The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer

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Wag the Dog

Emotions are as much a product of our evolutionary
heritage as they are our environmental circumstances
magazine cover

The next time you come face to face with a dog wagging its tail, you can make a quick determination on whether to reach out and pet it or step back in deference: check the tail-wag bias. If the wagging tail leans to the dog’s right, you’re safe; if the tail leans to the dog’s left, don’t move. (continue reading…)

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You Can Judge This Book by its Cover

book cover

A review of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking.

Anyone who does a lot of public speaking knows there are certain questions that inevitably arise from the audience in a Q&A session. In my case, lecturing on pseudoscience and the paranormal, I am almost always asked: (continue reading…)

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The Captain Kirk Principle

Intuition is the key to knowing
without knowing how you know
magazine cover

Stardate: 1672.1. Earthdate: October 6, 1966. Star Trek, Episode 5, “The Enemy Within.”

Captain James T. Kirk has just beamed up from planet Alpha 177, where magnetic anomalies have caused the transporter to malfunction, splitting Kirk into two beings. One is cool and rational. The other is impulsive and irrational. Rational Kirk must make a command decision to save the crew, but he is paralyzed with indecision, bemoaning to Dr. McCoy: “I can’t survive without him. I don’t want to take him back. He’s like an animal — a thoughtless, brutal animal. And yet it’s me!”

This psychological battle between intellect and intuition was played out in almost every episode of Star Trek in the characters of the ultrarational Mr. Spock and the hyperemotional Dr. McCoy, with Captain Kirk as the near perfect synthesis of both. Thus, I call this balance the Captain Kirk Principle: intellect is driven by intuition, intuition is directed by intellect. (continue reading…)

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