The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


Science Salon

Dan Stone — An Unfinished History of the Holocaust

Shermer and Stone discuss: what is unfinished in the history of the Shoah • Holocaust denial • psychology of fascist fascination and genocidal fantasy • alt-right • ideological roots of Nazism and German anti-Semitism • industrial genocide • magical thinking • Hitler’s willing executioners • the Holocaust as a continent-wide crime • motivations of the executioners • the banality of evil • Wannsee Conference (1942).

Eric Schwitzgebel — The Weirdness of the World

Shermer and Schwitzgebel discuss: bizarreness • skepticism • consciousness • virtual reality • AI, Turing Test, sentience, existential threat • idealism, materialism • ultimate nature of reality • solipsism • evidence for the existence of an external world • computer simulations hypothesis • mind-body problem • truths: external, internal, objective, subjective • mind-altering drugs • entropy • causality • infinity • immortality • multiverses • why there is something rather than nothing.

The Story of Female Empowerment & Getting Canceled: Elite Commando and Kickboxing World Champion Leah Goldstein

A conversation with Leah Goldstein on becoming a kickboxing world champion, ultra-endurance cyclist, and an elite commando combating terrorism. For this she was to be honored at the International Women’s Day event… until she was disinvited and canceled. This is her story.

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…

Byron Reese — How Humanity Functions as a Single Superorganism

Shermer and Reese discuss: • organisms and superorganisms • origins of life • the self • emergence • consciousness • Is the Internet a superorganism? • Will AI create a superorganism? • Could AI become sentient or conscious? • the hard problem of consciousness • cities as superorganisms • planetary superorganisms • Are we living in a simulation? • Why are we here?

Tali Sharot – The Power of Noticing What Was Always There

Shermer and Sharot discuss: the best day of her life • the evolutionary origins of habituation • habituation at work, at home, and in the bedroom • Why don’t we habituate to extreme pain? • marriage, romance, monogamy, infidelity • depression • depression, happiness, and variety • negativity nias • creativity and habituation disruption • lying and misinformation • illusory truth effect • truth bias • moral progress • preference falsification • pluralistic ignorance.

Ernest Scheyder — The Global Battle to Power Our Lives

Shermer and Scheyder discuss: rare earth metals • lithium, copper, • aluminum and other precious metals • how much rare earth metals will we need by 2050, 2100, and beyond • combatting climate change • electric vehicles • recycling electronic waste • how lithium-ion batteries work • Can renewables completely replace fossil fuels without nuclear? • how mining works in the U.S., China, Chile, Russia, elsewhere • public vs. private ownership of mines • Native American land rights.

Paul Offit — Deciphering Covid Myths and Navigating Our Post-Pandemic World

Shermer and Offit discuss: mRNA vaccines • science gone wrong or part of the long and risky history of medical innovation? • loss of trust in medical and scientific institutions • overall assessment of what went right and wrong • mandates vs. recommendations • economic costs • lab leak hypothesis vs. zoonomic hypothesis • debating anti-vaxxers • treatments • high risk vs. low risk groups • Robert Malone,Joe Rogan, RFKJ, Peter Hotez, Del Bigtree • Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya censored for signing the…

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.

Sandro Galea — How US Public Health Has Strayed From Its Liberal Roots

The Covid-19 response was a crucible of politics and public health—a volatile combination that produced predictably bad results. As scientific expertise became entangled with political motivations, the public-health establishment found itself mired in political encampment. It was, as Sandro Galea argues, a crisis of liberalism: a retreat from the principles of free speech, open debate, and the pursuit of knowledge through reasoned inquiry that should inform the work of public health.

Ronald Lindsay on How the Left’s Dogmas on Race and Equity Harm Liberal Democracy and Invigorate Christian Nationalism

Shermer and Lindsay discuss: identity politics: identity or politics? • woke ideology • overt racism vs. systemic racism • liberalism vs. illiberalism • woke progressive leftists motivations? • Critical Race Theory (CRT) • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) • What is progressive? What is woke? • standpoint epistemology • equality vs. equity • race • class • cancel culture • Christian nationalism.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz — What Determines Who Succeeds in the NBA?

Shermer and Stephens-Davidowitz discuss: why some countries produce so many more NBA players than others • the greatest NBA players adjusted for height • why tall NBA players are worse athletes than short NBA players • How much do NBA coaches matter and what do they do? • In a population of 8 billion today compared to centuries past, where are all the Mozarts, Beethovens, Da Vincis, Newtons, Darwins, etc.?

Jessica Schleider — How to Build Meaningful Moments that Can Transform Your Mental Health

Shermer and Schleider discuss: her own experience with mental illness and eating disorder • 80% of people meet criteria for a mental illness at some point in their life • the goal of therapy • navigating therapy modalities, access, payments, insurance • What prevents people from getting the mental health help they need? • outcome measures to test different therapies • traditional therapy vs. single-session interventions • growth mindset • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) • difference between goals and values…

Katherine Brodsky — How to Find and Free Your Voice in the Age of Outrage

Shermer and Brodsky discuss: growing up Jewish in the Soviet Union and Israel • why liberals (or progressives) no longer defend free speech • cancel culture: data and anecdotes; whether it is an imagined moral panic; social media • free speech law vs. free speech norms • pluralistic ignorance and the spiral of silence • solutions to cancel culture • identity politics • witch crazes and virtue signaling • hate speech and slippery slopes • how to stand up to…

Brian Klaas — Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters

Shermer and Klaas discuss: contingency and necessity/convergence • chance and randomness • complexity and chaos theory • Jorge Luis Borges “The Garden of Forking Paths” • self-organized criticality • limits of probability • frequency- vs. belief-type probability • ceteris paribus, or “all else being equal” • economic forecasting • Holy Grail of Causality • Hard Problem of Social Research • Special Order 191 and the turning point of the Civil War • Hitler, Nazi rise to power in Germany, World…

Chris Anderson — Infectious Generosity: The Ultimate Idea Worth Spreading

Shermer and Anderson discuss: what makes TED successful • power laws and giving • charging vs. giving away • altruism • being good without God • billionaires • how the average person can participate • public vs. private solutions to social problems • donor fatigue.

Paul Halpern — Extra dimensions, Other Worlds, and Parallel Universes

Shermer and Halpern discuss: definitions of universe and types of multiverses • Is the multiverse science, metaphysics, or faith? • theists claim the “multiverse” is just handwaving around the God answer • many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics? • inflationary and Darwinian cosmology • infinity and eternity • multiple dimensions • string theory • cyclical universes • Big Bounce • Anthropic Principle (weak, strong, participatory) • time travel • sliding doors, contingency, and the multiverse.

Michael Shellenberger Explains Government Censorship of Social Media

Michael Shellenberger explains the role of government agencies in social media censorship, his work on the Twitter files, and the differences between independent and mainstream journalism. PLUS: how to deal with the opioid epidemic, what we can do about homelessness, his take on January 6, George Floyd, UFOs and UAPs, and more. Recorded live in Santa Barbara, CA at the Skeptics Society 2023 conference.

Jens Heycke — Multiculturalism and Lessons From the Rwandan Genocide

Shermer and Heycke discuss: • melting pots • culture • multi-culturalism • identity politics • cancel culture • cultural appropriation • Critical Race Theory • Affirmative Action • why group preferences tend to last forever • human nature and factionalism • how official recognition and group preferences exacerbate group divisiveness • how group identification is fluid and contextual • the future of democracy • the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years.

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