Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief

Front Cover
W. W. Norton & Company, 2006 - Philosophy - 243 pages
3 Reviews
In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, the White Queen tells Alice that to believe in a wildly improbable fact she simply needs to "draw a long breath and shut [her] eyes." Alice finds this advice ridiculous. But don't almost all of us, at some time or another, engage in magical thinking? Seventy percent of Americans believe in angels; 13 percent of British scientists "touch wood"; 40 percent of Americans believe that astrology is scientific. And that is only the beginning.

In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Lewis Wolpert tackles one of the most important causes on the horizon of public debate: the nature of belief. Looking at belief's psychological basis and its possible evolutionary origins in physical cause and effect, Wolpert expertly investigates what science can tell us about those concepts we are so sure of, covering everything from everyday beliefs that give coherence to our experiences, to religious beliefs, to paranormal beliefs for which there is no evidence.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I found this book highly intersting and I specifically liked the last few chapters.
The author is great to express his ideas freely and very logical.
Unfortunately the facts and logic of this book will not be helpful to many to abosorb the content rationally as people are brain washed at the childhood to think in a certain way. If you are brought up as a muslim or any other religion the brain's enate mechnisum is to keep it thatway without subjecting yourself to unnecessary internal conflicts. 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I'm very interested in this subject, unfortunately I couldn't get past his claim that the following was logically valid:
"No unhealthy foods have cholesterol
Some healthy foods are fried foods
Therefore, no fried foods have cholesterol"
I understand the point he is making about beliefs, but there is no way this statement is logically sound. For one thing, I don't think we can assume that all healthy foods have cholesterol just because no unhealthy foods have cholesterol. And if we were meant to assume that, the last line doesn't make sense. Fried foods are identified as healthy, but it concludes that no fried foods have cholesterol (which would be true if fried foods were identified as unhealthy. So there has to be a typo here. I think the first line should read "No healthy foods have cholesterol" to make any sense.
I didn't read any further because if he thinks that is logically sound, then I just can't trust any of his other deductions.
 

Contents

Everyday
3
Belief
23
Children
35
Animals
51
Tools
69
Believing
83
False
97
Religion
117
Paranormal beliefs
139
Health
161
Moral
187
Science
201
Believable?
217
References
221
Index
231
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2006)

Lewis Wolpert is professor of biology as applied to medicine at University College, London.

Bibliographic information