Skeptical Sunday says goodbye for now

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.

Freethought Radio

Point of Inquiry


The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

Rationally Speaking

The Friendly Atheist Podcast

The Humanist Hour

Philosophy Bites


You Are Not So Smart

Make sure to follow Gordon Bonnet’s Skeptophilia blog.

Consider joining us in the Ithaca Atheist Meetup.  Or, if you have been listening via the Watkins Glen transmitter, you may wish to join the good folks in the Hammondsport Area Humanists.

Honor the heroes and heroines of Freethought who lived in this region by visiting sites on the Freethought Trail.

If you would like an mp3 copy of any of the 176 shows listed on this site, please send me an email at skepsunicr (at) gmail.com and I’ll see that you get it.

Keep it real and stay skeptical!   ~ John




SkepSun #176 (02_07_2016)

This week Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin and the 90th birthday poet Philip Appleman (a Darwin scholar) on Freethought Radio. Annie Laurie interviews Dan about his best-selling new book, GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction. Then Dr. Abby Hafer champions Darwin’s ideas by discussing her new book, The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not.

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.”


SkepSun #175 (01_31_2016)

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?

In hour two, Julia Galef on the Rationally Speaking podcast interviews Maria Konnikova, science journalist and author of “The Confidence Game: Why we fall for it… Every time,” who explains why con artists are so effective why even the best of us are vulnerable.


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SkepSun #174 (01_24_2016)

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  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).

Campbells Soup GMOs

Campbell’s soup to voluntarily label products containing GM ingredients: a smart move to inform consumers, or perpetuating groundless fears?



SkepSun #173 (01_17_2016)

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.

In the final segment of the show, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, Ryan T. Cragun about the sociology of religion on the Humanist Hour podcast. What accounts for the meteoric rise in the number of Americans who don’t identify with any religion since 1990? Cragun has  theory. He’s the author of two books: What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should) (2013), and How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps: A Toolkit for Secular Activists (2015).


Sociologist of religion Ryan T. Cragun


SkepSun #172 (01_10_2016)

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.

SkepSun #171 (01_02_2016)

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.


Physicist Sean Carroll of CalTech

SkepSun #170 (12_27_2015)

On Freethought Radio we hear Richard Dawkins read the Foreword he wrote for Dan Barker’s book Godless, and end the year with some relaxing freethought and seasonal music from FFRF’s “Adrift on a Star” CD.

We’ll hear an excerpt from a recent Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe on which Steven Novella breaks down the recent study showing an increased risk for autism for children whose mothers who took anti-depressants during pregnancy. They also talk about a new study finding contaminants in traditional Chinese medicine herbal supplements.

Pity the poor children of the State of Arizona. The recently appointed chair of the Arizona State Senate Committee on Education is a chemtrail conspiracy-believing young earth creationist who’s advocated a law requiring Americans to go to church on Sunday in order to achieve a “moral rebirth.” Gordon Bonnet provides the gruesome details in a blog post from Skeptophilia entitled “Moronocracy.”

Then, Brian Dunning on Skeptoid that asks whether the stories of WWI soldiers laying aside their rifles on Christmas day 1914, meeting, greeting and playing football are true.

Hemant Mehta talks to Dr. Ken Miller, Professor of Biology at Brown University, on the tenth anniversary of the court case that gutted the Intelligent Design movement in which Miller was an expert witness for the science side, Kitzmiller v. DoverHemant asks Miller about whether evolution advocates can finally relax, how a Roman Catholic like himself reconciles science and faith, and the effect of Creationist propaganda on science literacy. Miller is the author of Finding Darwin’s God and Only a Theory.


Dr. Ken Miller of Brown University on the stand in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case that ruled “Intelligent Design” to be religion and therefore inadmissible in public school science curricula.

SkepSun #169 (12_20_2015)

News on Freethought Radio includes how Saudi Arabia is scheduled to behead a nonbeliever and that an Indiana school is thumbing its nose at the Constitution by staging a “mannequin” nativity scene after a judge enjoined them from doing a “live nativity scene.” We hear some Winter Solstice songs and a reading about how Christians coopted the season. Then Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker talk with Holly Baer, the first winner of the Yip Harburg Youth Activist award, who challenged a Christian display in the city of Collins, Mississippi.

Gordon Bonnet, author of the Skeptophilia blog, pokes some fun at members of the U.S. Congress who, with all the domestic and international problems at hand think that the War on Christmas is something that deserves their attention. Gordon is right. There is no war by atheists on Christians to keep them from celebrating their religious holiday.

If there is a war, it is within the ranks of non-believers.  Should we atheists be caught up in this holiday and be doing up the Christmas trees, wreaths and lights? Well, for me an important holiday tradition is hearing from Tom Flynn on this issue.  He’s the Executive Director of the Council on Secular Humanism and editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry magazine. Nora Hurley talks with Tom on a Point of Inquiry podcast. According to Tom, Ho ho ho? No no no!

Then we hear from two atheists who like the holiday,  Julia Galef interviews philosophy professor David Kyle Johnson, the author of “The Myths that Stole Christmas” on the Rationally Speaking Podcast. Kyle explains the little-known, and somewhat sinister, origin story of Santa Claus — and then Kyle and Julia debate whether it’s ethical to lie to your children about the reality of Santa Claus and discuss possible alternatives to doing so.


Tom Flynn, Anti-Claus, and Nora Hurley of the Center for Inquiry

SkepSun #168 (12_13_2015)

Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker host their first show produced in the new Stephen Uhl Friendly Atheist Studio at Freethought Hall in Madison, WI.  They’ll tell us about a full-page FFRF ad in the New York Times celebrating the birth of the Bill of Rights (December 15, 1791) and other activities of the FFRF. After hearing Philip Appleman’s poem “Fleas” set to music, they talk with Laurie Lebo, author of The Devil in Dover, about the 10th anniversary of Kitzmiller v. Dover, which booted “intelligent design” from public high-school science classes.

Gordon Bonnet of the Skeptophilia blog makes an urgent appeal to his conservative Republican friends to step back a moment, move beyond the atmospherics, and really consider what Donald Trump is saying, since life as an ex-pat doesn’t really appeal to him.

Infectious disease MD Mark Crislip has a look at the lastest studies on what he calls the “theatrical placebo” known as acupuncture.  Turns out there’s no need a poke a hole in these studies, they come pre-perforated.

Then, a very basic question posed to numerous philosophers by Niger Warbuton on the Philosophy Bites podcast, namely, “What is Philosophy?”

Laser needle therapy being used to treat asthma-bronchitis in a child. Because, you know, lasers.

Laser needle therapy being used to treat asthma-bronchitis in a child. Because, you know, lasers.