Global Warming

Reason.tv: Skeptic Michael Shermer on Atheism, Happiness, and the Free Market

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Whether they're intelligent design advocates, psychics, or 9/11 truthers, Skeptic Magazine's Founding Publisher Michael Shermer says the world is full of people who believe weird things.

Shermer sat down with Reason.tv's Tim Cavanaugh at Libertopia 2010 in Hollywood to discuss why self-help gurus aren't the key to happiness, what the New Atheist movement hopes to accomplish, why liberals accept evolution but not free markets, and why he switched from global warming skepticism to acceptance. 

Approximately 9 minutes. Camera by Adam Hawk Jensen and Zach Weissmueller. Edited by Weissmueller. Music by Bjorn Fogelberg (Magnatune Records). 

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  1. Imagine that, a libertarian who “just followed the data and tried to keep politics out of it.”

  2. more i see of shermer, more i like him

  3. Shermer is awesome. I bought his book The Mind of Market recently, and just started reading it. It looks fantastic and fascinating. He (rightly, I believe) compares evolution and the free market. It’s nice to see someone I already respected think deeply about these things and come up on the side of economic liberty, instead of being a typical liberal scientist.

    1. His description of anti-trust law had me laughing.

    2. The evolution of trade, business, and technology that is the free market isn’t just analogous to biological evolution. It’s an extension of it. Economics is a branch of Biology.

  4. and i think his perspective on global warming is currently the most logical one to have.

    1. Absolutely — and it’s too subtle a take for the great majority of people.

      1. I am willing to say that probably is what the majority of people think. Sure, we have many people screaming bullshit on global warming, but the reason why significant carbon taxes and what not is not happening is that people realize cheap energy is a societal good that for the most part outweighs the negatives. I think the majority of the planet believes the same thing on global warming, it is a problem, but cheap energy is worth the possible harms at least in the short term (hundreds of years).

  5. Edited by Weissmueller.

    The opening clip is too bitch-ass to get past. Good job.

    why liberals accept evolution

    They don’t. They say they do, when the task at hand is to distinguish themselves from rednecks and black people, but they don’t. They’re not inconsistent. They’re liars.

    1. That’s because Homo Sapiens stopped evolving while still in the Cradle of Africa. Wolves became dogs. There are smart breeds (Poodles) and stupid breeds (Dalmatians), but again, Homo Sapiens stopped evolving while still in the Cradle of Africa.

      1. Unless every member of a species stops dieing and reproducing, evolution does not stop. Besides, you’re trying to compare selective breeding to natural evolution.

        1. If the “unfit” members of a species don’t die before reproducing, evolution is stymied. I think it can be reasonably said that modern technology has stopped, or least largely slowed down, evolution in most of the human population. Isolated, primitive cultures would still be subject to evolutionay forces, but most peple are not.

          1. Don’t buy that. Humans have been co-evolving with technology since we started playing around with fire. Looked at in isolation, it might seem the human population is accumulating more crummy genes, such as the whatever combination is responsible for bad eyesight, but we’re co-evolving with our environment and developing technologies that make those genes not matter so much, like eyeglasses.

            1. For evolution to work, “unfit” genes have to kill you before you can successfully reproduce. Our technology is now geared to prevent death and to reverse reproductive problems. The “unfit” are propagating their genes, because we don’t have to let those people die anymore.

              Exactly how is evolution functioning on humanity in the face of modern civilization?

              1. The genes aren’t changing. They’re probably even getting worse if we suddenly found ourselves in certain primitive environments. But we are moving the goal posts on what survival means by radically altering our environment.

              2. For evolution to work, “unfit” genes have to kill you before you can successfully reproduce.

                Wrong. The degree to which those genes see reproductive success results in evolution as well. Cultural pressures and technology both influence evolution for good or ill, but they do not stop it.

      2. Cochran and Harpending debunked this silly notion.

    2. They certainly don’t accept the implications of evolution, otherwise they’d consider an excess of safety and welfare program as beneficial for our genes as a policy of mandatory inbreeding.

      1. Either you’re joking entirely, or you don’t understand the scale that evolution takes place on. It would take many, many times longer than human civilization has even existed for something as weak as welfare to so much as nudge our evolutionary path.

        1. Evolution takes place every generation, statistically speaking.

        2. Evolution takes place with every successive generation; the changes aren’t dramatic, but there is a probabilistic nudge toward fitness as defined by the environment.

  6. This jack off believes in AGW.

    1. BURN HIM!!!11

  7. He says he’s a global warming “believer” but his caveats (how much of it is human caused? how bad is it REALLY? can we actually DO anything about it?) sound a lot more like a skeptic to me.

    1. He correctly understands that the scientific argument and the political argument should be separate.

      1. The scientific argument for what? That the globe is warming? Or that the globe is warming because of mans increase in CO2?

        The first one is scientific and provable, the second, not so much.

        1. He addresses that distinction in his explanation.

          1. I watched it, which is why I would describe him as more of a “skeptic” than a believer.

    2. I use to subscribe to his magazine. He wasn’t as congenial to AGW “deniers” a couple of months ago. There is no reason to believe in AGW!

      1. Waaah waaaahh someone isn’t towing the party line! Waaah!

    3. so what do hybrid cars, electric cars and getting off of fossil fuels have to do with a free market?

      1. Is this a trick question???

        1. i was just trying to understand shermer’s godless rationalization of the politics of global warming.

          1. “so what do hybrid cars, electric cars and getting off of fossil fuels have to do with a free market?” Nothing except most AGW proponents want the government to provide money to develop electrio cars an alternative fuels. The free market (which I support) can try to develop anything they want using their own or investors money.

      2. Reduces the problematic situation of extracting oil from the middle east.

        If it was even money, I’d rather burn coal mined in the US than oil pumped out in Iraq (presuming it ends military adventures).

    4. I’m not sure about this, but I think he’s retreated from a far less skeptical position on AGW.

  8. I can’t agree with him that new age wierdos are essentially atheists.

    1. Most atheists are liberal, I am not.

      1. Same here. I may not be a believer, but I am certainly no Statist fuck.

        1. Stated succinctly.

        2. I think you guys would rightly be insulted if I lumped you in with folks who think a chunk of quartz can grant enlightment.

          1. Rightly – yes. Even though I sell chunks of miraculous quartz to suckers… er, true believers in Gaia, I would feel offended.

            1. How much for a crystal ball?

      2. New Agers tend to be very, confused. You got your Big Foot trackers, your UFO investigators and such.

        1. New Agers tend to be very, confused. You got your Big Foot trackers, your UFO investigators and such.

          Bigfoot is best tracked from above–using a UFO equipped with the Magic Eye device.

          1. That’s why I’ve never found Bigfoot. Those Magic Eye things never work for me.

    2. They’re essentially atheists (or worse) as far as Christians are concerned. They’re essentially opposed to all the shit Christians try to impose on others via law, because it’s as oppressive to them as it is to atheists.

      Plus, I don’t think most new age weirdos even believe their own crap.

      1. I am not sure it is possile to be worse than a atheist as far as Christians are concerned.

        1. If I may, as a Christian libertarian (wut?): to a Christian, atheists are no “worse” than anyone else. There may be some goofballs around that may say of Islamists or whomever “at least they believe in something” but in the true Christian faith this is not the case.

          1st post on Reason, woohoo!

      2. And they’re essentially Christians (or worse) as far as atheists are concerned. Superstition is superstition.

        I get your point about both atheists and New-Agers lining up against Christianist majorities in a political sense, but the actual belief system is just as problematic to an atheist. A Sun God who dispenses good vibes makes no more sense than a Jewish carpenter who is reincarnated.

        1. Yes, atheists simply hate everyone, and then bitch that no one likes them.

    3. “I can’t agree with him that new age wierdos are essentially atheists.”

      He only said New Age to designate people who believe in an impersonal God. Lot’s of them are weirdo’s. I believe in an impersonal “God”, but that doesn’t mean I think there’s anything behind magic Indian talismans or whatever.

      I believe in Spinoza’s God, and I talk about God and use the word God, because we live in a world where God is a part of people’s world-view and my purpose is to communicate. (I also happen to think Jesus would have accepted Spinoza’s metaphysics as well – which is a whole other thing.)

      But I have no problem if people call me an athiest, because I accept that as well.

      Ideas aren’t things, they’re representations of things, and they never have a 1:1 correspondence with the things they represent.

      “God” is just an anthropomorphicization of the Universe (though not necessarily the Big Bang or the spacetime continuum, which are again, justs incomplete models of the Universe). But then again, the idea of “Natural Laws” is also an anthropomorphicization, ie, the idea of “law” is a concept that has no meaning outside of human society. Yet scientists talk about “natural laws” all the time.

      So why is one anthropomorphicization OK and the other not?

      Ultimately, like Shermer said, it’s not the metaphisic you adopt that matters, but how it plays out. What actions does it lead to? And I don’t necessarily mean whether you’re a good moral person or not (whatever that means), I also mean how successful your life is, and how well do your predictions bear out. All of that is related.

  9. What about black, gay atheists?

    1. Leave the president out of this.

  10. and why he [Shermer] switched from global warming skepticism to acceptance.

    Because, deep down, he wants to believe.

  11. […] why liberals accept evolution but not free markets […]

    I don’t see a contradiction here. One can believe the earth travels around the sun and still be a Statist fuck.

    1. Huh? One can believe the earth travels around the sun and still think God “designed” the eye ball. Belief in a geocentric universe isn’t needed for denial of evolution.

      1. Re: Rhayader,

        Belief in a geocentric universe isn’t needed for denial of evolution.

        Nor is trusting the scientific explanation for evolution (natural selection) precludes a person from being a STATIST FUCK! That was the whole point, and you missed it.

        1. I didn’t miss the point, you illustrated it poorly by conflating the heliocentric solar system with evolution. Agreed that the acceptance of obvious scientific fact doesn’t preclude one from being a “STATIST FUCK!”

          1. I think he meant to say “One can believe the sun travels around the earth”.

            1. Or wait, I think I misread this thing. I don’t know what you two are arguing about. Never mind.

              1. Re: Slut Bunwalla,

                It all comes down to this: being science-literate does not make you economics-literate…

                … or being liberal does not make you smart. Quite the contrary, by the looks of it:

                http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/81172308/

                1. But being a liberal makes you feel smart, and isn’t that what matters, after all?

                  1. Stop feeling me!

                    Not you, 99.

                2. Those weren’t costumes.

  12. This spring, in the biopic to end all biopics, Tim Cavanaugh IS: Frank Stallone.

  13. Having met Shermer I feel that he is one of the most level-headed clear-thinking persons in the global climate change debate. It seems most libertarians reject global warming, not because they’ve really studied the data, but because accepting global warming gives liberals yet another powerful tool to enlarge government and the nanny state. Shermer sees this as well. If only we could magically separate the science and the politics but that’s impossible so we have to find a better way to address the possible problems that may arise.

    1. It seems most libertarians reject global warming, not because they’ve really studied the data, but because accepting global warming gives liberals yet another powerful tool to enlarge government and the nanny state.

      I think there are plenty of libertarians who HAVE studied the data and have come to the conclusion that we don’t have conclusive evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that human increase in CO2 production is the primary (or even secondary) cause of the change in global temperature. We have far too many examples over the last thousand years of massive temperature shifts -ones that are far greater than what we see now- that clearly could NOT have been caused by man. Then you can show that the models that have predicted a massive change in temperature due to the increase in CO2 output by humans did not play out according to the predictions of the models.

      Then you can get in to the other factors behind global temperature change -solar cycles, El Nino/La Nina cycles, CO2 saturation factors, etc- and and reasonable person would conclude that we simply don’t have enough evidence to develop a provable hypothesis stating that mans increase in CO2 is responsible.

      THAT is why I oppose giving liberals yet another powerful tool to enlarge government and the nanny state.

      1. I don’t think Shermer comes even close to claiming scientific certainty. He’s expressing his considered opinion on the subject, not asserting the existence of “conclusive evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt” any particular hypothesis.

        You’re certainly right that plenty of libertarians reject the “AGW” hypotheses after a reasonable investigation into the available data. But I think Benjamin is also right — plenty of libertarians and conservatives have a dogmatic opposition to any sort of neutral look at the issue, because it’s something they associate with liberals.

        1. plenty of libertarians and conservatives have a dogmatic opposition to any sort of neutral look at the issue, because it’s something they associate with liberals.

          This may be true but it doesn’t change the fact that plenty of libertarians reject the “AGW” hypotheses after a reasonable investigation into the available data, which has nothing to do with what they think about liberals.

    2. “It seems most libertarians reject global warming, not because they’ve really studied the data, but because accepting global warming gives liberals yet another powerful tool to enlarge government and the nanny state.” I am a scientist and I do not think that the current climate knowledge is concurrent with AGW. But as a scientist I am all for climate study using the scientific method and an open use of all the data.

    3. Re: Benjamin Lecrone,

      It seems most libertarians reject global warming, not because they’ve really studied the data, but because accepting global warming gives liberals yet another powerful tool to enlarge government and the nanny state.

      That’s not true. Global Warming is a fact (it is actually required in order for life to exist.) What libertarians see with healthful skepticism is the claim that we need to dump a few virgins into the Volcano God so it is no longer angry (or, dumping trillions into a fucking hole just because the earth is angry – take your pick.)

      1. Dump all the virgins you like….as long as they are male!

        1. Re: Realist,

          Dump all the virgins you like….as long as they are male!

          NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

      2. OM, come now, we’ve had many a conversation in which people here outright deny GW or AGW, not because they’ve studied any data with a neutral view, but because they can’t separate the politics from the science.

        1. And vice versa. Al Gore would be a perfect example, he is as dumb as a rope!

    4. My politics are absolutely and completely irrelevant to whether I accept AGW claims. Where my politics come into play is with the political use of AGW by proponents to push for purely political ends.

      I’m still at least somewhat agnostic on whether AGW is contributing to a warming trend in any significant way, but the corruption on this issue can’t be ignored. Crap, there’s some question now whether we’re in a warming trend at all.

    5. I don’t see that it requires magic to separate the scientific and political questions. Public debate has been severely convoluted up to now, but every once in a while public debate dramatically changes. The climate debate has changed a lot in just the last couple of years because of Climategate and the recession.

  14. As good a place as any to post this:

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/201…..els-malls/

  15. How about mbt kisumu sandals this one: there are X driving deaths a year- what % of driving deaths (or serious injuries) involve alcohol, or other intoxicating substances? kisumu 2 People are pretty darn good drivers when they are not impaired.

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