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civilization

Upending Civilization

One of the surprise bestselling books of 2022 is David Graeber’s and David Wengrow’s book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, in which they attempt to upend the standard and widely accepted model of how Hunter-Gatherer bands and tribes developed into chiefdoms and states. How accurate is their alternative history of humanity? In this review essay, Chris Edwards considers the evidence as presented in this compelling book.

Ian Morris on Deep Time and Big History

In this conversation on deep time and big history, Shermer and Morris discuss the history of Big History, the future of energy and civilization, China and the future of energy and political power, what Britain was like 8000 years ago, the major transitions in British history, counterfactual history, slavery and the abolition of the slave trade, the role of ideas in history (civil rights, rule of law, justice, etc.), reparations and making right the wrongs of the past.

Ogi Ogas — Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos

Michael Shermer speaks with computational neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas, about his unified account of the mind that explains how consciousness, language, self-awareness, and civilization arose incrementally out of chaos, and how leading cities and nation-states are developing “superminds,” and perhaps planting the seeds for even higher forms of consciousness.

eSkeptic for April 2, 2022

Michael Shermer speaks with computational neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas, about his unified account of the mind that explains how consciousness, language, self-awareness, and civilization arose incrementally out of chaos, and how leading cities and nation-states are developing “superminds,” and perhaps planting the seeds for even higher forms of consciousness.

Jonathan Gottschall — The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears Them Down

“How can we save the world from stories?” Michael Shermer speaks with Jonathan Gottschall about The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears Them Down. Gottschall reveals why our biggest asset has become our greatest threat, and what, if anything, can be done.

eSkeptic for January 18, 2022

“How can we save the world from stories?” Michael Shermer speaks with Jonathan Gottschall about The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears Them Down. Gottschall reveals why our biggest asset has become our greatest threat, and what, if anything, can be done.

David Wengrow on The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

In this conversation, based on the book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, Michael Shermer speaks with professor of comparative archaeology, David Wengrow, about his pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology that fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society.

eSkeptic for December 21, 2021

In this conversation, based on the book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, Michael Shermer speaks with professor of comparative archaeology, David Wengrow, about his pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology that fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society.

Fernanda Pirie on The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World

In episode 236, Michael Shermer speaks with Fernanda Pirie on The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World — from ancient Mesopotamia to today, the epic story of how humans have used laws to forge civilizations.

eSkeptic for December 18, 2021

In episode 236, Michael Shermer speaks with Fernanda Pirie on The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World — from ancient Mesopotamia to today, the epic story of how humans have used laws to forge civilizations.

Walter Scheidel — Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity

In Science Salon # 122 Michael Shermer speaks with Walter Scheidel as he recounts the gripping story of how the end of the Roman Empire was the beginning of the modern world.

Pathways to Evil, Part 2

In his lecture on Pathways to Evil (Part 2), Dr. Michael Shermer fleshes out the themes of Part 1 by exploring how the dials controlling our inner demons and better angels can be dialed up or down depending on circumstances and conditions. Are we all good apples but occasionally bad barrels turn good apples rotten, or do we all harbor the capacity to turn bad?

eSkeptic for May 15, 2020

In his lecture on Pathways to Evil (Part 2), Dr. Michael Shermer fleshes out the themes of Part 1 by exploring how the dials controlling our inner demons and better angels can be dialed up or down depending on circumstances and conditions. Are we all good apples but occasionally bad barrels turn good apples rotten, or do we all harbor the capacity to turn bad?

Pathways to Evil, Part 1

In his Skepticism 101 lecture on Pathways to Evil (Part 1), Dr. Michael Shermer considers the nature of evil in his attempt to answer the question of how you can get normal civilized, educated, and intelligent people to commit murder and even genocide.

eSkeptic for May 8, 2020

In his lecture on Pathways to Evil (Part 1), Dr. Michael Shermer considers the nature of evil in his attempt to answer the question of how you can get normal civilized, educated, and intelligent people to commit murder and even genocide. PLUS, this weekend only, Skeptic magazine back issues (in print or digital formats) are on sale for only 99 cents each!

Christopher Ryan — Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress

Most of us have instinctive evidence the world is ending — balmy December days, face-to-face conversation replaced with heads-to-screens zomboidism, a world at constant war, a political system in disarray. We hear some myths and lies so frequently that they feel like truths. You’re lucky to be alive here and now. Well, maybe… Civilized to Death counters the idea that progress is inherently good, arguing that the “progress” defining our age is analogous to an advancing disease.

eSkeptic for February 4, 2020

In Science Salon # 102 Michael Shermer speaks with Christopher Ryan about his new book: Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress. PLUS, The recent spate of drone sightings in the Midwest have residents on edge. Medical sociologist Robert Bartholomew avers that one explanation can be ruled out — mass hysteria.

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