SkepSun #154 (09_06_2015)

Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker get us caught up on the news, for instance the FFRF victory declaring the Ten Commandments unconstitutional at a Pennsylvania high school, a county clerk refusing to grant gay marriage licenses, group baptisms on the high-school football field, “In God We Trust” on police cars, a Jesus statue in a federal park, and a year-long nativity scene in New Mexico. Their guest is Kansas biographer Vickie Sandell Stang,l author of Etta Semple: Kansas Freethinker and “Ideal” Woman. 

Plans for the rest of the show changed this week as I learned of the death of Cornell University Emeritus Professor of evolutionary biology, William B. Provine. Will Provine died at his home on Tuesday, September 1.  He had been battling brain cancer for many years. Will Provine was a rare combination of intellect, courage and humanity who touched the lives of many students and colleagues during his decades at Cornell.  He also became a nationally known figure from his public debates with prominent creationists and even some debates with his fellow evolutionists. He never swayed from the view, unpopular with most of his colleagues, that accepting evolution by natural selection as the engine of biological innovation and diversity necessarily implies the falsity of theistic religion and other cherished beliefs such as human free will.  His scholarly contributions to the history of evolutionary biology for which he won many awards were equalled if not surpassed by the difference he made in the lives of his many students and colleagues. I interviewed Will Provine at his home in Marathon, New York in January of 2013.  I will replay that interview for you today.

William B. Provine (February 19, 1942 – September 1, 2015).

William B. Provine (February 19, 1942 – September 1, 2015).



SkepSun #136 (04_26_2015)

On Freethought Radio we hear about the dumbing down of America with the Tennessee House voting the bible as the state book, a global warming talk barred from Wisconsin state agencies, and prayer before university football games. After celebrating the birthday of feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft and hearing Roy Zimmerman’s “Creation Science 101,” Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker talk with Len Eisenberg, founder and CEO of Evogeneao which promotes evolution education. After Freethought Radio, Skeptophilia’s Gordon Bonnet considers how to deal with parents won’t vaccinate their children due to irrational concerns about vaccines safety: parents who have no personal experience with measles and pertussis and polio thanks to such very vaccines. He compares them to pigeons.  You’ll see why. Then, infectious disease doc Mark Crislip makes the case that acupuncture are like the beer goggles, they may change perception, but not reality. (Yes, Ithaca, there is a difference.)  As Crislip says, relaxing in a caring and supportive environment while recieving acupuncture cannot help but make you feel better, as long as you don’t contract hepatitis B or MRSA. Finally, Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology at Pitzer College and author of the books Society without God and Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion joins host Lindsey Beyerstein on Point of Inquiry to discuss the nature of secular people in the United States.  Zuckerman explains how empathy, rather than belief in the watchful eye of a deity, is the guiding force of secular morality, and how religion offers not moral reasoning, but moral outsourcing.

The Reason For Change Conference will take place between 11-16 June in Buffalo, New York. Featured speakers include Richard Dawkins, Rebecca Goldstein, and Susan Jacoby. Consider attending!

Have they no shame?  Owlcupuncture.

Have they no shame? Owlcupuncture.

SkepSun #125 (02_08_2015)

Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker talk with Rachel Harger about the upcoming Texas Secular Convention in Austin, they play for us actor Stephen Fry’s comments about what he’d say to God at the Pearly Gates, and celebrate the 89th birthday of freethought poet laureate Philip Appleman. They talk with journalist Katherine Stewart, author of the book The Good News Club, about the movement to plant a church in every public school. Then, has the United States Geological Survey masterminded a huge coverup to keep us from knowing that a massive supervolcano under Yellowstone Park is about to erupt?  Some think so. Skeptophilia‘s Gordon Bonnet investigates. In hour two, the irresponsibility of parents not vaccinating their children has been highlighted in the media in the wake of the California measles outbreak. On the latest Point of Inquiry podcast, host Lindsay Beyerstein talks with Dr. Paul Offit, a Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, about the measles epidemic and what is at the root of unfounded vaccine fears. The Ithaca Voice reported this week that vaccination rates are significantly lower in Ithaca area schools than the state and national averages. Could it happen here? Finally, International Darwin Day is Feb. 12 and we are already in the middle of the annual Darwin Days here in Ithaca. We’ll hear Richard Dawkins’ talk at the 2009 Darwin, Humanism and Science conference based on Darwin’s words at the end of the Origin: “There is grandeur in this view of life.”

The schedule of Ithaca Darwin Days events is available here. For Darwin Day (Feb. 12) events around the world, check here.

Show takeaways: keep state and church separate, vaccinate your kids, don't lose sleep over Yellowstone exploding, and get out and enjoy Darwin Days events this week.

Show takeaways: keep state and church separate, vaccinate your kids, don’t lose sleep over Yellowstone exploding, and get out and enjoy Darwin Days events this week.


SkepSun #86 (04_13_2014)

Today’s show:  Communicating the scientific, naturalistic worldview on television. When I was a kid two shows hugely impacted me:  Cosmos hosted by Carl Sagan and Life on Earth with David Attenborough.  Two shows now on television now will hopefully have the same significance for some of today’s young people. The first is Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on the FOX networks, the much-talked-about successor to the show of 24 years ago, and the second is Your Inner Fish now on PBS. We’ll hear Josh Zepps, host of the Point of Inquiry podcast, interview writer of both Cosmos series, widow of Carl Sagan and Ithacan Anne Druyan. She discusses the relevance of pre-Socratic materialist philosophers, her early memories of Carl Sagan, the possibility of life on other planets, and how shows like Cosmos can change culture. Then, when you look at yourself in the mirror should you see the image of God, or the image of…a fish?  A fish, says Neil Shubin professor at the U. of Chicago, who with colleagues found what you might call the real Darwin fish, a fossil of a transitional stage between fishes and tetrapods in the Canandian high Arctic. They named it Tiktaalik roseae. Shubin then wrote the book Your Inner Fish and there’s now a 3-part TV series of the same name on PBS.  The scientific worldview is about valuing evidence he says, in a wide ranging interview with Chris Mooney on the Inquiring Minds podcast. But first, on Freethought Radio we listen to Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s response after she was disinvited to give the commencement at Brandeis University for her remarks critical of Islam. Then Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor celebrate the birthday of the freethinking Charlie Chaplin and talk with Ellis Felker, owner of Red Oak Greeting Cards.

Created in the image of ... fish!  Transitional fossil fish Tiktaalik roseae.

Created in the image of … fish! Transitional fossil fish Tiktaalik roseae.

SkepSun #78 (02_16_2014)

On the weekend following Darwin week, we stay on the subject of religious opposition to evolution by natural selection in America. We’ll hear some great analysis of the Bill Nye – Ken Ham debate that we played last week from the hosts of the Reasonable Doubts podcast and also a snippet from a similar debate from 20 years ago, between Phillip E. Johnson, the author of Darwin On Trial and father of the ‘Intelligent Design Movement’ and Cornell’s own professor of evolutionary biology, now emeritus, William Provine.  But we get started as we do each week with Freethought Radio, the show produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on which Annie Laurie Gaylor and Andrew Seidel  interview the erudite and entertaining Ronald L. Numbers, history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, about the history of creationism in this country. They also discuss FFRF’s new creationism law FAQ, Andrew’s complaint to New York officials over infant endangerment and deaths from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual and honor the birthdays of Charles Darwin, Galileo, Jeremy Bentham and Susan B. Anthony.


SkepSun #77 (02_09_2014)

February 12th is the birthday of Charles Darwin, now known as “Darwin Day.” Here in Ithaca we get a whole week of Darwin events thanks to the Museum of the Earth. I’ll fill you in on the details. Sadly, 155 years after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, during which time additional evidence for evolution has piled to the sky and it has become the organizing principle of biology, Darwin’s revolutionary contribution is still controversial among conservative Christians, many of whom are still fighting for some form of creationism to be taught in public school science classes alongside, or even better, in place of, evolution. Biblical literalist Ken Ham, director of the Creation Museum in Kentucky debated Cornell grad Bill Nye the Science guy on Tuesday of last week on the question “is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”  We’ll hear an hour of that debate on today’s show. But first on Freethought Radio, Annie Laurie Gaylor will fill us in on  international blasphemy prosecutions, a UN committee’s evaluation of Vatican failings, and she’ll honor the birthdays of Philip Appleman and Phyllis Rose, and yes, Charles Darwin. Also, FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliott talks about a North Carolina state/church victory and  a religious voucher school in Milwaukee that closed its doors after receiving more than $2 million in tax dollars.

Nye Ham Monty Python

Ken Ham suffers “a scratch” from Bill Nye. We hear an hour of their debate on evolution vs. creation from last week.