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.
159. Joshua Glasgow — The Solace: Finding Value in Death Through Gratitude for Life
How can we find solace when we face the death of loved ones? How can we find solace in our own death? When philosopher Joshua Glasgow’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, he struggled to answer these questions for her and for himself. Though death and immortality introduce some of the most basic and existentially compelling questions in philosophy, Glasgow found that the dominant theories came up short. Recalling the last months of his mother’s life, Glasgow reveals the breakthrough he finally arrived at for himself, from which readers can learn and find solace. When we are grateful for life, we value all of it, and this includes death, its natural culmination. Just as we are grateful for the value in our lives, we can affirm this value in death.
158. Jason D. Hill — We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to The American People
In this episode Michael Shermer speaks with Jason D. Hill, a black immigrant from Jamaica, about his eloquent appreciation of the American Dream, and why his adopted nation remains the most noble experiment in enabling the pursuit of happiness. Dr. Hill came to this country at the age of 20 and, rather than being faced with intractable racial bigotry, Hill found a land of bountiful opportunity. It has been more than 50 years since the Civil Rights Act enshrined equality under the law for all Americans. Since that time, America has enjoyed an era of unprecedented prosperity, domestic and international peace, and technological advancement. But the dominant narrative, repeated in the media and from the angry mouths of politicians and activists, is the exact opposite of the reality. They paint a portrait of an America rife with racial and ethnic division, where minorities are mired in a poverty worse than slavery, and white people stand at the top of an unfairly stacked pyramid of privilege. Jason D. Hill corrects the narrative in this powerfully conversation based on his eloquent book.
157. Avi Loeb — Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth
According to the Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, we have proof of alien existence, and more sightings are coming soon. In late 2017, scientists at a Hawaiian observatory glimpsed an object soaring through our inner solar system, moving so quickly that it could only have come from another star. Loeb argued that it was not an asteroid; it was moving too fast along a strange orbit and left no trail of gas or debris in its wake. There was only one conceivable explanation: the object was a piece of advanced technology created by an ancient alien civilization. This was a shocking claim, and many were vehemently opposed to Avi’s view. In his new book, and in this conversation, Loeb outlines his controversial theory and its profound implications for science, religion, and the future of our species and our planet. Also highlighted, and perhaps at the heart of his message, is Loeb’s plea for open and eager scientific inquiry into this field of study, and his calls for deeper faith in science and the breaking down of barriers between the scientific community and the non-scientific community.
156. Ayaan Hirsi Ali — Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights
Why are so few people talking about the eruption of sexual violence and harassment in Europe’s cities? No one in a position of power wants to admit that the problem is linked to the arrival of several million migrants — most of them young men — from Muslim-majority countries. In episode 155, Dr. Shermer speaks with Somali-born Dutch-American activist, feminist, scholar, and former politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali about her new book Prey. She explains why so many young Muslim men who arrive in Europe engage in sexual harassment and violence, tracing the roots of sexual violence in the Muslim world from institutionalized polygamy to the lack of legal and religious protections for women.
Trigger warning: upon listening to this conversation, you should be triggered.
155. Martin Sherwin — Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1945–1962
In episode 155, Dr. Shermer speaks with Martin Sherwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, about his new book Gambling with Armageddon, the definitive history of the Cuban Missile Crisis and its potential for nuclear holocaust, in a wider historical narrative of the Cold War — how such a crisis arose, and why at the very last possible moment it didn’t happen. Luck, coupled to reason and diplomacy, saved the world from thermonuclear war. As existential threats go, a nuclear exchange is second to none. Understanding how we dodged Armageddon in 1962 is vital for the future of humanity. This conversation explores those themes and more.
154. David Sloan Wilson — Atlas Hugged: The Autobiography of John Galt III
In episode 154, Michael speaks with renowned evolutionary theorist David Sloan Wilson about his new novel Atlas Hugged: The Autobiography of John Galt III, a devastating critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and its impact on the world. Shermer and Wilson discuss: the role of fiction and film in spreading ideas, good and bad; empirical/pragmatic/mythic truths; individualism vs. collectivism; why liberals/progressives/feminists don‘t like Rand; the nature of human nature; how small groups best operate and how to scale that up to whole societies; capitalism: good and bad; income inequality; Objectivism and Christianity; and more…