The Michael Shermer Show

The Michael Shermer Show

The Michael Shermer Show is a series of long-form conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

Episodes

May 11, 2021

Astonishingly irrational ideas are spreading. COVID-19 denial, anti-vaxxers compromising public health, conspiracy thinking hijacking minds and inciting mob violence, toxic partisanship cleaving our nations, the return of Flat Earth theory… What the heck is going on? Why is all this happening, and why now? More important, what can we do about it? Does our “right to our opinion” trump our responsibilities? Does the resulting ethos e...

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Disasters are inherently hard to predict. Pandemics, like earthquakes, wildfires, financial crises, and wars, are not normally distributed; there is no cycle of history to help us anticipate the next catastrophe. In this episode, Michael Shermer speaks with one of the world’s most renowned historians, Niall Ferguson, who explains why our ever more bureaucratic and complex systems are making us worse, not better, at handling disaste...

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In their book Science and the Good, professional philosophers James Hunter and Paul Nedelisky trace the origins and development of the centuries-long, passionate, but ultimately failed quest to discover a scientific foundation for morality. The conversation takes a decidedly interesting turn when Drs. Hunter and Nedelisky reveal that they are both theists and that their Christian worldview informs their thinking on moral issues. Th...

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Michael speaks with neuroscientist and literature professor Dr. Angus Fletcher about 25 of the most powerful developments in the history of literature, from ancient Mesopotamia to Elena Ferrante. Fletcher says these literary technologies can alleviate grief, trauma, loneliness, anxiety, numbness, depression, pessimism, and ennui — all while sparking creativity, courage, love, empathy, hope, joy, and positive change. Fletcher is a p...

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Michael Shermer speaks with Nemat Talaat Shafik, Baroness Shafik DBE, known as Minouche Shafik, one of the leading policy experts of our time, about a new and better social contract that recognizes our interdependencies, supports and invests more in each other, and expects more of individuals in return: a rethinking of how we can better support each other to thrive. Shafik avers that no only can every country provide its citizens w...

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In this episode, based on the cover story from Skeptic magazine 26.1 (2021), Michael speaks with University of California professor of physics Brian Keating about: time, infinity, the shape of the universe, the multiverse, quantum gravity, string theory, the laws of nature, and more… Listen to this fascinating episode for free and order a copy of the Skeptic magazine 26.1 to read Keating’s cover story, complete with splendid graphi...

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Join Michael Shermer and Jordan Peterson (bestselling author of 12 Rules for Life) for this extraordinary conversation based on Peterson’s new book Beyond Order. After working for decades as a clinical psychologist and a professor at Harvard and the University of Toronto, Peterson has become one of the world’s most influential public intellectuals. His YouTube videos and podcasts have gathered a worldwide audience of hundreds of mi...

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In this interview, based on her landmark book, Why Trust Science?, historian of science Naomi Oreskes offers a bold and compelling defense of science, revealing why the social character of scientific knowledge is its greatest strength — and the greatest reason we can trust it. Drawing vital lessons from cases where scientists got it wrong, Oreskes shows how consensus is a crucial indicator of when a scientific matter has been settl...

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Political Correctness has formed the basis for a new intolerant mindset, actively policing speech that is deemed offensive or controversial. Rather than confront bad ideas through discussion, it has now become common to intimidate one’s detractors into silence. Taking on board legitimate concerns about how speech can be harmful, Andrew Doyle argues that the alternative — an authoritarian world in which our freedoms are surrendered ...

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In this conversation based on his new book, The Stupidity of War, political scientist John Mueller argues that American foreign policy since 1945 has been one long miscue; most international threats — including during the Cold War — have been substantially exaggerated. The result has been agony and bloviation, unnecessary and costly military interventions that have mostly failed. With international war in decline, complacency and a...

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Synthesizing relativity and quantum theory would be the crowning achievement of science, a profound merging of all the forces of nature into one beautiful, magnificent equation to unlock the deepest mysteries in science. In this episode, Michael Shermer speaks with professor of theoretical physics Michio Kaku about: the Big Bang, black holes, worm holes, the multiverse, time travel, dark energy and dark matter, gravity, string theo...

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Michael Shermer speaks with Jeff Hawkins, cofounder of Numenta: a neuroscience research company, about his new book A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence in which Hawkins explains how simple cells in the brain create intelligence by using maplike structures to build hundreds of thousands of models of everything we know. Listen to this in-depth dialogue about the discoveries that allow Hawkins to answer important questions...

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The concept of free will is profoundly important to our self-understanding, our interpersonal relationships, and our moral and legal practices. If it turns out that no one is ever free and morally responsible, what would that mean for society, morality, meaning, and the law? Just Deserts introduces the concepts central to the debate about free will and moral responsibility by way of an entertaining, rigorous, and sometimes heated p...

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For years, health organizations have preached the same rules for losing weight: restrict your calories, eat less, exercise more. So why doesn’t it work for everyone? The Case for Keto puts the ketogenic diet movement in the necessary historical and scientific perspective. It makes clear the vital misconceptions in how we’ve come to think about obesity and diet. Shermer and Taubes discuss: scientific consensus, nutrition, replicatio...

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“Mine” is one of the first words babies learn. By the time we grow up, the idea of ownership seems natural. But who controls the space behind your airplane seat: you reclining or the squished laptop user behind? Why is plagiarism wrong, but it’s okay to knock-off a recipe or a dress design? Mine! explains these puzzles and many more.

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Dr. Shermer speaks with John McWhorter about his new online book on how the antiracism movement poses a threat to progressive America. Shermer and McWhorter discuss: antiracism as a religion; the 3 waves of antiracism; the antiracism trinity: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi; white fragility; Black Lives Matter; systemic racism (incarceration rates, housing, jobs, income, etc.); reparations; George Floyd, Tony Timpa...

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In this thought-provoking conversation on life, the universe, and everything, Neil deGrasse Tyson tackles the world’s most important philosophical questions about the universe with wit, wisdom, and cutting-edge science. For science geeks, space and physics nerds, and all who want to understand their place in the universe, this enlightening new book offers a unique take on the mysteries and curiosities of the cosmos, building on ric...

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Have you heard that language is violence and that science is sexist? Have you read that certain people shouldn’t practice yoga or cook Chinese food? Or been told that being obese is healthy, that there is no such thing as biological sex, or that only white people can be racist? Are you confused by these ideas, and do you wonder how they have managed so quickly to challenge the very logic of Western society?

In this wide-ranging con...

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In episode 162 of The Michael Shermer Show, Michael speaks with one of the nation’s preeminent experts on economic policy, Benjamin Friedman, about his new book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism —   a major reassessment of the foundations of modern economic thinking that explores the profound influence of an until-now unrecognized force — religion.

Critics of contemporary economics complain that belief in free markets — among eco...

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For centuries, scientists and society cast moral judgments on anyone deemed mentally ill, confining many to asylums. In episode 161 of The Michael Shermer Show, Dr. Shermer speaks with anthropologist Dr. Roy Richard Grinker about his book Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness which chronicles the progress and setbacks in the struggle against mental-illness stigma — from the 18th century, through America’...

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