Famous Quotes & Sayings

Michael Shermer Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 100 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Michael Shermer.

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Being deeply knowledgeable on one subject narrows one's focus and increases confidence, but it also blurs dissenting views until they are no longer visible, thereby transforming data collection into bias confirmation and morphing self-deception into self-assurance. — Michael Shermer

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How can we find spiritual meaning in a scientific worldview? Spirituality is a way of being in the world, a sense of one's place in the cosmos, a relationship to that which extends beyond oneself ... Does scientific explanation of the world diminish its spiritual beauty? I think not. Science and spirituality are complementary, not conflicting; additive, not detractive. Anything that generates a sense of awe may be a source of spirituality. Science does this in spades. (158-159) — Michael Shermer

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Because of the complexity of the problem, environmental skepticism was once tenable. No longer. It is time to flip from skepticism to activism. — Michael Shermer

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According to her data, "no campaigns failed once they'd achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population - and lots of them succeeded with far less than that." Further, she notes, "Every single campaign that did surpass that 3.5 percent threshold was a nonviolent one. In fact, campaigns that relied solely on nonviolent methods were on average four times larger than the average violent campaign. And they were often much more representative in terms of gender, age, race, political party, class, and urban-rural distinctions. — Michael Shermer

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We do not just blindly concede control to authorities; instead we follow the cues provided by our moral communities on how best to behave. — Michael Shermer

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The reason people turn to supernatural explanations is that the mind abhors a vacuum of explanation. Because we do not yet have a fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness, people turn to supernatural explanations to fill the void. — Michael Shermer

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Having a Nobel Prize or being a famous scientist will get you a week to a week and a half, metaphorically speaking, of a hearing for your new idea, but after that, it's going to tank if you don't have the evidence and support for it. — Michael Shermer

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Myths are stories that express meaning, morality or motivation. Whether they are true or not is irrelevant. — Michael Shermer

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The belief that all knowledge is culturally determined and therefore lacks certainty is largely the product of an uncertain cultural milieu. — Michael Shermer

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We should be exploring consciousness at the neural level and higher, where the arrow of causal analysis points up toward such principles as emergence and self-organization. — Michael Shermer

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Mysteries once thought to be supernatural or paranormal happenings - such as astronomical or meteorological events - are incorporated into science once their causes are understood. — Michael Shermer

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People have a hard time accepting free-market economics for the same reason they have a hard time accepting evolution: it is counterintuitive. Life looks intelligently designed, so our natural inclination is to infer that there must be an intelligent designer
a God. Similarly, the economy looks designed, so our natural inclination is to infer that we need a designer
a government. In fact, emergence and complexity theory explains how the principles of self-organization and emergence cause complex systems to arise from simple systems without a top-down designer. — Michael Shermer

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We want to be open-minded enough to accept radial new ideas when they occasionally come along, but we don't want to be so open-minded that our brains fall out. — Michael Shermer

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The case for exploiting animals for food, clothing and entertainment often relies on our superior intelligence, language and self-awareness: the rights of the superior being trump those of the inferior. — Michael Shermer

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We are a fluke of nature, a quirk of evolution, a glorious contingency. — Michael Shermer

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For millennia, religions in general, and Jewish, Christian, and Islamic churches in particular, have had little problem with the forced enslavement of hundreds of millions of people. It was only after the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment that rational arguments were proffered for the abolition of the slave trade, influenced by and citing such secular documents as the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. After an unconscionably long lag time, religion finally got on board the abolition train and became instrumental in helping to propel it forward. — Michael Shermer

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The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies, and in the end isn't that the real truth? The answer is no. No squared. The postmodernist belief in the — Michael Shermer

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Since humans are by nature tribal, the overall goal is to expand the concept of the tribe to include ALL members of the species, in a global free society. — Michael Shermer

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People believe in God because we are pattern-seeking, storytelling, mythmaking, religious, moral animals. — Michael Shermer

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When alien abductees recount to me their stories, I do not deny that they had a real experience. — Michael Shermer

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Science is not a thing. It's a verb. It's a way of thinking about things. It's a way of looking for natural explanations for all phenomena. — Michael Shermer

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Machine intelligence of a human nature could be a century away, and immortality is at least a millennium away, if not unattainable altogether. — Michael Shermer

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When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together. - ISAAC ASIMOV, THE RELATIVITY OF WRONG, 1989 — Michael Shermer

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Anecdotal thinking comes naturally; science requires training. — Michael Shermer

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There are many sources of spirituality; religion may be the most common, but it is by no means the only. Anything that generates a sense of awe may be a source of spirituality. Science does this in spades. — Michael Shermer

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Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in fact, religious. — Michael Shermer

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Yet basically, libertarians are for freedom and liberty for
individuals, while recognizing that in order to be free we must also be
protected. Your freedom to swing your arms ends at my nose. — Michael Shermer

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My libertarian beliefs have not always served me well. Like most people who hold strong ideological convictions, I find that, too often, my beliefs trump the scientific facts. — Michael Shermer

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In a free society, skeptics are the watchdogs against irrationalism - the consumer advocates of ideas. Debunking is not simply the divestment of bunk; its utility is in offering a better alternative, along with a lesson on how thinking goes wrong. — Michael Shermer

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Ultimately all hominids came from Africa, and therefore everyone in America should simply check the box next to 'African-American.' My maternal grandmother was German and my maternal grandfather was Greek. The next time I fill out one of those forms I am going to check 'Other' and write in the truth about my racial and cultural heritage: 'African-Greek-German-American.' And proud of it. — Michael Shermer

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There is a significant difference between having no belief in a God and believing there is no God ... — Michael Shermer

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Some religions, such as Catholicism, fully endorsed slavery, as Pope Nicholas V made clear when, in 1452, he issued the radically proslavery document Dum Diversas. This was a papal bull granting Catholic countries such as Spain and Portugal "full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property ... and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery."10 These last few words - to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery - sound not just sinister to us, but also psychotic. They make perfect sense, however, in a Christian context, given that the Bible is itself a heedlessly proslavery tome. — Michael Shermer

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To many of my liberal and atheist friends and colleagues, an explanation for religious beliefs such as what I have presented in this book is tantamount to discounting both its internal validity and its external reality. Many of my conservative and theist friends and colleagues take it this way as well and therefore bristle at the thought that explaining a belief explains it away. This is not necessarily so. Explaining why someone believes in democracy does not explain away democracy; explaining why someone who holds liberal or conservative values within a democracy does not explain away those values. — Michael Shermer

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If spirituality is the sense of awe and humility in the face of the creation, what could be more awesome and humbling than the deep space discovered by Hubble and the cosmologists, and the deep time discovered by Darwin and the evolutionists. — Michael Shermer

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Scientists are skeptics. It's unfortunate that the word 'skeptic' has taken on other connotations in the culture involving nihilism and cynicism. Really, in its pure and original meaning, it's just thoughtful inquiry. — Michael Shermer

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The Realistic Vision recognizes the
need for strict moral education through parents, family, friends, and
community because people have a dual nature of being selfish and selfless,
competitive and cooperative, greedy and generous, and so we need rules
and guidelines and encouragement to do the right thing. — Michael Shermer

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Thinking scientifically requires the ability to reason abstractly, which itself is at the foundation of all morality. Consider the mental rotation required to implement the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This necessitates one to change positions - to become the other - and then to extrapolate what action X would feel like as the receiver instead of the doer (or as the victim instead of the perpetrator). A case can be made that the type of conceptual ratiocination required for both scientific and moral reasoning not only is linked historically and psychologically, but also that it has been improving over time as we become better at nonconcrete, theoretical reflection. — Michael Shermer

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Finally, from what we now know about the cosmos, to think that all this was created for just one species among the tens of millions of species who live on one planet circling one of a couple of hundred billion stars that are located in one galaxy among hundreds of billions of galaxies, all of which are in one universe among perhaps an infinite number of universes all nestled within a grand cosmic multiverse, is provincially insular and anthropocentrically blinkered. Which is more likely? That the universe was designed just for us, or that we see the universe as having been designed just for us? — Michael Shermer

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What science tells us is that we are but one among hundreds of millions of species that evolved over the course of three and a half billion years on one tiny planet among many orbiting an ordinary star, itself one of possibly billions of solar systems in an ordinary galaxy that contains hundreds of billions of stars, itself located in a cluster of galaxies not so different from millions of other galaxy clusters, themselves whirling away from one another in an expanding cosmic bubble universe that very possibly is only one among a near infinite number of bubble universes. — Michael Shermer

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Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends upon the beliefs we hold at any given time. — Michael Shermer

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Being a skeptic just means being rational and empirical: thinking and seeing before believing. — Michael Shermer

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As Karl Marx once noted: 'Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.' William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes trial was a tragedy. The creationists and intelligent design theorists are a farce. — Michael Shermer

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There is no such thing as the supernatural or the paranormal. There is only the natural, the normal, and mysteries we have yet to explain. — Michael Shermer

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Rather than there being two distinct and unambiguous categories of
constrained and unconstrained (or tragic and utopian) visions of human
nature, I think there is just one vision with a sliding scale. Let's call this the
Realistic Vision. If you believe that human nature is partly constrained in
all respects - morally, physically, and intellectually - then you hold a
Realistic Vision of human nature. — Michael Shermer

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Accepting evolution does not force us to jettison our morals and ethics, and rejecting evolution does not ensure their constancy. — Michael Shermer

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Life can be a painful struggle and filled with mysteries, so whatever one needs to do to get through the day to find happiness and to bring some resolution to those nagging mysteries ... well ... who am I to argue? As declared in Psalms 46:1: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. — Michael Shermer

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The concept of God is generated by a brain designed by evolution to find design in nature (a very recursive idea). — Michael Shermer

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In addition to localized neural networks, hallucinogenic drugs have been documented to trigger such preternatural experiences, such as the sense of floating and flying stimulated by atropine and other belladonna alkaloids. These can be found in mandrake and jimsonweed and were used by European witches and American Indian shamans, probably for this very purpose.32 Dissociative anesthetics such as the ketamines are also known to induce out-of-body experiences. Ingestion of methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) may bring back long-forgotten memories and produce the feeling of age regression, while dimethyltryptamine (DMT) - also known as "the spirit molecule" - causes the dissociation of the mind from the body and is the hallucinogenic substance in ayahuasca, a drug taken by South American shamans. People who have taken DMT report "I no longer have a body," and "I am falling," "flying," or "lifting up. — Michael Shermer

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I just witnessed an event so mysterious that it shook my skepticism. — Michael Shermer

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We want to be special. We want our place in the cosmos to be central. We want evolution-even godless evolution-to have been directed toward us so that we stand at the pinnacle of nature's ladder of progress. Rewind the tape of life and we want to believe that we (Homo Sapiens) would appear again and again. Would we? Probably not. — Michael Shermer

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Skepticism is not a position that you stake out ahead of time and stick to no matter what. — Michael Shermer

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Dualists hold that body and soul are separate entities and that the soul will continue beyond the existence of the physical body. — Michael Shermer

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The principal barrier to a general acceptance of the monist position is that it is counterintuitive. — Michael Shermer

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For solving a surprisingly large and varied number of problems, crowds are smarter than individuals. — Michael Shermer

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As a social primate species, we modulate our morals with signals from family, friends and social groups with whom we identify because in our evolutionary past, those attributes helped individuals to survive and reproduce. — Michael Shermer

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A poignant example of what it often takes to bring about an end to a superstitious barbaric act may be seen in the Indian practice of suttee, or the burning of widows. The British government abolished suttee by outlawing it, and followed up by severely punishing transgressors. As the nineteenth-century British commander in chief in India, General Charles Napier, told his charges who complained that suttee was their cultural custom that the British should respect: Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs. — Michael Shermer

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Skepticism is not a position; skepticism is an approach to claims, in the same way that science is not a subject but a method. — Michael Shermer

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The "hypocrite" is the critic who disguises his own failings by focusing attention on the failings of others. — Michael Shermer

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No single discovery from any of these fields denotes proof of evolution, but together they reveal that life evolved in a certain sequence by a particular process. — Michael Shermer

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What is the probability that Yahweh is the one true god, and Amon Ra, Aphrodite, Apollo, Baal, Brahma, Ganesha, Isis, Mithra, Osiris, Shiva, Thor, Vishnu, Wotan, Zeus, and the other 986 gods are false gods? As skeptics like to say, everyone is an atheist about these gods; some of us just go one god further. — Michael Shermer

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We know evolution happened because innumerable bits of data from myriad fields of science conjoin to paint a rich portrait of life's pilgrimage. — Michael Shermer

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I care what is actually true, even more than what I hope is true. — Michael Shermer

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When religious believers invoke miracles and acts of creation ex nihilo, that is the end of the search for them, whereas for scientists, the identification of such mysteries is only the beginning. Science picks up where theology leaves off. — Michael Shermer

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Mind is just a word we use to describe neural activity in the brain. No brain, no mind. We know this because if a part of the brain is destroyed through stroke or cancer or injury or surgery, whatever that part of the brain was doing is now gone. If the damage occurs in early childhood when the brain is especially plastic, or in adulthood in certain parts of the brain that are conducive to rewiring, then that brain function - that "mind" part of the brain - may be rewired into another neural network in the brain. But this process just further reinforces the fact that without neural connections in the brain there is no mind. — Michael Shermer

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Tenure in any department is serious business, because it means, essentially, employment for life. — Michael Shermer

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The components of a philosophy must stand or fall on their own internal consistency or empirical support, regardless of the founder's or followers' personality quirks or moral inconsistencies. — Michael Shermer

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The witch theory of causality, and how it was debunked through science, encapsulates the larger trend in the improvement of humanity through the centuries by the gradual replacement of religious supernaturalism with scientific naturalism. — Michael Shermer

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One, I am skeptical of the effectiveness of nutritional supplements. — Michael Shermer

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My hope is that whatever it is you decide to believe about whatever subject, you have thought through carefully each of those beliefs and at least tried to make sure that they are your beliefs and not those of your parents. It matters less to me what your specific beliefs are than that you have carefully arrived at your beliefs through reason and evidence and thoughtful reflection. — Michael Shermer

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Perceiving the world as well designed and thus the product of a designer, and even seeing divine providence in the daily affairs of life, may be the product of a brain adapted to finding patterns in nature. (38) — Michael Shermer

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Either the soul survives death or it does not, and there is no scientific evidence that it does. — Michael Shermer

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The natural inclination in all humans is to posit a force, a spirit, outside of us. That tendency toward superstitious magical thinking is just built into our nature. — Michael Shermer

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In science, if an idea is not falsifiable, it is not that it is wrong, it is that we cannot determine if it is wrong, and thus it is not even wrong. — Michael Shermer

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The reason is that in a group, individual errors on either side of the true figure cancel each other out. — Michael Shermer

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Science is not the affirmation of a set of beliefs but a process of inquiry aimed at building a testable body of knowledge constantly open to rejection or confirmation. In science, knowledge is fluid and certainty fleeting. That is at the heart of its limitations. It is also its greatest strength. — Michael Shermer

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What can be more soul shaking than peering through a 100-inch telescope at a distant galaxy, holding a 100-million-year-old fossil or a 500,000-year-old stone tool in one's hand, standing before the immense chasm of space and time that is the Grand Canyon, or listening to a scientist who gazed upon the face of the universe's creation and did not blink? — Michael Shermer

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But because we live in an age of science, we have a preoccupation with corroborating our myths. — Michael Shermer

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The whole point of faith, in fact, is to believe regardless of the evidence, which is the very antithesis of science. — Michael Shermer

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Human history is highly nonlinear and unpredictable. — Michael Shermer

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An uncertain and doubting mind leads to fresh world visions and the possibility of new and ever-changing realities. — Michael Shermer

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Testing the theory that we have an innate moral sense as proposed by such Enlightenment thinkers as Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson, Bloom provides experimental evidence that "our natural endowments" include "a moral sense - some capacity to distinguish between kind and cruel actions; empathy and compassion - suffering at the pain of those around us and the wish to make this pain go away; a rudimentary sense of fairness - a tendency to favor equal divisions of resources; a rudimentary sense of justice - a desire to see good actions rewarded and bad actions punished. — Michael Shermer

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The almost universal nature of within-group amity and between-group
enmity, wherein the rule-of-thumb heuristic is to trust in-group
members until they prove otherwise to be distrustful, and to distrust
out-group members until they prove otherwise to be trustful. — Michael Shermer

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Play hard, work hard, love hard ... The bottom line for me is to live life to the fullest in the here-and-now instead of a hoped-for hereafter, and make every day count in some meaningful way and do something-no matter how small it is-to make the world a better place. — Michael Shermer

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I say you don't need religion, or political ideology, to understand human nature. Science reveals that human nature is greedy and selfish, altruistic and helpful. — Michael Shermer

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There are checks and balances in science. There's somebody checking the people doing the science, and then there's somebody who checks the checkers and somebody who checks the checker's checkers. — Michael Shermer

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Scientific prayer makes God a celestial lab rat, leading to bad science and worse religion. — Michael Shermer

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The first-cause and prime-mover argument, brilliantly proffered by St. Thomas Aquinas in the fourteenth century (and brilliantly refuted by David Hume in the eighteenth century), is easily turned aside with just one more question: Who or what caused and moved God? — Michael Shermer

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Evolution is not a religious tenet, to which one swears allegiance or belief as a matter of faith.. It is a factual reality of the empirical world. Just as one would not say 'I believe in gravity, one should not proclaim 'I believe in evolution. — Michael Shermer

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No such individual would find the Golden Rule surprising in any way because at its base lies the foundation of most human interactions and exchanges and it can be found in countless texts throughout recorded history and from around the world
a testimony to its universality. — Michael Shermer

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False belief that morality can have a unique and objective state - to — Michael Shermer

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Providentially, learned habits can be unlearned, especially in the context of moral groups. — Michael Shermer

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Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. — Michael Shermer

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The fate of the paranormal is to become the normal as our horizons of understanding expand. — Michael Shermer

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Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from and where we are going. — Michael Shermer

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We're all talking about the same thing, whether it's religious people or New Age spiritual people or Buddhists or scientists. We're all talking about having a sense of awe and wonder at something grander than ourselves. — Michael Shermer

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Through no divine design or cosmic plan, we have inherited the mantle of life's caretaker on the earth, the only home we have ever known. — Michael Shermer

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You have to know evolution to understand the natural world. And that cannot be a threat to people of faith. There's a serious problem if you are forced by your faith to reject the most well-supported theory in all of science. — Michael Shermer

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Mammals are sentient beings that want to live and are afraid to die. Evolution vouchsafed us all with an instinct to survive, reproduce and flourish. — Michael Shermer

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Survival machines could evolve to be completely selfish and self-centered, but there is something that keeps their pure selfishness in check, and that is the fact that other survival machines are inclined "to hit back" if attacked, to retaliate if exploited, or to attempt to use or abuse other survival machines first. — Michael Shermer

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There ... remains a huge following [of Ayn Rand's philosophy] of those who ignore the indiscretions, infidelities, and moral inconsistencies of the founder and focus instead on the positive aspects of her philosophy. There is much in it to admire, if you do not have to accept the whole package ... Criticism of the founder or followers of a philosophy does not, by itself, constitute a negation of any part of the philosophy ... Criticism of part of a philosophy does not gainsay the whole. — Michael Shermer