It’s the first Skeptical Sunday of 2015 and I had the idea to start the year with an upbeat show on happy subjects…but then I quickly reconsidered. Instead, the show is about death and how we seculars deal with it. Are we at a disadvantage compared to people who delude themselves that they and their pets are headed for an afterlife? On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor speak with Greta Christina who tells us about her new book, Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing To Do About God. Then they talk with Barbara Mancini, who was arrested and prosecuted for handing her terminally ill 93-yr-old father prescribed medicine that he requested, a charge of “assisted suicide” that was religiously and politically motivated, and ultimately dismissed. Then on the Philosophy Bites podcast we hear from Samuel Sheffler, a professor of philosophy at New York University who discusses a version of the “afterlife” with host Nigel Warburton that we naturalists can’t object to. Sheffler points out that our capacity to find value in activities involves an implicit assumption that life will go on after we ourselves are gone. Then in hour two, Bo Bennett interviews George Eighmey, officer and spokesperson for the Death with Dignity National Center on the Humanist Hour podcast. They discuss issues involved with Oregon’s Death with Dignity law and the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old suffering from a brain tumor who moved to Oregon to take advantage of the law and ended her life last November.
On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor discuss the Supreme Court’s lamentable expansion of government prayer in the Greece, NY vs. Galloway case that was handed down this past week, FFRF’s Out-Of-The-Closet billboards in northeast Ohio and they talk with atheist Leighann Lord, whose been called “one of New York’s 10 hottest comics.” Then: do near death experiences (NDEs) provide compelling evidence for some kind of life after death, or are there more plausible, naturalistic explanations? After Freethought Radio I’ll play an Intelligence Squared debate that took place last week in New York City. These are a series of Oxford-style formal debates held around the world, often with high-profile participants. Four people, two on each side of a resolution. Seven-minute opening statements, a round-table discussion, then two-minute closing statements. The resolution of this debate is, simply, “Death Is Not Final,” and it’s affirmed by Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who had a NDE and now claims to have proof of the existence of Heaven, and Raymond Moody a psychiatrist who has written books about NDEs. Arguing against the resolution are two regulars of Skeptical Sunday, physicist Sean Carroll of CalTech and neurologist Steven Novella of Yale. The audience, polled before and after the debate on the resolution, gave the victory to Carroll & Novella, but decide for yourself which side makes a more convincing argument.
Here is a link to the entire debate.
On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor celebrate “Freethought Day,” the anniversary of the October 12, 1692 end of the Salem Witch Trials, and the October 12, 1872 birthday of freethinking English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. After catching us up on the news of the FFRF’s activities, they talk with professor Brian Bolton, who has endowed FFRF’s graduate student essay contest, about the inefficacy of prayer and the myth that America is a “Christian nation.” After Freethought Radio we turn to “life after death.” Perhaps you heard the series this past week on “All Things Considered” in which they asked people of various faiths about their beliefs about the “afterlife.” Sorely missing was the naturalistic perspective that there is no such thing. We offer a corrective on Skeptical Sunday with the help of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Sean Carroll and Johann Hari. Then in the final segment, we’ll hear social psychologist and author Carol Tavris about the psychology of convincing others of skeptical arguments at the 2011 TAM entitled “Dissent and Dissonance: The Science and Art of Argument.”