Watch or listen to the first Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Dr. Michael Shermer, the host of the Science Salon: a series of conversations between Michael and leading scientists, scholars, and thinkers, about the most important issues of our time.
SCIENCE SALON AMA
Dr. Michael Shermer — Ask Me Anything # 1
In this first Ask Me Anything (AMA), Dr. Shermer attempts to answer as many questions as possible in a reasonable time among the hundreds submitted by readers. There were so many good ones, in fact, that he will produce a second AMA on these, as well as new ones submitted when we put out a call shortly. In AMA # 1 the questions are roughly grouped in the following categories:
- Science and Skepticism
- God, Jesus, and Religion
- Free Will
- Jordan Peterson
- Human Nature
- Future of Humanity
Questions answered in AMA # 1
- Using the English language, please define the word “science” in the least amount of words.
- Why do skeptics make such a big point of attempting to refute assertions and experiences that are not presently susceptible of scientific explanation?
- Why are you (the scientific community in general) against the possibility of UFO’s? How can we know everything that is out there in the universe?
- The honeybee is quite an intelligent little creature but no one would suggest that it is capable of ruminating on the foibles of the human creatures about them. But apparently we humans feel that our intellectual apparatus has no similar physical limitation. Aren’t there physical concepts we simply cannot imagine?
- What is your current opinion on “repressed memories” (that is: memories of childhood sexual abuse, that emerge later in adulthood)?
- With Hitch and Stenger gone and Dawkins and Dennett graying a bit, who do you see carrying the Secularist Torch forward in addition to you and Sam Harris? Keep the faith.
- I can prove that Jesus never was a Human being, can you?
- Most of my theists friends asked me the above question and dared that they will convert to atheism if I can give them proof. I told them many times that the burden of proof belongs to them to provide evidence of god’s existence but they don’t buy it. My question is what should I do?
- If there is no creator, where did all this stuff in the universe come from?
- Is it correct to say that ‘necessity of faith’ is stated only in dogmatics of ‘major’ religions and cannot be found in any other source?
- There are reliable studies that indicate that “religious” people, those who believe in a higher power, are happier and tend to live longer than those who do not. However, surely there are evidence based methods/alternatives/options for skeptics/atheists. Can you comment on this and provide accessible references?
- Why is it that people continue to attend mass and send their children to Catholic schools despite the reports of atrocious behaviour of many priests and the efforts of the church to hide and protect the perpetrators?
- What evidence do you have for the existence of free will?
- What else is there? Do Nature and Nurture make up the whole pie? If so, doesn’t that view alone contradict any argument for free will?
- What do you think of Jordan Peterson’s use of the Bible? And his understanding of religion? Even with no god might there be some value in this?
- Humanity exhibits a very wide range of “behavioral quality”, from the most despicable and dishonorable that one can imagine, to highly honorable and exemplary. What is the one most important strategy that you would employ to move this ugly balance in the righteous direction?
- Why do people cheat and lie?
- Is human being by his nature a homicidal animal and war monger or it is a learned behavior?
- If we include animals in our calculus, wouldn’t it be true to say that violence has increased in the last century? Thus debunking Steven Pinker’s overall thesis of his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, that violence has declined.
- Leaving “God” out of the picture entirely, and just dealing with “Mother Nature” (whatever that is), why would not nature evolve a human species that was over all kind, loving and compassionate, rather than opposite tendencies?
- How to avoid destroying conditions of human existence on Earth? Is it possible? Not slogans, please, but real proposals.
- Where do you see our Society in the future, let’s say 10 years? More divisive or less divisive? (You know the pendulum always swings).
- Given global warming is bad for the future of earth… why should one care? It feels like blind love of one’s planet, environment. Blind love is irrational, and why is it considered “good” by many scientists and otherwise rational people?
- Is there any point in aggressive attempts to curb global warming if there is not a concomitant effort to reduce, or at least stabilize, the human population?
- On a Joe Rogan podcast you mentioned ADHD in a passing way. Your comments seemed to indicate you either did not understand the condition or did not think medication was appropriate for those diagnosed. I’d like to be fair: what is your opinion of ADHD? What is your level of understanding of the condition?
- Can freedom of speech ever become a dangerous thing if a majority of the populace becomes incapable of distinguishing between subjective and objective information when making decisions regarding politics, policy, and law?
- Why do people fall for medical quackery?
- What are your thoughts on capital punishment?
Questions to be answered in forthcoming AMA # 2
- I am a long time reader and admirer. This is my question for you personally. Perhaps your answer will help other readers get to know you as a person: What would be the worst thing close friends would say about you that would be true?
- Do you really believe (as your writings to date on free speech would suggest) that there are no reasonable and justifiable limits to free speech worth mentioning?
- Has Social Media Ruined the United States? Is there a place for the average person that is not extreme Left or Right?
- With respect to fetuses and abortion rights, what is your view of ‘personhood’?
- Is randomness epistemological or ontological?
- Does the quantum nature of the material stuff of which we are made have any effect on us? Is this where bursts of creativity and intuition come from?
- What is the sense of human existence on cosmological scale? What is the main value of human existence?
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