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How Science Really Works

If you search the web or look in introductory science textbooks, you will find the hypothetico-deductive (H-D) method often depicted as the scientific method. However, the H-D method is inadequate as a description of the scientific method, especially when it comes to assessing pseudoscientific or other dubious claims. An alternative to the H-D method more […]

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.

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 • what social fitness is and how to exercise it • what most people get wrong about achievement, and more…

Bad Behavioral Science Exposed: Review of The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills by Jesse Singal

There is probably no other scientific discipline in which fads come and go so quickly, and with so much hype, as psychology. In his Quick Fix, Jesse Singal discusses eight different psychological ideas that have been promoted as quick fixes for different social problems. He refers to these as “half-baked” ideas—ideas that may not be 100 percent bunk but which are severely overhyped. This review of Singal’s book discusses the many different flawed studies that derailed psychology for years.

There is Only Entropy: Unifying the Narrative of Science

Entropy keeps the arrow of time moving; today is less ordered than yesterday, and this is certain. If we extrapolate this concept backwards, through our scientific narrative to the origins of the universe, then we must postdict a universe that was once ordered only through its lack of movement, which means it was frozen. But even then, as Galileo once said of the Earth, eppur si muove, but it does move. And if it moves, it creates heat, and understanding that creates a more coherent scientific narrative.

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.

Can’t These People Read?

Dr. Harriet Hall shows how the failure to read medical and health literature carefully and critically leads to a number of cognitive problems, such as correlation is not causation, and personal anecdotes and testimonials don’t count as evidence. We will miss Dr. Hall’s wisdom and encourage readers to visit her website to read her many writings over the years on medical, health, diet, and related topics.

Massimo Pigliucci — How to Live a Good Life and Create a Just Society

Shermer and Pigluicci discuss: his journey from Rome to New York • evolutionary biology • stoic philosophy • can there be a science of meaning and morality? • ultimate questions • desire, action, depression, suicide, anger, anxiety, love, and friendship • practical spiritual exercises • how to react to situations • teaching virtue to politicians • philosophy and politics • character and leadership • the nature of evil.

You’re Not That Big a Star: Using the Science of Crowd Estimation to Debunk Extraordinary Estimates of Mega-Concerts

When people estimate the size of large crowds—from presidents and their inaugural addresses to rock stars and their concert audiences—we know that there can be a lot of blue sky exaggeration in the numbers. But how do professionals estimate crowd sizes using the latest tools of science and mathematics? In this article John D. Van Dyke reveals the secrets to estimating how many people are gathered in any one space.

Suzie Sheehy — The Matter of Everything: How Curiosity, Physics, and Improbable Experiments Changed the World

Shermer and Sheehy discuss: what it’s like being a female physicist in a mostly male field • Does science progress through falsification, confirmation, consensus, or Bayesian reasoning? • atoms, light, Higgs Boson, time, gravity, dark energy, dark matter, string theory, radioactivity • Gold Foil Experiment • cloud chambers • particle accelerators • splitting the atom • Is there a place for God in scientific epistemology? • Is math all there is? Is math universal? • other universes, dimensions, and the multiverse.

Dacher Keltner — Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life

Shermer and Keltner discuss: the death of his brother and how this led to his study of awe • an operational definition of awe • the reliability (or unreliability) of self-report data in social science • how to quantify and measure the experience of awe • What are emotions and how can they be measured? • How has the scientific understanding of emotions changed? • predictors of awe: nature, music, art, dance, movement/exercise, love & friendships • awe in moral beauty • how to train yourself to experience awe • how awe helps heal traumas, grief, and loneliness • mystical experiences, spirituality, and awe restorative justice and awe.

Wisdom of the SkepDoc: Harriet Hall, MD (1945–2023)

All of us at Skeptic magazine—along with those in the larger skeptical and scientific communities—are sad to announce the passing of Harriet Hall, M.D., widely known as the SkepDoc. Michael Shermer always looked forward to editing Harriet’s SkepDoc column, not only because she was such a lucid writer and critical thinker, but because he learned so much from her…

Martin Rees — Can Science Save Us?

Shermer and Rees discuss: existential threats • overpopulation • biodiversity loss • climate change • AI and self-driving cars, robots, and unemployment • his bet with Steven Pinker • his disagreement with Richard Dawkins • how science works as a communal activity • scientific creativity • science communication • science education • why there aren’t more women and people of color in STEM fields • verification vs. falsification • Bayesian reasoning and scientific progress • Model Dependent Realism and the nature of reality Fermi’s Paradox • why he’s an atheist but wants to be buried in the Presbyterian church in which he was raised • mysterian mysteries.

Matthew Cobb — As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age

Shermer and Cobb discuss: objections to genetic engineering (political, religious, cultural) • selective breeding • recombinant DNA • the ethics of genetics • patenting life • gene therapy • gene editing • CRISPR • literature and films on the dangers of genetic engineering • bioweapons • 3 Laws of Behavior Genetics and what people fear about it.

Abducted! Scientific Explanations of the Alien Abduction Experience

Alien abductions are among the most curious and interesting of all human psychological phenomena, and this article explores the different theories that explain from a scientific perspective what, exactly, is going on in someone’s brain when they feel like they’ve been abducted by aliens (assuming, of course, that they’re not actually being abducted by aliens).

Testicle Tanning and Perineal Sunning

Harriet Hall, M.D. examines the evidence that “testicle tanning” or red light therapy increases testosterone levels. She also discusses a related fad: butthole tanning, also known as butt-chugging, but better described as perineal sunning. Why do people fall for these fads? The answer is complex.

Stephon Alexander — Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics

Shermer and Alexander discuss: his journey from Trinidad to the Bronx to professor of physics • what it’s like being Black in a mostly White and Asian field of science • systemic racism and misogyny • how to be an outsider inside a science • how to tell the difference between revolutionary and worthless new ideas • how do laypeople understand whether something is good science or not? • the double-slit experiment • superposition • connections between quantum physics and Eastern mysticism • creativity • What banged the Big Bang? • Are we living in a matrix? • Deepak Chopra’s mind monism • consciousness and the universe.

Neil deGrasse Tyson — Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization

Shermer and Tyson discuss: why he decided to write about social, cultural, and political issues now • conflict and resolution in science and society • moral progress in society and why it happens • meatarians and vegetarians • race and gender • law and order • the principle of interchangeable perspectives • conflicting rights and how to resolve them • Rationalia (Neil’s hypothetical country whose laws are based on rationality) • life and death • how long Neil would like to live • the meaning in life.

Abortion: The Case for Choice

The Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice positions on the contentious abortion issue outline the terms of the debate. In this article Michael Shermer defends the position of choice and women’s reproductive rights as the most moral and rational position, even while acknowledging that Pro-Life proponents have good arguments. Ultimately this issues comes down to conflicting rights, namely those of the unborn fetus to live and those of the mother to choose what is best for her life. As in most matters in life, there are no perfect solutions, only compromises.

Sabine Hossenfelder — Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions

What is time? Does the past still exist? How did the universe begin and how will it end? Do particles think? Was the universe made for us? Why doesn’t anyone ever get younger? Has physics ruled out free will? Will we ever have a theory of everything? To examine these ideas, Shermer speaks with Sabine Hossenfelder, a research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Germany. She has published more than eighty research articles about the foundations of physics, including quantum gravity, physics beyond the standard model, dark matter, and quantum foundations.

For those seeking a sound scientific viewpoint


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