Santa Claus and UFOs may indeed have something in common. As Michael Shermer shared at TED2010, they are two things that engage the “belief engine” that is also known as our brains. In his talk, “The pattern behind self-deception,” Shermer debunks superstitions and urban legends and shares why we are prone to believe in them […]Continue reading
Why you should listen
As founder and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Michael 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.
Shermer's 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 (helping us hear Satanic lyrics when "Stairway to Heaven" plays backwards, for example). 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.
He 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. He is also the author of The Mind of the Market, on evolutionary economics, Why Darwin Matters: Evolution and the Case Against Intelligent Design, and The Science of Good and Evil. And his next book is titled The Moral Arc of Science.
"What others say"
Michael Shermer’s TED talks
Michael Shermer says the human tendency to believe strange things — from alien abductions to dowsing rods — boils down to two of the brain’s most basic, hard-wired survival skills. He explains what they are, and how they get us into trouble. (Recorded at TED2010, February 2010 in Long Beach, CA. Duration: 19:01) Watch Michael […]Continue reading
The latest edition of Edge.org is a fascinating discussion on the role scientists might play in difficult financial times. The issue features a few TED speakers, including George Dyson and Michael Shermer. Try this snippet: In all of this work economists, accountants and financial mathematicians should join forces with complexity theorists and other scientists with […]Continue reading