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Point of Inquiry





Published: Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:53:52 +0000

Last Build Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2016 20:17:33 +0000

Copyright: Center for Inquiry
 



Editing Our Pasts: Dr. Julia Shaw on The Illusion of Memory

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:53:52 +0000

Dr. Julia Shaw is a psychological scientist and senior researcher in the Department of Law and Social Science at London South Bank University. She teaches at the undergraduate and graduate level and her research on false memory has been published in several international academic journals. She returns to Point of Inquiry this week to discuss her new book, The Memory Illusion.

 

Our memories are a collection of perceptions of our past experiences, and they influence what we think we’re capable of in the future. Dr. Shaw argues that if we start to question the accuracy of our memories we’re then forced to question the foundation of who we think we are. She shows us that our memories aren’t as reliable as we think. Not only are we capable of co-opting other people’s memories as our own, but we can also be easily persuaded by the power of suggestion that we’ve committed acts that have never actually occurred. Even when it comes to our most confident recollections, the potential for memory error has proven to be profound, and Dr. Shaw believes understanding the science of memory can help us deal with our brains’ tendency to rewrite the past.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Julia_Shaw_2016_final.mp3




The People vs. the Planet: Barry Vann on the Consequences of Climate Change

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 18:35:45 +0000

Since the beginning of humankind unpredictable forces of nature have been among our most dangerous threats: volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornados, hurricanes, and other disasters that trigger our fight-or-flight survival instincts. Pollution invoked climate change is exacerbating natural disasters and spurring unprecedented human migration. So when so many people are clamoring for safety and running for the hills, what does that mean for those who are already atop them?

Author and geographer Barry Vann explains what awaits the future of our planet and its human populations in his new book Forces of Nature: Our Quest to Conquer the Planet. In this fascinating yet sobering conversation with Josh Zepps, Vann elaborates on both the causes of migration as well as the outcomes of the population shifts to come. They discuss both the impact humans have had on our planet, and how our planet affects us in turn. Vann is optimistic that while society is prone to taking the path of least resistance, the conditions brought about by climate change will soon become so unbearable it will force us to make tough decisions that will be crucial for our survival. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Barry_Vann_3.mp3




Terrible Food, Small Portions: Andrew Stark on Accepting Your Inevitable Demise

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 19:22:04 +0000

Death is an unsettling thing to come to grips with. We know it is inevitable that it will one day happen to us. One of the first things most of us learn about death is that it happens to everyone, yet perhaps because no one ever comes back to tell the tale, there’s a lot about our impending doom that’s difficult to fully grasp. To help us take comfort in our inexorable demise, we welcome Andrew Stark, an author and political science professor at the University of Toronto. 

 

Having spent time as a policy advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada, he now offers himself as a life advisor – or rather, a death advisor – in his new book The Consolations of Mortality: Making Sense of Death. Stark gives us an overview of what the greatest minds of history have said about what it means to die. With a skeptical eye, he sorts through the various arguments for how we should feel about death, effectively shaking off the sugar coating of mortality in an effort to provide us with solace that stands the test of logic.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Andrew_Stark_Final_w_Casper.mp3




In the Weeds with Emily Willingham on Medical Cannabis

Wed, 07 Sep 2016 20:37:23 +0000

Emily Willingham is a journalist, scientist, and award winning skeptical blogger, with much of her work centered on autism and debunking junk science controversies. Recently the autism community has shown a surge in support for medical cannabis, as anti-vaccination activists claim that cannabis may hold the key for a cure, and many people with autism claim it to be a useful for controlling their symptoms. Willingham and host Lindsay Beyerstein delve further into the topic to sort through the misconceptions that exist on both sides of the debate.

Willingham explains that the data is limited on the relationship between cannabis and autism, in part because of the strict research restrictions that have been placed on what the government classifies as a Schedule I substance, a drug with no medical value. Despite the abundance of data showing its benefits and safety in regard to pain relief and inducing appetite, Willingham points out that the stigma against cannabis has lead to restrictions that are even more severe than those that exist on many other pain killers and opioids.

 

Emily Willingham will also be speaking at the upcoming Women in Secularism conference, September 23-25 in Arlington, VA. For more information go to womeninsecularism.org

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Emily_Willingham_done.mp3




Faking Your Own Death: Elizabeth Greenwood on Death Fraud

Mon, 29 Aug 2016 18:29:50 +0000

Elizabeth Greenwood teaches at Columbia University and like many other young professionals she has an insurmountable amount of student loan debt. With the overwhelming feeling that she would never escape her debt she desperately longed for a new start. There was no going back on what she had done to accumulate her debt, but perhaps she could skip ahead. She began to investigate what it would take to fake one’s own death in the 21st century.

 

Greenwood was shocked to ​find a robust infrastructure of death fraud all at her fingertips. Eager to know more about the strange subculture, she decided to go through with faking her own death and writes about it in her new book, Playing Dead: A Journey Through The World of Death Fraud. She meets some interesting characters along the way and realizes that a new start might not be as easy and appealing as it sounds. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Elizabeth_Greenwood_final.mp3




Getting to the Pit of the Bull: Bronwen Dickey on Canines and Conspiracies

Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:39:52 +0000

Bronwen Dickey is a contributing editor at The Oxford American, and author of Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon. Her writing can also be found in The New York Times, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Newsweek, Slate, The San Francisco Chronicle, and numerous other publications. For Dickey’s most recent piece, just published in Popular Mechanics, she embarks on the “Conspire-Sea Cruise,” giving us an inside look at what the world of a conspiracy theorist is like and what fuels the need to believe in vast, nefarious plots.

Dickey says she was inspired to report on the conspiracy cruise after working on Pit Bull, where she discovered just how strong the desire can be to ignore evidence and seek out junk science that supports one’s existing beliefs. In conversation with host Lindsay Beyerstein, Dickey looks at the paranoia that propels people towards conspiracy and compares it to the tireless fear mongering pit bull breeds are subjected to. Dickey gives a detailed account of the history and science behind pit bulls and offers a hardheaded overview of what we know about them as a breed and the contrasting ways everyday Americans view them.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Browen_Dickey_Final.mp3




Competitive Cupping: David Gorski on Pseudoscience at the Olympics

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 15:38:02 +0000

Those following the Olympics this year may have noticed Michael Phelps sporting circular bruises all over his body. That’s because Phelps, like many Olympic athletes, won’t go after their medals without going after their cups. The growing fad of cupping is an ancient practice in which cups are placed all over the body and skin is suctioned inside the cup, bursting blood vessels and creating circular bruises. The claim is that cupping releases toxins and heals muscle tissue, among a number of other alleged health benefits, none of which can be backed up by scientific evidence. 

 

Dr. David Gorski is a surgical oncologist, blogger, and advocate for evidence-based reasoning. He joins us today to discuss the latest Olympic pseudoscience fads and what it is about them that makes them pseudoscience. He gives his take on why alt-med practices like cupping are so appealing to people, and the best ways to go about persuading people out of them.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Cupping_Gorski_2.mp3




Faisal Saeed Al Mutar: Facebook and Social Media Silencing

Mon, 08 Aug 2016 17:40:05 +0000

 

Iraqi-born writer Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is a blogger for the Huffington Post and a columnist for the Center for Inquiry’s own Free Inquiry magazine. Having grown up in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein, he’s now a human rights activist and secularism advocate as well as founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement and Secular Post. 
 

For Faisal and progressive Muslims and secularists across the globe, social media is the primary means of not only seeking community and acceptance, but to opening dialogues about fraught issues such as dissent from Islam. But recently Facebook seems to be singling out many of these conversations and communities, and shutting them down. In a conversation with Josh Zepps, Faisal gives several examples of Muslims and Arabs having their posts and pages removed. Arab secularist groups, condemnations of the Taliban, and other challenges to Islam are being banned from the site, which is often justified by claims of racism, hate speech, and other alleged violations of “community standards.” Faisal argues that when Facebook censors Muslims and Arabs from being able to criticize extremism and terrorism within their own religion and culture it adds to the very stereotypes and fears surrounding Muslims that Facebook should want to prevent.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Faisal_facebook.mp3




Donald Trump's Dirty Laundry, with David Cay Johnston

Tue, 02 Aug 2016 19:40:04 +0000

 

David Cay Johnston is an award winning investigative journalist and New York Times best-selling author, as well as one of few journalists who has deeply dug into the dirty laundry of Donald Trump, now the Republican nominee for President of the United States. In 1988 Johnston left the LA Times to report on casino gambling in Atlantic City, which resulted in uncovering a detailed history of corruption in Trump’s past dealings. The information he began to unearth compelled Johnston to follow Trump’s career closely for decades, eventually leading to the release of his newest book, The Making of Donald Trump.

Point of Inquiry host Lindsay Beyerstien talks to Johnston about some of the key insights of his book, including the similarities between Trump and TV psychics, and Trump’s astounding ability to deflect any responsibility, and avoid any consequences for his actions. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/David_Cay_Johnston_w_ad_f5.mp3




Wendy Kaminer: Dangerous Spaces for Free Speech

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:44:04 +0000

Free speech on college campuses has become a topic of impassioned debate, as the lines between hate speech and harassment, or peaceful protest and public disturbance, are rather blurry and hotly contested. Particularly since the protest movements of the 1960s, college campuses have long been a kind of testing ground for different norms and boundaries of free expression. At the same time, some institutions of higher learning have speech codes which many feel are serving to silence debate and discussion among students in the name of protecting feelings.

 
Our guest this week, Wendy Kaminer, is among those who believe that things like speech codes and trigger warnings have gotten out of control. Kaminer is a lawyer and writer who has dedicated much of her life’s work to defending free speech. She and host Lindsay Beyerstein engage in a spirited discussion about the grayest areas concerning speech and censorship on campus and in the culture at large.

Kaminer will also be one of the many fantastic speakers at the fourth Women in Secularism conference, September 23-25 in Alexandria, Virgina. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Wendy_Kaminerfinal.mp3




Ali Rizvi: Islam and Identity for an Atheist Muslim

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 19:02:58 +0000

 

Religions have always gone through transitions over time. Not only do the faiths themselves evolve, but the role they play in day-to-day life adapts to fit the needs of a given culture. As the youngest Abrahamic religion on the market, all eyes are on Islam, as a debate rages as to whether there is any chance of reform or secularization within a religion that is so deeply woven into the fabric of the Muslim world.

Ali Rizvi is a Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician, and author of the new book Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. Rizvi is one of many Muslims who assert that while they have lost their religion, they haven’t lost their Muslim identity. Rizvi considers Islam to be a religion with a set of ideas that are fair game to be criticized, but he also sees Muslims as distinct, as a culture of which Islam is not a mandatory component. After losing his faith while studying as a scientist and physician, Rizvi continued to participate and identify with many of the cultural aspects of being Muslim. He found that he wasn’t alone in his feelings, and predicts that today’s young Muslims will be the start of the transition toward secularism for Muslims around world.

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Ali_Rizvi_3_w_ad_TS.mp3




Digitally Aware: David Levy on Mindfulness in an Information Overload

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 19:16:50 +0000

 
 

It was only a couple of decades ago that the most complex handheld computing system fathomable was a TI-83 graphing calculator. Technology has usually served to make our lives easier, but in the post-digital boom, in which full-blown pocket size computers are the norm, our attention spans are shrinking along with our free time (and graphing is the least of our data worries). Technology can seem to have made certain aspects of life simultaneously easier and more difficult.

 
Our guest this week is David Levy, a computer scientist and professor at the Information School of the University of Washington. He was a member of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in Silicon Valley during the information revolution in which we began converting information from paper to digital. He has since focused the body of his work and research on information overload. His new book, Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives, offers simple strategies and exercises to help develop digital control and mindfulness. Levy doesn’t claim to see the digital advancements of the world as being strictly an asset or detriment, but rather asserts that we need to begin to train our brains to process information differently to maintain control and balance over our increasingly fast-paced digital lives.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/DavidLevy_casper_intro_final.mp3




Surviving the Beauty Culture, with Autumn Whitefield-Mandrano

Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:22:42 +0000

Autumn Whitefield-Mandrano is the author of the acclaimed new book on feminism and beauty, Face Value: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives. Her work can be found such outlets as Glamour, Jezebel, SalonThe Guardian, and her own blog, The Beheld: Beauty and What It Means. Her book takes a closer look at why beauty is so coveted in American society and how the pedestal of beauty affects women in particular.

 
She and host Lindsay Beyerstein delve into perceptions of beauty from both scientific and sociological perspectives. While Autumn’s research supports the notion that many women see beauty as a healthy celebration of individuality, she’s also all too aware of the multi-billion-dollar industry that cynically peddles snake oil and empty promises to women who feel forced to maintain impossible beauty standards.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Autumn_Facevalue_final.mp3




Invisible Asperger’s: Michelle Vines on Late-Life Diagnosis

Mon, 20 Jun 2016 19:45:18 +0000

Michelle Vines grew up knowing she was different from other people. She always assumed she was just a bit odd and eccentric but never in a way that suggested she wasn’t neurotypical. She lived in Australia where she excelled in math and science and became a chemical engineer in the oil and gas industry. After finding her work environment deeply unsatisfying and her personal relationships increasingly frustrating, she was forced to sort through why she was struggling. When the possibility of Asperger’s syndrome was raised, it was both jarring and illuminating.
 

In 2008 she put her chemical engineering career on hold and moved to the U.S. where at 30 years old she was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the University of Texas Health Science Center. The experience of living her entire life without fully understanding her own brain inspired her to write her memoir, Asperger’s on the Inside. Since being diagnosed, she has been a strong advocate and spokesperson for autism and Asperger’s, and hopes to help people on all ends of the neurological spectrum form a better understanding of what people with Asperger’s go through on a daily basis. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/recovered_final.mp3




Bloody Bangladesh: Michael De Dora on the Attacks on Secularists

Mon, 13 Jun 2016 21:33:18 +0000


Secularist bloggers, writers and LGBT activists are being hacked to death in the streets of Bangladesh by militant Islamic groups. To help us get to the bottom of why there needs to be no end in sight to the violence is the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy Director, Michael De Dora. Starting in April of 2013 when secular activist Avijit Roy reached out to De Dora, the Center for Inquiry has worked closely with threatened individuals like Roy to move writers and bloggers in Bangladesh to safety. Roy was himself murdered in Dhaka in February of 2015, beginning the current wave of attacks.



De Dora, who is also CFI’s main representative to the United Nations, explains that many of these champions of free speech in Bangladesh have no other choice but to leave their home country, as the Bangladeshi government refuses to come to terms with the threat, and instead directs responsibility to the dead for their writings. While the current government in power is ostensibly secular and considered the more liberal of the two powerful political parties in Bangladesh, they have been reluctant to make a show of support of the victims, protect their citizens. De Dora suggests that it’s because many of the people being attacked are criticizing the government, and as a result the only action being taken is victim blaming. 


Note: Over the weekend, Bangladeshi authorities arrested thousands people said to be connected to extremist groups responsible for the attacks.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Michael_de_Dora_final2.mp3




Jessica Valenti: The Measure of a Woman's Worth

Tue, 07 Jun 2016 20:33:30 +0000

Author and Guardian US columnist Jessica Valenti is a pioneer of digital-age feminist writing, starting her blog feministing.com">Feministing in 2004, and becoming known as one of the leading voices in the discussion about gender equality. Valenti’s newest contribution to the movement is her new book, Sex Object: A Memoir.

 

Her witty and courageous book explores the cold, hard realities of growing up female in a male-dominated society, with a unique spin on a story many women are all too familiar with. Point of Inquiry’s Lindsay Beyerstein gets the inside scoop on what motivated Valenti to write the memoir and what she advises for the future of feminism and the fight for gender equality. They talk about many of the stories Valenti shares about her life, and discuss the personal impact of divulging one’s most vulnerable experiences in order to tell the difficult truths about many women’s everyday lives.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Valenti_withcsiad_FINAL2.mp3




Susan Jacoby on Conversions, Both Profound and Practical

Tue, 31 May 2016 21:19:50 +0000

In the literature about religious conversion, embracing a new faith is usually explained as being a profound and magical experience. A flash of light, a near death experience, an emotional new beginning; these are all common themes in religious conversion stories. But what about the less flashy stories of people who change their religious affiliation simply for reasons of practicality?

Point of Inquiry welcomes back bestselling, award-winning author Susan Jacoby to discus her new book, Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion, an exploration of the cultural, political and secular forces driving religious conversion in the western world. Jacoby argues that while spiritual revelation may be a motivator for some, the majority of religious conversions are far more often due to the secular components of an individual’s life.

Susan Jacoby was honored with a Center for Inquiry Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, and formerly served as the program director of CFI’s New York City branch.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Susan_Jacoby_final2.mp3




Hooked on a Stigma: Maia Szalavitz on Understanding Addiction

Mon, 23 May 2016 22:19:16 +0000

Maia Szalavitz is an author and award-winning journalist specializing in science, public policy, and addiction treatment. Most famous of her several books was her 2006 exposé, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled–Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. Her latest book is Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.
 

As a recovering addict herself, Szalavitz knows about the stigma of addiction first hand. She spent much of her teen and young adult life addicted to drugs like heroin and cocaine, but now with over 20 years of sobriety under her belt she’s dedicated a large portion of her career to investigating and reporting addiction treatment. Szalavitz’s research suggests that addiction is actually an emotional learning disorder, which, if true, could revolutionize not only the way we treat addiction but also the way we perceive addiction treatment. 

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Maia_Szalavitz_final_FINAL3.mp3




An Unrecognizable Reformation: Shadi Hamid on Islamic Exceptionalism

Tue, 17 May 2016 20:16:32 +0000

This week, Josh Zepps sits down with commentator and writer Shadi Hamid. He’s a senior fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, a contributing writer to The Atlantic, and his new book is http://amzn.to/1OcgSw3">Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World.
 

There is a heated debate about whether there is something intrinsically unique about the religion of Islam that has lead to destructive groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS, or whether their existence has nothing to do with religion and are merely the product of politics. Many insist that Islam is not unlike any other religion in its infancy and that with time it will go through a natural course of reform. Hamid suggests that Islam is indeed distinct from other religions, but that those distinctions aren’t in and of themselves good or bad. Hamid urges us to look at the root of these conflicts, because Islam’s unique doctrine and origin will likely mean that its path to reform will look very different from the path of enlightenment values that other religions have embraced before it.

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Shadi_Hamid_New_final_final.mp3




Lies They Told My Mother: Dr. Amy Tuteur on the Moralization of Childbirth

Mon, 09 May 2016 17:15:54 +0000

Dr. Amy Tuteur is an obstetrician-gynecologist and writer, returning to Point of Inquiry to discuss her new book, Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting. Known from her popular blog as The Skeptical OB, she has appeared in several publications and news outlets over the years educating the public about the facts of birthing healthy babies, and more importantly correcting the misinformation surrounding birth and mothering, such as breast feeding, nipple confusion, attachment theory, and “birth warriors.” 

 

Her book takes a closer look at the factual misconceptions surrounding childbirth, as well as the history behind these unscientific ideas. Dr Tuteur and host Lindsay Beyerstein discuss the history of natural parenting and how it affects mothers today, particularly the ways myths about childbirth can make life miserable for mothers, and how the natural childbirth industry can profit from their worries.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Amy_Tuteur_Mothersday_final_final.mp3




Race Car Brains with Bicycle Brakes: Dr. Ned Hallowell on ADHD in a Distracting World

Tue, 03 May 2016 15:39:13 +0000

Dr. Ned Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist, a New York Times bestselling author, and among the world’s leading experts in the field of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He’s written numerous books about ADHD and modern distraction, including Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, Worry: Controlling it and Using it Wisely, and others. Dr. Hallowell points out that those with ADHD possess what he calls a “race car brain,” capable of brilliance and great creativity, but without an understanding of how to control and train minds with ADHD, it can result in chaos and havoc.

 

Dr. Hallowell offers insight on the spectrum of ADHD, and the misuse of the diagnosis. In the age of digital distraction, a great many of us struggle to focus on tasks and goals. While his advice primarily focuses on helping people with ADHD to regain control of their minds and their lives, much of what he recommends can be helpful to chaotic, distracted, minds of all kinds.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Hallowell_POI__final.mp3




Single Ladies, Single Longer: Rebecca Traister on the Rise of the Unmarried Woman

Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:32:21 +0000

For a very long time marriage was considered a foundation of American life. Adulthood and marriage came hand in hand, and shortly after marriage children were the next logical step. Breaking that mold wasn’t a socially acceptable or financially viable option for women. Today, however, marriage rates show us a very different picture of what is considered the norm. To lend some insight into these changing conventions, Point of Inquiry welcomes Rebecca Traister, an author and award-winning journalist who is the writer-at-large for New York Magazine and a contributing editor at Elle. Her new book is All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation.

 

In 1960, the majority of American women were married by age 29. Today only 20 percent of American women are married by then. For over a century the median age of first marriages for women in America had remained between 20 and 22, but in recent years it has jumped dramatically to age 27.  Overall, fewer American women are married than ever before and Traister has investigated what’s behind this dramatic change, and what it means for a new generation of single women in America.

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Rebecca_Traister_final_FINAL.mp3




The Burzynski Case and the Pitfalls of Medical Journalism, with Tamar Wilner

Mon, 18 Apr 2016 18:29:28 +0000

Medical doctors can hold our lives in their hands. But with great power comes great responsibility, and doctors owe it to their patients to provide accurate information and treatments based on science and evidence. This is the standard we expect and take for granted; yet one doctor, Stanislaw Burzynski, has been skirting medical ethics and scientific protocols for decades with his controversial and unproven cancer treatments, which he claims without evidence, can destroy cancer cells. The Center for Inquiry, which produces this podcast, has worked to expose Burzynski’s treatments and for the FDA to http://www.centerforinquiry.net/newsroom/stop_burzynskis_dangerous_cancer_treatments/">reinstate restrictions on his dubious medical trials.

This week, Point of Inquiry welcomes science journalist Tamar Wilner to discuss the most recent progress in the Burzynski case, and what it’s like to pursue the hard truth within such a murky and emotionally fraught situation. Wilner is a frequent contributor to the Columbia Journalism Review and a consultant for the Fact Checking Project at the American Press Institute; she’s written numerous articles on controversial science issues including her recent http://www.newsweek.com/2016/03/04/stanislaw-burzynski-cancer-medical-malfeasance-429057.html">Newsweek feature, “Cancer ‘Visionary’ Stanislaw Burzynski Stands Trial for Unprecedented Medical Malfeasance.” She’s also been featured at Skeptical Inquirer with a piece entitled http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/five_things_i_learned_writing_about_stanislaw_burzynski">“Five Things I Learned Writing about Stanislaw Burzynski.”

 

A further explanation of Burzynski’s treatments, the lack of science behind them, and his run-ins with medical authorities can be found in a feature by Dr. David Gorski in the http://www.csicop.org/si/show/stanislaw_burzynski_four_decades_of_an_unproven_cancer_cure">March-April 2014 issue of Skeptical Inquirer


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Wilner_final4.mp3




Johann Hari: The Beginning of the End of the War on Drugs

Wed, 13 Apr 2016 19:36:29 +0000

This week we welcome back journalist Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. Hari is a vocal advocate for ending the drug war, and he joins us this week in advance of the UN General Assembly’s special session on drugs, being held April 18 to 21. This special session was not supposed to be held until 2019, but in September of 2012, Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala expressed the need to hold an international conference on drug policy reform sooner than scheduled. The provision was sponsored by Mexico and co-sponsored by 95 other countries that are struggling with the violence and chaos surrounding current global drug policy. 

 

Hari believes that this meeting represents a major shift in the conversation surrounding the drug war. As more and more countries are putting pressure on the United States to enact effective and humane drug policy options, Hari anticipates that these UN drug summits will become less about policy review and more about having a sane global discussion about the way we regulate and criminalize drugs.

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Johann_Hari2016_Casper_FINAL_cold_open.mp3




David Silverman: The Relentless Ascent of Atheism

Mon, 04 Apr 2016 20:10:44 +0000

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, was recently seen on championing the importance of the atheist vote to American conservatives on the late night comedy show, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AYs0rajBlE">Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Silverman attempted to persuade Republican believers and non-believers alike that that there was a dire need to keep God out of politics by promoting his cause at one of the most important conservative gatherings in politics: CPAC.

 

The author of Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, Silverman is a loud-and proud-activist for atheism and is passionate about making sure the non-religious are included in the conservative conversation. In a spirited conversation with host Josh Zepps, Silverman argues that the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders heralds the end of religion’s grip on politics, and that if the Republican Party does not learn to appeal to atheist voters, they will inevitably be left behind.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/David_Silverman_final_final.mp3




Surviving Death: Ann Neumann on the Ethical Landscape of Dying

Mon, 28 Mar 2016 17:19:06 +0000

Many of us picture our dying moments as being surrounded by loved ones, uttering last words of gratitude and advice before we slip off into a peaceful departure. Yet the reality is that dying is often a long, painful, and constantly fluctuating process. Our guest this week, Ann Neumann, writes a monthly column at The Revealer where she examines the intersection between religion and medicine, and she is the author of the new book, The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America.

 
Neumann was inspired to write the book after the struggle of caring for her father while he was dying. The experience she had was nothing like anything she had ever seen before in American culture. To better understand what she had gone through, she began volunteering at hospices and studying various perspectives on life and death. She explored everything from academic lectures to pro-life groups, giving her a wide understanding of the differences between the cultural interpretation and medical reality of death.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Ann_Neuman_final_2.mp3




The Odds of Life’s Oddities, with Mathematician John Allen Paulos

Mon, 21 Mar 2016 17:57:34 +0000

 

John Allen Paulos is an award winning mathematician and best selling author. A professor in mathematics at Temple University, he has written for The Guardian, CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and his monthly column for ABCNews.com, “Who’s Counting?” His new book is called A Numerate Life: A Mathematician Explores the Vagaries of Life, His Own and Probably Yours.

Paulos uses basic mathematic principles to lend a fresh perspective to everyday life, and the results can be fascinating. He sheds light on everything from the mathematical science behind romantic crushes to the astronomical consequences of the butterfly effect. Some of the harsher mathematical realities can be troubling, like the inevitable probability of becoming more jaded as we age. But Paulos’s mathematical message also has plenty to take solace in, like knowing that dimensional geography suggests that every single one of us is far more peculiar than we may be willing to admit. That’s right, you are not the only weirdo you know; in reality we’re all a bunch of weirdos.  


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/John_Allen_Paulos_final_FINAL.mp3




Former White Supremacist Arno Michaelis: Understanding Hate, Overcoming Fear

Tue, 15 Mar 2016 17:33:01 +0000

Today’s guest is former white supremacist Arno Michaelis, author of My Life After Hate. A leader within what he called a “racial holy war," Michaelis later realized his hate was misplaced, the product of fear, anger, and an overall misunderstanding of concepts such as forgiveness and personal responsibility. Today he is a Buddhist and anti-violence activist with Serve 2 Unite, an organization that works with student leaders to create compassionate, nonviolent leadership in their communities.

 

In a frank discussion with Josh Zepps, Michaelis reflects on his mistakes, and how he came to let go of his hate and anger. He notes the similarities he perceives between the language and emotion of the white power movement he left, and that of the campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump, whose rallies are now plagued by racially charged clashes and violence. Michaelis joins us today to offer some insight on this worldview of rage, and how we can work toward alternatives to hate and violence.

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Arno_FINAL_Parts_1_thru_4_w_ad2_TS.mp3




The Cunning Art of Con Artistry, with Maria Konnikova

Mon, 07 Mar 2016 20:38:01 +0000

What is it about human behavior that allows con artists to pull off elaborate scams in which they fool thousands? Moreover what is about those thousands of people — many of them intelligent and sophisticated — that make them so vulnerable them to being scammed? New Yorker contributor Maria Konnikova joins us today to talk about her new book, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for it Every Time.
 

Konnikova analyses the tactics that con artists use to appeal to our sensibilities, gain our trust, and lower our defenses, and she explores what motivates these fraudsters to do what they do. Some cons are so complicated that they can actually be more difficult than accomplishing the same thing when playing by the rules. Konnikova posits that a combination of entitlement and power spurs con artists to jump through hoops most of us could never imagine. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Maria_Konnikova_w_ad_final_finaledit.mp3




Censorship in the Islamic World, Through the Eyes of Journalist Jessica Davey-Quantick

Mon, 29 Feb 2016 21:44:46 +0000

We know more and more about how repressive attitudes about blasphemy and religious criticism in parts of the Islamic world can become explosive, as with the Charlie Hebdo attacks or the murder of secularist bloggers in Bangladesh. But these extreme instances don’t tell the whole story.

 

This week our guest is Jessica Davey-Quantick, who spent several years in Qatar as a reporter and editor for Qatar Happening and Time Out Doha. She experienced first hand the often laughable degrees of arbitrary censorship and cultural oppression, and simultaneously the liberty with which certain members of society could behave as they pleased. She discovered a world that both reinforced and contradicted commonly held beliefs about the restrictiveness of the culture of Islam in the Gulf States, and wrote about her experiences in a recent article at Vox.

 

She and host Josh Zepps discuss the problems with how we discuss cultures outside our own, the ways religion is intertwined with repressive norms, and how we might hold a mirror up to our own practices.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Jessica_Davey-Quantick_final_FINAL2.mp3




Can't Help Helping: Larissa MacFarquhar on Attitudes Toward Altruism

Tue, 23 Feb 2016 15:18:17 +0000

Most of us have no problem operating under the notion that we should do unto others as we would have others do unto us. But what do we make of people who do go well beyond that, while asking for nothing in return? Why are often perplexed by those who are willing to put their health and well being on the line for complete strangers? Today’s guest is Larissa MacFarquhar, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the new book Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help. 

 

MacFarquhar argues that we have a history of labeling people who help excessively as having some sort of physiological disconnect, a mental health condition that causes them to give more than what seems reasonable to the rest of society. She finds this resistance to do-gooders troubling, and that our defensive need to justify their behavior may say more about our own philosophical shortcomings than it does about the altruists among us.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Larisa_MacFarquar_finalfinal.mp3




Sex and the Safely Satisfied, with Jaclyn Friedman (Valentine's Day Special)

Sun, 14 Feb 2016 16:55:26 +0000

Jaclyn Friedman is a writer, speaker, and sex education activist, challenging misconceptions about what it means to have consenting, satisfying sex. She’s the author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex & Safety, and she joins us on this special Valentine’s Day episode to bring some freethought to love and sex.

 

In addition to having written extensively on the topic of healthy sexuality and the myriad hang-ups and myths surrounding sex and pleasure, she’s also in the process of producing a new multimedia project, including a podcast about female sexual power and freedom. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/valentinefinal2.mp3




Robyn Blumner and Ronald A. Lindsay: A Joining of Forces, a Passing of the Torch

Mon, 08 Feb 2016 18:43:19 +0000

The freethought movement has seen two of its most respected and influential institutions combine into what has been called a “supergroup” for secularism. The Center for Inquiry, the organization that proudly produces this program, announced in January that it would merge with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, and that Robyn Blumner, the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s president and CEO, would take over from Ronald A. Lindsay as CEO of CFI. 

 
Both Robyn Blumner and Ron Lindsay appear together as our guests this week, here to discuss with host Josh Zepps the reasoning behind the merger, and how the complementary strengths of the newly-joined organizations can make a larger impact on behalf of their shared mission: fostering a secular society based on reason, science, free inquiry, and humanist values. 

 
We learn more about Blumner’s background as both an executive and a journalist, as well as what the Richard Dawkins Foundation (now a division of CFI) brings to the table. We also get a look back at Lindsay’s tenure at CFI, and how he has helped to build the Center for Inquiry into a lasting institution. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Ron_Robyn_interview_final2.mp3




Athens' Atheists: Tim Whitmarsh on Religious Doubt in Ancient Greece

Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:31:08 +0000

In ancient Greece, did everyone unquestioningly believe in the gods of Olympus? Was there no one in classical Athens to write the equivalent of “The Zeus Delusion”? According to our guest this week, the Greeks’ religious beliefs were as varied and nuanced as they are today. Tim Whitmarsh is a classicist and professor of Greek Culture at University of Cambridge. In his newest book, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, he explores the skeptical aspects of ancient history that are often left out of common retellings.

Like so many other cultures, ancient Greece went through its own periods of enlightenment and reform, times when religion and irreligion, and superstition and rationalism, coexisted. Whitmarsh argues that we moderns shouldn’t be so quick to tie the ancient Greeks to their mythology, because along with the myths and gods there is a rich history of secularism, critical thinking and even atheism.

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Tim_Whitmarsh_final.mp3




Judaism for Nones: Millennials and God, with Rabbi Mark Wildes

Mon, 25 Jan 2016 17:52:17 +0000

The “nones” are on the rise in the U.S. with 33 million Americans identifying as having no religious affiliation. Atheists shouldn’t get too excited, though, because 68% of the unaffiliated indicate that they do believe in some sort of god. What kind of god do the nones believe in? This week’s guest, Rabbi Mark Wildes, wants it to be the God of Abraham.

 

Rabbi Mark Wildes is the founder and director of the Manhattan Jewish Experience, a program for young Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s with little or no background in Judaism interested in connecting with the community. With the unaffiliated being concentrated heavily in the young adult demographic, and with 1 in 5 American Jews identifying as nones, Rabbi Wildes believes there very well may be something about Judaism that could draw in millennials, those who are looking for a certain kind of moral guidance that includes both purpose and reason. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Rabbi_Mark_Wildes_final.mp3




Avoiding the TRAP: Defending Legal Abortion, with David A. Grimes, M.D.

Tue, 19 Jan 2016 17:57:30 +0000

This week Point of Inquiry welcomes Dr. David Grimes, a board certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology and author of the new book Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation. Dr. Grimes talks with host Lindsay Beyerstein about the enormous good that’s been done as a result of the legalization of abortion, and the horrors that women used to face — and face anew — as access to abortion services is chipped away. 

A powerful movement is relentlessly fighting to turn back the clock to the pre-Roe v. Wade era, when abortions were just as common as they are today, but far more dangerous and life-threatening. States across the country have seen the introduction and passage of “TRAP laws” (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) that harshly restrict access to abortion, birth control, and even cancer screenings, all under the pretense of protecting patients’ health. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Grimesfinal.mp3




Religious Belief, Naturally Selected - with John C. Wathey

Tue, 12 Jan 2016 17:33:00 +0000

Throughout history, humans have looked to religion to explain why the world is the way it is. Thanks to the development of science, we now have more concrete ways of understanding the world, ways that do not rely on faith. Despite our progress, however, in 2016 faith and religion are still considered to be prime ways of knowing for billions of people. Our guest this week suggests that these feelings of faith may be harder to shake than those of us who are already secular might think; in fact they may be evolutionarily hardwired into us.

 
Point of Inquiry returns from its hiatus to welcome neuroscientist and computational biologist John C. Wathey to discuss the ideas in his new book, The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing. Wathey asserts that the intuitive feeling of God’s presence is the primary anchor of religious faith. It’s a consistent phenomenon across every religion and culture for people to “feel God” in their lives. Wathey argues that this is likely a result of an evolutionary adaptation that manifests as early as infancy.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Jack_Wathey_final.mp3




Retconning Christmas: David Kyle Johnson on the Real Reason for the Season

Mon, 07 Dec 2015 19:57:48 +0000

During the perennial War on Christmas, certain Christians often feel the need to remind the rest pf us what the holiday season is really about. It’s Jesus Christ’s birthday and we’re all invited to the party… if by “party” you mean sitting reverently in pews at Christmas mass. Something as little as changing the seasonal decorations on a cardboard coffee cup is enough to put some Christians on edge, as some felt the new red and green Starbucks cups insufficiently acknowledged the role of Christ. Andrea Williams of the U.K.’s Christian Concern wrote, “This is a denial of historical reality and the great Christian heritage behind the American Dream that has so benefitted Starbucks.” But perhaps it's folks like Williams who are the ones guilty of historical denial.

 

Here to talk about the real historical origins of Christmas is writer and philosophy professor David Kyle Johnson, author of the new book, The Myths that Stole Christmas. Johnson explains how “the reason for the season” is just the season itself. He discusses how Christmas went from being a secular holiday to a religious one, how Jesus was inserted into it, the origins of Santa Claus, and all the other myths in between that still hold sway in our modern-day seasonal celebrations. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Christmas_episode_2015_pls_wrk_3.mp3




Islam, Paris, and Polarization - with Michael Brooks

Mon, 30 Nov 2015 16:34:48 +0000

After the Paris attacks, tensions are running higher than they have in many years over the threat posed by Islamism, how we should talk about it, and how policy should respond to it. One of our most difficult cultural challenges is distinguishing the acts of violent Islamists from public attitudes towards Muslims in general, and specifically how heated and often ugly rhetoric impacts how we confront the massive refugee crisis.

 

To discuss this thorny and emotionally charged issue, Josh Zepps talks with Michael Brooks, contributor for the award-winning daily political talk show, The Majority Report. It is a lively discussion of a highly polarized issue, revealing just how complicated and nuanced Islam’s role in these crises truly is.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Michael_Brooks_final_casper_adnew2.mp3




No, This Podcast is Not About You: David Laporte on the Proliferation of Paranoia

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 17:57:19 +0000

You don’t have to be paranoid to recognize that privacy isn’t what it used to be. The government can get access to our phone calls and emails, video surveillance is becoming a norm in public places, and nearly everyone has the ability to record at will, discreetly from their cellphones. It’s no wonder that paranoia is becoming a common phenomenon. But at what point does a healthy suspicion become delusional denial?

 

Today’s guest is clinical psychologist David Laporte, a professor of psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and author of the new book, Paranoid: Exploring Suspicion from the Dubious to the Delusional. Laporte considers paranoia a defining affliction of the modern age, as the paranoid mindset becomes ever more legitimized by the media and political figures. Research suggests that one need not be schizophrenic to suffer from a paranoia disorder, as many people may fall within a spectrum of varying gravities of paranoia, much of which is just beginning to be understood in clinical psychology. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/laporte_final.mp3




Steve Silberman: Evolving Attitudes Toward Autism

Tue, 17 Nov 2015 18:46:12 +0000

 

It used to be that autism was considered to be the result of poor parenting, but starting in the 1930s, it was understood to be a hereditary condition, and the behaviors often associated with autism turn out to be present, to one degree or another, in most of us. Though attitudes about autism have changed over the decades, the stigma attached to it lingers on.

To discuss our evolving understanding of autism, Point of Inquiry welcomes award-winning science journalist Steve Silberman, author of the new book Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. Silberman uncovers the lost history of autism, and shows how we arrived at the concept of the autism spectrum. Steve argues that many of us have autistic traits, and that some of which, such as social awkwardness and highly focused passions, have actually helped to shape the world in which we live, especially the digital realm we all now depend upon.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Silberman_final_final.mp3




Mexico’s Drug Policy in Flux, with Sylvia Longmire

Tue, 10 Nov 2015 23:04:24 +0000

 

Is smoking pot a fundamental human right? On Wednesday, November 4th Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that four individuals involved in a private cannabis club have the constitutional right to grow, sell, and smoke cannabis based on  <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/11/05/mexicos-supreme-court-rules-that-smoking-weed-is-a-fundamental-human-right/">“the right to the free development of one’s personality.”</a> The ruling was limited to the specific individuals who brought the suit, but it introduces a host of questions about what might happen if the trend toward broader marijuana legalization continues in Mexico.
 

Here to talk about the current political climate as it relates to drugs in Mexico is journalist and intelligence analyst Sylvia Longmire. Longmire specializes in Mexico’s drug war, and provides valuable insight not only into this latest development, but also the particular quirks of the Mexican legal system, and the potential repercussions of Mexican drug legalization on cartels, the illegal drug trade, and drug policies in the U.S. 

 
 
 
 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Sylvia_Longmire_FINAL_newcasp.mp3




Conjuring Rose: Joe Nickell’s Annual Houdini Séance (Halloween Extra)

Sat, 31 Oct 2015 22:50:47 +0000

 

Most people know Harry Houdini as the world famous magician and illusionist, but in addition to his life as a performer, Houdini was also known to have a deep fascination with the afterlife. So much so he spent the later part of his career investigating spiritualists and mediums. With the help of his undercover assistant Rose Mackenberg, he was able to investigate spiritual claims and assess if they were in fact actual paranormal occurrences or mere illusions, much like the ones he preformed as a magician.

In this special Halloween extra, Point of Inquiry’s producer Nora Hurley chats with Joe Nickell, the world’s leading paranormal investigator. Together, they conduct the Center for Inquiry’s Annual Houdini Séance. While summoning the dead, Nickell explains precisely how Houdini worked closely with his assistant Rose to expose fraudulent mediums and spiritualists, who were using illusions and trickery to profit off the grief of innocent people.

Having poor luck contacting Houdini in previous years, Joe and Nora have decided to try something different this year by opening up the séance to Rose as well. She was a vital component of Houdini’s investigations and did much of the difficult legwork in exposing spiritual frauds. Perhaps they’ll have better luck getting in touch with the afterlife by reaching out to her along with Houdini. 

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Joe_Nickell_2015_final_3.mp3




Sarah Posner: Trump, Carson, and the Religious Right in 2016

Tue, 27 Oct 2015 17:55:36 +0000

This week Josh Zepps chats about the 2016 Republican presidential primaries with journalist Sarah Posner, a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches and the author of Gods Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. She is an expert in the political machinations of the religious right in the United States.

 

The current GOP field has Seventh-day Adventist Ben Carson and the newly Bible-loving Donald Trump battling for the top spot in polls, despite their theological differences with the Evangelical base of the party. Posner explores what’s behind the appeal of these two unlikely front-runners, compares their very different demeanors, and weighs on such topics as the influence of Pope Francis and the prospects for atheist political candidates. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Sarah_Posner_FINAL4real.mp3




Taste the Science! - Serious Eats' J. Kenji López-Alt

Mon, 19 Oct 2015 17:35:44 +0000

Myths and pseudoscience do not only apply to the realms of religion, alternative medicine, and the paranormal. One area of our lives in which science and a little myth-busting can do enormous good is…cooking!

This week Point of Inquiry welcomes Kenji Lopez-Alt, managing culinary director of the website Serious Eats. Kenji suggests we take the scientific methods we’ve learned in school and bring them into our kitchens in his new book The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. Chatting with host Lindsay Beyerstein, he shows how cooking is nothing more than a series of reactions between heat, energy and molecules, and experimenting with what we know about these reactions can help us all to perfect our favorite recipes, and, really, make the world a happier place.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Kenji3withadfinalFINAL.mp3




Putting Kids First: Sarah Levin and Ed Beck on Vaccine Laws

Mon, 12 Oct 2015 17:02:26 +0000

With misinformation about vaccines proliferating among certain groups in the U.S., diseases that had previously been thought eradicated are creeping back into American life. As far as the law is concerned, whether or not a parent chooses to put their own child at risk by denying them vaccinations remains, largely, their personal choice. But this hands-off attitude toward vaccinations, particularly among children, puts everyone else at risk.

 

Here to talk about the threat posed by the anti-vaccination movement, and what we can do to stop it, are Sarah Levin and Ed Beck. Sarah Levin is the Legislative Associate of the Secular Coalition and Ed Beck is the senior policy analyst for the Center For Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy. CFI is working with SCA to launch a new campaign called Put Kids First. For additional information about how you can help combat anti-vaccination laws in your area check out the campaign website, and visit CFI’s Keep Health Care Safe and Secular website to learn more about the fight to keep religion and pseudoscience out of health policy.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Put_kids_first_final_2.mp3




The Mysteries of Parkinson’s, with Jon Palfreman

Mon, 05 Oct 2015 17:26:19 +0000

 

Brains, the means by which we scrutinize our world, are themselves inscrutable, and no more so than when things are going wrong. Just ask our guest this week, award winning medical journalist Jon Palfreman. After spending years of his life studying Parkinson’s in order to write the classic book, The Case of the Frozen Addicts, Palfreman was himself diagnosed with the very disease he built his career around understanding. Palfreman’s new book is called Brain Storms: The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease.  

 

As modern medicine allows our bodies to live longer with each new generation, the search is on to find ways of preserving our brains from neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, diseases that drain much of the value from these lengthening lifespans. Palfreman gives insight into both our understanding of the disease, as well as the latest medical advancements and further points of study in our race to understand the brain.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Jon_Palfreman_final_FINAL.mp3




Trials and Textbooks: Jeffrey Selman on Fighting Creationism in Schools

Tue, 29 Sep 2015 18:23:34 +0000

When the public school board in Cobb County, Georgia, placed a disclaimer describing evolution as “just a theory” (in the non-scientific sense) and not a fact, citizen and author Jeffrey Selman knew he had to take a stand for the integrity of his son’s education. 

 

This week on Point of Inquiry Josh Zepps talks to Selman about his new book, God Sent Me: A Textbook Case On Evolution vs. Creation, which is Selman’s personal account of reaching out to the ACLU and taking the entire school board of Cobb County to court for misrepresenting the credibility of evolution in order to promote religious belief. A strong supporter of religious freedom and a person of faith, Selman explains why separation of church and state is especially crucial in public schools, where vulnerable younger minds are heavily influenced by peer pressure and institutional coercion. 

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Jeffrey_Selman_final_nofart.mp3




Keep ‘Em Separated: Rev. Barry Lynn on God and Government

Mon, 21 Sep 2015 17:16:01 +0000

One of the United States’ most prominent and respected advocates for secularism is a reverend, and that of course is our guest this week, Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Few have more experience untangling religion from government as Rev. Lynn, who has spent a career making the case that a truly free country requires a secular government, and true religious freedom requires church-state separation.

 

He and host Lindsay Beyerstein discuss the numerous ways the mixing of church and state have resulted in corruption and injustice. While Lynn believes that religion can play an important role in our communities and in many people’s lives, government should never be in a position to rely upon whatever charitable services a religious group might provide. Recounting some of fascinating experiences from his career, many from his new book God and Government: Twenty-Five Years of Fighting for Equality, Secularism, and Freedom Of Conscience, Lynn believes that the long battle for the wall of separation is one that secularists will eventually win.

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Barry_Lynn_final_FINAL.mp3




Craig Unger on the U.S. and Saudi Arabia: Frenemies 14 Years after 9/11

Mon, 14 Sep 2015 16:51:35 +0000

Last week marked 14 years since the attacks of 9/11, the reverberations of which will certainly be felt well into the future. But for all the impact and tragedy of the attacks, there is still so much that remains unanswered, and unanswered for. Here to lend some insight is American journalist Craig Unger, whose bestselling books include House of Bush, House of Saud, a book that explores the relationship between the Bush family (including its various advisors and functionaries) and the Saudi royal family.  Unger’s work drew attention to several unresolved questions about the Bush administration’s response to the attacks, and how we found ourselves mired in a global military project known as the War on Terror. In conversation with Josh Zepps, Unger looks at the radical religious ideology of the Saudis, its ongoing and confusing alliance with the U.S., and the complications brought on by conflicts with Iran and ISIS. [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Craig_Unger_final_final.mp3




Invisible Catastrophes: Erik Loomis on the Consequences of Outsourcing

Tue, 08 Sep 2015 20:27:41 +0000

Corporate outsourcing is so common in the U.S. that it’s become exceedingly difficult to avoid consuming products made by unregulated and unethical means. But this has not always been the norm, as several decades ago America’s working class economy was booming, and with the advent of unions, labor laws, and environmental protections, the American dream seemed alive and well.   Here to talk about the history of corporate outsourcing in America, and the effects it has had on the economy, the environment, and the lives and well being of countless overseas workers, is author and labor expert, Dr. Erik Loomis. Dr. Loomis is a history professor, blogger, activist and author of the new book Out of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe. Dr. Loomis explains how various legislative incentives have made it nearly impossible for corporations to invest in cutting back on their carbon output, and why irresponsible corporate behavior has led to numerous disasters that take innocent lives and further harm the planet. [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Eric_Loomis_final.mp3




The City is Still Drowning: Gary Rivlin on New Orleans Ten Years After Katrina

Mon, 31 Aug 2015 17:43:35 +0000

 

Ten years ago on August 29, 2005, nearly 80 percent of New Orleans found itself underwater. Over the following months, the New York Times sent its correspondent Gary Rivlin to live in New Orleans and report on the city’s effort to rebuild. To this day, much of New Orleans are still in shambles and few outside of the city understand the nature of the chaos that ensued during and after the storm.

In his new book Katrina: After The Flood, Rivlin reveals how the story of Katrina, and why its impact was so devastating, was much more complicated than the simple narrative much of the media was providing. A decade after the disaster, he joins Josh Zepps on Point of Inquiry this week to discuss how Katrina created a huge racial and class division in New Orleans, and how we might learn from the mistakes that were made in managing the aftermath of the storm.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Final_Gary_Rivin_2.mp3




Eugenie Scott: Decrypting Pseudoscience

Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:51:15 +0000

Our very special guest on Point of Inquiry this week is Eugenie Scott, the former director of the National Center for Science Education who has been waging and winning battles against creationism and pseudoscience for years, and has become one of the most venerated luminaries of the skeptic and secular movements. A Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, in 2013 she was honored with the Center for Inquiry Lifetime Achievement Award. Scott is getting back to her roots as a biological anthropologist to talk about cryptozoology and other fringe anthropological claims. Talking with host Lindsay Beyerstein, Scott explains the distinctions between real science and pseudoscience, as well as some of the common misconceptions that lead people to mistake fiction for fact. Why is the existence of things like yetis so improbable? Why couldn’t humans and aliens procreate? Questions like these point to a need that is at the core of Scott’s career: the need to better educate kids about the methods of science. Scott and Beyerstein also take an anthropological look at the recent controversy over Rachel Dolezal, the civil rights activist who became the focus of heated national attention when it was alleged that she was a white person passing as black. What does the concept of race even mean to biological anthropologists?  And as a bonus, as mentioned in the episode, below we have a picture of what Eugenie Scott might look like as a Neanderthal, thanks to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Jeanie_final2.mp3




Bred to Suffer: Paul Shapiro on Animals in Factory Farming

Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:49:42 +0000

Happy cows and chickens grazing in pastures, we see them plastered all over our milk and egg cartons at the grocery store. While most of us realize these images are more marketing than reality, the truth about how animals are treated in factory farming is far worse than most of us imagine. It’s not even clear exactly how much better animals fare when packaging advertises things like "cage-free," "natural" and "vegetarian-fed.”  This week on Point of Inquiry, Paul Shapiro, the vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society, is here to sort through some of the common misconceptions about the meat industry. As a former factory farm inspector, Shapiro knows first hand how normalized animal suffering has become, and how lax the regulations are for determine how animals can be treated and mistreated throughout their lives. Shapiro and host Lindsay Beyerstein sort through many of the myths and misconceptions consumers have about animal well-being, from chickens raised in “battery cages,” to meat killed according to religious tenets.  *Correction: Philosopher Peter Singer wrote in to clarify his stance on the ethics of eating different kinds of sea creatures. In his classic book, "Animal Liberation," Singer draws a line between crustaceans and bivalves, and that's the distinction he follows in his day-to-day life. "You may have seen me eat something with oysters or clams in it, but I'm sure it wasn't a crab puff," Singer wrote. [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Paul_Shapiro_finaltimestamp.mp3




Dealing with Distraction in the Modern World, with Matt Crawford

Mon, 10 Aug 2015 16:00:19 +0000

Every year technology produces more innovative ways to entertain us. Everything from Twitter to Candy Crush and from billboards to viral commercials, the information that engrosses us on a daily basis makes dull tasks such as waiting in line at the post office pass in the blink of an eye. But what happens when the distractions of technology don’t disappear when you leave the queue?
 

Here to talk about the difficulty of unplugging our brains from our media-drenched world is author and contributing editor to The New Atlantis, Mathew Crawford.
 

Crawford is a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia and the author of The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. Crawford explains some of the extensive research that is behind the design of manufactured experiences like social media and advertising, and explains how our brains are susceptible to these distractions in ways that give us very little control in escaping them. More troubling, Crawford discusses why some of the behaviors our brains have adopted may be hindering our ability to not only master genuine skills, but also our ability to complete menial tasks effectively.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Matthew_Crawford_final.mp3




Ta-Nehisi Coates: A Country Built on Black Bodies

Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:49:51 +0000

This week on Point of Inquiry, our guest is Ta-Nehisi Coates, a renowned journalist and celebrated essayist on culture, history, and politics. He’s a senior editor at The Atlantic, where last year he ignited national introspection and heated debate with his cover feature,http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/ "> “The Case for Reparations.” He is also author of the new bestseller, Between the World and Me, a book he wrote for his son about surviving in America as a black man. 
 

Coates joins Lindsay Beyerstein to discuss the heightening racial tension in America, the result of what he describes as a country built on black bodies and black suffering. In this evocative conversation, Coates compels us to look clearly at our illusions about American identity and social mobility, and explores what difficult remedies will be necessary to begin to rectify the damage American policies have done to black men and women over the centuries. He also considers how his atheism has influenced his own thinking about civil rights, justice, and forgiveness.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Ta-Nehisi_final2.mp3




Stephen M. Walt: Learning to Live with the Islamic State

Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:43:32 +0000

As difficult it is to accept, there may be no loosening of the grip ISIS currently holds over its territory, at least not any time soon. Our guest, Stephen M. Walt, begins to come to terms with this unpleasant situation in a new article for Foreign Policy magazine,“What Should We Do if the Islamic State Wins?” His answer is not an inspiring one, but one based on the facts as he sees them: We will have to live with it.

On Point of Inquiry this week, Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, explores with host Josh Zepps the historical precedence for successful revolutionary movements and their near-intractability once they’ve claimed power. According to Walt, once established, these revolutionary regimes will either continue to act as dangerous rogues who are isolated and contained by neighboring countries, or eventually moderate themselves to the point where even the U.S. may eventually be able to make formal connections and begin to do business.

 
The Islamic State’s potential to become a major power (or rather its lack of potential), the unreliability of personal accounts from inside ISIS, and American moral hubris all weigh into this fascinating discussion on Point of Inquiry.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Stephen_Walt_.mp3




Patient Autonomy and Shifting Medical Ethics, with Dr. Barron Lerner

Mon, 20 Jul 2015 16:48:39 +0000

This week, Lindsay Beyerstein chats with medical ethicist Dr. Barron Lerner, author of the new book The Good Doctor: A Father, A Son and the Evolution of Medical Ethics. Lerner’s father Myer Lerner was a renowned infectious disease specialist who practiced medicine during what many consider to be the golden era of American medicine. Being a generation apart, Barron and Myer Lerner where taught very different approaches to medical ethics, especially when it came to patient autonomy and end-of-life issues.   Dr. Lerner critically examines the ethical principles that his father operated under during his years in practice, and explores how these ethical norms have either retained their value or become outdated. His understanding of his father’s point of view was illuminated when he was forced to make decisions about what was in the best interest of his father’s own medical care, without the benefit of his father’s input on the matter. Barron's unique perspective paints a global picture of all of the ethical considerations that come into play when practicing medicine as he wrestles with what he believes it takes to be a good doctor. *Correction: In the introduction of this episode, Dr. Meyer Lerner is referenced as Barron Lerner’s father. Barron Lerner’s father is Dr. Philip Lerner; Meyer Lerner is Barron’s grandfather. [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Dr_Batton_Lerner_final2.mp3




Radical Nationalism in Greece and the Romance of “No,” with Daphne Halikiopoulou

Tue, 14 Jul 2015 16:51:41 +0000

On July 5th, 2015 Greece said no to a bailout and austerity measures that would have kept them in the eurozone, lending more uncertainty to an already weakened financial structure. The country that birthed Western democracy has found itself at a standstill, with political factions unable or unwilling to find common ground. 

Here to discuss the psychological and historical context behind Greece's struggle is Dr. Daphne Halikiopoulou, an expert in radical nationalism and populism, and the culture and politics of Greece. She is a lecturer at Reading University in the UK on comparative politics, a regular guest on the BBC, and the author of the new book, The Golden Dawn's 'Nationalist Solution': Explaining the Rise of the Far Right in Greece. Recording from Athens, she and host Josh Zepps discuss the cultural and philosophical implications of Greece's financial crisis; what it represents to Greeks and what their struggle says about the security and preservation of secularist values. Dr. Halikiopoulou says that Greece wants to be a leader and an example of progress to the rest of the world, and that perhaps their biggest problem is an infatuation with saying "no" to compromise. 

This episode also features a cameo from an Athenian watermelon salesman.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Daphne_Halikiopoulou_final.mp3




Taslima Nasrin: A Woman of Courage without a Country

Mon, 06 Jul 2015 16:11:50 +0000

Taslima Nasrin is a world-renowned author and secular activist from Bangladesh. A physician by training, she has written a plethora of novels, poems and papers standing for the rights of women and criticizing religious extremism. Nasrin’s brave and influential writings have angered both governments and Islamists, forcing her to leave her home country, and take up residence in several different countries, at one point settling in India until very recently.
 

Dr. Nasrin tells her story in this special episode of Point of Inquiry, recorded before a live audience at the Center for Inquiry’s Reason for Change conference. In conversation with Lindsay Beyerstein, she discusses her life as a skeptical child in Bangladesh, her perspective on the Islamisation of her home country, and her rise to the dangerous status of human rights hero and “enemy number one” of Islamic extremists. 

To this day her writing still causes outrage in Islamic extremists, and she was recently named as a target for murder by the same Al Qaeda-linked Islamists who claimed responsibility for the deaths of other secular bloggers, including Avijit Roy. In response to this threat, the Center for Inquiry took action to bring her to safety in the United States. Even thought Nasrin has lost the home she knows and loves but the Bangladeshi government and Islamic regime will never be able to take away her pen. Nasrin continues to write for freedom and justice, offering a voice to millions who do not have one.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Taslima_Nasrin_final_3.mp3




Bangladeshi Blogger Asif Mohiuddin: Attacked, Imprisoned, and Undeterred

Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:26:09 +0000

This week we welcome Bangladeshi atheist blogger and social activist, Asif Mohiuddin, for a special episode of Point of Inquiry, recorded before a live audience at the Center for Inquiry’s Reason for Change conference. His is a harrowing and deeply inspiring story of courage. 

Mohiuddin is among the many secularist bloggers in Bnagladesh who have been targeted for death by Islamic extremists, and several attempts have been made on his life. (He was a friend and colleague of Avijit Roy, who was murdered when he visited Dhaka in February.) Rather than provide him protection from those trying kill him, the government of Bangladesh threw Mohiuddin in jail without trial for blasphemy, where he was kept in the same cell as his attackers, and was routinely threatened with death by other prisoners. Now free, but always wary of ongoing threats to his life, Mohiuddin is unwavering in his efforts bring secularism and equality to Bangladesh.

Prepare to be amazed by his willingness to bridge divides, and his ability to make connections with those so violently opposed to him. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Asif_POI_final_FINAL_last.mp3




Richard Dawkins: LIVE at the Reason for Change Conference

Mon, 22 Jun 2015 17:45:51 +0000

  This week, Point of Inquiry welcomes Richard Dawkins for a special episode recorded before a live audience at the Center for Inquiry’s Reason for Change conference in Buffalo, New York on June 13, 2015. Dawkins is easily one of the world’s most influential and controversial scientists; a pioneer in evolutionary biology, science communication, and the public visibility of atheists. He is the author of several bestselling books including The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, and Unweaving the Rainbow, and he is founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.   Dawkins is joined by Point of Inquiry host Josh Zepps, discusses how he found his love for science and evolution, the importance of secular values, and how we can inspire people to appreciate and embrace science. It’s not all serious and lofty, of course, as Dawkins cops to being “pretty condescending and bossy,” and displays his remarkable proficiency with an outlandish American accent.      Dawkins, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from CFI at this conference, brings the audience to its feet with his wit and insight.  [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Dawkins_Final2.mp3




Overwhelmed by Celebrity Culture, with Tim Caulfield

Mon, 15 Jun 2015 19:09:54 +0000

Celebrities have always played an oversized role in our culture, and there’s nothing new about them using their star power to endorse ideas or products. But we now live in a time in which mass media consumption is greater than ever before, and the celebrities we revere are now at our fingertips, often only tweet away. This constant bombardment of celebrity culture is proving to have a greater impact on how we live our lives than we may even realize. Even if you aim to ignore celebrity endorsement, the ripple effects in our hyper-connected world are often unavoidable.   This week on Point of inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein chats with Tim Caulfield, law professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, as well as the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy. Caulfield is here to discuss his newest public health book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. Caulfield’s research provides new insight into just how much of our well-being is at the mercy of our favorite stars.  [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/TIMCaulfieldFINAL.mp3




Anti-Abortion Terrorism and Free Speech, with David Cohen

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 16:45:08 +0000

Opponents of abortion have been largely successful in wielding the First Amendment in their fight to protest abortion providers and patients, and according to this week’s guest, this freedom has too often resulted in the terrorization and harassment of providers who are forced to live each day fearing for their lives. Few realize just how dangerous it is to be a doctor who preforms abortion procedures, who often feel that they have no choice but to wear bulletproof vests or carry a firearm for protection.
 

David Cohen is associate professor at the Drexel University of Law and co-author of Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism, co-authored with Krysten Connon. They interviewed abortion providers across the country about what they deal with on a day to day basis. Talking with host Lindsay Beyerstein, Cohen brings the insight he’s gained as to how exactly we should be responding to anti-abortion terrorism, and the need to protect the lives of health care providers as much as we protect freedom of speech.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/David_Cohen_Final.mp3




The Benefits of Religion Without the Belief, with Jeff Rasely

Mon, 01 Jun 2015 17:43:42 +0000

Religion is a very comforting aspect of many people’s lives, providing a community of like-minded individuals, as well as more than a little nostalgia. But even within the same faith groups, one can almost always find tension over theological technicalities. 

This week on Point of Inquiry, Jeff Rasely, author of Godless: Living a Valuable Life Beyond Belief, talks about how beliefs tend to leave people divided, whereas secular values unite. Rasely spent 25 years of his life as a dedicated member of the Presbyterian Church, and even studied to become a minister. As comforting as religious belief can be, Rasley learned through his rich experiences that belief also often divides and isolates people who would otherwise find common ground, if they only embraced their shared values instead of contentious religious commandments.  


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Jeff_Rasley_Final_3.mp3




Michael Specter on the Gluten-Free Fad

Tue, 26 May 2015 16:39:44 +0000

This week on Point of Inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein is joined by renowned journalist Michael Specter, a staff writer for The New Yorker, to talk about the subject of his award-winning story, “Against the Grain: Should You Go Gluten-Free?” 

The trend of gluten-rejection is growing despite the fact that foregoing gluten has zero health benefits, unless you’re among the 1% of the population with celiac disease. Specter explains how the misinformation about gluten has gotten to this point, and what a health diets should actually look like.  

 Michael Specter will also be speaking at CFI’s Reason for Change conference June 11-15 in Buffalo, New York. If you’d like to see Michael Specter and Lindsay Beyerstein in person, make sure you go to ReasonforChange.org to register today!


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Michael_Spector.mp3




Alex Garland: Ex Machina and the Question of Consciousness

Mon, 18 May 2015 16:14:19 +0000

Ex Machina, a new film that tells the story of a billionaire programmer who creates an artificially intelligent female robot, is in theaters now, and its writer and director, Alex Garland, is our special guest on Point of Inquiry this week. Although this is Garland's debut as a director he has also written hit novels such as The Beach as well as written and produced screen plays such as 28 Days Later.
 

As the power of computers and the software that runs them rapidly advances year by year, the representation of artificial intelligence in sci-fi films like Ex Machina are inching closer and closer to reality. Josh Zepps talks to Garland about the science and philosophy behind consciousness, the future of self-aware machines, and the ethical considerations we’ve barely begun to ponder.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Alex_Garland_finalfinal3.mp3




Clearing Up the Calorie: The Science of Nutrition, with Marion Nestle

Mon, 11 May 2015 16:22:38 +0000

When over one-third of American adults are obese, it’s no wonder that our culture is deluged with fad diets and alleged miracle supplements. Everyone is looking for the easiest way to obtain and maintain health but it’s no small task in the midst of a whirlwind of conflicting information. And what the heck is a calorie anyway? It may be that the easiest fix is to look at what science tells us about the kinds of foods best fuel our bodies.
 

This week on Point of Inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein takes a closer look at what science tells us about our diets as she talks with nutritionist and author of Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle. She's the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and works extensively to research and educate what our bodies do and don’t need to work their best. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Marion_Nestle2.mp3




Advice for the Teenage Atheist, with David Seidman

Mon, 04 May 2015 17:20:19 +0000

There are dozens of bestselling books on spirituality for teens (and many more not on the bestseller list), and many books on atheism as well. But, surprisingly, books about atheism and agnosticism specifically for young people are rare indeed. David Seidman was perplexed by this lack of material for teenagers questioning faith, and that led him to write What If I'm an Atheist? A Teen's Guide to Exploring a Life Without Religion.

In his conversation with Point of Inquiry’s Lindsay Beyerstein, Seidman discusses several techniques for young nonbelievers as to how best to come out to religious parents, and has advice on such things as dating and fitting into peer groups — all of which are all the more difficult when identifying with a minority belief. Teenagers are rebuilding their identities as adults and losing faith can be isolating and traumatic, making the need for this book long over due.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/david_seidman2.mp3




Peter Singer: Maximizing Morality with Reason

Mon, 27 Apr 2015 18:20:53 +0000

Peter Singer has revolutionized the way we think about morals and values. He’s lead the way in providing evidence for some of the toughest moral controversies such as animal rights, abortion, and wealth inequality. Singer’s newest book is entitled The Most Good You Can Do, and it's an exploration of the philosophical movement known as effective altruism; the desire to make the world its best possible version using reason and evidence. 

This week on Point of Inquiry, Singer discusses how opinion and fact are not mutually exclusive, and how effective altruism uses science-based evidence and critical thinking to uncover moral facts and open a dialogue about what values are objectively going to benefit us the most.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Peter_Singer_copy.mp3




The Misinterpretations of the Supreme Court, with Ian Millhiser

Mon, 20 Apr 2015 17:43:28 +0000

Our guest this week says that the U.S. Supreme Court’s power to interpret the Constitution is so great that they can use it to justify nearly anything they please. Even the American founders who forged the Constitution often had differing ideas of how its words should be interpreted. But one thing they did not foresee was the Supreme Court having the final say over all constitutional interpretation. Ironically, the most unconstitutional practice that we have may be the Supreme Court’s absolute power to determine what is and is not considered constitutional.   This week Point of Inquiry’s Lindsay Beyerstein chats with Ian Millhiser, the author of Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted. Millhiser takes a close look at how the various Justices of the Supreme Court have behaved throughout history, and rather than being champions of equality and justice, he concludes that the Court has largely served to perpetuate inequality and hinder progress. Millhiser argues that the only positive contributions the Supreme Court has made were a result of historical accidents, and that the most productive times of legislation in America’s history were during periods in which the Supreme Court was relatively inactive.   It’s a sobering and critical look at the role of the Supreme Court, this week on Point of Inquiry. [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/MillhiserFinalEdit.mp3




Bassem Youssef and Ahmed Ahmed: The Risk and Rewards of Satire

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:51:40 +0000

While Bassem Youssef’s satirical voice has made him widely known as the Egyptian Jon Stewart, merely five years ago Youssef was a heart surgeon broadcasting humorous political commentary on YouTube from his laundry room. His videos soon exploded in popularity, and by 2011 he had moved his satirical show to television. In 2012 Jon Stewart invited Youssef to join him on The Daily Show, and shortly thereafter in 2013 Time Magazine named Bassem Youssef one of the “100 most influential people in the world.” Unfortunately, some would like to see his influence muted, and the political climate in Egypt has made it too dangerous for Youssef to continue producing his show.
 

On Point of Inquiry this week, Youssef is joined by international comedian Ahmed Ahmed and host Josh Zepps, and the three of them discuss the the role of satire in provoking real political change. Ahmed, like Yousself, has had to learn the hard way that satirists walk a fine line between pushing boundaries while trying not to break them.

 
Youssef is currently working with a senior producer at The Daily Show to create a documentary about Youssef’s journey of standing up to an entire regime with his fearless comedy, entitled Tickling Giants.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Bassem__Ahmed_copy.mp3




Phil Zuckerman: Those Normal, Upstanding Nonbelievers

Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:07:09 +0000

Phil Zuckerman is a professor of sociology at Pitzer College, and among the world's leading experts in the growing field of secular studies, with a deep understanding of how people's lives are lived without religion. He’s the author of the books Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions, Society without God, and Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion. There is wide range of secular people, from hardcore atheists and secular humanists to those for whom religion is simply unimportant, and Zuckerman distinguishes between the vast majority of nonbelievers who live normal, upstanding lives, and the small minority for whom secularism is an organizing force. He discusses with Point of Inquiry host Lindsay Beyerstein how empathy, rather than belief in the watchful eye of a deity, is the guiding force of secular morality, and how religion can actually hinder society’s larger moral understanding.    It’s a fascinating inward look at our own community of skeptics and humanists, and you can learn even more from Zuckerman about his ideas and research at the  Reason for Change conference, where he’ll be among the many brilliant and provocative speakers. Reason for Change takes place July 11-15 in Buffalo, New York. Visit  reasonforchange.org for more! [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Phil_Zuckerman.mp3




Realpolitik and America's Conflict with Iran, with Joint Chiefs of Staff Advisor David Crist

Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:12:23 +0000

Negotiations between Iran and the U.S. in concert with Germany and the United Nations Security Council are set to result in an agreement on March 31, 2015 regarding Iran’s nuclear program, potentially restricting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Senior Historian for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and adviser to senior government officials on Iranian issues, David Crist, joins host Josh Zepps to discuss how the past several decades have lead up to this decision, and what it will mean for the future.
 
Though no one can say for certain what will be decided on March 31, Crist is uniquely qualified to offer his insight as author of the book The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran. While he does not hesitate to explain the ruthlessness of the Islamic regime, he also does not fail to criticize America’s shortcomings and missed opportunities. This is a fascinating and rare look into the realpolitik of one of the most consequential international challenges of our time.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Iran_.mp3




Johann Hari: The Falsehoods of Addiction and The War on Drugs

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:42:25 +0000

Billions of dollars are funneled into federal drug programs to keep our children away from drugs and our cities safe from crime and economic turmoil. Our guest this week, journalist and author Johann Hari, has spent the last several years traveling and researching the war on drugs for his new book Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, to find out if federal programs are as effective and righteous as we are often led to believe.

Hari talks to host Josh Zepps about how he discovered a the troubling beginnings of drug war riddled with corruption and ulterior motives, and argues that everything we thought we understood about drug addiction appears to be wrong.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Johann_Hari_final_2.mp3




The World Human Extinction Will Leave Behind, with Michael Tennesen

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 17:03:10 +0000

As climate change progresses and takes its toll on the planet, the life forms we share it with continue to evolve and adapt. Some species thrive while many face imminent extinction. What we often fail to realize as humans is that the world will continue to exist long after we’re unable to live on it.

Our guest this week is science journalist Michael Tennesen, author of The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man. Tennesen explores the environmental impact climate change is having on the ecosystem, and discusses how its impact on the planet’s surviving species will be felt long, long after we’re gone.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Michael_Tennesen_final3.mp3




Eli Lake: How Islamic is 'Islamic Extremism'?

Mon, 09 Mar 2015 16:51:55 +0000

This week on Point of Inquiry, Josh Zepps talks to Eli Lake, a journalist with extensive experience covering international intelligence, diplomacy, and the recent conflicts in the Muslim world. With the Islamic State now eclipsing Al Qaeda as a prime flashpoint for terrorism, discussing and defining the ideology behind the violence is fraught with tension, as evidenced by the uproar over President Obama's recent refusal to characterize "violent extremism" as "Islamic."

 Why do new recruits flock to the Islamic State? What are its real-world political goals? What are the dividing lines between the various strains of Islamic extremism? Lake, whose reporting has been featured in outlets such as The Daily BeastNewsweekBloomberg View, and the Washington Times, lends badly-needed clarity to what are difficult and murky topics.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Eli_Lake_FINAL.mp3




False Memories Creating False Criminals, with Dr. Julia Shaw

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 19:01:08 +0000

Memory is remarkably fallible, as we often frustrate ourselves with how certain we are about where we left our car keys only to realize how entirely wrong we were. But could it be that our memories are so easily corrupted that we could be led to believe we’ve committed crimes that never happened? (And while we’re at it, could Brian Williams have sincerely believed that he had been under attack in that helicopter?) This week on Point of Inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein talks to Dr. Julia Shaw, a forensic psychology lecturer and false memory researcher. Dr. Shaw recently conducted a study in which she found that 70 percent of college-age students were convinced that they had committed a crime that never actually took place. By mixing actual facts with misinformation, in as little as 3 hours of friendly conversation, students not only admitted to committing these fictional crimes, they went as far as to recall details of their manufactured experience. Shaw suggests that these results have alarming implications for the way we conduct criminal investigations. It seems as though our own imaginations may be working against us more than we ever thought possible.[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Julia_ShawFINAL_new.mp3




Leighann Lord: Courageous Comedy as a Safe Space

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:26:21 +0000

This week on a special episode highlighting the upcoming Reason for Change conference, Point of Inquiry welcomes stand up comedian Leighann Lord. Talking with show producer Nora Hurley, they discuss how the worlds of comedy and skepticism are not as distant as they seem. They explore the unique dynamic comedy creates for critical thinking, and how a good joke may just be the gateway to discourse and discussion. Leighann will be preforming at the Reason For Change conference June 11th - 15th 2015. Learn more about seeing her live this summer at http://reasonforchange.org.  [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Final_Leighann_Lord_NEW.mp3




Laci Green: Truths and Myths about Sex and Love

Sat, 14 Feb 2015 15:42:27 +0000

This week Point of Inquiry welcomes Laci Green for a special tell-all Valentine's Day episode. Green is a popular Youtube video blogger, sex education activist and feminist. In a time when sex pervades popular culture and marketing, and yet rarely discussed, her videos have managed to shed light on a plethora of minefield topics concerning sex, love, and gender issues.

This Valentine's Day enhance your own carnal education as Laci Green has a frank and funny conversation with host Lindsay Beyerstein about the do's,  don'ts, and wow-I-didn't-know-that's of sex.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Laci_Green_Valentinesday_REALFINAL.mp3




Letting Go of the Soul, with Julien Musolino

Mon, 09 Feb 2015 17:48:38 +0000

Intuitively, it can feel as though the essence of our thoughts and feelings exists separate from the body and brain, and that essence is what is normally referred to as the soul. Empirical evidence, however, forces us to reconcile our intuitions with reality. As the science of the brain and consciousness advances, the case for the existence of a soul deteriorates.
 
This week on Point of Inquiry, Josh Zepps talks to Julien Musolino, psychology professor and author of The Soul Fallacy: What Science shows We Gain From Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs. Musolino discusses why there isn’t room for belief in the soul in modern science, and how moving past that belief might make the world a better place.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Julien_Mussulino_final.mp3




Paul Offit, MD, on Measles in the Magic Kingdom and the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Mon, 02 Feb 2015 17:10:26 +0000

Measles are the newest attraction at Disneyland this season, and unfortunately the only thing magical about them is how quickly they’ve begun to spread throughout California and Arizona. Although measles were eliminated in the U.S. by 2000, the misinformation of the anti-vaccine movement has caused a return of a full-fledged outbreak.
 
Here to discuss the severity of the problem is Paul Offit. He is a Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children Hospital of Philadelphia. Offit is the author of the bookDo You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, for which he won the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry’s 2013 Balles Prize in Critical Thinking.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Paul_Offit_Measles2.mp3




The Women Spies of the Civil War, with Karen Abbott

Tue, 20 Jan 2015 18:20:56 +0000

This week on Point of inquiryNew York Times bestselling author Karen Abbott talks to Lindsay Beyerstein about her newest book, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, which tells the true story of four women who served as spies during the U.S. Civil War.

 In a time when women had few of the rights they would later win for themselves, the need for espionage turned out to be an early and important step in the fight for women’s suffrage. These bold women went to extraordinary lengths to fight for their respective sides, taking on various roles to gain information, even posing as men. The risk of being discovered was as much a concern during a military medical exam as it was when they were simply attempting to wear men’s pants properly.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Karen_Abbott.mp3




Before Charlie Hebdo: The Danish Cartoons that Shook the world, with Jytte Klausen

Mon, 12 Jan 2015 20:13:03 +0000

The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo was a human atrocity, as well as an assault on free expression. Yet numerous prominent news publications are still refusing to show the very Hebdo cartoons at the center of the story. Last year, in the midst of nebulous threats, Sony had removed their satirical film from theaters. How can we avoid yielding control to terrorism with censorship without putting ourselves in danger and subjecting groups to ethnic or religious discrimination? 
 
Our guest this week is Jytte Klausen, a political scholar and professor at Brandeis University. In 2009 she published The Cartoons that Shook the World, a book about the publication of the 2005 "Danish cartoons" cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed, and the outcry of anger and protest they sparked in some corners of the Muslim world. Much to Klausen’s surprise, Yale University Press refused to include the very cartoons she was discussing. Klausen joins us to talk about the precariousness of the struggle for free expression, and the balance we strike between security and freedom.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Charlie_Hebdo-Klausen_1track.mp3




Penalizing Pregnancy: Lynn Paltrow on the Fight for Reproductive Justice

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 18:39:52 +0000

The effort to overturn Roe v. Wade and criminalize abortion has spiraled into challenging not only women’s right to abortion, but a women’s right to carry her baby to term. Across the country, women who seek medical help for pregnancy complications are being met with incarceration and outrageous sentences, all without proper representation. According to this week’s guest, if a woman would like to give birth in America, she needs to be prepared to surrender her basic liberties.

 
Here to discuss the fight for women’s pregnancy rights is, Lynn M. Paltrow, founder of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), a nonprofit civil rights group that advocates for pregnant and parenting women. Paltrow has also served as a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, as Director of Special Litigation at the Center of Reproductive Law and Policy and as Vice President for Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City. Paltrow has not only done extensive work in challenging the restrictions placed on the right to choose abortion, but also fights the prosecution and punishment of pregnant women seeking to continue their pregnancies to term.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Paltrow.mp3




​Christmas Extra: Tom Flynn’s 30th Year of Anti-ClausingTom Flynn is Executive Director of The Council for Secular Humanism, Editor of Free Inquiry magazine, Director of Inquiry Media Productions, as well as professional anti-Christmas advocate and au

Thu, 25 Dec 2014 14:19:25 +0000

Tom Flynn is Executive Director of The Council for Secular Humanism, Editor of Free Inquiry magazine, as well as professional anti-Christmas advocate and author of “The Trouble with Christmas.”

Tom is on his 30th year of being completely Yule free and he’s here to talk about why the rest of us should join him in protesting the holidays.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Tom_Flynn2.mp3




Greta Christina on Coping with Death, No Afterlife Required

Mon, 22 Dec 2014 18:03:30 +0000

Our Guest this week is Greta Christina, popular atheist blogger, speaker and author of several books on atheism including her newest, “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do With God.”
 
Christina discusses with Lindsay Beyerstein the tendencies we have to avoid and deny death and how it affects our abilities to cope. Christina explains how the concept of an afterlife may actually be failing to prepare people for the end of their lives, and how we can use our humanism and skepticism to find comfort in the midst of mortality and grief.
 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/christinaGreta3.mp3




Frank Schaeffer on Cynicism and Paranoia in the "War on Christmas"

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 20:51:08 +0000

Fox News’ "War on Christmas" is already in full swing, as Bill O’Reilly wasted no time jumping into battle this year to defend the holiday from the great secular menace. However, it looks like Bill might be able to leave the trenches a little early this year; according to a new Pew survey, just over 70 percent of Americans believe that Jesus was literally birthed from the womb of a virgin (a staggering percentage considering that only one third of Americans report interpreting the Bible as the literal word of god). The question is why are conservative Christians so afraid of losing a fight that in so many ways they’ve already won?
 
This week on Point of Inquiry, former Evangelical fundamentalist Frank Schaeffer joins us to bring first-hand insight into the irrational fear within fundamentalism, and what it says about their belief system. Schaeffer grew up in a strict Evangelical household in which he was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, Francis August Schaeffer, a founder of what we know today as the Religious Right. Instead, he came to reject the beliefs of his father, but still maintains a place for “the divine.” He has sense spent his life talking about his journey away from the church and has written extensively about belief and religion as a New York Times bestselling author.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/SchaefferFINAL2.mp3




Ronald A. Lindsay: Why God Can't Tell Us What to Do

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 19:45:26 +0000

Despite the fact that the United States was founded as a secular state, government neutrality toward religion remains a tumultuous and controversial issue -- a conversation-stopper in most public policy discussions. This week on the show, Lindsay Beyerstein welcomes Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, the organization responsible for Point of Inquiry. Ron joins us to discuss his just-released book, The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do, in which he explains how the language of secularism is the most ethical and productive language for believers and nonbelievers alike, the missing puzzle piece to fair public policy.
 
Ron Lindsay is both a lawyer and philosopher, as well as a veteran freethought activist, with several books and articles on ethics, philosophy, and secularism to his name. His particular background provides him with a unique understanding of how crucial the separation of church and state is for equality and stability, as well as how people can be persuaded that a society built on secularism is in everyone’s best interests. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Ron_Lindsay2.mp3




Deciphering Alan Turing, with Andrew Hodges

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 20:59:32 +0000

Alan Turing was a true visionary. Founding what we understand today as computer science, he was also a mathematician, a philosopher, and an early trailblazer for gay equality. Without his genius for codebreaking, the Second World War might have gone in a much darker direction. He saved millions of lives and potentially the world as we know it, yet his efforts for humanity were not enough to spare him the inhuman treatment he received for his sexual orientation.   Andrew Hodges was one of the first people to realize the multifaceted brilliance of Alan Turing, which eventually led him to write the renowned biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma, which was recently adapted into the film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Like Turing, Hodges is a mathematician and gay rights activist, and understands first hand the impact Turing’s life has had on our world today.   This week on Point of Inquiry, Hodges explains how Turing became so influential in so many different fields, and how his genius was so far ahead of his time.[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Andrew_Hodges3.mp3




Getting Over Racial Anxiety, with Rachel D. Godsil

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:03:49 +0000

As a nation, the U.S. prides itself on at least aspiring to the ideal of equality, even if it often falls short. The educational, health care, and legal systems, are plagued by institutional biases against racial minorities. The good news is that these disparities are likely not due to hateful intent, but caused by a combination of factors that include implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat.
 
To make sense of this, Point of Inquiry welcomes Rachel D. Godsil, research director of the Perception Institute, who explains how the unconscious associations and attitudes that we have towards people of different racial groups can affect the way we behave and, more importantly, what we can do to relieve some of the racial anxiety that may be inadvertently causing many of us to behave in ways that are less than enlightened.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Beyerstein_Godsil3final.mp3




Surviving Saddam and Confronting Islam, with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:38:08 +0000

As the threat posed by radical Islamists like those of ISIS grows in popular awareness, Islam itself becomes more of a target for criticism; some of it fair, and some of it based in ignorance or bigotry. Can efforts to defend Islam and Muslims from discrimination and racism go too far, and keep us from having an honest discussion about something of such critical importance? 
 
This week, Point of Inquiry welcomes Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, an Iraqi refugee turned activist, and founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement. Al Mutar talks about growing up in Iraq under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, and his belief that Islam needs to be more vigorously criticized, and that its adherents must be held to a higher moral standard.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Faisal_2014_ZEPPSfinal4.mp3




Steven Pinker: Using Grammar as a Tool, Not as a Weapon

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 20:04:42 +0000

The English language is often treated as delicate and precious, and disagreements about what is “proper English” go back as far as the 18th century. Then as now, style manuals and grammar books placed innumerable restrictions on what is and isn’t “correct,” as "Language Mavens" continue to delight in pointing out the unforgivable errors of others. To bring some fresh perspective to this remarkably heated topic (and to let some of us who are less than perfect, grammatically speaking, off the hook), Point of Inquirywelcomes Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, author the new book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.    Pinker’s previous works include such award-winning books as The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Stuff of Thought, and The Better Angels of Our Nature. He’s been honored by such institutions as the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and the American Psychological Association, as well as having been named named Humanist of the Year and one of Time magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”    And most appropriate to this episode, he is currently the chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage dictionary.[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Steve_Pinker_final_POI_Beyerstein_Pinker_Episode_5_adjusted.mp3




Ebola in the Age of Epidemics - Special Live Episode

Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:10:42 +0000

There’s no doubt that Ebola is an incredibly dangerous and genuinely lethal virus, but it’s also a highly manageable one, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the kind of hyperbolic coverage we’ve seen of the epidemic. In order to sort fact from fiction about the real threat posed by Ebola, and to better understand its origins and wider implications, Point of Inquiry presents a special episode, recorded before a live audience in New York.
 
We begin with a presentation by Dr. Jon Epstein, a veterinarian and epidemiologist who specializes in emerging pandemic threats in the developing world. Then Point of Inquiry host Josh Zepps goes more in depth, in a conversation with Dr. Epstein and Dr. Kevin Olival, a disease ecologist and evolutionary biologist. Both are world-leading experts on Ebola and disease prevention with a great deal of insight as to what governments and aid workers need to do to prevent Ebola from becoming a pandemic. 
 
Recorded live at the Brooklyn Brewery, this event was organized by Eco Health Alliance, an international biodiversity organization. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Ebola_epademic_ebola3_Josh_edit.mp3




Halloween Extra: 18th Annual Houdini Séance with Joe Nickell

Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:22:45 +0000

Harry Houdini, the most famous illusionist the world has ever known, spent the later part of his career fascinated with spiritualists and mediums. This led him to become a dedicated skeptic and investigator.  In this special Halloween episode for 2014, Point of Inquiry’s new producer Nora Hurley chats with Joe Nickell, the world’s leading paranormal investigator, and a former professional magician himself. Together, they conduct the Center for Inquiry’s 18th Annual Houdini Séance. Listen in as Nickell follows traditional séance protocol to call upon the spirit of Houdini to communicate with us beyond the grave.  While summoning the dead, Nickell explains how Houdini’s background as a magician allowed him to expose fraudulent mediums and spiritualists, who were using illusions and trickery to profit off the grief of innocent people. Joe Nickell continues to honor Harry Houdini, not just with annual séances, but more importantly by carrying on his investigative work.[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Final_Halloween2014_FINAL_Halloween2014.mp3




Pro-Choice Without Apology, with Katha Pollitt

Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:08:31 +0000

Given the divisive nature of the debates over abortion, the subject is understandably not the best table-talk material. But despite the fact that abortion is a normal and often necessary (one in three women will have an abortion before menopause), even those who are staunchly pro-choice feel compelled to hedge their support by making sounds about how abortions are "horrible" and "unfortunate." When both sides of the controversy associate abortions as immoral and shameful, much of the conversation ground is yielded to anti-abortion advocates.

This week on Point of Inquiry, columnist and activist Katha Pollitt discusses her new book, Pro: Reclaiming Reproductive Rights. With clinics closing at record high rates, unapologetically reclaiming women's reproductive rights may be the best way to keep the conversation - and the clinics - open.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/102114POIKathafinal_pointinto10_21_14_3.mp3




The Human Impact of Discovering Alien Life, with Astrobiologist Steven J. Dick

Tue, 14 Oct 2014 22:26:19 +0000

Our universe is made up of billions of galaxies. The cosmos is so mind-bogglingly vast, that it’s hard not to suppose that we aren’t alone, that life must exist somewhere else besides our own planet. Last month, some of the world’s leading scientists gathered at an Astrobiology Symposium run by NASA and the Library of Congress to discuss where we stand in our search for extraterrestrial life.

This week on Point of Inquiry, Steven J. Dick, the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, discusses the progress that has been made in the search for extraterrestrial life, and what the potential ramifications may be if and when we make this most monumental of discoveries — that we are indeed not alone.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/POI-10-14-14.mp3




The Theology of ISIS, with Dr. Adam Silverman

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 18:57:10 +0000

The rise of ISIS, the self proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has sparked debate about the role of religion — specifically Islam — in violent extremism. This week, Dr. Adam Silverman offers us a glimpse into the theology of ISIS, and tackled some difficult questions; What does ISIS believe and how do its religious beliefs shape its political choices? What about the notorious video-taped beheadings and reports of rape as weapons of war? How does ISIS want the United States to react, and how should we?     Dr. Silverman has just completed a four-year stint as Cultural Advisor to the U.S. Army War College. He holds a doctorate in Political Science and Criminology from the University of Florida and he deployed in Iraq in 2008 to interview Iraqi religious and political leaders to better understand their culture and values.[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/Isis.mp3




Austin Dacey

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:43:27 +0000

Josh Zepps is off, and since this week is the 5th International Blasphemy Rights Day, we're rebroadcasting this interview by Chris Mooney with Austin Dacey, CFI's former UN representative and an expert on the subject of blasphemy laws. *** This week, our guest is a return one: Austin Dacey. He's a philosopher, a writer, a human rights activist, and the creator of the Impossible Music Sessions, which we featured in a past show. Austin's books include The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life and, just out, The Future of Blasphemy: Speaking of the Sacred in an Age of Human Rights. This show focused on Austin's new book on blasphemy. But he helped enhance the discussion with a few pieces of music that have been called blasphemous—which is why we wanted to distribute them as widely as possible.[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/POI_2012_04_16_Austin_DaceyII.mp3




Mark Oppenheimer on Misogyny in the Freethought Community

Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:07:08 +0000

This week Point of Inquiry welcomes journalist Mark Oppenheimer. Mark writes the Beliefs column for the New York Times, and is the author of the e-book The Zen Predator of The Upper East Side. He is an expert on how religious and philosophical communities deal--or refuse to deal--with allegations of abuse in their ranks. 
 
Mark joins host Lindsay Beyerstein to talk about a feature he wrote for BuzzFeed entitled "Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement?", a discussion (as he puts it, "from an outsiders' perspective") about sexism and sexual coercion in organized secularism and skepticism, a phenomenon that he concludes is a threat to the movement's potential to grow and achieve mainstream acceptance. They explore this tumultuous topic both in terms of current debates, as well as in context of the freethought movement's broader history.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/pointofinquiry/09222014_Oppenheimer.mp3