A new Initiate being sworn in by Dr. Shermer

The Roosevelt Atheists club attended a wonderful lecture by Dr. Michael Shermer last night as part of Birthday Week celebrations. Dr. Shermer talked about why people believe weird things. A moment of excitement came when a U. Wisconsin professor asked a question that revealed he was a “Nine Eleven Truther”. The crowd booed and muttered, but Dr. Shermer was polite as ever in his answer.

An interesting point Dr. Shermer made is that the brain’s default mechanism for handling information is to believe it. It takes more work (literally, from a neurological perspective) to think critically about and assess new information, than to just “go with it”. Seems gullibility is hard-wired. Religion may also be hard-wired in the temporal lobe.

We also learned that Michael Shermer once thought he was being harassed by aliens from an otherworldly spaceship, and that he volunteered to have his brain saturated with EM waves intended to induce altered consciousness.

Afterwards we met him for some brief chat and book-signings. He was quite personable and it was obvious that he loves thinking, discussing and chewing on ideas. In the picture, one of the aforementioned Atheists is apparently being sworn in by Dr. Shermer. He’s either promising to eat his vegetables or to always be skeptical of everything but skepticism so help him the FSM.

Personally, he’s my favorite promulgator of rationalism since Carl, though Dennett is also phenomenal.