Michael Shermer

American science writer
8 September 1954 —

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Smart people believe weird things because they are better at rationalizing their beliefs that they hold for non-smart reasons.

There are many sources of spirituality; religion may be the most common, but it is by no means the only. Anything that generates a sense of awe may be a source of spirituality. Science does this in spades.

Myths, whether in written or visual form, serve a vital role of asking unanswerable questions and providing unquestionable answers. Most of us, most of the time, have a low tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. We want to reduce the cognitive dissonance of not knowing by filling the gaps with answers. Traditionally, religious myths have served that role, but today - the age of science - science fiction is our mythology.

Skepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism - and is therefore one of the keys to human social and civic decency.

Science helps us avoid dogmatism: basing conclusions on authority rather than logic and evidence.

There is no such thing as the supernatural or the paranormal. There is only the natural, the normal, and mysteries we have yet to explain.

Uncertainty makes people anxious, and anxiety is related to magical thinking.

Proof is derived not through a single piece of evidence, but through that convergence of evidence from numerous lines of inquiry, all of which point to an unmistakable conclusion.

I`m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe, but because I want to know.

The whole point of faith, in fact, is to believe regardless of the evidence, which is the very antithesis of science.

People believe in God because we are pattern-seeking, storytelling, mythmaking, religious, moral animals.

Data without generalizations are useless; facts without explanatory principles are meaningless. A "theory" is not just someone's opinion or a wild guess made by some scientist. A theory is a well-supported and well-tested generalization that explains a set of observations. Science without theory is useless.

Skepticism is not a position; skepticism is an approach to claims, in the same way that science is not a subject but a method.

Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.

In science, knowledge is fluid and certainty fleeting. That is at the heart of its limitations. It is also its greatest strength.

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