Shermer on the Skeptics Society Geology Tour on June 8, 2007.
|Born||Michael Brant Shermer
September 8, 1954
|Residence||Altadena, California, USA|
|Occupation||Academic historian of science and editor|
|Title||Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic, Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University and Adjunct Professor at Chapman University|
|Religion||None (Agnostic atheist)|
Michael Brant Shermer (born September 8, 1954) is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic,1 which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. The Skeptics Society currently has over 55,000 members.2 Shermer also engages in debates on topics pertaining to pseudoscience and religion in which he promulgates the need for scientific skepticism.
Shermer is also the producer and co-host of the 13-hour Fox Family (now ABC Family) television series Exploring the Unknown. Since April 2001, he has been a monthly columnist for Scientific American magazine with his Skeptic column. Shermer states he was once a fundamentalist Christian, but converted from a belief in God during his graduate studies, and has described himself as an agnostic,3 nontheist,45 atheist67 and advocate for humanist philosophy8 as well as the science of morality.9 He has expressed reservations about such labels, however, as he sees them being used in the service of "pigeonholing", and prefers to simply be called a skeptic.6
Shermer grew up in Southern California.1011 His parents divorced when he was four 10 and later remarried, his mother to a man with three children, who became Shermer's stepsiblings, and his father to a woman with whom he had two daughters, Shermer's half-sisters. His father would later die of a heart attack in 1986, and his mother of brain cancer in 2000.12
Although Shermer went to Sunday school, he says that neither his biological nor stepparents or siblings were religious nor non-religious, as they did not hold much discussion on the topic, and did not attend church nor pray together. In 1971, at the beginning of his senior year in high school, Shermer announced he was a born again Christian, which came about through the influence of his best friend, George. For the next seven years he would evangelize door-to-door as part of his profoundly held beliefs.12
He graduated from Crescenta Valley High School in 1972. He began his undergraduate studies at Pepperdine University, initially majoring in Christian theology, later switching to psychology.11 He completed his bachelor's degree in psychology/biology at Pepperdine in 1976.13
Shermer's graduate studies in experimental psychology at California State University, Fullerton, led to many after-class discussions with professors Bayard Brattstrom and Meg White. These,14 along with his studies in ethology and cultural anthropology, led him to question his religious beliefs, and by mid-way through his graduate training, he removed the Christian ichthys that he had been wearing around his neck.1214 Shermer completed his master's degree from California State University in experimental psychology in 1978.13
Shermer began competitive bicycling in 1979, and spent a decade in the sport. During the course of his cycling, Shermer worked with cycling technologists in developing better products for the sport. During his association with Bell Helmets, a bicycle-race sponsor, Shermer advised them on design issues regarding their development of expanded-polystyrene for use in cycling helmets, which would absorb impact far better than the old leather "hairnet" helmets used by bicyclists for decades. Shermer advised them that if their helmets looked too much like motorcycle helmets, in which polystyrene was already being used, and not like the old hairnet helmets, that no serious cyclists or amateur would use them. This suggestion led to their first model, the V1 Pro, which looked like a black leather hairnet, but functioned on the inside like a motorcycle helmet. In 1982, Shermer worked with Dr. Wayman Spence, whose small supply company, Spenco Medical, adapted the gel technology Spence developed for bedridden patients with pressure sores into cycling gloves and saddles to alleviate the carpal tunnel syndrome and saddle sores suffered by cyclists.15
During the decade in which he raced long distances, he helped to found the 3,000-mile nonstop transcontinental bicycle Race Across America (along with Lon Haldeman and John Marino), in which he competed five times (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1989), was assistant race for director six years, and executive race for director seven years.16 An acute medical condition is named for him: "Shermer Neck" is pain in and extreme weakness of the neck muscles found among long-distance bicyclists. Shermer suffered the condition during the 1983 Race Across America.17 Shermer's embrace of scientific skepticism crystallized during his time as a cyclist, explaining, "I became a skeptic on Saturday, August 6, 1983, on the long climbing road to Loveland Pass, Colorado"18 after months of training under the guidance of a "nutritionist" with an unaccredited Ph.D. After years of practicing acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, negative ions, rolfing, pyramid power, fundamentalist Christianity, and "a host of weird things" (with the exception of drugs) to improve his life and training, Shermer stopped rationalizing the failure of these practices.19 Shermer would later produce several documentaries on cycling.16
Shermer earned his Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University in history of science in 1991 (with his dissertation titled "Heretic-Scientist: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Evolution of Man: A Study on the Nature of Historical Change").13 Shermer later based a full-length, 2002 book on his dissertation: In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History.20
Before starting the Skeptics Society, Shermer was an adjunct professor of the history of science at Occidental College, California. Since 2007, Shermer has been a senior research fellow at Claremont Graduate University. Since 2011, Shermer has been also an Adjunct Professor at Chapman University.21
In 1992 Shermer started the Skeptics Society, which produces Skeptic magazine and currently has over 55,000 members.2 In addition, the group organizes the Caltech Lecture Series which offers speakers on a wide range of topics relating to science, psychology, social issues, religion/atheism, skepticism, etc. Past speakers include Stephen Jay Gould, Jared Diamond, Donald Johanson, Julia Sweeney, Richard Dawkins, Philip Zimbardo, Steven Pinker, Carol Tavris, David Baltimore, Lisa Randall, Daniel Dennett, Tim Flannery, Lawrence Krauss, Michio Kaku, Susan Blackmore, Christof Koch, Alison Gopnik, Ursula Goodenough, Edward Tufte, Bjørn Lomborg, Sam Harris, Jeff Schweitzer and many others. The lectures occur on Sunday afternoons, and are open to the public for a nominal fee.22
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Michael Shermer|
Shermer is the author of several books that attempt to explain the ubiquity of irrational or poorly substantiated beliefs, including UFOs, Bigfoot, and paranormal claims. In 1997 he wrote Why People Believe Weird Things, which explores a variety of "weird" ideas and groups (including cults), in the tradition of the skeptical writings of Martin Gardner. A revised and expanded edition was published in 2002. From the Introduction:
So we are left with the legacy of two types of thinking errors: Type 1 Error: believing a falsehood and Type 2 Error: rejecting a truth. ... Believers in UFOs, alien abductions, ESP, and psychic phenomena have committed a Type 1 Error in thinking: they are believing a falsehood. ... It's not that these folks are ignorant or uninformed; they are intelligent but misinformed. Their thinking has gone wrong.— Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things, 1997, 2002, Introduction
In How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, Shermer explored the psychology behind the belief in God. In its introduction Shermer wrote "Never in history have so many, and such a high percentage of the population, believed in God. Not only is God not dead as Nietzsche proclaimed, but he has never been more alive."
In early 2002, Shermer's Scientific American column introduced Shermer's Last Law, the notion that "any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God." Shermer's Last Law is a spin on Clarke's Third Law.
In 2002, Shermer and Alex Grobman wrote their book Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? which examined and refuted the Holocaust denial movement. This book recounts meeting various denialists and concludes that free speech is the best way to deal with pseudohistory.
Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown was released in 2005. Then his 2006 book Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, marshals point-by-point arguments supporting evolution, sharply criticizing Intelligent Design. This book also argues that science cannot invalidate religion, and that Christians and conservatives can and should accept evolution.
In June 2006, Shermer, who formerly expressed skepticism regarding the mainstream scientific view on global warming, wrote that, in view of the accumulation of evidence, the position of denying global warming is no longer tenable.23
The Mind of The Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics was released in 2007. In it Shermer reports on the findings of multiple behavioral and biochemical studies that address evolutionary explanations for modern behavior.
In February 2009, Shermer published The History of Science: A Sweeping Visage of Science and its History, a 25-hour audio lecture.
In May 2011, Shermer published The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.
Shermer appeared as a guest on Donahue in 1994 to respond to Bradley Smith's and David Cole's Holocaust denial claims, and in 1995 on The Oprah Winfrey Show to challenge Rosemary Altea's psychic claims. Shermer made a guest appearance in a 2004 episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit!, in which he argued that events in the Bible constitute "mythic storytelling," rather than events described literally. His stance was supported by the show's hosts, who have expressed their own atheism. The episode in question, The Bible: Fact or Fiction?, sought to debunk the notion that the Bible is an empirically reliable historical record. Opposing Shermer was Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University.24
Shermer made several appearances on NBC's daytime paranormal-themed show The Other Side in 1994 and 1995. After getting to know that show's producers, he made a formal pitch to their production company for his own skepticism-oriented reality show whose aim would be to present points of view of both believers and skeptics. His proposals were not fruitful, but several years later, one of the executives of that company went to work for the then-newly formed Fox Family Channel, and impressed with Shermer's show treatment, requested he pitch it to the network. The network picked up the series, Exploring the Unknown, of which Shermer became a producer and cohost. The series, which was budgeted at approximately $200,000USD per episode, was viewed by Shermer as a direct extension of the work done at the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine, and would enable Shermer to reach more people. The equivocal title was chosen so as to not tip off guests or viewers as to the skeptical nature of the show.25 Various segments from Exploring the Unknown can be found on Shermer's YouTube channel.26
The following are segments Shermer's 1999 Fox Family TV series, Exploring the Unknown.
- "Michael Shermer and Out of Body Experiences"32
- "Michael Shermer on How to Fake UFO Photographs"33
- "Michael Shermer on Spoonbending"34
- "Michael Shermer Firewalking Across Hot Coals"35
- "Michael Shermer Tests the Polygraph and Lie Detection, Part 1"36
- "Michael Shermer Tests the Polygraph and Lie Detection, Part 2"37
- "Michael Shermer Learns the Art of Con Games, Part 1"38
- "Michael Shermer Learns the Art of Con Games, Part 2"39
- "Michael Shermer Decodes the Bible Code"40
- "Michael Shermer Explores Graphology/Handwriting Analysis, Part 1"41
- "Michael Shermer Explores Graphology/Handwriting Analysis, Part 2"42
- "Michael Shermer Remote Viewing Experiment Part 1"43
- "Michael Shermer Remote Viewing Experiment Part 2"44
- August 1983 news segment on Shermer bicycling in Race Across America45
- Unsolved Mysteries, James Van Praagh segment, 1994
- The Phil Donahue Show, 1994
- "The Power of Belief", ABC News, 1998
- Politically Incorrect, December 22, 2000
- 20/20, December 5, 2003
- Dennis Miller, May 19 and May 20, 2004
- "The Bible: Fact or Fiction?", Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, 200424
- The Question of God: Sigmund Freud & C.S. Lewis, 2004
- The Eyes of Nye on "Pseudoscience", 2005
- The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, October 4, 2006
- "Doomsday 2012", Decoding the Past, 2007
- Larry King Live, July 13, 2007 and January 24, 2008
- Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, 2008
- "Does God Have a Future?", Nightline, ABC, March 23, 201046
- "What Were You Thinking?", Dateline NBC, April 25, 201047
- "Did You See That?", Dateline NBC, July 16, 201048
- The Colbert Report, July 11, 2011
- Paranormal Challenge, Linda Vista Hospital, August 26, 2011
- Conspiracy Road Trip: UFOs, BBC Three, 15 October 2012
- Stossel, Fox Business Channel, December 13, 2012
- Coast to Coast AM, September 1, 2007
- Mr. Deity and the Skeptic. YouTube. September 15, 200949
- Skepticalityepisode needed
- Coast to Coast AM, May 21, 2011 50
- KGO May 25, 2011
- Sport Cycling: A Guide to Training, Racing, and Endurance 1985 ISBN 0-8092-5244-9
- Cycling: Endurance and Speed (Sportsperformance) 1987 ISBN 0-8092-4775-5
- Teach Your Child Science 1989 ISBN 0-929923-08-1
- Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. (1997, 2nd Revision edition 2002) ISBN 0-8050-7089-3
- Teach Your Child Math and Mathemagics 1999 ISBN 0-7373-0134-1
- The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense 2001 ISBN 0-19-514326-4
- How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science 2001 ISBN 0-613-35413-3
- The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience (ed.) 2002 ISBN 1-57607-653-9
- Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? 2002 ISBN 0-520-23469-3
- In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History 2002 ISBN 0-19-514830-4
- The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule 2004 ISBN 0-8050-7520-8
- Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown 2005 ISBN 0-8050-7708-1
- Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks 2006 ISBN 978-0-307-33840-2
- Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design 2006 ISBN 978-0-8050-8121-3
- The Mind of The Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics 2007 ISBN 978-0-8050-7832-9
- The History of Science: A Sweeping Visage of Science and its History 2009 audio lecture
- The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths 2011 ISBN 978-0-8050-9125-0
- "Masthead, Skeptic Magazine". Retrieved 2008-11-30.
- "Making a living of bullshit detecting". VUE Weekly. August 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- Michael Shermer. Why People Believe Weird Things ; Henry Holt; 2002 edition; Page 136
- Shermer, Michael. "Response To Positive Atheism's December, 1999, Column 'Atheism & Fundamentalism'", Positive Atheism, November 14, 1999
- Michael Shermer. "Testing Tenure " at skeptic.com
- Why I Am An Atheist, Michael Shermer, June 2005 (accessed 31 March 2008)
- Shermer was also identified as an atheist when he appeared on the December 16, 2010 episode of Stossel.
- "Humanist Manifesto III Public Signers". American Humanist Association. 2008. Retrieved 04.09.2012.
- Shermer talks about the science of right and wrong
- Shermer, Michael. The Believing Brain. 2011. Times Books. Chapter 4
- Shermer, 2002, page 127
- The Believing Brain, Chapter 6
- "About Us: Michael Shermer". The Skeptics Society. 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
- Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things, 2002, page 128
- Michael Shermer. The Mind of The Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics 2007 Pages 59 -61 ISBN 978-0-8050-7832-9
- "Michael Shermer: Curriculum Vitae". michaelshermer.com. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
- Libby. "A Pain in the Neck: Shermer's Neck". UltraMarathon Cycling Association. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- Shermer, 2002, page 15.
- Shermer, 2002, page 13-15.
- In Darwin's Shadow. Amazon.com. accessed September 19, 2011.
- "Curriculum Vitae: Michael Brant Shermer". michaelshermer.com. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
- Skeptic: Lectures & Events: Caltech Lectures Skeptics Society
- Shermer, Michael (June 2006). "The Flipping Point". Scientific American. Retrieved 2006-12-11.
- "The Bible: Fact or Fiction?" Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Season 2
- Michael Shermer. The Borderlands of Science; 2001; Oxford University Press; Pages 10–13.
- "Skeptic (Michael Shermer)". YouTube. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
- Michael Shermer: Professional Skeptic, TED Conference Nov. 2006
- "The Great Debate:Deepak Chopra v. Michael Shermer". Skeptic. September 28, 2005
- Shermer, Michael (April 5, 2011). "The Woo of Creation:My evening with Deepak Chopra". Skepticblog.
- Harris, Dan (March 23, 2010) "'Nightline' 'Face-Off': Does God Have a Future?". ABC News.
- "The IIG Celebrates its 10th Anniversary". Independent Investigations Group; Accessed September 5, 2010
- "Michael Shermer and Out of Body Experiences", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, originally broadcast on a news program, August 1983
- "Michael Shermer on How to Fake UFO Photographs", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer on Spoonbending", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Firewalking Across Hot Coals", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, June 2, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Tests the Polygraph and Lie Detection, Part 1", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Tests the Polygraph and Lie Detection, Part 2", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Learns the Art of Con Games, Part 1", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Learns the Art of Con Games, Part 2", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Decodes the Bible Code", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Explores Graphology/Handwriting Analysis, Part 1", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Explores Graphology/Handwriting Analysis, Part 2", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Remote Viewing Experiment Part 1", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 9, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Remote Viewing Experiment Part 2 ", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, July 23, 2007, Originally broadcast on Exploring the Unknown, Fox Family, 1999
- "Michael Shermer Abducted by Aliens in Race Across America", Michael Shermer's official YouTube channel, June 19, 2007, Originally broadcast on television news segment, August 1983
- "Does God Have a Future?", Nightline, ABC, March 23, 2010, Full debate on YouTube here
- "What Were You Thinking?", Dateline NBC, MSNBC, April 25, 2010
- "Did You See That?", Dateline NBC, MSNBC, July 16, 2010
- "Mr. Deity and the Skeptic". YouTube. September 15, 2009.
- "Show Summary". Retrieved 22 May 2011.
- Shermer, Michael; "The Skeptic's Chaplain: Richard Dawkins as a Fountainhead of Skepticism"; Skeptic magazine; Vol. 13, 2007; Page 47.
- "Who's Getting Your Vote?". Reason. 2004-11. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- "Skeptic columns published in Scientific American". MS. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
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- Official website
- Official YouTube Channel
- Skeptic.com – Official website of The Skeptics Society
- Skepticality – Official podcast of The Skeptics Society
- Michael Shermer at the Internet Movie Database
- Multimedia files featuring Michael Shermer
- “Michael Shermer's Baloney Detection Kit”, Richard Dawkins Foundation, YouTube Channel, June 22, 2009
- On strange beliefs, TED Talk, February 2006
- The pattern behind self-deception, TED Talk, February 2010
- Real Detroit Weekly Interview, February 7, 2007
- Skeptiko Audio Interview: Darwin, Evolution and Creativity, February 14, 2007
- Is Christianity Good for the World? – Debate with Dinesh D'Souza at the Oregon State University Socratic Club on October 15, 2007, part 1
- Is Christianity Good for the World? – Debate with Dinesh D'Souza at the Oregon State University Socratic Club on October 15, 2007, part 2
- Michael Shermer interviewed about The Mind of the Market, The Polyschizmatic Reprobates Hour
- Video of an hour-long interview/discussion with Shermer by John Horgan on Bloggingheads.tv
- “Michael Shermer debates Jonathan Wells on Evolution v. Intelligent Design” at the Cato Institute, Part 1 of 7, YouTube, taped October 12, 2006, posted May 11, 2008
- “Michael Shermer visits the Kentucky Creation Museum", YouTube, March 15, 2009
- “The Nightline Face-Off: Does God Have a Future? (1 of 12)”, ABC News.com/YouTube, Taped March 14, 2010, Posted May 23, 2010
- Michael Shermer debates John Lennox on God on YouTube (October 29, 2008)
- "Michael Shermer visits Sydney", Maynard, September 28, 2011
- Michael Shermer Profile Ted.com