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 25, 2024 91 mins

In recent years, condemnations of racism in America have echoed from the streets to corporate boardrooms. At the same time, politicians and commentators fiercely debate racism’s very existence. And so, our conversations about racial inequalities remain muddled. In Metaracism, Brown University Professor of Africana Studies Tricia Rose cuts through the noise with a bracing and invaluable new account of what systemic racism actually i...

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Those who are pursuing social justice too often fail to incorporate the insights of sociology, and when they do make use of sociology, they often draw heavily from claims that are highly contested, unsupported by the evidence, or outright false. This book shows why learning to think sociologically can help us to think better about social justice, pointing us toward possibilities for social change while also calling attention to our...

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May 18, 2024 75 mins

Sean Carroll is creating a profoundly new approach to sharing physics with a broad audience, one that goes beyond analogies to show how physicists really think. He cuts to the bare mathematical essence of our most profound theories, explaining every step in a uniquely accessible way.

Quantum field theory is how modern physics describes nature at its most profound level. Starting with the basics of quantum mechanics itself, Sean Car...

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As a Hillary voter, a New York Times reporter, and frequent attendee at her local gay bars, Nellie Bowles fit right in with her San Francisco neighbors and friends—until she started questioning whether the progressive movement she knew and loved was actually helping people. When her colleagues suggested that asking such questions meant she was “on the wrong side of history,” Bowles did what any reporter worth her salt would do: she...

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May 11, 2024 74 mins

In Then I Am Myself the World, Christof Koch explores the only thing we directly experience: consciousness. At the book’s heart is integrated-information theory, the idea that the essence of consciousness is the ability to exert causal power over itself, to be an agent of change. Koch investigates the physical origins of consciousness in the brain and how this knowledge can be used to measure consciousness in natural and artificial...

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At its simplest, Bayes’s theorem describes the probability of an event, based on prior knowledge of conditions that might be related to the event. But in Everything Is Predictable, Tom Chivers lays out how it affects every aspect of our lives. He explains why highly accurate screening tests can lead to false positives and how a failure to account for it in court has put innocent people in jail. A cornerstone of rational thought, ma...

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For thousands of years, humans have wondered whether we’re alone in the cosmos. Now, for the first time, we have the technology to investigate. But once you look for life elsewhere, you realize it is not so simple. How do you find it over cosmic distances? What actually is life?

As founding director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger has built a team of tenacious scientists from many disci...

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April 30, 2024 108 mins

We all want to be happier, but our brains often get in the way. When we’re too stuck in our heads we obsess over our inadequacies, compare ourselves with others and fail to see the good in our lives. In The Science of Happiness, world-leading psychologist and happiness expert Bruce Hood demonstrates that the key to happiness is not self-care but connection. He presents seven simple but life-changing lessons to break negative though...

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April 27, 2024 71 mins

Robin Reames breaks down the major techniques of rhetoric, pulling back the curtain on how politicians, journalists, and “journalists” convince us to believe what we believe—and to talk, vote, and act accordingly.

Understanding these techniques helps us avoid being manipulated by authority figures who don’t have our best interests at heart. It also grants us rare insight into the values that shape our own beliefs.

Reames and Sherme...

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We push ourselves 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.

Achievement is the completion of the task imposed from outside.

Accomplishment, by contrast, is the end point of an engulfing activity one engages in for its own sake.

Sherm...

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Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen investigated this ticking-clock scenario, based on dozens of exclusive new interviews with military and civilian experts who have built the weapons, been privy to the response plans, and are responsible for those decisions should they need to be made.

Shermer and Jacobsen discuss: surviving a nuclear explosion • what happens in a nuclear bomb explosion • consequences of a nuclear exchange • Ge...

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April 16, 2024 105 mins

Nick Bostrom’s previous book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, changed the global conversation on AI and became a New York Times bestseller. It focused on what might happen if AI development goes wrong.

But what if things go right?

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 parado...

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April 13, 2024 100 mins

When Robert Zubrin published his classic book The Case for Mars a quarter century ago, setting foot on the Red Planet seemed a fantasy. Today, manned exploration is certain, and as Zubrin affirms in The New World on Mars, so too is colonization. From the astronautical engineer venerated by NASA and today’s space entrepreneurs, here is what we will achieve on Mars and how.

Shermer and Zubrin discuss: why not start with the moon? • w...

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April 9, 2024 73 mins

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.

Eve ...

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Thousands of religions have adherents today, and countless more have existed throughout history. What accounts for this astonishing diversity?

This extraordinarily ambitious and comprehensive book demonstrates how evolutionary systematics and philosophy can yield new insight into the development of organized religion. Lance Grande―a leading evolutionary systematist―examines the growth and diversification of hundreds of religions ov...

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In an era of terrifying unpredictability, we race to address complex crises with quick, sure algorithms, bullet points, and tweets. How could we find the clarity and vision so urgently needed today by being unsure? Uncertain is about the triumph of doing just that. A scientific adventure tale set on the front lines of a volatile era, this epiphany of a book by award-winning author Maggie Jackson shows us how to skillfully confront ...

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As one of the few black students in his philosophy program at Columbia University years ago, Coleman Hughes wondered why his peers seemed more pessimistic about the state of American race relations than his own grandparents–who lived through segregation. The End of Race Politics is the culmination of his years-long search for an answer.

Coleman Hughes is a writer, podcaster and opinion columnist who specializes in issues related to...

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Order the Artificial Intelligence issue of SKEPTIC magazine at
https://www.skeptic.com/magazine/archives/29.1/ (available in print or digital format).

Looking ahead to the 2024 election, most Americans sense that something is deeply wrong with our democracy. We face extreme polarization, increasingly problematic candidates, and a government that can barely function, let alone address urgent challenges. Maxwell Stearns has been a co...

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In virtually every way that can be measured, Gen Z’s mental health is worse than that of previous generations. Youth suicide rates are climbing, antidepressant prescriptions for children are common, and the proliferation of mental health diagnoses has not helped the staggering number of kids who are lonely, lost, sad and fearful of growing up. What’s gone wrong with America’s youth?

In Bad Therapy, bestselling investigative journal...

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March 19, 2024 96 mins

The Holocaust is much discussed, much memorialized, and much portrayed. But there are major aspects of its history that have been overlooked.

Spanning the entirety of the Holocaust, this sweeping history deepens our understanding. Dan Stone—Director of the Holocaust Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London—reveals how the idea of “industrial murder” is incomplete: many were killed where they lived in the most brut...

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