The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

EPISODE # 308

Iris Berent — The Blind Storyteller: How We Reason About Human Nature

Shermer and Berent discuss: nature/nurture genes/environment biology/culture • language and innate knowledge • what babies are born knowing • how people reason about human nature • dualism • essentialism • theory of mind • the nature of the self • innate beliefs in the soul and afterlife • free will and determinism • how people think about mental illness and disorders • how one’s theory of human nature effects one’s attitudes about nearly everything.

Released November 29, 2022

EPISODE # 307

Nicholas Dirks on Science Denial, Distrust, and Skepticism

Shermer and Dirks discuss: vaccine hesitancy • why antibiotics do not generate the same distrust • vaccines and autism • COVID-19 and its differential effects on people • the lab-leak hypothesis vs. the zoonomic hypothesis for the origin of SARS CoV-2 • Anthony Fauci and the CDC • climate denial • how trust in science has changed over the past century • the politicization of science • how to talk to someone who doesn’t trust science or scientists.

Released November 22, 2022

EPISODE # 306

Stephon Alexander — Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics

Shermer and Alexander discuss: his journey from Trinidad to the Bronx to professor of physics • what it’s like being Black in a mostly White and Asian field of science • systemic racism and misogyny • how to be an outsider inside a science • how to tell the difference between revolutionary and worthless new ideas • how do laypeople understand whether something is good science or not? • the double-slit experiment • superposition • connections between quantum physics and Eastern mysticism • creativity • What banged the Big Bang? • Are we living in a matrix? • Deepak Chopra’s mind monism • consciousness and the universe.

Released November 15, 2022

EPISODE # 305

Bethanne Patrick — Book World

Shermer and Patrick discuss: her memoir Life B • trends in treatment of depression and other mental diseases • why memoirs by authors who have suffered traumas and stresses in their lives sell so well • non-fiction, fiction, and quasi-nonfictional fiction • censorship and cancel culture in publishing • why the New York Times bestseller list is so influential • the trial over the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by Penguin Random House over whether it will lead to a monopsony • the future of publishing and book stores • how writing compares to more accessible forms of content such as film or podcasting • what advice she would give to new would-be authors.

Released November 8, 2022

EPISODE # 304

Justin Gregg — If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity

Shermer and Gregg discuss: • intelligence • stupidity • dolphins • artificial intelligence • language • rationality • moral systems • comparative thanatology • “causal inference” vs. “learned associations” • humans as “why specialists” • death awareness • why narwhals do not commit genocide • “prognostic myopia” • our “shortsighted farsightedness” as “an extinction-level threat to humanity” • consciousness and sophisticated consciousness: animals and humans • free will • determinism • pleasure vs. happiness vs. purposefulness.

Released November 1, 2022

EPISODE # 303

Michael Shermer — Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational

The problem of conspiracism is urgent—arguably more pressing than at any time in our history. In his new book, Conspiracy, out October 25, 2022, Shermer: reviews and integrates evolutionary, psychological, social, cultural, political, and economic conditions that fuel conspiracy theories • presents his original three-tiered theoretical model of Proxy Conspiracism, Tribal Conspiracism, and Constructive Conspiracism • classifies and systematizes conspiracy theories in order to tease apart their different causes • offers his Conspiracy Detection Kit on how to tell if a conspiracy theory is true, false, or undecidable • and suggests how to talk to a conspiracy theorist.

Released October 25, 2022

EPISODE # 302

Tim Palmer — The Primacy of Doubt: From Quantum Physics to Climate Change, How the Science of Uncertainty Can Help Us Understand Our Chaotic World

Shermer and Palmer discuss: doubt and skepticism • when doubt slides into denial • uncertainty as a measurement problem vs. inherent in natural systems • contingency and necessity, randomness and law • the butterfly effect • the geometry of chaos • quantum uncertainty • weather forecasting • climate change • pandemics • economic recessions • human decision making and creativity • free will • consciousness, and God.

Released October 18, 2022

EPISODE # 301

Alan Blinder — A Monetary and Fiscal History of the United States

Shermer and Blinder discuss: serving on Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers • being the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board • What kind of science is economics? • how one’s political leanings influence cause-and-effect economic theories • the difference between monetary and fiscal policy • a Keynesian approach to economics • inflation, stagflation, recessions, depressions, Bull and Bear markets defined • interest rates • the Federal Reserve • the money supply • What makes money valuable without the gold standard? • COVID relief • deficit spending • boom-and-bust cycles • employment: what’s the right percentage? • income tax: what’s the right percentage? • the best investments to make in the long run • modern monetary theory, and • utility maximizing.

Released October 11, 2022

EPISODE # 300

Saleem Ali — Earthly Order: How Natural Laws Define Human Life

Shermer and Ali discuss: • the search for structure in nature • order and randomness • economic laws • natural laws • natural orders: molecular, quantum, crystals, carbonic, nuclear, magnetic • hydrological, organismic, Gaia and Medea • reductionism and holism • Islamic economics • the origin of wealth • Is there an optimal economic order? • how mining rights work in the U.S. and elsewhere • the voter’s paradox • Pareto optimality and why we can’t achieve it • resource nationalism • the resource curse • why India and Pakistan have not used their nukes on each other • social orders • population and sustainability: neo-Malthusianism • How many people can the Earth hold? • why we need nuclear power for sustainability • internationalism and globalism • Trekonomics.

Released October 4, 2022

EPISODE # 299

Richard Reeves — Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It

Shermer and Reeves discuss: comparison method: U.S. vs. other WERID countries • education • work/labor market • family • marriage • Divorce/custody/spousal support/child support • intersectionality I: Black boys and men vs. White boys and men • intersectionality II: poor boys and men vs. middle class/upper class boys and men • What is a man? (nature and nurture in the making of a male) • what the political left gets wrong about boys and men • what the political right gets wrong about boys and men • solutions: red shirt boys early; men in STEM and HEAL • fatherhood as an independent institution.

Released September 27, 2022

EPISODE # 298

Neil deGrasse Tyson — Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization

Shermer and Tyson discuss: why he decided to write about social, cultural, and political issues now • conflict and resolution in science and society • moral progress in society and why it happens • meatarians and vegetarians • race and gender • law and order • the principle of interchangeable perspectives • conflicting rights and how to resolve them • Rationalia (Neil’s hypothetical country whose laws are based on rationality) • life and death • how long Neil would like to live • the meaning in life.

Released September 20, 2022

EPISODE # 297

Andrew Doyle — How the Religion of Social Justice Captured the Western World

Shermer and Doyle discuss: terminology of: PC, identity politics, woken, social justice, antifa, BLM, TERF, intersectionality • Critical Social Justice as a witch craze • Satanic Panic (1980s) • Recovered Memory Movement (1990s) • How widespread is the problem: minor skirmishes on social media or mainstream? • Hill-Harris 2021 poll: 32% voters ID as woke and 31% said they don’t know what the term means • new puritanism as a secular religion • Whiteness and White fragility • Implicit Association Test • Postmodernism • Neo-Marxism • Cancel Culture • hate speech • J.K. Rowling • pluralistic ignorance.

Released September 13, 2022

EPISODE # 296

Stephen Bloom on Jane Elliott’s Famous Experiment on Race and Brutality and What It Reveals About Today’s Racial Divide

Shermer and Bloom discuss: “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” — Jane Elliott famous racism experiment • reactions to it (in the classroom, locally, nationally, internationally) • whether the “experiment” was really more of a demonstration • public interest, from Johnny Carson to Oprah Winfrey • the questionable ethics of the experiment • what it reveals about tribalism, racism, obedience to authority, role playing, social proof • whether it reveals hidden racist attitudes or creates them in children • race sensitivity training programs (and why they don’t really work) • what drives moral progress • the future of journalism.

Released September 6, 2022

EPISODE # 295

Marian Tupy & Gale Pooley — Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet

Shermer, Tupy, and Pooley discuss: why we long for the “good ol’ days” • the Malthusian trap • Ehrlich’s predictions on overpopulation • the birth dearth • the Simon Abundance Index • compound interest • What does it mean for the economy to grow 2–3% a year? • accumulating wealth • what poorer countries need to do to become richer countries • running out of fossil fuels • Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech • inflation • electric vehicles • How many people can the Earth sustain? • post-scarcity trekonomics • the future of religion and other social institutions in a superabundant world.

Released August 30, 2022

EPISODE # 294

Sabine Hossenfelder — Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions

What is time? Does the past still exist? How did the universe begin and how will it end? Do particles think? Was the universe made for us? Why doesn’t anyone ever get younger? Has physics ruled out free will? Will we ever have a theory of everything? To examine these ideas, Shermer speaks with Sabine Hossenfelder, a research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Germany. She has published more than eighty research articles about the foundations of physics, including quantum gravity, physics beyond the standard model, dark matter, and quantum foundations.

Released August 23, 2022

EPISODE # 293

Konstantin Kisin — An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West

Shermer and Kisin discuss: growing up in Russia • “The Talk” Russian parents give their children • What is the “West” and how do Russians view it • Should Whites feel some guilt for slavery, racism, misogyny, bigotry, etc.? • systemic racism: criminal justice, housing, employment, income, wealth • Critical Race Theory (CRT) • immigration • free, private, and public speech • how language is used to distort truth • the origin of “political correctness” • journalism vs. activism • capitalism • and how the West could be lost.

Released August 19, 2022

EPISODE # 292

Gary Marcus — Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust

Shermer and Marcus discuss: why AI chatbot LaMDA is not sentient • “mind”, “thinking”, and “consciousness”, and how do molecules and matter give rise to such nonmaterial processes • the hard problem of consciousness • the self and other minds • How would we know if an AI system was sentient? • Can AI systems be conscious? • free will, determinism, compatibilism, and panpsychism • language • Can we have an inner life without language? • How rational or irrational an animal are we?

Released August 16, 2022

EPISODE # 291

Rob Ashton — Silent Influence and the Science of Writing, Reading, and Communicating

Shermer and Ashton discuss: what it’s like advising Google and Buckingham Palace on how to communicate • what makes writing appealing and effective • how to write better emails and social media posts • why the messages we write often backfire • why emails so often make us angry • What makes Donald Trump such a powerful communicator that he can seemingly hypnotize tens of millions of people and dictate entire news cycles with a single statement? • when you should stop writing and pick up the phone to talk instead.

Released August 9, 2022

EPISODE # 290

Anastacia Marx de Salcedo — Eat like a Pig, Run Like a Horse

Shermer and de Salcedo discuss: her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at age 27 • her long-term psychological strategy for living with a serious illness • what “eating like a pig” actually means • our 70-year-old “diet detour” • the obesity crisis • how dietary studies are conducted • the baseline health of lab rats • static vs. dynamic metabolism • diseases you can treat, manage, or prevent with exercise • cholesterol and statins • why exercise is more important than diet • how you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Released August 2, 2022

EPISODE # 289

James Kirchick — Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington

Shermer and Kirchick discuss: archives and secret sources of secret histories • the cause of homophobia, and how and why homosexuality was thought of as a “contagious sexual aberrancy” • why there is no lesbian history of Washington • J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson and gay mythmaking • FDR and Sumner Welles • why at the height of the Cold War, it was safer to be a Communist than a homosexual • Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss • the McCarthy hearings and how the Lavender Menace became inextricably linked with the Red Menace • astronomer Franklin Kameny and the Mattachine Society • JFK and his tolerance of homosexuality • Richard Nixon’s notorious homophobia • Ronald Reagan’s conflicting attitudes toward homosexuality • George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and real progress in acceptance of homosexuality • the trans movement and its homophobic consequences.

Released July 26, 2022
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