Reason Podcast

Michael Shermer on Why Even Scientists, Transhumanists, and Atheists Want To Believe in Heaven: Podcast

One of the world's top skeptics of religion casts a cold eye on secular attempts to create utopia and immortality.


In Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, Michael Shermer seeks to explain why so many of us are deeply invested in the idea of a world beyond the one we're already living in. Shermer isn't just talking about religious believers. He also chronicles the ways socialists and others have tried to create paradise now, and the obsessions of transhumanists trying to create a secular version of immortality.

One of the world's best-known "skeptics," Shermer teaches at Chapman University, is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, writes a column for Scientific American, and has penned a shelf of best-selling books on such subjects as evolution, the brain, and the morality of capitalism.

In a wide-ranging conversation taped at FreedomFest, the annual gathering of libertarians held in Las Vegas each July, I asked Shermer about his long association with libertarian ideas, including his involvement with Andrew Galambos, an idiosyncratic self-help guru whose ideas about intellectual property were famously parodied in Jerome Tuccille's underground classic, It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. We also discussed the welcome return and explicit defense of Enlightenment values of rationality, evidence, disinterestedness, and progress—in his work, and in the work of such figures as Matt Ridley, Deirdre McCloskey, and Steven Pinker.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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