The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

Book Cover of The Believing Brain

None of us is Spock, the superrational StarTrek character, but many of us in the science or science education business imagine ourselves to less susceptible to unfounded beliefs than the non-scientist community. In "The Believing Brain", Michael Shermer, publisher of The Skeptic magazine, shows how belief that is not based on data or reason is an inevitable consequence of being human. In fact, the use of imagination when definitive information is unavailable likely was an important trait that evolution favored in our ancestors. His "theory of mind" is based on a separation of mental states into patternicity, the tendency to attribute meaning to both meaningful and meaningless noisy data, and agenticity, the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning. He argues that both of these characteristics arose in our species as part of natural selection for traits essential for survival in a world of predators. Through numerous examples and lively writing, Shermer builds a persuasive argument. Educators have another justification for teaching students beginning with what they know - and what they believe.

Publication information
Pick Attribution: 

Michael Shermer

Publication Date: 
Saturday, January 1, 2011