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50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True
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50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True [Format Kindle]

Guy P. Harrison , Dr. Phil Plait

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

"Prometheus, the premiere publisher of skeptical literature, here issues a book that deserves to be shelved alongside the works of such giants of the field as [James] Randi, [Michael] Shermer, [Paul] Kurtz, and [Joe] 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

"This book will blow readers' minds (and it should) by making them realize how easy it is to hold a strong belief without applying either critical thinking or skepticism. Harrison…pokes gaping holes into common beliefs in the supernatural…and the tendency to believe that only personal religious tenets are correct despite total ignorance about other religious doctrine… Harrison guides us gently but firmly along an explorative path of our collective illogic, strong tendencies toward easy answers and magical thinking, and susceptibility to confirmation bias. He doesn't judge readers for buying into beliefs that have no real basis in fact and science, but instead asks them to second-guess the tendency to readily accept the unproven and the illogical as true. VERDICT: An outstanding book that is required reading no matter what you believe."

-Library Journal

“A journalist turns a skeptical eye on beliefs ranging from astrology to Atlantis, showing that scientific discovery can be just as fascinating as myth.”

-Science News

“[A]n entertaining look at why some people believe in astrology (instead of astronomy) or are still looking for Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Others believe that aliens from outer space helped build the pyramids or their bodies are stored in Area 51. Harrison says that humans are a believing species and, as such, prone to believe in things that lack any scientific proof and can be absurd.”

-Bookviews by Alan Caruba

“Rarely has a skeptic gone to battle against nonsense with the warmth and humor found in 50 Popular Beliefs….[A] grand tour though the bizarre ecosystem of irrational beliefs and extraordinary claims. Harrison deftly and compellingly demonstrates how science and reality are preferable to superstition and delusion.... It is an ideal text for an introductory Science and Pseudoscience or Critical Thinking course. It is clear, comprehensive, non-threatening yet thought provoking while remaining accessible. It’s also a much welcomed and needed addition to every skeptic’s reading list.”

-Skeptic Magazine

“This book is a must-read for skeptics and non-skeptics alike. It will excite all critical thinkers and will get believers to reexamine many popular beliefs that they think are true. I recommend it to all who are concerned and deeply worried about the ‘gigantic cloud of danger’ looming large over our world today due to popular dogmatic and irrational beliefs.”

-Skeptical Inquirer

“[An] absolute ‘must read’… Each belief is covered with a general overview, the rational behind them and the scientific research that fails to support them, all presented with liberal witticism. Harrison champions the need for maintaining constant vigilance to avoid becoming prey to unfounded beliefs that on the face of things, probably won’t cause any harm but could well lead to falling victim to more dangerous, erroneous beliefs. Well written, thoroughly researched and entertaining, this important book teaches the importance of being a skeptic.”

-Monsters and Critics 

“[I]f you do not want your teenagers growing up believing that an angel is watching over them, or the Bible contains a code that reveals the future, or that global warming is purely a political issue, then give them this book.”

-Science Fact and Fiction Concatenation 


Présentation de l'éditeur

Maybe you know someone who swears by the reliability of psychics or who is in regular contact with angels. Or perhaps you're trying to find a nice way of dissuading someone from wasting money on a homeopathy cure. Or you met someone at a party who insisted the Holocaust never happened or that no one ever walked on the moon. How do you find a gently persuasive way of steering people away from unfounded beliefs, bogus cures, conspiracy theories, and the like? 

This down-to-earth, entertaining exploration of commonly held extraordinary claims will help you set the record straight. The author, a veteran journalist, has not only surveyed a vast body of literature, but has also interviewed leading scientists, explored "the most haunted house in America," frolicked in the inviting waters of the Bermuda Triangle, and even talked to a "contrite Roswell alien." He is not out simply to debunk unfounded beliefs. Wherever possible, he presents alternative scientific explanations, which in most cases are even more fascinating than the wildest speculation.

For example, stories about UFOs and alien abductions lack good evidence, but science gives us plenty of reasons to keep exploring outer space for evidence that life exists elsewhere in the vast universe. The proof for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster may be nonexistent, but scientists are regularly discovering new species, some of which are truly stranger than fiction.

Stressing the excitement of scientific discovery and the legitimate mysteries and wonder inherent in reality, this book invites readers to share the joys of rational thinking and the skeptical approach to evaluating our extraordinary world.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2075 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 458 pages
  • Editeur : Prometheus Books (3 janvier 2012)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00C4B2TWA
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77 internautes sur 83 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Great Book! 23 décembre 2011
Par Book Shark - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
50 popular beliefs that people think are true by Guy P. Harrison

"50 popular beliefs that people think are true" is a fascinating book about skepticism and critical thinking applied to fifty popular beliefs. In a true open-minded and respectful manner, Guy Harrison takes us on a wonderful journey of applying the best current evidence to popular beliefs. This 458-page book is broken out by the following eight sections: Magical Thinking, Out There, Science and Reason, Strange Healings, Lure of the Gods, Bizarre Beings, Weird Places, and Dreaming of the End.

1. As accessible a book as you will find and written in an elegant and engaging conversational tone. A fun, page turner of a book to read.
2. A well-researched book evidenced by the number of books referenced and comprehensive bibliography.
3. Excellent format! Each chapter begins with an appropriate quote or two about the popular belief and ends with a "Go Deeper" section of further reading.
4. A respectful and sympathetic tone used throughout. Mr. Harrison treats his topics with utmost respect and care. He's one of the few authors that can take on "sensitive" topics in a considerate manner. A rare quality indeed.
5. Fascinating topics! There is something for everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The book covers a great and diverse selection of popular beliefs. Bravo!
6. The ability to express his thoughts in a logical and lucid manner. It's such a treat to read a book in which the author makes clear and succinct points.
7. Thought-provoking quotes and comments. "Being a skeptic means being honest and mature enough to seek answers that are based on evidence and logic rather than hopes and dreams."
8. A great defender of science and logic. The author does a great job of providing meaningful statistics and illustrations to back his points. Furthermore, he relies on subject matter experts to provide the best current evidence.
9. Some key concepts introduced that really helps understand why we believe. How we really see for instance and how our memories work. Great stuff.
10. The author makes it very clear what we know versus what we do not know. A good job of keeping things in perspective.
11. How cold readings work and an amusing tale that illustrates the points.
12. Wisdom and knowledge throughout. Everyone will have their favorite chapters, I enjoyed those that taught me knew things and are helping me change my perspective. The chapters involving intelligence and race were a pleasant surprise to me.
13. Chapters and concepts involving the supernatural are always a personal favorite and the author doesn't disappoint. Miracles, angels, souls, spirits...oh my.
14. This is an engaging book because the author's innate curious personality comes through so genuinely. There are many popular beliefs that the author himself would love to be true and hasn't completely ruled out. As an example the chapters on Aliens and UFOs. Absolutely love the self-deprecating humor and love for the awe of the unknown.
15. Pseudoscience placed in its proper place but done so as mentioned before with respect. Surprisingly but necessary, the author also does so with science.
16. The author provides a great point about global warming.
17. Guy Harrison's background is so vast and interesting that he is able to talk about topics from a firsthand perspective such as television news. Insightful takes on journalism and science.
18. A refreshing look at conspiracies. I'm a better person for having read it.
19. Great takes on alternative medicine, homeopathy, and faith healing. Benny Hinn...
20. Topics on religion are very interesting and even more so because the author is able to talk about all the main religions and not just Christianity which adds depth to the conversation.
21. Creationism and evolution, and even more interesting potential future debates.
22. Prophecies. The chapter on Nostradamus is fascinating and there is a separate one on worldwide prophecies, good stuff.
23. An interesting look at prayers.
24. Archaeology and what we don't know with conviction.
25. Bizarre beings like Bigfoot were fun chapters to read.
26. Loved the chapter on the Bermuda Triangle.
27. The Mayans and 2012 so topical and a great water-cooler topic for months to come and Mr. Harrison provides the insight.
28. The book "ends" with a bang. No really...many examples of how it will end.

1. Having to wait for the Kindle version. I couldn't wait so I purchased the book instead. No big deal.
2. Because this book is so ambitious and covers fifty popular beliefs; some chapters may not have the depth that some readers would have liked but the author did a wonderful job of providing further reading material.

In summary, I absolutely loved this book! It's one of the reasons why I enjoy reading so much. This is one of those few books available that everyone can enjoy. You can jump to your favorite topics if you desire or read it straight through. Either way you will at the very least respect the author's approach or best, enjoy it as thoroughly as I have. This is a book about skepticism that is fun to read, thought-provoking while never being unintelligible. Don't hesitate to get it! I highly recommend it!

Further suggestions: "50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God" by the same author, "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as TruthsThe Believing Brain..." and "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time" by Michael Shermer, "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries" by Benjamin Radford, "The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life" by Jesse Bering, "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne, "Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists..." by Dan Barker, "Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment" Phil Zuckerman, "The Faith Healers" by James Randi, "The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails" by John W. Loftus, "Caveman Logic: The Persistence of Primitive Thinking in a Modern World" by Hank Davis, "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us" by Victor J. Stenger, "The Blind Spot" by William Byers, "Paranormality" Richard Wiseman, "Storms of My Grandchildren" by James Hansen, "Braintrust" by Patricia S. Churchland, "The Panic Virus" by Seth Mnookin, "Science Under Siege" by Kendrick Frazier, "Superstition" by Robert Park and "Science and Nonbelief" by Taner Edis.
72 internautes sur 78 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Reading is believing 28 décembre 2011
Par Hande Z - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Spoiler alert: If you believe in some of the beliefs discussed in this book you may not think the book as a whole merits reading, let alone buying. However, the topics discussed ranged from "Creationism" to "Area 51 is where they keep aliens", "Ghosts are Real and They Live in Haunted Houses', and "Astrology is Scientific" are varied and wide. So it is possible that one might believe (or is neutral about) some views expressed by Harrison but agree with Harrison on the rest. Even though he wrote from the sceptic's viewpoint, he does not disparage religious beliefs. He wrote in "My God is the Real One": "One ought to be aware of and respect , to a point, the emotional attachment many people have to their belief in the existence of a god or gods. But it only makes sense to try and ensure that something taken so seriously by so many people is actually valid in the first place. This is not, or should not be, a question for the skeptics alone. Don't believers also want to know if their gods actually exist or not?"

If the reader is inclined to believe in the topics discussed (the previous reviewer has helpfully set out a detailed list) he might wish to give this book a solitary star. I gave it five stars because I agree with virtually all the author's views. I had hitherto been ignorant about how scientific homeopathy is; Harrison described homeopathy as a failed method of alternative medicine. The ingredients used are so diluted that they have no effect whatsoever, and consequently, homeopathy has, at best, only a placebo effect. He traced the origins of homeopathic medicine and discussed what goes on in modern practices and why they are futile exercises.

The second reason this book deserves a five-star rating is that the author was able to describe and discuss the topics clearly and briefly so that it takes no more than 15 minutes to read each topic. Thirdly, he recommended further readings at the end of each chapter. The suggestions may not all be the most authoritative sources, but they appeared to be relevant and probably useful sources, as I have read many of the books suggested. For example, Under the chapter "Creationism is true and evolution is not", Harrison recommended 24 books including "The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins - which might be reason enough for some to think Harrison's book unreadable.

Harrison begins each chapter with a quotation. Some sounded authoritative and some are humorous, for example, in "Television News Gives Me an Accurate View of the World" he quoted Arthur C Clarke: "Whom the gods would destroy, they first give teleivison.' In "I believe in Miracles" Harrison quoted Aristotle, "It is likely that unlikely things should happen", to commence his discussion of miracles.
16 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Great Introduction to Skepticism 16 mars 2012
Par Greg Schumaker - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
In the war on stupidity, this book is a great tool to introduce young minds into the fold of a reality-based community. A bit repetitive at points, but the humor and insights make up for that. The "Go Deeper" suggestions for further reading on each topic are a great resource.
17 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Another Home Run By Guy Harrison 23 janvier 2012
Par A Customer - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Guy Harrison's new book is a fun read about what people believe to be true. Whether talking about religion, UFO'S, Bigfoot, or the so-called faked Moon landings, Guy pulls back the veil of secrecy to expose things for what they really are.

Hard evidence along with reason and logic is what drives this book's main ideas. Some beliefs can be explained quite simply, without the need for magic, pseudoscience, superstition or a conspiracy being involved. Without evidence, people tend to fill in the gaps with thoughts or ideas that fit a person's belief in whatever subject is at hand. Confirmation bias, which is counting the hits, and forgetting the misses is a contributing factor in this thought process. Sometimes, like the author says, it's ok to say you don't know. That does not mean something unusual or strange is going on.

Some of my favorite chapters include conspiracy theories, religion, and the Bermuda Triangle. I found myself rather amazed at some beliefs I have never heard of before.

The style in which the book presents itself is not mean spirited or a put down in any way. But after reading this gem of a book, you'll find yourself asking the question, "Did I really believe in this stuff"?? Also enjoyed the "GO DEEPER" at end of each chapter for further reading on each subject.

Would also recommend JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think about Claims of Conspiracy and The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
18 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 From a believer's point of view... 12 mai 2013
Par Ian - Publié sur
I was once one of those people that Mr. Harrison mentions in this book. As a follower of Christianity, I believed it was the correct faith, that Jesus was the only way to heaven, and that anyone who didn't believe was damned. Yet, time has an interesting way of altering your views. I began to wonder why God didn't accept anyone from other faiths, or why He seemed so cruel, especially towards non-believers. One thing led to another, and eventually I left the faith completely. Yet, in the decade since then, I've still believed in a spiritual existence, but never really thought about questioning my own beliefs in-depth.

Then, out of nowhere, I suddenly run into this book at the library. Figuring I should start looking into skepticism more, I read it. And while it was challenging reading, I did find myself asking a lot of questions...including ones about the book itself.

"50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True" is a book that takes a look at many popular beliefs in the world today, ranging from psychics, Atlantis, UFO's, and anything supernatural, but also looking at a few unorthodox beliefs such as, "You're born smart or you're not," "Biological race determines success in sports," and "Race based medicine is a good idea." Compared to the paranormal nature of most of the book, these feel out of place, but they're still interesting reads (even if I had no opinion on them).

With the book coming from a skeptic's point of view, I expected that science was going to be mentioned a lot, and sure enough, the importance of following science and looking for evidence in anything is stressed over and over again, while also talking about how much of what we believe isn't true based on two things: Anecdotal evidence, and science showing how the brain can mislead people, and how we can't rely on either of them.

Going through the book, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the material within, especially on the chapters about how television news doesn't give an accurate view of the world, why television preachers who need money shouldn't get any, and how Astrology is nonsense (even as a believer in the paranormal, I doubt the position of planets within a small solar system within a corner of an entire galaxy amongst billions influences my destiny), along with the chapters about gods and religion in general.

Make no mistake, Mr. Harrison brings up a lot of thought-provoking insights here. I found myself surprised at some very smart insights (if Intelligent Design is accurate science, why is it being pushed on schools, rather then in scientific institutes and magazines?) And if prayer is reliable, how do we explain mothers in third world nations praying for their starving children to survive, only to see them die? Is there no other prayer so sincere and heartfelt? When I read that, I actually had to put the book down and think about that one for a while.

I was also pleased to see that, unlike other skeptics, Mr. Harrison is at least open to the idea of some of the things he discusses in the book, saying that he'd love to see UFO's, or that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster are real. And I also agreed with him wholeheartedly on his views about harmful religious beliefs in general. His outrage at children in Africa being killed for being witches, is arguably the most powerful section in the book, and is the perfect example of how some beliefs do hurt, rather then help, something I agree with completely.

So if I agree with Mr. Harrison on many things, why does "50 Popular Beliefs" get only a three star rating? Because I couldn't shake the feeling that the book wasn't being as honest as it first appeared to be.

That feeling began after reading other reviews saying that Mr. Harrison's tone was more respectful then other skeptics, and while he does avoid the "in-your-face" attitude, I noticed an underlying sense of contempt throughout the book, specifically the feeling that anyone who isn't a scientist is stupid or delusional. The chapter illustrations, for example, depict supernatural beings and their believers as blithering idiots, thanks to absurdly exaggerated cartoon expressions. The end chapter also has Mr. Harrison writing about how grateful he is to be a skeptic, and that he can enjoy a life filled with books, travel, watching movies, and flirting with women...things that, apparently, believers in the paranormal can't enjoy.

While it's to be expected that book like this would emphasize science, I was surprised to see how it includes a chapter on how we shouldn't regard scientists as the bastions of truth, nor should we follow science blindly. Yet, I can't help but wonder if that chapter is a red herring to catch the reader off guard, as the book constantly says that science is our only hope, to the point where the words, "SCIENCE HELPS US FIND OUR WAY" actually appears in large print. Not exactly subtle.

In a way, that's my biggest problem with "50 Popular Beliefs.": it feels like it's trying to deceive me. While every book about science and religion does try to promote their viewpoint over another, most are at least open about their intent. This one feels like stealthy science propaganda.

Furthermore, I also question the book's three main claims:

1. Anecdotal evidence is not reliable, and can't be used.
2. Our brains are not reliable.
3. Science and evidence is needed for everything.

These three beliefs make up the core of the book's arguments, yet I don't believe they're as airtight as they appear. On Anecdotal evidence, Mr. Harrison writes, "Anecdotal evidence is not good evidence. One can find a story to support just about anything." Yet we use anecdotes all the time, usually in getting advice from others and reading reviews (like the one you're reading now) to determine where we should go, or if we should spend our money on a product. If the majority of reviews or advice agrees on a product's good and bad points, I'll be more inclined to believe what they say. Couldn't that same logic also apply to the paranormal, especially if certain traits continue to pop up year after year, century after century?

For the statement that our brains are not reliable, I find it questionable to say that almost everything paranormal we witness is the result of our brains misfiring or misinterpreting things; if our brains deceived us all the time, then how would we survive as a species for so many years? With regards to evidence, Mr. Harrison says, "...we must have hard evidence that scientists can analyze, test, and confirm." But what if I were to go out by myself into the desert, draw elaborate pictures in the sand, erase them, come back home, and say that I drew those pictures? I would have no way of proving the event took place, even though it did. What if UFO's, aliens, and the paranormal do exist, but we can't get evidence of it, or evidence with our current level of technology?

When I put those thoughts in place while reading through the book again, its arguments didn't seem to carry the weight they did the first time around. But what truly dropped my rating of the book down was the curious absence of compelling evidence for the paranormal that Mr. Harrison doesn't comment on.

The chapter on ghosts, for example, is largely summed up by, "The brain can do a lot of things, and you can misinterpret a lot of what you hear and see. And where's the scientific evidence?" I agree that we can misinterpret a lot of things as ghosts, but when the sheer number of ghost stories throughout history is taken into account, it seems absurd to dismiss all of them on the basis of misunderstandings and delusional brains. What about the case of Robert Loft and second officer Don Repo of Eastern Airlines Flight 401? Then there's the cases of people seeing apparitions of their loved ones, only to later learn that they had died near the time they were seen. My great grandmother (who had no spiritual beliefs whatsoever) had one of these experiences with her deceased son during World War Two, and it seems unlikely that she was delusional at the time.

I was also puzzled about how short the chapter on near-death experiences is, which again, is summed up as, "It's tricks of the brain as its dying." Yet, the book doesn't talk about people who learn things they couldn't have possibly known, such as deceased siblings they never knew about who were seen in the NDE and later identified (such as in Eben Alexander's "Proof of Heaven"). The book doesn't talk about blind people who can see for the first time in their lives and accurately describe what they've seen (including those whose visual abilities were destroyed or not developed as children), or doctors noting how the vast majority of experiences are not as fragmented, confusing, or random as hallucinations, bad drug trips, or epileptic seizures.

But the most damaging lack of all is in the chapter on reincarnation. In it, Mr. Harrison talks about children who have past-life memories, and I agree with him that children can embellish and make things up (I remember doing so when I was a little kid to some of my teachers), but when he talks about the case of James Leininger, who appeared to be the reincarnation of a World War Two pilot, he says that the boy was probably influenced by his parents, along with visits to museums, books, etc. However, he doesn't talk about are additional details of the story that cannot be so easily explained, such as:

1. James named three of his GI Joe figures Leon, Walter, and Billie, after friends who greeted him in heaven. Turns out, there were indeed three men named Leon Connor, Walter Devlin, and Billie Peeler from James' ship who had died before him (and even shared the correct hair color on their respective GI Joe doll).
2. The pilot's surviving friends verified information James told them about events during the war, such as his plane getting shot down from a hit on the engine.
3. James actually interacted with the pilot's only surviving sister, Anne Barron, and told Mrs. Barron her childhood nickname, that they had matching portraits done when they were children, naming their older sister, what job they had, and that she was mortified at a job their mother took. Mrs. Barron confirmed that he was right, noting that James came up with information he couldn't have possibly known.

Did Mr. Harrison leave these points out on purpose? Either he didn't know about them, or deliberately left them out. If that's true, then he intentionally misleads the reader, and with that in mind, how am I supposed to trust what else he says, or the information he presents?

This silence extends to other areas of the book as well. On the chapter of supernatural artifacts, why doesn't the book talk about arguably the most famous relic of all, the Shroud of Turin? The chapter on angels doesn't talk about recorded instances of people being saved or assisted by individuals who suddenly vanish as soon as the person is safe. The chapter on UFO's doesn't mention the famed 1952 Washington DC events, which included impossibly agile lights seen multiple times from multiple individuals, including trained pilots, air-traffic controllers, airmen, and military personnel. And in the chapter on psychics, there's no mention of Eileen J. Garrett apparently commenting with the deceased captain of the airship R 101, and conveying accurate technical details about the crash she couldn't have possibly known. While it's unreasonable to expect a book of this type to go in-depth on every topic, the silence on some of the bigger, more compelling paranormal events is very suspicious to me.

In the end, is "50 beliefs" worth reading? Despite the problems I have with the book, I would say that yes, it is, and that both skeptics and believers of the paranormal would benefit to reading it at least once. There are many good arguments and sound logic within, and a few of those piercing questions that make you stop to ponder them. Yet, at the same time, I find it's silence on certain topics and events very questionable.

While "50 Popular Beliefs" didn't persuade me that the paranormal does not exist, I will probably look back on it years from now and mark it as the point where I began to look at my own beliefs a little more critically then before, but most importantly, to also question what is presented by both believers and skeptics alike, for both have convincing arguments and noticeable weaknesses. There are no doubt many things out there that we have yet to discover, and because of that, I agree with Mr. Harrison in that we need to always look for the truth, rather then base truth on hopes and dreams...even if we do come to different conclusions.
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