Skeptical of Skepticism: Skeptic Michael Shermer speaks at Elon University

Multimedia Reporting By Erin Valentine

Skepticism is looking for rational explanations in an irrationally imaginative world.

Michael Shermer, founder of Skeptic magazine, spoke in Whitley Auditorium at Elon University this evening.

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Shermer talks about finding the rational in reality,
Photo by Erin Valentine

Shermer’s discussion, titled “Why People Believe Weird Things,” focused on the seemingly absurd beliefs that people hold, ranging from Big Foot to aliens to the Loch Ness Monster. The Liberal Arts Forum sponsored the lecture.

“The key to skepticism is to continually and vigorously apply methods of science,” said Shermer in one of the videos he showed.

Shermer bought up the examples of people jumping to conclusions of seeing a photoshopped photo and believing it to be legitimate.

“Before we say something is out of this world, first make sure that it is not in this world,” Shermer said.

The belief in patterns of three was also discussed. Threes are seen in faces, religions, mathematical equations, etc.

“Just assume all patterns are real,” Shermer said.

Shermer also discussed that believing in something does not mean a lack of education or understanding of the world.

“It takes more time to be skeptical. It takes more time to doubt things. The default of the brain is to just believe,” Shermer said.

Shermer backed up his statements with videos and audio clips.

“It comes down to the evidence – how much evidence do you have,” Shermer explained.

Shermer is the executive director of the Skeptics Society, the host of The Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Science Lecture Series and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University.

“Our brains are belief engines – they generate beliefs,” Shermer said.

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