A case for skepticism

In this TED talk, Michael Shermer makes a case for why a person ought to be skeptical.

To summarize, the problem is that people are wired for believing things. Out in the jungle, a person lives longer if they recognize patterns all around them. It is safer to think that rustle in the bushes is a predator instead of just the wind.

The price we pay for being pattern recognizing machines is superstition, and cognitive errors. In fact, it is relatively easy to show that our pattern recognition machines are badly broken.

The cure for this is to learn about the kinds of errors that people tend to make when looking at patterns and to practice analyzing which patterns are real and which ones are illusions. Also, remember to check your work.

Of course, Michael Shermer profits off people’s skepticism, so maybe he’s trying to trick us…

Abstruse Goose


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