Michael Shermer

  • Aired:  07/11/11
  •  | Views: 21,868

Michael Shermer discusses his book "The Believing Brain," which explains how people form beliefs first, then filter data to reinforce them. (5:24)

>> WELCOME BACK, EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT HAS WRITTEN

A BOOK ABOUT WHERE OUR

BELIEFS COME FROM.

THE BELIEF FAIRY.

PLEASE WELCOME MICHAEL

SHERMER.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

THANKS FOR COMING BACK.

>> GREAT TO BE BACK.

>> YOU ARE THE FOUNDING

PUBLISHER OF SKEPTIC

MAGAZINE.

YOU HAVE A NEW BOOK CALLED

THE BELIEFING BRAIN, FROM

GOESS AND GODS IT TO

POLITICS AND CONSPIRACYS,

HOW WE CONSTRUCT BELIEFS AND

REINFORCE THEM AS TRUTHS.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT OUR BRAINS

THAT MAKES US GIVE SUCH LONG

TITLES TO THEM?

(LAUGHTER)

BELIEVING BRAIN, WHAT DOW

MEAN BELIEVING BRAIN.

>> WELL, THE RULE ON THAT IS

SOMETHING TO TELL YOU WHAT

THE BOOK IS ABOUT.

WHAT IT IS ABOUT IS HOW OUR

BRIEFS ARE FORMED FIRST, FOR

A VARIETY OF SOCIAL,

PSYCHOLOGICAL, PERSONAL,

EMOTIONAL, SUBJECTIVE

REASONS AND THEN WE FIND THE

EVIDENCE TO FIT IT.

OUR BRAINS ARE LIKE LAWYERS,

NOT SCIENTISTS.

OUR BRAINS WANT TO LAWYER

THE DATA TO FIT OUR BELIEFS.

ISN'T IT NICE --

>> ARE OUR BRAINS CHARGING

US BY THE HOUR.

>> YES, THEY ARE

EXPENSIVEMENT ISN'T IT NICE

WE CAN USE THAT WORD AS A

KNOWN AND VERDICT.

WE MARSHAL THE FACTS TO FIT

OUR BELIEFS THAT WE ALREADY

HOLD.

IF ARE YOU A CONSERVATIVE

YOU READ "THE WALL STREET

JOURNAL," YOU LISTEN

CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO AND

FILTER EVERYTHING, AND ONLY

FIND AND REMEMBER THE THINGS

THAT SUPPORT WHAT YOU

ALREADY BELIEVE.

IF ARE YOU A LIBERAL YOU

READ "THE NEW YORK TIMES",

LISTEN TO PROGRESSIVE TALK

RADIO CASH DID -- I GUESS

NOBODY DOES, YOU LISTEN NPR

AND YOU FIND ALL THE FACTS

THAT FIT THAT AND EVERYBODY

HAS THE DATA.

SO WHO IS RIGHT.

AND SO THE ONLY WAY TO TELL

REALLY THE DIFFERENCE

BETWEEN THESE TRUE PATTERNS

AND FALSE PATTERNS IS

SCIENCE.

>> Stephen: REALLY?

>> REALLY.

>> Stephen: YOU THINK

SCIENCE IS THE ANSWER.

>> YEAH, I'M NOT JOKE BEING

THAT.

>> Stephen: YOU'RE NOT JOCK

BEING SCIENCE BUT ISN'T THAT

JUST YOUR BELIEF?

ARE YOU A SKEPTIC, YOU ARE

INCLINED TO BELIEVE THAT

SKEPTICISM, THE SCIENTIFIC

METHOD IS THE RIGHT IDEA BUT

THAT IS SO THAT YOU LOOK FOR

EVIDENCE OUT THERE IN THE

WORLD THAT EVIDENCE IS A

GOOD THING TO LOOK FOR AND

YOU -- IT IS THE PERIODIC

TABLE ELEMENT.

>> SO I CAN -- BUT ISN'T

SCIENCE IS JUST ANOTHER

BELIEF SYSTEM.

>> IT IS ANOTHER BELIEF

SYSTEM BUT IT SETS APART

FROM ALL THE OTHER BELIEF

SYSTEMS BECAUSE IT HAS BUILT

INTO IT SELF-CORRECTING

MACHINERY THAT SAYS IF YOU

DON'T LOOK FOR YOUR

DISCONFIRMING EVIDENCE THAT

DEBUNKS YOUR OWN BELIEF,

SOMEBODY ELSE WILL, USUALLY

WITH GREAT PLEA IN A

PUBLISHED FORM.

>> WHAT IS DEBUNKING, WHAT

IS SO GOOD ABOUT DEBUNKING.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH BUDGETING.

WHY MUST THINGS BE DEBUNKED.

>> BECAUSE THERE IS A LOT OF

BUDGET.

THERE IS A LOT OF NONSENSE,

BAD SCIENCE, VOODOO SCIENCE,

PATHOLOGICAL SCIENCE,

NONSCIENCE AND PLANE OLD

NONSENSE T IS ALL OVER THE

PLACE.

MOST OF THE STUFF WE HEAR IS

IN THE TRUE.

UNFORTUNATELY OUR BRAINS

EVOLVE TO ASSUME THAT MOST

OF THE PATTERNS WE SEE ARE

TRUE.

WHATEVER WE SEE AND HEAR

ESPECIALLY ON TELEVISION F

IT'S VISUAL, EMOTIONALLY

SALIENT WE HOOK ON IT AND

SAY MUST BE TRUE, I HEARD

IT.

>> IF IT RHYMES, IT IS

PROBABLY TRUE.

IS THAT THE PATTERN WE

PERCEIVE THAT PATTERN.

>> CORRECT.

>> Stephen: IF THE GLOVE

DOES NOT FIT, YOU MUST

ACQUIT.

THAT IS HOW WE KNEW THAT

JUICE WAS INNOCENT.

>> YES SO HERE'S HOW THIS --

HERE IS HOW THIS WORKS.

SO IMAGINE YOU ARE A HOMIDID

ON THE PLAINS OF AFRICA AND

YOU HEAR A RUSSELL IN THE

GRASS.

IS IT A DANGEROUS PREDATOR

OR JUST THE WIND.

>> Stephen: IT'S A SNAKE,

KILL IT.

>> THAT'S RIGHT, ABSOLUTELY

RIGHT BECAUSE IF YOU ASSUME

IT IS JUST THE WIND, YOU ARE

LUNCH.

>> Stephen: RIGHT.

>> ARE YOU LIKELY, RIGHT.

>> Stephen: IT'S NOT THE

WIND T IS A SNAKE OR A

TIGER.

>> MOST OF THE PATTERNS WE

FIND -- IT IS VERY

DANGEROUS.

AND THAT IS WHERE WE VOLUME

OF THE.

>> Stephen: THAT'S GOOD THEN

SO IT'S A GOOD THING TO HAVE

BELIEFS AND IF WE JUST HAVE

SKEPTICISM WE GO LET'S GO

OVERCOME CHILDREN, LET'S SEE

WHAT THAT RUSSELLING SOUND

IS, WE WOULD ALL BE DEAD.

YOU'RE TRYING TO KILL COURT

CHILDREN.

WHY SHOULD -- WHAT ABOUT

RELIGION.

WE ALSO HAVE RECEIVED --

TRUTHS FROM GOD THAT CAN BE

CORRECTED BY GOD'S PROPHETS.

>> THE PROBLEM WITH THAT IS

THAT THERE ARE SO MANY

PROPHETS AND THEY CONFLICT

WITH EACH OTHER.

>> Stephen: THE --

>> WHAT KIND OF EXPERIMENT

COULD WE RUN TO TELL THE

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHETHER

THIS IS THE ONE TRUE

RELIGION OR THIS IS.

THE ANSWER IS NONE, THERE IS

NONE.

>> Stephen: THERE IS ONE DAY

OF EXPERIMENT --

EXPERIMENTATION, JUDGEMENT

DAY.

>> WE'LL FIND OUT.

>> Stephen: I WILL BE READY

WITH MY LAB COAT ON.

>> I HAVE A WHOLE SECTION TO

WHAT I WOULD SAY TO GOD IF

IT TURNS OUT I'M WRONG AND

THERE IS A GOD.

>> Stephen: FIRST OF ALL,

HAND ME MY ASBESTOS COAT.

>> WELL?

YOU ARE ARGUING FROM THE

SIDE --.

>> Stephen: YOU USED TO BE A

CHRISTIAN.

>> THAT'S RIGHT.

>> Stephen: JESUS MISSES

YOU.

>> ALL RIGHT.

>> Jon: HE --.

>> Stephen: HE TOLD ME.

>> WHY DOESN'T HE TALK TO

ME.

>> Stephen: BECAUSE YOU

DON'T BELIEVE.

>> BUT IF BEING TALKED TO

DEPENDS ON WHETHER I BELIEVE

OR NOT THAT MEANS IT DOESN'T

REALLY EXIST, IT'S ALL UP

HERE IN MY HEAD WHICH IS THE

POINT IN MY BOOK WHICH IT IS

ALL UP HERE.

>> Stephen: OH, BOOK.

MICHAEL SHERMER THANK YOU SO

MUCH.

THE BOOK IS THE BELIEFING

BRAIN.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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