The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer

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The Believing Brain lecture
at the University of Melbourne

In this talk (recorded at the Copland Theatre, University of Melbourne on 19 September 2011) Dr. Michael Shermer presents his comprehensive and provocative theory on how humans form beliefs and reinforce them as truths. He answers the questions of how and why we believe what we do in all aspects of our lives, from our suspicions and superstitions to our politics, economics and social beliefs.

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at the University of Melbourne

34 Answers About Belief

In this YouTube video series for Mahalo.com, Michael Shermer answers 34 questions about belief and rationality. Mahalo.com is an education-based website revolving around original video content filmed in Santa Monica, CA. The site aims to help people learn how to do anything and everything.

Among the 34 videos, you’ll find:

Below is the second of the 34 videos. The entire series (total running time: 50 min. 32 seconds) can be viewed as a playlist on YouTube.

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Mr. Deity and the Believing Brain

Mr. Deity seeks help from Michael Shermer to make his creatures more gullible.

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The Believing Brain (The Colbert Report)

Michael Shermer discusses his book “The Believing Brain,” which explains how people form beliefs first, then filter data to reinforce them. (Source)

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The Believing Brain

Why science is the only way out of the trap
of belief-dependent realism
magazine cover

WAS PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA BORN IN HAWAII? I find the question so absurd, not to mention possibly racist in its motivation, that when I am confronted with “birthers” who believe otherwise, I find it diffcult to even focus on their arguments about the difference between a birth certificate and a certificate of live birth. The reason is because once I formed an opinion on the subject, it became a belief, subject to a host of cognitive biases to ensure its verisimilitude. Am I being irrational? Possibly. In fact, this is how most belief systems work for most of us most of the time.

We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, emotional and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture and society at large. After forming our beliefs, we then defend, justify and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments and rational explanations. Beliefs come first; explanations for beliefs follow. In my new book The Believing Brain (Holt, 2011), I call this process, wherein our perceptions about reality are dependent on the beliefs that we hold about it, belief-dependent realism. Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends on the beliefs we hold at any given time. (continue reading…)

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