ALPHABETICAL BRAIN™ VOCABULARY
OF SECULAR SCIENCE STARS
June 1, 2020
THE BELIEVING BRAIN:
From ghosts and gods to politics
and conspiracies: How we construct
beliefs and reinforce them as truths
by Michael Shermer.
Times Books, 2011 (385 pages)
QUOTE = "For the mind of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence; nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture, if it be not delivered and reduced." by Francis Bacon, in Novum Organum, 1620. (unnumbered page at beginning)
PART 1 — JOURNEYS OF BELIEF (page 9-55)
QUOTE = “Every man is the creature of the age in which he lives; very few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the times.” by Voltaire (page 9)
1) MR. D'ARPINO'S DILEMMA (11-25)
2) DR. COLLINS'S CONVERSION (26-36)
3) A SKEPTIC'S JOURNEY (37-55)
PART 2 — THE BIOLOGY OF BELIEF (57-
4) PATTERNICITY (59-86)
5) AGENTICITY (87-110)
6) THE BELIEVING NEURON (111-137)
PART 3 — BELIEF IN THINGS UNSEEN (139-
7) BELIEF IN THE AFTERLIFE (141-163)
8) BELIEF IN GOD (165-187)
9) BELIEF IN ALIENS (188-206)
10) BELIEF IN CONSPIRACIES (207-227)
PART 4 — BELIEF IN THINGS SEEN (229-
QUOTE = “When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” by Isaac Asimov in book The Relativity of Wrong, 1989. (229)
11) POLITICS OF BELIEF (232-255)
12) CONFIRMATIONS OF BELIEF (256-279)
13) GEOGRAPHIES OF BELIEF (280-303)
14) COSMOLOGIES OF BELIEF (304-333)
15) EPILOGUE — The truth is out there (334-344)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, SUMMARY,
AND BOOK DESCRIPTION
ABOUT THE AUTHOR = Michael Shermer's latest book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia. He has also written many other books, including 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 many other articles on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior that appear most notably in the Skeptic magazine, of which he is the publisher. He is also the editor of Skeptic.com, and is a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Southern California.
SUMMARY = This book is bestselling author Michael Shermer's comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born, formed, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished. The world's best-known skeptic synthesizes 30 years of research and upends the traditional thinking about how human beings form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow.
BOOK DESCRIPTION = Shermer, who is a psychologist and historian of science, argues that the brain is a "belief engine." From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.
Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.
EDITORIAL BOOK REVIEWS
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY = As the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, and a columnist for Scientific American, Shermer is perhaps the country's best-known skeptic. His position is as clear as it is simple: "When I call myself a skeptic I simply mean that I take a scientific approach to the evaluation of claims." But now Shermer is interested not only in why people have irrational beliefs, but "why people believe at all." Our brains, he says, have evolved to find meaningful patterns around us. But why do people believe they see patterns-whether "evidence" of angels, conspiracy theories, or UFOs-where none exist? Drawing on evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience, Shermer considers not only supernatural beliefs but political and economic ones as well. He demonstrates how our brains selectively assess data in an attempt to confirm the conclusions we've already reached. Informative and difficult to put down, this book adds a compelling and comprehensive case to the growing number of arguments about the importance of scientific reasoning, marred only by Shermer's repeated citing of his own works and public appearances.
BOOK LIST= Crusading against credulity, Shermer challenges popular beliefs in his books, television appearances, and Scientific American column. This encapsulation of his skeptical posture opens with a personal account of his development from Evangelical Christian to doubter of God's existence. The book's bulk then covers the insights into belief offered by experimental psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary theory. To condense Shermer's thesis, people form a belief first and find evidence for it second. Beliefs form, according to his interpretation of the research he describes, because of the brain's propensity to make patterns out of the sensory influx and assign agency to them. Covering convictions about religion, UFOs, conspiracies, and politics, Shermer elaborates on ways the believer buttresses belief via such mental habits as confirmation bias, which seizes on supporting facts and arguments and ignores conflicting evidence. If he succeeds in making readers feel beset by illusions, he commends to them the scientific method, illustrated by historical episodes from astronomy, for placing a foundation of proof beneath their beliefs.--Taylor, Gilbert.
PROFFESIONAL BOOK REVIEWS
 Michael Shermer has long been one of our most committed champions of scientific thinking in the face of popular delusion. In this book 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.
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