SKEPTIC: Reality-based. Really.
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 radical right figures today like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Donald Trump • COVID denialism, vaccine disinformation, America First nationalism, school board wars, QAnon plots, allegations of electoral cheating…
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.
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? • worst case scenarios if Donald Trump wins in 2024 • trans issues, race issues, GMOs, nuclear power, climate doomsdayism • What went wrong during the COVID-19 pandemic? • disinformation about masks, vaccines • social media and disinformation.
Shermer and Tabash discuss: the history of the relationship between church and state • the founding framers of the U.S. Constitution and their arguments for separating church and state • Madison and Jefferson • how most of the 13 colonies had government-sanctioned religions and religious tests for office • the Constitutional Convention and the First Amendment • the push by some Republicans to hold a new Constitutional Convention and redesign the entire U.S. Constitution • the religious beliefs and attitudes of…
Shermer and Segal discuss: her historical interest in twins research and behavior genetics • the many different types of twins and family arrangements • twins separated accidentally • twins separated intentionally • twins reunited • a brief history of twins research • Josef Mengele • Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart • the gay fathers and twin sons story • immigration and naturalization law related to IVF, twins, gay couples, etc. • abortion • eugenics and the Nobel Prize sperm…
Did Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb discover the remnants of an interstellar meteor in the form of spherules on the ocean floor? Could they be of alien origin? The object, which he labels IM1—Interstellar Meteor 1—collided with Earth nearly a decade ago and was tracked by U.S. government satellites, which gave Loeb and his team coordinates of where to look. Most of the meteor burned up in the atmosphere but tiny spherules remained on the ocean bottom, which Loeb retrieved and…
Shermer and Larson discuss: Was America founded in 1619 or 1776? • What is/was an “American”? • Founding Fathers attitudes toward slavery • What was the justification of slavery? • constitutional convention and slavery compromises • U.S. Constitution and slavery • Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments • Atlantic slave trade • Fugitive Slave Act and Clause • Native Americans • monogenism vs. polygenism • slavery abolition • Quakers push for abolition • Three-fifths Compromise • The Dread Scott Decision and…
Shermer and Curran discuss: Curran’s own perfectionism and how that led him to research perfection • What is perfection? Is he measuring perfection or something else? • The Big Five Personality Scale (OCEAN) and where perfection falls in it • goals, meritocracy, high standards, and conscientiousness • self-oriented vs. other-oriented vs. socially prescribed perfectionism • Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong • origins of perfectionism • consequences of perfectionism • social media • income inequality, UBI, GDP, economics • helicopter…
How were coal and petroleum produced? (NOT from dinosaurs!) How much is left? Can or when will we run out? The end of “cheap oil” will happen soon but we will probably not realize it until oil-producing countries can no longer keep up with demand, no matter how high the price. If we don’t phase out fossil fuels, climate change will become even more intense and oil will get too expensive for all but the most essential uses.
Skeptic: How did you get interested in energy? Koonin: I was educated in New York City public schools and grew up in a middle-class household. I went to Caltech as an undergrad, MIT for my PhD, and then returned to Caltech as faculty for 30 years. I was the Provost for the last nine. I […]
U.S. Presidents have been ranked since Schlesinger’s 1948 list in Life magazine. Others have since done likewise; Siena College Research Institute’s being the standard. Problems include: interpreting the past in terms of the present; the evolving role of the Presidency; and the unique circumstances facing each President. Rather than one overall rank, it is more accurate to score on a set of attributes, including: Experience, Integrity, Imagination, Intelligence, Risk Taking, Communication, Accomplishments, Appointments, Ability to Compromise; and Avoiding Big Mistakes.
The world faces two energy crises: (1) too much, because we are changing the Earth’s climate and chemistry and so inviting global catastrophe; and (2) too little, because the bulk of humanity still lives in poverty, without enough for a decent standard of living. The answer to both is to go nuclear. Upon examination, the arguments made against nuclear energy, including: emissions, waste disposal, accidents, and proliferation are shown to be exaggerated, unfounded, or soluble using even currently available technology.
In this, the final lecture of his Chapman University Skepticism 101 course, Dr. Michael Shermer pulls back to take a bigger picture look at what science and reason have done for humanity in the realm of moral progress. Watch The Moral Arc: How Thinking Like a Scientist Makes the World More Moral.
In this lecture Dr. Michael Shermer addresses one of the deepest questions of all: what is truth? How do we know what is true, untrue, or uncertain?
In this lecture, Dr. Michael Shermer addresses the growing crisis of free speech in college and culture at large, triggered as it was by the title lecture, which he was tasked to deliver to students at California State University, Fullerton, after a campus paroxysm erupted over Taco Tuesday.
In this lecture, Dr. Michael Shermer presents descriptions of skepticism and science and how they work, along with a discussion of the difference between science and pseudoscience, and some very practical applications of how to test claims and evaluate evidence.
Evolution & Creationism, Part 2: Who says evolution never happened, why do they say it, and what do they claim?
Dr. Michael Shermer continues the discussion of evolution and creationism, focusing on the history of the creationism movement and the four stages it has gone through.
In this lecture on Evolution and Creationism (Part 1), Dr. Michael Shermer takes viewers to the Galápagos Islands to retrace Darwin’s footsteps and show that, in fact, Darwin did not discover natural selection when he was there in September of 1835. He worked out his theory when he returned home, and Shermer shows exactly how Darwin did that, along with the story of the theory’s co-discoverer, Alfred Russel Wallace.
In this lecture on Holocaust Denial, Dr. Shermer employs the methods of science to history, showing how we can determine truth about the past.
In his lecture on Pathways to Evil (Part 2), Dr. Michael Shermer fleshes out the themes of Part 1 by exploring how the dials controlling our inner demons and better angels can be dialed up or down depending on circumstances and conditions. Are we all good apples but occasionally bad barrels turn good apples rotten, or do we all harbor the capacity to turn bad?
In his Skepticism 101 lecture on Pathways to Evil (Part 1), Dr. Michael Shermer considers the nature of evil in his attempt to answer the question of how you can get normal civilized, educated, and intelligent people to commit murder and even genocide.
Dr. Michael Shermer examines the claims about the Bermuda Triangle using the tools of skepticism, science, and rationality to reveal that there is no mystery to explain.
Dr. Michael Shermer explains how we arrived at the Left-Right spectrum, both historically and evolutionarily, and the numerous metaphors used to wrap our minds around such complex systems as politics and economics.
Dr. Michael Shermer distinguishes between two questions: (1) Are extraterrestrial intelligences (ETIs) out there somewhere in the cosmos? and (2) Have aliens come here? Evidence for both questions is considered in the larger context of why the issue so compels us to answer it almost religiously.
Dr. Michael Shermer considers the characteristics of cults, how they differ from sects, religions, and myths, the role that myths and religions play in culture and people’s lives, and what Scientologists really believe.
Dr. Michael Shermer reviews the many ways that our attempts to understand the truth about the world are derailed by cognitive biases, including the anchoring bias, the representative bias, the availability bias, the confirmation bias, the hindsight bias, the self-serving bias, and even the bias bias.
Dr. Michael Shermer explains the difference between conspiracies and conspiracy theories, who is more likely to believe which conspiracy theories, the social, political, cultural, and psychological conditions in which conspiracy theories flourish, real conspiracies, and who really killed JFK.
The Essence of Americans
Eighth report in the Political Accuracy & Divisions Study
Part of human reasoning involves reducing people, animals, and things to their core essence, a tendency beginning in childhood (Ahn et al., 2001; Gelman, 2003). We define dogs and cats by different essences, for example, and we do the same for people when we define them by their sex, race, age, and the like. Though helpful as a crude way of categorizing things in the world, essentialism makes us prone to error. While essentialism feels useful in its simplifying of an otherwise complex reality, it can lead to negative stereotyping. In this report we ask: how common is the tendency to essentialize amongst the American public?
JAN 19 – FEB 7, 2024
Expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia, and The Falkland Islands
While there are many captivating places in the world, few can compare to Antarctica, the islands of South Georgia and the Falklands for awesome beauty and remarkable wildlife. The images that greet you in these remote and unspoiled places are simply overwhelming: Icebergs as blue as a clear summer sky; jagged mountains laced with a snowy white mantle; and thousands upon thousands of penguins stretching as far as the eye can see. Next January, join us on our voyage to this incomparable part of the earth aboard the new state-of-the-art 152-guest expedition cruise ship Vega.