Skeptic by Michael Shermer

Lies, distortion, ignorance and falsity now saturate our culture. A fresh acme was reached during the US Presidential Trump campaign in late 2016 when ‘post-truth’ ( became celebrated. Fact checkers couldn’t keep count of the lies which were being spewed out.

Thank goodness the cool voice of reason and a love of truth still exist. Michael Shermer ( is an embodiment of these values. For the past fifteen years, the author has written a column in Scientific American magazine ( that presents scientific concepts and theory for a general audience. His trademark combination of deep scientific understanding and entertaining writing style has thrilled his huge and devoted audience. Now, in Skeptic, seventy-five of these columns are available together for the first time.

Shermer turns a critical eye toward questions big, small, and trivial. Is religion, on balance, beneficial? Studies and statistics give the answer: it depends. Western nations with high rates of religious belief and church attendance also have higher incidents of suicide, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted disease. But, as individuals, believers are healthier, friendlier, happier, and more charitable. On phenomena which seem miraculous, simple maths proves that extraordinarily rare events occur regularly. Despite 1 in 14,000,000 odds, someone wins the lottery, yet the winner never doubts that it’s a miracle. Those with low opinions of eyewitness testimony, tabloid science, quacks who write bestsellers, the paranormal, alien abduction, and folk medicine will find plenty of supporting arguments in this book.

Most readers do not need proof that actual events (9/11, the Holocaust, the moon landings) really happened. But there are always the deniers. Shermer refutes them at every turn. Satanic cults, Bigfoot, and hermit geniuses who disprove Einstein turn out to be extremely difficult to find, and Shermer explains why. Sadly, most people are happy to enjoy the benefits of science and technology but are woefully ignorant of the under-pinning theory. Two-thirds of Americans dismiss evolution in favour of creationism whilst 60 percent believe in extrasensory perception. Worse, championing reason is not fashionable. In movies and TV, the skeptic is proved wrong.

Dense with facts, convincing arguments, and curious statistics, this is an ingenious collection of light entertainment for readers who believe that reason and analysis is our best way forward.

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304 pages in Henry Holt & Co.

First published 2016

ISBN 978-1627791380 

Michael Shermer

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