Michael Shermer debunks myths, superstitions and urban legends, and explains why we believe them. Along with publishing Skeptic Magazine, he's author of Why People Believe Weird Things and The Mind of the Market.
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. Thus, in order to explore a conspiracy theory that pre-planted explosives caused the World Trade Center towers to fall on 9/11, the magazine called on demolition experts.
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.
“‘Are science and religion compatible?’ It’s like [asking]: ‘Are science and plumbing compatible?’ They’re just two different things.”
“Science is not a thing. It’s a verb. It’s a way of thinking about things. It’s a way of looking for natural explanations for all phenomena.”
“Belief is the natural state of things. It is the default option. We just believe. We believe all sorts of things. Belief is natural; disbelief, skepticism, science, is not natural.”