- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Times Books (May 24 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805091254
- ISBN-13: 978-0805091250
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.7 x 23.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 662 g
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #188,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths Hardcover – May 24 2011
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
“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 force integrating neuroscience and the social sciences to explain how irrational beliefs are formed and reinforced, while leaving us confident our ideas are valid. This is a must read for everyone who wonders why religious and political beliefs are so rigid and polarized--or why the other side is always wrong, but somehow doesn't see it.” ―Dr. Leonard Mlodinow, physicist and author of The Drunkard's Walk and The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking)
“We might think that we learn how the world works, because we take the time to observe and understand it. Shermer says that's just not so. We just believe things, and then make our world fit our perceptions. Believe me; you don't have to take my word for it. Just try clearing some space in your own Believing Brain.” ―Bill Nye, the Science Guy ©, Executive Director of The Planetary Society
“The Believing Brain is a fascinating account of the origins of all manner of beliefs, replete with cutting edge evidence from the best scientific research, packed with nuggets of truths and then for good measure, studded with real world examples to deliver to the reader, a very personable, engaging and ultimately, convincing set of explanations for why we believe.” ―Professor Bruce Hood, Chair of Developmental Psychology, Bristol University and author of Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable
About the Author
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.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
A very big thumbs up to this author. The only downside is when he tries to explain how a neuron works, he lost me a bit... but then again, my background is in sociology, not bio-psychology.
He conveys the message very well for the every day reader.
The book consists of four parts. Part I - Journeys of belief - two examples of people becoming believers due to personal experience; then the author's road from being a born-again Christian to becoming a skeptic; Part II - The Biology of belief - introduction of the two concepts developed by author: patternicity and agenticity - the moda operandi of human brain, evolutionary character of our natural preference for Type I error (false positive) vs Type II error (false negative); the author shows how the tendency to infuse patterns (true or imaginary) with meaning becomes a source of superstition and magical thinking. The last two parts divide our beliefs between "things unseen" (part III) and "things seen" (part IV). Part III deals with matters where science does not apply or has been unsuccessful so far: our belief in afterlife, belief in god(s), belief in aliens. All these are considered in light of our search for meaning/patterns/agents. The material in this part also shows how the way our thinking processes developed can make us susceptible to a variety of conspiracy theories. Part IV deals with modern day issues, starting from politics of belief, where the author provides examples where bad politics was responsible for bad beliefs, to the brief history of our understanding of the universe (most recent references include a very short summary of the "Grand Design" by Hawking and Mlodinov).
It is an enjoyable read because it is packed with stories and anecdotes which you would not find in a purely scientific publication. Yet, the scientific detail is in most cases more than satisfying from a lay reader point of view. The structure and the information processing of our brain are described in detail. The chemical character of neural communication and how it leads to positive reinforcement of our beliefs (be they right or wrong) and certain behavioral patterns (through self-deception or praise), and to the propensity of our brain towards confirming that we are always right, are very illuminating reads. You can find here information on whether the Neanderthals were on their way to forming a civilization, and a scientific answer to such a puzzling question as "why we love?"
The breadth of the material is so enormous that at times you may find yourself wishing for more. But then you realize that probably every chapter would deserve a separate book. Personally, I find that the material points to the indisputable conclusion that science should enter the areas so far reserved exclusively to philosophers, poets, or charlatans. Also, the author's personal experiences prove quite decisively that the source of human "out-of-body experiences", "alien abduction stories" or "religious visions" is nothing else but our brain, intentionally stimulated by subjecting people to the extremes of hunger, thirst and exhaustion, if not simply to drugs and/or alcohol. It is time to give the scientific method and the human reason the respect they deserve.The success of our civilization may be at stake.
It's not the research or the prose that fails, in fact it's this anecdote that will forever stick in my head: the story of a little girl who was hyperactive and unruly and some psuedo-scientist/psychologist who used the discredited method of "re-birthing." They smothered the little girl in a makeshift womb of couch cushions, and despite her protests they continued with the "therapy."
I had to set the book down and cry after that. I couldn't continue on.
I'll try again, but that real-world example was
- There was more speculation and commentary than facts substantiated by research. (High fat content, little lean meat)
- Too much story telling (Drawn out, and not very interesting. WHERE"S THE BEEF>??)
I personally did not enjoy it.
Want to see more reviews on this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Psychology & Counseling > Cognitive
- Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Current Events > Conspiracy Theories
- Books > Professional & Technical > Professional Science > Behavioural Sciences > Cognitive Psychology
- Books > Professional & Technical > Professional Science > Behavioural Sciences > Cognitive Science
- Books > Professional & Technical > Professional Science > Evolution
- Books > Science & Math > Behavioural Sciences > Cognitive Psychology
- Books > Science & Math > Evolution