Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Interview with Michael Shermer - Reason TV


Posted December 7, 2010 on Reason.tv
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.
(Thanks Andrew)

54 comments:

  1. For a skeptic he seems to have allot of faith in the privatization of police and military being beneficial to society.

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  2. Control system involving legal agreements backed by force (Government)? Time to be skeptical.
    Control system involving work agreements backed by loss of health insurance / unemployment (Economics)? "That's just the Invisible Hand working"

    Seems like Shermer need to read Book 4 of "Wealth of Nations" again.

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  3. Too bad he's a libertarian douchbag who cannot see how his Faith in the FreeMarket god is no different than that in the BigDaddy in the sky.

    There is no evidence for the power of the so-called FreeMarkets. It's a nice game on paper, but as a model for actual behaviour of economic systems, it has failed miserably. Hayek's hypotheses are just as successful as Ptolemy's geocentric system, and for very much the same reasons.

    How disappointing.

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  4. Yes, because, as we all know, subscription to non-mainstream political and economic philosophies instantaneously and invariably renders one a 'douchebag'.

    Is it terribly difficult for you to notice the parity of your argument with regard to an ideology such as socialism, to which at least an equal measure of faith in the presumed virtue of government is requisite by the adherents of that economic doctrine?

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  5. So an interive on ReasonTV (Which appeals specifically to libertarians) talks about how atheist are a large group that deserve representation, explains how he came to accept that global warming is real, and we start attacking him for being a libertarian?  I expected better from the commentors here.

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  6. Denis Robert, TorontoDecember 8, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    Wow, overreach much? What the hell makes you think I'm a socialist? My point is that Hayek's hypotheses, to which Shermer ascribes, are an unscientific hypothese that has failed to be verified by the actual facts on the ground. We're not talking "philosophy" here, we're talking about positive claims made by someone who claims a scientific viewpoint; claims which have long ago been falsified.

    It's not a matter of belief or political orientation. It's a matter of simple facts. And someone who claims to be a skeptic should know the difference.

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  7. Denis Robert, TorontoDecember 8, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    And he's a douchebag because he follows Ayn Rand's worldview, even if he distanced himself from her direct cult.

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  8. No, Andrew, the earlier commentators have hit on an obvious problem in Shermer's worldview.  Atheists and other skeptics insist that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence when it comes to God.  The same methodology should also be applied to the Invisible Hand, the Great Spectator, and the Great Legislator.  Each concept is presupposed without direct observation; just have faith that each works out.  I'm sorry, but Libertarianism is an infantile worldview with about as much credibility as the young-earth creationists Shermer opposes.

    Why exactly are those individuals who critical of Libertarianism automatically Socialists?  Blake seems to have missed out on the ideologies inbetween the two; namely, Liberalism, Conservativism, Social Democracy, and the Greens.  In other words, the political ideologies which consistently gets 80 to 98% of voter support in democratic election after democratic election throughout the West.  Stop labeling everyone who criticizes the loopy economic positions of Libertarians as "Socialist".  Most critics are, in fact, not Socialists.

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  9. No, Andrew, the earlier commentators have hit on an obvious problem in Shermer's worldview.  Atheists and other skeptics insist that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence when it comes to God.  The same methodology should also be applied to the Invisible Hand, the Great Spectator, and the Great Legislator.  Each concept is presupposed without direct observation; just have faith that each works out.  I'm sorry, but Libertarianism is an infantile worldview with about as much credibility as the young-earth creationists Shermer opposes.

    Why exactly are those individuals who critical of Libertarianism automatically Socialists?  Blake seems to have missed out on the ideologies inbetween the two; namely, Liberalism, Conservativism, Social Democracy, and the Greens.  In other words, the political ideologies which consistently gets 80 to 98% of voter support in democratic election after democratic election throughout the West.  Stop labeling everyone who criticizes the loopy economic positions of Libertarians as "Socialist".  Most critics are, in fact, not Socialists.

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  10. No, Andrew, the earlier commentators have hit on an obvious problem in Shermer's worldview.  Atheists and other skeptics insist that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence when it comes to God.  The same methodology should also be applied to the Invisible Hand, the Great Spectator, and the Great Legislator.  Each concept is presupposed without direct observation; just have faith that each works out.  I'm sorry, but Libertarianism is an infantile worldview with about as much credibility as the young-earth creationists Shermer opposes.

    Why exactly are those individuals who critical of Libertarianism automatically Socialists?  Blake seems to have missed out on the ideologies inbetween the two; namely, Liberalism, Conservativism, Social Democracy, and the Greens.  In other words, the political ideologies which consistently gets 80 to 98% of voter support in democratic election after democratic election throughout the West.  Stop labeling everyone who criticizes the loopy economic positions of Libertarians as "Socialist".  Most critics are, in fact, not Socialists.

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  11. I just lol at the idiots here who know nothing about economics and are raising the banner of socialism- this is the problem with some of these leftist atheists... they have no god so they try to put govt in his place.... why don't we just look at the stats and see how much more productive free markets are than regulated ones...maybe reading a book or 2 on micro and macro economics will help you people understand a little before shouting socialism socialism and waving a red flag and supporting obama just because he looks and sounds good...

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  12. Calling Shermer a douchebag is unnecessary, yes. However, criticism of wacky ideas is exactly what I would expect on an atheism/skepticism blog.

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  13. Calling Shermer a douchebag is unnecessary, yes. However, criticism of wacky ideas is exactly what I would expect from commenters on an atheism/skeptism blog.

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  14. Not a single person in this thread has advocated socialism so far. Chill out.

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  15. He never said it would be beneficial.  He was skeptical in that regard.  He said just becuase you can't think of a way it would work, doesn't mean it wouldn't work.

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  16. "Invinsible hand" = spantaneous order of a complex economic system with no central planner.  You have got to be joking if you believe there is no evidence that this is a fact.

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  17. "Invisible hand" = spontaneous order of a complex system in the absence of a central planner.  You have got to be joking if you don't believe there is evidence that this is a real phenomenon in the world.

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  18. <span>"Invisible hand" = spontaneous order of a complex economic system in the absence of a central planner.  You have got to be joking if you don't believe there is evidence that this is a real phenomenon in the world.</span>

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  19. I wouldn't say that I've "missed out" on noticing any of those things. Yourself on the other hand, in addition to missing out on the fact that the "Post" button needn't to be pressed in triplicate, and the "Delete" button is indeed quite functional, have missed out on the fact that nowhere did I do anything as remotely stupid as label everyone who who criticizes libertarianism as socialist.

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  20. <span>I wouldn't say that I've "missed out" on noticing any of those things. Yourself on the other hand, in addition to missing out on the fact that the "Post" button needn't be pressed in triplicate, and the "Delete" button is indeed quite functional, have missed out on the fact that nowhere did I do anything as remotely stupid as label everyone who who criticizes libertarianism as socialist.</span>

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  21. <span><span>I wouldn't say that I've "missed out" on noticing any of those things. Yourself on the other hand, in addition to missing out on the fact that the "Post" button needn't be pressed in triplicate, and the "Delete" button is indeed quite functional, have missed out on the fact that nowhere did I do anything as remotely stupid as label everyone who criticizes libertarianism as socialist.</span></span>

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  22. Defensive much? I never said you were.

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  23. p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Lucida Grande'; color: #333233}

    Newsflash:

    Not everyone who is a Democrat subscribes to the parts of Democrat ideology which you consider reprehensible.


    By the same token, not everyone who is a Libertarian subscribes to the parts of Libertarianism which you find reprehensible.

    Even if these people do believe in said insert-political-party-here ideologies which you find reprehensible, that doesn't make them a douchebag.

    I personally like Shermer a lot for his humanistic tendencies which seem to run mostly counter to Ayn Rand - he's gone so far as to say Harris has a lot of good stuff to say about morality, and that is a far more compassionate view than either of our two big political parties.

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  24. maybe not outright...but it is implied by mocking things like the 'invisible hand' only people who believe govt regulation is the next religion think and speak like that

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  25. Not at all. You're reading too far into what you assume others' points are.
    In short, you have a false sample set of "All or Nothing" type of extremes.

    Adam Smith:
    He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he <span>frequently</span> promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.


    So, when "frequently" isn't "frequent" enough, other venues are needed. Such as : Academia, NonProfits, Volunteering, etc.

    The fact that you assign "Government" as the default shows that you're not considering a crapload of other options.

    Implied, indeed.

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  26. @Blake: Yes you did claim I was a socialist: "<span>notice the parity of your argument with regard to an ideology such as socialism,". To you a critique of Libertarianism and FreeMarket absolutist ideology is exactly the same as socialism. So it seems there's really only two economic theories, according to you: Hayek vs Marx. </span>

    The one fundamental issue with Libertarianism is this: there is no such thing as a free market. Free Markets have never existed in any group larger than a few dozen people, and simply cannot exist. Even Adam Smith recognized that left to their own devices, business people would inevitably find ways to distort any free market that could ever exist. There is no existing mechanism within so-called free markets to prevent the emergence of monopolies and thus to eliminate the free market itself. 

    All of the FreeMarket theologists' arguments resolve down to one: Smith's metaphorical Invisible Hand, which they believe to be real. What they should really call it, is Providence: No, no, they say, without ever being able to demonstrate it in any way, the Invisible Hand will ALWAYS act to restore the balance. No, No, they say... There is no such thing as Market Bubbles, the Market is always right and always correctly estimates the value of things on the Market (they fail to see the circularity of this argument, too). 

    As for the so-called parity to socialism of my arguments, it's hard to see where you see this, since I'm making a critique of Hayek and Shermer's views, rather than making a positive argument in favour of any specific theory. Keynes is not a socialist, nor are his views anti-capitalistic in any way. The state is a fundamental part of the economy, whether you like it or not; without the state, there IS NO ECONOMY, just as much as there's no economy without Consumers and Producers. The idea that any critique of the free-market is tantamount to wanting the state to control everything is a straw-man used only by the most rabid of right-wing ideologues; it's simply a false dichotomy which I (and with me most of today's economists) reject.

    And Schermer is still a douchebag.

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  27. No, Invisible Hand = Providence. I have yet to see any actual theory, based on real evidence, that would support the existence of the "Invisible Hand". In real-world economic systems (as opposed to the overly simplified models used by Hayek and his disciples), there are many types of forces: some tend to bring systems back to equilibrium, some tend to move systems away from it. The Free Market theologians only accept the first, and deny the second, notwithstanding the very explicit illustration of them that we just saw in the Housing Bubble crash of 2007 (not to mention the Tech Bubble crash of 2000, the Currrency Derivatives crash of 1998... you get the picture). 

    There is no evidence that a free market (in the sense advanced by the free market theologians) has ever existed, let alone that it can even exist. On the other hand, we have a lot of evidence that a market which is initially free will either give up some of that freedom through regulation, or disappear through self-destruction. Those are also spontaneous phenomena, well documented, whose mechanisms we actually can explain, as opposed to the free marketers theology, which we must only accept on faith.

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  28. I probably know more about economics than you do. I have read a number of books on Economics (something like 40 or 50...), and I don't support Obama, since he's a dyed in the wool corporatist (and pretty much as much of a socialist as Nixon ever was). And no, I'm not a socialist, although as opposed to you, I know what the word actually means (it has little or nothing to do with state regulation; look it up...).

    As for how much "more productive" free markets are vs regulated ones: find me a free market that we might be able to compare to a "regulated" one... I dare you. You won't find a single one, not now, not in the history of the world since humans have discovered agriculture, except in those areas where states have completely failed (Somalia, for example). ALL MARKETS ARE REGULATED. The idea that they can survive without that is a fallacy which only someone with no knowledge of the history of the world can possibly advance.

    You might wish to educate yourself before claiming others are uneducated. The very fact that you buy into this "statist"/"libertarian" claptrap is proof that you need basic remedial education in this area.

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  29. He has publicly stated his admiration for Ayn Rand and both her political and ethical views. I'm not ascribing anything to him that he did not himself write. His only critique of Ayn Rand, at least in public, was that she turned her entourage into a cult of personality.

    And accepting Ayn Rand's worldview is a sign of psychopathy.

    And he is still a douchebag.

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  30. Blake, the Austrian school of economics is *explicitly* faith-based. 

    We must guard against all ideologies. Unless you happen to believe that ideology can be used as a tool, as a political/social lever. 

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  31. Try to comment on the thread going on here. Obviously you are reading another thread, because no one 'raised socialism' on this thread, let alone 'supported obama'.

    You give economists a bad name that's worse even than they already have.

    (Why is it that the most dismal of Sciences is also the most arrogant? Is it because they are compensating? Or is it self-selection?)

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  32. Perhaps it would be best then not to label oneself as "Libertarian". 

    Since we are on this blog, we are thinking beings, and know that many of these ideas are not, a priori, mutually exclusive.

    There are plenty of liberal minded people who subscribe to most of 'Libertarian' principles, minus perhaps some of the economic principles. Whether  you call yourself 'Libertarian' then depends on the political environment in which you find yourself: if everyone else is a social liberal, then 'libertarian' means differing economic principles. If everyone is an economic conservative (vaguely true in the US, for instance), then 'libertarian' can refer to civil rights. 

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  33. Stephen, 
    Evolution is a good example of self organization.

    As with evolution, then main problem with simplistic interpretations of self organization is that people like to think it is directed. 

    Sure there is self organization in the economic system -- it would be amazing if there weren't! But using the concept of "invisible hand" to make predictions is far from a simple matter, just as making predictions using natural selection is also difficult.

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  34. <span>"this is the problem with some of these leftist atheists... they have no god so they try to put govt in his place.."</span>
    I have never understood this. For one thing, gov is democratic unlike a non-elected deity which as Hitchens points out cannot ever be removed. And to most god is defined as something which can create absolutely everything so in no way does any government have the same type of power.
    This whole thing reminds me of you don't believe in god so that you can be god - to which I usually reply: No, I prefer existing.

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  35. I love it how Libertarians refer to corporate capitalism as "the free market."

    Why don't we call Stalinism "Everyone is equal La la land" while were at it?

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  36. I am not going to answer everything here- maybe I sounded arrogant, extreme and very black and white in my comment, and I apologise. But my point was never that there is a complete free market on one hand and a completely regulated one on the other- the fact remains, that the less regulation there is the more productive a market is. One person stated that one the invisible hand does not work well- only then we need things like regulation, well market failures do occur but govt failures are always worse...hundreds of historical examples.

    I know what socialism is- a quick look at the dictionary to clarify for those who are confused, socliam:<span><span>a</span> <span>political</span> <span>and</span> economic theory <span>of</span> social organization that advocates that the <span>means of production</span>, <span>distribution</span>, <span>and</span> exchange should be owned or regulated by the community <span>as a whole</span>. (sorry for the font change copy and pasting here) owned or regulated by the community usually means govt regulation.</span>

    The comparison of big govt and god has nothing to do with democracy etc...It has to do with people needing someone out there to look out for them- whether it is a god to pray to that will heal them or a govt that will deliver 'free' health care.

    I apologise for the fact that my original post seemed rash and rushed and it was both- but the comments are so one sided and so vicious towards sherman because he actualy applies his skepticism towards all aspects of human nature including economics- rather than the general skeptical towards god position that i had to say something. At the same time this is the internet and i really can't be bothered writing essays here.

    peace

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  37. So in social-democratic countries in Scandinavia the "<span><span><span>production</span>, <span>distribution</span>, <span>and</span> exchange should be owned or regulated by the community <span>as a whole"? </span></span></span>

    No it's not. Libertarians don't seem to know much about socialism. I live in Sweden, and I hear NO socialists talking about everything being owned by the community as whole. It's rather about good living standards for everyone, including the poorest who would be left out in a laissez faire capitalism system to starve - sorry, to eat cake.

    Libertarians are good at repeating their talking points but when it comes down to it don't quite live up to what they preach:
    http://www.cynical-c.com/?p=20577

    As for health care. No, it's not free, but it's a damn a lot cheaper than the wealth care system in USA which excludes people if there is no way of making money on the sick. Even babies supposedly have pre-existing conditions. This is sick.

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  38. where the f*ck is a dislike button for comments? I would litke to hit it for comments like this! Could you please introduce a "dislike button"?

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  39. we can argue this all day- but socialism in Sweden is about wealth distribution and the distribution of services and products to the community "as a whole"- when the govt takes money from one group and puts it into another that is socialism defined. If you want to sugar coat it by phrases like 'fairness' 'taking care of the poor' etc... doesn't mean anything- if sweden had a freer market - sweden would be a richer country as a whole, and products would be cheaper for the poor. Of course socialists don't talk about the govt owning things, that would put off every voter who has private property in any sector, that is why you don't measure a political system by what the politicians tell you.

    The USA is not a 'free market' if anything it is corporations buying out the govt to legislate in their favour. So plz don't make comparisons that are not even valid. 

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  40. The only socialism which should happen according to capitalists/free marketers (that's what they call themselves) is up. This is often demonstrated by the language used, it's a give-away.
    Tax cuts for the rich (almost always they who benefit the most): relief
    Tax cuts for the middle-class and the poorest: socialism, class-warfare etc..

    Sweden would be richer if we privatized the health care, as the health care would become more expensive. But it's known that measuring GDP doesn't give the whole picture and certainly not in what shape the society is in, because as it has always been, wealth tends to collect in the upper echelons of society. The others are left behind.

    I don't mind wealth distrubution. Giving welfare to those who lose their jobs is much cheaper then sending them to prisons, which is also welfare, especially if these prisons are private. Someone's making a buck out of criminiality, and this further makes things more corrupted, because politicians and their services are bought.

    The comparisons are valid, because this is what capitalist set out to do, they'll use whatever means they can to enrich themselves further, and gov can be perfect way of getting it done. Very small gov would be great too, because this would allow pretty much everything. Like put kids back to work and super low wage slave labor.
    This is also why the capitalists love China. Cheap, easy to exploit workforce with little to nothing to say for themselves.

    "<span>sweden would be a richer country as a whole, and products would be cheaper for the poor" Utter bullocks. They wouldn't be able to afford them. Keep them in check, that's how it works out...and we already have a government who is punishing the poor and the sick so that they can enrich the upper-class. We don't need more of it.</span>

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/world/americas/25iht-poor.4345801.html?_r=1

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