Journalism

Reason Writers in on the Plot: Matt Welch's Hour-Long Conspiracy Chat With Michael Shermer and Minnesota Public Radio

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Good cover, but TWO subheds?

Yesterday, I participated in a Minnesota Public Radio discussion entitled "Belief Without Facts." The premise:

Facts are often in dispute these days. From the conspiracy over where the President was born to alternative theories about 9/11, there remains polarization over matters in which the evidence seems unequivocal. Why do many people remain unconvinced by facts?

I was on with Skeptics Society Executive Director and friend o' Reason Michael Shermer, author of the just-released-yesterday book The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies–How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths, and Shermer had many interesting things to say about the neuroscience of superstition and suchlike (the big takeaway was that people who feel stressed/threatened/powerless are way more susceptible to the stuff). My contribution was basically an hour-long push against the premise that Things Are Getting Worse.

You can listen to the whole program here:

Here's Reason.tv's most recent interview with the non-believer:

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Ronald Bailey Talks Fracking at American Enterprise Institute Today

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  1. I look forward to listening to the interview. Maybe it will drown out the voices in my head.

    I’m hoping it will (or someone will, eventually) touch on the sloppy, over-use of the word “conspiracy”…

    I’m convinced that most “conspiracy theories” exist more in the minds of people that don’t believe them but think others do, than in the minds of any believers… Discuss.

    1. I believe you were sent by the government to cause Reasonoids to feel stressed/threatened/powerless
      -at least that’s what the voice in your head told me.

  2. It’s interesting that it was posted yesterday at 11:01 AM that the discussion was going to last until “about 11:45 EDT”. I actually tuned in at 11:41 AM EDT and found that the show was already over and playing instead a commercial about grants from the Chubb Group (or whatever fat cat corporation paid for this). So I find it suspicious that today suddenly the chat in an hour long.

    1. Interesting. So where did the “extra” 15 minutes come from?

      1. Hmm, space-time continuum disrupted by signals from Irresponsible Hater’s head voices

    2. Move along sheeple, nothing to see here…

  3. (the big takeaway was that people who feel stressed/threatened/powerless are way more susceptible to the stuff).

    I’ve often heard that bitter people cling to guns and religion.

    1. Really? I heard bitter men cling to libertarianism 🙂

    2. I heard that butter people cling to toast.

      1. I’d love some toast but skip the butter and get me my coffee, bitch

  4. Wasn’t Shermer the town in all the John Hughes movies?

    What does it MEAN????

  5. Does he also go over how our brains seem conditioned to believe in free will, despite scientists and philosophers doubting that as well?

    Or is that one not as fun to talk about for libertarians?

    1. I don’t believe in free will, yet I’m also a libertarian.

      It seems to me that libertarians believe it to be the folly of central planners to assume that they could ever have control over the lives others.

      I haven’t quite come to grips with how a philosophy of morality that abandons the notion of free will but also punishes people would work.

      1. I haven’t quite come to grips with how a philosophy of morality that abandons the notion of free will but also punishes people would work.

        Punishment becomes part of the history that (one hopes) influences (the fixed) future behaviour.

        This book devotes a chapter to the subject and explains it better than I ever could on an Internet forum.

    2. Well, if scientists and philosophers doubt it’s existence then I guess it doesn’t exist. I see you’ve decided to exercise your free will by following the flock. Good work.

      1. No, I disagree with them, you misunderstand. But whether free will is true or not, it’s certainly the case that the human brain does appear to be wired to believe in free will, in the same way as conspiracies and religion.

  6. So, does Michael Shermer believe Obama is a secret, closeted atheist?!

    TEABAGGER!!!!

  7. The thing is, how are we supposed to judge what are actual “facts” and what are not, based on the gov’ts history of lies?

    I mean, if this had actually taken place, would we have been “conspiracy” nuts for believing what it turns out was the truth?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods

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