The Believing Brain

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

Michael Shermer

Times Books

Download Image Michael Shermer The Believing Brain

Available Formats

BookeBook

The Believing Brain is bestselling author Michael Shermer's comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born, formed, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished.

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. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.

Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.

Connect with the Author

Sign Up for
Author Updates

Macmillan Newsletter


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

Book Excerpts

Read an Excerpt

1

Mr. D’Arpino’s Dilemma

The voice was as distinct as the message it delivered was unmistakable. Emilio “Chick” D’Arpino bolted upright from his bed, startled that the words he heard so clearly were not spoken by anyone in the room. It was 4 a.m. on February 11, 1966, and Mr. D’Arpino was alone in his bedroom, seemingly unperturbed by what he was hearing. It wasn’t a masculine voice, yet neither was it feminine. And even though he had no reference guide built by experience from which to compare, Mr.

Read the full excerpt


Listen to an Excerpt from the Audiobook

Loading the player ...
Back

Media

Watch

Back

Reviews

Praise for The Believing Brain

“Michael Shermer has long been one of our most committed champions of scientific thinking in the face of popular delusion. In The Believing Brain, he has written a wonderfully lucid, accessible, and wide-ranging account of the boundary between justified and unjustified belief. We have all fallen more deeply in his debt.” Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Moral Landscape, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The End of Faith.

“The physicist Richard Feynman once said that the easiest person to fool is yourself, and as a result he argued that as a scientist one has to be especially careful to try and find out not only what is right about one's theories, but what might also be wrong with them.  If we all followed this maxim of skepticism in everyday life, the world would probably be a better place. But we don't. In this book Michael Shermer lucidly describes why and how we are hard wired to 'want to believe'.  With a narrative that gently flows from the personal to the profound, Shermer shares what he has learned after spending a lifetime pondering the relationship between beliefs and reality, and how to be prepared to tell the difference between the two.”—Lawrence M. Krauss, Foundation Professor and Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and author of The Physics of Star Trek, Quantum Man and A Universe from Nothing

"Michael Shermer has long been one of the world's deepest thinkers when it comes to explaining where our beliefs come from, and he brings it all together in this important, engaging, and ambitious book. Shermer knows all the science, he tells great stories, he is funny, and he is fearless, delving into hot-button topics like 9-11 Truthers, life after death, capitalism, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, and the existence of God. This is an entertaining and thoughtful exploration of the beliefs that shape our lives."—Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works

"The Believing Brain is a tour de force integrating neuroscience and the social sciences to explain how irrational beliefs are formed and reinforced, while leaving us confident our ideas are valid. 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."—Dr. Leonard Mlodinow, physicist and author of The Drunkard’s Walk and The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking)

"We might think that we learn how the world works, because we take the time to observe and understand it. Shermer says that's just not so. We just believe things, and then make our world fit our perceptions. Believe me; you don't have to take my word for it. Just try clearing some space in your own Believing Brain."—Bill Nye, the Science Guy ©, Executive Director of The Planetary Society

"The Believing Brain is a fascinating account of the origins of all manner of beliefs, replete with cutting edge evidence from the best scientific research, packed with nuggets of truths and then for good measure, studded with real world examples to deliver to the reader, a very personable, engaging and ultimately, convincing set of explanations for why we believe."—Professor Bruce Hood, Chair of Developmental Psychology, Bristol University and author of Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable


In the Press

THE BELIEVING BRAIN by Michael Shermer | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of THE BELIEVING BRAIN From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies--How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. <em>Skeptic<em> magazine founding publisher Shermer (<em>The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics<em>, 2007, etc.) writes entertainingly about the scientific basis of belief.
- Kirkus Reviews


Reviews from Goodreads

Back

About the Author

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the author of The Believing Brain, Why People Believe Weird Things, The Science of Good and Evil, The Mind Of The Market, Why Darwin Matters, Science Friction, How We Believe and other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior. He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, the editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Southern California.

Michael Shermer

Macmillan Speakers Bureau

represents thought-provoking authors and experts. We can find a speaker uniquely positioned for your audience and budget.

More Info

Macmillan Speakers


Michael Shermer
Back

Buy the Book

Available Formats and Book Details

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

Hardcover

Hardcover
Henry Holt and Co.
Times Books
May 2011
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780805091250
ISBN10: 0805091254
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 400 pages, more than thirty black-and-white illustrations throughout
$28.00

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
August 2012
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250008800
ISBN10: 1250008808
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 400 pages
$15.99

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Times Books
May 2011
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429972611
ISBN10: 1429972610
400 pages, Includes more than thirty black-and-white illustrations throughout
$9.99
Back

From The Publisher

Times Books

Latest on Facebook

Latest on Twitter

Back