SKEPTIC: Reality-based. Really.
Shermer and Deaton discuss: the science of science is economics • winning a Nobel Prize • what economists do, and how they determine causality • Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand • why a college education matters • meritocracy and “Just World” theory • minimum wage • healthcare • poverty • inequality • opioid crisis, alcoholism, suicide • inflation and interest rates • modern monetary theory • think tanks.
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 my purpose in life? • religious vs. secular answers to the purpose question • awe and how to be spiritual but not religious.
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.
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…
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.
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…
Shermer and Graff discuss: national security • how long government secrets can be kept • cultural context for UFO sightings • why David Grusch’s testimony could be accurate but still not represent alien contact • Kenneth Arnold • Roswell • The Fermi Paradox • why 90-95% of all UFO sightings are explainable • anomalies and how to treat them • Avi Loeb (Galileo Project) • President Clinton’s investigation into UFOs • UFOs as a modern myth or religion.
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…
Michelle Ainsworth reviews: G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage (2022) and The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism (2023) by Lerone A. Martin.
Disputes rage across campuses and the courts concerning the location and treatment of human remains from other times, places, and cultures. How do we balance the rights of protesting ethnic groups against the scientific need to study and teach medicine, ancestry, and evolution? Disposition needs to be based on the preponderance of evidence — scientific versus affiliation to modern-day claimants.
Our survey of a diverse sample of U.S. adults following the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade found both extremes — always legal or never legal – unpopular; 70% favored an intermediate position. Importantly, only 37% understood that the decision did not outlaw abortion. Those younger, less educated, more religious, and more trusting of political figures tended to be less knowledgeable.
The class followed its usual script. The professor took center stage, exposing the deep racism, sexism, and homophobia of a previous generation, and like well-rehearsed actors we students assumed our roles as moral arbiters in a semester-long show trial. This was a course called “Darwin and Natural Selection” and we were intrepid voyagers on the […]
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.