Book Discussion: The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer

Synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. Using sensory data that flow in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning, forming beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, accelerating the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop. In The Believing Brain, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. And ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not our beliefs match reality.

There are plenty of copies of the book in local libraries.  Refreshments will be served.

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  • Kevin & P.

    We've recently read two books that rely heavily on the results of psychology experiments (especially those tied to prisoner's dilemma-type structures) - this and Pinker's book on violence. The article linked below points out why that may not be so "scientific" after all. - Kevin

    July 23, 2013

  • Sholem

    I hope it was an interesting discussion. I went through the book, but found it very disappointing. Michael Shermer is an important writer and thought leader in skeptics and humanist circles and we deserve better from him. Maybe others had a more positive reaction to this book. I hope we revisit the topic. There are many excellent books on how the human brain works and on how our thinking is often far from rational.--Manny

    July 1, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    not sure - I'm a maybe - might have to be out of town. apologies for last-minute change.

    1 · June 28, 2013

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