As founder and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer has exposed fallacies behind intelligent design, 9/11 conspiracies, the low-carb craze, alien sightings and other popular beliefs and paranoias. But it's not about debunking for debunking's sake. Shermer defends the notion that we can understand our world better only by matching good theory with good science.
Shermer's work offers cognitive context for our often misguided beliefs: In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can powerfully combine with the power of suggestion (helping us hear Satanic lyrics when "Stairway to Heaven" plays backwards, for example). In fact, a common thread that runs through beliefs of all sorts, he says, is our tendency to convince ourselves: We overvalue the shreds of evidence that support our preferred outcome, and ignore the facts we aren't looking for.
He writes a monthly column for Scientific American, and is an adjunct at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University. His latest book is The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. He is also the author of The Mind of the Market, on evolutionary economics, Why Darwin Matters: Evolution and the Case Against Intelligent Design, and The Science of Good and Evil. And his next book is titled The Moral Arc of Science.