The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


CONSPIRACIES & CONSPIRACY THEORIES

What We Should and Shouldn’t Believe—and Why

A New Audible Original Course by Dr. Michael Shermer

Audible Inc., the world’s largest producer and provider of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment, in conjunction with The Great Courses, is creating audio-only, non-fiction content for Audible’s millions of listeners. The first three titles include Dr. Michael Shermer’s new and original course on: Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories: What We Should Believe and Why.

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Watch Dr. Shermer’s introduction

Brief Course Description

What is the difference between a conspiracy and a conspiracy theory? Who is most likely to believe in conspiracies, and why do so many people believe them? Is there some test of truth we can apply when we hear about a conspiracy that can help us determine if the theory about it is true or false? In this myth-shattering course, world-renowned skeptic and bestselling author Dr. Michael Shermer tackles history’s greatest and widespread conspiracy theories, carefully deconstructing them on the basis of the available evidence. In the current climate of fake news, alternative facts, and the rise of conspiracy theories to national prominence and political influence it is time to consider how to distinguish true conspiracies (Lincoln’s assassination, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate) from false conspiracy theories (Sandy Hook, 9/11, fake moon landing). You learn how conspiracies arise, what evidence is used to support them, and how they hold up in the harsh light of true historical, even scientific analysis, as well as why people believe them. Illuminating and compelling, the next time you hear someone talking about a conspiracy theory, this course just may give you the detective skills to parse the truth of the claim.

Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories consists of 12 lectures, 30-minutes each.

PART I

Conspiracies & Why People Believe Them

  1. The Difference Between Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories
  2. Classifying Conspiracies and Characterizing Believers
  3. Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories
  4. Cognitive Biases and Conspiracy Theories
  5. Conspiracy Insanity
  6. Constructive Conspiracism

PART II

Conspiracy Theories & How to Think About Them

  1. The Conspiracy Detection Kit
  2. Truthers and Birthers: The 9/11 and Obama Conspiracy Theories
  3. The JFK Assassination: The Mother of All Conspiracy Theories
  4. Real Conspiracies: What if They Really Are Out to Get You?
  5. The Deadliest Conspiracy Theory in History
  6. The Real X-Files: Conspiracy Theories in Myth and Reality

Bonus Lecture: Letters from Conspiracists

Order today

Watch Dr. Shermer’s introduction

About Michael Shermer

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, the host of the Science Salon podcast, and for 18 years a monthly columnist for Scientific American. He is the author of a number of New York Times bestselling books including: Heavens on Earth, The Moral Arc, The Believing Brain, Why People Believe Weird Things, Why Darwin Matters, The Mind of the Market, How We Believe, and The Science of Good and Evil. His two TED talks, viewed nearly 10 million times, were voted in the top 100 of the more than 2000 TED talks. Dr. Shermer received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University.

View all titles by Michael Shermer on Audible.com.

You play a vital part in our commitment to promote science and reason. If you enjoy the content Michael Shermer produces, please show your support by making a donation, or by becoming a patron.

SCIENCE SALON # 83

Michael Shermer with Peter Boghossian — How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide

How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide (book cover)

In our current political climate, it seems impossible to have a reasonable conversation with anyone who has a different opinion. Whether you’re online, in a classroom, an office, a town hall — or just hoping to get through a family dinner with a stubborn relative — dialogue shuts down when perspectives clash. Heated debates often lead to insults and shaming, blocking any possibility of productive discourse. Everyone seems to be on a hair trigger.

In How to Have Impossible Conversations, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay guide you through the straightforward, practical, conversational techniques necessary for every successful conversation — whether the issue is climate change, religious faith, gender identity, race, poverty, immigration, or gun control. Boghossian and Lindsay teach the subtle art of instilling doubts and opening minds. They cover everything from learning the fundamentals for good conversations to achieving expert-level techniques to deal with hardliners and extremists.

Shermer and Boghossian discuss:

  • the growing political divide in American over the past quarter century
  • why politicians no longer reach across the aisle
  • when is the right time to have a difficult conversation
  • the best strategies to use to diffuse anger and keep a conversation productive
  • why the atheist movement splintered over disagreements
  • strategies used by hostage negotiators that you can employ in your conversations, and
  • negotiating the intractable social media.

Peter Boghossian is a full time faculty member in the philosophy department at Portland State University and an affiliated faculty member at Oregon Health Science University in the Division of General Internal Medicine. He is a national speaker for the Center of Inquiry and an international speaker for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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

Watch or listen now

You play a vital part in our commitment to promote science and reason. If you enjoy the Science Salon Podcast, please show your support by making a donation, or by becoming a patron.

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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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