PODCAST

The Michael Shermer Show

Michael Shermer

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.

274. Frans De Waal on Sex and Gender Across the Primate Spectrum
What is gender? How different are men and women? Are differences due to biological sex or to culture? How do they compare with what is known about our fellow primates? Do apes also culturally learn their sex roles or is “gender” uniquely human? Shermer and de Waal discuss: sex and gender in humans, primates, and mammals • who you identify as vs. who you’re attracted to • binary vs. nonbinary vs. continuum: how fuzzy can human sex categories be for a sexually reproducing species? • gender differences in physical and mental characteristics • why would homosexuality evolve? • chimpanzees and bonobos • what is the “purpose” of orgasms in women, nipples in men? • myths of the demure female • rape in humans and other primates: what is the purpose — sex, power or both? • murder, and human violence: how do men and women differ? • dominance and power • rivalry, friendship, competition and cooperation • maternal and paternal care of the young • same-sex sex • monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, etc. in humans, primates & mammals • grandmother hypothesis • primates & primatologists, humans & anthropologists: bias in science • the future of primates and primatology. Frans de Waal has been named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Yesterday
1 hr 27 mins
273. Cathy Young — The Russian Riddle Wrapped in a Ukrainian Mystery Inside an American Enigma
Shermer and Young discuss: Florida’s “Don’t say ‘gay’” law • What is the appropriate age to discuss sex and gender issues with children? • sex, gender, and trans matters • Critical Race Theory, race and racism, and age appropriate discussions • white privilege and racial profiling • social media and political polarization • Putin, Russia, and Ukraine • Is there a Russian character that differs from that of Europeans or Americans? • What is Putin’s character and what does he want? • Aleksandr Dugin: Putin’s Rasputin and the drive to make Russia great again • What happens if Putin succeeds in Ukraine? What if he fails? • How should the west treat Russia and Putin in the future? • Should Putin be put on trial for war crimes? • U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and elsewhere, and its consequences • Could the conflict escalate from armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine to NATO and the U.S. and result in the use of tactical nuclear weapons and in the end global thermonuclear war? • What should NATO do now or in the near future? • From Soviet USSR to post-1990 Russia to Putin-Russia • Russian invasion of Ukraine moral equivalent to U.S. invasion of Iraq? • The moral equivalency between American foreign policy and Russian aggression. Cathy Young is a writer at The Bulwark. She is also a cultural studies fellow at the Cato Institute, a columnist for Newsday, and a contributing editor to Reason. Previously, she was an associate editor at ArcDigital and a columnist for the Boston Globe, the Detroit News, and RealClearPolitics. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Week, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, Quillette, the New Republic, and elsewhere. Young was born in Moscow and came to the United States with her family in 1980 and is the author of two books: Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (Free Press, 1999) and Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood (Ticknor & Fields, 1989). She has a B.A. in English from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @CathyYoung63
4d ago
2 hrs 5 mins
272. Stuart Vyse — The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to Be Rational
Shermer and Vyse discuss: What is a delusion? • veridical perception • perceptual illusions and irrationalities • Kahneman vs. Gigerenzer: rationality, irrationality, and bounded rationality • Rational Choice Theory and Homo economicus • William Clifford v. William James: When is it ok to believe anything upon insufficient evidence? • pragmatic truths, 3 conditions: living hypothesis, forced question, momentous • death and delusion: Is it useful to believe death is not the end of consciousness and self? • paradoxical behavior and the search for underlying reasons for our actions • rational irrationalities • self delusions — that is, delusions about the self • optimism and overoptimism • depressive realism • bluffing self and others • lies vs. bullshit • self-control, will power, and time discounting • status quo bias • superstitions, rituals and incantations • faith and religion • delusion in love and marriage • brainwashing and influence (Stockholm Syndrome, etc.) • conformity, role playing, obedience to authority, and the banality of evil • the core of personality and the constructed self • free will and determinism. Psychologist Stuart Vyse’s new book, The Uses of Delusion, is about aspects of human nature that are not altogether rational but, nonetheless, help us achieve our social and personal goals. In his book, and in this conversation, Vyse presents an accessible exploration of the psychological concepts behind useful delusions, fleshing out how delusional thinking may play a role in love and relationships, illness and loss, and personality and behavior. Throughout, Vyse strives to answer the question: why would some of our most illogical beliefs be as helpful as they are? Vyse also suggests that evolutionary pressures may have led to the ability to fool ourselves in order to survive. Stuart Vyse is a behavioral scientist, teacher, and writer. He taught at Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, and Connecticut College. Vyse’s book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstitionwon the 1999 William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association. He is a contributing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, where he writes the “Behavior & Belief” column, and a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
May 17 2022
1 hr 25 mins
271. Peter Ward — The Price of Immortality: The Race to Live Forever270. Surprising Power of Game Theory to Explain Irrationality (Moshe Hoffman and Erez Yoeli)
May 10 2022
1 hr 57 mins
269. Richard Dawkins — Flights of Fancy: Defying Gravity by Design and Evolution
Do you sometimes dream you can fly like a bird? Gliding effortlessly above the treetops, soaring and swooping, playing and dodging through the third dimension. Computer games, virtual reality headsets, and some drugs can lift our imagination and fly us through fabled, magical spaces. But it’s not the real thing. No wonder some of the past’s greatest minds, including Leonardo da Vinci’s, have yearned for flying machines and struggled to design them. Shermer and Dawkins discuss: nationalism • Russian revanchism • the recent rise of authoritarianism and autocracies: worrying trend or temporary stumble in the arc of the moral universe? • U.S. acceptance of the theory of evolution finally breaks the 50% barrier • woke attacks on E. O. Wilson: why? • why Dawkins dedicated his book to Elon • What good is half a wing? • What is flight good for? • Why do some animals lose their wings? • Why flying is easier if you are small • physics of flying • unpowered flight: parachuting and gliding • powered flight and how it works • weightlessness • aerial plankton • winged plants • the difference between evolved and designed flying machines. Richard Dawkins is one of the world’s most eminent writers and thinkers, and a major contributor to the public understanding of the science of evolution. The award-winning author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion and a string of other bestselling science books, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Literature.
May 7 2022
1 hr 28 mins
268. Douglas Murray on The War on the West: Race, Politics, and Culture267. Louis Theroux on Neo-Nazis, Jimmy Savile, UFO Cults, and Scientology266. Jesse Singal on Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills
Apr 26 2022
1 hr 29 mins
265. Christopher Blattman on Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace264. Adam Levin on Identity Theft and How to Protect Yourself from Scammers, Phishers, and Fraudsters of All Types263. Dave Rubin — Left, Right, and Woke, based on his book Don’t Burn This Country: Surviving and Thriving in Our Woke Dystopia
Apr 16 2022
1 hr 5 mins
262. Oliver Stone on Ukraine, Putin, and the Military-Industrial Complex
In episode 262, Shermer speaks with Oliver Stone about: the relationship with truth in dramatic films vs. documentary films; how the world would be different if JFK were not assassinated; why diplomacy and trade agreements are necessary with Russia, even now after the invasion of Ukraine; the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey, and Nikita Khrushchev’s response; Putin’s justifications for Soviet/Russian actions in Hungary, Afghanistan, Georgia, Chechnya, Syria, and Crimea; what he thinks Putin would say to justify the invasion of Ukraine; why he thinks we can’t trust Western media; U.S. foreign policy and how he thinks it is just as aggressive as Russia’s; and his moral equivalency argument for American vs. Russian aggression. Oliver Stone studied at Yale University, taught English in South Vietnam, and served in the Vietnam War in the U.S. Army where he earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. He then attended film school at NYU and studied under the acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. Stone won his first Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express (1978) and won his second and third as Best Director for Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989) respectively. Stone also wrote the screenplay for Scarface, which went on to become one of the most iconic films in history. His directed several documentary films, including Comandante (2003), the Putin Interviews (2017), and the controversial JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass (2021).
Apr 12 2022
42 mins
261. Jim Al-Khalili on the Joy of Science260. Batya Ungar-Sargon — Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy259. Ogi Ogas — Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos258. Jacek Kugler — Putin & Power Transition Theory: China, Russia, and Ukraine257. Simon Conway Morris on Design in Evolution & the Possibility of Purpose in the Cosmos256. Imagining the Future with Reality Game Designer and Futurist Jane McGonigal255. David Chalmers — Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy