Friday, March 10, 2017

Ted Talk Review: Michael Shermer Why people believe weird things

Ted Talk Review Michael Shermer Why people believe weird things

Who: Michael Shermer

Title: Why People believe weird things

Watch it: Ted 2006 (


Length: 13:25

41 Subtitle Languages

Related Book: Michael Shermer Why People Believe Weird Things

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Ted Talk Review: Michael Shermer Why people believe weird things

Michael Shermer's decade old Ted Talk continues to ring true with many of the societal challenges we face today. Michael Shermer is an author and the publisher of Skeptic magazine. Michael works to expose conspiracy theories, reveal fallacies and to promote good science.
 "But in science, we have to keep track of the misses, not just the hits. And that's probably the key lesson to my short talk here: This is how psychics work, astrologers, tarot card readers and so on.People remember the hits and forget the misses. In science, we keep the whole database, and look to see if the number of hits somehow stands out from the total number you'd expect by chance." Michael Shermer February 2006 Ted2006

So why do people believe weird things? The simple answer is cognitive biases. In a world saturated with good and bad information, how do we decide what is rubbish and what is not? To do this, we must first understand ourselves and the nature of human behavior. Numerous cognitive biases have penetrated our popular culture and shaped the way we think. It is a great lesson for everyone to recognize and understand how our brains work. Human behavior is extraordinary complex, but basic cognitive biases can be easy to detect with a little bit of brain training. The human brain has evolved to be a pattern seeking powerhouse, dictating our perspective of the world. Many false beliefs and pseudoscience concepts can be explained by exploring this phenomenon. Scientific thinking can help overcome cognitive biases and match theories with evidence. Michael's talk aims to educate about the impact of these biases on our beliefs.

Michael Shermer encourages his audience to think critically, ask questions and to seek out explanations rooted in evidence. This talk is also a great introduction to the topic of skepticism and scientific thinking. I like to promote skepticism in a positive light. Being a skeptic has become a pejorative in recent years. In terms of science, being a skeptic means that when you are introduced to a claim, you use critical and scientific thinking to investigate the claim before making a decision on its validity. Skeptics seek out the truth (or the closest thing to the truth). To me, that is a great thing!

Thanks for reading! Go Science! For more information check out Michael Shermer's book Why People Believe Weird things!


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