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.
233. Goodbye Pat Linse, Skeptic Co-founder and My Best Friend…
Michael Shermer shares his thoughts on life and death, in an emotional remembrance of his friend and business partner of 30 years, Pat Linse (1947–2021), the co-founder of the Skeptics Society and Art Director of Skeptic magazine.
232. Amishi Jha on Learning How to Pay Attention to Your Attention
Research shows we are missing 50 percent of our lives because we aren’t paying attention. Many of us often feel mentally foggy, scattered, and overwhelmed. Why is it that no matter how hard you try, you seem to find yourself somewhere else — if you’re even aware you’ve drifted off to that place.
In this conversation with the acclaimed neuroscientist Amishi Jha, she recounts what her neuroscience research revealed, and shows why whether you’re simply browsing, talking to friends, or trying to stay focused in an important meeting, you can’t seem to manage to hang on to your attention.
Shermer and Jha discuss: the neuroscience of attention; what attention evolved to do; how stress, attention bias, negativity bias, thought flooding, and active listening affect attention; multitasking; the “flashlight” metaphor; mindfulness and well-being, and more…
231. Jason Hill on What White Americans Owe Black People
In this conversation with Jason Hill based on his book What do White Americans Owe Black People? Racial Justice in the Age of Post-Oppression, Shermer probes the philosopher on the arguments for and against reparations.
In this provocative and highly original work, philosophy professor Jason Hill explores multiple dimensions of race in America today, but most importantly, a black-white divide which has grown exponentially over the past decade.
Central to his thesis, Hill calls on black American leaders (and their white liberal sponsors) to escape from the cycle of blame and finger-pointing, which seeks to identify black failures with white hatred and indifference. This overblown narrative is promulgated by a phalanx of black nihilists who advocate the destruction of America and her institutions in the name of ending “whiteness.” Much of the black intelligentsia consists of these false prophets, and it is their poisonous ideology which is taught, uncontradicted, to students of all races. It is they who are responsible for the cultural depression blacks are suffering in today’s society.
Ultimately, the answer to “what do White Americans owe?” is not about the morality or practicality of reparations, affirmative action, or other redistributionist schemes. Hill rejects the collectivist premise behind the argument, instead couching notions of culpability, justice, and fairness as responsibilities of individuals, not arbitrary racial or ethnic groupings.
230. Bart Ehrman — Did the Christmas Story Really Happen? The Birth of Jesus in History & Legend
Michael Shermer speaks with renowned biblical scholar and historian, Bart Ehrman, about: how we know Jesus existed and was crucified; how these questions are different epistemologically from those about Jesus’ resurrection and the claim that he died for our sins; how Christians deal with the trinity problem: How can God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit be one and the same and yet separate and different? (“God sacrificed himself…to himself…to save us from himself.” How is this possible?); How Christians answer these questions: Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? Why couldn’t God just forgive us for our sins?; Why was the virgin birth so important to early Christians? Why was the resurrection so important to early Christians? Anti-Semitism in the early Christian church (“the Jews killed Jesus” or “the Jews killed God”) and why it makes no theological sense (Jesus was Jewish, and if he had to die to save us from our sins, whoever killed Jesus should be thanked); why Jews and Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the messiah; how Jesus became God and how Christianity grew from a few dozen followers at the time of Jesus’s death to over two billion followers today; theodicy and the problem of evil: Why does an all powerful, all knowing, all good God allow people to suffer?
229. Fritjof Capra on Patterns of Connection: Is there a Tao of physics? Is life a web? Is humanity at a turning point?
Michael Shermer speaks with scientist, educator, activist, and accomplished author, Fritjof Capra, about the evolution of his thinking over five decades. In this conversation, based on Capra’s book, Patterns of Connection, Shermer and Capra discuss: what it means to be spiritual in an age of science, nuclear energy and why Capra thinks we don’t need it and Shermer thinks we do, 50 years of progress or regress, limitations of models and theories of reality, limitations of analogies between western physics and eastern mysticism, mind and consciousness, and why Capra is hopeful for the future of humanity.
228. Steven Koonin on what climate science tells us, what it doesn’t, and why it matters, based on his book Unsettled
According to Steven Koonin, when it comes to climate change, the media, politicians, and other prominent voices have declared that “the science is settled.” Koonin avers that the long game of telephone from research to reports, to the popular media, is corrupted by misunderstanding and misinformation. Koonin says that core questions about the way the climate is responding to our influence, and what the impacts will be remain largely unanswered. Koonin acknowledges that the climate is changing, and he claims the whyand how aren’t as clear as you’ve probably been led to believe, and what the impacts will be remain largely unanswered.
In this engaging conversation Michael Shermer challenges Dr. Koonin with many of the most common critiques of his book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, and Steven Koonin responds by drawing upon his decades of experience — including as a top science advisor to the Obama administration.