Michael Shermer: The Pattern Behind Self-deception

In this TED Talk Michael Shermer says the human tendency to believe strange things — from alien abductions to dowsing rods — boils down to two of the brain’s most basic, hard-wired survival skills. He explains what they are, and how they get us into trouble.

9 Comments on "Michael Shermer: The Pattern Behind Self-deception"

  1. Cerebralcaustic | Jun 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm |

    Great video.

    Seems to also describe Nick Pell's obsession with Marxist gibberish, despite the fact that it's all been roundly disproved — repeatedly.

    • Whereas “monomania” seems to describe your propensity to bring up Marx in more situations than an actual communist would.

  2. GoodDoktorBad | Jun 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm |

    Mired in self deception, the speaker writes the book on it?
    Knowing the whole “truth” (infalibility) would be the only prereqisite to judge the ins and outs of self-deception. A god-like awareness would be required. Wouldn't it?
    How about exclusive rights to the interpretation of reality? Micheal Shermer = God?
    I don't think so….

  3. The problem I have with Michael Schermer is that he's a debunker, not a skeptic.

    True believers work backwards from the the conclusion, “That MUST be alien!” Debunkers work backwards from, “That CAN'T be an alien!' and then try to find evidence that supports their position, while tossing anything that disputes it. Both positions are equally idiotic.

    I much prefer rational skepticism that say, “I have no fucking idea WHAT that is….” Then goes out and dispassionately analyses the evidence, THEN draws a conclusion as to what it might be.

  4. bog person | Jun 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm |

    The problem I have with Michael Shermer is that he's a one-trick pony and not actually that intelligent. His “History of Science” lectures are probably some of the worst lectures I've ever heard on the subject. He's not even a scientist. He's an economist who thinks that Ayn Rand is a brilliant thinker. It's sad really. He's got his schtick and found his niche with bright people who haven't pursued higher ed., but anyone who has taken an actual college-level history or philosophy of science course will find him rather limited in his thinking.

  5. Cerebralsubversion | Jun 15, 2010 at 11:51 am |

    Yet another example of someone explaining away all manner of paranormal phenomenon without actually addressing any of the facts or particulars, and furthermore being a total pussy in not applying the same logic to religion (people really want to believe in Jesus way more than aliens).

    People want to believe in UFO's? If you look into it, the majority of UFO experiencers go through years of denial trying to come to terms with what they've encountered.

    This guy really wants to believe that there's nothing to these things and therefore makes his own argument against himself. Also, I've been experimenting with Astral projection for years. The God Helmet research produces none of the cogent contact experiences with the spirit realm that I, and nearly anyone else who explores these avenues runs into. People like this are unwittingly shills for the very religions they pretend to oppose, as they repress direct contact with the other realm, which is EXACTLY what religion does and has been doing for centuries now.

  6. Great informative video there, but nothing that we really didn't already know. I know the purpose of this video was to discount everything our imagination creates and of course although he never says “I'm an atheist and anyone who isn't is just being fooled by their brains” that is the whole point.

    But the problem with this sort of statement is the assumption that our brains are creating these things and that our brains are not actually receiving information or processing those things that we can't perceive with our senses because of the limitations of our senses, not vice versa. Atheists like to imagine that the human senses are infallible and are the gold standard, but that's silly. Our intelligence is unique to us, but some people are, as Jerry Clower put it, “educated beyond their intelligence.”

    If you take Schermer's argument further you then will have to come to the conclusion that all human thought and the ideas of personality and individuality and self-consciousness are also just byproducts of how our minds work, the result of levels of chemicals in our brains and bodies, etc and there is not such thing as the mind, that what we think is the activity of the mind is just a side-effect of the organ of the brain.

    Schermer selectively says that some areas of the brain are tricking people, but then wants us to accept that the rest of the brain is also not creating a reality that doesn't exist. In other words, Atheists are able to use their brains correctly and others are not. They also try to make a case that they are more highly evolved that others.

    This is just fundamentalism, the same that the major world religions are guilty of. Xianity says that you're a sinner and that you need to come to their way of thinking, Atheism says that you're stupid and do not have the sense to recognize when your brain is giving you false information and you're not “thinking critically.”

    There's a cure for atheism. Schermer and his ilk just need to actually go to the people whose cultures have not been compromised by the toxins of fundamentalist, capitalist, world-beating “religions” like Xianity, Islam and Judaism and spend time with them and get away from the materialism and all the stuff that mankind has created…made possible by the right side of the brain that these folks don't use and hate so much…and they'll be doing slideshows explaining the benefits of shamanism.

    fiat lux

    • Very wrong. Atheists and agnostics don't claim the senses are infallible, we accept that they are fallible, which is why we require repeatable evidence before believing something. Furthermore, seeing as how the senses are fallible, it's even sillier to give even greater credence to imaginings/”perceptions” which we don't know are connected to any external reality at all. Critical thinking is not in any way fundamentalist, it's the opposite.

  7. Linping6565 | Jun 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm |

    Support your point of view

Comments are closed.