SkepSun #162 (11_01_2015)

We start off with a Halloween-themed Freethought Radio this morning. Before hearing the song “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” co-hosts Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker announce state/church victories, lawsuits and complaints across the country. Then, from the 38th annual FFRF convention we’ll hear Anita Weier’s speech  as she accepts the “Freethought Heroine” award and FFRF lead staff attorney Rebecca Markert recaps thousands of complaints and hundreds of victories by FFRF’s legal staff in 2015.

Well, anti-vaxxers are claiming that the new autistic muppet character on Sesame Street named Julia, created to foster understanding for children with this disability is part of a conspiracy between Big Pharma and Sesame Street to “normalize vaccine injuries” by portraying autism in a positive light.  We’ll see what Gordon Bonnet’s thinks about this.

What is a conspiracy theory and why are some people so prone to believe them?  A professor of Philosophy at Warwick College in the U.K. with the enviable name of Quassim Cassam investigates these fascinating questions in conversation with Nigel Warburton on the Philosophy Bites podcast.

Then Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist interviews Sarah Morehead, President of the Reason Rally Coalition to get the inside scoop on the next Reason Rally to take place Thursday June 2nd through Sunday June 5th of next year. Morehead is also Executive Director of Recovering From Religion, the group that runs the Hotline Project and Secular Therapist Project. She was named American Atheists’ 2014 “Atheist of the Year.” They speak about what’s in store for the 2016 Reason Rally and how it’ll be different from the 2012 event as well as her work behind the scenes putting together something called “Apostacon.” You can see the Reason Rally launch video below.

SkepSun #160 (10_18_2015)

On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor tell us about the unveiling of FFRF’s northern “Atheists in Foxholes” monument and the first-ever “Atheist Marquee” at their national headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. We hear the welcoming remarks of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin at FFRF’s annual “Non-Prayer Breakfast” during the 38th annual convention that took place last weekend. Then we will listen to Bangladeshi atheist author and poet Taslima Nasrin talk about the fatwah and death threats she has been facing for decades because of her outspoken criticism of Islam.

Gordon Bonnet will read a column from the Skeptophilia blog for us entitled “The Science of Beauty.” Does having a biological explanation for human tastes, preferences and desires diminish our experiences, or enhance them?

The Skeptic Rogues of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe have a look at chelation therapy, its legitimate and illegitimate uses.

Then, in hour two, how do you tell science from non-science? Karl Popper thought that the falsifiability of a hypothesis was the defining criterion. Massimo Pigliucci doesn’t think so and discusses his take on the “demarcation problem” with Nigel Warburton on the Philosophy Bites podcast.

Finally, talking with Josh Zepps on the Point of Inquiry podcast 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 of America and Ed Beck is the senior policy analyst for the Center For Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy. CFI is working with Secular Coalition to launch a new campaign called Put Kids First.

Rates 14 illnesses in the U.S. before and after availability of vaccines.

Rates 14 illnesses in the U.S. before and after availability of vaccines.

SkepSun #157 (09_27_2015)

On Freethought Radio we hear that the “JESUS Welcomes You To Hawkins” sign is coming down in Hawkins, Texas, that an Arizona city will stop favoring Christian prayers, and that the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department is donating sports memorabilia to FFRF. We also hear from FFRF co-presidents Dan Barker (Annie Laurie Gaylor is traveling this week), how the FFRF is protesting the Pope’s visit to America with full-page ads in several newspapers, plus JFK and Ron Reagan ads on TV. We’ll listen to Kennedy’s 1960 Houston speech in favor of a secular government, and then hear philosopher Daniel Dennett read his Foreword to Dan Barker’s book Life Driven Purpose.

Gordon Bonnet looks at some anti-vax lunacy from Donald Trump in the last Republican Presidential candidate debate and notes how the two MDs competing with Trump for the nomination failed to stand up for reality-based public policy. Is it pandering we’re looking at, or just honest-to-goodness stupidity?

In hour two, could empathy be a bad thing?  Yes, empathy. This is the counter-intuitive thesis of Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. He makes his case that empathy is at the root of a lot of bad decision-making with host, Julia Galef, on the Rationally Speaking podcast.

In between, somewhere, will be musical selections from Cynthia Carle and Tombstone Da Deadman.

Is empathy a bad thing? Half-human, half-Betazoid empath Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation (actress Marina Sirtis)

Can empathy a bad thing? Half-human, half-Betazoid empath Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation (actress Marina Sirtis)

SkepSun #141 (06_07_2015)

This week not one, but two Freethought Radios (since we reran the May 17th show last week). On this week’s Freethought Radio, Dan Barker is flying solo and after announcing FFRF’s financial help to persecuted Bengali atheist and feminist Taslima Nasrin, Dan interviews activist Carole Beaton about her efforts to keep religion and government separate in Eureka, California. After Freethought Radio, we’ll hear from self-described anti-theist Brian Keith Dalton, aka Mr. Deity, who says that what differentiates him from religious fundamentalists is that it’s all about evidence and says  is that “if I am wrong, I want to know.” Then, starting off hour 2, Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia asks “what do you do know about diptheria?”  You answer is probably “not much” because it’s one of those diseases no one sees anymore thanks to vaccines. Unless, that is, you’re one unfortunate child in Spain whose parents are anti-vaxxers. Then Hemant Mehta will give us 12 reasons we know astrology doesn’t work. And finally on last week’s Freethought Radio. Annie Laurie and Dan talk about their visit to Paris and to the International Atheist conference in Gologne, Germany.  They celebrate Ireland’s historic vote for marriage equality by talking with Michael Nugent, head of Atheist Ireland, who joins them on the phone from Dublin.

Erin go secular?:  the logo of Atheist Ireland.

Erin go secular?: the logo of Atheist Ireland.

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 #119 (12_28_2014)

On Freethought Radio, we hear about the FFRF geting a mention on ESPN basketball coverage, a North Carolina nativity scene victory, and the first winter solstice sign in Puerto Rico. Then Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker celebrate the New Year with a light-hearted performance of Phil Appleman’s “Noah,” and Jim Malcom’s Scottish rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” Their guest is Tom Cara, director of FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago chapter, talking about 11 Out of the Closet billboards and other freethought seasonal displays. After Freethought Radio, we hear about “ionithermie” on the Skeptoid podcast: a new alternative weight-loss treatment becoming popular in spas and on cruise ships. Does it work and is it safe? Then, two talks from this past summer’s The Amazing Meeting, or TAM, in Las Vegas. First, Dr. Paul Offit, Professor of Vaccinology and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania describes a measles outbreak in Philadelphia in 1990-91, made worse because of parents who attended a church that taught it was wrong to vaccinate. Could it happen again and should we be worried?  Yes, says Offit in a talk entitled “Lessons from the Past.” Finally, we get a window into the world of a clinical neurologist in talk entitled “How to be a Skeptical Neurologist” by Steve Novella, M.D. Both patients and doctors complicate the process of diagnosing and treating illness due to several common cognitive errors.  Novella is a clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, the executive editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog, president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, author of the Neurologica blog, and host and producer of the weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.

Dr. Paul Offit, the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Dr. Paul Offit, the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia