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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why people believe strange things (and why they can't help it), 14 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science (Hardcover)
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I really enjoyed this. It is a little like The Believing Brain inasmuch as Storr says that belief comes first and only then do we justify that belief. We discard evidence against our belief and give too much credence to evidence that supports our belief - this is the confirmation bias. A large part of our belief is hereditary, e.g. political views. Oddly, and to paraphrase the author, being clever doesn't make one any more impartial, it just makes one better able to defend one's prejudice that was arrived at purely emotionally! We are all unable to escape our biases, because that is who we are - it is impossible to look beyond them. Nervous "pulses" combine in the brain and the brain makes a model of the world and at the centre of this model is the illusory self - the hero and centre of the universe, but apparently this, too, is a deception and an illusion. An illusion we will do anything to preserve and protect, leading to such cognitive contortions like cognitive dissonance (a kind of intellectual ambivalence to protect integrity of self) and confabulation (making up strange excuses to preserve one's model, that one honestly believes, but which are untrue). One amazing insight is on page 349 when he says that the scientific method is a tool humans have developed to break the mind's storytelling narrative and model-making (everything we perceive and experience is a model the brain has made of the world, not the actual world) - its prejudices and biases. To remove emotion and anecdote. But it isn't easy because science is difficult to grasp and understand and heresy is usually easy and instinctive - 'instinctive' should start alarm bells ringing after reading this book. Anyway, this book sometimes descends into a stream-of-consciousness, but that isn't a criticism at all - the author is regularly painfully, embarrassingly, candid about his feelings, motives and shortcomings - like when he admitted "envying" privileged, young Oxford students. I thought that was brave, even unnecessary. There is some science in here and some investigative journalism. The prose is a pleasure to read. Really natural language.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Feb 2013 22:00:50 GMT
Ian Wardell says:
"It is a little like The Believing Brain inasmuch as Storr says that belief comes first and only then do we justify that belief. We discard evidence against our belief and give too much credence to evidence that supports our belief - this is the confirmation bias. A large part of our belief is hereditary, e.g. political views. Oddly, and to paraphrase the author, being clever doesn't make one any more impartial, it just makes one better able to defend one's prejudice that was arrived at purely emotionally!"

I think this is absolutely correct! Yet further confirmation of the above is suggested by a disposition on my part to buy this book having read the above! (i.e it seems that I have a disposition to buy and read this book as it confirms some of my own thoughts).

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jul 2013 08:10:57 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 19 Sep 2014 19:39:50 BDT]
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