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Why People Believe Weird Things

Michael Shermer (Holt Paperbacks, Revised & Enlarged Edition: Sep 1, 2002), 384 pages.

In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. A no-holds-barred assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, with more than 80,000 copies in print, Why People Believe Weird Things debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter, "Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things," Michael Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science. Shermer, science historian and true crusader, also reveals the more dangerous side of such illogical thinking, including Holocaust denial, the recovered-memory movement, the satanic ritual abuse scare, and other modern crazes. Why People Believe Strange Things is an eye-opening resource for the most gullible among us and those who want to protect them. ~ Book Description

Table of Contents

    • Foreword: The Positive Power of Skepticism   
    • Introduction to the Paperback Edition   
    • Prologue: Next on Oprah    1

    Pt. 1    Science and Skepticism    11

    • 1    I Am Therefore I Think: A Skeptic’s Manifesto    13
    • 2    The Most Precious Thing We Have: The Difference Between Science and Pseudoscience    24
    • 3    How Thinking Goes Wrong: Twenty-five Fallacies That Lead Us to Believe Weird Things    44

    Pt. 2    Pseudoscience and Superstition    63

    • 4    Deviations: The Normal, the Paranormal, and Edgar Cayce    65
    • 5    Through the Invisible: Near-Death Experiences and the Quest for Immortality    73
    • 6    Abducted!: Encounters with Aliens    88
    • 7    Epidemics of Accusations: Medieval and Modern Witch Crazes    99
    • 8    The Unlikeliest Cult: Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and the Cult of Personality    114

    Pt. 3    Evolution and Creationism    125

    • 9    In the Beginning: An Evening with Duane T. Gish    127
    • 10    Confronting Creationists: Twenty-five Creationist Arguments, Twenty-five Evolutionist Answers    137
    • 11    Science Defended, Science Defined: Evolution and Creationism at the Supreme Court    154

    Pt. 4    History and Pseudohistory    173

    • 12    Doing Donahue: History, Censorship, and Free Speech    175
    • 13    Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened, and Why Do They Say It?: An Overview of a Movement    188
    • 14    How We Know the Holocaust Happened: Debunking the Deniers    211
    • 15    Pigeonholes and Continuums: An African-Greek-German-American Looks at Race    242

    Pt. 5    Hope Springs Eternal    253

    • 16    Dr. Tipler Meets Dr. Pangloss: Can Science Find the Best of All Possible Worlds?    255
    • 17    Why Do People Believe Weird Things?    273
    • 18    Why Smart People Believe Weird Things    279
    • Bibliography    315
    • Index    333