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.
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.

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