By Connor Cavanaugh
Michael Shermer gave a lecture entitled “Why People Believe Weird Things” on Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m in Elon University’s Whitley Auditorium, sponsored by the Liberal Arts Forum as a free and open event.
Shermer is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine “Skeptic.” He is also an adjunct professor at Chapman University and Claremont Graduate University. The Skeptics Society is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting critical thinking, and resisting the spread of irrational beliefs, and its members include Bill Nye, and popular astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Shermer received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his doctorate in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University.
“Theres a lot of it out there, nonsense that is,” said Shermer. “There’s a lot of bunk out there that needs debunking, and that’s our job as skeptics.”
“It’s about gathering data and testing claims,” said Shermer. “Claims only become fact when tests confirm their validity.”
Shermer believes that through scientific research and analysis, we can determine if things are real or not.
“Asking if you believe in evolution is like asking if you believe in gravity,” said Shermer. “They are both things that just are. They are fact, proven by science.”
Not only does skepticism apply to the world outside the body, it also applies to the construction of human beings.
“The word ‘mind’ is just a word for what the brain does,” said Shermer. “If a portion of the brain is lost, mind function associated with it is lost.”
When asked if it should be acceptable to let people believe in something like the afterlife if it makes them happy, Shermer responded with a comparison.
“It is more important to be right than to feel good,” said Shermer. “Drugs make you feel good, but they’re obviously bad for you so you shouldn’t take them.”