In my neighbourhood and around the world on Easter Sunday men in cassocks and dark suits (and some women) promoted the idea that a son of the supreme being cum trained carpenter had come to earth, died a gruesome death for our sins to be forgiven by that same supreme being, and had then resurrected from the grave to wander the Holy Land and to inspire some 12 men and a few women. This story inspired Bach to some of the most beautiful music ever written, and that one of my neighbours was singing in the street on that same day. It inspired me to read this book.
Michael Shermer is a born-again professional skeptic from the United States. Don't expect this book to cover "scientific socialism", Taoist sexual practices or other un-American beliefs, but rather closer-to-home idiosyncrasies from the 1990’s like alien encounters, Ayn Rand, and creationism. These and other examples and their rebuff take up all but the last four pages of the book.
Ever the optimist, I had hoped that ignorance of proper scientific reasoning among much of the populace would be a major reason. Mr. Shermer acknowledges this point, but comes to rather more profound reasons like "credo consolans": it is comforting, a bad reason is better than no reason, a comforting sign better than no sign. This is very plausible (even in the business world I regularly see this), but dedicating just half a page to it is rather limited. Simplicity and instant gratification are two reasons given, but seem to be two sides of the same coin. The last reason, morality, may apply to religious beliefs, but how does that apply to Holocaust denial? I can think of other reasons, like the difficult outcome of group negotiations, or the product of good rhetoric, as the author shows in one of the examples.
So as an analysis the book disappoints. I would say it would serve you even better for showing the mechanics of how to make people believe weird things, without explaining exactly how the process works on the receiver side....Continua