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Episodes

Dr. Yuval Noah Harari — 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

9/18/2018
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In this dialogue with one of the most interesting minds of our time, the Hebrew University historian and best-selling author (Sapiens, Homo Deus), Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, he and Dr. Shermer discuss the central ideas of his new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, an exploration of: history, work, liberty, equality, community, civilization, nationalism, religion, immigration, terrorism, war, humility, God, secularism, ignorance, justice, post-truth, science fiction, education, meaning, and...

Duration:01:22:32

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson — Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military

9/11/2018
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In this deep dive into the history of science and war, and the strange but productive alliances that have been formed over the centuries—particularly those between astrophysicists and politicians, governments, military, and corporations—Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michael Shermer cover centuries of history and the many facets of science policy that have brought us to the modern world of space telescopes, GPS, and the Internet, along with guided missiles, nuclear weapons, and smart bombs...

Duration:01:22:27

Dr. Jonathan Haidt — The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

9/4/2018
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In this fascinating dialogue Dr. Haidt and Dr. Shermer discuss what has been going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years. Speakers are shouted down. Students and professors say they are walking on eggshells and are afraid to speak honestly. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are rising—on campus as well as nationally. How did this happen? In his new book Haidt has teamed up with First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff to show how the new problems on campus have their...

Duration:01:19:01

Dr. Tali Sharot — The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About our Power to Change Others

8/28/2018
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In her new book, The Influential Mind, neuroscientist Tali Sharot takes readers on a thrilling exploration of the nature of influence, so she and Shermer start the conversation by discussing how we can influence, for example, climate deniers to accept climate science, anti-vaxxers to accept vaccines, and creationists to accept evolution. As Sharot shows in her research, merely presenting people with the facts will not change their minds. There are other forces at work, which she reveals in...

Duration:00:58:31

Colin McGinn — Paradoxes, Puzzles, and Philosophy

8/21/2018
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In their second Science Salon conversation Michael Shermer and Colin McGinn consider the broader sweep of philosophy after their first encounter in which they focused on consciousness, free will, and God. In this dialogue they review some of the paradoxes and puzzles of philosophy, pseudo-questions, realism v. antirealism, how to deal with unknown unknowns, immortality and the nature of the self and soul, and how McGinn and Daniel Dennett differ in their positions on mysterianism. Another...

Duration:01:11:08

David Quammen — The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life

8/15/2018
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In this dialogue with one of the best nature and science writers of our generation, David Quammen and Michael Shermer discuss his new book on the history of one of the most exciting revolutions in evolution and genetics that is unfolding before our eyes. In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field—the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the molecular level—is...

Duration:01:24:19

Nina Teicholz — The Big Fat Surprise About Diet and Nutrition

8/7/2018
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In this fascinating conversation with Michael Shermer, the investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reviews the scientific literature on diet and nutrition, the link (or lack thereof) between dietary cholesterol and heart disease, the history of the government’s recommendation of what constitutes a healthy diet and why they got it so wrong, statins and heart disease, exercise and nutrition, an update on what has happened since her book, The Big Fat Surprise, was published in 2014, and most...

Duration:01:11:01

Amy Alkon — Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence

7/31/2018
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In this unique conversation Michael Shermer talks with the science writer and weekly advice columnist Amy Alkon about her new book, Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence. She calls her book a “science-help” book, instead of “self-help” because she grounds her recommendations in solid science. Her hilarious anecdotes are there just to illustrate a scientific point. She also debunks widely-accepted but scientifically unsupported notions about self-esteem, shame,...

Duration:01:36:26

Dr. Ralph Lewis — Finding Meaning in a Meaningless Universe

7/25/2018
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In this wide-ranging conversation Michael Shermer talks with the author of the new book Finding Purpose in a Godless World: Why We Care Even if the Universe Doesn’t, Dr. Ralph Lewis. Dr. Lewis is a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto who works with cancer patients and others facing death. They often face existential crises, so Dr. Lewis—himself an atheist—has developed techniques to help people cope that do not depend on any one religion. His new book is about how human purpose and...

Duration:01:23:35

Colin McGinn — Mysterianism, Consciousness, Free Will, and God

7/16/2018
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This podcast was initiated after McGinn commented publicly, and critically, on Shermer’s latest Scientific American column on the mysteries of consciousness, free will, and God. The philosopher Justin Weinberg at the University of South Carolina, who runs the DailyNous website (@DailyNousEditor on Twitter) posted a dozen tweets admonishing Shermer and Scientific American for publishing such a mischaracterization of several philosophical subjects, even referencing the film Annie Hall, where...

Duration:01:41:26

Dr. Michael Shermer — Ask Me Anything # 1

7/9/2018
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In this first Ask Me Anything (AMA) Dr. Shermer attempts to answer as many questions as possible in a reasonable time among the hundreds submitted by readers. There were so many good ones, in fact, that he will produce a second AMA on these, as well as new ones submitted when we put out a call shortly. In AMA # 1 the questions are roughly grouped in the following categories: Read a list of the questions answered in this AMA: https://www.skeptic.com/science-salon/ama001/

Duration:01:01:42

Edward J. Larson — On Faith and Science

7/2/2018
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Throughout history, scientific discovery has clashed with religious dogma, creating conflict, controversy, and sometimes violent dispute. In this enlightening and accessible volume, distinguished historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Larson and Michael Ruse, philosopher of science and Gifford Lecturer, offer their distinctive viewpoints on the sometimes contentious relationship between science and religion. The authors explore how scientists, philosophers, and theologians...

Duration:01:30:19

Charles S. Cockell — The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution

6/24/2018
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We are all familiar with the popular idea of strange alien life wildly different from life on earth inhabiting other planets. Maybe it’s made of silicon! Maybe it has wheels! Or maybe it doesn’t. In The Equations of Life, astrobiologist Charles S. Cockell makes the forceful argument that the laws of physics narrowly constrain how life can evolve, making evolution’s outcomes predictable. If we were to find on a distant planet something very much like a lady bug eating something like an aphid,...

Duration:01:27:08

Dr. Stephen T. Asma — Why We Need Religion

6/22/2018
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In this dialogue Dr. Michael Shermer talks with philosopher Stephen T. Asma, a Professor of Philosophy and Founding Fellow of the Research Group in Mind, Science, and Culture at Columbia College, Chicago. His new book is Why We Need Religion, in which he argues that, like art, religion has direct access to our emotional lives in ways that science does not. Yes, science can give us emotional feelings of wonder and the sublime—we can feel the sacred depths of nature—but there are many forms of...

Duration:01:22:08

Richard Rhodes — Energy: A Human History

5/29/2018
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This is one of the best dialogues Dr. Shermer has ever had in his quarter century of talking to the leading scientists and scholars of our time. Listen in as he and Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes discuss nuclear weapons, North Korea, Iran, and Russia, the psychology of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), human violence and its causes, the “Bullet Holocaust” (the millions of Jews and others shot to death in Eastern Europe before the death camps ramped up...

Duration:01:19:57

Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. David Grinspoon — Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

5/22/2018
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Listen in on this remarkable conversation with mission leader Dr. Alan Stern and co-author of the spell-binding new book Chasing New Horizons, Dr. David Grinspoon, as they recount the story of the men and women behind this amazing mission: of their decades-long commitment and persistence; of the political fights within and outside of NASA; of the sheer human ingenuity it took to design, build, and fly the mission; and of the plans for New Horizons’ next encounter, 1 billion miles past Pluto...

Duration:01:12:40

Dr. Kenneth R. Miller — The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will

5/19/2018
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Ken Miller is well known for his work in debunking Intelligent Design Creationism, most notably for his testimony in the Dover Pennsylvania trial that demolished the legal strategies of the movement to have creationism taught in public school science classes. His book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul recounts his experiences and argues why evolution is true. Now, in his new book, Dr. Miller presents a radical, optimistic exploration of how humans evolved to...

Duration:01:38:06

Dr. Gregory Berns — What It’s Like to Be a Dog…and Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience

4/16/2018
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In this wide-ranging dialogue (recorded on September 1, 2017) on the nature of consciousness Dr. Michael Shermer talks with Dr. Gregory Berns, Distinguished Professor of Neuroeconomics and Director of the Center for Neuropolicy and Facility for Education and Research in Neuroscience. Dr. Berns is famous for his use of fMRI to study canine cognitive function in awake, unrestrained dogs. The goals of his research are to non-invasively map the perceptual and decision systems of the dog’s brain...

Duration:01:09:50

Dr. Leonard Mlodinow — Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change

4/9/2018
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Out of the exploratory instincts that allowed our ancestors to prosper hundreds of thousands of years ago, humans developed a cognitive style that Mlodinow terms elastic thinking, a collection of traits and abilities that include neophilia (an affinity for novelty), schizotypy (a tendency toward unusual perception), imagination and idea generation, pattern recognition, mental fluency, divergent thinking, and integrative thinking. In this remote Science Salon (recorded on March 22, 2018),...

Duration:00:51:29

Dr. Michael Shermer — Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia

3/25/2018
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In his most ambitious work yet—a scientific exploration into humanity’s obsession with the afterlife and quest for immortality—bestselling author and skeptic, Michael Shermer, sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality along with utopian attempts to create heaven on earth. For millennia, religions have concocted numerous manifestations of heaven and the afterlife, and though no one has ever returned from...

Duration:00:55:46