Today on Blogcritics
Home » Books » The Early Word: New Books for the Week of May 23, 2011

The Early Word: New Books for the Week of May 23, 2011

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Maybe new, but few and far between this week, fiction and non…

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

“When I call myself a skeptic I simply mean that I take a scientific approach to the evaluation of claims,” says psychologist, historian of science, and the world’s best-known skeptic Michael Shermer. But as indicated by the audacious title The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies — How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of Why People Believe Weird Things is now interested in addressing more than the persistence in the 21st century of irrational and popular beliefs, and why many people continue to see patterns and “evidence” — where none exist — in such entities and aspects as angels and devils, extra sensory perception, UFOs, and conspiracy theories, including 9/11-truther paranoia (he gives a thoroughgoing repudiation of their claim that planted explosives brought down the Twin Towers).

This time around Shermer’s concerns lie in a big-picture quest to discover “why people believe at all.” In drawing from his 30 years of research, Shermer offers his cohesive and comprehensive theory on how beliefs are “born, formed, nourished, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished,” while backing up his arguments with evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience behind the formation of our beliefs that reinforces the concept that humans can’t help believing. Our brains have evolved to provide continuity to our perceptions, to form meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, which in turn become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain seeks substantiation, which adds an emotional enhancement of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them: and round and round and round and it comes out nowhere for a continual loop of positive reinforcement…. Dr. Shermer delineates the considerable cognitive tools our brains engage to buttress our beliefs as truths.

In augmenting his all-embracing intent, Shermer considers not only supernatural beliefs but political and economic ones as well. And though the author notes that “An emotional leap of faith beyond reason is often required,” the reasoned and accessible Believing Brain, in adding a convincing case to the increasing number of arguments about the importance of scientific reasoning, offers a running start.

FICTION

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi #7: Conviction
by Aaron Allston

Summer in the South
by Cathy Holton

The Warlock (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series #5)
by Michael Scott

Powered by

About Gordon Hauptfleisch