The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Ernest Scheyder — The Global Battle to Power Our Lives

Shermer and Scheyder discuss: rare earth metals • lithium, copper, • aluminum and other precious metals • how much rare earth metals will we need by 2050, 2100, and beyond • combatting climate change • electric vehicles • recycling electronic waste • how lithium-ion batteries work • Can renewables completely replace fossil fuels without nuclear? • how mining works in the U.S., China, Chile, Russia, elsewhere • public vs. private ownership of mines • Native American land rights.

Paul Offit — Deciphering Covid Myths and Navigating Our Post-Pandemic World

Shermer and Offit discuss: mRNA vaccines • science gone wrong or part of the long and risky history of medical innovation? • loss of trust in medical and scientific institutions • overall assessment of what went right and wrong • mandates vs. recommendations • economic costs • lab leak hypothesis vs. zoonomic hypothesis • debating anti-vaxxers • treatments • high risk vs. low risk groups • Robert Malone,Joe Rogan, RFKJ, Peter Hotez, Del Bigtree • Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya censored for signing the…

Rob Henderson — Foster Care, Family, and Social Class

Shermer and Henderson discuss: hindsight bias • genes, environment, luck, contingency • foster care • incarceration rates • marriage, divorce, childhood outcomes • poverty, welfare programs, and social safety nets • the young male syndrome • alcohol, drugs, depression • luxury beliefs of educated elites • wealthy but unstable homes vs. low-income but stable homes • inequality • Henderon’s experience in the military, at Yale and Cambridge • the Warrior-Scholar Project.

Sandro Galea — How US Public Health Has Strayed From Its Liberal Roots

The Covid-19 response was a crucible of politics and public health—a volatile combination that produced predictably bad results. As scientific expertise became entangled with political motivations, the public-health establishment found itself mired in political encampment. It was, as Sandro Galea argues, a crisis of liberalism: a retreat from the principles of free speech, open debate, and the pursuit of knowledge through reasoned inquiry that should inform the work of public health.

Ronald Lindsay on How the Left’s Dogmas on Race and Equity Harm Liberal Democracy and Invigorate Christian Nationalism

Shermer and Lindsay discuss: identity politics: identity or politics? • woke ideology • overt racism vs. systemic racism • liberalism vs. illiberalism • woke progressive leftists motivations? • Critical Race Theory (CRT) • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) • What is progressive? What is woke? • standpoint epistemology • equality vs. equity • race • class • cancel culture • Christian nationalism.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz — What Determines Who Succeeds in the NBA?

Shermer and Stephens-Davidowitz discuss: why some countries produce so many more NBA players than others • the greatest NBA players adjusted for height • why tall NBA players are worse athletes than short NBA players • How much do NBA coaches matter and what do they do? • In a population of 8 billion today compared to centuries past, where are all the Mozarts, Beethovens, Da Vincis, Newtons, Darwins, etc.?

Jessica Schleider — How to Build Meaningful Moments that Can Transform Your Mental Health

Shermer and Schleider discuss: her own experience with mental illness and eating disorder • 80% of people meet criteria for a mental illness at some point in their life • the goal of therapy • navigating therapy modalities, access, payments, insurance • What prevents people from getting the mental health help they need? • outcome measures to test different therapies • traditional therapy vs. single-session interventions • growth mindset • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) • difference between goals and values…

Katherine Brodsky — How to Find and Free Your Voice in the Age of Outrage

Shermer and Brodsky discuss: growing up Jewish in the Soviet Union and Israel • why liberals (or progressives) no longer defend free speech • cancel culture: data and anecdotes; whether it is an imagined moral panic; social media • free speech law vs. free speech norms • pluralistic ignorance and the spiral of silence • solutions to cancel culture • identity politics • witch crazes and virtue signaling • hate speech and slippery slopes • how to stand up to…

Brian Klaas — Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters

Shermer and Klaas discuss: contingency and necessity/convergence • chance and randomness • complexity and chaos theory • Jorge Luis Borges “The Garden of Forking Paths” • self-organized criticality • limits of probability • frequency- vs. belief-type probability • ceteris paribus, or “all else being equal” • economic forecasting • Holy Grail of Causality • Hard Problem of Social Research • Special Order 191 and the turning point of the Civil War • Hitler, Nazi rise to power in Germany, World…

Chris Anderson — Infectious Generosity: The Ultimate Idea Worth Spreading

Shermer and Anderson discuss: what makes TED successful • power laws and giving • charging vs. giving away • altruism • being good without God • billionaires • how the average person can participate • public vs. private solutions to social problems • donor fatigue.

Paul Halpern — Extra dimensions, Other Worlds, and Parallel Universes

Shermer and Halpern discuss: definitions of universe and types of multiverses • Is the multiverse science, metaphysics, or faith? • theists claim the “multiverse” is just handwaving around the God answer • many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics? • inflationary and Darwinian cosmology • infinity and eternity • multiple dimensions • string theory • cyclical universes • Big Bounce • Anthropic Principle (weak, strong, participatory) • time travel • sliding doors, contingency, and the multiverse.

Michael Shellenberger Explains Government Censorship of Social Media

Michael Shellenberger explains the role of government agencies in social media censorship, his work on the Twitter files, and the differences between independent and mainstream journalism. PLUS: how to deal with the opioid epidemic, what we can do about homelessness, his take on January 6, George Floyd, UFOs and UAPs, and more. Recorded live in Santa Barbara, CA at the Skeptics Society 2023 conference.

Jens Heycke — Multiculturalism and Lessons From the Rwandan Genocide

Shermer and Heycke discuss: • melting pots • culture • multi-culturalism • identity politics • cancel culture • cultural appropriation • Critical Race Theory • Affirmative Action • why group preferences tend to last forever • human nature and factionalism • how official recognition and group preferences exacerbate group divisiveness • how group identification is fluid and contextual • the future of democracy • the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years.

Caylan Ford — Good and Evil, Human Nature, Education Reform, and Cancel Culture

Shermer and Ford discuss: • education reform • public vs. private vs. charter schools • the blank slate • Thomas Sowell’s Constrained Vision vs. Unconstrained Vision • French Revolution vs. American Revolution • truth, justice, and reality • what promotes humanity and what degrades it • transhumanism • political correctness • identity politics • cancel culture • totalitarianism • preference falsification • free speech • hate speech • how to stand up to cancel culture.

Michael Greger — How Not to Age

Shermer and Greger discuss: • why we age and die • lifespan, vs. healthspan • longevity escape velocity • how to determine causality in aging science • nutrition fads • the anti-aging industry • Centenarians Diet • Mediterranean Diet • Okinawan Diet • Red, White, and Blue Zones • plant-based eating • exercise, sleep, stress • the Anti-Aging 8 • cholesterol and statins • vaccines • brain supplements • UV protection • alcohol • Alzheimer’s • social ties, friendships, and…

Andrew Shtulman — Learning to Imagine: The Science of Discovering New Possibilities

Shermer and Shtulman discuss: • imagination: the capacity to generate alternatives to reality • imagination’s purpose and structure • anomalies and counterfactuals • principles: scientific, mathematical, ethical • models: pretense, fiction, religion • development of imagination • how children understand causality • purpose of pretend play • theory of mind • religious practices • AI and creativity • The Beatles • Montessori education.

Angus Deaton — Economics in America: Inequalities and the Future of Capitalism

Shermer and Deaton discuss: the science of science is economics • winning a Nobel Prize • what economists do, and how they determine causality • Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand • why a college education matters • meritocracy and “Just World” theory • minimum wage • healthcare • poverty • inequality • opioid crisis, alcoholism, suicide • inflation and interest rates • modern monetary theory • think tanks.

Philip Goff — The Purpose of the Universe

Shermer and Goff discuss: • living in a computer simulation • the universe itself as a conscious mind • cosmic purpose • fine-tuning • free will • consciousness (the ground of all being?) • morality and the Is-Ought Fallacy • What is my purpose in life? • religious vs. secular answers to the purpose question • awe and how to be spiritual but not religious.

Dannagal Young — How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation

Shermer and Young discuss: how do you know if you are wrong, or that someone else is wrong • the evolution of reason: veridical perception or group identity? • the 3 “Cs” of our needs: comprehension, control, community • open-minded thinking • intellectual humility • political polarization • echo vs. identity chambers • social media • lies • disinformation • Donald Trump • democracy • science and morality • solutions to identity-driven wrongness.

JFK 60th Anniversary of the Assassination — Who Really Killed Camelot … and Why Do We Still Care?

Shermer, Griffin, Posner, and Gagné discuss: the nostalgic myth of “Camelot” • Lee Harvey Oswald and why he killed Kennedy • Cuba, Castro, the Bay of Pigs debacle • the CIA and why it is rational to be skeptical of their activities • the “magic bullet,” pristine or predictably damaged? • James Hosty and the FBI’s files on Oswald before he killed JFK • CIA and FBI coverups • General Edwin Walker • Jack Ruby • Bernard Weissman, • common…

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