Last night I went up to the community college to hear Michael Shermer, of Skeptic Magazine, speak on the topic of “why people believe weird things”. Here’s the press release.
“Why People Believe Weird Things” is, of course, the title of one of his books, which was orignally published in 1997. I’m happy to say I read it when it came out, and after weeding my personal book collection down to practically nothing it is one of the few that survived the slaughter, right next to the rest of my science/skepticism/pseudoscience material. I wish I’d thought to take it to the lecture to get it signed. Next time!
I sat next to and spoke to an interesting couple. Both had been raised with very fundamentalist religious upbringings. As they said, they were taught to filter their experience through the lens of biblical literalism. At some point they both decided there were too many contradiction between their religious worldview and actual reality, so they began reading about science, became interested in critical thinking and skepticism (and I use the term skepticism in the more popular sense, rather than the more specific philosophical sense), and eventually adopted the scientific worldview (for lack of a better term). They say it took a couple of years to really break the old mental habits. Anyway, just an interesting conversation.
Back to Shermer’s talk — he took bits and pieces from his various books, mixed it with some interesting and entertaining video clips — and, well, it was good. Having read a lot of his material and having been into the whole science/skepticism thing for a long time, I didn’t find a lot of new ideas, but it was cool to actually be there for the live presentation. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room with that many like-minded people before, which was kind of weird.
Of course, the lecture was at the local community college, so I realize there may have been a lot of students there involuntarily, haha. But what a great experience for a young student! I would love to have heard someone like this in college. I’m sure that for at least a few this was an eye-opening experience.
So a huge thanks to CCCCD.edu for having Michael Shermer out. And an even bigger thanks to Shermer himself for visiting North Texas.
There were two young guys behind me who had brought there books with them to get signed. I overheard them talking about various related subjects/thinkers, and the topic of Carl Sagan came up. Both these guys were about 7 years old when he died. Watching Cosmos on PBS was kind of a formative experience for me. It is good to know that Sagan continues to be a positive influence on young people. We need another Carl Sagan.
That is all.