The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


banner

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.

EPISODE # 244

Johnjoe McFadden on simplicity in science, based on his book Life is Simple: How Occam’s Razor Set Science Free and Shapes the Universe

Life Is Simple: How Occam’s Razor Set Science Free and Shapes the Universe (book cover)

Centuries ago, the principle of Occam’s razor changed our world by showing simpler answers to be preferable and more often true. In Life Is Simple, scientist Johnjoe McFadden traces centuries of discoveries, taking us from a geocentric cosmos to quantum mechanics and DNA, arguing that simplicity has revealed profound answers to the greatest mysteries. This is no coincidence. From the laws that keep a ball in motion to those that govern evolution, simplicity, he claims, has shaped the universe itself. And in McFadden’s view, life could only have emerged by embracing maximal simplicity, making the fundamental law of the universe a cosmic form of natural selection that favors survival of the simplest. Recasting both the history of science and our universe’s origins, McFadden transforms our understanding of ourselves and our world.

Johnjoe McFadden is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey, where he studies the genetics of microbes that cause infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. He is the author of Quantum Evolution and the co-author of Life on the Edge, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Book Prize. He lives in London with his wife and son.

Shermer and McFadden discuss:

  • How did our medieval ancestors view life, the universe, and everything?
  • From what was science set free?
  • the relationship between science and religion then and now,
  • William of Occam and what his razor cut,
  • Doesn’t religion offer the ultimate simple answer to everything? “God did it.”
  • How did pre-modern theologians think about the nature of reality?
  • Ptolemaic vs. Tychonic vs. Copernican world systems in terms of simplicity,
  • simplicity in math, physics, biology, medicine, and the social sciences
  • Einstein’s razor: how does relativity theory simplify the universe?
  • quantum physics and simplicity,
  • Bayes’s probability razor,
  • Postmodernism and the search for Truth,
  • Are there truths independent of language? Cognition?
  • Is science more Bayesian than Popperian?
  • the anthropic cosmological principle,
  • McFadden’s explanation for solving the hard problem of consciousness,
  • McFadden’s explanation for solving the hard problem of free will and determinism.

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

This episode is sponsored by Wondrium:

Wondrium (sponsor)

This episode was released on January 25, 2022.

Donate

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.