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What is a Cult?

What is a cult? What is the difference between a cult and a religion? Who joins cults and why? What are the social, cultural, and psychological reasons that people join cults? In this lecture Dr. Shermer presents research from sociologists and psychologists to attempt to answer these questions, while examining several examples of cults from recent history and when and why they can be dangerous.

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(105 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

The Mind of the Market

In this lecture Shermer addresses three aspects of evolution and economics: (1) How the market has a mind of its own—that is, how economies evolved from hunter-gathering to consumer-trading. (2) How minds operate in markets—that is, how the human brain evolved to operate in a hunter-gatherer economy but must function in a consumer-trader economy. (3) How minds and markets are moral—that is, how moral emotions evolved to enable us to cooperate and how this capacity facilitates fair and free trade.

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(58 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

Why People Believe in God

In this lecture, arguably his most controversial subject that is based on his highly-acclaimed book, How We Believe, Dr. Shermer addresses a very old question in religion with the newest data from science, namely: why do people believe in God? As he attempts to answer the question using the best theories and data from anthropology, psychology, sociology, and evolutionary biology, Dr. Shermer also addresses the important role of religion in society, the historical roots of religion and why it arose around 5000 years ago as a co-equal partner to governments and states, the origin of myths and the importance of myth-making in human cultures, and what belief in God means for individuals and society. In his always conciliatory and friendly approach to deep and controversial subjects, Dr. Shermer nevertheless is not afraid to face head-on, and courageously confront our most meaningful questions that we all have about God, the universe, and the meaning of life.

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(217 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

The Science of Good & Evil

The Origins of Morality and How to be Good Without God

In The Science of Good and Evil, a lecture based on the third volume in his trilogy on the power of belief, Dr. Shermer tackles two of the deepest and most challenging problems of our age: (1) The origins of morality and (2) the foundations of ethics. Does evil exist, and if so, what is the nature of evil? Is it in our nature to be moral, immoral, or amoral? If we evolved by natural forces then what was the natural purpose of morality? If we live in a determined universe, then how can we make free moral choices? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there justice in the world beyond the social order? If there is no outside source to validate moral principles, does anything go? Can we be good without God? In this stunning conclusion to an intellectual journey into the mind and soul of humanity, Dr. Shermer peels back the inner layers covering our core being to reveal a complexity of human motives—selfish and selfless, cooperative and competitive, virtue and vice, good and evil, moral and immoral—and how these motives came into being as a product of both our evolutionary heritage and cultural history, and how we can construct an ethical system that generates a morality that is neither dogmatically absolute nor irrationally relative, a rational morality for an age of science.

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(69 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

The Psychology of Political Beliefs

Taken from the chapter in his book The Believing Brain on the psychology of political beliefs, Dr. Shermer considers how belief systems operate in the realm of politics, economics, and ideologies. He reviews the research on why people vote Republican or Democrat, why we are so predictable in our political beliefs that if you know where someone stands on, say, abortion, you can predict where they stand on a number of other political issues, and what these political beliefs say about the nature of human nature.

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(34 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

Paranormal Beliefs & Education

Does higher education systemically reduce belief? What do we know about this so far? This PowerPoint was used for an in-class presentation (in TEDTalk format) to discuss the correlation between higher education and belief in the paranormal. The presentation was created by Anondah Saide for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, “Evolution, Economics & the Brain” taught at Claremont Graduate University during the spring 2011 semester.

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(30 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

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Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

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The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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