Derek and Swoopy discuss the growth of skeptical podcasting in five years since they founded the influential podcast Skepticality. They talk about how hosting their show opened new opportunities for them.They explore the extent to which skeptical podcasts foster insularity within the skeptical movement, or succeed as outreach tools reaching new audiences for science and critical thinking, and the influence of such podcasts on the growth of local skeptics community groups. And they talk about the future of skepticism and skeptical digital outreach.
Tagged with “skeptic” (9)
For the scientists who study global warming, now is the winter of their despair.
In the news, it has been climate scandal after alleged climate scandal. First came “ClimateGate,” then “GlacierGate,” “Amazon Gate,” and so on. In public opinion polls, meanwhile, Americans’ acceptance of the science of global warming appears to be declining. Even a freak snowstorm now seems to sow added doubt about this rigorous body of research.
In response to growing public skepticism—and a wave of dramatic attacks on individual researchers—the scientific community is now bucking up to more strongly defend its knowledge. Leading the charge is one of the most frequently attacked researchers of them all—Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann.
In this interview with host Chris Mooney, Mann pulls no punches. He defends the fundamental scientific consensus on climate change, and explains why those who attack it consistently miss the target. He also answers critics of his “hockey stick” study, and explains why the charges that have arisen in “ClimateGate” seem much more smoke than fire.
Dr. Michael E. Mann is a member of the Pennsylvania State University faculty, and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. His research focuses on the application of statistical techniques to understanding climate variability and change, and he was a Lead Author on the “Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report. Among many other distinguished scientific activities, editorships, and awards, Mann is author of more than 120 peer-reviewed and edited publications. That includes, most famously, the 1998 study that introduced the so called “hockey stick,” a graph showing that modern temperatures appear to be much higher than anything seen in at least the last thousand years. With his colleague Lee Kump, Mann also recently authored the book Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming. Finally, he is one of the founders and contributors to the prominent global warming blog, RealClimate.org.
Carol Tavris describes dissonance theory and how self-justification and self-deception often keep people from changing their minds even in the light of compelling contrary evidence, because the evidence is often dissonant with one’s self-image. She details the implications of dissonance theory for the persistence of psychic charlatans and other peddlers of the paranormal, and how it may explain how someone like Sylvia Brown can live with herself, and also how it may explain how believers remain so gullible about such unsupportable claims. She describes confirmation bias as a component of dissonance theory. She talks about how dissonance theory applies to the skeptic movement, both in terms of suggesting the best strategies for engaging the credulous, and in terms of fostering skepticism about one’s own skeptical views. And she argues that skepticism should be affirmative rather than destructive in its approach, and focused on both critical thinking and creative thinking alike. Also in this episode, The Honest Liar, Jamy Ian Swiss, talks about who psychics really see when they look in the mirror.
Banachek is an American mentalist and skeptic. He has written numerous books and invented various magic and mentalism effects, and is often sought out by top entertainers such as David Blaine, Lance Burton, James Randi and Criss Angel. He has been the recipient of a number of awards and recognitions, including the Dave Lederman Memorial Award (Awarded for Creativity in Mentalism) and the Dunninger Memorial Award (Awarded for Distinguished Professionalism in the Performance of Mentalism), both awarded by the Psychic Entertainers Association, as well as the College Campus Novelty Act of the Year, and the Entertainer of the Year on two occasions, all awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. He is renowned for fooling scientists at Washington University into believing that his supposed psychic abilities were genuine during the Project Alpha hoax in the early 1980s. In 2009, he conducted a preliminary test of psychic claimant Connie Sonne’s dowsing ability for the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge that was witnessed by hundreds in person at The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas, NV. From: http://www.pointofinquiry.org/banachek_mentalism_and_skepticism/
Harry Houdini, the world-famous magician and debunker of mediums, earnestly explored the religion of spiritualism and communication with the dead after his beloved mother’s death in 1913.
Dr. Jeffrey Schweitzer is an author, scientist and public speaker who has traveled widely speaking to varied groups about the application of the scientific worldview to public policy and ethical questions. He has published more than one hundred articles in an eclectic range of fields, including neurobiology, marine science, international development, environmental protection, and even aviation. He formerly served as assistant director for international affairs in the Clinton White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is a featured blogger on Huffington Post. His new book is Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World.
In this interview with D.J. Grothe, Dr. Jeffrey Schweitzer argues that adopting the scientific view of human origins has implications for understanding that morality is a consequence of our biology. He argues that religion puts humanity on a pedestal, and why that is dangerous. He contends that religion has failed to morally guide humanity, and he attacks religion for impeding the moral development of humanity and for causing much human suffering. He explains that religion results from fear of death, an attempt to understand the universe, achieve social cohesion and political power, and an attempt to control our fate by appealing to gods. But he argues that in the age of science, these reasons are no longer compelling. He denies that science has become a religion in itself. He explores if and how religion and science ask different questions, and if science can answer the existential questions that religion attempts to answer. He argues that life has no ultimate meaning, and that he derives this fact from science, while denying that this leads to nihilism. He discusses existentialism and contrasts it with his scientific worldview. He argues against the concept of free will as a false concept of religion, and discusses the implications this has for moral responsibility. He talks about the biological component to human morality, and defends his position from the charge of moral relativism, while admitting a kind of cultural relativism. He discusses Social Darwinism, and distinguishes core values from social values that progress over time. He explains components of his moral view, and compares his view with scientific or secular humanism. And he suggests that humanity is at a crossroads where our continued survival is uncertain, and describes the kind of behaviors consistent with a natural ethic that may be key to humanity’s surviving the future.
Norm Allen is executive director of African Americans for Humanism, an educational organization primarily concerned with fostering critical thinking, ethical conduct, church-state separation, and skepticism toward untested claims to knowledge among African Americans. He is the editor of the ground-breaking book African-American Humanism: An Anthology, AAH Examiner, and Deputy Editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He has traveled and lectured widely throughout North America, Europe, and Africa and his writings have been published in scores of newspapers throughout the U.S. He has spoken on numerous radio and television programs and his writings have appeared in such books as Culture Wars and the National Center for Science Education’s Voices for Evolution.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Norm Allen discusses black history in the context of science and secularism. He talks about the Senegalese physicist Cheikh Anta Diop, and his humanistic views which were coupled with his science advocacy. He talks about Charles Drew, and his influence on setting up the first blood banks, as well as urban legends that have developed around him. He talks about the pseudoscience of supposed alternative medicine cures for AIDS, and their prominence in the black community. He talks about other black scientists and freethought figures, and defends the argument for the need for a "Black History Month." He describes the need for skepticism in the black community, focusing on how the black media covers psychics and belief in prophecy, citing examples of Tony Brown and Montel Williams. He also details some of the current black leaders in the skeptical movement, recounting the first African skeptical conference that he attended last year in Senegal.
Kendrick Frazier has been the editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine for over 30 years. He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the American Geophysical Union. In 2005, Frazier was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for "distinguished contributions to the public understanding of science through writing for and editing popular science magazines that emphasize science news and scientific reasoning and methods." He is the author of a number of books, including The Hundredth Monkey: And Other Paradigms of the Paranormal, Encounters With the Paranormal: Science, Knowledge, and Belief, and Paranormal Borderlands of Science.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Kendrick Frazier discusses his long association with CSI (formerly CSICOP) and with Skeptical Inquirer magazine and explores the meanings of skeptical inquiry, both as ordinary common sense and as being continuous with science. He contrasts the paranormal with science, and explains why the paranormal was the initial focus of CSICOP. He explores debates within the skeptical community, such as whether or not belief in the paranormal is diminishing, and to what extent the movement has been successful. He talks about the breadth of claims currently dealt with at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, including both popular paranormal claims and more controversial scientific and scholarly subjects. He talks about three recent issues of Skeptical Inquirer focused on "deniers" and explains how deniers are different than skeptics. He explains paranormal or pseudoscientific claims that he has changed his mind about over the years, such as extraordinary human perception, and the mind-body connection as it relates to healing. He talks about how the magazine has dealt with religion over the years. And he talks about the future of skepticism and the need for new ways of outreach, especially to younger skeptics.
Recorded January 16, 2009: Christopher Burns is one of the country’s leading minds on modern information management. He has been a news executive and consultant to government and the private sector for thirty years, advising clients on emerging information management technologies and the evolution of the information economy. His previous positions include vice president of the Washington Post Company, senior vice president of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, and executive editor of United Press International.
In this interview with D.J. Grothe, Christopher Burns talks about the biology of the brain, the behavior of groups, and the structure of organizations and how each can lead to people making bad decisions. He discusses the paradox that in the age of information, it may be more difficult to make good decisions. He describes "false knowledge" and how to choose the right information to pay attention to. He emphasizes the value of skepticism in making good decisions, and of trusting ambiguity and uncertainty. He uses the example of the sinking of the Titanic to explain the concept of "information errors." He discusses how groups naturally discourage dissent, and how this harms the information system, citing examples from operating room and airline cockpit. He details ways of organizing that lead to better decision-making. And he talks about the political domain, and how to address challenges to good collective decision-making in a democracy, contrasting the Bush and Obama administrations.