Blog Archives

Data, Death Threats, and Disinformation: The Modern Global Warming Debate

February 11, 2014
By
Dr. Michael Mann

Dr. Michael Mann

Renowned Scientist Provides Robust Climate Change Evidence; His Work Comes With A Price

Dr. Michael Mann, my guest on today’s podcast, says that global warming is real, is caused by human beings, and supports this claim with data both plentiful and compelling. This makes him very unpopular in some circles. Mann has been harassed, maligned and has even received death threats. He is an award winning climate scientist whose work contributed to a Nobel Prize and a 1999 graph dubbed the hockey stick. The graph modeled earth’s climate during the past 1,000 years, and its shape resembles that particular piece of sports equipment – a long shaft of a handle with the blade jutting alarmingly upward. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). We discuss his work and his 2012 book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.

MP3 File (53 minutes, 30 seconds, 25.69 MB)

Minds Held Hostage: Adapted Human Brain Prone to God & Other Glitches

January 14, 2014
By
Dr. J. Anderson Thomson, Jr.

Dr. J. Anderson Thomson, Jr.

Evolutionary Psychologist Reveals a Robust Science of Faith

Dr. J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. – you can call him Andy – guides us through a provocative tour of the human brain on religion. Thomson introduces us to the many cognitive adaptations luring us into religious belief and other irrational ideas. One of those ideas happens to be, disturbingly, suicide bombing. He’ll provide an answer to the age-old question of why a talking wolf is more memorable than a tree balancing your checkbook. Thomson’s current research interest is in the area of evolutionary psychology and using its principles to understand depression, suicide terrorism, and religious belief. Thomson wrote the 2011 book, Why We Believe in Gods, A concise guide to the science of faith. He is a psychiatrist in private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is also a staff psychiatrist at Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Virginia Student Health Services, and the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.


MP3 File
(61 minutes, 14 seconds, 29.39 MB)

Listen to a podcast on the Stanley Milgram obedience and authority experiment here, or read about it here • Listen to Julia Sweeney’s hilarious monologue, Letting Go of God, here

Sean Faircloth’s Plan Battles Theocracy

December 19, 2013
By
Sean Faircloth

Sean Faircloth

Our government has been hijacked by the religious right, and Sean Faircloth wants to return it to its secular past – and he has a plan to do just that. Faircloth is president of Global Secular Organizing & Strategy, or GSOS. I talk to Faircloth about his plan, called SecularityUSA. It uses state-based volunteers – included members of the clergy – and is focused on both short-term and long-term goals. The project’s springboard is the 2016 Iowa Caucuses for the next presidential election. Faircloth served as Director of Strategy & Policy at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, and served as Secular Coalition for America’s Executive Director, creating its 50-state plan. He is author of Attack of the Theocrats!: How the Religious Right Harms Us All-and What We Can Do About It.

MP3 File
(46 minutes, 33 seconds, 22.35 MB)

Click Here to read the SecularityUSA Action Plan • For the Global Secular Organizing & Strategy’s website, Click Here • For the SecularityUSA website, click here • Click here to go to the American’s United for the Separation of Church and State website

The Future of the God Debates

December 1, 2013
By
Dr. John Shook

Dr. John Shook

As Theology Evolves, Humanist Philosophers Keep Pace

Dr. John Shook and I discuss a little philosophy, the evolution and future of the god debates, and the meaning of the word faith. Shook is a scholar and professor living in Washington, D.C. He received his PhD in Philosophy at the University at Buffalo in 1994, and joined the staff of the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, N.Y. in 2006. He has authored and edited more than a dozen books and dozens of articles in academic journals, along with essays for Free Inquiry and The Humanist. He published The God Debates: A 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers in 2010. Shook is currently Director of Education and Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Inquiry; the Education Coordinator for the American Humanist Association; a Co-Mentor with the Humanist Institute, and President of the Society of Humanist Philosophers. He is also an editor of three philosophy journals: Contemporary Pragmatism, Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, and Philo: A Journal of Philosophy.

MP3 File
(52 minutes, 59 seconds, 25.44 MB)

Click Here to Read Shook’s CFI Blog ‘It’s Only Natural’ • To RSVP to CFI Portland’s 3rd Annual Dark-to-Light Gala, Click Here

Scholar Finds Peril & Progress Studying Religion, Society

November 13, 2013
By
Dr. Ryan Cragun

Dr. Ryan Cragun

Churches Using Alcohol to Attract Worshippers May Well be a Sign of Growing Secularity

Just what kind of affect does religion have on society? Are non-religious societies healthier, more educated, and happier? Are religious liberals more beneficial to a healthy community than fundamentalists, religious moderates or non-believers? And just where, and how, could we find answers to these difficult questions? With me today is Dr. Ryan Cragun, a sociologist of religion at the University of Tampa, in Florida. His research and writing focuses on religion, with an emphasis on Mormonism, the nonreligious and secularization. He’ll help us work through some of these tough problems. Where we don’t find answers, perhaps we’ll at least find some direction or context. We discuss his current book, What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should), published earlier this year. This book deals with precisely the type of questions just posed, and Cragun uses evidence and scholarship when considering them. His results are interesting, and in some cases, surprising.

MP3 File
(43 minutes, 03 seconds, 20.67 MB)
Read the National Public Radio article on churches offering beer to worshipers here • Watch the Portland, Oregon Beer and Hymns promotional video here

Learn to De-Convert the Faithful With Practical New Book

October 29, 2013
By
Learn to De-Convert the Faithful With Practical New Book

Dr. Peter Boghossianʼs A Manual For Creating Atheists is a Must-Read. Iʼm starting to find the equivocations, vagueness, and the unmerited claims emerging from assertions of faith to be a bit tedious. Asking a believer for a definition of faith and a description of how it works will inevitably result in a…

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Author Explores Odd Beliefs & Peculiar Religious Practices

October 14, 2013
By
Karen Stollznow

Karen Stollznow

Some are Weird, Many are Harmful, Almost all Are Misunderstood

During this episode I explore some bizarre and interesting religious traditions with guest Dr. Karen Stollznow, author of the 2013 book, God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States. We’ll consider a variety of groups, from the Amish to exorcists, from satan worshipers to Scientology practitioners, from old-time voodoo to new age woo-woo. Stollznow discusses her experience with these varied organizations, and what she learned by researching and interacting with them. She corrects more that a few Hollywood stereotypes along the way, including my own, and shares some interesting adventures. Stollznow is a linguist with a background in history and anthropology. Previously a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, Stollznow has spent two decades writing about a diverse array of topics, including language, culture, religion, science, pseudoscience, and the paranormal. She writes the “Bad Language” column for Skeptic magazine and is a research fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

MP3 File
(45 minutes, 15 seconds, 21.73 MB)

Humanity’s Current Problems & Uncertain Future Require Science

September 18, 2013
By
Dennis R. Trumble

Dennis R. Trumble

Scientist Touts the Discipline as Accessible, Rewarding and Necessary in New Book

In our modern world, religious faiths expounding violent end-of-times eschatology are perilously juxtaposed to nuclear weapons; global warming is often poo-pooed by conservative evangelical Christian politicians; and evolution is continuously denied by young earth creationists seeking to dilute the intelligence of our next generation. Science, skepticism and critical thinking are needed now more than ever, a “new trinity,” if you please. These issues are discussed in Dennis R. Trumble’s book, The Way of Science: Finding Truth and Meaning in a Scientific Worldview. Trumble is a project scientist in the Circulatory Support Laboratory and an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. The scientific worldview is vital for humanity’s future and well-being, and Trumble assures us can that science can also be part of a satisfying and fulfilling life.

MP3 File
(37 minutes, 56 seconds, 18.21 MB)

  • Read Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker’s article in The New Republic on “scientism” and science and the humanities here.
  • Read The New Republic’s Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier’s rebuttal to Pinker here.
  • Click here for Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist Daniel Dennett’s response to Wieseltier.
  • For Evolutionary Biologist Jerry Coyne’s comments on the issue, Click here.


Theologians Dodge Tough Questions, Rationalize Atrocities

September 6, 2013
By

A provocative headline in the July/August online issue of Christianity Today magazine asks, without a trace of irony, Can We Trust the God of Genocide? The question introduces a trio of odd articles attempting to justify biblical atrocities, vile behavior and cruel laws condoned and commanded by the god of…

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Atomic Theory’s Progress Refutes God, Supernatural

August 28, 2013
By
Physicist Victor Stenger

Physicist Victor Stenger

Physicist Vic Stenger Traces Atomism From Past to Present

Whenever physicist Vic Stenger writes a book, it’s usually at the expense of god, the supernatural and scientific woo-woo. He spoke to me recently about his current book, God and the Atom, From Democritus to the Higgs Boson: The Story of a Triumphant Idea. Stenger is a retired elementary particle physicist and has written many critically well-received popular books that interface between physics, cosmology, philosophy, religion, and pseudo-science. The success of the atomic model of our universe, with the overwhelming amount of scientific observation and data to support it, renders other explanations of our cosmos obsolete and unnecessary, says Stenger. God and the supernatural, as Stenger has argued for some time now, are failed ideas. Atomism is the concept that reality consists of small, irreducible objects moving through space – particles and the void, as it were – and this idea has been with us for millennia. Stenger chronicles Atomism’s progress from its ancient roots to its present status as found in the standard model of particle physics and the modern search for the Higgs Boson.

MP3 File
(42 minutes, 47 seconds, 20.54 MB)

To more about the Scanning Tunneling Microscope, click hereClick here to see a list of Vic Stenger’s books • Listen to my previous podcast with Stenger here • You can find my interview with physicist Sean Carroll here • Watch Jim Holt interview Carroll here

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