Michael Shermer: ‘Women Are Not Just Tits and Ass. There’s More to It Than That, a Lot More.’

August 17, 2022   |   Tags: ,
Michael Shermer speaking

"I think the second-wave feminists I've talked to are very worried about the kind of woke, gender-identity movement because it's reducing women to just body parts," says Michael Shermer. "A guy can say, 'Well, if I just get breast implants [and] then I can have a vaginoplasty made out of a piece of my skin, I'm in. I'm a woman, right?' Well, no, because women are not just tits and ass. There's more to it than that, a lot more."

That's today's guest, Michael Shermer, who for decades has been one of the most popular and provocative explicators of science to popular audiences, having authored bestselling books such as Why People Believe Weird Things, Why Darwin Matters, The Moral Arc, and The Mind of the Market. He founded Skeptic magazine in 1992, hosts a video podcast with leading activists and intellectuals, and, for nearly 20 years, authored a widely read column for Scientific American in which he debunked beliefs in UFOs and other paranormal phenomena, explained the rise of the "new atheism," and showed how evolution systematically informs human behavior.

Shermer's work is deeply and explicitly rooted in libertarian and Enlightenment ideas about individual responsibility, free market economics, rationality, and the search for something approaching objective truth. In 2019, Scientific American cut him loose, a move he ascribes to the publication's suffocating embrace of the sort of identity politics and wokeness that he says dominates academic and intellectual circles and, increasingly, the culture at large.

Last fall, Shermer, who holds a Ph.D. in the history of science and teaches Skepticism 101 at Chapman University, started a weekly Substack where he posts podcasts and the columns he would have written for Scientific American.

I caught up with the 67-year-old former competitive cyclist during FreedomFest, an annual gathering in Las Vegas. We talked about what he sees as the fundamental clash between wokeness and scientific inquiry, how hard it is to overcome the cognitive biases we all have, why he thinks trans athletes should be banned from most women's sports, why we have so much trouble acknowledging moral and technological progress, and why he now identifies as a classical liberal rather than as a libertarian.

Given his cycling background, we talk about Lance Armstrong and the widespread but illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs, which leads to all sorts of hypocritical and sociopathic behavior among so many of us. We also discuss how technology—including drugs—fuels human excellence in sports, business, and our personal and professional lives.

Previous Reason interviews with Michael Shermer:
"The Future of Science," by Matt Welch (December 28, 2018)
"Nick Gillespie and Skeptic Magazine's Michael Shermer on Postmodernism, Rationalism, and The Intellectual Dark Web," by Zach Weissmueller (December 21, 2018)
"Michael Shermer on Why Even Scientists, Transhumanists, and Atheists Want To Believe in Heaven," by Nick Gillespie (August 3, 2018)
"Reason and Science Make Us Moral: Michael Shermer on The Moral Arc," by Zach Weissmueller (January 20, 2015)
"Skeptic Michael Shermer on Atheism, Happiness, and the Free Market," by Reason Staff (December 7. 2010)
"Michael Shermer on the Modern History of Skepticism," by Reason Staff (August 7, 2009)
"Monkeys and Money," by Nick Gillespie (March 31, 2008)
"Michael Shermer: Evolutionary Economics and the Google Theory of Peace," by Dan Hayes (January 22, 2008)

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