Michael Shermer - Why People Believe Weird Things

This is Michael Shermer, founder of Skeptic Magazine, doing a very interesting and amusing presentation about why people are so prone to believing weird and unreasonable things: supernatural, religious, superstitious, etc.

Some of the interesting highlights are the relationship between theory and data in the adjudication of explanatory hypotheses, scientific and otherwise. More importantly, I think, is the realization, which he makes explicit through some awesome examples, of the unavoidable cognitive biases to which we are all subject when we try to figure something out: we focus on certain things while ignoring others in order to get the results we intuitively think are correct.


Here is a link to Skeptic Magazine, check it out sometime. Who knows, you might learn something... Actually, the current edition has an awesome piece written by David Sloan Wilson (the man from whom I learned evolutionary theory) criticizing Richard Dawkins' dismissal of religion as evolutionarily non-adaptive, without thoroughly considering all the available empirical evidence.

I know Daniel Dennett greatly respects Wilson as a well-established biologist, but he thinks the answer to the question of the evolution of religion lies in memetic theory and not in group selection theory (you can watch Dennett's fascinating presentation arguing his point in this previous entry). I wonder what Wilson thinks of Dennett's memetic theory of religion... maybe I should ask him, right?
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