The Believing Brain is bestselling author Michael Shermer's comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born, formed, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished. Patternicity leads us to see significance in mere ‘noise’ as well as in meaningful data; agenticity makes us ascribe purpose to the source of those meanings. God is the ultimate pattern and agent that explains everything. His latest publication is The Good Book. Shermer deals with the idea that theistic belief is an evolved, hard-wired phenomenon, an idea that is fashionable at present. How can we tell the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true? The Believing Brain review. In the book, he brilliantly lays out what modern cognitive research has to tell us about his subject—namely, that our brains are “belief engines” that naturally “look for and find patterns” and then infuse them with meaning. BUSINESS | “An emotional leap of faith beyond reason is often required,” writes the author. But his latest book is more than just a display case full of specimens collected by a man fascinated by the paranormal. It infuses patterns with meaning, and imagines intention and agency in inanimate objects and chance occurrences. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Book Review: The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. In The Believing Brain, he has written a wonderfully lucid, accessible, and wide-ranging account of the boundary between justified and unjustified belief. Readers who have enjoyed Mr. Shermer’s earlier books, such as Why People Believe Weird Things, will relish the pages devoted to puncturing many of the conspiratorial beliefs that lurk in our popular culture, from those about UFO cover-ups to the 9/11-was-an-inside-job lunacy. The Believing Brain begins with three personal belief stories. The author cites a 2009 poll in which more Americans admitted to a belief in angels and devils than in the theory of evolution. But we don’t. BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR | Mr. Shermer offers a handy guide for those who are confused. Then, having formed a belief, each of us tends to seek out evidence that confirms it, thus reinforcing the belief. ‧ We rely on a feeling of conviction, but that feeling can be uncoupled from good reasons and good evidence. These evolved skills—which saved our ancestors who assumed, say, a rustling in the bushes was a predator intending to eat them—are the same attributes that lead us to believe in ghosts, … If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire. Mr. Shermer calls this “belief-dependent reality.” The well-worn phrase “seeing is believing” has it backward: Our believing dictates what we’re seeing. Book Review The Human Brain as an Evolved Rationalization Machine . We are beginning to develop a new understanding of how the brain generates beliefs and reinforces them. Galileo used an early telescope to observe 4 moons around Jupiter. The second story is about a man whom you will most definitely have heard of as he is one of … We need to believe certain things in order for human life to survive and continue to pass on children with decent heritable traits. One is the brain’s readiness to perceive patterns even in random phenomena. It’s not a peculiarity of the uneducated or the fanatical. A common question of skeptics and science-based thinkers is “How could anyone believe that?” People do believe some really weird things and even some obviously false things. The Believing Brain ends with an engaging history of astronomy that illustrates how the scientific method developed as the only reliable way for us to discover true patterns and true agents at work. —Dr. PSYCHOLOGY | The author cites a 2009 poll in which more Americans admitted to a belief in angels and devils than in the theory of evolution. Michael Shermer’s book Why People Believe Weird Things has become a classic. Surprised when the interior of the mothership turns out to closely resemble a General Motors motorhome, Mr. Shermer consents to lying down. The first story is about a man whom you will have never heard of but who had a profound and life-changing experience in the wee hours of the morning many decades ago that still haunts him to this day and drives him to search for ultimate meaning in the cosmos. Shermer describes this process as “belief-dependent realism”—what we believe determines our reality, not the other way around. This remark will be regarded as outrageous by believing scientists, who think that they are as rational in their temples as in their laboratories, but scarcely any of them would accept the challenge to mount a controlled experiment to test the major claims of their faith, such as asking the deity to regrow a severed limb for an accident victim. Mr. Shermer also delves into the neuroscience of “the believing brain.” For example, he cites research suggesting that people with high levels of the feel-good neurochemical dopamine “are more likely to find significance in coincidences and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none.” Even for folks with normal chemical levels, there’s a neurological upside to pattern-finding: When we come across information that confirms what we already believe, we get a rewarding jolt of dopamine. That experience gives one useful definition of a sceptic, as Mr. Shermer understands the term: one who is aware of the fallibility of intuitions, and willing to take steps to minimise them. Mr. Shermer provides his theory of belief and with great expertise and skill provides compelling arguments and practical examples in explaining how the process of belief works. Belief in God is hardwired into our brains through patternicity and agenticity. That’s the insightful message of The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer, the founder of Skeptic magazine. This is an entertaining and thoughtful exploration of the beliefs that shape our lives.”, —Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works. In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world's best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Michael Shermer, the founder and editor of Skeptic magazine, has never received so many angry letters as when he wrote a column for Scientific American debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. But those are the easy cases. Daniel Kahneman He includes a pithy quotation from Richard Feynman that I had not seen before: If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. False beliefs arise from the same thought processes that our brains evolved to enable them to learn about the world. Read More. This thought-provoking book is a good read and a good reference. “As skeptics like to say, everyone is an atheist about these gods; some of us just go one god further.”. The brain is a belief engine. He revisits the “Gorillas in our midst” video to remind us that we don’t see things that we’re not looking for. God, they say, is in the details. 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. Conspiracy theories abound, from Holocaust denial to 9/11 Truthers to the spread of AIDS. Shermer seeks to answer the question of why “so many people believe in what most scientists would consider to be the unbelievable?” While admitting that scientists often believe in unproven hypotheses—e.g., the origin of our universe and what might have preceded the Big Bang—the author holds firmly to the “built-in self-correcting machinery” that is inherent in the scientific method: e.g., double-bind controlled experiments which are replicable, testing results against the null hypothesis, etc. ), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping. Nonetheless, the author fully recognizes the importance of belief in our lives. His awareness that he too is subject to such flawed thinking makes him a perpetually trustworthy guide. Mr. Shermer marshals an impressive array of evidence from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. The first part of the book is a mixture of psychology and trendy neuroscience research that presents the evidence for Mr. Shermer’s central claim: that, instead of shaping belief around painstakingly gathered, soberly judged evidence, people most often decide upon their beliefs first, and then use an impressive range of cognitive tricks to bend whatever evidence they do discover into support for those pre-decided acts of faith. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119, Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye. He has built a professional career out of casting a rationalist’s eye over some of the wackiest beliefs that humanity has to offer. Shermer gives chilling examples of how dangerous belief can be when it is maintained against all evidence; this is especially true in pseudoscience, exemplified by the death of a ten-year-old girl who suffocated during the cruel ‘attachment therapy’ once briefly popular in the United States in the late 1990s. A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. “Even belief that the government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity,” the author says. In addition, as evolved social creatures, we have brains that are attuned to trying to discern the intentions of others—and we look for patterns, there, too, and then try to infuse them with human intention and meaning, or what Mr. Shermer calls “agenticity.” Patterns in life are variously ascribed to the work of ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers and federal conspirators. Auto accident might be, the things we once thought of as supernatural natural! 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