SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

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Bruce Hood

Belief and doubt. Psychology and religion. Psychology, Religious. More Details. Similar Series From NoveList.

SuperSense by Bruce M. Hood

Similar Titles From NoveList. Similar Authors From NoveList. It had been years since we last saw him. Kim stared at the man, and at that instant the man looked up from the paper he was reading and returned the stare.

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For what seemed a very long time, the two held each other's gaze before the quizzical expression on the man's face turned to a smile and he said, "Kim? Most of us have experienced something similar. At dinner parties, guests exchange stories about strange events and coincidences that have happened either to them or, more typically, to someone else they know. They talk about events that are peculiar or seem beyond reasonable explanation.

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They describe examples of knowing or sensing things either before they happen or over great distances of time and space. They talk of feeling energies or auras associated with people, places, and things that givethem a creepy sensation. They talk about ghosts and sensing the dead. It is precisely because these experiences are so weird that they are brought up in conversation. Pierre Le Loyer captured this notion well four hundred years ago in writing about spirits and the supernatural when he said: "It is the topic that people most readily discuss and on which they linger the longest because of the abundance of examples, the subject being fine and pleasing and the discussion the least tedious that can be found.

Most of us have had these bizarre experiences. Have you ever run into a long-lost friend in the most unlikely place? How often have you thought of someone only to receive a phone call from that person out of the blue?

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Sometimes it seems as if thoughts are physical things that can leap from one mind to another. How often have two people puzzled and said, "I was just thinking the same thing! Humans appear synchronized at times, as if they were joined together by invisible bonds. Some of us get a sense that there are mysterious forces operating in the world, acting to connect us together, that cannot be explained away. How do we make sense of all these common experiences? Many people believe that such occurrences are proof of the supernatural.

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Beliefs may turn out to be true or false, but supernatural beliefs are special. To be true, they would violate the natural laws that govern our world. Hence, they are supernatural. That belief may be true or false. Maybe they did and maybe they did not. It's not impossible. To be true, my belief would have to not violate any natural laws. All that would have been required was a very elaborate plan and cover-up.

However, if I believe that someone can communicate with the dead princess, then that would be a supernatural belief because it violates our natural understanding of how communication between two people works.

Supersense Why We Believe the Unbelievable

They usually both have to be alive. As Michael Shermer says, "We can all talk to the dead. It's getting them to talk back that's the hard part. People can be fully aware that their beliefs are supernatural and yet they continue to believe.

Why do people believe in things that go against natural laws? It cannot simply be ignorance. The answer is evidence.

The number-one reason given by people who believe in the supernatural is personal experience. As they say, "Seeing is believing," and when it happens to you, it proves what you suspected all along. For believers, examples of the supernatural are so plentiful and convincing that to simply ignore all the evidence is to bury our heads in the sand. But is there really such an abundance of examples of the supernatural? One major problem is that we are simply not good at estimating the likelihood of how often weird stuff happens.

Bruce M. Hood - Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable | Point of Inquiry

We tend to overestimate the likelihood of events that are very rare, such as being killed in a plane crash. At the same time, we underestimate the likelihood of events that are really quite common. For example, what is the likelihood of two strangers at a party sharing the same birthday?