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SCIENCE SALON # 42

Dr. Clay Routledge — The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything

Supernatural: Death, Meaning, and the Power of the Invisible World (book cover)

In this dialogue on life’s deepest and most meaningful issues Michael Shermer talks with psychologist Clay Routledge about: the evolution of motivation and goals in animals and humans ● what a “purpose driven life” really means ● how atheists and nonbelievers can create meaningful and purposeful lives ● the self, personal identity, and existential psychology ● why people believe in God and fear death ● why religious people live longer and healthier lives ● the different types of atheists ● why one-third of atheists believe in some type of life after death ● free will as a useful fiction ● trans-humanism as a faux religion ● what should an atheist say to someone who is dying or has a loved-one who passed away ● terrorism as motivated by religion or politics or both.

Dr. Clay Routledge is an author, psychological scientist, consultant, public speaker, and professor. He is a professor at North Dakota State University. He studies basic psychological needs and how these needs influence wellbeing, physical health, and intergroup relations.Much of his research focuses on the need for meaning in life and the need to belong.He has published 95 scholarly papers, co-edited two books on existential psychology, and authored the book Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource. He was the lead writer for the TED-Ed animated lesson Why Do We Feel Nostalgia? His new book Supernatural: Death, Meaning, and the Power of the Invisible World was published in July 2018.

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This remote Science Salon was recorded on September 12, 2018.

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Anondah Saide and Kevin McCaffree review The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

Great Untruths

Controversial supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh has been relieved of his teaching duties at Harvard law school. His firing had nothing to do with the quality of his teaching, the significance of his credentials or his conduct at the university, but rather, according to a petition signed by over 800 Harvard alumni, because Kavanaugh is a, “privileged [man] of power” who does not “[take] sexual violence seriously.” In tandem with this petition, nearly 50 students have also filed Title IX complaints against Kavanaugh—not because he harassed them personally, but because his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding disputed allegations of sexual assault had, according to the student who began organizing these Title IX complaints, made women feel less safe. We, the authors of this review, did not raise this issue because we support Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. However, this example illustrates a growing tendency where people deemed “privileged” are reflexively painted as obvious abusers, obvious fascists, obvious racists, obvious sexists, and so on. A dynamic appears to be brewing, especially on elite university campuses, where people of differing viewpoints are increasingly shouted down and de-platformed by frenetic activists with no interest in articulating counter-points; the sinful, evil nature of those with whom they disagree is, to them, self-evidently due to their “privilege”. In many cases these individuals are bombarded with threats to their livelihood, and in some cases, physically attacked.

For Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt events like these signify a cultural turning point—a “boiling point”—wrought with a novel level of tribalism, anti-intellectualism, mental fragility, and intolerance of viewpoint diversity. Students, professors, and university administrators are quick to justify attempts to silence and/or punish those with dissenting views because such views are considered immanent threats to the safety of “marginalized” people. How and when did alternative viewpoints and offensive statements become equated with physical harm? How did we arrive at this social climate and where do we go from here? These questions constitute the core of Lukianoff and Haidt’s new book, The Coddling of the American Mind.

The Great Untruths

To make their case that American culture in general, and university culture in particular, has reached this “boiling point,” Lukianoff and Haidt outline three interrelated ideas, or what they refer to as the “Three Great Untruths.” These untruths are corrosive beliefs that are proliferating on colleges campuses and threaten to undermine civil society. They are:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

The Untruth of Fragility is the notion that controversy, disagreement and engagement with challenging issues harms people. This idea leads individuals to avoid differing viewpoints, at the cost of not becoming resilient in the face of them. Just as a muscle requires use to prevent atrophy, human minds require social, emotional, and intellectual challenges to develop analytical thinking, along with social and emotional coping skills. Lukianoff and Haidt argue that young people are being deprived of exposure to unfamiliar ideas and experiences that would help them build these skills. […]

Read the complete review

MONSTERTALK EPISODE 174

The Appeal of Yurei

Dr. Chris Harding is a lecturer on Asian History at the University of Edinburgh. He has focused on Indian and Japanese history in his academic work, and recently wrote an article about Japanese ghost stories and their context in time. He joins MonsterTalk to discuss Yurei — the ghosts of Japan.

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Listen to episode 174

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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.

FREE PDF Download

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.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

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.

FREE PDF Download

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?

FREE PDF Download

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…

FREE PDF Download

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!

FREE PDF Download

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.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

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