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SCIENCE SALON # 49

Dr. Gad Saad — Doing Gad’s Work

In this episode of the Science Salon Podcast, Michael Shermer talks to the renowned evolutionary behavioral scientist and Concordia University professor Dr. Gad Saad. Starting with his escape to Canada from war-torn Lebanon, Dr. Saad recounts how he got interested in the study of human nature in general and consumer behavior in particular through the evolutionary lens, why people make the choices they do in the marketplace, why evolutionary psychology is an equal-opportunity offender to both the political left and right, what’s wrong with the Blank Slate model of human nature, what it means to hypothesize that something evolved “for” an adaptive reason, how evolutionary psychologists test their claims, the consilience of human knowledge, epistemological humility, postmodernism and how it has corrupted the academy, and the vital importance of free speech and free inquiry in science and society.

Dr. Gad Saad held the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption from 2008 to 2018. He is the author of The Consuming Instinct (2011, Prometheus Books) and The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption (2007, Lawrence Erlbaum), editor of Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences (2011, Springer), and is finishing his next book on idea pathogens and how they have spread like a contagion in the academy, now spilling out into government and corporations. He is the host of the popular podcast The Saad Truth, which focuses on science, religion, political correctness, multiculturalism, postmodernism, third-wave feminism, Islam, safe spaces, trigger warnings, and many other topics.

Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

This Science Salon was recorded on December 26, 2018.

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In this article from Skeptic magazine 23.2 (2018), regular columnist Carol Tavris reminds us that the human need for touch is significant. Tavris is the coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.

Please Touch

Here are a few small studies you can do on your own to introduce this column’s subject:

  • Sit in a coffee shop and watch people who are eating together. Count how many times one person touches the other as they converse. If you live in a large city, you should have a wealth of diverse individuals to observe; if your coffee shop is monocultural, you might have to do a little traveling. Many years ago, Sidney Jourard did this in San Juan (Puerto Rico), Paris, London, and Gainesville (Florida).1 His scores were: San Juan, 180; Paris, 110; London, 0; and Gainesville, 2.
  • Examine the photos of survivors of any horrible event—a natural disaster, such as flood or fire, or a human-made disaster, such as a mass shooting or bomb. Try to find an image of survivors standing apart from one another, arms crossed in front of them. You can’t, can you? Total strangers as well as neighbors will be hugging each other, whether stoically or in tears, for comfort and support.
  • If you can find some little kids to watch, your own or anyone else’s (or if you remember being a little kid yourself), observe what they typically do when they fall and hurt themselves, have a scary nightmare, or feel lonely: run to a loved adult for a comforting cuddle.
  • Listen to what people say when a gift or experience moves them emotionally and when they reconnect with old friends: “I’m touched,” they say, and “I’m sorry we lost touch.” Notice they don’t say “I’m hearing” or “I’m sorry we lost smell.” What is the touch that has touched them?
  • Observe all the signs in museums that say “don’t touch.” If touching were not a natural impulse, why tell us repeatedly (and often uselessly) not to do it?

Touch is the often the last, but not the least, of what are considered the five basic senses, following vision, hearing, smell, and taste. But it is just as crucial for human survival; the need to touch and be touched emerges the minute a baby is hatched. Babies are born with a grasping reflex—they will cling to any offered finger—and it’s abundantly clear, from the pioneering research of the British psychiatrist John Bowlby and the psychologist Harry Harlow, that babies crave as much “contact comfort” as they can get. Infants who get little touching and cuddling will grow more slowly and release less growth hormone than their amply cuddled peers, and throughout their lives, they will have stronger reactions to stress and be more prone to depression and its cognitive deficits.2 Babies who are raised with “creature comforts” but not contact comfort may be physically healthy but emotionally despairing, remote, and listless. […]

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Heavens on Earth by Michael Shermer

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Heavens on Earth is a scientific exploration into humanity’s obsession with the afterlife and quest for immortality from the bestselling author and skeptic Michael Shermer. In his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality along with utopian attempts to create heaven on earth. Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, wrote:

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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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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.

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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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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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