Now Playing at Michael Shermer on The Mind of the Market, Darwin, capitalism, and "the Google Theory of Peace."


Check out's interview with The Mind of the Market author and Skeptic magazine founder Michael Shermer:

NEXT: How Many Years Is That In Fungus Years?*

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  1. I have near limitless access to information…yet I still can’t smoke in bars.

    Also screw the fuzzy libertarians….I am a Hard libertarian!

  2. Mike Huckabee with a Men in Black uniform. NEXT!

  3. I subscribe to both. This is cool.

  4. Also screw the fuzzy libertarians….I am a Hard libertarian!

    Except every time you get two “hard libertarians” together in a room, they end up disagreeing about something, while each claims to have the “true” libertarian position. Anytime you’re talking about more than one libertarian, it’s always “fuzzy.”

  5. I want to ask a question about this feature of and in general; What is the advantage of presenting this interview (which I liked) as a video instead of a transcript? Maybe I’m alone, but I prefer content to be presented as text that I can skim, ctrl-F search, print out to read on the subway, etc.

    Here, and at other blogs, I find myself skipping video entries but thinking, “If this was a link to text instead of video, I would probably look it over, see if there is anything interesting.” With text, you can skim and skip around, do a little recon, as it were, to see if it is worth reading from start to finish. That isn’t quite so easy with video. Also, I usually read blogs at work, and it is easy to get away with reading at work, a little harder to watch TV.

  6. Really enjoyed that interview! I’ve read his articles in SciAm, but it’s clear I must now purchase a book or two.

  7. .i mi tugni la .mitc.

  8. I like Shermer, and Skeptic is my second-favorite magazine…

  9. It’s great to see Shermer carving out a niche for right-leaning, libertarian atheists. So much about the left’s conceits crumble in the face of evolutionary psychology.

  10. The problem here is that Shermer views the world as “science versus religion” which excludes the possibility that both could be misguided or just plain wrong. Unfortunately when you attach the label “science” to anything it obtains the unwarranted distinction of being a “fact” as opposed to what it really is: a subject that people have studied, gathered a lot of data on and have proposed theories that may (or may not) loosely fit some event (rarely all events) in the past. I understand why somebody would want to call their opinions about the world “science”, but it is pure puffery. Much of what people believe to be science is really just conjecture that is widely agreed upon in the academic world, especially outside of the basic sciences such as physics. Once you attach the word “science” to an idea it implies a certainty that can only be accomplished in closed systems like mathematics (1+1 always equals 2).

    This is a prime example of the “either or” problem in human thought: either you believe in creationism or evolution, there is no third option. You can’t believe in parts of both and by inference you can’t believe in neither. Your either religious or your an aetheist, when actually aetheism IS a religion, agnosticism is an open-minded view of the world that is based on the belief that nobody on earth actually knows whether there is a “soul” and what happens to it when you die.

    Read Nassim Nicholas Taleb ( “Fooled by Randomness and “The Black Swan”) and Karl Popper, you’ll never look at those who profess to be practicing “science” in the same way ever again. The world is much more complicated than the so-called scientists believe.

  11. That’s some pretty postmodern crapola there, DS.
    “atheism is a religion” – I find it hard to believe anyone really says this. How ridiculous.
    Look – EVERYONE’S an agnostic – nobody “knows”. The question is what do you “believe”. Hence theism and a-theism.

    Popper’s work is valuable, but your comparisons here, especially on the creation/evolution thing, are just silly.

  12. I like Shermer’s description of his own libertarianism as “fuzzy,” and would consider myself one. Hardcore libertarianism is only really supportable – in my view – if there is some sort of natural law basis for it, and I don’t believe it has one. I – and I think Shermer – support libertarian ends from utiltarian premisses.

    Oh, and DS, no matter how much you might believe it, atheism is not a religion. It simply means a lack of belief in God. Just look at the word. The “a” means without. Just as “a”political means without politics. It does not take negative or postive postions. Or as someone once said – I’m not sure who – calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.

    And sure, while I cannot prove God doesn’t exist, I also cannot disprove the existence of all the other gods worshipped throughout history. Believing in something purely because it can’t be diproved is irrational. Look up Russell’s teacup for another example. So while I may be technically “agnostic,” I am in practical terms an atheist.

  13. Read Nassim Nicholas Taleb ( “Fooled by Randomness and “The Black Swan”) and Karl Popper, you’ll never look at those who profess to be practicing “science” in the same way ever again.

    Actually, most people who practice science think they’re doing exactly what Popper said they actually/should do. Having read part of “The Black Swan,” I’d say Taleb takes an obvious observation and then pushes it to the point of absurdity. That said, he says nice things about Hayek, although I’m not sure he actually gets Hayek. He’d probably be more comfortable with another of Mises’ students, Ludwig Lachmann, whom I was surprised to see Taleb never cites, which tells me he doesn’t know the relevant literature.

  14. Hardcore libertarianism is only really supportable – in my view – if there is some sort of natural law basis for it, and I don’t believe it has one. I – and I think Shermer – support libertarian ends from utiltarian premisses.

    That’s basically the view I have gravitated toward, although, like David Friedman, I think there’s a utilitarian argument for hardcore libertarianism.

    Still, there may be a way to wed neo-Darwinism with natural rights. Certainly, that’s was Larry Arnhart is trying to do in his book “Darwinian Natural Right,” which proposes a Darwinian foundation for classical Aristotelian virtues.

    Arnhart is a neoconservative, but I see no reason why libertarian Aristotelians (most of whom come out of the Randian movement) couldn’t incorportate some of Arnhart’s arguments, which would go a long way to giving a scientific basis for Aristotle’s account of human flourishing, which up until now, has seemed arbitrary.

    That said, I think the shortest route from A to B is simply recognizing that Hume and Adam Smith were right: morality starts with moral sentiments. And now, thanks to evolutionary psychology, we have a scientific account of how those sentiments evolved. And, ultimately, one of the best arguments in favor of libertarianism is that it best juggles our competing moral sentiments.

  15. A kinda surprising part of Michael Shermer’s bio is that he used to be a divinity student. He’s a smart and intellectually honest guy. His books, and SciAm as well as other articles, are usually quite interesting.

    A while back I had dinner with him here in Denver, and Vic Stenger, the physicist and atheist author who used to be at CU-Boulder and a couple other folks, after Michael Shermer gave a talk about a previous book. At dinner, I remember Michael Shermer trying to figure out (me too) Stenger’s explanation of how free will arises in the brain. I also remember Shermer making a strong case that political conspiracies do indeed happen.

    I’d like to see evidence of his contention that we have more religion here cuz we don’t have as big of a welfare state. But even if that was true, it’s no reason to deprive folks of more of their liberty by expanding the government “social safety net”. Also, the fact that folks in some other countries answer a poll that they are happier than we are hardly seems like good cause to grow our welfare state.

    On libertarianism; I think that most libertarians believe that everyone should be allowed to do anything that they want as long as they don’t commit force or fraud, and so government should be limited to protecting against force and fraud.

  16. Mr. Harris, thank you for that interesting information. I think I’m inclined to agree with Hume and smith that morality begins with moral sentiment. It think it’s certainly possible to form some sort of biology and aristotelian values, but even that may not be “set in stone,” with the growing ability through technology and pharmaceuticals to alter ourselves and our natures.

    I think what Jonathan Wallace says makes a lot of sense:

    We are all at a table together, deciding which rules to adopt, free from any vague constraints, half-remembered myths, anonymous patriarchal texts and murky concepts of nature. If I propose something you do not like, tell me why it is not practical, or harms somebody, or is counter to some other useful rule; but don’t tell me it offends the universe.

  17. Capitalism bringing peace-Sounds like our favorite presidential candidate!

  18. we are wasting to much time talking about science vs religion. Pastors should go about letting everyone know about salvation and scientists should use their time in the lab looking for the new vaccine or science discovery there is.

  19. I find Shermer’s libertarian “monkey market” theses amazingly naive and totally bereft of anything resembling science. The trouble arises as soon as you lift the corner of innocent sounding phrase like ‘free trade’…(what is the ‘freedom’ of the weak against the strong, exploited vis a vis exploiter?) but Shermer simply throws the words around as if the most superficial appearances were reality. (Reminds me of those ‘objectivist’ geeks at university, preaching the law of nature “red in tooth and claw” – for the have-nots at least – while waiting for daddy’s trust fund to kick in.)
    Without reference to his ‘libertarian’ convictions, Shermer then suddenly stumbles on the insight that the exceptionally high level of religious credulity that characterizes US culture might, just might, be related to the fears of millions of people whose tenuous security is constantly threatened by economic forces operating totally beyond their control…

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