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Why People Believe Weird Things

Narrated by: Michael Shermer
Length: 3 hrs and 28 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (39 ratings)

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Editor reviews

Michael Shermer is the perfect authority for this topic. Having once believed in almost everything - from alien abductions to near-death experiences - he now believes in almost nothing. Or at least, he needs a lot of convincing. With a scientist's precision, he methodically dissects common beliefs and errors in thinking that most of us commit at least some of the time. Shermer is the master of the reality check, but he's far more than just a misanthropic debunker of superstition. He knows, and explains, why we have a need to believe the implausible. This is smart listening. (Rick L.)

Summary

UFO abductions, television psychics, paranormal phenomena, skeptics and believers alike, find themselves debating truths and lies in the strange web of pseudoscience and the occult. With everyday normal life moving too fast to comprehend, people are turning to the bizarre and wacky for comfort. Now, director of the Skeptics Society Michael Shermer explores the very human reasons why we find other worldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. The eternal search for meaning and spiritual fulfillment leads us astray by extraordinary claims and controversial ideas, particularly those in the realms of superstition and the supernatural. This celebrates the scientific spirit and the joy to be found in rationally exploring the world's greatest mysteries.
©1997, 2002 Michael Shermer

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lesley
  • Southport, United Kingdom
  • 08-04-09

Shermer is all over this.

Shermer has been the editor of Skeptic Magazine for some years and in that time has come across many weird beliefs and has attended many dubious seminars and psuedo-science events. Shermer tells it how it is and uses reason and whit to get over the real science and socoilogy behind ridiculous claims. I read the book first, and it would be a good idea to get an unabridged version of this (If Shermer has the time) but this is an excellent listen covering some of his adventures to the other side of science. I would also recommend 'Borderlands of science' and his most recent release of his lectures on the history of science.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    out of 5 stars
  • Giedrius
  • LondonUnited Kingdom
  • 09-03-07

sceptical of sceptical

It's a sceptical of sceptical of sceptics.

1 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jennifer
  • 07-10-10

Tricky concepts made easy

This book is really clear and easy to follow without being patronising. I love the section on logical fallacies.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • reggie p
  • 17-09-04

Ok but not as good as How We Believe

This book contained many of the same arguments in the author's other book, How We Believe, with additional discussion of topics such as the Holocaust deniers as well creation scientists. There was too much debunking of the deniers and creationists and not enough analysis of why people believe such things. I suppose the reasons why people believe nonsense is really limited to a few reasons, such as hope, fear, laziness, etc., that are applicable to a variety of situations. There's not a whole lot more that can be said about this.
No need to read both of the author's book. I liked How We Believe much better than this one.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Leilah
  • 27-01-08

Smart

Learn to think for yourself. How come I have never asked myself these questions? This book is so revealing.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ted Kennedy
  • 14-10-15

Coulda been even more abridged....

Repetitive but fun to listen to.
Voice is awkward, but not annoying.
More examples woulda been nice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • The Accountant
  • 24-07-15

great read

What made the experience of listening to Why People Believe Weird Things the most enjoyable?

I like all of Michael Shermer's books. He makes science understandable for non science people like me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • DS
  • 26-12-13

confirming you suspictions

that most people are self delusional or just stupid. Read this and you'll know why.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Droid/Human Hybrid
  • 25-09-12

Interesting But I Want More

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I'd recommend it because there are some good stories and ideas here.

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/A

What about Michael Shermer’s performance did you like?

He read the book and made understandable considering the topics could have come off dry but he made it all the more interesting hearing it the way he meant it to be heard.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

N/A

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Quotes&More
  • 07-10-06

No Why, not Know Why

I was very interested in this topic, as a research psychologist who knows quite a bit about the depth of studies that examine the biases in how people make inferences. I found this book immensely disappointing. It "reads" (listens) much more like a diatribe against specific beliefs some people hold than any reasoned explanation in depth about "why" people believe what they believew when others do not, and when much evidence is to the contrary.

I did find the section on the holocost deniers interesing, but the book could have just as well been all about that (which is what the author really seemed mostly to want to write about). I could say so much more, but the key is that he focuses on the weird things far far more than anything about the "why," where there could have been so much more depth--which does not seem to exist in his examination.

17 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Luc
  • 19-10-09

This book sadly misses the point.

When I brought this book, I was expecting an audiobook focused on the philosophical and psychological causes of false beliefs. Instead, this book is just a long skeptic diatribe directed towards fraudulent psychics, creationists, UFO abductees and holocaust deniers. The author even took the time to launch himself in a poorly and bitter attack on Ayn Rand that, in my opinion, reeks of personal bitterness. The last ten minutes are dedicated, almost as an afterthought, to summarily explain the "excuses" humans use to believe in "Weird Things".

I was expecting something close to Malcom Gladwell, Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. Mr. Shermer fell short.

If you want a book to refute Creationism, Holocaust Denial or encounters of the third kind, this Audiobook is pure ammunition for your cause. If you REALLY want to know why people believe in real things, please invest your credit/money elsewhere.

13 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bill
  • 22-04-08

informative

michael at his best, again. all books are highly recomended

6 of 9 people found this review helpful