Science Salon is a series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, scholars, and thinkers, about the most important issues of our time.
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In the final minutes of the final lecture of Dr. Shermer's final semester at Chapman a student asked what practical lessons for life he might share with them. Dr. Shermer offered as much as he could think of off the top of his head, but since he has researched and written a fair amount on this topic over the decades he sat down and wrote out a final lecture here, not only for his students but for anyone who is interested in knowing what tools science and reason can provide for how to live a good life and how to deal with entropy, problems, setbacks and obstacles, aka normal life. Here are the ten lessons… The First Law of Life To Thine Own Self Be True Be Antifragile Be Self-Disciplined Because Action is Character Don't be a Victim Don't Eat the Marshmallow Directing Your Future Self Be Your Own Financial Advisor Build Strong Social Networks Find Your Meaning and Purpose in Life
Shermer and Skousen discuss: whether economics is politicized • Adam Smith and what he really said • how the economy really works • fiat money vs. gold standard money • inflation and what to do about it • experimental economics • regulation on capitalism • what the Fed does (or should do) • Modern Monetary Theory • bitcoin/cryptocurrency • monopolies, duopolies, and market capture • antitrust, trustbusting • What's wrong with free market capitalism? • money, happiness, and meaningfulness. Mark Skousen is a Presidential Fellow and the Doti-Spogli Endowed Chair of Free Enterprise at Chapman University. He has a BA, MA, and Ph.D. in economics (George Washington University, 1977). In 2018, Mr. Steve Forbes awarded him the Triple Crown in Economics for his work in theory, history, and education. He has taught economics, business and finance at Columbia Business School and Columbia University. He has worked for the government (CIA), non-profits (president of FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education), and been a consultant to IBM and other Fortune 500 companies. He is the author of over 25 books, including The Making of Modern Economics and The Maxims of Wall Street. He has been editor in chief of an award-winning investment newsletter, Forecasts & Strategies, since 1980. He has written for the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine. He produces “FreedomFest, the world's largest gathering of free minds,” every July in Las Vegas and other cities. He and his wife have five children and eight grandchildren, and have lived in three countries and visited 77. Influenced by his work The Structure of Production(NYU Press, 1990), the federal government began publishing a broader, more accurate measure of the economy, Gross Output (GO), every quarter along with GDP. It is the first macro statistic of the economy to be published quarterly since GDP was invented in the 1940s. His books can be found at skousenbooks.com. His website is markskousen.com.
Have you ever wondered why Bernie Madoff thought he could brazenly steal his clients' money? Or why investors were so easily duped by Elizabeth Holmes? Or how courageous people like Jeffrey Wigand are willing to become whistleblowers and put their careers on the line? Fraud is everywhere, and it is costly. In Fool Me Once, renowned forensic accounting expert Kelly Richmond Pope shows fraud in action, uncovering what makes perps tick, victims so gullible, and whistleblowers so morally righteous. Shermer and Pope discuss: SBF and FTX • Bernie Madoff • The Tinder Swindler • gullibility • intentional perps, accidental perps, and righteous perps • innocent bystanders and organizational targets • accidental whistleblowers, noble whistleblowers, and vigilante whistleblowers • identity theft • IRS scams • doping in sports • Frank Abagnale Jr. • Edward Snowden and Julian Assange as righteous perps • Daniel Ellsberg as a noble whistleblower • Phil Zimbardo and The Lucifer Effect • how to tell if you have been a victim of financial fraud. Kelly Richmond Pope is the Barry Jay Epstein Endowed Professor of Forensic Accounting at DePaul University in Chicago. Pope's research on executive misconduct culminated in directing and producing the award-winning documentary, All the Queen's Horses, which explores the largest municipal fraud in U.S. history. In 2020 the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and CPA Practice Advisor named Pope as one of the twenty-five Most Powerful Women in Accounting. Her new book is Fool Me Once: Scams, Stories and Secrets from the Trillion-Dollar Fraud Industry.
The United States is currently home to six generations of people. With her clear-eyed and insightful voice, Twenge explores what the Silents and Boomers want out of the rest of their lives; how Gen X-ers are facing middle age; the ideals of Millennials as parents and in the workplace; and how Gen Z has been changed by COVID, among other fascinating topics. Shermer and Twenge discuss: untangling interacting causal variables (age, gender, race, religion, politics, SES, big events, slow trends, time-period effects, and generational effects) • fuzzy sets/conceptual categories • how historical events effect generations: the Great Depression, WWII, the Cold War and its end, AIDS, 9/11, The Great Recession, Covid-19, #metoo, #BLM, trans, AI • how long-term trends effect generations • technology as a driver of generational differences • civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, trans rights • abortion and reproductive choice • education • religion • marriage, children, home ownership, sex, birthrates, divorce • happiness, meaningfulness, purpose • mental health. Jean M. Twenge, PhD, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, is the author of more than a hundred scientific publications and several books based on her research, including Generations, iGen, and Generation Me. Her research has been covered in Time, The Atlantic, Newsweek, the New York Times, USA TODAY, and the Washington Post. She has also been featured on Today, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, CBS This Morning, and NPR. She lives in San Diego with her husband and three daughters.
How do gods and spirits come to feel vividly real to people — as if they were standing right next to them? Humans tend to see supernatural agents everywhere, as the cognitive science of religion has shown. But it isn't easy to maintain a sense that there are invisible spirits who care about you. In How God Becomes Real, acclaimed anthropologist and scholar of religion Tanya M. Luhrmann argues that people must work incredibly hard to make gods real. Does this effort help explain the enduring power of faith? Shermer and Luhrmann discuss: the anthropology of religion • what it means when people say they “hear the voice of God” or are “walking with God” • normal “voices within” vs. hallucinations and psychoses • mystical experiences • anomalous psychological experiences • sleep paralysis and other cognitive anomalies • belief in angels and demons • absorption and religious beliefs • prayer vs. meditation vs. mindfulness • sensed presences • why people believe in God • empirical truths, religious truths, mythic truths • how people come to religious belief vs. how they leave religion • theodicy • magic and superstition • witches and witchcraft • shamans and shamanism. Tanya Marie Luhrmann is the Albert Ray Lang Professor at Stanford University, where she teaches anthropology and psychology. Her books include When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God and How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others. She has written for the New York Times, and her work has been featured in the New Yorker and other magazines. She lives in Stanford, California.
In this special episode of the podcast, Michael Shermer talks about: why race still matters why race shouldn't matter racism BLM (Black Lives Matter), CRT (Critical Race Theory), DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Anti-bias training the Implicit Association Test and if it measures unconscious racism race and IQ and why such group differences are environmental and not genetic how we can achieve a post-race world.
It's become fashionable to argue that free will is a fiction: that we humans are in the thrall of animal urges and unconscious biases and only think that we are choosing freely. In Freely Determined, research psychologist Kennon Sheldon argues that this perception is not only wrong but also dangerous. Shermer and Sheldon discuss: definitions of free will, determinism, compatibilism, libertarian free will • dualism • reductionism, materialism, predetermination, and epiphenomenalism • Christian List's three capacities for free will • AI, Star Trek's Data, sentience and consciousness, ChatGPT, GPT-4 • how what people believe about free will and determinism influences their behaviors • the case for hard determinism • brain injuries, tumors, addictions, and other “determiners” of behavior • emergence • symbolic self • System 1 vs. System 2 thinking • Experiencing Self vs. Remembered Self • subjective well-being and happiness. Kennon M. Sheldon is professor of psychology at the University of Missouri. He is one of the founding researchers of positive psychology, a fellow of the American Psychological Association, and a recipient of the Templeton Foundation Positive Psychology Prize. He lives in Columbia, Missouri. He is the author of numerous scientific papers and scholarly books, including Stability of Happiness: Theories and Evidence on Whether Happiness Can Change; Designing the Future of Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward; Current Directions in Psychological Science; and Self-Determination Theory in the Clinic. His new book integrates all this research into a popular trade book Freely Determined: What the New Psychology of the Self Teaches Us About How to Live.
Christopher Hitchens was for many years considered one of the fiercest and most eloquent left-wing polemicists in the world. But on much of today's left, he's remembered as a defector, a warmonger, and a sellout—a supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who traded his left-wing principles for neoconservatism after the September 11 attacks. In How Hitchens Can Save the Left, Matt Johnson argues that this easy narrative gets Hitchens exactly wrong. Hitchens was a lifelong champion of free inquiry, humanism, and universal liberal values. He was an internationalist who believed all people should have the liberty to speak and write openly, to be free of authoritarian domination, and to escape the arbitrary constraints of tribe, faith, and nation. He was a figure of the Enlightenment and a man of the left until the very end, and his example has never been more important. Shermer and Johnson discuss: Hitchens on free expression, identity politics, radicalism, interventionism, authoritarianism, patriotism, internationalism, America and Liberalism, reparations, religion, and death • identity politics • hostility to free speech • why Hitch did not become a neoconservative, warmonger, or imperialist • Enlightenment Liberalism • Trump and the division of the right • Hitchens on the precursors to Trump • Putin and Russian nationalism. Matt Johnson writes for Haaretz, Quillette, American Purpose, South China Morning Post, The Bulwark, Areo, Arc Digital, RealClearDefense, The Kansas City Star, and many other publications. His new book is How Hitchens Can Save the Left: Rediscovering Fearless Liberalism in an Age of Counter-Enlightenment.
In this special episode of the Michael Shermer Show Dr. Shermer comments on current events surrounding trans matters and reads his in-depth essay on the subject, originally published as one of his regularly Skeptic columns on Substack.
The democratic ideal demands that the citizenry think critically about matters of public import. Yet many Democrats and Republicans in the United States have fallen short of that standard because political tribalism motivates them to acquire, perceive and evaluate political information in a biased manner. The result is an electorate that is more extreme, hostile and willing to reject unfavorable democratic outcomes. Shermer and Redmond discuss: why we have political duopoly (Duverger's law) • parties vs. policies • Are we living in a post-truth, fake-news, alternative facts world? • How do we know political polarization is worse now than in the past? • acquiring, perceiving, and evaluating political information • evaluating: false political information, political numbers and arguments, claims of rigged election • whataboutism • cognitive responsibilities of citizenship • cognitive biases • political polarization • myside bias • numeracy vs. innumeracy • solutions to the polarization problem. Timothy J. Redmond received his PhD in political science from the University at Buffalo. He is an award-winning educator and author of over one hundred articles on critical thinking and politics. He is a professor at Daemen University where he teaches a political science and history course for education students.
Paranoid about the “ums” and “uhs” that pepper your presentations? Bewildered by “hella” or the meteoric rise of “so”? Can the word “dude” help people bond across social divides? Why are we always trying to make our intensifiers ever more intense? Are these language tics, habits, and developments in our speech a sign of cultural and linguistic degeneration? Fridland weaves together history, psychology, science, and laugh-out-loud anecdotes to explain why we speak the way we do today, and how that impacts what our kids may be saying tomorrow. Shermer and Fridland discuss: Okay, Boomer language • accents • ChatGPT • gender pronouns • gender differences in language use • forensic language analysis • evolution of language • why children learn language naturally but must be taught to read and write • literature, film, and TV's influence on language use • cancel culture and taboo language • language and identity politics • y'all, contractions, and other language shortcuts • tracking human migrations by language, and vice versa • Fargo, and more. Valerie Fridland is a professor of linguistics in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. She writes a popular language blog on Psychology Today called “Language in the Wild,” and is also a professor for The Great Courses series.
In the summer of 1942, Stanley Lovell, a renowned industrial chemist, received a mysterious order to report to an unfamiliar building in Washington, D.C. When he arrived, he was led to a barren room where he waited to meet the man who had summoned him. Lovell became the head of a secret group of scientists who developed dirty tricks for the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. Their inventions included bat bombs, suicide pills, fighting knives, silent pistols, and camouflaged explosives. Moreover, they forged documents for undercover agents, plotted the assassination of foreign leaders, and performed truth drug experiments on unsuspecting subjects. Shermer and Lisle discuss: • why countries have spy agencies • from COI to OSS to CIA • Wild Bill Donavan • Stanley Lovell as Professor Moriarty • Vannevar Bush • Division 19 • George Kistiakowsky and the Aunt Jemima explosive weapon • cat bombs, bat bombs, rat bomb, suicide pills, fighting knives, silent pistols, camouflaged explosives, A-pills, B-pills, E-pills, L-pills • psychological warfare • heavy water and nuclear weapons • Werner Heisenberg, Moe Berg, and Carl Eifler • biological and chemical warfare • Operation Paperclip • truth drugs • Sidney Gottlieb, LSD, and MKULTRA (Bluebird, Artichoke). John Lisle is a historian of science and the American intelligence community. He earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas and has taught courses on U.S. history, cyberspace, and information warfare at the University of Texas, Louisiana Tech University, and Austin Community College. His writing has appeared in Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, Skeptic, The Journal of Intelligence History, and Physics in Perspective. The Dirty Tricks Department is his first book. In Vol. 25, No. 2 of Skeptic he wrote about MKULTRA, the CIA program in search of mind control technology.
Shermer and Alderson-Day discuss the psychologist's journey to understand the phenomenon of sensed-presence: the disturbing feeling that someone or something is there when we are alone. Using contemporary psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, and philosophy, Alderson-Day attempts to understand how this experience is possible. Is it a hallucination, a change in the brain, or something else? The journey to understand takes us to meet explorers, mediums, and robots, and step through real, imagined, and virtual worlds. Ben Alderson-Day is an Associate Professor in Psychology and a Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing at Durham University. A specialist in atypical cognition and mental health, his work spans cognitive neuroscience, psychiatry, philosophy, and child development. His new book is Presence: The Strange Science and True Stories of the Unseen Other.
Shermer and the Posners discuss: the nature and banality of evil • Are we all potential Nazis? • Mengele, Eichmann, Himmler, Hitler • The Pharmacist of Auschwitz • the Holocaust • the Stanford Prison Experiment • Milgram's shock experiments on obedience to authority • Abu Ghraib and other war crimes • restorative justice • the opioid crisis • the Vatican and the future of Catholicism. Gerald Posner is an award-winning journalist who has written twelve books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. His 2015 book, God's Bankers, a two-hundred-year history of the finances of the Vatican, was an acclaimed New York Times bestseller. Posner has written for many national magazines and papers, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time, and he has been a regular contributor to NBC, the History Channel, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and FOX News. His other books include Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, Mengele: The Complete Story, Hitler's Children: Sons and Daughters of leaders of the Third Reich Talk About Themselves and Their Fathers, Warlords of Crime: Chinese Secret Societies — the New Mafia, and Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, author Trisha Posner. Patricia Posner is a British-born writer who has collaborated with her husband, the author Gerald Posner, on twelve non-fiction books, including Mengele: The Complete Story — a biography of Dr. Josef Mengele; Hitler's Children — a 1991 collection of interviews with the children of Nazi perpetrators; and most recently, God's Bankers — a financial history of the Roman Catholic Church. Her work has appeared, among other places, in the Miami Herald, The Daily Beastand Salon. She lives in Miami Beach. Her book, The Pharmacist of Auschwitz, is the little known story of Victor Capesius, a Bayer pharmaceutical salesman from Romania who, at the age of 35, joined the Nazi SS in 1943 and quickly became the chief pharmacist at the largest death camp, Auschwitz. Based in part on previously classified documents, Patricia Posner exposes Capesius's reign of terror at the camp, his escape from justice, fueled in part by his theft of gold ripped from the mouths of corpses, and how a handful of courageous survivors and a single brave prosecutor finally brought him to trial for murder twenty years after the end of the war.
Shermer and Brin discuss: AI and AGI • are they existential threats? • the alignment problem • Large Language Models • ChatGPT, GPT-4, GPT-5, and beyond • the Future of Life Institute's Open Letter calling for a pause on “giant AI experiments” • Asilomar AI principles • Eliezer Yudkowsky's Time OpEd: “Shut it All Down” • laws and ethics. David Brin earned a Bachelor's degree in astronomy from Caltech, a Master's in electrical engineering from UC San Diego, and a PhD in astronomy from UC San Diego. From 1983 to 1986 he was a postdoc research fellow at the California Space Institute at UC San Diego, where he also helped establish the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. An advisor to NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program, David appears frequently on shows such as Nova, The Universe and Life After People, speaking about science and future trends. His first non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. His second nonfiction book is Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood. He is best known for his science fiction, for which he has won numerous major awards, including the Hugo, Locus, Campbell, and Nebula Awards. His novel The Postman was adapted into a feature film starring Kevin Costner. He even has a minor planet named after him: 5748 Davebrin. He has written a number of articles on Artificial Intelligence, most recently in response to the call for a moratorium on AI research by many leading AI researchers and scientists, which he titled “The Only Way Out of the AI Dilemma.” His website is davidbrin.com.
Perhaps the biggest question Stephen Hawking tried to answer in his extraordinary life was how the universe could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life. In order to solve this mystery, Hawking studied the Big Bang origin of the universe, but his early work ran into a crisis when the math predicted many big bangs producing a multiverse — countless different universes, most of which would be far too bizarre to harbor life. Holed up in the theoretical physics department at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking and his friend and collaborator Thomas Hertog worked on this problem for twenty years, developing a new theory of the cosmos that could account for the emergence of life. Shermer and Hertog discuss: what it was like working with Stephen Hawking • Darwinian model of cosmology • time • What banged the Big Bang? • cosmic inflation and multiple universes • how to reconcile Einstein's relativity theory of gravity and quantum theory • Hawking's no-boundary theory • why the universe appears designed • Feynman's sum over histories approach to quantum physics • Is there purpose in the cosmos? • Why is there something rather than nothing? Thomas Hertog is an internationally renowned cosmologist who was for many years a close collaborator of the late Stephen Hawking. He received his doctorate from the University of Cambridge and is currently professor of theoretical physics at the University of Leuven, where he studies the quantum nature of the Big Bang. He lives with his wife and their four children in Bousval, Belgium.
For many of us, the great scientific discoveries of the modern age — the Big Bang, evolution, quantum physics, relativity — point to an existence that is bleak, devoid of meaning, pointless. But in The Sacred Depths of Nature, eminent biologist Ursula Goodenough shows us that the scientific world view need not be a source of despair. Indeed, it can be a wellspring of solace and hope. 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. Ursula Goodenough is Professor Emerita of Biology at Washington University. One of America's leading cell biologists, she is the author of a bestselling textbook on genetics, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has served as President of the American Society of Cell Biology and of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. She lives in Chilmark, Massachusetts, on Martha's Vineyard. Her book, The Sacred Depths of Nature: How Life Has Emerged and Evolved, is now in a second edition. She currently serves as president of the Religious Naturalist Association.
We have calendars to mark time, communal spaces to bring us together, bells to signal hours of contemplation, oﬃcial archives to record legacies, the wisdom of sages read aloud, weekly, to map out the right way to live ― in kindness, justice, morality. These rhythms and structures of society were all once set by religion. Now, for many, religion no longer runs the show. So how then to celebrate milestones? Find rules to guide us? Figure out which texts can focus our attention but still oﬀer space for inquiry, communion, and the chance to dwell for a dazzling instant in what can't be said? Where, really, are truth and beauty? The answer, says historian and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht in her new book, The Wonder Paradox: Embracing the Weirdness of Existence and the Poetry of Our Lives, is in poetry. Shermer and Hecht discuss: awe and wonder • science and religion • the new atheists • humanism and atheism • secular Judaism • replacing religion, with what? • the original meaning of liturgy and why it's still important • rituals for atheists • how to cope with loss, death, and grief • what to say at weddings and funerals • Alvy's Error (the universe is expanding but Brooklyn is not) • what we do in the hear-and-now matters, whether or not there is a hereafter (which there probably isn't) • love. Jennifer Michael Hecht, a historian and poet, is the award-winning and bestselling author of the histories Doubt, Stay, The Happiness Myth, and The End of the Soul. Her poetry books include Who Said, The Next Ancient World, and Funny. She earned her PhD in history from Columbia University and teaches in New York City. Her new book is The Wonder Paradox: Embracing the Weirdness of Existence and the Poetry of Our Lives.
You'll find nearly everything the Bible has to say about the end in the Book of Revelation: a mystifying prophecy filled with bizarre symbolism, violent imagery, mangled syntax, confounding contradictions, and very firm ideas about the horrors that await us all. But whether you understand the book as a literal description of what will soon come to pass, interpret it as a metaphorical expression of hope for those suffering now, or only recognize its highlights from pop culture, what you think Revelation reveals…is almost certainly wrong. In Armageddon, acclaimed New Testament authority Bart D. Ehrman delves into the most misunderstood — and possibly the most dangerous — book of the Bible, exploring the horrifying social and political consequences of expecting an imminent apocalypse. Shermer and Ehrman discuss: Ehrman's religious journey • Who wrote the Bible and why? • how to read the Bible and the book of Revelation • Who wrote Revelation and why? • why Jesus spoke in parables • why worry about climate change if the world is going to end soon? • David Koresh and Waco • Reagan and end times politics • how Jesus became a capitalist and militarist • faith healers, televangelists, and other Christian con artists • Christian ethics and what Jesus really said about the poor and needy. Bart D. Ehrman is a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity and a Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The author of six New York Times bestsellers, he has written or edited more than thirty books, including Misquoting Jesus, How Jesus Became God, The Triumph of Christianity, Did Jesus Exist?, God's Problem, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, and Heaven and Hell. Ehrman has also created nine popular audio and video courses for The Great Courses. His books have been translated into 27 languages, with over two million copies and courses sold. His new book is Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says About the End.
On his 68th birthday, Kevin Kelly began to write down for his young adult children some things he had learned about life that he wished he had known earlier. To his surprise, Kelly had more to say than he thought, and kept adding to the advice over the years, compiling a life's wisdom into the pages of his book: Excellent Advice for Living. Shermer and Kelly discuss: protopian progress • ChatGPT • artificial intelligence; an existential threat? • evolution • cultural progress • self-driving cars • innovation • social media • putting an end to war • compound interest and the long term effect of small changes • why you don't want to be a billionaire • beliefs and reason • setting unreasonable goals • persistence as key to success • probabilities and statistics, not algebra and calculus • investing: buy and hold • how to fully become yourself. Kevin Kelly helped launch and edit Wired magazine. He has written for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. His previous books include What Technology Wants, and The Inevitable, a New York Times bestseller. He is known for his technological optimism. Currently he is a Senior Maverick at Wired and lives in Pacifica, California.
Amanda Knox spent four years in an Italian prison for a crime she did not commit. In the fall of 2007, the 20-year-old college coed left Seattle to study abroad in Italy, but her life was shattered when her roommate was murdered in their apartment. After a controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011, an appeals court overturned the decision and vacated the murder charge. Free at last, she returned home to the U.S., where she remained silent until she released the memoir of her ordeal, Waiting to Be Heard. Unfortunately, after the publication of her book she was tried and convicted again in an Italian court, only to see that conviction overturned by the Italian Supreme Court. She cannot be tried again, but in the court of public opinion she has been on trial since that fatal day in 2007. Here she shares with listeners her story and all she has learned from her experiences and what lessons we can all take from adversity.
The world is rapidly transforming into an experience economy as people increasingly crave extraordinary experiences. Experience designers, marketers, entertainment producers, and retailers have long sought to fill this craving. Paul Zak says there's a scientific formula to consistently create extraordinary experiences, and that the data show that those who use this formula increase the impact of experiences tenfold. Shermer and Zak discuss: neuroeconomics, neuromanagement, and neuromarketing • Zak's work with the CIA and DARPA • immersion and how is it quantified (with a formula) • monotony of the mundane • the ordinary and extraordinary • peak-end storytelling • immersion in advertising, entertainment, education, attractions, and retail • what makes a great movie or successful unscripted TV show • novelty • sensitivity training programs in universities and corporations • how to give a TED talk • immersion and political candidates • marriage and immersion • The Bachelor: Ben's season • happiness, flourishing, meaningfulness, purposefulness and immersion. Paul Zak is a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University. He is ranked in the top 0.3 percent of most-cited scientists with over 170 published papers and more than 18,000 citations. He helped start several interdisciplinary fields, including neuroeconomics, neuromanagement, and neuromarketing. Paul is a regular TED speaker, four-time tech entrepreneur, and corporate consultant. He frequently appears in the media, including Good Morning America, the BBC, NBC's The Today Show, CNN, and Fox & Friends. His groundbreaking research has been reported in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, The Economist, Scientific American, Forbes, and many other publications.
Why do we feel like in order to be productive, happy, or good, we must sacrifice everything else? Is it possible to feel all three at once? Without even knowing it, we're doing things everyday to sabotage ourselves and our societies, habits that prevent us from optimizing long term happiness. Where most books imagine solutions that, when enacted, fail to fundamentally improve our lives, Jim Davies grounds his research in cognitive science to show you not only what works, but how much it works. Being the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are shows us how we can use science to become our best selves, using resources we already have within our own brains. Shermer and Davies discuss: • an operational definition of the “good life” or “happiness” or “well being” • utilitarianism vs. deontology vs. virtue ethics • effective altruism • marriage and children • objective moral values • Do we have a moral obligation to help those who cannot help themselves? • Does America have a moral obligation to help oppressed peoples in dictatorships? • immigration • abortion • the welfare state • prostitution • reparations. Jim Davies is a full professor at the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University and the School of Computer Science. He is the director of the Science of Imagination Laboratory and he co-hosts, along with Dr. Kim Hellemans, the podcast Minding the Brain. He is the author of Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe; Imagination: The Science of Your Mind's Greatest Power, and his new book Being the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are: The Science of a Better You. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.
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… Marc Schulz is the associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and the Sue Kardas PhD 1971 Chair in Psychology at Bryn Mawr College. He also directs the Data Science Program and previously chaired the psychology department and Clinical Developmental Psychology PhD program at Bryn Mawr. Dr. Schulz received his BA from Amherst College and his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a practicing therapist with postdoctoral training in health and clinical psychology at Harvard Medical School. His new book, co-authored with Robert Waldinger, is The Good Life: Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.
How does the brain — a three-pound gelatinous mass — give rise to intelligence and conscious experience? Was Freud right that we are all plagued by forbidden sexual desires? What is the function of emotions such as disgust, gratitude, and shame? Renowned psychologist Paul Bloom answers these questions and many more in Psych, his riveting new book about the science of the mind. Shermer and Bloom discuss: neuroscience • human nature • religion • souls • consciousness • Freud • sex and desire • Skinner • development • language • perception • memory • rationality • appetites • differences and disorders • the good life • happiness. Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, and the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University. His research explores the psychology of morality, identity, and pleasure. Bloom is the recipient of multiple awards and honors, including, most recently, the million-dollar Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize. He has written for scientific journals such as Natureand Science, and for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic Monthly. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Against Empathy, Just Babies, How Pleasure Works, Descartes' Baby, The Sweet Spot, and Psych: The Story of the Human Mind.
Shermer and Moran discuss: her dysfunctional family background • her boyfriend who pimped her • the women who sell sex and the men who buy it • why other prostitutes have attacked her • agency and volition in prostitution: women and men • why “prostituted” as something done to women (instead of choosing it)? • what she thought about when having prostituted sex • drugs, depression, and suicide as responses to prostitution • the myths of prostitution • feminism and prostitution • how she got out of prostitution • the harm in consenting adult women selling their bodies for sex • what should be done about prostitution, if anything? Rachel Moran is the Director of International Policy and Advocacy for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE, a leading non-partisan organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography). Her work has been endorsed by Jane Fonda, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and many others. Her bestselling memoir, Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution, is regarded by legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon as “the best work by anyone on prostitution ever” and has been published in more than a dozen countries and numerous languages including German, Italian, Korean, French, and Spanish.
Shermer and Oreskes discuss: the myth of market magic • market fundamentalism • market absolutism • market essentialism • capitalism and democracy • well-regulated vs. poorly regulated capitalism • U.S. Constitution and capitalism • what the founding fathers believed about markets • what Adam Smith really said about markets and capitalism and how economists rewrote Adam Smith • why markets need regulation in the same way sports need rules and referees • rhetorical fallacies of market fundamentalists • child labor laws • bank failures • Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 • Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman • religion and capitalism • think tanks • collective action problems. Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. Her opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and many other outlets. Her TED talk, “Why We Should Trust Scientists,” was viewed more than a million times. Erik M. Conway is a historian of science and technology and works for the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of seven books and dozens of articles and essays. Their new book is The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market.
Shermer and Päs discuss: monism vs. dualism • What is time? • What is a field? • Is math all there is? Is math universal? • the double-slit experiment • superposition • metaphors in science • limitations of models and theories of reality • limitations of analogies between western physics and eastern mysticism • What banged the Big Bang? • Are we living in a matrix? • the Second Laws of Thermodynamics and directionality in nature • Model Dependent Realism • string theory, the multiverse, consciousness, the origin of the universe, and why there is something rather than nothing: are these soluble problems? Heinrich Päs is a professor of theoretical physics at TU Dortmund University in Germany. He has held positions at Vanderbilt University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Hawai'i and has conducted research visits at CERN and Fermilab. He lives in Bremen, Germany. His new book is The One: How an Ancient Idea Holds the Future of Physics.
Shermer and Gold discuss: diversity, equity, and inclusion in the media • social justice movements and their motivations • bias in STEM fields • why people believe weird things • exorcisms • UFOs • faith healers • Derren Brown and how magic works on minds • hypnosis • sex and where to have an affair • Ashley Madison • female/male differences in sexual preferences and choices • non-offending pedophiles in Berlin • the curious case of Jimmy Seville: why didn't anyone notice his pedophilia? Andrew Gold is a British journalist whose podcast On the Edge with Andrew Gold investigates belief, cults and extreme ideologies. He speaks five languages, has lived in six countries and has made award-winning documentaries around the world for the BBC and HBO about fringe topics, from exorcism and UFOs to abortion and porn stars, and even more controversial terrain, such as his two years investigating pedophiles. On his podcast he has interviewed Richard Dawkins, Amanda Knox, John McWhorter, Gad Saad, Peter Boghossian, Robbie Williams and that Shermer guy…as well as several psychopaths, murderers, cult defectors and a guy who had to eat his friends after a plane crash. The reason he started his podcast is because the UK TV producers who work with the BBC kept insisting that he no longer be visible on-screen in his films because, he was told, they needed “a minority.”
Shermer and Hardy discuss: Hardy's religious journey (raised Catholic, now agnostic) • origin of Pentecostalism and its biblical basis Pentecostalism in Korea North and South, and Israel • the structure of the Pentecostal church and how it differs from other churches • Seven Mountain Mandate • how religions grow • pentecostalism and politics • the psychology of the believer • dispensationalism and the Rapture • prophecy • glossolalia • snake handling • eschatology and end-times theology • sin and redemption • prostitution • Jordan Peterson and secular religion. Elle Hardy is a journalist and foreign correspondent who has reported from the United States, the former USSR and North Korea, among a long list of places. Her work has appeared in GQ, Lonely Planet, Foreign Policy and Business Insider, and on ABC Australia. Her new book is Beyond Belief: How Pentecostal Christianity is Taking Over the World.
Shermer and Klein discuss: sex therapist and the reasons people seek therapy • self-help sex books • sexual orientation • asexuality • sex abuse • infidelity • monogamy • polyamory • trans • homosexuality • sex education • the case against the sexual revolution • sex addiction • pornography • the anti-pornography movement • prostitution • obscenity and censorship • pedophilia. Marty Klein has been a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and a Certified Sex Therapist in Palo Alto, California for 42 years — over 40,000 sessions with individuals and couples. Marty is the author of seven books on sexuality, including Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex and How to Get it; His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America's PornPanic with Honest Talk about Sex; Beyond Orgasm: Dare to be Honest About the Sex you Really Want; Ask Me Anything: Dr. Klein Answers the Sex Questions You'd Love to Ask; and America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty. Marty is an outspoken critic of many popular and clinical ideas about sexuality and emotional health. Wikipedia cites him as the foremost critic of the concept of sex addiction. He is a founding editor of the Journal of Porn Studies. And each year Marty gives expert testimony in various state and federal courts. A former instructor at Stanford Medical School, Marty's humor, insights, and down-to-earth approach are regularly featured in the national media, such as the New York Times, the New Yorker, Nightline, NPR, and the Huffington Post.
Americans have long been skeptical of corporations, and that skepticism has only grown more intense in recent years. Meanwhile, corporations continue to amass wealth and power at a dizzying rate, recklessly pursuing profit while leaving society to sort out the costs. In For Profit, law professor William Magnuson argues that the story of the corporation didn't have to come to this. Throughout history, he finds, corporations have been purpose-built to benefit the societies that surrounded them. Corporations enabled everything from the construction of ancient Rome's roads and aqueducts to the artistic flourishing of the Renaissance to the rise of the middle class in the twentieth century. By recapturing this original spirit of civic virtue, Magnuson argues, corporations can help craft a society in which all of us — not just shareholders — benefit from the profits of enterprise. Shermer and Magnuson discuss: corporations and what they are for • LLCs • Roman corporations • medieval economics • banks • guilds • Credit Mobilier scandal • Dutch and British East India Companies • stocks, bonds, joint stock companies • monopolies, duopolies • assembly lines • multinationals • raiders • private equity firms • start-ups • antitrust, trustbusting • bankruptcy • bitcoin, cryptocurrency • Adam Smith's critique of corporations • profit and market efficiency • slavery and economics • unions. William Magnuson is an associate professor at Texas A&M Law School, where he teaches corporate law. Previously, he taught law at Harvard University. The author of Blockchain Democracy, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Bloomberg. He lives in Austin, Texas.
In this episode Michael Shermer speaks with the stoic philosopher and evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci on how to apply the ancient wisdom of stoicism to our personal lives and to our 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. Massimo Pigliucci is the K. D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. The author or editor of sixteen books, he has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Salon, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. His books include: Making Sense of Evolution; Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk; Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem; Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life; A Field Guide to a Happy Life; A Handbook for New Stoics; How to Be a Stoic; The Quest for Character.
In this conversation, based on a leading cult expert Steven Hassan's books (Combatting Cult Mind Control, Freedom of Mind, and The Cult of Trump) you will acquire the tools you need to develop, use, and trust your critical thinking skills; your intuition; your bodily and emotional awareness; your ability to ask the right questions; and your skill at doing quick, useful research. You will also learn to create a healthy balance of openness and skepticism. 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. Steven Hassan is a mental health professional who specializes in helping people to recover from mind control as well as helping loved ones to exit without coercion. He has been helping people leave destructive relationships and organizations since 1976 after he was rescued from the infamous cult, the Moonies. Hassan directs the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a counseling and publishing organization outside of Boston, and has taught at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. He is the author of Combating Cult Mind Control; Releasing the Bonds; Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs; and The Cult of Trump.
Physics has always sought to deepen our understanding of the nature of matter and the world around us. But how do you conduct experiments with the fundamental building blocks of existence? How do you manipulate a particle a trillion times smaller than a grain of sand? How do you cause a proton to sail around a twenty-seven-kilometer-long loop 11,000 times per second? And, crucially, why is all this important? In The Matter of Everything, accelerator physicist Suzie Sheehy introduces us to the people who, through a combination of genius, persistence and luck, staged the experiments that changed the course of history. 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. Suzie Sheehy is a physicist, science communicator and academic who divides her time between research groups at the University of Oxford and University of Melbourne. She is currently focused on developing new particle accelerators for applications in medicine. The Matter of Everything is her first book.
Awe is mysterious. How do we begin to quantify the goose bumps we feel when we see the Grand Canyon, or the utter amazement when we watch a child walk for the first time? How do you put into words the collective effervescence of standing in a crowd and singing in unison, or the wonder you feel while gazing at centuries-old works of art? In this conversation based on his new book Awe, Dacher Keltner presents a radical investigation and deeply personal inquiry into this elusive emotion. Revealing new research into how awe transforms our brains and bodies, alongside an examination of awe across history, culture, and within his own life during a period of grief, Keltner shows us how cultivating awe in our everyday life leads us to appreciate what is most humane in our human nature. And during a moment in which our world feels more divided than ever before, and more imperiled by crises of different kinds, we are greatly in need of awe. If we open our minds, it is awe that sharpens our reasoning and orients us toward big ideas and new insights, that cools our immune system's inflammation response and strengthens our bodies. It is awe that activates our inclination to share and create strong networks, to take actions that are good for the natural and social world around us. It is awe that transforms who we are, that inspires the creation of art, music, and religion. Aweis also a field guide for how to place awe as a vital force within our lives. 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. Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the faculty director of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. A renowned expert in the science of human emotion, Dr. Keltner studies compassion and awe, how we express emotion, and how emotions guide our moral identities and search for meaning. His research interests also span issues of power, status, inequality, and social class. He is the author of The Power Paradox and the bestselling book Born to Be Good, and the coeditor of The Compassionate Instinct. His new book is Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your Life.
Pacifists who fought against the Second World War faced insurmountable odds — but their resistance, philosophy, and strategies fostered a tradition of activism that shaped America right up to the present day. Daniel Akst's new book takes us into the wild, heady, and uncertain times of America on the brink of a world war, following four fascinating resisters — four figures who would subsequently become famous political thinkers and activists — and their daring exploits: David Dellinger, Dorothy Day, Dwight MacDonald, and Bayard Rustin. 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. Daniel Akst is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Slate and other leading publications. He was a board member of the National Book Critics Circle, and has taught at Bard College and in the Bard Prison Initiative. He lives in New York's Hudson Valley.
Shermer and Bernstein discuss: the SCOTUS case on affirmative action and race preferences at Harvard and elsewhere • Elizabeth Warren (Cherokee ancestry — Bureau of Indian Affairs rejects?) • Tiger Woods: Cablinasian (European, African, Thai, Chinese ancestry) • George Zimmerman (Hispanic, half Hispanic, mixed-race, White Hispanic, White, or…?) • Rachel Dolezal (NAACP official, adopted an African American identity, though has none) • Kamala Harris (child of an Indian immigrant mother, father of mixed-African and European heritage from Jamaica) • 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? David E. Bernstein holds a University Professorship chair at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, where he has been teaching since 1995. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, Georgetown University, William and Mary, Brooklyn Law School, and the University of Turin. Known as a fearless contrarian, Professor Bernstein often challenges the conventional wisdom with prodigious research and sharp, original analysis. His book Rehabilitating Lochner was praised across the political spectrum as “intellectual history in its highest form,” a “fresh perspective and a cogent analysis,” “delightful and informative,” “sharp and iconoclastic,” “well-written and destined to be influential,” and “a terrific work of historical revisionism.” Professor Bernstein blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy (the leading law professor blog) and at Instapundit.com. Professor Bernstein is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he was senior editor of the Yale Law Journal and a John M. Olin Fellow in Law, Economics, and Public Policy. Professor Bernstein is married and has three children of mixed Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Spanish-Jewish origin. He prefers not to classify them.
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. Martin Rees is Astronomer Royal, former President of the Royal Society, Fellow (and former Master) of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He sits as a member of the UK House of Lords. He is the author of many bestselling popular science books, including: On the Future; Just Six Numbers; Before the Beginning; and Our Final Hour. His newest book is If Science is to Save Us.
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. Matthew Cobb is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester. He is the author of six books: The Idea of the Brain: A History; Life's Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code; Generation; The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis; Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944; and Smell: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in England.
Ditching the stuffy hang-ups and benighted sexual traditionalism of the past is an unambiguously positive thing. The sexual revolution has liberated us to enjoy a heady mixture of erotic freedom and personal autonomy. Right? Wrong, argues Louise Perry in her provocative new book. 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. Louise Perry is a writer, New Statesman columnist, and campaigner against male sexual violence. Her new book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, has sparked an international conversation about sex in the 21st century.
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. Meghan Daum is the author of six books, most recently The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars. Her collection of original essays, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, won the 2015 Pen Center USA Award for creative nonfiction. A Los Angeles Times opinion columnist from 2005 to 2016, Meghan has written for numerous magazines, including The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Vogue. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant and has taught Columbia University in addition to teaching private workshops in personal essay, memoir and opinion writing. Meghan is the host of the weekly interview podcast, The Unspeakable and the cohost, with Sarah Haider, of the weekly podcast A Special Place in Hell. Meghan founded The Unspeakeasy, an intellectual community for freethinking women. Her current writings are on Substack.
For too long, the term insubordination has evoked negative feelings and mental images. But for ideas to evolve and societies to progress, it's vital to cultivate rebels who are committed to challenging conventional wisdom and improving on it. Change never comes easily. And most would-be rebels lack the skills to overcome hostile audiences who cling desperately to the way things are. 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. Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at George Mason University, and a leading authority on well-being, curiosity, courage, and resilience. He has published more than 220 scientific articles, his work has been cited more than 35,000 times, and he received the American Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology. His books Curious? and The Upside of Your Dark Side have been translated into more than fifteen languages. His writing has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, National Geographic, and other publications, and his research is featured regularly in media outlets such as the New York Times, The Atlantic, and Time. He's a twin with twin daughters (plus one more), with plans to rapidly populate the world with great conversationalists.
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 (street-based, brothel-based, escort services, private, dance hall, and hotel sex work) • 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 like any other trade • the liminal nature of sex work (mostly illegal, mostly goes on anyway, difficult to police) • 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). India Thusi is a Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law with a joint appointment at the Kinsey Institute. Her research examines racial and sexual hierarchies as they relate to policing, race, and gender. Her articles and essays have been published or are forthcoming in the Harvard Law Review, NYU Law Review, Northwestern Law Review (twice), Georgetown Law Journal, Cornell Law Review Online, amongst others. She has worked at the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and — most recently — The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communication lab that collaborates to effect lasting policy and culture change. She served as a federal law clerk to two social justice giants: the Honorable Robert L. Carter, who sat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and was the lead counsel for the NAACP in Brown v. Board of Education; and the Honorable Damon J. Keith, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and is lauded for his prominent civil rights jurisprudence. She also clerked for Justice van der Westhuizen at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the country's highest court. She was recognized as a Top 40 Rising Young Lawyer by the American Bar Association in 2019. Her book is Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg.
The Blind Storyteller is an intellectual journey that draws on philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, cognitive science, and Berent's own cutting-edge research. It grapples with a host of provocative questions, from why we are so afraid of zombies, to whether dyslexia is “just in our heads,” from what happens to us when we die, to why we are so infatuated with our brains. The end result is a startling new perspective on the age-old nature/nurture debate — and on what it means to be human. 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. Iris Berent is a Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, Boston, and the Director of the Language and Mind Lab. Berent's research has examined how the mind works and how we think it does. She is the author of dozens of groundbreaking scientific publications and the recipient of numerous research grants. Her previous book, The Phonological Mind (Cambridge, 2013), was hailed by Steven Pinker as a “brilliant and fascinating analysis of how we produce and interpret sound.”
Nicholas Dirks is a strong advocate for academic and scientific collaboration across disciplines and recently helped launch the International Science Reserve which compiles technical and human resources scientists to call upon in times of crisis. His work focuses on the critical issues at the intersection of the humanities, social sciences, and the natural sciences, including distrust of science and vaccine hesitancy. 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. Nicholas Dirks, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), is an internationally renowned historian and anthropologist. He leads the Academy in promoting science-based solutions to world challenges, including pandemics and global warming. His work at the Academy facilitates the dissemination of scientific information, supports broad access to science education, studies counter bias in academia and the laboratory, and supports scientists across all stages of their careers. He was awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has taught at UC Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and Columbia University. His website is nicholasbdirks.com.