Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer
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Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things, The Believing Brain, and eight other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior. He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, the editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Southern California.


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Q & A

Where are you from?
Southern California, born and raised and live, where the sun always shines and yet we have four seasons: fires, floods, earthquakes, and riots.

Who are your favorite writers?
Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, Jon Krakauer, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Ayn Rand.

Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
For science writing: Steve Gould’s essays (and attendant book collections of them) and especially his books Time’s Arrow Time’s Cycle, Wonderful Life, and The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

For general writing: Jon Krakauer’s books Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and especially Under the Banner of Heaven are exemplary models of prose writing and narrative nonfiction storytelling.

Which teacher had the biggest impact on your life?

Richard Hardison and Earl Livingood at Glendale College (my A.A.), Tony Ash and Ola Barnett at Pepperdine University (my B.A.), Doug Naverick and Meg White at California State University (my M.A.), and Richard Olson and Jim Moore at Claremont Graduate University (my Ph.D.). Hardison and Livingood introduced me to the joys of learning and liberated my brain to think; Ash and Barnett taught me now to think and reason; Naverick and White taught me how to think like a scientist; Olson and Moore taught me how to be a scholar.

What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Cycling with my buddies and hanging out with my daughter.

What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
When I was a student at Pepperdine University I came into my own, grew up, and got very serious about my career and developed a fanatical work ethic. My psychology advisor and mentor, Ola Barnett, told me to lighten up, develop a sense of humor, and balance my life between work and play and to have joy.

What is your favorite quote?
“All observations must be for or against some view if they are to be of any service.” —Charles Darwin, 1861, responding to a criticism that his book (On the Origin of Species) was too theoretical and that he should have just let the facts speak for themselves.

What is the question most commonly asked by your readers?  What is the answer?
Readers’ question: What is your position on the afterlife?
My answer: I’m for it.

And:
Readers’ question: Have you ever encountered a mystery you could not explain?
My answer: Yes, Paris Hilton.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I always wanted to be a writer, then a science writer, and since Stephen Jay Gould was my role model and mentor for this, I wrote Why People Believe Weird Things in his style (but my voice of course), and Steve wrote the foreword to that book, one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever done for me. I dedicated my second book, How We Believe, to Steve.

Where do you write?
I write on a laptop, so I write at home in the kitchen, living room, entertainment room; I write at the office at my desk; I write at Starbucks; I write in my car; I write on planes (I am writing the answers to these questions at 35,000 feet flying from Nashville to L.A.).

Why do you write?
I write, therefore I am. I am, therefore I write.

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books
by the author

The Moral Arc

Michael Shermer
Henry Holt and Co.

Bestselling author Michael Shermer’s exploration of science and morality that demonstrates how the scientific way of thinking has made people, and society as a...


Available In:

Book
Available 1/20/2015
The Believing Brain

Michael Shermer
St. Martin's Griffin

Synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about...


Available In:

Book eBook
The Mind of the Market

Michael Shermer
Holt Paperbacks

"[A] captivating raconteur of all the greatest hits of behavioral, evolutionary and neuropsychology . . . Fascinating."—Los Angeles Times Book Review How did...


Available In:

Book eBook
Why Darwin Matters

Michael Shermer
Holt Paperbacks

“Shermer is savage about the shortcomings of intelligent design and eloquent about the spirituality of science . . . An invaluable primer.” —Los Angeles...


Available In:

Book eBook
Science Friction

Michael Shermer
Holt Paperbacks

“Michael Shermer has given a lot of things a lot of thought. If your perceptions have ever rubbed you the wrong way, you’ll find Science Friction fascinating.”...


Available In:

Book eBook
The Science of Good and Evil

Michael Shermer
Holt Paperbacks

From bestselling author Michael Shermer, an investigation of the evolution of morality that is "a paragon of popularized science and philosophy" The Sun...


Available In:

Book eBook
How We Believe, 2nd Edition

Michael Shermer; With a new afterword
Holt Paperbacks

Recent polls show that 96% of Americans believe in God. Why are people turning to religion in greater numbers than ever before? In How We Believe , Michael...


Available In:

Book eBook
Why People Believe Weird Things

Michael Shermer; Foreword by Stephen Jay Gould
Holt Paperbacks

Revised and Expanded Edition. In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New...


Available In:

Book eBook
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