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Tony Blair’s Answer

by Michael Shermer, Jun 01 2010

The Force of Ideas Over the Force of Arms

Shermer and Tony Blair

Last week I attended the Khosla Ventures summit at Cavello Point in Sausalito, California, an ex-army base converted to a posh resort, where the venture capitalist (he calls himself a “venture assistant”) Vinod Khosla brings together start-up CEOs and their venture backers who are together innovating new science and technologies for alternative and environmentally efficient energy sources. Vinod heard my TED talk in Long Beach in February 2010 (to be posted at in June) and invited me to explain why people believe weird things about money (“The Mind of the Market”, based on my book of the same title). Vinod hosted a fireside chat with Bill Gates and Tony Blair, and in the Q & A I raised my hand and asked Tony a question. By way of background…

Since I am in the business of spreading good ideas and debunking bad ideas, I ask this question all the time of a diverse range of people, in search of different answers to this difficult question. I believe in the power of ideas to free people and empower them—a fundamental principle that was born of the Enlightenment—but I also recognize that not everyone shares this belief, and since one of those Enlightenment principles is the freedom to disagree and the right to think and believe whatever you want as long as it does not interfere with my rights, then we can’t force people to embrace these Enlightenment values. On the other hand, we are tribal and we still live in a world with walls that are guarded by men with guns, and there are other tribes who would just as well terminate our existence or replace our Constitutional liberties with theocratic rule, we need a strong military. Thus my question for Tony Blair, and his eloquent and insightful answer:

Michael Shermer: “How can we spread liberal democracy, market capitalism, science, technology, education, the Internet, etc. globally, when there are people who are still essentially living in theocracies who, as you said, would just assume see us dead, who don’t believe in the education of women and children, who don’t believe in civil liberties and equal treatment under the law, etc., and how can we do so non-militarily? That is, how do we spread these ideas without imposing them on other people?”

Tony Blair: “It’s one of the great myths perpetrated in our own societies is that somehow people who live in oppressive or backward looking governments actually prefer it that way and that we just don’t understand their culture. You will often hear this in certain countries about the role of women when it is usually men talking about it, but any time you get the opportunity to talk to any women in those countries separated from those who might overhear them, believe it or not they tell you that they would prefer to be free and equal.”

“We have allies in this fight who are the people, most of whom want change. The thing is, however, you need the security means to stand up when you are confronted to answer back, and if you don’t you will get rolled over by them and there’s no use in thinking any different. However, the ultimate answer is not the force of arms but the force of ideas.”

“I think the 20th century was the century of fundamentalist political ideology, but the 21st century is going to be about religious or cultural ideology. The single most important thing we can do is also to provide a basis for peaceful co-existence. The best way of defeating these ideas is with better ideas. The better idea that we have in our way of life is not just about freedom and democracy, although I think those are important elements, it’s also about a basic concept of justice—the basic idea that anyone, no matter what their background, will get a chance to succeed.”

57 Responses to “Tony Blair’s Answer”

  1. MadScientist says:

    Where does education fit into it? After all, the uneducated or poorly educated are far more likely to succumb to nonsense being passed off as truth.

    I also assume that you mean “just as soon see us dead” rather than “just assume see us dead” which just sounds plain weird.

    Now, perhaps I’m just pointing out the obvious here, but Mr. Blair didn’t answer your question at all; he made a few statements which you are likely to accept as true or, rather, unlikely to challenge, and finished by restating your question but without the questionmark. At any rate, I’m sure he’s glad you thought he answered your question. Anyway, just to make it clear:

    Shermer: “… how can we do so non-militarily? That is, how do we spread these ideas without imposing them on other people?”

    Blair: “However, the ultimate answer is not the force of arms but the force of ideas.”

    Thank you for playing Intellectual Three-Card Monte.

    • itzac says:

      Your analysis is a little superficial. Tony Blair is a politician, and part of that is making people feel good when you talk to them. So there is a certain of fluff, to be sure.

      The important parts of his response are:
      “It’s one of the great myths perpetrated in our own societies is that somehow people who live in oppressive or backward looking governments actually prefer it that way and that we just don’t understand their culture.”

      “We have allies in this fight who are the people, most of whom want change. The thing is, however, you need the security means to stand up when you are confronted to answer back,[...]“

      • MadScientist says:

        As for the myth thing – I’d never met anyone who believes that the folks in bass-ackwards countries enjoy having things that way. So I guess Blair’s dispelling a non-existent myth. At any rate it’s certainly not a great myth.

        As for the “security means to stand …” – what is the relevance of that? Does that mean we’ll send in armed forces as part of a UN contingent? Michael’s question about how things can be changed remains unanswered. There is not so much as a hint about where to start.

      • You’ve never heard people argue for cultural relativism? Really?

      • MadScientist says:

        I thought cultural relativism is “female genital mutilation is OK if you belong to group X”, not “group X enjoys female genital mutilation so much that they will never want to get rid of it”.

  2. oldebabe says:

    What exactly did he say that anyone else might not have, and has, indeed, previously said, without saying anything of use?

  3. Beelzebud says:

    “SkepticBlog is a collaboration among some of the most recognized names in promoting science, critical thinking, and skepticism.”

    I’m starting to get annoyed by Shermer’s constant political posturing on a site that is supposed to be dedicated to “promoting science, critical thinking, and skepticism”.

  4. Max says:

    Subversion is the name of the game. KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov said most of the KGB foreign ops budget was allocated to subversion, but he warned that open societies are far easier to subvert than closed societies. That’s why we get propaganda from Iranian Press TV, Al Jazeera English, RussiaToday, Xinhua, etc.
    On our side, there are various NGOs, there’s still Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, there’s Haystack, a computer program that breaks through Internet filters in places like Iran.
    But even if we manage to spread our ideas, unfortunately a closed society almost by definition requires a revolution or coup d’etat to change leadership.

    • sproutlore says:

      Yeah, you can see how the decades of subversive propoganda has transformed our society to vodka swilling, borscht loving, marxist jihadists in burkas. That’s not the propoganda we are susceptible too. Excuse me BP and the GOP are explaining how the on site negligence was Obama’s fault, gotta go.

  5. Priscilla Blevinglirk says:

    I just love how Tony Blair answered a completely different question than you asked. I’m reminded of a recent Dilbert comic. And how this completely sweeps Tony Blair’s role in prolonging the problem, even domestically, under the carpet.
    But the real reason I dislike this article is that this article as nothing what so ever to do with skepticism. It might, I repeat, might be appropriate to write an article on what a politician said if the article then goes out of its way to employ our skeptical toolbox to pry his words apart and compare them to his policy, other things he said, the actual situation on the ground, and so on. But this article doesn’t do any of that.

    • Nathan Phillips says:

      Realize that Dr. Shermer sees capitalism and democracy as the natural, preferred and rational order of things. There is also an underlying notion that increased democracy will lead to more skepticism and science. If I remember correctly, the first democracy in the New World was in the Carribean and I haven’t seen any space programs coming out of that region.

  6. Dionigi says:

    MTV works well in the subversion field, movies showing how things are in the rest of the world also work and try as hard as they like these things filter through and allow people to see that their culture and ideas are not all there is in the world. The ussr fell from within but it doesn’t happen overnight and the strings are tight that hold these countries in slavery but they are eventually broken. I have also met lots of people in the middle east who wish to take their countries back to dates and fishing and stop extracting and selling oil. I have also met the people who want a democratic say in the running of their country and an end to the iron fist of theocracy.

  7. peter says:

    Why bother with a slime bag, proven liar, obfuscator like Tony Blair? Are you to invite Goebbels next time, because he can mouth some good sentences?

  8. peter says:

    Oh, I forgot – Goebbels fortunately doesn’t live here any longer. Tony Blair Slimebag unfortunately does.

  9. peter says:

    Before you ask: after the invasion of Afghanistan, that country was well on its way to become a functioning state again.
    The unquestioned support by Tony Blair of Bush’s plan to invade Iraq, which at the time did not pose any threat – a threat only based on the lies of Bush, Blair and Powell – lead to a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    After troops were withdrawn to fight a nonsense invasion into Iraq, with all attending misery there, the political situation and the military one in Afghanistan deteriorated, and extremist again came to the fore, finding nourishment within a disappointed population that felt the promises by the west not being fulfilled.

    Why i ask again, would anybody take that sewer rat Blair seriously?

    • Tom says:

      Course: Revisionist History 101
      Instructor: Peter
      Credits: 0
      Syllabus: Learn how to ignore facts and spew bile to promote your own twisted world view. Tactics learned will include multiple nonsensical posts in discussion threads that really say nothing of value. Learn how the strategic use of alcohol can help to stoke rage at the possible expense of coherency.

  10. peter says:

    And again – right after leaving his post in Downing Street, what does this pinnacle of subterfuge, lies and deceit do? Joins the morally most corrupt organization disgracing the face of this planet – the catholic church – how apt, how telling, how revealing.

    And then he shuttles around the world, selling 1 cents political platitudes at 1$ wisdom.

    Why, remind me, is this scumbag worth listening to?

  11. Rae says:

    Although I agree that Blair didn’t do much to answer the question, other than the good ol’ political soft-shoe, I think Shermer’s point ISN’T to endorse Tony Blair.

    As previously stated, Shermer asked Blair the same question he’s asked hundreds of people…does it matter if those hundreds of people were Democrat, Republican, Independent or otherwise? If it didn’t matter who the unnamed “diverse range of people” are that Shermer has previously posed this question to, why should it matter that he also posed it to Tony Blair? It is a total non-sensical point and only the paranoid among us would find deeper meaning in it.

    My question would be: Mr. Shermer, can you please explain how Mr. Blair’s response adequately answered the question? What did YOU find so eloquent about it?

  12. Majority of One says:

    “I think the 20th century was the century of fundamentalist political ideology, but the 21st century is going to be about religious or cultural ideology.”

    Somebody help me out here because I don’t speak Politician…what does this mean? And, how does it make us better off exactly?

    • tmac57 says:

      I assumed that he was talking about Islamic fundamentalist religious and cultural ideology vs everyone else. He was probably soft pedaling his rhetoric so as not to come off as confrontational. I doubt that Blair feels that this will make us better off. In fact I would guess that he is probably feeling somewhat pessimistic. But the general idea is to pursue change via soft power rather than brute military confrontation.

  13. Shermer’s comment that he is only spreading “good ideas” and discouraging “bad ideas” is contradicted by his insistence that “market capitalism” is one of those good ideas. The events of the last two years have demonstrated quite clearly that the free-market fundamentalism he has espoused elsewhere, and implies support of here, is hardly without problems. Lest one get the idea that socialism is the only alternative, it certainly is not. There are hundreds of economic models, many of which have been tried and some of which are demonstrably superior to market capitalism (e.g., syndicalism) in producing the greatest good for the greatest number with the greatest efficiency. The big problem with market capitalism is that its proponents, such as Shermer, always assume that all players have equal power, and therefore equal access to markets. Even Adam Smith understood the fallacy of that one and warned about it – go back and read your Wealth of Nations, Mr. Shermer. The great fallacy of free markets is that money equals power, and hence the concentration of money equals the concentration of power – which inevitably results in tyranny. And it is not just government that can exercise that tyranny. We saw that with the arrogance of Wall Street last year in vacuuming up taxpayers’ money, and we are seeing it right now with BP’s controlling media access to the beaches in Louisiana – beaches they don’t even own. The concentration of money being equivalent to the concentration of power – and the powerful skewing the playing field to suit themselves – is why free markets don’t – and can’t – exist. Everybody loves the idea of freedom – who could be against it? But in the real world, where market capitalists are free to concentrate power by concentrating wealth, pushing such a nostrum as market capitalism as being the best economic model around is a good demonstration of why the Enlightenment value of free speech is so vitally important. Some widely accepted ideas – accepted widely because they are repeated so often – need to be debunked.

    • Majority of One says:

      There is a nice exchange between Jon Stewart and Arthur Brooks, who runs a conservative think tank and who wrote a book, posted on Comedy Central’s website (click full episodes then The Daily Show). It doesn’t even have much of Stewart’s characteristic sarcastic comebacks (it has one or two) but it is a very good exchange between a liberal and a conservative. Jon gets in some good licks. I think you’ll enjoy it.

      • tmac57 says:

        Thanks for reminding me.I had watched the edited version on the show Tue. night, and wanted to see the unedited piece. I agree, it was a well reasoned exchange,and I believe that Stewart’s moderate position reflects better the general feeling that most people share as opposed to the caricatures painted by the fringe elements of politics.

    • Mike Anzis says:

      One of the fallacies in Scott Buidstrup’s arguments against market capitalism is his faulure to distinguish between economic power and political power. Economic power comes from satisfying market wants and accumulating wealth; political power comes from the point of a gun. Another fallacy is his failure to consider effects over time. In a free market, those without economic power can obtain it peacefully by serving market needs and accumulating wealth. This applies to individuals, who can work and accumulate wealth and (relative) power, and to companies, which can come from nowhere (e.g. Toyota, Microsoft, Starbucks, Google, Netflix) and accumulate tremendous economic power over time, displacing those previously “in power” (e.g.,the Big 3 automakers, Digital Equipment Corp. Lotus, Blockbuster). Major changes in political power (not just reshuffling of chairs among those already in power through “elections”) historically has usually only come through violent revolution and must be exercised using force.

      • tmac57 says:

        “…political power comes from the point of a gun.” Soooooo,lobbyists are carrying guns now in the halls of congress, instead of bags of money?

      • Patrick says:

        How do you think government gives out the benefits to corporations? Donations from taxpayers…come on now :P

      • tmac57 says:

        Patrick, those benefits are not always in the form of direct transfers of money from ‘us’ to ‘them’.A great deal (if not most) of what corporations and other interested parties want are changes in laws to their benefit. For example: financial institutions wanting the unfettered ability to buy and sell CDOs without transparency.

      • Patrick says:

        Don’t forget government regulations to reduce competition…

        And don’t buy for a minute that they could do whatever they wanted without oversight.

        According to Boston University Professor Laurence Kotlikoff there are over 115 regulatory agencies for financial services. If 115 regulatory agencies is not enough, then how much is enough?

        The problem was 1) government encouraged the meltdown 2) there were too many regulatory agencies 3) regulatory capture (regulators put corporations interest ahead of public interest). Free market people have been talking about this issue for over 100 years.

    • Patrick says:

      I don’t think you’ve actually read Adam Smith at all. Adam Smith would be the first one to tell you that the biggest enemies of market capitalism (it would not have been called that in his time) would be the businessmen. The use of government power to procure rents through unjust means (by government force) is always a desire of theirs. It is not an indictment of free markets but of government power. So you need to make a clear distinction between the way businesses behave and the way an actual market economy behaves.

      Second, it is not at all clear that market capitalism failed in this economy. We have clear, very clear examples of poor government regulations and policies that encouraged a great deal of unnecessary risk taking. Government even attempted to subsidize that risk through government corporations. We also have a past history of government bailouts of other governments and corporations (socializing risk and creating moral hazards for future risk taking).

      What you think – corporate greed causing the crisis – is merely the corporations responding to incentives created by bad government policy. You have the causal mechanism entirely wrong.

      Furthermore, in the U.S. government more than 140,000 regulators were added to the payroll while 4,500 pages were added to the federal book of regulations during the Bush administration. We have dozens of massive financial regulatory agencies too boot. The SEC for example investigated Bernie Madoff a dozen times and somehow failed to connect the dots.

      • Patrick says:

        PS, the Big 3 clearly used government power to keep themselves afloat. Democrats were only so happy to go along because with out the bailout their biggest donors – the Autoworkers Union – would have been toast. The US government proceeded to violate 200 years of bankruptcy law to keep the car makers and unions solvent. That isn’t the free market in action, that is clearly government coercion.

      • Nathan Phillips says:

        The big three were in the process of bankruptcy. Without intervention, those who didn’t do the manual work of the autiomotive industry were going to leave the workders in the dust as they lived off of their sizeable savings. They got that big from capitalism. A free market at this point allows corporations to move businesses overseas to reduce costs. If one can do it, it moves the bar and pushes others to do it. It’s easy to see how this could be the result of under regulation.

  14. We do it the way the British colonizers did: Get them to the place where they need us for their very survival,hand them a black book and tell them it is the word of the one true God, build them schools, teach them our nursery rhymes, our national anthem and our ball games.It worked then, it will work again.

  15. frank says:

    you mightn’t agree with me – but i hope that you will agree that a good case could be made that Western Civilisation arose in the context of genuine respect for, and general acceptance of, Judeo-Christianity.

    Freedom, Democracy, Intellectual debate with rigor, grace, mercy, compassion and all that have made W.C. a great place to live – ALL crucially have their roots in that worldview.

    sure there have been signifcant aberations and abuses – but in the interests of making the case for the proposition could we accept that the anomolies validate the general thesis?

    Professing Skeptics would, i’d expect, hold their ideas humbly and lightly enough not to wreck the system that gives them oxygen.

    as has been noted earlier in the thread “theocracy” may have been a reference to militant islam. however the rants of dawkins makes me nervous as to the growing agenda to throw over the very worldview that was key to us enjoying, for one thing, blogs like this .

    • Majority of One says:

      I could be wrong but I don’t think Richard Dawkins has ever said that he wants to force atheism on people. From what I get from his writings he wants people to get there on their own through reason and evidence. Now, Christopher Hitchens and maybe Sam Harris from what I understand, are more in the “hit them over the head if they don’t get it” school of thought.

      • Majority of One says:

        As for the rest of what you’ve said, I think WC has dragged the Judeo-Christian culture kicking and screaming into modernity.

    • tmac57 says:

      Once you understand how to ride a bicycle,it is time to remove the training wheels. Some parents, and some cultures would keep us as children, for they know best.

    • The Saint says:

      Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. All those things have their roots in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Both were secular movements.

      • Brad says:

        What is interesting about modern Christianity, that most people do not know, is that it was re-shaped centuries ago through the lens of the world’s (ok, the West’s) first great thinkers–the Greeks. People can only see the world through their world view…and the likes of Aquinas, Augustine, etc, we ‘raised on’ the Greeks. So, to argue that Christianity is the heart of Western Civilization does a disservice to the influence the Greeks have had on Western thought (including Christianity).

    • Nathan Phillips says:

      Western Culture as I know it is European. The British spread it more than any other group. The British system was based in large part on Roman and previous Germanic law and infrastructure. The ideas that influenced our great thinkers were inspired by the ancient Greeks and filtered through a Christian perspective. I don’t think that the Judeao-Christian aspect of our culture was the dominant force of our advancement.

  16. jim willmot says:

    So a Christian “world-view” created freedom and eventually the internet? Our founding fathers were scared to death of religion and its power to divide. That’s why the first article in the Bill of Rights was the separation of church and state.

    • James Madison says:

      I disagree with your precept that “Our founding fathers were scared to death of religion and its power to divide.” The First Amendment, among other things, was created to ensure the federal government wouldn’t establish a state religion nor would it prohibit the establishment or practice of any religion by the people. The First Amendment does not (note tense, please) require the separation of church and state; it simply requires the state separate itself from matters involving the free practice (or not) of religion. Madison himself was a religious man, as were most of the Founding Fathers. In the interest of brevity, I would suggest you research the Church of England and how it was interwoven as the state religion in our former colonial homeland. THIS was the reason Madison and others were concerned that the state keep its nose out of the peoples’ worship (or lack thereof).

  17. The Saint says:

    This sentence keeps bothering me, “Vinod Khosla brings together start-up CEOs and their venture backers who are together innovating new science and technologies for alternative and environmentally efficient energy sources.”
    So it’s CEOs and venture capitalists who are innovating new science and technology? Who knew? I had no idea Bill Ford Jr was designing the cars at Ford.
    I imagine Shermer’s comeback would be along the lines of “without the money from rich investors, these ideas would never get off the ground.” Which is bullshit, and can be disproved in two words: worker cooperatives.

  18. Everett Williams says:


    “Professing Skeptics would, i’d expect, hold their ideas humbly and lightly enough not to wreck the system that gives them oxygen.”

    Would that be the oxygen used for burning people at the stake or one of the myriad ways in which Judeo-Christian theocracy has attempted to squeeze out all viewpoints that do not comport with it’s own. Only in the last couple of hundred years have people gradually been freed from the need to nod towards one god or the other, and that only in fairly narrow circumstances world wide and with various religions. As an atheist, I am still remarked upon by even good religious friends as an apostate, though a generally pleasant one. In other words, they are willing to put up with my non-belief because I am generally non-threatening. That reminds me of the folks who were all for minorities as long as the minorities weren’t too militant in their approach. Now, this was in the face of a man who marched a black person out of his restaurant at gunpoint, while his son carried an axe handle, and that person, Lester Maddox, later became governor of Georgia. It was a small wonder that “Burn, baby, burn” did not turn into a national revolution of minorities.

    Ism of any variety is seldom benign when it’s tenets and it’s authority are questioned. I am even unwilling to flash the banner of skepticism. I am a citizen scientist, constantly seeking new understandings without hastily discarding well researched science. There is nothing beyond the physical world, and all that we are is part of that physical world. Even abstractions are created and interpreted in physical minds by physical processes.

    I haven’t the slightest compunction in destroying down to the ground anyone who is unwilling to allow me to function without their particular Ism or who wishes to impose on others there particular Ism, even when that Ism is expressed in supposedly secular laws. I cannot and will not yield to those who would assign non-physical attributes to single celled entities, whether they be human ova or amoebae, especially when they show so little regard for the autonomy of live humans supposedly possessed of those same non-physical aspects. Respect for the autonomy of others must be mutual. Though I may disagree with those who regard their beliefs as primary over all others, I will respect those beliefs as long as they do not seek to impose them. Those who express the idea that they have the right by their belief to impose that belief on others may be freely destroyed by whatever means is necessary the instant they seek to act on that belief. I have no problem with anyone expressing their belief in public or to me, as long as they do not think that they have the right to make me listen and/or adhere. If they use any form of government as a pulpit for their beliefs, that is a form of force and is unacceptable.

    The Enlightenment was really the discovery that there was knowledge that was not found in the Bible or even derived from knowledge that was in the Bible. Just as an ironic aside, the preservation of millenia of knowledge that built the basis of the Enlightenment was done by the Islamic Moorish kings of Spain and spread into the theocratic domains of Europe by monks who disseminated the translations of ancient and Arabic texts by the Jewish scholars operating in the great Moorish libraries. It is doubtful that we would have much of Phoenician, Greek, or Roman history without those great libraries. To make the point, WC is a result, not a cause, and is anything but benign.

    • sproutlore says:

      And Islam introduce the culture of Chivalry to the Christian Knights maurading around the countryside looking for a magical cup. (Though, when you think about what a spiked ball and chain could do to your gonads, I’d’ve been looking for a magical cup too)

  19. I respect Michael Shermer for his contributions to the cause of debunking myths great and small. To that end I suggest using the skeptics baloney detection kit to get our heads around Tony Blair’s statement about “(the)basic concept of justice–the idea that anyone, no matter what their background, will get a chance to succeed.” It sounds great until you consider what chance the former George W.Bush protege gave to the thousands of Iraqi innocents killed in an unjust occupation? Like Little Oscar said, how do you spell lunch? B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

  20. KentishFerret says:

    Blair’s answer is utter nonsense coming from a militant, fundamentalist Christian.

  21. Xplodyncow says:

    [T]here are people who are still essentially living in theocracies who, as you said, would just assume see us dead.

    Oooh, an eggcorn!

  22. This was fun to read, but somehow I just don`t agree with Tony on everything.

  23. The Only Solipsist says:

    Great Question from Michael, unfortunately Mr Blair (in my opinion) still dodged the bullet with his answer. What does he mean by better ideas? Roman Catholic ideas or ideas that can be tested and falsified? Mr Blair created the time bomb abomination of ‘Faith Schools’ in the UK when Prime Minister and converted to Catholisism shortly after leaving Downing St. He pushed the UK into the Iraq war because he ‘believed’ there were WMDs despite no evidence. This is a man who doesn’t know the meaning of confirmation bias. But then again, when it comes to Mr Blair, nor do I.

  24. Rick Baker says:

    How can an apparently very intelligent man like Blair continue to behave like/be a christian fundamentalist with his Blair Foundation and his newly adopted catholicism when he is continually exposed to intellectual arguments that show it up as sheer ignorant superstition. One can understand certain scientists making foolish religious statements because they haven’t really thought about it much and childhood indoctrination etc still rules their beliefs. Blair however, by his involvement in the middle east etc, is intensely exposed to the impact of religion on humanity and one would have expected him to think deeply about its origins, validity etc. He either thinks he is being clever by using religion as a way of manipulation or he is actually quite stupid ala Forest Gump. His apparent ‘faith’ seems to be one of ‘pretending to know things he does not know’ in which case nothing he says can be taken seriously and Michael Shermer has wasted his time questioning him.