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Bayesian Balance: How a Tool for Bayesian Thinking Can Guide Us Between Relativism and the Truth Trap

This article explores the concept of truthiness, introduced by Stephen Colbert, and its implications in today’s discourse, where subjective truths often overshadow objective reality. It discusses the dangers of absolute certainty in beliefs, exemplified by a Young Earth creationist. Through Bayesian reasoning, it suggests adjusting beliefs based on evidence and introduces a model called Bayesian Balance, which helps in evaluating evidence without succumbing to absolute certainty.

Samuel Wilkinson — What Evolution and Human Nature Imply About the Meaning of Our Existence

Shermer and Wilkinson discuss: • evolution: random chance or guided process? • selfishness and altruism • aggression and cooperation • inner demons and better angels • love and lust • free will and determinism • the good life and the good society • empirical truths, mythic truths, religious truths, pragmatic truths • Is there a cosmic courthouse where evil will be corrected in the next life? • theodicy and the problem of evil: Why do bad things happen to good…

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.

Education Matters in the Culture Wars: Can We Separate Bias From Ideology?

Instead of liberal-conservative bias in education we should think about biases and orthodoxies by topic. Each side values truth and cites facts, but only if they confirm what they already believe. Ideological and Political Bias in Psychology (edited by Frisby, Redding, O’Donohue, & Scott Lilienfeld) details the harm to psychological science, academia, and society from today’s very illiberal ‘woke’ ideology.

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.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Converted to Christianity

On November 11, 2023, my friend, colleague, and hero Ayaan Hirsi Ali released a statement explaining “Why I am Now a Christian”. What follows is my response, “Why I am Not a Christian,” and why in any case the alternative to theistic morality is not atheism but Enlightenment humanism—a cosmopolitan worldview that places supreme value on human and civil rights, individual autonomy and bodily integrity, free thought and free speech, the rule of law, and science and reason as the…

Garrett Graff — UFO: The Inside Story of the U.S. Government’s Search for Alien Life

Shermer and Graff discuss: national security • how long government secrets can be kept • cultural context for UFO sightings • why David Grusch’s testimony could be accurate but still not represent alien contact • Kenneth Arnold • Roswell • The Fermi Paradox • why 90-95% of all UFO sightings are explainable • anomalies and how to treat them • Avi Loeb (Galileo Project) • President Clinton’s investigation into UFOs • UFOs as a modern myth or religion.

Dan Ariely — What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things?

Shermer and Ariely discuss: What is disinformation and what should we do about it? • How do we know what is true and what to believe? • virtue signaling one’s tribe as a misbelief factor • the role of complex stories in misbelief • emotions, personality, temperament, trust, politics, and social aspects of belief and misbelief • the funnel of belief • social proof and the influence of others on our beliefs • a COVID-23 pandemic • social media companies…

Polina Marinova Pompliano — Ways of Thinking That Power Successful People

Shermer and Pompliano discuss: personal journey from college to Fortune to The Profile • what distinguishes the truly exceptional from the merely great • What is genius? • hindsight bias • David Goggins: Do something that sucks every single day • stress-testing yourself through regular hardship • victimhood: “Suffering is universal but victimhood is optional” • fear • updating existing beliefs • pursuing meaningful goals • trust = consistency + time.

Tanya Luhrmann on How Gods and Spirits Come to Feel Vividly Real to People

Shermer and Luhrmann discuss: the anthropology of religion • what it means when people say they “hear the voice of God” or are “walking with God” • normal “voices within” vs. hallucinations and psychoses • mystical experiences • anomalous psychological experiences • sleep paralysis and other cognitive anomalies • belief in angels and demons • absorption and religious beliefs • prayer vs. meditation vs. mindfulness • sensed presences • why people believe in God • empirical truths, religious truths, mythic truths…

The Sacred Depths of Nature — Ursula Goodenough on How to Find Sacred Scientific Spirituality

Shermer and Goodenough discuss: origins of her personal beliefs • origins life, RNA, DNA, consciousness, language, morality • myths and religions • what it means to be “religious” • religious naturalism • where the laws of physics came from • why the universe seems so strange • chance and evolution • fine tuning of the cosmos • autocatalysis and emergence • purpose of religion • ethics and morality without religion.

Post-Truth: The Tragedy of the Trust Commons

In our “post-truth” world, objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. In the U.S., citizens’ trust in their government is at historically low levels, and the trust gap is difficult to bridge because individuals who practice deceptive behaviors often gain. This type of situation is known as a “tragedy of the commons.” Behavioral scientist Gleb Tsipursky offers the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP) as one solution to help rebuild trust in and decrease…

Kevin Kelly — ChatGPT, OpenAI, and Excellent Advice for Living

Shermer and Kelly discuss: protopian progress • ChatGPT • artificial intelligence; an existential threat? • evolution • cultural progress • self-driving cars • innovation • social media • putting an end to war • compound interest and the long term effect of small changes • why you don’t want to be a billionaire • beliefs and reason • setting unreasonable goals • persistence as key to success • probabilities and statistics, not algebra and calculus • investing: buy and hold • how to fully become yourself.

Paradoxes of Religion and Science in the USA

Science and religion present two paradoxes in the United States. On the one hand, the U.S. is the undisputed world leader in science. Yet, the U.S. is also the wealthy industrialized country with the most widespread skepticism about science, most notably regarding climate change, vaccines, and evolution. How can those two seemingly incompatible facts be reconciled? This article solves this paradox.

Why Nations Are Becoming More Secular

That the world in general and the United States in particular are becoming ever more secularized is no longer in dispute. The data are clear. The rise of the nones (no religious affiliation) is real. The hard question to answer is why. In this deep analysis of the many causal factors at work readers will learn about the long term trends that are likely to continue.

Persistent Belief: The Relative Implausibility of Certainty

Long before science came of age in the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, religion had been struggling to make sense of the world for millennia. Sometimes they got it right, but mostly they had no idea how the world works and had no systematic method to determine as much. This article explores the relationship between science and religion in terms of what was known back then and what is known now.

Race & Policing: A Data-Driven Look at Policing and Its Discontents

In his usual data-driven style of analysis, statistician and sociologist Kevin McCaffree, who also runs the Skeptic Research Center, presents the SRC finding about policing and race in America, and how political beliefs and orientation skews our perceptions of what is actually happening on the streets of the United States.

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.

Nature’s God: Why Christians Should Accept the Theory of Evolution

If you give Christians a choice between Jesus and Darwin by telling them that the theory of evolution means you have to be an atheist, they’re going to pick Jesus every time. In this article, Larry Arnhart argues that Christians should accept the theory of evolution not only because it’s true but also that it does not mean they have to give up their religion.

Moshe Hoffman and Erez Yoeli on the Surprising Power of Game Theory to Explain Irrational Human Behavior

Moshe Hoffman is a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology whose research focuses on using game theory and models of learning. Erez Yoeli is a research scientist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, whose research focuses on altruism: understanding how it works and how to promote it.

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