The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

Watch or listen here or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and TuneIn.


Frank Sulloway on How Lives Turn Out: Genes, Environment, Pluck, and Luck

Darwin and His Bears: How Darwin Bear and His Galápagos Islands Friends Inspired a Scientific Revolution (book cover)

Dr. Frank J. Sulloway is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology and is also a member of the Institute of Personality and Social Research, at the University of California, Berkeley. He has a Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard University (1978) and is a recipient of a MacArthur Award (1984–1989). His book Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend (1979) provides a radical reanalysis of the origins and validity of psychoanalysis and received the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society. In addition, Dr. Sulloway has written about the nature of scientific creativity, and, on this general topic, he has published extensively on the life and theories of Charles Darwin.

For the last two decades, Dr. Sulloway has employed evolutionary theory to understand how family dynamics affect personality development, including that of creative geniuses. He has a particular interest in the influence that birth order exerts on personality and behavior. In this connection, he is the author of Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives (1996). Dr. Sulloway’s researches on birth order and family dynamics have been featured on a variety of national television shows including Nightline, the Today Show, Dateline NBC, the Discovery Channel, the The Charlie Rose Show, and the The Colbert Report.

Dr. Sulloway has been the recipient of fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, New Jersey), the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science (University of California, Berkeley), the National Science Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford, California). In addition, Dr. Sulloway is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Linnean Society of London, and is a recipient of the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement (1997). He lives in Berkeley, California.

Shermer and Sulloway discuss:

  • relative roles of genes, environment, hard work, and luck in how lives turn out,
  • the culture at Harvard in the late 60s and early 70s,
  • his relationship and work with E. O. Wilson, who was recently defamed by Scientific American as a racist (Sulloway says Wilson was the least racist person in science),
  • personality and to what extent it can be scientifically measured and studied,
  • birth order and family dynamics in how personalities are formed,
  • autocratic personality traits and why people follow and support Trump and other autocrats,
  • why we need a moderate GOP to counter the far left,
  • personality traits of conservatives and liberals,
  • why if you know a person’s stance on one issue (e.g., abortion) you can predict their stance on many other issues (there are underlying features of personality tying them together),
  • how and when Darwin actually discovered natural selection and became an evolutionist (Sulloway debunked the myth that Darwin discovered evolution in the Galapagos),
  • what made Darwin such a successful scientist (perseverance together with self-doubt anchored in modesty, which prompted Darwin to endlessly question and test his ideas. Thus, Darwin was a devoted user of the hypothetico-deductive method, rather ahead of his time.), and
  • how and why he wrote Darwin and his Bears: How Darwin Bear and His Galapagos Islands Friends Inspired a Scientific Revolution.

If you enjoy the podcast, please show your support by making a $5 or $10 monthly donation.

This episode was released on January 29, 2022.


Get eSkeptic

Be in the know!

Subscribe to eSkeptic: our free email newsletter and get great podcasts, videos, reviews and articles from Skeptic magazine, announcements, and more in your inbox twice a week. It’s free. We never share your address. Unsubscribe any time.

Sign me up!

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

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.

Copyright © 1992–2022. All rights reserved. | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. The Skeptics Society is a non-profit, member-supported 501(c)(3) organization (ID # 95-4550781) whose mission is to promote science & reason. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Privacy Policy.