Michael Shermer: The Believing Brain - Lecture

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Michael Shermer: The Believing Brain (Lecture)The Center for Inquiry-New York City and NYC Skeptics hosted noted skeptic and bestselling author Michael Shermer for a talk about his new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.

His thesis is straightforward: We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow.

Dr. Shermer also provides the neuroscience behind our beliefs. The brain is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning.

The first process Dr. Shermer calls patternicity: the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data. The second process he calls agenticity: the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency.

We can't help believing. Our brains evolved to connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen. These meaningful patterns become beliefs.

Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation.

Dr. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths and to insure that we are always right.

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246 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Robert Elliot

    These so-called skeptics are apparently skeptical of everything under the sun with the curious exception of that most dubious of phenomena - the official government story - even when that story is, itself, a preposterous conspiracy theory (à la 9/11). One might almost imagine they were compromised in some way.

  2. Gareth Jones

    your tin hat is firmly attached i see....

  3. mamabearroars

    Most everyone, even skeptics, if they give themselves a critical internal view will see biases they have. Michael Shermer is not a 'god' or absolutely right on every subject, nor does he even question all subjects. This is part of the human condition. It is especially hard to question our own beliefs and inquiries. He could be pulling away from 9/11 understanding political powers that be and how they could discredit him and hurt is reputation and businesses.

    My question is why some skeptics do not question 9/11 solely based on Michael Schemer's view with the exact arguments that Shermer gives and slam others for questioning 9/11 and Shermer's his views on the subject.

    It is all most like a subject that should not be questioned. Listening closely to what is said to base the 9/11 view as "bunk" versus 9/11 testimony from over 1500 professionals including engineers, demolition experts, forensic experts and many more world wide including eye witnesses of police, fireman, emergency personnel and many more.

    Just building seven is a testimony to a shocking event for it to free fall. The massive pieces of the puzzle the experts and witnesses have put together so far with great precision and non bias in questioning the event makes you respect this type of research compared to "...a fire on the lower side of building 7 made it free fall in seven seconds. What?

    This is what really does not make any sense and I think the people that stand up to him bring the same type of thinking that stand up to our star idols in the news that are forgiven for everything or it just isn't accepted.

    Some do not want to loose their idol and that is stronger than knowing the truth and wanting an international investigative committee to look into this.

    This is a much bigger story and should not be sweep under the political rug in the 21st Century.

  4. TheParadigmShift

    @ Gareth Jones.
    Insults are the last desperate act of a man with no argument.

  5. Anthony Williams

    Reasonable lecture but I have been an agnostic since about oh say 8yrs old... I have never held fanciful believes in order to pacify my brain into submission.

    Good way to sell an Atheist a bible though.

  6. Epicurean_Logic

    Shermer is brilliant!

    One of the few that actually checks behind the bushes for pixies and fairies and has the ability to express his findings clearly.

    Intuition is a subconscious expression of rationality that remains unexplored and in darkness.

    Shermer shines the light

  7. dufas_duck

    Interesting....be skeptical of everything except of Dr. Shermer.

    All conspiracies are formed in hindsight except those that were planned ahead of time. You can be your own person, free from outside forces until psychology is introduced and your brain [mind] is manipulated. Scientists all have biases except when they don't.

    Dr. Shermer is one of the best practitioners at fence straddling.

    The only constant that Dr. Shermer eluded to is that evil Republicans [Conservatives] are the only constant in the world.

    Science defining morality??? Science breaks down anything and everything to the least common denominator where there is nothing left but atoms, molecules, and DNA, which becomes nothing more than items to be experimented with. On one hand, Dr. Shermer states one should be skeptical and not be manipulated. On the other hand, he states that science should define morality when the very act of defining morality is manipulation unto itself no matter where that morality comes from, religion, politics, or science... As soon as humans become nothing more than a 'thing' to be manipulated, both science and religion have proved in the past that they cannot be trusted. Eugenics, genocide, etc, are just a few that come to mind......

    I would suggest that Dr. Shermer is himself a product of his own biases and would indoctrinate anyone he can with those biases.... To paraphrase the good doctor, every person sees the world through their own biased eyes and will seek to mold others to their view. This is what has been going on since humans began to think. Tribal chiefs, dictators, political parties, even next door neighbors want to control and mold those around them to fit their views. In the name of freedom, equality, beliefs, religion, or name anything you want, some group or individual is wanting to gain control to tell you or force you what to think, how to act, and how to live. "We are here to help you" can be used in hundreds of ways.....

  8. izzi

    Some good arguments, but still very closed-minded. Where is the mind when Aunt Millie's brain dies? Well, if Mr. Shermer can imagine where he can find Photoshop when his computer dies, and it's not limited to one disk and a single mother-board, then I'm sure he may also imagine "alternative possibilities" for the "mind's" location once the brain dies. It's great to question certain patterns, but to commit to your own ability to quantify Truth is arrogant and primitive and will not help mankind by much.

  9. Gareth Jones

    got any proof of that?

  10. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @dufas_duck

    "Interesting....be skeptical of everything except of Dr. Shermer."

    I don't think I recall him saying that his own words should be exempt from skepticism.

    "All conspiracies are formed in hindsight except those that were planned ahead of time."

    I also don't recall him saying this. What I do recall him saying is that anything can look like a conspiracy in hindsight, but that real conspiracies are rarely as large-scale as the most popular "conspiracy theories" and are almost never smoothly-executed. His implication is that a massive-scale (world domination) conspiracy would require so many things to go smoothly all at once that its success would be highly improbable. He didn't at any point dismiss the idea that there are conspiracies, only that we should apply skepticism to "conspiracy theories" because our natural tendency will be to see patterns where there may perhaps be none.

    "You can be your own person, free from outside forces until psychology is introduced and your brain [mind] is manipulated."

    I don't recall him saying this either, so you'll have to clarify exactly what point of his you're attempting to call into question.

    "Scientists all have biases except when they don't."

    Nor do I recall him saying this. I do remember him saying that scientists are as susceptible to bias as everyone else, but that fortunately the competitive nature of the career field and the very scientific method itself provide at least partial checks on these biases that many other fields of thought simply are not privy to.

    "Dr. Shermer is one of the best practitioners at fence straddling."

    Specific example?

    "The only constant that Dr. Shermer eluded to is that evil Republicans [Conservatives] are the only constant in the world."

    Once again, no recollection of him saying these words. I do recall him cracking a couple of jokes about Republicans, but that's hardly the same thing, is it?

    "On one hand, Dr. Shermer states one should be skeptical and not be manipulated. On the other hand, he states that science should define morality when the very act of defining morality is manipulation unto itself no matter where that morality comes from, religion, politics, or science..."

    I think you may be misinterpreting what he was trying to say about the potential role of science in the field of ethics and morality. I don't think he was proposing some kind of scientist philosopher-king to determine what every individual's morality should look like and dictate it to the masses. I think he was simply positing that, rather than relying on irrational sources like religious texts, scientific knowledge could be used to help inform an understanding of the world from which we can derive morals - without invoking mandates from an invisible authority figure.

    "As soon as humans become nothing more than a 'thing' to be manipulated, both science and religion have proved in the past that they cannot be trusted. Eugenics, genocide, etc, are just a few that come to mind......"

    I think you are right, but I don't think Shermer was suggesting (directly or indirectly) that humans should be considered "things" to be manipulated.

    "I would suggest that Dr. Shermer is himself a product of his own biases and would indoctrinate anyone he can with those biases...."

    I'm sure Dr. Shermer is full of biases, and I think he might even say so in this lecture. You can surely suggest that he would indoctrinate anyone he can with those biases, no one is going to stop you, but might I ask why you would want to?

    "To paraphrase the good doctor, every person sees the world through their own biased eyes and will seek to mold others to their view."

    What part of this lecture are you paraphrasing here?

    "This is what has been going on since humans began to think. Tribal chiefs, dictators, political parties, even next door neighbors want to control and mold those around them to fit their views. In the name of freedom, equality, beliefs, religion, or name anything you want, some group or individual is wanting to gain control to tell you or force you what to think, how to act, and how to live. 'We are here to help you' can be used in hundreds of ways....."

    Right you are.

  11. AlmostAlwaysAwake

    Absolute bullshit ! Only the conditioned mind, a child of the brain evoked by by "culture" & "society" entertains opinions, beliefs, & "conclusions". We can be free of all that nonsense simply by being choicelessly aware.

  12. KsDevil

    This lecture seems to be a lighter discussion of another documentary here about the psychology and physiology of why we tend to gravitate to belief. Andy Thomson: Why We Believe In Gods.

  13. TheParadigmShift

    This guy puts all conspiracies in the same group as religions and assumes they are all based on "beliefs". Conspiracies happen all the time and are often backed up with strong scientific evidence. He probably denies Iran Contra which was a conspiracy which involved multiple governments from multiple nations, the media and involved trading illegal drugs and arms with so called "enemy nations". Shermer is a hypocrite and his "beliefs" are not representative of reality.

    Nothing annoys me more than people posing as "skeptics" who just tow the official line.

  14. StevenLJones

    The interesting thing about skeptics is that they have all the answers. They are selective with their data and are not knowledge about what they are dismissing. If you brought up something like the French COMETA Report on UFO''s that states that 5% of the this phenomena is extra terrestrial I bet the professional skeptics would not be aware of it. I'm a don't know guy. I love the fact that a neutrino may have broken the light speed limit. It shows that we really know so little. With don't know I don't dismiss UFO's out of hand or any other phenomena. I may have my doubts but I leave myself open. An open mind can learn. The I know mind has closed the door.

  15. PeSO821

    It is extremely difficult to do hard work and get real structured knowledge, based on evidence. Step by step, no wild guesses. It takes at least a decade of hard study to get any proper knowledge (in any field) and even than you are nowhere near contributing or changing human knowledge. Only few exceptionally brilliant, people can do that.
    On other hand, it is very easy to listen to some “big story”, how main stream got it all wrong, how there was a cover up, how life could be so much better if some knowledge would not be suppressed…. and instantly get a feeling "I am so much smarter than “them”, I know what is going on".

  16. ZarathustraSpeaks

    Every comment made here including my own is an attempt to support our own beliefs about the world. No matter how hard we think we are trying to impartially understand the world we are always influenced by by our need for self validation because we assume the "self" creates meaning in our life. If this is true, then belief is really the only possible basis for human understanding as long as we search for questions rather than answers. To me belief or faith means accepting ALL ideas as possible truths including the idea that nothing has any meaning or validity as no "idea" can ever be proven or disproven as we are always looking through the "rose colored glass" of our beliefs.

    "There is no God and we are his prophets"
    Cormac Mcarthy
    The Road

  17. Guest

    Hey, check the patternicity ! was chatting with the Gumdrop Decoder about this stuff....Spooky

  18. leo75

    is this a documentary?... I thought I was watching fox "news"

  19. Anthony Williams

    Why would I or anyone else if they had a care, attempt to impartially understand a world that is not impartial, and that functions according to the dynamic interactions of capital? the natural world follows its laws and human society follows the laws of finance.

    Possible truths in human society are founded in social interaction and can be understood with clarity when they are viewed in context of the societies of which they are a product. I don't often pursue "self-validation" as you put it through comments on a website, in fact I don't really understand what you mean by the term, isn't this "self validation" obtained when one looks in a mirror?

    Truths sought within the ultimate context of nature itself are more difficult to ascertain and some would argue paradoxical, but I would say this is a result of our perception of time and the loss of meaningful context when the various interactions of natural phenomenon are set against the unimaginable infinity of time(or not infinite, there in lies the paradox). In other words truth can only be found in nature when you have a relative scale.

    So to me truth can be sought in everyday life simply by understanding the nature of a capital society since this is the pre-eminent one and truth in nature can be sought by having a relative scale, lets say oh until the sun burns out.

    If you want to believe in something else then be my guest, but I would advise that firstly you find another planet.

  20. SilverBee

    What the heck does "choicelessly aware" mean? Seems as though you've said almost exactly what Schermer said.

  21. SilverBee

    Absolutely magnificent responses to dufas, AGD.

  22. Jack1952

    Is this your choiceless opinion? I suppose that having an opinion on anything would make one unaware since opinions and beliefs are the result of cultural and societal bias. So the more I learn and become aware, the less likely I would be to have any beliefs or opinions and would be completely unlikely to form any conclusions. It makes any study at all to be rather pointless.

  23. Jack1952

    @ SilverBee

    I have a feeling that AlmostAlwaysAwake did not like that Schermer tried to discredit some of his beliefs (9/11 conspiracy). It is a recurring theme among conspiracy folk that anyone who doesn't agree with them cannot think for themselves or is a talking head representing the established elite. They cannot see that they also have a belief system or a bias that compels them to seek only information that support their preconceived ideas. The statement I have just made will anger them because they will never admit to having a bias.

    Every human being has their own way of looking at the world due to genetic and environmental influences. The fact that one has a bias is not what is important. What is important is realizing our predisposition to confirm core beliefs and try to not let it influence our decisions and behavior to the point of being unreasonable or disruptive. Not always an easy thing to do.

  24. ufster ufster

    the same can be said of people who will brand conspiracy theorists or historical revisionists as kooks simply because they themselves are genetically-environmentally predisposed to accepting the assertions made by people of authority, enjoy the comfort of being socially acceptable in their views and many other social or psychological traits or behavioral patterns that push them towards believing or professing to believe whatever the masses of people believe.

    i think there are elements of our scientific understanding of how people think, with which we can assess the behavior and reasoning of people who are in both camps (so to speak) and most of the times these will apply to both sides in a debate equally accurately, as we turn the tables on them.

    for example, any skepticism towards the official explanation of the events of 9/11 will create a collective uproar in certain segments of the society who are quite contempt with the narrative fitting their ideological framework. one can see this with some members of the so-called atheist community (of which i am a part of if it can actually be called a community) who work rigorously to "debunk the debunkers" since an act of religious fanatics blowing things up is a great proselytizing opportunity and a useful weapon in a war of ideas.

  25. norlavine

    It's interesting to watch the overflowing excitement of these skeptics and debunkers, as if they have found the key to personal liberation. What is more interesting is how they actually reveal themselves to be conformists to textbook 'acadamia'. Even more interesting again, is how they deny any form of event phenomenon has ever occurred, other than in the deluded mind. Any forensic investigator worth their salt will tell us that absence of evidence is no evidence of absence...x

  26. PeSO821

    @ ufster ufster

    Good point, we most definitely are genetically predisposed to follow leaders and crowds.
    But let’s not forget 9/11 conspiracy or “truthers” are also a crowd. They have huge support for each other. Being against main establishment, does not make you individual.
    But all this is beside the point. It is about how to determine what is true. On this point anybody can be right. If a crowd (being “truthers” or establishment) thinks something is right, that does not prove anything.
    Only thing we can rely on is logical thinking and scientific method.

  27. ZarathustraSpeaks

    I'm not sure I follow your logic towards the observation of nature or human endeavors for truth. How one creates the parameters for observing "truth" is a mystery to me. I would say I hope you are wrong but that would be a product of my "belief system". I dont know how any of this would play out differently on another planet but it would be interesting to give it a shot. I have not watched the doc. as they usually tend to confuse the bigger questions by polarizing the discussions. I just have this nagging sensation we dont really have anyway of really "knowing" anything whatever the level of empirical evidence that seems to exist. Of course we have to "proceed" with what is logical in our lives based on observation but without slamming the door on possibility.

    "A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavor to do, he drowns." Joseph Conrad

  28. Jack1952

    @ leo75

    This is a lecture. It says so in the brackets in the title. Also, just above the video window is the sentence "Watch the full lecture now". Fox news does not air lectures (not that I watch it much anyway...too conservative).

  29. Jack1952

    @ StevenLJones

    The COMETA report says that 5% of UFO phenomena is inexplicable and could be extra terrestrial. That is far from definitive proof. The skeptic cannot accept it as proof either. When the proof is irrefutable the skeptic will believe in alien encounters. If confronted with solid evidence and one still denies, that is when we encounter the closed mind. Being a skeptic myself, I will only repeat as truth what is proven fact. Any idea that I find preposterous today is still open for further research and if findings prove the idea has merit I will accept the new information. Ideas require proof...real proof...not conjecture or questions.

  30. Jack1952

    @ TheParadigmShift

    Iran Contra has been shown to be fact before an official hearing. If asked, Shermer will tell you the same thing. How deep this plot went is uncertain because North took responsibility for the affair. What Shermer is saying is that "could bes, maybes, probabilities, why nots and I'll bet yous" are not the quantitative basis for formulating a precise opinion. Evidence is...pure facts and nothing else. One starts an investigation with a blank page and fills it with verifiable proofs until one has a complete story from beginning to end. After this exhaustive work has been completed is the moment when one says "I know what happened".

  31. Jack1952

    Would you say the same of the 90% of Americans who profess some type of belief in a God. Doesn't mean that he exists, only that people believe it.

  32. Anthony Williams

    One creates the parameter by setting them in a meaningful context and one can set all things in context by use of a relative scale.

    Truth is therefore a product of the above process but must be seen as such, this means one can pursue it. You say I hope your wrong, why? I was simply answering your question.

    Take 911 it was the deliberate actions of ideological terrorists, who followed their extreme beliefs to their inevitable logical conclusion, one could widen the context and look at how those beliefs where produced; by various other factors social, political etc , nonetheless there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the high-jackers did what they did and for the reasons above.

    Why people would then try to produce a theory more elaborate, involving explosives and secretive government demolition experts is beyond me.

    It seems to me that conspiracy theories are less the product of hindsight and this "internal external locus of control" as Dr shermer puts it, and more the product of a failure to place events into their true context, and that this comes about for reasons far more complex and frankly dull than I care to elucidate here. But i will say that news coverage probably has a lot more to do with it than anything the Dr had to say.

    Patternicty filters and all such jargon seem to me a way as labeling people as various shades of *****, and also seems to indicate an incredibly static view of how people actually are.

  33. watchoutforyourwife

    What a load of baloney.sorry couldnt watch more than the first twenty minutes .Do people actually subscribe to this society.gee whiz Medieaval.I think he needs to access a few more areas oif his brain .I think he`s just a boring boring reptillian.

  34. StevenLJones

    Skeptics have a point of view and they only in my experience look for evidence to back up their point of view. Saying you don't know is a lot different than saying I'm skeptic there's no solid evidence they don't exist. Which is mostly the story I get when I encounter skeptics. I bet you have no idea of who's behind the COMETA report for example.

    The COMETA Report was prefaced by General Bernard Norlain of the Air Force, former Director of IHEDN. The preamble was by André Lebeau, former President of the National Center for Space Studies
    (Centre National D’études Spatiales), or CNES. The authors of the report were an association of experts, many of whom were or had been auditors (defence and intelligence analysts) of IHEDN. The group was presided over by General Denis Letty of the Air Force, another former auditor of IHEDN.

    Other members included:

    General Bruno Lemoine, Air Force (former auditor of IHEDN)
    Admiral Marc Merlo, (former auditor of IHEDN)
    Michel Algrin, Doctor in Political Sciences, attorney at law (former auditor of IHEDN)
    General Pierre Bescond, engineer for armaments (former auditor of IHEDN)
    Denis Blancher, Chief National Police superintendent at the Ministry of the Interior
    Christian Marchal, chief engineer of the National Corps des Mines and Research Director at the National Office of Aeronautical Research (ONERA)
    General Alain Orszag, Ph.D. in physics, armaments engineer

  35. Jack1952

    @ StevenLJones

    The Cometa report, although written by an extremely credible source, was not solicited by the French government. The group did, however, send the report to President Chirac before public release. The report did state at the beginning, in the section called "Facts and Testimonies", that "none of these cases has been explained".
    Those involved in the report believe that all the hypothesis should be examined and that it would be prudent to be prepared in case there is an extra terrestrial threat. I see nothing wrong with that. I do not see how this proves that extra terrestrials are visiting us.

    On a more personal level, I have seen something in the night sky that was quite immense and have no explanation for. Nothing that I have ever heard of that has been produced on earth, by men, can explain what I saw. I can draw no conclusions, however, because I really don't know what it was. The cases examined by Cometa are amazing stories and I believe what those witnesses who have testified have tried to be accurate as possible. But, in the end, no one knows what it is they witnessed. It is quite possible that it is extra terrestrial in nature but we just do not know.

    As an example; scientists have for years, stated that the existence of planets outside our solar system was almost a certainty. They based this on the idea that if planets existed in our solar system they must also exist elsewhere. They would not definitively say it until, finally, verifiable evidence was uncovered. Now, it is fact. UFO's seem to suggest a strong possibility that aliens are visiting earth but it is not yet fact.

    Shermer is saying to be careful about how we draw our conclusions. True knowledge is a difficult process and there are no short cuts and opinions should not be offered on too little evidence.

  36. StevenLJones

    I'm not saying I believe anything either. I don't know what's out there but I doubt if all the witness's yourself included are deluded crazies that want attention. To be honest for me it's entertainment. Until they or it lands on the White House lawn we have nothing to fear or gain from this phenomena. Two favorites of mine are the Phoenix lights with thousands of witnesses and the Norwegian Hessdalen lights that have been captured on film and have reoccurred over a period of time. I would doubt that we are alone in the universe even though I have absolutely no proof that this is the case. I find all of it very interesting and I refuse to dismiss any of it out of hand. And you seem to be an open minded skeptic. Cheers!

  37. PeSO821

    There are two basic modes of thinking:

    - I don’t believe anything unless proven – and even than I only take it as best approximation until better proof comes along. If something contradicts data I will abandon whole idea all together. I am NEVER CERTAIN in anything; nobody can give me 100% proof. There is no 100% proof for gravity, big bang, sub atomic particles…

    - I will believe anything, unless I get a proof I am wrong. I am ALWAYS CERTAIN you can never give me 100% proof I am wrong. There is no 100% proof gods, aliens, supernatural forces… do NOT exist.

    Some thinkers are never certain – so they are SKEPTICS
    Some thinkers can never be convinced they are wrong – they are BELIVERS

    It is that SIMPLE!

  38. Tracy Jo Klatke Anctil

    Made it to 8:45 and have no interest - the guy's not funny, provokes no interest - the voice is abrasive - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz/thud

  39. Guest

    8.45? you barely made it past the introduction. Thought this was pretty interesting, seems to make sense. Not much to comment on, it does what it says on the tin :)

  40. Guest

    Anyone know why the 'stop censorship' is over the DISQUS title? My finger is itching to click but that has led me into trouble before, bad finger!

  41. Guest

    No worries, googled and answered my own question. Anyone able should click and sign :)

  42. Achems_Razor

    @50 4 40,

    I looked at the stop censorship from disqus, it didn't blow my computer up, it is just about the land of the free govment trying to monitor the internet, as they do in China I suppose.

  43. Vlatko

    @fifty4fourty,

    Today, Congress holds hearings on the first American Internet censorship system.

    This bill can pass (SOPA). If it does the Internet and free speech will never be the same.

    Many of the popular websites are putting that link up, or they auto-censor themselves to protest.

    Go there, close the censorship window and read about it.

  44. Guest

    “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

  45. Guest

    Couldn't hold myself, clicked and read. So sad, where America leads England will surely follow. Not at all pleased with this, whatever happened to freedom of speech and the free flow of information and knowledge?

  46. Robert Elliot

    "Would you say the same"? Say the same as what? I didn't make any claims - I shared an observation about certain so-called skeptics and then asked a question of the poster who responded to my observation with an ad homenim attack.

    At the risk of assuming your meaning, however, certain quantum physics experiments have established strong circumstantial evidence (and a high percentage of criminal convictions are based solely on circumstantial evidence) for the existence of "some type of" God or creator (and many physicists agree, for whatever that's worth), just as there is abundant evidence of official government coverups in the cases of 9/11 and the assassination of JFK. So the common wisdom of the people would appear to be well-grounded in these instances.

  47. Isabelle

    Critical thinking is designed for the null hypothesis... There are no proofs, just evidence. And don't go and try to convince everyone else, you have lost credibility already if you feel the need to do that.

  48. robertallen1

    As you have provided no source for your assertion, I am skeptical of your 90%.

    But one way or the other, scientific correctness is not determined democratically.

  49. robertallen1

    I believe that you mean precise, not concise.

  50. robertallen1

    Did you actually watch the documentary? If so, I find it hard to believe that you paid any attention to what was said. Personal liberation (whatever that is) and textbook 'academia' (again, whatever that is) were never even mentioned, much less discussed.

    What is "event phenomenon' (I believe you mean phenomena, but you never can tell from the way you express yourself)? I'm just guessing that you mean something out of the ordinary (paranormal)--but you don't seem to have given much thought to the matter.

    By a "forensic investigator," do you mean someone who investigates crimes? Again, I'm just guessing that you mean an investigator pure and simple. It's hard to tell when you replace thought with cliché.

    Also, it's "any forensic investigator worth his salt" or for the feminist, "forensic investigators worth their salt." You can't have it both ways.

  51. robertallen1

    The amateurs against the pros.

  52. robertallen1

    Obviously you have a hearing problem. Did he not say that the events leading up to Archduke Ferdinand's assassination constituted a conspiracy.

    "He probably denies . . . " says nothing. Stick to the facts. Has he?

    Nothing annoys me more than people who posit probabilities based on their selective listening.

  53. robertallen1

    You're an excellent listener. Too bad I can't say the same for your opponents.

  54. His Forever

    "We can't help believing." Well, now, isn't God good? He created the mind and brain to have faith in Him, just like it should. That's wonderful!

  55. His Forever

    Vlatko/Mr. Razor/f4f: Well, that would be utterly the worst possible outcome of all time to censor the Internet. Without freedom of expression, there'd be no freedom of thought! We're all so opinionated here, we'd be some of the first to be "censored" for sure I think.

  56. Achems_Razor

    Charles, right, piss me off first thing in the morning about your "good god" tell your imaginary him, her, it, to stop the internet censorship coming from your land of the free.

    If you believe so much, no problemo, right!

  57. Guest

    We could always go back to pen and paper, post is probably safer privacy wise than anything we do on the internet.

    Now where did I put that pigeon?

  58. Sean MacMahon

    Before I begin I should mention a few things about myself: I'm not religious. I don't believe Earth has been visited by aliens in any significant way (if at all). My third eye is open. I astral project on a regular basis. I'm not inclined to believe in conspiracy theories, although I do take the questions they pose into consideration. I value scientific FINDINGS as a solid basis for truth, above whatever other theories exist for the subject in question.

    This lecture is an excellent example of how skeptic-ism can be taken to religious proportions, making it just another form of hypocrisy. This guy talks just as narrowly about religions, conspiracies and paranormal phenomenon, as religions do about non-believers, conspiracy theorists about "sheeple", and so on. He speaks against the mindset of "I believe it, therefore it is true", yet fails to realize that the mindset of "I don't believe it, therefore it's not true" is no more valid. Both are merely assumptions. Both are just as arbitrary - and throwing in the occasional "sure, technically it might be true" and then continuing to tout his non-belief with certainty, does not negate this.

    Science (the "God" of skeptic-ism) is obviously skeptical (and for good reason), yet it is still open to possibilities that have not yet been definitively proven or disproven. In other words, science is skeptical yet open-minded. On the other hand, people who base their identities on being skeptics (and worse yet, take PRIDE in it to the point of being disdainful of people they see as non-skeptics), are not open to possibilities which have yet to be definitively proven or disproven. In other words, they are skeptical and closed-minded - or perhaps more accurately, they are skeptical-by-default to the point of closed-mindedness, as though the mere act of being skeptical automatically makes their position more valid.

    Ultimately, I could care less what people choose to believe. However, closed-mindedness bothers the hell out of me, especially when it goes so far as to create an "Us versus/above Them" mentality, whether in word or in deed. Differences in point of view are, at their foundation, harmless - it's only when the desire to be "right" outweighs the desire to respect your fellow man/woman that conflict is created.

  59. Edris Tavoosi

    well said! I agree 100%

  60. Jack1952

    One piece of circumstantial evidence does not convict. To convict on circumstantial evidence alone one must collect a body of circumstantial evidence so that it becomes corroborating evidence. Any alternative explanation for a piece of circumstantial evidence will lesson the value of that evidence depending on the weight of the alternative explanation.

    The quantum experiments have given results that have appeared counterintuitive to the human observer. Any physicist who, from those experiments alone, concludes that these results prove the existence of a creator is not much of a scientist. In a court of law that would be misuse of circumstantial evidence.

    To show how a cover-up does not always indicate guilt I will give an example of how this is true. A workplace has had a great deal of stock missing from the supply room. "John" has been seen going into the supply room on numerous occasions for no apparent reason. When confronted "John" vehemently denies that he took anything. When asked why he was in the supply room he becomes nervous, evasive and then says that they can't prove he stole anything. Management agrees but the now believe that "John" is the thief they are looking for. Thing is "John" is guilty but not of theft. "John" has a cocaine problem and was using the supply room as a place to feed his addiction. People have many reasons to cover-up their actions that may have nothing to do with the investigation at hand.

  61. Jack1952

    @ robertallen1

    Google "percentage of Americans that believe in God". You will find plenty of sources.

    "Scientific correctness is not determined democratically". That was my point exactly.

  62. Jack1952

    You are correct. It has been corrected.

  63. PaulGloor

    I notice that Shermer makes a lot of you angry.
    The important part to pull from this is the fundamental idea that the brain has evolved around a structure of differences/cause and effect and recognizing patterns to predict the effect and take action as a matter of survival.
    You deal with patterns all the time, speech, written language, social interactions, facial recognition, the list goes on to the most mundane of things. Without them, we wouldn't be here today.
    By the same mechanism, we construct beliefs for things we don't understand, or refuse to accept. Like what causes the tides and rain or global warming.

    I dug this up originally in reply to a person who posts about NASA conspiracies regarding inhabitants or visitors on other planets and moons, particularly in our own solar system, based on artifacts she finds in heavily edited JPEG files and later suggested it to Vlatco.
    It provided me with some insight on the why and how a person can come to believe something of a scientifically unfeasible or circumstantial nature. It is now a tool in my arsenal for understanding rather than just saying shes crazy, which she could very well be, but I am no longer assuming so.

  64. His Forever

    Fifty4fourty: Now that made me laugh! Except for the fact that the post office is nearly bankrupt already.

  65. His Forever

    Mr. Razor: Well, I'm super upset about the Internet censorship too. The religious freedoms on the Internet will the first to go, I'm sure (no more Sid Roth for example), followed by political dissidents. In this case we have similar views, but perhaps for different reasons.

  66. Guest

    Ours too, we could save it though, boycott the internet!!!

  67. norlavine

    You appear to be overly involved in peering at the structure of others sentences in a rather creepy manner - perhaps that's why you cannot comprehend the meaning of what they are communicating. And yes, a forensic investigator - or a medical pathologist will tell you that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - of either a crime or disease, you ninny. These are just examples I used - get over it.
    Disagree with my opinion at will - but don't stoop to pulling apart my words or sentences. This isn't an English language competition. You know exactly what I mean, but if you genuinely don't,then your opinion to me becomes kind of worthless.Know what I mean? xx

  68. robertallen1

    And you have you appear to be overly involved in putting down your intellectual betters, not by knowledge and thought, but by ignorance and claptrap. Your opinions are worthless unless you know something about the subjects and can express yourself clearly.

    You might try learning before expostulating.

  69. norlavine

    @robertallen1
    'And you have you appear to be' - what does that mean? Of course I know it's a typo. Quick lesson in English comprehension: Read the surrounding dialogue in a sentence or phrase you don't understand. Read between the lines, and don't believe anything written by an academic is in stone. The current laws of physics is about to be thrown out the window by the real scientists working on the Opera project in Europe. Think outside the square now and then and become one of us who no teacher can harm xx

  70. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @norlavine

    Even if physics is revised, it is hardly likely that the current laws will be "thrown out the window" entirely. Obviously the bulk of our current understanding is fairly accurate (as much of it was even before Einstein) or we would not be able to make accurate predictions. The possibility of gaining new understanding of our universe is very exciting, but we can't let that excitement cloud our reason and skepticism. I'll think outside the square of modern physics when there is convincing evidence that the square must be relocated. Even if our understanding is radically and dramatically shifted, the likely result would be that we would be able to comprehend even more about our world and not that we would discover that our entire current understanding is totally unfounded.

    EDIT:
    I'm always glad when we're working to expand our understanding, whatever that might constitute.

  71. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @Paul Gloor

    Right on! It's also a useful tool for policing your own reasoning processes and weeding out the junk!

  72. Epicurus

    Those people working on OPERA are all scientists who are academics. they are all published in academic journals and the methods they use are scientific.

    and here is proof that they are uptight academics who follow the rules of proper science:

    Fernando Ferroni, president of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics, said: "A measurement so delicate and carrying a profound implication on physics requires an extraordinary level of scrutiny. The experiment at Opera, thanks to a specially adapted Cern beam, has made an important test of consistency of its result. The positive outcome of the test makes us more confident in the result, although a final word can only be said by analogous measurements performed elsewhere in the world."

    also there are many other explanations for how the neutrinos moved that fast which would not change our view of physics but will add to our view of quantum physics.

  73. norlavine

    I agree with the 'adding to our view of quantum physics'. My point is this: 'real' scientists don't waste their time preaching that anyone who believes there are a myriad 'unknowns and undocumenteds' is deluded.Its fine for Michael Shermer to expound the results of his research, I just don't agree that his 'closed' conclusions are 'gospel'.
    Not all academics are uptight nor are all academics wise. Anyone with the time, resources and reasonable IQ can get a degree.
    Science is impartial to emotion and prejudice, therefore I believe he could talk about his research and results, but leave the word deluded out of it, because he just hasn't enough proven data to confirm this as factual. Gullible and eager to be considered intellectually elite, the new wave atheists fawn upon him like little old ladies at a Benny Hinn rally..xx

  74. robertallen1

    A typo is one thing, a glaring grammatical error another "the current laws of physics is about . . . ." Incidentally, by current laws of physics do you mean those of today as contrasted with those of yesteryear? I thought they were timeless.

    Having read between your lines, I find you share two characteristics with Sarah Palin: you go on about things of which you know nothing, in Ms. Palin's case Paul Revere, in yours the Opera Project (two other posts from people who obviously know someting about it prove that I'm not the only one who thinks so) and you believe yourself generally competent when you're not. You two also share a general ignorance which in your case drives you to denigrate academics such as Drs. Schermer and Dawkins.

    P.S. Not that you'll even make the attempt, learn the difference between who and whom--obviously, no teacher ever had a positive effect on you which is why a course in writing would be abortive.

  75. Epicurus

    it seems that the main problem people have with skeptics and namely Dr. Shermer is with the language they use. I admit it is harsh at times and unnecessary. but I think he might be saving the deluded comments for special cases of people who refuse to even entertain other lines of reasoning. I think that is why (in his book with the same title as this doc) he goes to great lengths to explore all the lines of reasoning and put them to scrutiny.

    The only people who ought to be blamed for "new wave atheists", as you call them, are the evangelical christians and religious right-wing conservative political groups around the world.

    Atheists feel that they have been ignored and thought of as lesser citizens for long enough and when that happens even the most rational person sometimes becomes irrational and uses language that isnt conducive in getting their message across. I will be the first to admit I have been guilty of that in the past - and probably will be in the future. Just goes to show no one is a robot and will react with emotion sometimes.

  76. Fabio Victor

    the beginning was OK, but I believe he started failing when he started talking about the conspiracy theories. If he claims to be a scientist which will observe the evidence and then try to prove, he should look at more sources for more evidence. There is so much crap in this world that the major conspiracy theorists are those ones who believe nothing is going on outside of their views. I'm not saying that there are not many crazy conspiracy theorists who do believe in anything for no apparent reason, but in cases like 9/11, lincoln assassination and etc there are plenty of evidence that will prove, at least, that the official version is wrong. Or let's now not say that the United States is occupying countries in the middle east for oil control? Who is conspiring here?

  77. awful_truth

    Hi Norlavine. Don't hold your breath about everything being overturned by the 'real scientists'. Just because they have supposedly duplicated their neutrino experiment, hasn't proved that Einstein is wrong. It is far more likely they will prove neutrino's never had mass to begin with, and Einstein will be validated again. Since they are unable to give a concrete number(other then 'non zero mass') for a neutrino unlike other particles, I wouldn't put much weight behind it. Besides, these things pass through each of us and the planet millions of times a second without impacting anything, and modulate between 3 different varieties. I would love to see how they can ascertain they are the same ones the sent out to begin with. Critical thinking needs to be applied equally to the scientists as it is to the skeptics, and the zealots. Just an opinion. Best wishes, and live long and prosper.

  78. norlavine

    Thank you for your most courteous response, it's a refreshing change to hear an opposing viewpoint from someone who has no need to discredit and diminish me as a person.
    Thank you also for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I will think about them and get back to you tomorrow morning, as it is quite late here, about 35 degrees Celsius and sleep is on the menu. xx

  79. dufas_duck

    @AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    Since my point by point answer to your question was held back some time ago by the moderator, I'll try a shorter reply..

    Contrary to what you may have surmised, I am not dissing Dr Shermer, I agree with his process, it is the outcome that I am skeptical of.

    Science, by it's very nature, when taken to the nth degree, when only one answer to any question is what science says it is and then to apply science to politics, morality, life in general, etc, etc is asking for more trouble than we now have. Science should be a tool, not an end all else we all become mental clones of one another, each living the same life, thinking and acting the same way with very little room to be an individual. I would rather put up with the many weird belief systems that now exist.

    Maybe the best way to explain is to use his own words from his web site...

    As follows:

    {from Dr shermer}
    The most ardent skeptics enjoy their skepticism as long as it does not encroach upon their own cherished beliefs. Then incredulity flies out the window.

    It is easy, even fun to challenge others’ beliefs, when we are smug in the certainty of our own. But when ours are challenged, it takes great patience and ego strength to listen with an unjaundiced ear. But there is a deeper flaw in pure skepticism.

    Taken to an extreme the position by itself cannot stand.
    Dr Shermer

  80. Guest

    Merely having a "weird belief system" is not a challenge to skepticism. You are misunderstanding Dr. Shermer's point.

  81. John perez

    good points! I have had the chance to do a lot of researching into Shermer, his other debates with both conspiracy theorists and paranormal researchers. let me tell you first off..Shermer gets railed to pieces By Stanton friedman a self proclaimed "UFOLOGIST" ..and Shermer decides to instead of doing research the said documents and sources talked about in the subject matter,he takes both the belittling roles of debating by pulling out the oh so wasteful "little green men" ridicule and his own concoction of the long researched material.His only stance is to pick apart human psychology..which is fine pick it apart,say we are not Conscientious observers thats your stance,however it does not mean you can just have a "FREE" pass at not doing research.these arguments only go so far as we learned from Friedmen Stating why Shermer goes after these topics and how ufo research and other areas as well have been ridiculed for years in the old days it was his good friend..Phil Klas,using the same tactics to belittle and ridicule Friedman and others.this is nothing more than a psy-ops.if humans are NOT good Conscientious observers than why do we have courts..lawyers,juries and anything else? why do beliefs not get the best of us here? like i said..psy-ops.

  82. dufas_duck

    @lakhotason

    Please explain how I stated a 'weird belief system' is or isn't a challenge to skepticism. My point was that when science enters politics or morality, science can put society on a slippery slope.

  83. Epicurus

    science tells us how things work. without it politics and morality would be lost. they would be guesses.

    we need science to help us have a clear objective view in which we can formulate rational ethics and politics.

  84. norlavine

    Hey, I never said Einstein was wrong! Science is the keystone to life as we know it! Why not keep science and personal beliefs separate? Just because someone is brilliant in science/research such as Richard Dawkins, doesn't mean I want them telling me that we are NOT spirits in the material world, because- that cannot be proven, one way or another. Dr Shermer obviously has done exhaustive studies.
    The question no one seems to ponder is this: If the sole purpose of genes is merely to reproduce then die, what is the driving force, and how come evolution steadfastly created such a magnificent machine as the human brain? Why not remain as reproductive sludge repeating the process ad infinitum? xx

  85. norlavine

    You nailed that one Fabio, good work xx

  86. norlavine

    I'm not refuting the current laws of physics, I just think that there is MUCH MORE, thats all xx

  87. norlavine

    Seriously, without being mean - do you suffer from Asperger's syndrome? If you do, disregard anything unkind I may have said xx

  88. norlavine

    @ epicurus
    I agree totally with you. I just don't need scientists to become philosophers, and to use the public arena to sneak in a little political agenda whilst they are at it xx

  89. Barse_Ackwards

    To think some people actually pay money to hear this clown talk and buy his terrible books.

  90. robertallen1

    Seriously, I don't pretend to know if there is anything organically wrong with you. I just find your entire outlook pathetic.

  91. awful_truth

    Hi Norlavine. I Apologize if you misinterpreted my email. I was just making a comment regarding your thoughts towards robertallen1 that current laws of physics were about to be thown out the window. I was assuming you were making reference to the so called faster than light neutrino discovery. If I was in error, once again I apologize. My concern was not directed at you, only at all the sensationalism the media is spouting regarding their latest 'so called' discovery. In that context, re-read my blog and you will understand my concerns regarding the contempt for Einstein, from those who wish to dethrone him. Best wishes, and live long and prosper.

  92. awful_truth

    While I respect the knowledge and some of the position of Michael Shermer, his condescending attitude towards those who have a different opinion then his is crass, arrogant, and just plain ignorant. This attitude in my opinion is usually a sign that the individual is less secure in their position then they would have us all believe. In reality, if your position is so weak that it can't stand the test of debate, then I don't want to hear it. I believe everyone's time could be better spent watching someone who embraces the duality of life, as opposed to someone who is skeptical about anything they didn't come up with. There a 3 types of people in the world. I will, I won't, and I can't. The will do everything, the won't do nothing, and the can't won't even try. Live long, and prosper everyone.

  93. norlavine

    Aren't you way too judgmental? Doesn't look like a good start to becoming an authority on anythingywingy.Dr Shermer has all of a sudden moved on from being an extremely competent scientist/researcher to a philosopher who has at last (like Dr Dawkins) discovered the real meaning of life (yeah sure). I guess they got to where they are from scrutinizing their textbooks for grammatical errors.
    Guess it would take you too long to get through a textbook on anything. Those little grammatical errors that pop up now and then would leave you too nonplussed to take in the actual information x

  94. norlavine

    @Barse_Ackwards
    (sound of applause) xx

  95. norlavine

    @awful_truth
    No offence taken,and also - robertallen1 keeps me amused. Einstein was and still is a giant in my books xx

  96. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @norlavine

    And you are oh-so-correct!

  97. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @dufas_duck

    QUOTE:
    "Contrary to what you may have surmised, I am not dissing Dr Shermer, I agree with his process, it is the outcome that I am skeptical of."

    RESPONSE:
    I'm not bothered about whether you're dissing Shermer. I'm not some fanboy, this is the first I've heard of him, and I've got no horse in that race. I'm glad I listened to his lecture, but I didn't hear anything here that I hadn't heard someone else state more effectively somewhere else. That doesn't mean I disrespect him either, or that I'm not glad someone is out there publicly stating the things that he is. I was simply concerned about the manner in which you totally mischaracterized virtually everything he said in the video. I'm a stickler for intellectual honesty in discourse. I hate throwing around terms like "straw man" simply because it's so overdone on internet forums, but that's really the only way I can describe the post of yours to which I previously responded. Whether intentionally or not, you mischaracterized his statements and then argued against your own mischaracterizations... much easier to do than to argue Shermer's actual points.
    -------
    QUOTE:
    "Science, by it's very nature, when taken to the nth degree, when only one answer to any question is what science says it is and then to apply science to politics, morality, life in general, etc, etc is asking for more trouble than we now have."

    RESPONSE:
    This is honestly not an attempt to be rude, but because of grammatical issues, it is very hard for me to discern what you are trying to say in this sentence. I am going to break the sentence down into parts and explain what I think you are trying to say. That way, if I misinterpret you and respond inappropriately, you will be able to tell where I went wrong. It's never effective to argue back and forth without a consensus on what's being argued.

    I interpret "Science... when taken to the nth degree... is asking for more trouble than we have now," as the core of the sentence, with "...by it's very nature..." and "...when only one answer to any question is what science says it is and then to apply science to politics, morality, life in general, etc, etc..." as sort of additional side-notes expanding on the basic idea.

    If I ignore the second phrase and add in only "...by it's very nature...," the sentence is still pretty easy to read but I'm still not sure what it means. This is my attempt to restructure the ideas contained in those parts of the sentence:

    "Because of the nature of science, when science is taken to the nth degree, science is asking for more trouble than we have now."

    I don't know precisely what you mean about science being taken to the "nth degree," but I think you're saying something about relying too much on science causing worse conditions in the world than we currently have. I don't really know how science (in the pure sense of learning how the world works) can be taken too far, although it's definitely true that to some malicious or unscrupulous people will use that new knowledge to go around a make a mess of things. It may be true, but it's certainly not a very good justification for remaining ignorant - especially when the bulk of our problems are conspicuously rooted in too-much-ignorance rather than too-much-knowledge. Whether the advancement of science will cause "more trouble than we have now" is highly debatable. How is it because of the nature of science that it would cause trouble?

    (I'm not sure about the longer phrase. I think you perhaps disagree with science having a role in politics, morality, and "life in general." I don't see how our understanding of the universe can help but influence these things)
    ------
    QUOTE:
    "Science should be a tool, not an end all else we all become mental clones of one another, each living the same life, thinking and acting the same way with very little room to be an individual.

    RESPONSE:
    I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing science as an end, but it definitely is a wonderful tool. How does seeing science as an end in itself make us mental clones, each living the same life, and acting the same way? It's not like gaining knowledge is going to suddenly dispatch with all human disagreement and uniqueness and create a hive-mind. There will always be unanswered questions. People will always be biologically different, and this will always result in people having distinct personalities. There will also always be people who insist (perhaps involuntarily) on behaving irrationally. So even if we had all the knowledge in the universe and it became painfully obvious that there were objectively correct ways for everyone to behave, many (most?) people would still be acting bonkers regardless. It's not like the scientific community learning about evolution and the Big Bang has made people stop insisting that the world is less than 6,000 years old, that it was created in six days, that man was created as-is from dust, that woman was made from man's rib, that snakes used to talk, and that people used to live to be hundreds of years old except life expectancies have decreased since ancient times.
    ----
    QUOTE:
    "I would rather put up with the many weird belief systems that now exist."

    RESPONSE:
    I had rather not put up with people holding erroneous superstitious beliefs that make them oppress and kill each other than for us to learn what are universe is actually like and start coping with it.
    ----
    QUOTE:
    "Maybe the best way to explain is to use his own words from his web site...

    As follows:

    {from Dr shermer}
    The most ardent skeptics enjoy their skepticism as long as it does not encroach upon their own cherished beliefs. Then incredulity flies out the window.

    It is easy, even fun to challenge others’ beliefs, when we are smug in the certainty of our own. But when ours are challenged, it takes great patience and ego strength to listen with an unjaundiced ear. But there is a deeper flaw in pure skepticism.

    Taken to an extreme the position by itself cannot stand.
    Dr Shermer"

    RESPONSE:
    Is that where the passage ends? He certainly didn't do a very good job of elaborating on that final thought. There are so many ways that could be interpreted that I couldn't begin to assign a definite implication to it. Perhaps he means that doubt in an of itself does not supply a means of progressing forward? I don't know. Either way, I'm sure we can all agree that skepticism alone is not all it takes for progress (however we might define that), but rather the fruit of stripping away of falsehood in favor of truth that is the result of applied skepticism.

    Was that okay?

  98. norlavine

    @AnalogousGumdropDecoder
    Perhaps Dr Shermer means not to let skepticism stand in the way of keeping the door to all knowledge open. In my books, his skepticism is an almost foregone conclusion about ANY subject of mystery.That's not science, it's an attitude. x

  99. Winston Smith

    He is wrong about wtc 1 2 & 7 not having been brought down with preplanted explosives.. that's for sure!

  100. robertallen1

    I wish you would go over your writing as thoroughly as texbook writers generally do. It's amazing how quickly grammatical errors and the like for the most part disappear during this process.

    There is nothing wrong with being judgmental, especially wnen you know something about the subject.

    Don't guess, you're not good at it.

  101. robertallen1

    I respect a different opinion provided there is intelligence and knowledge behind it. Otherwise, an ignorant, uneducated opinion tenaciously held deserves the condescension, crassness and arrogance with which it is met.

    I admire Richard Dawkins' practice of refusing to debate with a creationist not because he is by any means insecure in his position, but because he feels it intellectually beneath him--and he's right.

  102. Guest

    @Robertallen1, every single time you pompously atttempt to correct someone's gramatical errors you make typo mistakes...as in here :There is nothing wrong with being judgmental unless you know don't know anything substantial about the subject.

    you know don't know?????

    When 90% of your posts have the goal of playing English teacher to others you should at least re-read your own texts and correct them. As Achems noted, your once in a blue moon on the subject comment may be interesting as for the rest of your input, you constantly make a fool of yourself instead of making a fool of who you are trying to mock.

    I am not impressed by your use of big long words...the dictionary has them available for anyone who wishes to LOOK smart. I wouldn't be surprised if in real life they are not there to be heard.

    az

  103. robertallen1

    I don't know what happened with that sentence, but somehow it did not come out the way I wrote it. I have corrected it.

    "I wouldn't be surprised if in real life they are not there to be heard." What does that mean?

    At least when a mistake is pointed out to me, I correct it rather than taking offense.

  104. Guest

    Let me re-phrase. I am saying "weird belief systems" do not challenge my skepticism. You said "weird" belief systems" were more acceptable.

    Dr. Shermer is saying that unchallenged skepticism is flawed. I am with Dr. Shermer. I want my skepticism challenged. That's how you learn, however, "weird beliefs" do not challenge my skepticism. They are just "weird beliefs".

    An example. I was deeply skeptical of faster than light neutrinos, yet a second experiment showed the same results. I am not so skeptical now (but still in the show-me again stage). This is how skepticism is challenged - not by some weird belief system.

  105. Guest

    People take offense because it is your intention to give offense.
    I truly believe you have a lot to say which is more important than how you say it...same for others.
    Are you going to start correcting Vlatko, Epi, Achems, Waldo and the rest? You wouldn't be so busy with frivolities if you only corrected your own posts. It has kept me entertained lately and i will continue until you get it, go ahead and correct me. I am French and NEVER use "check spelling", but i do use "edit" on just about every post.

    If you read the paragraph you will understand what it means.

    Also in your previous comment did you mean unsecure or insecure. I could go on and on just to show you how rediculous this is.
    az

  106. Guest

    Dr. Dawkins does not tell you there are no spirits. Dr. Dawkins tells you there is no evidence for spirits. No scientist will ever say never.

    As for your wanting science to stay out of philosophy and personal beliefs, how is that possible and why would you wish that? Do you not wish to have your beliefs challenged?

  107. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @norlavine

    It depends on what you mean by "subject of mystery."

    If you mean notions for which there is no evidence, such as supernatural agents in the universe, then I'd say that it is indeed the responsibility of science to remain skeptical of these things. Otherwise any idea anyone ever concocted to explain something they didn't understand would have to be considered as equally scientifically valid, and this is simply not the case. People can believe in gods, fairies, leprechauns, nature spirits, chaos magick, the human soul, angels, demons, unicorns, the afterlife, reincarnation, and what-have-you to their hearts' content, but these things will never be science and will never be proven to be existent. They can never become the subjects of theories because they fail to qualify as hypotheses. Because they are untestable, they cannot be proven. Because they cannot be proven, they should be regarded with skepticism. If we decide it's okay to accept that for which there is no evidence, evidence itself loses all meaning and everything becomes true... including my "theory" that people devolved from non-intelligent quasi-beings whose spiritual essence was composed of pure high fructose corn syrup and who were native to long since evaporated regions of New Zealand, which itself came into being after having been farted out by Azg-Rhuzurthel, the giant androgynous porcupine-deity.

  108. robertallen1

    Wrong, expression is just as important as substance--and quite frankly, some of those who comment here deserve to be offended.

    Thank you for pointing out a typo. I have gladly corrected it.

    "Rediculous"--was this intentional?

  109. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @robertallan1

    "I admire Richard Dawkins' practice of refusing to debate with a creationist not because he is by any means unsecure in his position, but because he feels it intellectually beneath him--and he's right."

    Of course, he's done it a gazillion times in the past and it has always gone about the same way. His well-reasoned points get constantly interrupted and yelled over with the same weak arguments and dishonest semantic games he dispensed with years ago in the God Delusion. It's a waste of his effort to repeat the process, and it detracts from time he could be promoting science and skepticism in more productive ways.

  110. robertallen1

    I know he used to debate them, but I don't think he has recently--and for the reasons which you have so well set forth. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

  111. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @robertallen1
    "A typo is one thing, a glaring grammatical error another "the current laws of physics is about . . . ." Incidentally, by current laws of physics do you mean those of today as contrasted with those of yesteryear? I thought they were timeless.

    Having read between your lines, I find you share two characteristics with Sarah Palin: you go on about things of which you know nothing, in Ms. Palin's case Paul Revere, in yours the Opera Project (two other posts from people who obviously know someting about it prove that I'm not the only one who thinks so) and you believe yourself generally competent when you're not. You two also share a general ignorance which in your case drives you to denigrate academics such as Drs. Schermer and Dawkins.

    P.S. Not that you'll even make the attempt, learn the difference between who and whom--obviously, no teacher ever had a positive effect on you which is why a course in writing would be abortive. "

    Please. Stop.

    I know English grammar very well, but I'm sure you could probably tear all my posts apart looking for errors and find tons of them. The thing is, most grammatical errors do not in any way compromise the clarity of the idea being communicated. When someone confuses "who" with "whom," ends a sentence with a preposition, or makes some other petty mistake, it is usually quite easy to discern what's being said (often without even stopping to re-read the sentence). I say this having just raised a grammatical question with someone on this very page. Some misuse of language actually disrupts communication. Most of it does not.

    Honestly, when was the last time a who/whom mix-up threw you for a loop so badly you had to stop and re-read the sentence to discern what was being communicated?

    EDIT: I added the original quote to clarify my response)

  112. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @robertallan1

    "I know he used to debate them, but I don't think he has recently--and for the reasons which you have so well set forth. Please correct me if I'm wrong."

    I'm pretty sure you're correct. I was agreeing with you.

  113. dufas_duck

    @AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    The nth degree is the final fact, the end, the complete truth...

    If there is only one set of truths and these truths are applied to morality and politics, this leaves only one way to think, one way to act. Life would become extremely ridged and confined. If one were to think and act outside these scientific truths, one would be guilty of falsehoods in the same venue as those that believe the world is only 6000 years old.

    The hive mind is the slippery slope that I allude to. It has happened in the past and could possibly happen again. Science applied to politics and morality did not destroy the individual in these cases although one living under these scientific regimes had best not voice an alternate opinion.

    My mother-in-law and her mother lived under a scientific government. They both had a string of numbers tattooed down their left forearms by people that believed that only science can define politics and morality. They missed being put into the gas chambers by a very short time although, since they were scientifically proclaimed to be a lower class of human, they spent most of their time, strapped to a bed and being used by soldiers, one after the other, for days and nights on end. This was the answer to one nation's scientific analysis of science and politics. Scientific politics and morality is a very slippery slope..

    I would rather put up with some people believing that the world is 6000 years old than having only one political party of scientific truth and morality in charge. If there is only one scientific truth, there can be only one political party, one morality, and one policy, all else would be a falsehood...

  114. robertallen1

    1. I have no problem with your posts. I find them well-written, intelligent and informative.

    2. While I don't go looking for grammatical errors, I see them as a sign of carelessness. I admit to having made a few in my time, but I look at it this way: trying for 105% and attaining 99% bodes well. Typos are another matter; they are an unavoidable fact of life.

    3. There's a difference between saying "I 'goed' to the store," as opposed to "I went to the store" although the meaning is as clear as "I ain't got no books." Manner of expression says a lot.

    4. I could expatiate on the so-called prohibition against ending a sentence with a "preposition." Let me put it this way: anyone who criticizes someone for doing this does not know the English language.

    5. I would like to see the who/whom distinction abandoned. It is simply a relic from an earlier time when English was an inflected language and, as you point out, useless. I would also like to see the distinction between further and farther abandoned as unnecessary. But what I would like doesn't matter--at the present, I will continue to make these distinctions--but the future is uncertain.

  115. robertallen1

    Right or wrong, Dr. Shermer is simply proposing to give science a try in understanding politics, morality, etc. Unlike the Nazi's, he is not positing an ideology and then using science to justify it.

    Where you and others get the idea that Dr. Shermer is proposing one party, one scientific truth, one morality is beyond me. None of his statements comes even close to such concepts.

    Is it probable that you will ever be faced with the choice of putting up with either someone who wrongly believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old or with a monolith such as you've described? Besides, what does one have to do with the other?

    Your post is completely askew.

  116. dufas_duck

    The weird beliefs I was eluding to was 'the world is flat, the sun orbits the earth, there is a great being in the sky who watches over every believer, every inanimate object has a spirit, etc, etc...'

    My point was that I would rather put up with those people that have "weird beliefs" than have science define politics, morality, and ethics.

  117. dufas_duck

    I was not saying that Dr Shermer was proposing a one party, one ideology, etc...
    There are people in the world that would jump at the idea of using scientific politics/morality for there own agendas just as religions press their beliefs into politics and morality.

    You have no idea what I or my family have faced. I don't 'believe' you could have handled it.

  118. dufas_duck

    "{from Dr shermer}
    The most ardent skeptics enjoy their skepticism as long as it does not encroach upon their own cherished beliefs. Then incredulity flies out the window.

    It is easy, even fun to challenge others’ beliefs, when we are smug in the certainty of our own. But when ours are challenged, it takes great patience and ego strength to listen with an unjaundiced ear. But there is a deeper flaw in pure skepticism.

    Taken to an extreme the position by itself cannot stand.
    Dr Shermer"

    That was the complete passage. I would suggest that he is trying to convey the message that skeptics shouldn't take themselves too seriously, that skeptics do have their own biases, and that skepticism taken to the nth degree, {gotta love, oops, cognitive synapse response to that nth degree} ends up over analyzing everything.

  119. Guest

    Well, I'd rather cast my lot with science. I guess you and I just disagree.

  120. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @dufas_duck

    "That was the complete passage. I would suggest that he is trying to convey the message that skeptics shouldn't take themselves too seriously, that skeptics do have their own biases, and that skepticism taken to the nth degree, {gotta love, oops, cognitive synapse response to that nth degree} ends up over analyzing everything."

    Probably something to that effect. I would certainly never assert that I am without bias, and I want my assumptions challenged. I still think remaining skeptical and trusting in evidence is the only effective way of understanding the workings of the universe, and without such an understanding it is impossible to make the best informed decisions.

  121. awful_truth

    Hi Robertallen1. Correct me if I am wrong, but if something is intellectually beneath someone, then no response at all is necessary. Belittling others is not clever, it is just not nice, it is unprofessional, and is used to prop up a position that according to you that didn't need propping up to begin with. (something to consider) Best wishes to you, and live long and prosper.

  122. robertallen1

    I am not as finicky as Dr. Dawkins and I have no problem belittling the proponent of an assertion or set of beliefs made with no knowledge, intelligence or understanding of the subject.

    Jerry Falwell's attribution of 9-11 to pious and righteous retribution for America's basic tolerance of homosexuality is a prime example. He deserves excoriation as do those who teach that the earth is only 6,000 years old or claim to be able to predict the future, heal the sick or commune with spirits. Equally deserving are those who believe the propounders of such claptrap.

    I don't endeavor to be clever and I couldn't care less about being nice. As for unprofessionalism, which profession are you referring to?

  123. jay uhdinger

    You understand. Good comment. It is not about right or wrong it is about keep asking questions. I understand why so many people have problems with Schermer. Many of the ideas he supports may feel uncomfortable for the average person. Unfortunately our "magic" self is just a story generated by a bundle of neurons.

  124. anuragawasthi

    Like how a donkey who is tied with an imaginary rope to a pole will not budge a inch till the time the same imaginary rope is untied.........Believing Brain:))

  125. norlavine

    @lakhotason
    No one has ever asked me, and I have not stated my beliefs, only my arguments against biased opinion. Dr Shermer's interpretation of his research results just don't cut it with me. That does not mean that I am into spirits, UFOs or govt conspiracies, religions or the tooth fairy. The results of my own research are this: We live in a beautiful and dangerous universe and more importantly, we know not much.
    What gives another human being the right to drown out the voice of another ( on this site) and call them stupid because they give a candid opinion?
    Dr Shermer's research results could be interpreted philosophically a hundred different ways, and he chose the road (just like his neurons directed him to) leading to his: current state of delusion.
    Because, his conclusions tell me THAT WE MUST ALL BE DELUDED.
    Of that, I agree wholeheartedly xx

  126. PeSO821

    Not everything is about direct proof.
    Lets take 9/11 for example. It is very hard to say anything about demolition of large scale objects. The intuition on this scale completely breaks down. Materials behave very differently in different scales (look at the legs of mosquito and legs of elephant – they have totally different proportion) The bigger the things, the more fragile they are. Let’s admit it. All of us are relying on reasons somebody made for us: being a “truther” or official engineer.
    The reasoning Shermer puts forward is not proof at all – it is probability assessment.
    What he thinks is difficult to achieve is: the amount of people that are involved and have to be absolutely quiet. To date nobody has come forward and testified how they put explosives in, or even how they saw suspicous people in the building. That is, if you know anything about human nature, extremely IMPROBABLE.
    Add to this what Noam Chomsky has to say: if it is inside job, why blame Saudis? and then go through all the loops to blame it on Saddam. Why not just blame it on Saddam in first place? Again, it is POSSIBLE it is like this, but does not make much sense... Than, what would happen if planes would miss, which is a real danger, and than explosives would be discovered in buildings... and so on...

    The reason that 9/11 helped America get to oil fields COULD ALSO BE COINCIDENCE. Weird things happen all the time. This is not a movie, where every scene has to mean something. It is real life – full of stupid mishaps.

  127. Guest

    You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
    And show the world all the love in your heart
    Then people gonna treat you better
    You're gonna find, yes, you will
    That you're beautiful as you feel

  128. wald0

    I like this guys message and could not agree with him more. That said he just doesn't seem to have much charisma or speaking ability.His presentation gets akward and confusing at times. Still, he never says that conspiracies do not exist, in fact he goes out of his way to say that they do. He uses the conspiracy to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which effectively started WW1, as an example. His point is that they are never as organized and wide sprreead as people tend to believe.

    I have been accussed of towing the official line myself, which is ridiculous, simply because I disagree with one of the more prominant 911 conspiracy theories presently in vogue. Just because someone doesn't buy into this or that theory doesn't mean they buy the official story first of all, second- it doesn't mean we think no conspiracy ever took place, and last- how can you mock someone for lack of critical thinking while getting angry at them for not buying your version of events at face value. I mean after all you are just some person online that they have never met, someone that generally has no real credentials, authority, or reputation to offer, just passion. Lots and lots of passionate belief- evident in the way they get so offended and angry if you say you don't beleive as they do, the way they immediately accuse you of "towing the official line". Basically they are saying not only are you wrong and I am right, you are part of "them" not one of us. Basically they are practicing the very exclusionism they say they hate, failing to think critically due to a preconcieved belief, but good luck getting them to see that.

  129. norlavine

    It's not the difference of opinion, it's not the 'I'm right, you're wrong' - it's the bandwagon roar that anyone who doesn't agree with Dr Shermer's hypothesis following his research results is lesser, stupid, ignorant etc. It's like this: anyone who smokes dope must be super cool and enlightened with a smidgen of peace love dove and anyone who chooses not to must be 'straight' and uncool, and unenlightened.
    This is how the new atheists choose to view those who don't want to make any end statement about the mystery of the universe and life.
    I don't want a label of any kind because I don't agree with Dr Shermer's hypothesis that anyone who even hints there was a moment of 'cause' before the big bang is deluded. If humanity is the only source of high intelligence on any level, I would be surprised, but my limited filter of a brain hasn't evolved enough yet to recognize, let alone research it. Dr Shermer's hypothesis reveals that creativity of the imagination is a 'delusion'. Think about it xx

  130. Guest

    I don't call people stupid norlavine.

  131. Epicurus

    Dr. Shermer does not say " anyone who even hints there was a moment of 'cause' before the big bang is deluded." but anyone who insists so is.

    his research does not reveal that creativity of the imagination is a delusion either, rather he says that one should put their creative idea (hypothesis) to rigorous review, tests, and scrutiny, rather than just say it is the case and persist in that view regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

    I am going to see if I can get Dr. Shermer over here and maybe clear some stuff up...I doubt he will though....

    if you would like to show me what times in the video he said the things that you say he did, I will check them out.

  132. robertallen1

    Please read Epicurus' latest response to you carefully and fully. Once again, you have demonstrated your inability to comprehend.

  133. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    @norlavine

    I have never intended to insinuate that anyone was lesser or stupid. If I have come across that way, please know that I did not intend it.

  134. a_no_n

    "These so-called skeptics are apparently skeptical of everything under the sun"

    nope...just the bullsh1t you can't prove.

  135. a_no_n

    yes...yes i would!

  136. a_no_n

    My question is why some skeptics do not question 9/11 solely based on Michael Schemer's view.

    Because Shermer has the scientific evidence to back up his claims.

    the real question is:
    Why do most conspiracy nuts accept what Alex Jones says, when he has, precisely no science to back him up?

  137. a_no_n

    Conspiracies happen all the time and are often backed up with strong scientific evidence.

    Except for most of them...that aren't.

  138. a_no_n

    An open mind can learn

    Yet, if you open your mind too much...your brain falls out.

  139. a_no_n

    what bit of Fox news are you watching that has science in it?

  140. a_no_n

    "the same can be said of people who will brand conspiracy theorists or historical revisionists as kooks simply because they themselves are genetically-environmentally predisposed to accepting the assertions made by people of authority,"

    This is bullsh1t. Conspiracy Nuts, and history revisionist morons (sorry, i particularly hate history revisionists) are not taken seriously, because they don't have any evidence of their claims.

    I am inclined to believe what Shermer says, because he has the peer reviewed data, backed up by centuries of constantly revised study and research that has either gone unchallenged, or successfully beaten back any who challenged it.

    Theorists and revisionists have...a theory...often cobbled together from T.V shows, and other conspiracy theorists.

    big...f**king...wow.

  141. a_no_n

    "Skeptics have a point of view and they only in my experience look for evidence to back up their point of view."

    actually, if anyone can prove science is wrong about anything, Homeopathy/psychics/conspiracy theories, celebrity skeptic James Rhandi will give them a million dollars!

    Skeptics are very eagre for that bit of evidence to prove it all exists, and a lot of so called 'skeptics' are so because they used to believe something, and found it to be bunk.

    Skeptics more often than not have already converted once...Realistically speaking, it's much easier for people like that to convert again if the evidence is there to back it up...However with most things, it just isn't.

    um...you got so wrapped up with your name dropping there that you forgot to make whatever point you were trying to make.

  142. a_no_n

    .if humans are NOT good Conscientious observers than why do we have courts..lawyers,juries and anything else?

    i think we fought quite a few wars for that right.

  143. a_no_n

    There a 3 types of people in the world. I will, I won't, and I can't. The will do everything, the won't do nothing, and the can't won't even try.

    that's 6 types of people...

  144. norlavine

    I love the way you use examples of fundamental and sicko religions in your weak and unimaginative arguments. No one here has said they believe the earth is 6,000 years old, or that they actually DO believe in weirdo conspiracy or Jerry Falwell's b...sh..t. You appear to be obsessed with merely editing words. It appears that you believe anything that people of 'higher academic standing' dish out, and I don't mean cold and proven research results- but their subjective opinions.
    If we are all merely lumps of organic matter being propelled through this life by an aberrant brain, then the likes of Dr Shermer can eventually find means to put a stop to it. Great news!
    People like you are dangerous, because you have medium intelligence but low wisdom and insight. A conformist to the highest degree, you are one of the masses most easily tricked into handing over your mind to 'the experts'.
    You think you are unique, an individual, but you're not.You're one of the herd and just as deluded as Dr Shermer tells us you are.
    His research outcomes are OF COURSE going to be coloured by his preconceptions and beliefs.
    I don't care for religions as much as I don't care for atheists, they are all goods of cerebral manufacture, just as Dr Shermer tells us.
    You however, are an irritating bug. Shooo

  145. robertallen1

    If you had more "cerebral manufacture," you wouldn't make the asinine, baseless comments you do and perhaps you wouldn't put words in people's mouths. Throughout these blogs you have been corrected so many times it's pathetic; yet on you go about subjects that you know nothing about and documentaries and articles that you've only half-listened to or half-read. Indeed, you are the Australian version of Michele Bachmann.

    You can't even read a simple blog without skewing its meaning. As an illustration, you criticize my examples of "fundamental and sicko religions" which I ostensibly use to bolster my "weak and unimaginative arguments" because no one here has resorted to them. You obviously read so selectively that the point, however simple, went whizzing past you. I suggest that you go back to the blog, read the relevant parts and try to figure out what the point of the examples is. If you still haven't, let me know and I will try to help you.

    You try to paint a picture of me, but have neither the wisdom, intelligence or insight to do so.

    You're too pathetic to amuse me.

  146. Achems_Razor

    @norlavine:

    Ah, love is in the air, and it is not even spring, Re: robertallen1. lol

  147. norlavine

    @Epicurus
    I think I fumbled about, trying to say Dr Shermer generalizes too much, the crime of which me, myself and I also could plead guilty! He is also extremely subjective about his research results, and I believe he limits the capacity of the organic wonder filter called a brain. A die hard atheist will always disregard people's 'unexplainable' experiences as delusion, the same way a religiously/spiritually inclined person will always find evidence of a 'higher power'.
    No one, in my opinion, is capable (at this point in time) of defining the meaning of life.
    Keep the research and exploration alive, yes, but in the end (as the song says) 'only kindness matters'. xx
    PS: Rather not check out the video again at the moment as I have zero time, and quite honestly- accept your word that I have missed some important dialogue, as I believe you are genuine.

  148. norlavine

    @Achems_Razor
    'Tis Spring right here, right now - here in the land down under, where the women roar and the men thunder! Hell, if this is just the foreplay from robertallen1, well, you know,,,,,excuse me for a minute......agaduhgdjfgdshgaiuhghgdhgdfghgghjghghjgvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv//////////////////////

  149. Guest

    Is that him whispering sweet nothings ? :)

  150. Achems_Razor

    @norlavine:

    Well, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time, especially here on TDF

    Where us commentors have your number, we all know that you think that robertallen1 is the cats meow, the bees knee's, and since he is the epitome of flattery on your behalf, seems he must have sent you for a swoon. Love is strange is it not?

  151. norlavine

    Sorry, thought this was an online dating site.. my mistake lol

  152. Betty

    Isn't he just one more skeptic? Except he is a skeptic of skeptics and doesn't see that sometimes patterns are not random at all. Yes, he appears to be the great generalizer trying to prove the non-existence of things he doesn't believe.

  153. norlavine

    @Betty
    Wow, you nailed him in so few words.That last sentence was sheer genius! xx

  154. Epicurean_Logic

    Skepticism and the method of doubt are like a sieve. They filter out the unnecessary and retain only the purest.

    Apply the method daily.

  155. cezy

    I don't like the idea that when my brain goes that's the end of me, but not liking it is not going to change the facts.
    Conspiracy theories work in a similar way to religion: they give you purpose and make you feel important. God listens to you, awards you and punishes you. The government is out there to get you.
    Better than being just a dot, isn't it?
    And the natural world is more mystical than any superstition. Just like the laws of probability are much more fascinating than the idea of destiny.
    When I studied probability, I realised that many incredible coincidences are in fact quite probable; for instance if you're in a room with some 30 (don't remember the exact number) people there's a 50/50 chance that one of them is born on your same day.

  156. Karenwasherefirst

    Yes, it was so ridiculous it is sarcastically and emphatically rediculous!!!

  157. Karenwasherefirst

    The one thing he is correct about is that which ever side you put yourself on in this debate, with new information you will have to adapt and adjust your schema, attitude, belief and point of view. When you don't adjust your mentality you appear ridiculous, especially if you get caught fudging the truth [like some creationist did] and when you do admit that you were wrong, you lose your credibility for spouting off too much in the first place. The truth is, nobody knows for sure. No one knows how it all began, the mystery of life and consciousness and what happens after the dash [ - ]. The good Dr. admit tingly has no explanation for 'the ghost in the machine' and nobody else does either. The view points are polar opposites, you either have faith there is something more or you don't, the two ideas can not co- exist together. Therefore, this debate will always create heated emotion because people base how they live their lives on their belief. Thus, it is rational, intelligent and logical to keep searching for the truth, don't purposely get in the way of finding the truth and be polite until we know the truth.

  158. oddsrhuge

    I would love to assimilate this guy's ideas into my own "anima"...but my my brain is now too full. If I absorb anymore I will probably forget how to tie my laces...again.

  159. bud oracle

    He is not aware of his own linear thinking due to his "higher" education in an extremely complex world. Twice he repeats "this is natural, not induced by illegal drugs" once in connection to his Race across America. Although he was hallucinating and waving to mailboxes while cycling at high speed (a very dangerous situation) he remarks again with the value judgement about the experience being completely legal. It shows he has a strong built in bias by which he judges his the value of his experiences, nothing near the scientific method he claims as the basis for his skepticism. I don't think his world is very rich rather restricted, pessimistic which I find an irritating trait of people who have a limited artistic/creative imagination. It would be a boring world for me if their wasn't a good mix of human types. Michael Hitchins was a skeptic about God but bought into weapons of mass deception without being objective in that area.

  160. Lazarus ClassWar TheUnbannable

    I consider myself a skeptic and I like Michael Shermer but he needs to recognize that the JFK assassination was a conspiracy REALITY! There is so much evidence including the deathbed confession of E Howard Hunt, the Watergate plumber, where he flat out admits he was on a the CIA team which killed JFK in retaliation for The Bay of Pigs. Sometimes skeptics piss me off in that they refuse to believe things despite all the evidence shown to them.

  161. AnalogousGumdropDecoder

    Sometimes all the evidence is vague and circumstantial.

  162. Amira Esk

    Why is this categorized under 'conspiracy'? This should be placed under science and/or psychology.

  163. ThisIs

    Ooh, this looks really interesting!

  164. ThisIs

    Yes, seconded.

  165. ThisIs

    Dont troll old boy.

  166. ThisIs

    How does something become Sarcastically Ri(or e)diculous?

  167. ThisIs

    Dont panic - there are a lot of continuing conscienceness theories that have nothing to do with Religion or hippies (or Quantum Physics, which is the universal salve at the moment). Some people, and I have to say I'm becoming a subscriber, believe conciousness can be created....but never destroyed. To explain how this could work would take pages and pages, and everyone assumes you are talking about some kind of metaphysical 'afterworld', but its more subtle (and simpler) than that.
    Just some more mud for the water, there.

  168. ThisIs

    Me too!

  169. ThisIs

    Actually, I'm pretty sure you can fool most of the people most of the time, depending on what you are fooling them about, and how big fools they are.

  170. ThisIs

    Hey I'm a red blooded male from Australia, can I not indulge in some of this foreplay you mention?? :)

  171. dhemingson

    you mean Christopher Hitchens?

  172. dhemingson

    do you mean Christopher Hitchens RIP

  173. Virakotxa

    Things are true way before they are proven to be so. What we now know, was once ignored. That's what motivates a true scientist to find a cure or postulate a new hypothesis... But the field is ridden with scholastic narrow-minded dwellers on their Ivory Towers. That is all I have to say.

  174. Chris Hallam

    If you're really a skeptic you'll should understand evidence can be good and bad and how to differentiate between the two. JFK evidence = bad.

  175. Mike Brown

    this guy's a piece of trash.
    1. belittling other people's beliefs and experiences doesn't make you look smart, it makes you look ignorant.
    2. no one laughs at your jokes not because you've outsmarted them with super humor or esoteric references, but because they suck.
    3. your shameless plugs help to discredit everything that comes out of your smug mouth.
    4. im sure real scientists puke when they hear you say "we scientists".

  176. robertallen1

    Beliefs founded on nothing substantial deserve to be ridiculed as do those propounding them.

    Dr. Shermer is not garbage, but you are and uneducated garbage at that.

  177. Epicurus

    oh how little you know.

  178. Mike Brown

    thanks Dr. Shermer

  179. Bogdan

    The guy is a douchebag (and so is robertallen). I mean his speech is so narrow and the q/a section was ridiculous. What pathetic excuses for answers! He uses the same attitude that christians use... the pot calling the kettle black. It's like conspiracy theorist saying to non-belivers that they're sheeple and the non-belivers saying that the consp th are paranoid schizophrenics. So one should understand from this stupid lecture that the franz ferdinand and lincoln assassinations were real conspiracies but jfk and 9/11 were not? Why, because they happened fairly recently? I'm not saying they are, but to believe the official statements is ludicrous. How could building 7 fall like that out of the blue? I just wonder. In fact why didn't he state what he really "believes" if he's such a smart ass? Oh well, he did make a stupid joke that bush couldn't have pulled it off, but does he think that osama did? There are so many groups struggling for control and the fact that nobody is really succeeding shouldn't mean that the people are not allowed to ask questions. And what's with putting them in the same basket as aliens and religions?

    Really now, I'm a recovering Christian and then a recovering atheist, and I don't really now what this world is about but I do know that there's more to it then science currently knows. I don't believe in gods and aliens but i do know that being a monist is dumb. There are two side to everything including ourselves and to say that there isn't such a thing as mind is to have a really small one, lacking in imagination and intuition. For God's sake, from what I get (I'm not going to bother looking at it again), he still believes in Skinner and behavior psychology. Is it because that's how he was trained and he can't change his mind or is he plain ignorant? He should read The Mating Mind, to see what altruism is really about. Perhaps he thinks he's doing the world a favor or maybe he just want's to get laid.

  180. robertallen1

    From the way you write, it's obvious that your education is limited. Until you can make up this deficiency either through formal study conducted at a reputable nstitution or on your own, it is mere temerariousness to go up your intellectual betters such as Dr. Shermer--and please do not take this to mean that I agree with everything Dr. Shermer says, but rather that I take offense at your writing, your attitude and your outlook.

  181. Bogdan

    Oh please! So I should understand that you're a very educated person. Then why do half of people around here think you're a jackass... Correcting everybody to compensate for not having a good enough argument to support your claims... Then you pull the Dr Shermer bandana as he's the educated authority around here. So that must mean that everyone else is wrong. Why don't you tell us what you really think about these things, instead of saying what Sr. Shermer doesn't believe anything and you agree with him. What does a really educated person think about conspiracies, mind, psychology, aliens, and religions? Let's have it...

  182. robertallen1

    This goes far deeper than my thoughts on Dr. Shermer. He's obviously an educated man and if you feel the need to go up against him, you must arm yourself with an education--calling him a douchebag cuts it about as effectively as your irrelevant and gratuitous ejaculation that people "around here" think I'm a jackass.

    However, before you can be educated, you might first learn to comprehend what you read, if possible, to engage in a logical train of thought. So go back to the post to which you are responding and find the place where I imbued Dr. Shermer with infallibility, then try to find the non sequitur in your portrayal of Dr. Shermer against the whole world.

  183. Bogdan

    Ok so I misread your post. It's just that I find it hard to concentrate while reading useless tripe. Again you still go about the education thing like a need a degree to figure out if someone is smart or not. I have listened to other intelligent people enough to make the difference and I think the guy has a lousy speech and his arguments are weak and unfounded just as I think that you use big words to hide that you have nothing to say about the subject. Moreover, somehow I believe you did agree with him before and you changed your mind after reading my hostile and uneducated comment. Is this about me calling dr. Shermer a d**chebag or about me naming you for what you really are?
    And I don't need to do anything. This is the internet and until they censor it I will say what I want and no wannabe can tell me otherwise. As matter of fact I'm kind of proud of the fact that I can tell when an educated man like dr shermer and a jack*** are full of ****.

  184. Azure M

    Shermer is really not too smart.

  185. indieisin

    I think that you have a point. I haven't even watched the documentary - I like to read comments first. But instead of name calling what needs to happen is that in order for conspiracy theories to not get as big as they are, the studies need to be done that put them to rest. In the case of 9/11, forget the disputes over the video - why did the government clean up the mess without letting it be examined for explosives? Why have scientist who lived right in the vicinity of the area - not just 'conspiracy theorist' scientists, put those who ARE currently employed - gone on the record and said that they FOUND such traces in preliminary studies but were not allowed near the wreck after the initial chaos!?

    There are many things the government and other agencies can do instead of stonewalling public inquiry, do they REALLY have to go and open up a secret military base in an area right next door to a UFO crash then say all inquiries are classified? And why couldn't they let the 9/11 wreckage be tested for explosives, this isn't even assuming our government did it but let's assume it was terrorists that could have gotten into the building. When the government has no clear reason to say no, but they still do, even the most loyal citizens can start to ask questions and they shouldn't be silent in fear of looking stupid.

    I don't want to turn this into a big 9/11 debate but let's just say some conspiracy theorists need to lighten up BUT some 'sheeple' need to learn to question things. In schools, creativity is no longer fostered.. no one encourages students to ask "why?" when it's clearly been shown that History is largely an interpretation because people are notorious at having bad recalling skills. The key is understanding when the evidence does clearly stack against you, some conspiracy theorists have a big problem with letting things go and refuse to believe the evidence even when it's staring them in the face.

  186. Talal

    There is 100% proof that I exist and that you exist as well. This universe can not just be a dream. No one can ever provide 100% proof that God exists, thus the element of faith and the constant effort to understand our place in this world. We are free beings and with that comes choice. I hope we all choose that which is best for us. God bless.

  187. robertallen1

    If you can't provide proof, forget it! Faith is for the feeble-minded.

  188. Christine Croswell

    Have you lived such a privileged life that you had no reason to have faith?

  189. robertallen1

    My life has been privileged to the extent that I realize that I have a brain and the ability to reason (process) based on evidence and that anything else, such as faith, is pathetic and fraudulent.

    Now, what's your excuse?

  190. Jerry

    Anybody who discounts all conspiracies is as myopic as those who consider everything a conspiracy. It is clear the Bush administration was in bed with Monsanto and other multi-nationals. And it is clear the our current administration has an aim to keep the status quo. Anybody who does not see the obvious is not worthy of a conversation.

  191. Tarquin Mahoney

    "It's amazing how quickly grammatical errors and the like for the most part disappear during this process."
    pmsl is this guy for real?
    "dont what you got your spellings in a kerfuffle, i advise you mostly, to rearrange your sentenceys to create more of a grammatical flow than...."
    f**king wanker- go shove your dictionary up yer arrse

  192. bogusnews

    Squabbling amongst ourselves is exactly want the ruling class wants us to do. The top dogs even pay millions a year to ensure we will continue to be divided. Think about that, folks, and how about coming together for the common good?? We all know that we are in a crisis of major proportions. Let's focus on the real issues that must be solved to regain our America.

  193. Bilbo Baggins

    Listen to MS...don't listen to anyone who has the remotest belief in religion...

  194. Guest

    Trust is to science, what Faith is to religion. In between there is doubts.
    az

  195. John

    Not very convincing, as much supposition as religionists. I've personally had dreams predicting the future. In fact so numerous they have lead to great financial benefit via predicting winning horses, soccer teams, golf, snooker, all of which I have no interest in. Okay, maybe I can't do at will, but the fact remains, predicting the future is a fact to me (I keep a dream journal).

  196. Epicurus

    you are not able to predict future outcomes in your dreams.

    stop lying.

  197. joe ineson

    "He uses the conspiracy to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which effectively started WW1, as an example."
    This is an oft reported myth perpetuated over and over again by modern education- in no way did the assassination start the war-it was reported by an Austrian newspaper that the general consensus among the various political circles was that the assassination, though a tragedy, was for the best. As far as the Austrian people were concerned, it was noted “The event almost failed to make any impression whatever. On Sunday and Monday, the crowds in Vienna listened to music and drank wine as if nothing had happened.” Indeed, it took the government itself a full three weeks to "react".
    Towing the party line? taking "facts" on face value?
    critical thinking? hmmmm.
    both you and shermer paid far too much attention at school...

  198. joe ineson

    you and mr shermer need to go and learn the real histories of a certain american intelligence agency and politics in general before you spout off about the "psychology" of conspiracy.
    , Iran, suharto, the belgian congo, pearl harbour, indonesia, gulf of tonkin, the reichstag, WMDs... conspiracy, hidden motive, unshared information and underhand manipulation of consensus opinion are THE weapons of choice when it comes to writing history.
    the real franz ferdinand conspiracy was that it was used as an excuse to start a fight that was years in the making.
    naive idiots -the pair of you.

  199. Milosc

    This guy is a complete tool. A thoroughly company man who superficially misdirects intellectual underachievers into an obviously premeditated false sense of security

  200. robertallen1

    Proof, please. Allegations are not enough.

  201. Epicurus

    lol would you care to address anything he said rather than try to dismiss it all based on who you think he is?

  202. Dan Smith

    Someone wrote below that "science is not a democratic process." But considering a scientific theory's validity relies on the agreement of well-researched peers, isn't science just a democracy of a select group of people? The people (scientific peers) "voting" already have a predisposition toward believing the type of pattern being argued.

    One reason science is so powerful is that the fruits of its belief system can be utilized by those who don't necessarily worship the method. But because we enjoy its fruits, does that make it "true?" Are collective observations reality?

    Religions often consider collective observations about the gifts from God as reality in their own democratic belief processes but because I don't subscribe to a monotheistic viewpoint, I don't receive those fruits. But in the minds of those in the pews, they do.

    The concept of an objective reality only lives in the minds of creatures who perceive subjectively. So is the concept of an objective reality as illusory (or true) as that monotheistic God?

    If you claim the difference is that objective reality is there when we are not... I would ask you to prove it using the scientific method.

    I'm not anti-science, but skepticism about the fundamental nature of science is a healthy form of skepticism too.

  203. robertallen1

    And that's just the way it should be, a select group, i.e., the cognescenti. Now, when you can prove something faulty about the fundamental nature of science, i.e., naturalism or the scientific method, please let us know.

  204. Dan Smith

    I agree, that is the way it should be, I am not proposing another method. I can't prove anything. Nor can science--that is what I mean by fundamental. Science relies on perceptions (yes they are thoroughly researched and well-documented perceptions, but they are still perceptions), perceptions are subjective--no matter how many people are perceiving the same thing. Science is often the best we have to work with to understand and manipulate our reality, but it is fundamentally flawed because it tends to assume an objective reality. It is really based on consensus from the bias of a particular type of consciousness--human. I am not trying to throw science out as useless, I am just trying to step back and be skeptical about the assumptions of the method. Just playing with ideas... I'm certainly not going to be trying to walk through walls because I think there is no objective reality, I am simply pointing out that the objective reality that science portends to measure cannot be proven through its own method because it must go through the subjective filter of humanity in order to be expressed. That doesn't mean an objective reality is not there, but it certainly can't be proven. And I definitely have no suggestion of how to observe reality without some form of perceptive bias, but that bias is there intrinsically within the scientific method--and it is therefore (in my mind) fundamentally flawed. You don't have to agree that this is a flaw--you can have your perception and I can have mine. We would have to both agree on our own perceptions of what "fundamental" means to really get anywhere with this and just arriving at that consensus could take all day. Both of us would probably try and define it to best suit our own argument and in the end it probably won't change either of our lives drastically. And so ends my fun with semantics for the day...

    Have a swell day, I wish you well.

  205. robertallen1

    Who cares? These are just meaningless philosophical speculations. The only thing that matters is the accomplishments? Now compare those of science to those of religion or other such nonsense.

  206. Dan Smith

    Cheers.

  207. IrelandJnr

    I love that you can't call a guy am ass anymore without being asked for proof.

  208. IrelandJnr

    How do you know he's lying? Your statement is unscientific. It is based on opinion and not proof.

    No scientist on earth understands time or gravity, to give a couple of examples of some fundamental properties of physics we have little grasp of.

    Please stop concluding things you cannot prove just because they don't align with the reality of your world view. You could be right, or it could be cognitive dissonance. Without proof it's a fools game to think you know you are right.

  209. robertallen1

    "A thoroughly [SIC] company man who superficially misdirects intellectual underachievers into an obviously premeditated false sense of security" That's an allegation, not an assessment. Hence, it demands proof.

  210. IrelandJnr

    I know what it was. Jesus, relax.

  211. robertallen1

    There are lengthy articles on the scientific understanding of time and gravity (ever heard of Newton?) on Wikipedia replete with sources. In short, you don't know what you're talking about.

    Furthermore, John made an outrageous claim to oneiromancy. As he is the claimant, the burden of proof (and anecdotal evidence is not proof)rests with him. If he can't meet it, he's a liar just as Epicurus states.

  212. robertallen1

    Not when you write such a silly statement.

  213. IrelandJnr

    Ok.

  214. IrelandJnr

    If you can't prove something it means you are lying? Are you serious? I just saw a woman walk down the road wearing a red sweater, but she's gone now so I can't photograph her to prove it. Hence: I am lying? What?

  215. robertallen1

    The operative word is outrageous (read extraordinary). If you tell me that you had pancakes for breakfast, I will probably take you at your word and unless there's some compelling reason for doing so, I'm not going to ask you for proof.

  216. IrelandJnr

    Yes, certainly, but lack of proof doesn't mean something didn't happen. Outrageous or not.

  217. robertallen1

    Nonsense. There is no evidence for a six-day creation, for the Exodus from Egypt or for the resurrection. Hence, they didn't happen.
    Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

  218. IrelandJnr

    OK, you're right about everything.

  219. robertallen1

    Your statement was that no scientist understands gravity. Well, Dr. Cox does.

  220. IrelandJnr

    You should watch it.

  221. robertallen1

    Scientists send satellites into space and men on the moon. So they must understand something about gravity.

  222. IrelandJnr

    Indeed.

  223. Epicurus

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    that which is presented without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

  224. IrelandJnr

    There is no reality, only perception.

  225. robertallen1

    Nonsense. Either the evidence supports something or it doesn't. Either there's evidence for something or there's no evidence for something.

  226. IrelandJnr

    Yup

  227. Epicurus

    well then walk off a building and perceive yourself not falling....see what happens.

  228. Epicurus

    Of course science assumes an objective reality. the universe existed before humans. so it exists objectively. our tests ensure the most objective understanding of things. we understand objectively that the earth revolves around the sun. it did that before humans were there to perceive it and it will do it if we all disappear right now. nothing subjective about that.

  229. robertallen1

    Complete nonsese in light of all the accomplishments of science. The proof is in the pudding which leaves philosophy out.

  230. oQ

    How are we to know that for sure? The dots that makes me are vastly separated, a good "blow" could send them flying apart along with the rest of this reality.
    1i

  231. robertallen1

    Complete gibberish.

  232. oQ

    and how so, you smarty pants?
    1i

  233. robertallen1

    "The dots that makes [SIC][ me are vastly separated. . . " Your post makes no sense.

  234. ecokirby

    I was surprised to see Shermer fall into exactly what he criticizes believers for doing. There is a logical fault at the heart of his argument concerning conspiracy theories. He makes two claims to dismiss them - 1. that all conspiracies are like the assassination of archduke Ferdinand, basically inept and plain lucky in the end, and 2. that somebody always blabs.
    The second is obviously problematic because we only know about conspiracies when somebody does blab, all those in which nobody blabs going undocumented! If my father were not really my biological father and he and my mother conspired to never tell me and went to their graves with their secret then I would never know. But if one of them told me at any point then I would become aware of the conspiracy. But to claim that somebody always blabs is absurd. In addition, sometimes people blab and nobody takes them seriously because they dont have the standing to be taken seriously.
    As for the first claim, it is obviously absurd to say that all conspiracies function the same way. Any historian can point to any number of conspiracies that have changed the world, only being revealed after much time had passed.
    So in the end I propose that Shermer himself is a believer, he believes that conspiracy theories are fantasies and looks for the selective evidence to support his belief - not what you would expect of a real skeptic!

  235. gsjikwblao

    yes. Our perspective of physical reality is born of the nature of our five physical senses. Another conscious being, with a different nature may see things very differently. If we were to encounter such a being we may not agree with them. But could we say that we are right and they are wrong? I found your post to be unusually perceptive.

  236. gsjikwblao

    I have been shooting rifles for more then 40 years and I know that the thrusting of Kennedy's head toward the rear of the vehicle is very good evidence of a conspira cy.

  237. Avery

    "...absence of evidence is no evidence of absence"

    That is not always true. It depends on the situation.

  238. Avery

    I agree. And how did this devolve into a "discussion" involving so many domains that are not psychology?!

  239. Avery

    "To explain how this could work would take pages and pages"

    Yeah, I bet...

  240. James Ledger

    Appauling attempt to steer people from the truth. How many times do we have to see these doctors/scientists/PHD people who have been bought and paid for? It's his job to keep everyone locked into the paradigm, trusting the powers that be and questioning nothing, because only the 'experts' know what is real. Well, experts have been lying to us since time began. The best chance for truth is to trust our judgements from observation, and my observations convince me that 9/11 was and always will be an inside job. Towers don't collapse from low temperature office fires and a man on dialisis can not direct 19 terrorists to completely undermine the US without leaving a trace of CCTV evidence. Science has been corrupted, just as religion, politics and even the truth movement has. Deception is everywhere, with many people trying to 'influence our beliefs' as this bloke says. If everything is a crazy conspiracy theory, why did clinton lie, why were the weapons of mass destruction a lie and so on...? Trust your judgement I say, be open minded and question everything, including this fraud.

  241. James Ledger

    Well said. People have been blabbing about Jimmy Saville for years, and that was considered a conspiracy theory by the authorities, until now of course. He fails to explain why truths are covered up and the blabbers are demonized. He is another diversion specialist and the documentary is almost the product of a criminal. Total lies.

  242. James Ledger

    This crap shouldn't be on this site - it's embarrassing. Come on people, wake up to these government mouthpieces.

  243. InvisibleHandInMyPants

    It would seem that Dr Shermer isnt sufficiently crazy, by the tone of the comments here.

  244. InvisibleHandInMyPants

    Funny you think this is crap. One wonders what you think is valuable here? 9/11 was an inside job? Chemtrails? Fluoridation? New World Odor? Illuminati? Have I left out your favorite delusional conspiracy?

  245. Fred Fredllington.

    Dude you said the correct words right there. There is no truer reality than when under observation. Ya know i do get into conspiracy theories, i think more for the mental stim and the fact that you could sit thinking for a very long time and still not see the next thing coming. But as confident as i am about dodgy s*it going on out there, id be lying if i said i hadn't considered that maybe the worlds in a spot right now, right place right time, for everyone to be almost stir crazy and suss on everyone and anything, like a paranoia brought on by some state of parallel or something wigged out, and we're unaware of it until it rides out... then we can reflect and go f**k man they were some intense years. what the hell was i on? Obviously this is highly unlikely but ya gotta say the way the Govs treat all this crazy shit going on, along with conspiracy theories and accusations ya gotta wonder what really is happening? Maybe its just me, but there's seemingly no reaction to any of it. Almost like an uneasiness of something rehearsed or a slight un comfortability… Theyre just all business and waxy smiles. Just like always. Somethings stinks, something is not real. I get the feeling its all leading up to something. Surely there's some truth in that statement? haha. Obviously i didn't watch much of the video…my bad.

  246. piqo

    When Shermer gave a talk for TED, he specifically mentioned several "conspiracy theories" that turned out to be true, like Lincoln's assassination, and his books include this as well. I think maybe there was a little bit of misunderstanding and perhaps since he debunks SO many conspiracy theories, he made an unfair generalization, although I can assure everyone that he believes that some "conspiracy theories" are true.

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