the official site of Michael Shermer

top navigation:

Why People Believe Weird Things

Order from

ORDER the paperback book
ORDER the audio recording of the book

About the book

book cover

In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. A no-holds-barred assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, with more than 80,000 copies in print, Why People Believe Weird Things debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter, “Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things,” Michael Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science.

Shermer, science historian and true crusader, also reveals the more dangerous side of such illogical thinking, including Holocaust denial, the recovered-memory movement, the satanic ritual abuse scare, and other modern crazes. Why People Believe Weird Things is an eye-opening resource for the most gullible among us and those who want to protect them.

read or write comments (17)

17 Comments to “Why People Believe Weird Things”

  1. john Says:

    I am writing a term paper for my psychology class. We are to pick a borderline scientific topic and then find the appropriate sources to support or disconfirm it. I’ve chosen the Law of Attraction, unfortunately made popular by The Secret and Oprah, dang it Oprah. Well, I just wanted to tell you that your book has come in mighty helpful. thanks

  2. Clifford Neil Zimmerman Says:

    Someone, kindly assist me in getting rigorous medical/scientific testing – brain topography, i.e., MRIs, PET scans, blood and chemical analysis, for The Sound Therapy CD. My web-site address is, Although it will read “under construction,” scroll down to see a picture of me with my beloved daughter, Farrah, and some of the babies that I have worked with. On the upper left-hand side, the following links are operational: (1) Clinical Data – my research, and my ‘Bio’ is near the bottom of the page. (2) Links & Literature, some newspaper Op-Ed articles that I have written. (3) Contact Us – e.mail. I must emphasize that this is NOT a “new age” product, but a carefully produced 15 minute oral program of specific frequencies, designed to elicit “sympathetic” resonance vibration. In addition, I have had tremendous success with Parkinsons Disease patients, hence the need for medical testing. Thank you for your time and your consideration! – Cliff Zimmerman
    —–Original Message—–

  3. frost Says:

    Following my “retirement” several years ago, I’ve lost touch with all of my former “money-men” (those wealthy guys with money to invest), but, had I a few bucks available, honestly, I’d do this thing with Cliff. That’s no BS, and, as I’m about to make another trip back to Alaska within the month, I plan to mention it IF I run into any of ‘em….
    The final day, before shoving off from Juneau some years ago, there were seven legitimate millionaires (all of whom were regular guys and looked like common working dudes) who were arguing over the lunch bill, trying to stick the other guys with it…..
    Cliff has the real deal — wish I had some bucks available!

  4. Bruce Camber Says:

    Dear Mark:

    The problem we all have is that we have grown up with a substantial blind spot that very few people have not yet address.

    One who has started to do it is John Conway at Princeton. On a visit a few years ago, I asked him, “What is the most basic structure within space-time?

    He answered rather suspiciously, “The tetrahedron.” The answer was too obvious for both of us. He knew another question was coming, “What is most simply and perfectly enclosed within the tetrahedron?” He smiled, “Of course, the four tetrahedron in each corner and the octahedron in the middle.” He then came back to me, “Why do you care?” I replied, “Well, hardly anybody knows that answer intuitively. And the next question is equally simple, but nobody and I mean nobody out of hundreds of scientists, philosopher, mathematicians and even geometers can answer the obvious next question.” He looked puzzled. I continued, “And, if we can’t answer it as quickly as we answer 4-times-4, it is not intuitive.”

    So, I then asked, “What is most simply and perfectly enclosed within the octahedron?” He replied, “Well, let’s figure it out” which he quickly and correctly did. But my retort was, “You flunked.”

    It was not intuitive.

    We simply have not looked inside the most basic structures of science and mathematics, and I would venture to add epistemology, ontology and cosmology. It is a cultural blind spot. And, as a result we really do not understand the boundary condition that is defined by Planck’s constant, sleep, and memory.

    Our children should not be playing with squares but with tetrahedrons and octahedrons.

    My value equation that comes out of these comments is here:

    I don’t tried to debunk religions and all the mythopoetics of theology; I try to see inside that rich cultural metaphor.


    PS. Here is our future:

  5. Why smart people believe weird things? at Adrian Ciubotaru Says:

    [...] articolului (Why People Believe Weird Things este cartea sa)  încearcă să explice de ce mintea umană are tendinţa să găsească tipare [...]

  6. Margarita Brotons Orgaz Says:

    Antetodo quiero darle le enhorabuena por su libro de porque la gente cree en cosas raras, lo estoy terminando de leer. La verdad que me ha sacado de cantidad de dudas.
    Me he leido el mundo y sus Demonios de Carl Sagan ya que en España en cualquier libreria se puede acceder. He visto su pagina web y tiene mas libros y ademas muy interesantes pero en españa traducidos en castellano no los encuentro sino los hubiera comprado todos de eso estoy segura.
    La verdad que este libro esta muy bien escrito sobretodo muy bien explicado para la gente de apie y me ha sido muy facil conseguirlo en cualquier libreria de España. Cuando termine de leerlo seguire buscando este tipo de libros que van encontra de las seudociencias, creencias que tanto daño
    hacen a la gente y son sectarias. Yo antes no era creyente ni esceptica pero tenía algunas dudas bastantes. Ahora me doy cuenta que todos somos iguales ante la naturaleza humana tengo que reconocer que hacen una gran labor despertando a la gente de verdaderas mentiras, estoy muy agradecida, muchas gracias. Espero que continue con esta gran labor, enhorabuena y espero encontrar en mi pais libros traducidos al castellano como porque creemos e cosas raras?. Atentamente Margarita Brotons Orgaz.

  7. Does Belief Help Us to Survive? Michael Shermer Answers - Science and Religion Today Says:

    [...] beliefs, it would mean, really, that we’re getting rid of all beliefs. I wrote a book called Why People Believe Weird Things. Well, why do people believe weird things? Because they have to believe things, and the weird [...]

  8. Daniel Says:

    Your book is both boring and poorly-written. I hoped you would debunk myths that are actually somewhat believable, but instead, you dissected only things that morons would believe. I actually came to resent your boring book so much, that I had to throw it out. I’m being serious, too. I actually threw your book in the garbage. A job well done, moron.

  9. Alastair McGowan Says:

    I read the book some 12 or more years ago while studying psychology. i recommended it to a friend who was doing a module on ‘paranormal psychology’ and it went on the course book list immediately. It is for me one of the first collection of answers I found which responds directly to Carl sagan’s final book ‘The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’. My discipline is now psychology/cybernetics/complex systems and while I am in awe of the elegance of the amazing complexity in the world and i am someone who thinks intuitively and ‘holistically’ often under the influence of marijuana, I always in the final analysis resist succumbing to the kinds of sloppy thinking and pseudo-rationality that your book illustrates. It is a book for self-insight as well as providing criticism of others belief systems. Let’s all endeavour to keep our mythos, logos, and magic tricks in their appropriate places!

  10. Tom Says:

    I have my own personal methods of ‘weighing’ a persons verbal opinions; if an explanation needs to be explained beyond the original context…. this falls into the category of the ‘irrational’ & ‘ideological’ buffer that ‘filters’ these folks.
    But what bothers me the most, people just tend to laugh at such individuals…. until they fly a plane into a building, kill hostages or preform a mass suicide.
    Not that all folks who believe in weird things are ‘a danger to themselves or others’; but you have a hard time between ‘loud believers’ vs ‘actual psychopaths’…. its not always the guy who was quiet and kept to himself that ‘snaps’.

  11. Brian Bogin Says:

    The comments on this page seem to belong to the category of thought which is the subject of the book.

  12. JD Says:

    I din’t imagine you gave the Venus Project the rights to the book?

  13. Emily Dello Says:

    I have found a lot of people will believe what they are told. I have been hearing a lot about === This type of crazy is spreading all over the internet with people thinking Jesus is here already, this website seems to think the mother is running with him at the moment. So weird!

  14. Emily Dello Says:

    um so now there are more people looking for her, this is kind of scary… look at the new site

  15. John Says:

    Most of the “weird things” books I have seen cherry pick all of the weird things that turn out not to be true, or are obviously not true from the outset (e.g., bigfoot). Are there any sources out there for weird things that actually turn out to be true? The best set of critical thinking skills would be the set that can distinguish among the true, the false, and the undecidable, regardless of whether they are weird or mundane (of the “How We Know What Isn’t So” variety). I would love to be pointed to a source of phenomena that are weird but true (to be used alongside Shermer’s book in a critical thinking class).

  16. Bob Says:

    John, from December 12th at 5:13pm. Smartest comment on the list. He has an understanding of bias and critical thinking

  17. Tim Says:

    Isn’t the first-pass answer to John-from-Dec.-12th’s question simply “science”? Science tells us that we are organisms that evolved from scratch, living on a sphere orbiting around a fusion reaction in a universe billions of years old in which energy and matter are essentially the same thing. That’s all very weird!