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Lance Grande — The Formation, Diversification, and Extinction of World Religions

Lance Grande explores the diversity of religions using evolutionary systematics and philosophy. Grande examines the growth and interrelationships of hundreds of religions throughout history, tracing their formation, extinction, and diversification. Combining evolutionary theory with cultural records, he explores various world religions, including Asian cyclicism, polytheism, and monotheism, shedding new light on the development of organized religion.

Mohamad Jebara — Who Wrote the Qur’an, Why, and What Does it Really Say?

Shermer and Jebara discuss: who wrote the Qur’an and why • translation and interpretation • Is the Muslim world stagnating? How does this book aim to help? • semitic mindset • Many Westerners believe that the Qur’an endorses violence, Jihad, and Sharia Law over secular laws and constitutions. What does it really say? • Has Islam had its Enlightenment? • Does Islam and the Muslim world need reforming? • women in Islam • what percentage of Muslims want Sharia Law, and where in the world?

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…

Caylan Ford — Good and Evil, Human Nature, Education Reform, and Cancel Culture

Shermer and Ford discuss: • education reform • public vs. private vs. charter schools • the blank slate • Thomas Sowell’s Constrained Vision vs. Unconstrained Vision • French Revolution vs. American Revolution • truth, justice, and reality • what promotes humanity and what degrades it • transhumanism • political correctness • identity politics • cancel culture • totalitarianism • preference falsification • free speech • hate speech • how to stand up to cancel culture.

Andrew Shtulman — Learning to Imagine: The Science of Discovering New Possibilities

Shermer and Shtulman discuss: • imagination: the capacity to generate alternatives to reality • imagination’s purpose and structure • anomalies and counterfactuals • principles: scientific, mathematical, ethical • models: pretense, fiction, religion • development of imagination • how children understand causality • purpose of pretend play • theory of mind • religious practices • AI and creativity • The Beatles • Montessori education.

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.

A Skeptical View of J. Edgar Hoover & the FBI

Michelle Ainsworth reviews: G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage (2022) and The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism (2023) by Lerone A. Martin.

Dannagal Young — How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation

Shermer and Young discuss: how do you know if you are wrong, or that someone else is wrong • the evolution of reason: veridical perception or group identity? • the 3 “Cs” of our needs: comprehension, control, community • open-minded thinking • intellectual humility • political polarization • echo vs. identity chambers • social media • lies • disinformation • Donald Trump • democracy • science and morality • solutions to identity-driven wrongness.

Daniel Dennett Looks Back on His Career

Preeminent philosopher and cognitive scientist, Daniel Dennett has spent his career considering the thorniest, most fundamental mysteries of the mind. Do we have free will? What is consciousness and how did it come about? What distinguishes human minds from the minds of animals? Dennett’s answers have profoundly shaped our age of philosophical thought. In his autobiographical I’ve Been Thinking, he reflects on his amazing career and lifelong scientific fascinations.

Matthew Dallek — How the American Right Became Radicalized

Shermer and Dallek discuss: the origin of the John Birch Society • the “right,” “conservatism,” “liberalism” • “mainstream” vs. “fringe” • Cold War context for the rise of the radical right • the link between the John Birch Society and radical right figures today like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Donald Trump • COVID denialism, vaccine disinformation, America First nationalism, school board wars, QAnon plots, allegations of electoral cheating…

Eddie Tabash — The Law vs. Separation of Church and State

Shermer and Tabash discuss: the history of the relationship between church and state • the founding framers of the U.S. Constitution and their arguments for separating church and state • Madison and Jefferson • how most of the 13 colonies had government-sanctioned religions and religious tests for office • the Constitutional Convention and the First Amendment • the push by some Republicans to hold a new Constitutional Convention and redesign the entire U.S. Constitution • the religious beliefs and attitudes of…

Gad Saad — The Saad Truth About Happiness

Shermer and Saad discuss: operational definitions of the “good life,” “happiness,” and “well being” • emotions • eudaimonia (the pursuit of meaning) versus hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) • genetics and heritability • cultural components • the Big Five (OCEAN) • marriage (mate selection) • health • exercise and stress reduction • religion • anti-fragility • a playful outlook and curiosity • variety (the “spice of life”) • what the ancient Greeks got right about living the good life •…

Matt Johnson — How Hitchens Can Save the Left: Rediscovering Fearless Liberalism in an Age of Counter-Enlightenment

Shermer and Johnson discuss: Hitchens on free expression, identity politics, radicalism, interventionism, authoritarianism, patriotism, internationalism, America and Liberalism, reparations, religion, and death • identity politics • hostility to free speech • why Hitch did not become a neoconservative, warmonger, or imperialist • Enlightenment Liberalism • Trump and the division of the right • Hitchens on the precursors to Trump • Putin and Russian nationalism.

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.

The End of the World: Bart Ehrman on What the Bible Really Says About the End

Shermer and Ehrman discuss: Ehrman’s religious journey • Who wrote the Bible and why? • how to read the Bible and the book of Revelation • Who wrote Revelation and why? • why Jesus spoke in parables • why worry about climate change if the world is going to end soon? • David Koresh and Waco • Reagan and end times politics • how Jesus became a capitalist and militarist • faith healers, televangelists, and other Christian con artists • Christian ethics and what Jesus really said about the poor…

Baptism by Fire: How Christian Violence Abetted the Advent of Nationalism

In the Fourth Century, when the Emperor Constantine made the Roman Empire Christian, he created an unstable amalgam. The tenets of Christianity could only be made to support the exercise of political power through torturous forms of theology and logic. Fifteen centuries of violence would eventually cause the combination of Christianity and the state to decompose, forming secular nations in the process. Nationalist leaders, their authority upheld by the gospels of power written by Machiavelli and Nietzsche, could wield military…

The Christian Nationalist Threat Gets Real

What are we to make of the fact that a number of far-right politicians and activists are now owning the label “Christian Nationalist”? Conversely, conservative Christian leaders are repudiating Christian nationalism by reframing it as a type of extremism relegated to the fringe or, oddly, a “virulent form of secularism”. According to the Family Research Council the term is part of a plot to suppress the votes of conservative Christians. This article explores these tensions in this rising threat to…

Jim Davies — How to Be a Better Person

Shermer and Davies discuss: • an operational definition of the “good life” or “happiness” or “well being” • utilitarianism vs. deontology vs. virtue ethics • effective altruism • marriage and children • objective moral values • Do we have a moral obligation to help those who cannot help themselves? • Does America have a moral obligation to help oppressed peoples in dictatorships? • immigration • abortion • the welfare state • prostitution • reparations.

Why Nationalism Is Hostile to America

America is being torn apart. Amid growing strife, many people are experiencing angst concerning the future of this country, a country once renowned for its exuberant spirit of discovery, progress, liberty. From across the increasingly tribal political landscape, one can observe attacks on the ideas that fueled America’s spectacular rise: reason, individualism, and political freedom. From the illiberal left the “woke” phenomenon has emerged, rising to dominance in cultural institutions and calling for “canceling” those institutions, symbols, and even thoughts…

Marc Schulz — The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness

Shermer and Schulz discuss: an operational definition of the “good life” or “happiness” or “well being” • the reliability (or unreliability) of self-report data in social science • relative roles of genes, environment, hard work, and luck in how lives turn out • personality and to what extent it can be scientifically measured and studied • factors in early childhood that shape mental health in mid and late life • generational differences: • the impact of loneliness • misconceptions about happiness…

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