The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer

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If There is No God, is Murder Wrong?

On the popular online site Prager University, the conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager recently posted the video “If there is no God, Murder Isn’t Wrong.”

Nearly two million people have heard his argument that without God, anything goes.

I’ve known Dennis for many years and have been a guest on his show a number of times. He’s a smart guy, and we agree on many issues, but on this one I think he is wrong.

Prager’s belief that without God there can be no objective morality is, in fact, a common one many people hold. It’s wrong for 4 reasons.

1. Divine Command Theory is Fallible

The argument that our morals come from God is what philosophers and theologians call Divine Command Theory, well captured by the popular bumper sticker:

God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

This argument was refuted 2500 years ago by the Greek philosopher Plato, when he asked, in so many words:

“Is what is morally right or wrong commanded by God because it is inherently right or wrong, or is it morally right or wrong only because it is commanded by God?”

For example, if murder is wrong because God said it is wrong, what if He said it was okay? Would that make murder right? Of course not! (continue reading…)

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Michael Shermer in Reasons to Believe

Reasons to Believe is a thought-provoking documentary by filmmaker Ben Fama Jr., that explores the psychology and science of belief and why we believe, sometimes falsely, in things that may not match up with reality. Facilitated by leaders in the fields of science, philosophy, neuroscience, moral reasoning, psychology, perception, memory formation, and indoctrination, these experts answer a variety of thought provoking questions and provide tangible structure to the definition and creation of belief in the human brain. Fama asks the question: Why do we believe?

Starring: Michael Shermer, Peter Boghossian, Jennifer Whitson, Caleb Lack and Chad Woodruff. Official website

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Michael Shermer and Dave Rubin: Skepticism & Conspiracy Theories

Michael Shermer (author, skeptic) and Dave Rubin discuss skepticism, morality, conspiracy theories, political issues like gun control, abortion, libertarianism, and more.

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Michael Shermer—The Rubin Report: Conspiracy Theories

Michael Shermer (author, skeptic) joins Dave Rubin (The Ruben Report) to discuss conspiracy theories (9/11, vaccines, and more.) Watch the full interview about skepticism, morality, conspiracy theories, and politics.

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The Meaning of Life in a Formula

Can science help us overcome the terror of existence?
magazine cover

Harvard University paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who died in 2002, was a tough-minded skeptic who did not suffer fools gladly when it came to pseudoscience and superstition. Gould was a secular Jew who did not believe in God, but he had a soft spot for religion, expressed most famously in his principle of NOMA—nonoverlapping magisteria. The magisterium (domain of authority) of science “covers the empirical realm: what is the universe made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory),” he wrote in his 1999 book Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. “The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value.”

In part, Gould’s motivations were personal (he told me on many occasions how much respect he had for religion and for his many religious friends and colleagues). But in his book, he claimed that “NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a merely diplomatic solution.” For NOMA to work, however, Gould insisted that just as “religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions residing properly within the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world’s empirical constitution.” (continue reading…)

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