Tonight, Michael Shermer and 3 other scientists will travel to Ghent for the ‘Reasonable Doubt’ event, an evening program during which they will take a dive into the mysteries of the brain..
Michael Shermer, once a devoted Christian, is now widely acknowledged as a protagonist in the field of pseudoscientific claims, mainly due to his work as founder of The Skeptics Society. In his new book The Moral Arc, he claims that wise, smart and well-educated individuals are more likely to make errors in their logic reasoning and confirm them.
Johan Braeckman, philosophy professor at the University of Ghent admires the man and his work. Firstly, because of how Michael Shermer evolved in his relationship with religion. “While he once convinced himself of the truth as it is put forward by Christianity, he was still able to remain open-minded to information contradicting such views. You have to admire someone who was once so devoted, to be able to admit he was wrong.”
Additionally, he is in awe of Shermer’s skill in presenting his reasoning. “His statements, which hold a high degree of detail, can be put to the test. He is able to bring forward rock-solid information, something which is not often the case when reading other work in the field of popular science.”
Intelligent people are able to rationalise the incorrect statements that they have put forward.
Shermer discusses the paradox which entails that intelligent individuals are more vulnerable to making errors in their reasoning. He states that we are all invited to formulate certain positions, certain claims, based on social influences, experience in life and certain elements of bias.
According to Shermer, intelligent individuals are better equipped to defend such claims towards other individuals and themselves, whether or not they are correct. In order to become convinced of there being a conspiracy theory, a cause-effect relationship which isn’t correct or an alternative historical explanation, an individual is required to possess a certain -relative- intelligence. The more an individual is able to spot patterns and connections, the more he is able to justify his claims and rationalise such -possibly- incorrect claims.
So, be careful when you enter in a discussion with a -more- intelligent interlocutor.
The consistent thread that runs through Shermer’s new book is the moral progress of society and the errors in reasoning that such progress entails. Shermer claims that although we have created animal rights, abolished slavery and reduced violence, news media have been able to create a different image of our moral progress. According to Shermer we have fallen prone to a special form of myopia. News and other media limit themselves in showng what happens around the world and focus on local items that are more ‘unique’. With each crime being covered in news media, we become more and more convinced of living in a dreadful world, in a time of moral decline.
Such is merely an illusion. When we take a look at the larger picture, we see that in the past the number of murders, rape, genocide, etc where much higher. Shermer’s aim with this book is to create awareness on the need to rethink, how we think..
Can we really trust our brain?
March 12th, 2015 in Ghent, Zaal Miry
From 19h to 23h (doors open at 18h30)
Tickets are still available: €18 (€10 for students)