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eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

eSkeptic Archives 2021–2025

2021

June 12: Understanding the Unidentified
Given the latest wave of apparent UFO/UAP sightings Michael Shermer reminds us that the residue problem in UFOlogy is instructive because it enables skeptics to find common ground with believers and allows us to live comfortably with the fact that we can’t explain everything.
June 8: Psychology of Persuasion; PLUS: Drug Trips & Reality
In episode 187, Michael speaks with Robert Cialdini — New York Times bestselling author of Pre-Suasion and the seminal expert in the fields of influence and persuasion — about the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these insights ethically in business and everyday settings. PLUS, the newest issue of Skeptic magazine (26.2: Drug Trips & Reality) is now available in print and digital formats.
June 2: William Nordhaus on the Economics of Global Warming, Pandemics, and Corporate Malfeasance
In episode 186 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael speaks with Nobel Prize-winning pioneer in environmental economics, Dr. Nordhaus, about his book The Spirit of Green: The Economics of Collisions and Contagions in a Crowded World in which he explains how and why “green thinking” could cure many of the world’s most serious problems — from global warming to pandemics.
May 29: Return of the God Hypothesis
In episode 185 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael speaks with Stephen Meyer about his best selling book: Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe. Shermer responds to each of his claims and a stimulating and enlightening conversation ensues.
May 25: Alexander Green on Money & Why It Matters
In episode 184 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael speaks with Alexander Green about one of the most important and yet poorly understood concepts in modern society: money and why it matters.
May 22: Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR)
In episode 183 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael speaks with Bari Weiss and Bion Bartning about their new Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR).
May 18: UFOs, UAPs, and Extraterrestrial Existence
Mick West provides an analysis of the 60 Minutes investigation into the US Government saying UFOs are “Real”. PLUS: A conversation with UFOlogist Alan Steinfeld on how believers and skeptics think about UFOs. ALSO: Until May 31, 2021, get seven digital issues for only $14.99 when you purchase a new digital subscription to Skeptic via PocketMags.
May 15: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault
In episode 181 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael speaks with professor of psychology David Buss about sexual conflict, morality, and the double standards that flourish even in the most sexually egalitarian cultures on earth. Buss shows that this “battle of the sexes” is deeper and far more pervasive than anyone has recognized, revealing the hidden roots of sexual conflict — roots that originated over deep evolutionary time.
May 11: How Ideologies Short-Circuit Minds and Corrupt Moral Understanding
Astonishingly irrational ideas are spreading. Why? More importantly, what can we do about it? In episode 180 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael speaks with Andy Norman about his book Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think .
May 8: Niall Ferguson — Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe
In episode 179 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael Shermer speaks with one of the world’s most renowned historians, Niall Ferguson, who explains why our ever more bureaucratic and complex systems are making us worse, not better, at handling disasters.
May 4: Religious vs. Secular Morality
In episode 178 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, Michael speaks with philosophers James Hunter and Paul Nedelisky about religious vs. secular morality and their book Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality
May 1: 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature
In episode 177 of Michael Shermer’s podcast, he speaks with neuroscientist and literature professor Dr. Angus Fletcher about 25 of the most powerful developments in the history of literature. PLUS: From now through May 3, 2021 all print and digital back issues of Skeptic magazine are on sale for only 99 cents each! Now is the time to complete your collection!
April 27: What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract for a Better Society
In episode 176 of The Michael Shermer Show, Michael Shermer speaks with Minouche Shafik, one of the leading policy experts of our time, about a new and better social contract that recognizes our interdependencies, supports and invests more in each other, and expects more of individuals in return: a rethinking of how we can better support each other to thrive.
April 24: Cosmic Inflation, the Multiverse, and the Nature of Scientific Proof
In episode 175 of The Michael Shermer Show, Michael speaks with Brian Keating about How it All Began: Cosmic Inflation, the Multiverse, and the Nature of Scientific Proof. Plus, we present a review of Julia Galef’s book The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t.
April 20: Jordan Peterson on the Michael Shermer podcast
In episode 174, join Michael Shermer and Jordan Peterson (bestselling author of 12 Rules for Life) for this extraordinary conversation based on Peterson’s new book Beyond Order. PLUS: Save 40% on new digital subscriptions to Skeptic Magazine via Pocketmags.com, now through April 27, 2021!
April 17: Naomi Oreskes — Why Trust Science?
In episode 173 of Michael Shermer’s podcast he speaks with historian of science Naomi Oreskes about her landmark book, Why Trust Science? that offers a bold and compelling defense of science, revealing why the social character of scientific knowledge is its greatest strength — and the greatest reason we can trust it.
April 13: Free Speech and Why It Matters
In episode 172 of Michael Shermer’s podcast he speaks with Andrew Doyle about his new book on free speech and why it matters. Taking on board legitimate concerns about how speech can be harmful, Doyle argues that the alternative — an authoritarian world in which our freedoms are surrendered to those in power — has far worse consequences.
April 10: The Stupidity of War
In episode 171 of Michael Shermer’s podcast he speaks with political scientist John Mueller about his new book The Stupidity of War: American Foreign Policy and the Case for Complacency.
April 6: The Quest for a Theory of Everything
Michael Shermer speaks with professor of theoretical physics Michio Kaku about The Quest for a Theory of Everything. PLUS: From now through April 10, 2021 (5 days only) all print and digital back issues Skeptic magazine are on sale for only $1.99 each!
April 3: Anti-Vaccination in the Age of COVID-19
In The Michael Shermer Show # 169, Michael Shermer speaks with Jeff Hawkins, cofounder of Numenta: a neuroscience research company, about his new book A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence. PLUS: Raymond Barglow and Margret Schaefer discuss the anti-vaccination movement in the age of COVID-19.
March 30: Dennett and Caruso Debate Free Will
In The Michael Shermer Show # 168, Dr. Shermer moderates an entertaining, rigorous, and sometimes heated philosophical dialogue between two leading thinkers: Daniel Dennett and Gregg Caruso, based on their book Just Deserts.
March 27: Qonspiracy Warehouse — Spoof on the Creation of the QAnon Conspiracy Theory
In this eSkeptic, we present a tribute to Richard Dawkins by Michael Shermer, plus a short film spoof on the creation of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
March 23: Gary Taubes — The Case for Keto
In The Michael Shermer Show # 167, Dr. Shermer speaks with Gary Taubes about The Case for Keto: Rethinking Weight Control and the Science and Practice of Low-Carb/High-Fat Eating. PLUS: Save 40% on new digital subscription to Skeptic Magazine via Pocketmags.com, now through April 4, 2021!
March 20: Mine! How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Live
A hidden set of rules governs who owns what — explaining everything from whether you can recline your airplane seat to why HBO lets you borrow a password illegally. In episode 166 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with two acclaimed law professors — Michael Heller & James Salzman — who reveal how things become “mine.” Surprisingly, there are just six simple stories that everyone uses to claim everything… PLUS: In the ninth CUPES report, we investigated the extent to which peoples’ time spent with family and friends changed during the period leading up to the 2020 Presidential election amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 16: John McWhorter — The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and Their Threat to a Progressive America
In episode 165 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with John McWhorter about his new online book on how the antiracism movement poses a threat to progressive America. Shermer and McWhorter discuss: antiracism as a religion; the 3 waves of antiracism; the antiracism trinity: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi; white fragility; Black Lives Matter; systemic racism (incarceration rates, housing, jobs, income, etc.); reparations; George Floyd, Tony Timpa and police violence; the N-word and language as violence; and Third Wave Antiracism catechism.
March 13: Michael Shermer with Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing Cosmic Queries
In episode 164 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with Neil deGrasse Tyson about his new book Cosmic Queries: StarTalk’s Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going. Enjoy this thought-provoking conversation on life, the universe, and everything, as Neil deGrasse Tyson tackles the world’s most important philosophical questions about the universe with wit, wisdom, and cutting-edge science.
March 9: Skeptic Magazine 26.1: Cosmic Beginning, Available Now!
Skeptic Magazine 26.1: Cosmic Beginning is Available Now! Instantly Download the Digital Edition or Pre-order the Print Edition Today. PLUS: In episode 163 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with Helen Pluckrose about her book (co-authored with James Lindsay) Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity — and Why This Harms Everybody.
March 6: Religion, Capitalism, Civil Unrest, and Moral Truths
In episode 162 of The Michael Shermer Show, Michael speaks with one of the nation’s preeminent experts on economic policy, Benjamin Friedman, about his new book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism —   a major reassessment of the foundations of modern economic thinking that explores the profound influence of an until-now unrecognized force — religion. PLUS: The Skeptic Research Center asks “Why Are People Misinformed About Fatal Police Shootings?” and Michael Shermer review Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality.
March 2: The Invention of Madness: What’s Normal, Anyway?
For centuries, scientists and society cast moral judgments on anyone deemed mentally ill, confining many to asylums. In episode 161 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with anthropologist Dr. Roy Richard Grinker about his book Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness which chronicles the progress and setbacks in the struggle against mental-illness stigma―from the 18th century, through America’s major wars, and into today’s high-tech economy.
February 27: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters
Until just a few years ago, gender dysphoria — severe discomfort in one’s biological sex — was vanishingly rare (less than .01% of the population). In episode 160 Michael Shermer speaks with Abigail Shrier about her new book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters in which she warns that this trend puts a generation of girls at risk.
February 23: The Honest Truth About Vaccines
Download a free PDF of Junior Skeptic 77: The Honest truth About Vaccines. PLUS: How can we find solace when we face the death of loved ones? How can we find solace in our own death? In episode 159 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with philosopher Joshua Glasgow about his book The Solace: Finding Value in Death Through Gratitude for Life.
February 20: How Informed are Americans about Race and Policing?
In episode 158 Michael Shermer speaks with Jason D. Hill, a black immigrant from Jamaica, about his eloquent appreciation of the American Dream, and why his adopted nation remains the most noble experiment in enabling the pursuit of happiness. PLUS: In the 7th CUPES report, we ask: across the political spectrum, how knowledgeable are people when it comes to the available data on fatal police shootings of Black Americans?
February 16: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth
In episode 157 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with Avi Loeb about his new book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth which outlines his controversial theory and its profound implications for science, religion, and the future of our species and our planet.
February 21: Race Matters
The following articles from a 1994 issue of Skeptic magazine (2.4) capture a moment in time, not of ancient African cultures but of 1990s America, obsessed as we were — and still are — with race, in which everything is seemingly assessed by race. We present these articles as a reminder that the current cultural climate of race following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement is not new.
February 9: Ayaan Hirsi Ali — Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights
In episode 156 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born women’s rights activist, free speech advocate and New York Times best selling author, about her new book Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights.
February 5: Outside of Politics, What Else Predicts Attitudes Towards Censorship
In the sixth report from the Civil Unrest and Presidential Election Study (CUPES), we share the strongest correlates of peoples’ support for free speech that we found in the Civil Unrest and Presidential Election Study dataset. PLUS: In a lecture, recorded in March 2011 for The Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Science Lecture Series, Michio Kaku discusses The Physics of the Future.
February 2: The End is Nigh — Gambling with Armageddon
In episode 155 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with Martin Sherwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, about his new book Gambling with Armageddon, the definitive history of the Cuban Missile Crisis and its potential for nuclear holocaust, in a wider historical narrative of the Cold War — how such a crisis arose, and why at the very last possible moment it didn’t happen.
January 29: Robert Trivers — The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life
Whether it’s in a cockpit at takeoff or the planning of an offensive war, a romantic relationship or a dispute at the office, there are many opportunities to lie and self-deceive—but deceit and self-deception carry the costs of being alienated from reality and can lead to disaster. In this Distinguished Science Lecture recorded on November 11, 2011, Robert Trivers explains why deception plays such a prominent role in our everyday lives.
January 26: Atlas Shrugged vs. Atlas Hugged
In episode 154 of The Michael Shermer Show, Michael speaks with renowned evolutionary theorist David Sloan Wilson about his new novel Atlas Hugged: The Autobiography of John Galt III — a devastating critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and its impact on the world. PLUS: Starting Thursday, January 28 and running through Saturday, January 30, 2021, back issues of Skeptic magazine are on sale for only 99 cents in print and digital formats.
January 22: Censorship Attitudes, Voting Preferences, and The Moral Landscape
In the fifth report from the Civil Unrest and Presidential Election Study (CUPES), we examine attitudes about censorship, in particular, peoples’ level of support for freedom of speech and freedom of thought. PLUS: In a lecture, recorded on October 24, 2010 for The Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Science Lecture Series, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge.
January 19: Michael Shermer with Kevin Dutton — Black-and-White Thinking: The Burden of a Binary Brain in a Complex World
In episode 153, Michael speaks with University of Oxford research psychologist Dr. Kevin Dutton about his new book Black-and-White Thinking: The Burden of a Binary Brain in a Complex World.
January 17: Politics & Truth — Michael Shermer Responds to Critics of His Commentary “Trump & Truth”
In episode 152 of The Michael Shermer Show, Michael responds to critics, reminding us that whether a particular conspiracy theory is true or false very much matters — especially those in the realm of politics, economics, and ideology, which as we’ve seen matters very much to the stability of our democracy and trust in the institutions that keep society stable.
January 15: Why is QAnon So Dangerous?
In this cover story article (written in October 2020) for Skeptic magazine 25.4 (December 2020), Daniel Loxton considers the unsavory origins and rising threat of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Written prior to the deadly QAnon-led occupation of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, this analysis exposes the conspiracy theory as baseless, unoriginal, and harmful for believers and society at large.
January 12: Michael Shermer on Trump & Truth
In this monologue commentary on the events of January 6, 2021, Dr. Shermer applies causal inference theory to Trump’s speech that morning, the violent assault on the Capitol that followed, the banning of Trump off social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, the fears on the Right of social media censoriousness on the Left, the breaking up of big tech social media companies, and related topics, including what it means to “believe” a conspiracy theory.
January 8: How much do Americans trust institutions?
In the fourth report from the Civil Unrest and Presidential Election Study (CUPES) we examine Americans’ level of trust in institutions, as well as how trust levels vary by political party affiliation and gender. We asked the question: “how much do Americans trust news media, political officials, hospitals/doctors, and educational institutions?”
January 5: Exercise, Lizard People, 5G, and the Nashville Bomber
In episode 150 of The Michael Shermer Show, Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology Daniel Lieberman discusses his pioneering researcher on the evolution of human physical activity in his book Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding. PLUS: Perhaps one of the most bizarre beliefs rampant in modern times is that malign, shape-shifting reptilian extraterrestrial invaders, disguised as human beings, secretly control the governments of the world. It is possible that we recently experienced a violent consequence of that belief.
January 1: Jared Diamond on Natural Experiments of History
From our Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives from February 2010, we present Jared Diamond, author of the Pulitzer-prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel and the bestselling work in environmental history Collapse, revealing for the first time his methodology in the applied use of natural experiments and the comparative method.
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Retrospective

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