Full text of Michael Shermer’s talk: Why People Believe Weird Things at TED Talks conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Michael Shermer on Why people believe weird things at TED Talks
I’m Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptics Society, publisher of Skeptic Magazine. We investigate claims of the paranormal, pseudo-science, fringe groups and cults, and claims of all kinds between, science and pseudo-science and non-science and junk science, voodoo science, pathological science, bad science, non-science, and plain old non-sense. And unless you’ve been on Mars recently, you know there’s a lot of that out there.
Some people call us debunkers, which is kind of a negative term. But let’s face it, there’s a lot of bunk. We are like the bunko squads of the police departments out there flushing out — well, we’re sort of like the Ralph Naders of bad ideas, trying to replace bad ideas with good ideas.
I’ll show you an example of a bad idea. I brought this with me, this was given to us by NBC Dateline to test. It’s produced by the Quadro Corporation of West Virginia. It’s called the Quadro 2000 Dowser Rod. This was being sold to high-school administrators for $900 apiece. It’s a piece of plastic with a Radio Shack antenna attached to it. You could dowse for all sorts of things, but this particular one was built to dowse for marijuana in students’ lockers.
So the way it works is you go down the hallway, and you see if it tilts toward a particular locker, and then you open the locker. So it looks something like this. I’ll show you.