Thursday, September 8, 2011

Michael Shermer (September 8, 1954)

Michael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptics Society and a columnist for Scientific American. Like Stephen Jay Gould, whose birthday is coming up, and like many other writers, I feel that his attitude of questioning and critiquing folly is compatible with what I feel are Jewish values. Shermer has absolutely no Jewish background at all, but I still think he's a hero to secular Jews because of these values.

Here is a paragraph from one of his recent columns that illustrates what he has to say:

"... dependency on belief and its host of psychological biases is why, in science, we have built-in self-correcting machinery. Strict double-blind controls are required, in which neither the subjects nor the experimenters know the conditions during data collection. Collaboration with colleagues is vital. Results are vetted at conferences and in peer-reviewed journals. Research is replicated in other laboratories. Disconfirming evidence and contradictory interpretations of data are included in the analysis. If you don’t seek data and arguments against your theory, someone else will, usually with great glee and in a public forum. This is why skepticism is a sine qua non of science, the only escape we have from the belief-dependent realism trap created by our believing brains."

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