The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Science Salon

Charan Ranganath — Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold on to What Matters

Shermer and Ranganath discuss: how memories are stored by neurons • forgetting — memory in there somewhere or lost forever? • episodic, semantic, working, flashbulb, long-term, and short-term memory • recovered memories vs. false memories + confabulation, conflation • Alzheimer’s, dementia, senility • PTSD and bad memories • déjá vu • memory triggers • learning as a form of memory • social memories (extended self) • MEMself vs. POVself • uploading memories into the cloud • improving memory: what works,…

Tricia Rose — Metaracism: How Systemic Racism Devastates Black Lives

Shermer and Rose discuss: the policies, practices, laws, and beliefs that are racist in 2024 America and what can be done about them • racism, structural racism, systemic racism, metaracism • Rose’s working-class background growing up in 1960s Harlem • deep-root cause-ism •being “caught up in the system” • Trayvon Martin, Kelley Williams-Bolar, and Michael Brown • Rose’s response to Black conservative authors like Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell • why she believes Coleman Hughes is wrong about color-blindness •…

Bradley Campbell — How to Think About Social Justice

Shermer and Campbell discuss: the telos of sociology: truth or activism? • Can we make people better? • evaluating ideologies • victimhood culture vs. honor culture • conflicting rights and social tradeoffs • CRT, DEI, cancel culture, identity politics • the true motives of woke, progressive leftists • How widespread is the problem of woke ideology? • equality vs. equity • overt racism vs. systemic racism.

Sean Carroll — Quanta and Fields

Shermer and Carroll discuss: the measurement problem in physics • wave functions • entanglement • fields • interactions • scale • symmetry • gauge theory • phases • matter • atoms • time • double-slit experiment • superposition • directionality in nature • the multiverse • known unknowables • Is there a place for God in scientific epistemology?

Nellie Bowles — Reporting From the Frontlines of the Culture Wars

Shermer and Bowles discuss: what it’s like to work at The New York Times • what it’s like to found a new media company • same-sex marriage • Liberalism vs. Progressivism • the Black Lives Matter, #metoo, and transgender movements • Patrisse Khan-Cullors • White privilege • somatic abolitionism • LGBTQ • IDAHOBIT • BBIPOC • CHAZ • homelessness • anti-racism • cancel culture • defund the police • protests.

Christof Koch — How to Expand Consciousness

hermer and Koch discuss: “subjective experience” • the author’s near-death experience changed him • the difficulties of materialism/physicalism • a fundamental theory of consciousness that explains subjective experiences in objective measures • designing a “consciousness detector” for unresponsive patients • why magic mushrooms and Ayahuasca are of so fascinating to neuroscientists • how our minds are shaped by our beliefs, prior experiences, and intentions • insights crucial to those suffering from anxiety, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress, and depression. • the…

Tom Chivers — Everything is Predictable: How Bayesian Statistics Explain Our World

Shermer and Chivers discuss: Thomas Bayes, his equation, and the problem it solves • Bayesian decision theory vs. statistical decision theory • Popperian falsification vs. Bayesian estimation • Sagan’s ECREE principle • Bayesian epistemology and family resemblance • paradox of the heap • Reality as controlled hallucination • human irrationality • superforecasting • mystical experiences and religious truths • Replication Crisis in science • Statistical Detection Theory and Signal Detection Theory • Medical diagnosis problem and why most people get…

Lisa Kaltenegger — The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos

Shermer and Kaltenegger discuss: Carl Sagan and his influence • Sagan’s Dragon • ECREE Principle • how stars, planets and solar systems form • how exoplanets are discovered • Hubble Space Telescope, Kepler Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope • The Origin of Life • Fermi’s Paradox: where is everybody (the Great Silence, the Great Filter) • biosignatures • technosignatures • Dyson spheres • Will aliens be biological or AI? • interstellar travel • Kardashev scale of civilizations • how…

Bruce Hood — The Science of Happiness: 7 Lessons for Living Well

Shermer and Hood discuss: psychedelic drugs • defining the “good life” or “happiness” • measuring emotions • happiness as social contagion • eudaimonia (the pursuit of meaning) versus hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) • genetics and heritability • cultural components • WEIRD people • The Big Five (OCEAN) • marriage and health • exercise and stress reduction • what the ancient Greeks got right about living the good life • how failure may actually be a key to more happiness…

Robin Reames — The Power of Rhetoric in Polarized Times

Reames and Shermer discuss: what rhetoric is • what reason is • how rhetoric changed Reames’ life • rhetoric vs. facts (rhetorical truths vs. empirical truths) • the point of reason (to understand reality or to persuade?) • Canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery • bullshitters vs. liars • induction and deduction • rhetorical, ideological, and metaphorical thinking • how to debate contentious issues • how to have impossible conversations • culture wars • conspiracy theories and why…

Adam Gopnik — All That Happiness Is

Our society is obsessed with achievement. Young people are pushed toward the next test or the “best” grammar school, high school, or college they can get into. Adults push themselves toward the highest-paying, most prestigious jobs, seeking promotions and public recognition. As Adam Gopnik points out, the result is not so much a rat race as a rat maze, with no way out. Except one: to choose accomplishment over achievement. Gopnik provides timeless wisdom against the grain.

Annie Jacobsen — What Happens Minutes After a Nuclear Launch?

Shermer and Jacobsen discuss: why we have a nuclear triad • competition among military forces • increasing budgets for more weapons • types and quantities of nuclear weapons • why humans engage in aggression, violence, and war • The Prisoner’s dilemma, Hobbesian trap, Security Dilemma, the “other guy” problem • Balance of Terror, Mutual Assured Destruction, Logic of Deterrence • close calls • surviving a nuclear explosion • what happens in a nuclear bomb explosion • consequences of a nuclear…

Nick Bostrom — Life and Meaning in a Solved World

Bostrom and Shermer discuss: An AI Utopia and Protopia • Trekonomics, post-scarcity economics • the hedonic treadmill and positional wealth values • colonizing the galaxy • The Fermi paradox: Where is everyone? • mind uploading and immortality • Google’s Gemini AI debacle • LLMs, ChatGPT, and beyond • How would we know if an AI system was sentient?

Robert Zubrin — How What We Can Create on the Red Planet Informs Us on How Best to Live on the Blue Planet

Shermer and Zubrin discuss: why not start with the moon? • what it is like on Mars • whether Mars was ever like Earth • how much it will cost to go to Mars • how to get people to Mars • resources on Mars • colonization of Mars • public vs. private enterprise for space exploration • economics, politics, and government on Mars • lessons from the Red Planet for the Blue Planet • liberty in space.

Eve Herold — Robots and the People Who Love Them

Shermer and Herold discuss: social robots, sex robots, robot nannies, robot therapists • flying cars, jetpacks and The Jetsons • Masahiro Mori • emotions, animism, mind • emotional intelligence • artificial intelligence • large language lodels • ChatGPT, GPT-4, GPT-5 and beyond • the alignment problem • robopocalypse • robo soldiers • robot sentience • autonomous vehicles • AI value systems, and their legal and ethical status.

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.

Maggie Jackson — Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure

Maggie Jackson — an award-winning author and journalist known for her pioneering writings on social trends, particularly technology’s impact on humanity — explores the importance of uncertainty and the benefits it can bring in an era of unpredictability.

Coleman Hughes — The End of Race Politics

Shermer and Hughes discuss: why he is considered “black” if he is “half-black, half-Hispanic” • what it means to be “colorblind” • population genetics and race differences • Base Rate Neglect, Base Rate Taboos • institutionalized neoracism • viewpoint epistemology • affirmative action • gaps in income, wealth, home ownership, CEO representation, Congressional representation • myths of Black Weakness, No Progress, Undoing the Past • reparations • the future of colorblindness.

Max Stearns — How to Repair America’s Broken Democracy

Law professor and author of dozens of articles and several books on the Constitution, Max Stearns examines the broken state of American democracy and the proposal to transform it into a parliamentary system to address the issues of polarization and dysfunction.

Abigail Shrier — Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up

Shermer and Shrier discuss: Irreversible Damage redux: WPATH Files • what view this book for or against • what is the problem to be solved? • theories: coddling, social media, screen time, generations/life history theory • good and bad therapists and therapies • anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, autism • ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) • trauma, stress, PTSD • anti-fragility and resilience • Goodwill Hunting view of therapy • previous quack therapies and psychological pseudoscience that have plagued psychology and psychiatry.

Skeptic Magazine App on iPhone


Whether at home or on the go, the SKEPTIC App is the easiest way to read your favorite articles. Within the app, users can purchase the current issue and back issues. Download the app today and get a 30-day free trial subscription.

Download the Skeptic Magazine App for iOS, available on the App Store
Download the Skeptic Magazine App for Android, available on Google Play
Download the Skeptic Magazine App for iOS, available on the App Store
Download the Skeptic Magazine App for Android, available on Google Play
SKEPTIC • 3938 State St., Suite 101, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105-3114 • 1-805-576-9396 • Copyright © 1992–2024. All rights reserved • Privacy Policy