Founding Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer, recently made an appearance on The Colbert Report to promote his newest Book The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies: How we construct beliefs and reinforce them as Truths.
The interview was laden with the irreverent comedy we have all come to expect from Stephen Colbert. At one point, Shermer points out that "there are so many prophets, and they conflict with each other." To witch Colbert responds "But most of them are false, the Christian ones are true" along with "Jesus misses you."
Humor aside, The Believing Brain promises to be a fascinating look into how our beliefs are formed, how we develop biases and we filter information that reinforces these biases.
The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.