I am a fish systematist and evolutionary biologist specializing in African freshwater fishes (but I like em all).
Research Associate, Dept. of Ichthyology, Center for Systematic Biology and Evolution, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA.
Curatorial Affiliate, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, Ithaca, NY.
Dear listeners: I’ve decided it’s time to discontinue production of Skeptical Sunday. My apologies to everyone who will miss the show and my heartfelt thanks to everyone who listened and enjoyed it. I hope it was a means by which some learned some new things and became connected to a larger community of folks who value reason, skepticism, secular values and the importance of defending the separation of state and church. I certainly learned a lot as I put together a new show each week.
While I won’t be producing any new shows for now, the podcasts from which I sampled are still going strong. Below is a list of the podcasts SkepSun rebroadcast most frequently. I hope many of you will subscribe to them.
The Skeptic Rogues of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast discuss a recent peer-reviewed study that mathematically modeled large conspiracies (involving more than 1000 people) and showed that these are inherently not sustainable and prone to quick failure, even with the most generous assumptions made about the secret-keeping abilities of conspirators.
However, not everyone’s gotten the memo that huge conspiracies can’t work and some are speculating that the Zika virus we’re hearing so much about is a hoax and/or a genetically engineered biological weapon. Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia looks into it.
Sadly, this will be the last Skeptical Sunday, at least for the foreseeable future, and I’ve chosen two final segments which eloquently summarize the worldview and values of skepticism, naturalism and humanism that this show has been promoting for the past 3.5 years.
First, we’ll hear Carl Sagan from what turned out to be his last television interview from the May 27, 1996 Charlie Rose show on which he talks about what was his final book The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark and lastly we’ll hear Jeremy Beahan’s wonderful “Atheist Sermon.”
On Freethought Radio, Iowa atheist Justin Scott tells Annie Laurie and Dan about his experience interviewing political candidates in the Iowa caucuses about their views on the separation of state and church. After hearing Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders respond to Justin, they talk with Jane Donnelly by phone from Dublin, who just testified before the U.N. on behalf of Atheist Ireland and ‘teachdontpreach.ie’ about the problem of Catholic control of public schools in the Republic of Ireland.
We’ve all heard new agey talk about our body’s so-called “energy fields”: chakras, auras, luminosity, chi. Does the human body indeed have any characteristic that can be correctly be described as an energy field? Brian Dunning looks into it on Skeptoid.
Gordon Bonnet has a look at some in the state of Tennessee who’d rather see no one get a marriage license than see same-sex couples get any and asks why do such people feel the need to get up into other people’s business?
On Freethought Radio, Aleta Ledendecker tells co-hosts Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker about the secular invocation she delivered before the City Council of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that was rudely cut off by the mayor and boycotted by city council members. Then they talk with California attorney Michael Newdow about his new federal lawsuit challenging “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency.
Try to do research on the Holocaust online and you’re bound to get bogged down by claims that are difficult to check out by Holocausts denialist who protray themselves as courageous mavericks challenging orthodoxy and censorship. Brian Dunning has a look at the industry of Holocaust denialism on Skeptoid.
Gordon Bonnet has a look at another form of denialism, anthropogenic climate change denialism. A guy named Ross McLeod has demonstrated that if you can throw around fancy sounding terms like the Stefan-Boltzmann equation you can get people to believe you know what you’re talking about, even if your math is way off.
Campbell Soup Company will soon start voluntarily labelling their products for GMO content. A good idea, or not? The Skeptic Rogues of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe have a look at the question.
In the final segment of the show, we’ll hear Susan Jacoby’s lecture entitled “The Conscience of an Atheist” delivered at the Center For Inquiry’s Reason for Change conference in Buffalo, NY last June. Jacoby explores how we should approach opposition to secular ideas of morality, and the personal comfort she has found through her atheism and secular views, even in times of great loss and sadness. Jacoby is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including Freethinkers (2004 ) and the New York Times bestseller, The Age of American Unreason (2008).
Campbell’s soup to voluntarily label products containing GM ingredients: a smart move to inform consumers, or perpetuating groundless fears?
On Freethought Radio, legal fellow Ryan Jayne updates Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor on FFRF’s New Jersey lawsuit challenging millions of “historic preservation” dollars handed to churches, many for the purpose of worship. They discuss a cross on a Kentucky city water tower, another one on an Illinois war memorial, and government censorship of freethought speech. Then they interview feminist atheist author Sikivu Hutchinson about her new book, White Nights, Black Paradise, about Jim Jones’s People’s Temple and the 1978 massacre in Jonestown, Guyana.
We’ll hear an excerpt from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” podcast in which he responds to the attempts of some to blame atheism for mass shootings that took place in 2015. Harris reminds these folks that atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods and has no ideology, tenets or scripture that sanction violence, unlike a few religions we know.
Starting off hour two of the show, Gordon Bonnet of the Skeptophilia blog marvels at how it seems no amount of evidence that the HPV vaccine Gardisil is safe will ever satisfy some parents.
On Freethought Radio, FFRF wins the Liberty Institute’s “Scrooge Award,” another FFRF banner is vandalized, a political candidate panders to piety, NYC mayor de Blasio hands $20 million to religious schools and Alabama chief justice Moore defies same-sex marriage law. After listening to Holly Near’s song “I Ain’t Afraid” and Dan Barker’s version of Ruth Green’s poem “FFRF,” we hear Ruth Hurmence Green interviewed in 1979 about her book The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide To The Bible.
Was 2015 the year that professional psychics proved to the world that their powers are real? The Skeptic Rogues from the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast have their annual look at how well professional psychics did at predicting events in the past year.
Gordon Bonnet of the Skeptophilia realizes that there’s nothing like scheduling a colonoscopy to discover your inner irrationalist.
Finally, we’ll hear a talk presented by Steven Salzberg at the Center for Inquiry’s Reason for Change conference in Buffalo, New York this past June. Salzberg exposes the how your tax money continues to be wasted studying therapies that have already been studied to death and never shown any efficacy above placebo and how the practice and promotion alt-med has infected some of the leading medical schools in the United States.
Steven Salzberg writes the “Fighting Pseudoscience” column for Forbes, and is Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, and the Director of the Center for Computational Biology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Dr. Steven Salzberger giving his lecture “Bad Medicine: Alt Medicine Infiltrates Medical Schools” at CFI’s Reason for Change Conference last June in Buffalo, NY.
On Freethought Radio, Texas Governor Abbot censors FFRF’s “Bill of Rights Nativity” from the state capitol. Wisconsin lawmaker Scott Allen uses government resources to convert non-Christians. Idaho post office removes Christmas greeting from window. Then, after hearing Paul Robeson sing “The Bill of Rights,” Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker talk with Thomas Sheedy who won the Richard and Beverly Hermsen Student Activist award for fighting to establish a secular club at his high school.
The end of the year/beginning of a new one is a time for lists. Brian Dunning on the Skeptoid podcast gives us his list of the 10 worst anti-science websites.
At the beginning of year that’s going to be dominated by political mud-slinging, Gordon Bonnet of the Skeptophilia blog issues a plea for restraint when it comes to the rhetoric we use to characterize our political opponents.
Finally, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll describes an “embarrassing” state of affairs in modern physics: namely that we still don’t know how to interpret quantum mechanics almost a century after its discovery. Speaking with Julia Galef on the Rationally Speaking podcast, Sean explains why he thinks the “Many Worlds Interpretation” is the most plausible one we’ve got, addresses whether it can be tested, how it might be “simpler” than other interpretations, and whether it threatens to destroy our systems of ethics.