2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Interesting and well-written, but don't expect too much,
This review is from: How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (Paperback)
I have the same feelings about this book as I do for Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things." I enjoyed reading both books but felt they were lacking in substance. This book, however, is guiltier of that offense than the former one. In "Why We Believe" Shermer does a good job of conveying his opinion on god and religion and he does present facts and logical argument to bolster his case. Basically, Shermer considers himself to be an agnostic. However, the agnostic position is an easy one to support. As an agnostic, you are saying that you either don't have enough information to take a position and/or you really don't care either way. One of Shermer's main conclusions seems to be that questions such as, "Is there a god?" can never be answered with any certainty. Once that position has been taken, it seems pointless to continue the text.
Given the title of the book, I expected this book to contain more information on why humans seem to have an innate need to believe in god, afterlives, and the supernatural. Shermer does propose his concept of a "belief engine" in which this topic is addressed to a certain extent. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I felt that this topic, which I assumed would be the central thesis of the book, was covered rather briefly.
My other main criticism for this book, and his other one, is that the author tends to include chapters that are somewhat off the topic. In this book, for example, Shermer discuss the millennium and all of the hype, paranoia and misguided information about it. This is an interesting and timely topic (given that the book was published in 1999) but it is a departure from the central topic of the book,
Although I do have these misgivings about the book, I did enjoy it. Shermer has a nice writing style and it is an enjoyable read. I did like the way that he weaves his own personal experiences and beliefs throughout the book. I thought that the book could have included more "substance" but I did learn some things. I have no regrets about purchasing, and spending the time to read, the book. If this is a topic that interests you, I think that you will enjoy this book, but keep your expectations low.