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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.

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EPISODE # 29

Colin McGinn — Mysterianism, Consciousness, Free Will, and God

This remote Science Salon, recorded on July 9, 2018, was initiated after McGinn commented publicly, and critically, on Shermer’s Scientific American column on the mysteries of consciousness, free will, and God.

The philosopher Justin Weinberg at the University of South Carolina, who runs the DailyNous website ( @DailyNousEditor on Twitter) posted a dozen tweets admonishing Shermer and Scientific American for publishing such a mischaracterization of several philosophical subjects, even referencing the film Annie Hall, where Woody Allen’s character is irritated in a movie line by some bloviator yammering on about Marshall McLuhan, reaches behind a big movie poster and pulls McLuhan out of line, who then upbraiding the blowhard “I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!” To which Woody says, “Boy, if life were only like this.”

Well, life can be like this, but in this case Shermer invited McGinn on the show to discuss the topics in detail in order for everyone to glean a deeper understanding. A fruitful conversation ensued on these and other important topics.

Related Material

In an illuminating thought experiment that supplements Science Salon # 29, McGinn penned an essay (“What is it like to be a human?”) to help clarify what, exactly, Thomas Nagel meant in his famous paper “What Is It Like to be a Bat?

In their second conversation (Science Salon # 34), Michael Shermer and Colin McGinn discuss paradoxes and puzzles of philosophy, pseudo-questions, realism v. antirealism, how to deal with unknown unknowns, immortality and the nature of the self and soul.

This episode was released on July 9, 2018.

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