rest is just wishful thinking.
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