BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS
By Michael Shermer, W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, NY,
1997, 306 pages, $22.95, hardback
Michael Shermer is one of the leading skeptics in the country. He is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, the director of the Skeptics Society, and a prolific author. One would hope that a book with the title that Shermer attached to this one would deal with what the title suggests. Of the 306 pages in this book, only 10% really deals with the title of the book. Most of the book is a very useful debunking of a variety of things that Shermer takes exception to. While this author agrees with Shermer's conclusions on most of these things, that is not what the book advertises and not what I bought the book for. The book is divided into five parts:
Part 1. The only part that really deals with the title of the book. Discussing fallacies and pseudoscience, Shermer makes some useful points about assumptions and brings historical developments in science that have led us out of mysticism and irrational beliefs in the past. Even in this section Shermer gets involved in selling skepticism to the extent that it weakens the usefulness of his comments about how our thinking can be led erroneously.
Part 2. "Pseudoscience and Superstition"-this section deals with Edgar Cayce, near death experiences, aliens, witches, and uses Ayn Rand to discuss cults.
Part 3. "Evolution and Creationism" -the usual attacks on the Institute for Creation Research and their spin-off groups.
Part 4. " History and Pseudohistory"- Shermer goes off into censorship, the denial of Holocausts, and other historical misrepresentations.
Part 5. An attack on Frank Tipler and religion as a whole.
This is a useful book for debunking some of the claims that have been made by people in a wide range of areas. The book is heavily biased toward a skeptic/atheist mind-set which makes no attempt to understand anything that is not physical in nature. For skeptics and people wishing to reinforce atheistic viewpoints, the whole book will be useful. For people looking for solutions to the conflicts taking place in the world, the book is of limited value. People attempting to find specific criticisms of what Shermer calls "weird things" as mentioned above, will find what this author believes are valid criticisms--although once again the criticism by Shermer is without responses from those he criticizes.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug99.