Allan Mazur, a sociologist and an engineer, is professor of public affairs in the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Previously a member of the social science faculties of MIT and Stanford University, he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has published over 150 articles in the social science literature and is especially interested in biosociology; research methods; and in controversies over science, technology, and the environment. Among his books are Biosociology of Dominance & Deference, True Warnings and False Alarms about Technology, 1948-1971, and Global Social Problems. His new book is Implausible Beliefs: In the Bible, Astrology, and UFOs.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Allan Mazur discusses his interest in skepticism, and lists various criteria for disbelief, defending “closed-mindedness” about various implausibilities. He explores similarities in the credulity throughout the United States versus Europe and Asia. He details the implausibility of various beliefs about the inerrancy of the Bible, UFOs, and astrology, and explains how there is nothing unique about religious beliefs that make them more implausible than other unsupportable claims. He examines the origins of implausible beliefs, including social influence, and how one’s social milieu may be a stronger factor in determining one’s beliefs than evidence or one’s education. He also examines personality characteristics and emotional comfort that certain implausible beliefs may bring the believer as further explanations for the roots of implausible beliefs.