The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Michael Shermer in Illinois & Wisconsin
April 12–15, 2011

Dr. Michael Shermer

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, 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.

Synthesizing thirty years of research, Michael Shermer upends traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first, and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. Using sensory data that flow in through the senses, the brain naturally looks for and finds patterns—and then infuses those patterns with meaning, forming beliefs. Once beliefs are formed, our brains subconsciously seek out confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, accelerating the process of reinforcing them—and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop. Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. And ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not our beliefs match reality.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday April 12 at 7pm (Urbana, Illinois)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Material Science & Engineering Building, Room 100 at 7pm
Contact Sarah Connor at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday April 13 at 6:30pm (Manitowoc, Wisconsin)

University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, 705 Viebahn St., Manitowoc, WI
University Theatre at 6:30pm. Admission: $5, students free
Contact Caroline Driscoll Geary at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday April 14 at 12pm (Fox Valley, Wisconsin)

University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, 1478 Midway Rd., Menasha, WI
Student Union at 12pm
Contact Jeff Kuepper, Director Student Activities at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday April 14 at 7pm (Sheboygan, Wisconsin)

University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, 1 University Dr., Sheboygan, WI
Wombat Room at 7pm
Contact Valerie Murrenus Pilmaier at

Thursday, April 15, 2011

Friday April 15 at 7:30pm (Rock County, Wisconsin)

University of Wisconsin-Rock County, 2909 Kellogg Ave., Janesville, WI
Kirk Denmark Theatre, Wells Cultural Center at 7:30pm
Contact David McKay at

Why People Believe Weird Things (cover)

Order the book from A book signing will follow all lectures.


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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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