Michael B. Shermer, PhD

Founding Fellow

Altadena, California, USA

Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine and the Director of The Skeptics Society. He is a Visiting Associate at the California Institute of Technology, and hosts the Skeptics Lecture Series at Cal Tech. He has authored several popular books on science, scientific history, and the philosophy and history of science. Dr Shermer is also a radio personality and the host of the Fox Family Channel’s Exploring the Unknown. He writes a monthly column for Scientific American.

Since his creation of the Skeptics Society, Dr Shermer has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, Larry King Live, Tom Snyder, Donahue, Oprah, Leeza, Unsolved Mysteries, and been interviewed for countless documentaries aired on PBS, A&E, Discovery, The History Channel, The Science Channel, and The Learning Channel. Shermer was the co-host and co-producer of the 13-hour Family Channel television series, Exploring the Unknown.

Dr Shermer received his BA in psychology from Pepperdine University, in experimental psychology from California State University at Fullerton, and his PhD in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991). He was a college professor for 20 years (1979–1998), teaching psychology, evolution, and the history of science at Occidental College (1989–1998), California State University at Los Angeles, and Glendale College.


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Selected Writings:

Selected Books

Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown (Macmillan, 2005). In each of fourteen essays, Dr Shermer explores the very personal barriers and biases that plague and propel science, especially when scientists push against the unknown. What do we know and what do we not know? How does science respond to controversy, attack, and uncertainty? When does theory become accepted fact?

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The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, editor (ABC-Clio, 2002, 2 vols). An analysis of the most prominent controversies made in the name of science—from the effectiveness of proposed medical treatments to the reality of supernatural claims. This unique work provides a comprehensive introduction to the most prominent pseudoscientific claims made in the name of “science.” Over 100 entries cover the popular, the academic, and the bizarre, including things from alien abductions to the Bermuda Triangle, crop circles, Feng Shui, and near-death experiences. Notably included are entries by ISM Fellows: JA Mercer, SO Lilienfeld, SJ Lynn, SP Novella and LW Sarner.

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, (Holt, 1997; revised & expanded, 2002). In an age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. An assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, this book debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter for the revised edition, “Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things,” Dr Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science.

Selected Presentations:

Watch Michael Shermer:

TED, 2010: Dr Shermer talks about an upcoming book, The Believing Brain:

Dr Shermer on The Colbert Report, 2007 Aug 21:

Testing Acupuncture, 2007:

One of the oldest forms of so-called alternative or complementary medicine is the ancient Chinese art of acupuncture, now claimed by many to be a science. Dr Shermer goes in search of what is behind acupuncture through interviews and getting himself poked.

TED, 2006: “Why people believe strange things”

The Online Michael Shermer:

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