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The Michael Shermer Show

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.

Steven Hassan — Combating Cult Mind Control, Freedom of Mind, and The Cult of Trump

Shermer and Hassan discuss: types of cults, their characteristics • cult leader profiles • the influence continuum • mind control • brainwashing • Project MK-ULTRA • Scientology • NXIVM • strip search hoax • social media mind control • neuroscience of mind control • authoritarian mindset • Trump’s mind-control techniques • breaking free of cults.

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.

Daniel Akst on the Pacifists of the Greatest Generation Who Revolutionized Resistance

Shermer and Akst discuss: war • the left (old and new) • religious liberals • American Firsters and Isolationists • cluster of heterodoxy: anti-war/militarism, but also anti-racism, anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, anti-apartheid, anti-power of the state, pro-labor, pro the rights of minorities, individual liberty on matters such as abortion and gender, anti-segregation • internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans into concentration camps • civil disobedience (Thoreau, Garrison, Gandhi) • non-violent protests • moral equivalency • Just War Theory • Military Industrial Complex • moral progress with and without religion • the rise of Christian nationalism and authoritarianism

David Bernstein — Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America

Shermer and Bernstein discuss: the SCOTUS case on affirmative action and race preferences at Harvard and elsewhere • Elizabeth Warren, Tiger Woods, George Zimmerman, Rachel Dolezal, Kamala Harris • BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) • ADOS (American Descendants of Slaves) • the biology and legality of race • the one-drop rule of race classification • the rise of modern racial classification • Hispanic, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Armenian, Cajun, South Asian, Arab, and Iranian categories • American Indians/Native Americans • race classification and reparations • How can we achieve a race-blind society?

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.

Louise Perry — The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: A New Guide to Sex in the 21st Century

Shermer and Perry discuss: What was the sexual revolution? • feminism: first wave, second wave, third wave, and beyond • the evolutionary psychology of sex differences • experiencing self vs. remembered self • individual freedom vs. societal good • monogamy vs. polygamy • marriage vs. domestic partnerships • Why is the government in the marriage business? • BDSM and sexual violence • autogynephilia • trans matters • abortion matters.

Meghan Daum — The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars

Shermer and Daum discuss: unauthorized autobiography • Feminism (first, second, third wave, and beyond) • Was the sexual revolution good or bad (or both) for women? • badassery, problematica, wokescenti, cognoscenti • Gen Xers • Elders • What is a woman? • Sex and Gender • who you identify as vs. who you’re attracted to • Trans • #metoo and #BLM movements • intersectionality • toxic masculinity • wokeness, liberal vs. progressiveness, far left vs. left • cancel culture, and political tribalism.

Todd Kashdan — The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy Effectively

Shermer and Kashdan discuss: how he became an insubordinate rebel in his unusual young life • the effects of a fatherless home on children • the influence of role models • how civil rights movements make progress • the adversarial court system • how juries should think • racialization in America • viewpoint diversity • resisting complacency • the value of non-conformity • influencing the majority (when in the minority) • how to build alliances • how to champion ideas that run counter to traditional thinking • how to unlock the benefits of being in a group of diverse people holding divergent views • how to cultivate curiosity, courage, and independent, critical thinking in youth.

India Thusi on Sex Work, Critical Race Theory, and Moral Progress

Shermer and Thusi discuss: how she gained access to police and sex workers in Johannesburg • what it was like patrolling brothels in Johannesburg • what sex work is, exactly • why sex workers are mostly women and patrons mostly men • why sex work is illegal in many places and whether it should be legal and regulated • the liminal nature of sex work • Critical Race Theory • racism and antiracism • President Barack Obama • her response to Shelby Steele and Jason Hill’s “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy • why we are not living in a post-racial society (yet) and why race matters (still).

Iris Berent — The Blind Storyteller: How We Reason About Human Nature

Shermer and Berent discuss: nature/nurture genes/environment biology/culture • language and innate knowledge • what babies are born knowing • how people reason about human nature • dualism • essentialism • theory of mind • the nature of the self • innate beliefs in the soul and afterlife • free will and determinism • how people think about mental illness and disorders • how one’s theory of human nature effects one’s attitudes about nearly everything.

Nicholas Dirks on Science Denial, Distrust, and Skepticism

Shermer and Dirks discuss: vaccine hesitancy • why antibiotics do not generate the same distrust • vaccines and autism • COVID-19 and its differential effects on people • the lab-leak hypothesis vs. the zoonomic hypothesis for the origin of SARS CoV-2 • Anthony Fauci and the CDC • climate denial • how trust in science has changed over the past century • the politicization of science • how to talk to someone who doesn’t trust science or scientists.

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.

Bethanne Patrick — Book World

Shermer and Patrick discuss: her memoir Life B • trends in treatment of depression and other mental diseases • why memoirs by authors who have suffered traumas and stresses in their lives sell so well • non-fiction, fiction, and quasi-nonfictional fiction • censorship and cancel culture in publishing • why the New York Times bestseller list is so influential • the trial over the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by Penguin Random House over whether it will lead to a monopsony • the future of publishing and book stores • how writing compares to more accessible forms of content such as film or podcasting • what advice she would give to new would-be authors.

Justin Gregg — If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity

Shermer and Gregg discuss: • intelligence • stupidity • dolphins • artificial intelligence • language • rationality • moral systems • comparative thanatology • “causal inference” vs. “learned associations” • humans as “why specialists” • death awareness • why narwhals do not commit genocide • “prognostic myopia” • our “shortsighted farsightedness” as “an extinction-level threat to humanity” • consciousness and sophisticated consciousness: animals and humans • free will • determinism • pleasure vs. happiness vs. purposefulness.

Michael Shermer — Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational

The problem of conspiracism is urgent—arguably more pressing than at any time in our history. In his new book, Conspiracy, out October 25, 2022, Shermer: reviews and integrates evolutionary, psychological, social, cultural, political, and economic conditions that fuel conspiracy theories • presents his original three-tiered theoretical model of Proxy Conspiracism, Tribal Conspiracism, and Constructive Conspiracism • classifies and systematizes conspiracy theories in order to tease apart their different causes • offers his Conspiracy Detection Kit on how to tell if a conspiracy theory is true, false, or undecidable • and suggests how to talk to a conspiracy theorist.

Tim Palmer — The Primacy of Doubt: From Quantum Physics to Climate Change, How the Science of Uncertainty Can Help Us Understand Our Chaotic World

Shermer and Palmer discuss: doubt and skepticism • when doubt slides into denial • uncertainty as a measurement problem vs. inherent in natural systems • contingency and necessity, randomness and law • the butterfly effect • the geometry of chaos • quantum uncertainty • weather forecasting • climate change • pandemics • economic recessions • human decision making and creativity • free will • consciousness, and God.

Alan Blinder — A Monetary and Fiscal History of the United States

Shermer and Blinder discuss: serving on Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers • being the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board • What kind of science is economics? • how one’s political leanings influence cause-and-effect economic theories • the difference between monetary and fiscal policy • a Keynesian approach to economics • inflation, stagflation, recessions, depressions, Bull and Bear markets defined • interest rates • the Federal Reserve • the money supply • What makes money valuable without the gold standard? • COVID relief • deficit spending • boom-and-bust cycles • employment: what’s the right percentage? • income tax: what’s the right percentage? • the best investments to make in the long run • modern monetary theory, and • utility maximizing.

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