G11 Natural Sciences 2

TED Talk Video – Michael Shermer – Why people believe weird things

  • What does Michael Shermer mean when he claims that science is a verb?

Shermer believes that science is a way of thinking and a way of looking for natural explanations for different phenomena.

  • What reasons does Shermer give for our tendency to believe unlikely claims?

Shermer gave various examples of visual and auditory illusions that showcase the way our cognitive biases “trick” us to see or hear things that are not actually real. His visual example of the “face of Mars” has been explained by humans’ needs for facial recognition through time and evolution for social purposes.

His auditory example then showed the susceptibility of accepting unlikely claims, as it is found that when people are given words and phrases to listen for, it is likely that people will still believe that they heard those phrases even if they don’t actually exist.

  • What two advantages did Christiaan Huygens have over Galileo in trying to understand observations of the rings of Saturn?

Huygens had a good theory of planetary rings and how the solar system worked, as well as a better quality telescopic lens.

  • According to Shermer, what mistakes do pseudosciences (such as astrology or parapsychology) make that prevent them from gaining knowledge?

They only remember the “hits” and not the “misses”, as in that they “gain knowledge” by chance, and are most often times “bad science” as they often ignore the bigger picture and do not acknowledge the broader database of information.