The Michael Shermer Show
The Michael Shermer Show
About The Michael Shermer Show
Why are we here? What’s the point of existence? On the ‘big questions’ of meaning and purpose, Western thought has been dominated by the dichotomy of traditional religion and secular atheism. In his pioneering work, Philip Goff argues that it is time to move on from both God and atheism. Through an exploration of contemporary cosmology and cutting-edge philosophical research on consciousness, Goff argues for cosmic purpose: the idea that the universe is directed towards certain goals, such as the emergence of life. In contrast to religious thinkers, Goff argues that the traditional God is a bad explanation of cosmic purpose. Instead, he explores a range of alternative possibilities for accounting for cosmic purpose, from the speculation that we live in a computer simulation to the hypothesis that the universe itself is a conscious mind. Goff scrutinizes these options with analytical rigour, laying the foundations for a new paradigm of philosophical enquiry into the middle ground between God and atheism. Ultimately, Goff outlines a way of living in hope that cosmic purpose is still unfolding, involving political engagement and a non-literalist interpretation of traditional religion. Shermer and Goff discuss: • living in a computer simulation • the universe itself as a conscious mind • cosmic purpose • fine-tuning • free will • consciousness (the ground of all being?) • morality and the Is-Ought Fallacy • What is mypurpose in life? • religious vs. secular answers to the purpose question • awe and how to be spiritual but not religious. Philip Goff is Professor of Philosophy at Durham University. His research focuses on consciousness and the ultimate nature of reality. Goff is best known for defending panpsychism, the view that consciousness pervades the universe and is a fundamental feature of it. On that theme, Goff has published three books, Consciousness and Fundamental Reality, Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, and a co-edited volume, Is Consciousness Everywhere? Essays on Panpsychism. Goff has published many academic articles, as well as writing extensively for newspapers and magazines, including Scientific American, The Guardian, Aeon, and the Times Literary Supplement. His new book is Why: The Purpose of the Universe.
Why are so many of us wrong about so much? From COVID-19 to climate change to the results of elections, millions of Americans believe things that are simply not true―and act based on these misperceptions. In Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation, expert in media and politics Dannagal Goldthwaite Young offers a comprehensive model that illustrates how political leaders and media organizations capitalize on our social and cultural identities to separate, enrage, and―ultimately―mobilize us. Through a process of identity distillation encouraged by public officials, journalists, political and social media, Americans’ political identities―how we think of ourselves as members of our political team―drive our belief in and demand for misinformation. It turns out that if being wrong allows us to comprehend the world, have control over it, or connect with our community, all in ways that serve our political team, then we don’t want to be right. Over the past 40 years, lawmakers in America’s two major political parties have become more extreme in their positions on ideological issues. Voters from the two parties have become increasingly distinct and hostile to one another along the lines of race, religion, geography, and culture. In the process, these political identities have transformed into a useful but reductive label tied to what we look like, who we worship, where we live, and what we believe. Young offers a road map out of this chaotic morass, including demand-side solutions that reduce the bifurcation of American society and increase our information ecosystem’s accountability to empirical facts. By understanding the dynamics that encourage identity distillation, Wrong explains how to reverse this dangerous trend and strengthen American democracy in the process. Shermer and Young discuss: how do you know if you are wrong, or that someone else is wrong • the evolution of reason: veridical perception or group identity? • the 3 “Cs” of our needs: comprehension, control, community • open-minded thinking • intellectual humility • political polarization • echo vs. identity chambers • social media • lies • disinformation • Donald Trump • democracy • science and morality • solutions to identity-driven wrongness. Dannagal Goldthwaite Young is a professor of communication and political science at the University of Delaware. Young is an award-winning scholar and teacher, a TED speaker, an improvisational comedian, and the author of Irony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear, and Laughter in the United States. Her new book is Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation.
A conversation with Warren Commission Assistant Counsel Burt W. Griffin, Case Closed author and Lee Harvey Oswald scholar Gerald Posner, and JFK conspiracy theory debunker Michel Gagné. Shermer, Griffin, Posner, and Gagné discuss: the nostalgic myth of “Camelot” • Lee Harvey Oswald and why he killed Kennedy • Cuba, Castro, the Bay of Pigs debacle • the CIA and why it is rational to be skeptical of their activities • the “magic bullet,” pristine or predictably damaged? • James Hosty and the FBI’s files on Oswald before he killed JFK • CIA and FBI coverups • General Edwin Walker • Jack Ruby • Bernard Weissman, • common themes in conspiracy theories • witness intimidation • planted evidence • evidence tampering. Burt W. Griffin, Warren Commission Assistant Counsel was the assistant counsel to the president’s commission on the assassination of President Kennedy (popularly known as the Warren Commission) and had primary responsibility for investigating and writing the section of the commission’s report (1964) on whether Jack Ruby was engaged in a conspiracy to assassinate either JFK, Lee Oswald, or both. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Gerald Posner is an award-winning journalist who has written twelve books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. His 2015 book, God’s Bankers, a two-hundred-year history of the finances of the Vatican, was an acclaimed New York Times bestseller. Posner has written for many national magazines and papers, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time, and he has been a regular contributor to NBC, the History Channel, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and FOX News. His other books include Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection; Mengele: The Complete Story; Hitler's Children: Sons and Daughters of Third Reich Leaders; Warlords of Crime: Chinese Secret Societies — the New Mafia; and Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, author Trisha Posner. Michel Jacques Gagné teaches courses in critical thinking, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, and ethics in the Humanities Department of Champlain College Saint-Lambert, a junior college (CÉGEP) located near Montreal, Canada. He has an M.A. in History (Concordia University, Canada, 2005), with a thesis on civil rights protests in Northern Ireland during the 1960s, and undergraduate degrees in Education (McGill University, Canada, 1999) and History and Political Science (with joint-honors, McGill University, Canada, 1995). He has published articles in Skeptic, the National Post, the Encyclopedia of Religion and Violence, and is the author of Thinking Critically About the Kennedy Assassination: Debunking the Myths and Conspiracy. He is also the creator and host of the Paranoid Planet podcast, which discusses conspiracy theories and related phenomena. He resides with his wife and two children in Montreal, Canada.
Everyone is curious about life in the Universe, UFOs and whether ET is out there. Over the course of his thirty-year career as an astrophysicist, Adam Frank has consistently been asked about the possibility of intelligent life in the universe. We’ve long been led to believe that astronomers spend every night searching the sky for extraterrestrials, but the truth is we have barely started looking. Not until now have we even known where to look or how. In The Little Book of Aliens, Frank, a leading researcher in the field, takes us on a journey to all that we know about the possibility of life outside planet Earth and shows us the cutting-edge science that has brought us to this unique moment in human history: the one where we go find out for ourselves. Shermer and Frank discuss: origin of Life • Drake Equation • Fermi’s Paradox • UFOs and UAPs • Projects Sign, Blue Book, Cyclops, Grudge • AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program) • Alien Autopsy film • SETI & METI • technosignatures & biosignatures • aliens: biological or AI? • convergent vs. contingent evolution • interstellar travel • Dyson spheres, rings, and swarms • Kardashev scale of civilizations • aliens as gods and the search as religion • why aliens matter. Adam Frank is the Helen F. and Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester. A Carl Sagan Medal winner from the American Astronomical Society, he is also the author of Light of the Stars and was the science advisor for Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Frank is the principal investigator on NASA’s first grant to study technosignatures — signs of advanced civilizations on other worlds — and his current work focuses on the evolution of life and planets, the “Astrobiology of the Anthropocene,” and the long-term trajectory of civilizations.
On November 11, 2023, my friend, colleague, and hero Ayaan Hirsi Ali released a statement explaining "Why I am Now a Christian”. What follows is my response, “Why I am Not a Christian,” and why in any case the alternative to theistic morality is not atheism but Enlightenment humanism—a cosmopolitan worldview that places supreme value on human and civil rights, individual autonomy and bodily integrity, free thought and free speech, the rule of law, and science and reason as the best tools for determining the truth about anything.
Get tickets for our event: https://skeptic.com/event For much of history, societies have violently oppressed ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. It is no surprise that many who passionately believe in social justice came to believe that members of marginalized groups need to take pride in their identity to resist injustice. But over the past decades, a healthy appreciation for the culture and heritage of minority groups has transformed into a counterproductive obsession with group identity in all its forms. A new ideology aiming to place each person’s matrix of identities at the center of social, cultural, and political life has quickly become highly influential. It stifles discourse, vilifies mutual influence as cultural appropriation, denies that members of different groups can truly understand one another, and insists that the way governments treat their citizens should depend on the color of their skin. This, Yascha Mounk argues, is the identity trap. Though those who battle for these ideas are full of good intentions, they will ultimately make it harder to achieve progress toward the genuine equality we desperately need. Shermer and Mounk discuss: the identity synthesis/trap • Israel, Hamas, Palestine • why students & student groups are pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel • the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years • proximate/ultimate causes of anti-Semitism • the rejection of the civil rights movement and the rise of critical race theory • overt racism vs. systemic racism • the problem of woke ideology • Trump and the 2024 election • the possibility of another Civil War • What should we do personally and politically about the Identity Trap? Yascha Mounk is a writer and academic known for his work on the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. Born in Germany to Polish parents, Mounk received his BA in history from Trinity College Cambridge, and his PhD in government from Harvard University. He is a professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University, the founder of the digital magazine Persuasion, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of numerous books, incl. The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure (featured on President Barack Obama’s summer reading list).
Tickets for our December event available now: https://skeptic.com/event Shermer and Ariely discuss: What is disinformation and what should we do about it? • How do we know what is true and what to believe? • virtue signaling one’s tribe as a misbelief factor • the role of complex stories in misbelief • emotions, personality, temperament, trust, politics, and social aspects of belief and misbelief • the funnel of belief • social proof and the influence of others on our beliefs • a COVID-23 pandemic • social media companies responsibility for disinformation • What would it take to change your mind? Dan Ariely is the bestselling author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. He is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and is the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere.
In-person event next month: https://skeptic.com/event Shermer and Taleblu discuss: • Iran and Hamas • Hamas and Israel • Does Iran really want to wipe Israel off the map? • Islam, Islamism, Jihadism • Sharia Law • Hamas, Hezbollah, and terrorism in the Middle East • Would Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) work with Iran? • Do economic sanctions work against Iran? • Trump’s strategies in the Middle East: what worked, what didn’t and why • the Iran Deal, and why they support terrorists • U.S. support for Israel • Biden Administrations culpability in releasing $16 billion to Iran • how weaker nations can fight stronger nations • the state of democracies in the world • the state of U.S. democracy. Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues. Behnam previously served as a research fellow and senior Iran analyst at FDD. Prior to his time at FDD, Behnam worked on non-proliferation issues at an arms control think-tank in Washington. Leveraging his subject-matter expertise and native Farsi skills, Behnam has closely tracked a wide range of Iran-related topics including: nuclear non-proliferation, ballistic missiles, sanctions, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the foreign and security policy of the Islamic Republic, and internal Iranian politics. Frequently called upon to brief journalists, congressional staff, and other Washington-audiences, Behnam has also testified before the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament. His analysis has been quoted in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Fox News, Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse, among others. Additionally, he has contributed to or co-authored articles for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Fox News, The Hill, War on the Rocks, The National Interest, and U.S. News & World Report. Behnam has appeared on a variety of broadcast programs, including BBC News, Fox News, CBS Interactive, C-SPAN, and Defense News. Behnam earned his MA in International Relations from The University of Chicago, and his BA in International Affairs and Middle East Studies from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
Skeptic event this December! Tickets available now: https://shop.skeptic.com/event Shermer and Mundy discuss: • CIA research methods • a brief history of the CIA • the purpose of intelligence agencies • Misogyny and sexism in the early decades • the skills needed to be a spy • what women notice that men don’t in the spy business • Lisa Manfull Harper feminine approach to espionage, and finding Osama Bin Laden • how women worked around the restrictions on women advancing in the CIA • Lisa Manfull Harper and the CIA in the 1950s and finding Osama bin Laden in the 2000s • Heidi August and Gaddafi • Shirley Sulick and KGB • Molly Chambers and 9/11. Liza Mundy is an award-winning journalist and the New York Times bestselling author of four books, including Code Girls. A former staff writer for the Washington Post, Mundy writes for The Atlantic, Politico, and Smithsonian, among other publications. Her new book is The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA.
Shermer and Journo discuss: who really owns land? • British Mandate • Theodore Herzl • Zionism, Judaism, and Israel • territorial disputes • Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), Hezbollah (Party of God), and terrorism • Palestinian grievances • The Palestinian cause • Is Israel a colonial conquering empire? • Is Israel an apartheid state? • Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement • Gender Apartheid • Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians as separate identities • Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) • Islam and Islamism • justice and its demands • Freedom and individual autonomy as the starting point. Elan Journo's most recent book is What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli Palestinian Conflict (2018). He is co-author of Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism (2016), a contributor to Defending Free Speech (2016), and editor of Winning the Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism (2009). His articles have appeared in a wide range of publications, from Foreign Policy and Middle East Quarterly to The Hill and the Los Angeles Times. LIVE EVENT WITH MICHAEL SHERMER THIS DECEMBER: skeptic.com/event
Get your tickets to meet Peter Boghossian + Michael Shellenberger: https://skeptic.com/event Cancel Culture is a new phenomenon, and The Canceling of the American Mind is the first book to codify it and survey its effects. From the team that brought you the bestselling Coddling of the American Mind comes hard data and research on what cancel culture is and how it works, along with hundreds of new examples showing the left and the right both working to silence their enemies. The Canceling of the American Mind will change how you view cancel culture. Rather than a moral panic, we should consider it a dysfunctional part of how Americans battle for power, status, and dominance. Cancel culture is just one symptom of a much larger problem: the use of cheap rhetorical tactics to “win” arguments without actually winning arguments. After all, why bother refuting your opponents when you can just take away their platform or career? Shermer, Lukianoff and Schlott discuss: • the definition of Cancel Culture • The Henny Youngman Principle: “Compared to what?” • Cancel Culture as imagined moral panic • Cancel Culture on the political Left/Right and on social media • free speech law vs. norms • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) • sensitivity training • bias hotlines and silencing of speech • pluralistic ignorance • The 4 Great Untruths • Jean Twenge’s theory of generational change • solutions to Cancel Culture. Greg Lukianoff is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and one of the country’s most passionate defenders of free expression. His law degree is from Stanford. He worked for the ACLU of Northern California, the Organization for Aid to Refugees, and the EnvironMentors Project before joining FIRE in 2001. Rikki Schlott is a New York City-based journalist and political commentator. She is a research fellow at FIRE, host of the Lost Debate podcast, a columnist at the New York Post, and a regular contributor to numerous publications and television programs. Her commentary focuses on free speech, campus culture, civil liberties, and youth issues from a Generation Z perspective.
Meet Jared Diamond and Michael Shermer: https://skeptic.com/event Robert Sapolsky is the author of A Primate’s Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. His most recent book, Behave, was a New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” His new book is Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will. Shermer and Sapolsky discuss: free will, determinism, compatibilism, libertarian free will • Christian List’s 3 related capacities for free will • how what people believe about free will and determinism influences their behaviors • the three horsemen of determinism: (1) reductionism (2) predetermination; (3) epiphenomenalism • dualism • punishment • retributive vs. restorative justice •Is the self an illusion? • game theory evolution of punishment • luck • and meaning (or lack thereof).
Shermer and Wolpe discuss: what happened to Israel’s vaunted security apparatus, intelligence agency and military readiness? • Zionism, Judaism, and Israel • Palestine, Palestinians, and the Gaza strip • Hamas, Hezbollah, and terrorism • U.S. support for Israel • Iran, the Iran Deal, and why they support terrorists • The Biden Administrations culpability in releasing/sending $16 billion to Iran • Shia and Sunni similarities and differences • why students & student groups are pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel • The rise of anti-Semitism and proximate/ultimate causes • The Abraham Accords • Two-State Solution. David Wolpe was named The Most Influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek and one of the 50 Most Influential Jews in the World by The Jerusalem Post, and twice named one of the 500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal. He is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard. Rabbi Wolpe has engaged in widely watched public debates with Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Michael Shermer and many others about religion and its place in the world. He is the author of eight books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. His new book is titled David, the Divided Heart. LIVE EVENT THIS DECEMBER: Meet Jared Diamond, Michael Shellenberger, Peter Boghossian, and Michael Shermer at our December event: https://skeptic.com/event
Get tickets for our event: https://www.skeptic.com/event/ A stranger insists you “smile more,” even as you navigate a high-stress environment or grating commute. A mother is expected to oversee every last detail of domestic life. A nurse works on the front line, worried about her own health, but has to put on a brave face for her patients. A young professional is denied promotion for being deemed abrasive instead of placating her boss. Nearly every day, we find ourselves forced to edit our emotions to accommodate and elevate the emotions of others. Too many of us are asked to perform this exhausting, draining work at no extra cost, especially if we’re women or people of color. Emotional labor is essential to our society and economy, but it’s so often invisible. In her new book, Rose Hackman shares the stories of hundreds of women, tracing the history of this kind of work and exposing common manifestations of the phenomenon and empowers us to combat this insidious force and forge pathways for radical evolution, justice, and change. Shermer and Hackman discuss: • her journey to researching emotional labor • What is emotional labor? • sex/gender differences in emotions • equality vs. equity • income inequality between men and women • Richard Reeves’ book, Of Boys and Men • why women are more risk averse • sex and emotional labor • sex work and prostitution • pornography • #metoo • emotional capitalism • liberal vs. conservative attitudes about emotional labor and gender differences. Rose Hackman is a British journalist based in Detroit. Her work on gender, race, labor, policing, housing and the environment―published in The Guardian―has brought international attention to overlooked American policy issues, historically entrenched injustices, and complicated social mores. Emotional Labor is her first book.
Get tickets for our event: skeptic.com/event Daniel Dennett, preeminent philosopher and cognitive scientist, has spent his career considering the thorniest, most fundamental mysteries of the mind. Do we have free will? What is consciousness and how did it come about? What distinguishes human minds from the minds of animals? Dennett’s answers have profoundly shaped our age of philosophical thought. In this episode, he reflects on his amazing career and lifelong scientific fascinations, as well as the value of life beyond the university, one enriched by sculpture, music, farming, and family. Daniel C. Dennett is Professor Emeritus at Tufts University and the author of numerous books, including Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, Breaking the Spell, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and Consciousness Explained.
Book tickets for our event: skeptic.com/event At the height of the John Birch Society’s activity in the 1960s, critics dismissed its members as a paranoid fringe. After all, “Birchers” believed that a vast communist conspiracy existed in America and posed an existential threat to Christianity, capitalism, and freedom. But as historian Matthew Dallek reveals, the Birch Society’s extremism remade American conservatism. Most Birchers were white professionals who were radicalized as growing calls for racial and gender equality appeared to upend American life. Conservative leaders recognized that these affluent voters were needed to win elections, and for decades the GOP courted Birchers and their extremist successors. Shermer and Dallek discuss: the origin of the John Birch Society • the “right,” “conservatism,” “liberalism” • “mainstream” vs. “fringe” • Cold War context for the rise of the radical right • the link between the John Birch Society and figures like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Donald Trump • America First nationalism, school board wars, QAnon plots, allegations of electoral cheating • and the future of the Republic (if we can keep it). Matthew Dallek is a political historian whose intellectual interests include the intersection of social crises and political transformation, the evolution of the modern conservative movement, and liberalism and its critics. Dallek has authored four books which appeared on the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune’s annual best-of lists. His latest is Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right.
Don't miss this! Michael SHELLENBERGER, Jared DIAMOND, Peter BOGHOSSIAN, and Michael SHERMER. LIVE & IN-PERSON, DEC. 1–3. "It's not a conference… it's better!" A weekend of workshops, live podcast recordings, great food, and a unique opportunity to hang out with our speakers. Tickets: https://skeptic.com/event
Shermer and Pompliano discuss: personal journey from college to Fortune to The Profile • what distinguishes the truly exceptional from the merely great • What is genius? • hindsight bias • David Goggins: Do something that sucks every single day • stress-testing yourself through regular hardship • victimhood: “Suffering is universal but victimhood is optional” • fear • updating existing beliefs • pursuing meaningful goals • trust = consistency + time. Polina Marinova Pompliano is the founder of The Profile, a new media company that features longform profiles of successful people and companies each week. Previously, she spent five years at Fortune where she wrote more than 1,300 articles. Her new book is Hidden Genius: The Secret Ways of Thinking That Power the World’s Most Successful People.
Lee McIntyre is Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. Formerly Executive Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, he has taught philosophy at Colgate University, Boston University, Simmons University, Tufts Experimental College, and Harvard Extension School. He is the author of Dark Ages, Post-Truth, The Scientific Attitude, and How to Talk to a Science Denier. His new book is On Disinformation: How to Fight for Truth and Protect Democracy. Shermer and McIntyre discuss: default to truth theory • RFK Jr. • whether reason evolved for veridical perception or group identity? • How do we know what is true and what to believe? • What is disinformation? • worst case scenarios if Donald Trump wins in 2024 • trans issues, race issues, GMOs, nuclear power, climate doomsdayism • facts and values • science and morality • What went wrong during the COVID-19 pandemic? • lies and disinformation about masks and vaccines • social media companies responsibility for disinformation • what we should do personally and politically about disinformation.