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Science and Skepticism with Michael Shermer

by Scott Barry Kaufman, August 30, 2017

This week we’re excited to welcome Dr. Michael Shermer to The Psychology Podcast. Michael is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a New York Times bestselling author, and a monthly columnist for Scientific American. He has also been a college professor since 1979 and is currently a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, where he teaches Skepticism 101. In our conversation, Michael sheds light on a smorgasbord of intersections between psychology and skepticism. This episode is also a great primer for those of you who are curious about what it means to think like a skeptic.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The core tenets of skepticism
  • The difference between skepticism and cynicism
  • Whether it’s possible–in the eyes of a skeptic–to “prove everything”
  • The evidence-based probability that God exists
  • How individual differences in personality (ex. Agreeableness) play a role in one’s proclivity for critical inquiry
  • Whether Michael would consider himself a skepticism “guru”
  • How to suspend disbelief when you need to act but don’t have all the evidence
  • Michael’s interpretation of the free speech discussion in light of recent events
  • The recent conflation of free speech and hate speech
  • Why we might be better off evaluating human problems relatively (as opposed to objectively)
  • The differences between Atheists, humanists, and skeptics
  • Michael’s take on topics discussed by futurists (e.g. The singularity, cryogenics)
  • Whether or not he is scared of death
  • The distinction between meaning

We wrap up the conversation by connecting the science of flourishing to positive psychology, where we cover the loci of focus that can predictably  bring us a sense of purpose, and the distinction between meaning and happiness.

Enjoy!

Links:

Skeptic magazine and other resources on skepticism

Michael’s blog for Scientific America entitled “Skeptic”

Follow Michael Shermer on Twitter

You can preorder his new book Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia on Amazon


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