Shermer, Michael (1954-)

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Shermer, Michael (1954-)

Michael Shermer, cofounder of the Skeptics Society, one of the major organizations debunking what it considers pseudoscientific claims, especially of a psychic or occult nature, was born on September 8, 1954, in Glendale, California. He attended Pepperdine University, where he majored in psychology. He later received an M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University-Fullerton and a Ph.D. in the history of science from the Claremont Graduate School (1991).

During the 1980s Shermer launched a ten-year career as a professional cyclist, the high point of which was his participation in a 30,000-mile transcontinental Race Across America. His racing activity, which led to his first media appearances on various sports broadcasts, led to his first books, including Sport Cycling (1985), Cycling for Endurance and Speed (1987), The Woman Cyclist (with Elaine Mariolle, 1989), and Race Across America: The Agonies and Glories of the World's Toughest Bicycle Race (1994).

Shermer's racing career coincided with a growing interest in the movement started by the Committee for the Scientific Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), based in Buffalo, New York. Though he was a member, he also felt that more could be done, and in January of 1992, with Pat Linse and Kim Ziel Shermer, he founded the Skeptics Society, with its base in the Greater Los Angeles area. Several months later the first issue of Skeptic, a new periodical, joined the newsstand shelves next to CSICOP's Skeptical Inquirer. Shermer envisioned the Skeptics Society as treating traditional pseudoscience issues concerning psychic and occult claims, but also was concerned with other boundary issues in science where no such paranormal element was present (cold fusion, cryonics, nanotechnology, etc.) as well as controversial issues in social science and history, such as Holocaust denial.

Shermer has supplied much of the energy that has seen the Skeptics Society, which he directs, grow into a significant organization challenging occult claims, and the Skeptic magazine, which he edits, gain national circulation. He has authored several related books, including Why People Believe Weird Things (1997), How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (2000), and Denying History (2000). He created the Skeptics Lecture Series at the California Institute of Technology and is an adjunct professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Shermer also put the media attention he gained in his cycling era to good use and has been a popular guest on talk shows. Most recently he has hosted a weekly radio show, "Science Talk," on the NPR affiliate in Southern California and a national television show on the Fox Family Channel.

Sources:

Shermer, Michael. Denying History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

. How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science. New York: W. H. Freeman and Co., 2000.

. Why People Believe Weird Things. New York: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1997.