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"50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True" by Guy P. Harrison

Clearly one of the best books out there debunking popular myths and encouraging skepticism.

There's no doubt whatsoever that of these popular beliefs, chances are you believe in one or two of them (I admittedly did so myself). Books like these are perfect examples of guiding us in the right path to a stable life. Take note of the book title: "...that people think are true." This is a clear indicator that what many people believe isn't what they/you think, having been fooled from politicians to pop culture, and from cultural stories to TV.

With fifty beliefs, there are 50 chapters, all of which are divided into parts that fall under a specific category (i.e. Magical Reasons, Weird Things, etc). "Magical Thinking," which is about debunking the truth about psychics and supernatural, and "Lure of the Gods," which explains religion and prayer, provide the longest amount of chapters. The titles of the chapters are quotes that people often utter come time of argument, reasoning and of course, believing. Each end of the chapter have been provided with more sources to extend your learning further, should any of these belief-breaking explanation interest you. Other than that, the book itself is accompanied with excellent, friendly writing with details presented gently without losing your attention. Even though he goes to question these beliefs, the author does entertain the idea of possible alien existence.

In fact, I may go as far as to say that some of these beliefs, I've never even heard of. "Race-based" and "Alternative" medicines? I mean, what kind of people think these are/were good ideas? "A TV Evangelist needs my money?" Under this kind of economy, though I still remain optimistic about it, you know such belief is under suspicion; you will learn why that's a no-no. Oh, and how could I ever forget "You're either born smart or you're not"? Regardless of what anyone thinks, I would consider that the biggest insult anyone could say to someone. I say so because if some gifted humans were born smart, they'd learn to walk on their own, learn to speak on their own, break the quantum physical code that plagues physicists as to why the universe works the way it does and solve the Reimann Zeta Hypothesis, all in their crib. "Television News Gives Me an Accurate View of the World"? As shocking as these are, so much as some are funny, it deteriorates my hope and faith for humanity. Is this how we think and what most believe? So that would mean I can whip up a web page, tell a silly story tailored to spark serious thinking in connection with the actual wonders of this world, and people will enjoy but re-think about its likelihood of being true? So that's why some businesses still succeed today.

Having said those, it's a book for those who've been questioning the things we undergo in life, in this case, the beliefs they are bombarded with among peers, co-workers, friends and family growing up. Author Harrison reiterates that it is for the true skeptic. Many people feel that being skeptic is bad because you shouldn't question things that are "true in it of itself" because it has happened before, stories have proven it and will live to stay with us. Harrison perfectly busts that wall up very good as to why one shouldn't be gullible into falling for such trap, misleading you in the wrong direction. If there's no scientific proof, or any other logically cogent proof thereof, then one shouldn't buy it. So if I said "planet Earth used to be shaped like a triangle before humans ruled," and throw in some trigonometrical formulas that support such thing, would you believe that? It's amazing how people allow themselves to be misled without thinking.

There's just a lot on this book that brings one to check-in with reality and realize how long and how much they were fooled. The chapter illustrations looked great, some looked hilarious (good enough to start a comic book series, if it hasn't been done yet). It is yet another excellent source of answering those questions that haunted your mind since you were a child. NASA never faked the Moon landings, reincarnation is not real, the human race won't go extinct anytime soon, angels don't watch over you, you're not going to Heaven after you die (neither will you go to Hell) and nothing strange goes on in the Bermuda Triangle. Harrison has crafted an excellent book to bring you, the reader, a sudden realization in which this life you're currently living is the only one you live; this is your one and only shot. This is it, and that's all we have. Don't be misled; it doesn't hurt to think.

Writing more would spoil your need/curiosity into why these popular beliefs aren't what you think. However, I will close this review with a myriad of snippets I've decided to include on here. If you're someone who summarizes realizations through quotes, I strongly suggest you consider one of these. Enjoy!

"Constructive skepticism is compatible with open-minded curiosity, but it demands consistent vigilance and the courage to question anything and anyone." (Ch.1 "I believe in the paranormal and the supernatural", Harrison, p.26)

"People in a democracy, for example, who can't recognize the utter emptiness and failure of [Nostradamus] claims are probably at greater risk of being fooled by corrupt politicians, dishonest marketing efforts, and bogus medical treatments." (Ch.8 "Nostradamus saw it all coming", Harrison, p.79)

"The reasons for the strange idea that we never went to the Moon probably has a lot to do with the appallingly low levels of science and historical knowledge that are common in the United States and throughout the world." (Ch.10 "NASA faked the Moon landings", Harrison, p.98)

"Never allow yourself to be too impressed by a belief's popularity. Reality is not determined by a majority vote." (Ch.12 "UFOs are visitors from other worlds", Harrison, p.112)

"Being skeptical and asking questions about something as important as climate change is a good thing. It should be challenged and questioned—
everything should be challenged and questioned." (Ch.18 "Global warming is a political issue and nothing more", Harrison, p.165)

"I wish more people appreciated the unique power of a book. Not because I happen to write books, but because I sincerely believe that books (most of them) are good for the world. One could make the case for the book being the most important and powerful invention of all time." (Ch.19 "Television news gives me an accurate view of the world", Harrison, p.177)

"Embrace science and appreciate how it produces results and eliminates false claims." (Ch.41 "Bigfoot lives and cryptozoology is real science!", Harrison, p.336)

"Of course, respecting other people and accepting their personal choices would require humankind to grow up. Sadly, we aren't quite there yet." (Ch.43 "Magic is real and witches are dangerous", Harrison, p.358)

"A lack of imagination makes it more likely for a person to see something they can't make sense of and conclude that it must be otherworldly." (Ch.47 "Area 51 is where they keep the aliens", Harrison, p.385)

"The skeptical life is for anyone and everyone. It's not dependent on extensive education or exceptional intelligence. At its core, being a skeptic means nothing more than recognizing and understanding something about the natural processes, frailties, and vulnerabilities of the human brain—and deciding not to surrender to them without a fight. It's about knowing that we can and will be fooled, over and over, throughout our lives. It's inevitable." ("farewell and good luck", Harrison, p.418)





  • Fifty chapters titled with fifty beliefs, all debunked (vaccination, news media, etc).
  • Promotes and encourages thinking before believing (skeptic thinking may be our saving grace in this troublesome world).
  • Sort of knew that the world wasn't ending on December 21, 2012.
  • Received "The [2014] Book of the Year Award" a year later by The Seeds of Books.
  • No index.
100% (A+)
Fan Rating
Title 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True
Author(s) Guy P. Harrison (www.guypharrison.com)
Description --
Foreword Dr. Phil Plait
Dedication "For Natasha, Jared, and Marissa. Always think before you believe."
ISBN 978-1-61614-495-1
Book Dimensions Width: 6.06″ (6 1/16″)
Height: 9.0″
Depth: 1.0″
Page Count 464
Contents Acknowledgements, Foreword, Introduction, Magical Thinking: nine (9) chapters, Out There: six (6) chapters, Science And Reason: seven (7) chapters, Strange Healings: five (5) chapters, Lure Of The Gods: twelve (12) chapters, Bizarre Beings: four (4) chapters, Weird Places: four (4) chapters, Dreaming of the End: three (3) chapters, Farewell and Good Luck, Notes, Bibliography, Index
Book Design Nicole Sommer-Lecht
Illustrations Kevin Hand
Author Photograph --
Published December 20, 2011
Publisher Prometheus Books (www.prometheusbooks.com)
Copyright © 2012 by Guy P. Harrison / Illustrations © by Kevin Hand
Printed in United States of America
Book Format Paperback, Kindle, Digital Audiobook, NOOK
Quoted Reviews "What would it take to create a world in which fantasy is not confused for fact and public policy is based on objective reality? I don't know for sure. But a good place to start would be for everyone on Earth to read this book." — Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History, and author of The Sky Is Not the Limit

"The perfect book for skeptics to carry with them whenever they venture into the dark and mysterious realms where myths, monsters, and magic lurk as pretenders to truth, and where pseudoscience and superstition rule the day....A contribution that will continue to move our culture toward one that openly embraces reason, science, and logic." — Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic, columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain

"Deserves to be shelved alongside the works of such giants of the field as Randi, Shermer, Kurtz, and Nickell. With a combination of lively prose and keen analytical reasoning, the author examines some of contemporary culture's most commonly held beliefs....A valuable, not to mention very entertainingly written, addition to the literature of skepticism." — BOOKLIST, starred review

"Extremely well written, with a generous helping of good-natured humor, Harrison's book is the perfect antidote to magical thinking....It's a fun read and should be on the bookshelves, not just of every skeptic, but of every believer in things that go bump in the night." — Dr. Kenneth Feder, professor of anthropology at Central Connecticut State University and author of Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries

"An open-minded informed, and skeptical analysis of the first rate. Written with humor, wit, and personal insight, 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True is a fine primer for those new to skepticism and a fun refresher for veteran skeptics." — Benjamin Radford, research fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer

"A much-needed tour through common delusions about reality. Harrison writes clearly and succinctly about beliefs that are not supported by science or logic. However, he does so with sympathy and understanding." — Victor J. Stenger, author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis and The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning

"Comes just in time, I hope, to save some vestiges of rational thought....[Harrison's book] is a force for good." — Cameron M. Smith, author of The Fact of Evolution and Anthropology for Dummies
Best Seller's List --
Other Guy P. Harrison is an award-winning journalist and the author of 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God and Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know about Our Biological Diversity.
Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
1. Common Fallacies.
2. History—Errors, inventions, etc.
3. Belief and doubt—Miscellanea.
4. Popular culture—Miscellanea.
I. Title.
II. Title: Fifty popular beliefs that people think are true.
CIP Number ???
LC Control Number 2011032747
LC Call Number AZ999.H37  2011
DDC Call Number 149'.73—dc23


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