Jesse Bering on "The Belief Instinct," Thursday, June 23, 2 p.m., U of M

This is an author presentation and signing of The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life.

Come to the University of Minnesota on the afternoon of Thursday the 23rd to hear and meet Jesse Bering, psychologist and author of The Belief Instinct, a new book that is garnering rave reviews like these:

"A balanced and considered approach to this often inflammatory topic." (Nature)

"A colorful romp through psychology, philosophy and popular culture." (New Humanist)

"Witty... [Bering] employs examples and analogies that make his arguments seem like common sense rather than the hard-earned scientific insights they really are." (New Scientist)

"Bering ranges comfortably among evolutionary biology, psychology and philosophical concerns, and finds the good science in belief." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Jesse Bering is a brilliant young psychologist, a gifted storyteller, a careful reader of Jean-Paul Sartre, and a very funny man. And his first book, The Belief Instinct, is a triumph-a moving, provocative, and entertaining exploration of the human search for meaning." (Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University)

Interested? Here's a full description:

The surprising psychology behind why we believe in God, the supernatural, and the afterlife.

Why is belief so hard to shake? Despite our best attempts to embrace rational thought and reject superstition, we often find ourselves appealing to unseen forces that guide our destiny, wondering who might be watching us as we go about our lives, and imagining what might come after death. 

In this lively and masterfully argued new book, Jesse Bering unveils the psychological underpinnings of why we believe. Combining lucid accounts of surprising new studies with insights into literature, philosophy, and even pop culture, Bering gives us a narrative that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. He sheds light on such topics as our search for a predestined life purpose, our desire to read divine messages into natural disasters and other random occurrences, our visions of the afterlife, and our curiosity about how moral and immoral behavior are rewarded or punished in this life.

Bering traces all of these beliefs and desires to a single trait of human psychology, known as the "theory of mind," which enables us to guess at the intentions and thoughts of others. He then takes this groundbreaking argument one step further, revealing how the instinct to believe in God and other unknowable forces gave early humans an evolutionary advantage. But now that these psychological illusions have outlasted their evolutionary purpose, Bering draws our attention to a whole new challenge: escaping them.

Thanks to Bering's insight and wit, The Belief Instinct will reward readers with an enlightened understanding of the universal human tendency to believe-and the tools to break free.

Join us at the U of M bookstore in Coffman Union for what promises to be a fascinating and enjoyable time.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    I didn't realize he was just going to read excerpts from the book, with a few ad-libs for clarity. If I had already read it, I might have been bored. Since I hadn't, his chosen readings served their purpose well-- I walked away interested in buying the book. The discussion afterward was informative and entertaining also. Someone asked him to explain what is meant by 'instinct,' and Bering responded by stating that the title was his publisher's idea; he wanted to call it "Under God's Skin." This and other comments allayed some of my misgivings about the books main conclusions. Overall, it sounded like an entertaining, informative perspective on the theory of mind and its implications. Unfortunately I had to leave before the discussion had ended, so I'm ordering my copy from Amazon (unsigned-- oh well).

    June 29, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great. Excellent.

    June 25, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great talk on the growing field of evolutionary psychology and how the mind evolved and invents invisible agents.

    June 23, 2011

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  • August B.
    Director-at-Large, Legislative Committee Chair
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