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

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Are We All Racists?

Private thoughts and public acts

Scientific American (cover)

Novelists often offer deep insights into the human psyche that take psychologists years to test. In his 1864 Notes from Underground, for example, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky observed: “Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.”

Intuitively, the observation rings true, but is it true experimentally? Twenty years ago social psychologists Anthony Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji and Brian Nosek developed an instrument called the Implicit Association Test (IAT) that, they claimed, can read the innermost thoughts that you are afraid to tell even yourself. And those thoughts appear to be dark and prejudiced: we favor white over black, young over old, thin over fat, straight over gay, able over disabled, and more. (continue reading…)

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If There is No God, is Murder Wrong?

On the popular online site Prager University, the conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager recently posted the video “If there is no God, Murder Isn’t Wrong.”

Nearly two million people have heard his argument that without God, anything goes.

I’ve known Dennis for many years and have been a guest on his show a number of times. He’s a smart guy, and we agree on many issues, but on this one I think he is wrong.

Prager’s belief that without God there can be no objective morality is, in fact, a common one many people hold. It’s wrong for 4 reasons.

1. Divine Command Theory is Fallible

The argument that our morals come from God is what philosophers and theologians call Divine Command Theory, well captured by the popular bumper sticker:

God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

This argument was refuted 2500 years ago by the Greek philosopher Plato, when he asked, in so many words:

“Is what is morally right or wrong commanded by God because it is inherently right or wrong, or is it morally right or wrong only because it is commanded by God?”

For example, if murder is wrong because God said it is wrong, what if He said it was okay? Would that make murder right? Of course not! (continue reading…)

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Michael Shermer in Reasons to Believe

Reasons to Believe is a thought-provoking documentary by filmmaker Ben Fama Jr., that explores the psychology and science of belief and why we believe, sometimes falsely, in things that may not match up with reality. Facilitated by leaders in the fields of science, philosophy, neuroscience, moral reasoning, psychology, perception, memory formation, and indoctrination, these experts answer a variety of thought provoking questions and provide tangible structure to the definition and creation of belief in the human brain. Fama asks the question: Why do we believe?

Starring: Michael Shermer, Peter Boghossian, Jennifer Whitson, Caleb Lack and Chad Woodruff. Official website

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Michael Shermer and Dave Rubin: Skepticism & Conspiracy Theories

Michael Shermer (author, skeptic) and Dave Rubin discuss skepticism, morality, conspiracy theories, political issues like gun control, abortion, libertarianism, and more.

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Michael Shermer—The Rubin Report: Conspiracy Theories

Michael Shermer (author, skeptic) joins Dave Rubin (The Ruben Report) to discuss conspiracy theories (9/11, vaccines, and more.) Watch the full interview about skepticism, morality, conspiracy theories, and politics.

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