Rank #1: The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe and Science-Based Medicine's Steven Novella
In this episode of Point of Inquiry, cohost Leighann Lord talks with famous skeptic and Assistant Professor of Neurology, Steven Novella, MD.
Novella is also the founder and current Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine which explores issues and controversies between science and medicine and works to expose dangerous medical scams and practices. He is also the host of the popular weekly podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. Novella also has a series of insightful courses on critical thinking that he has published through Great Courses.
In this week's interview, Lord and Novella speak about the ongoing battle to fight scientific ignorance especially during the current Covid-19 outbreak, how Novella's Science-Based Medicine has stepped up to counter vast amounts of misinformation about the disease, the relationship between doctors and patients when there's hard news to deliver, how we all have blind spots in our thinking that hinder our curiosity and skepticism, and the importance of not being too comfortable with information that confirm our biases.
You can follow Leighann on twitter @LeighannLord.
May 21 2020
Rank #2: Richard Dawkins: LIVE at the Reason for Change Conference
This week, Point of Inquiry welcomes Richard Dawkins for a special episode recorded before a live audience at the Center for Inquiry’s Reason for Change conference in Buffalo, New York on June 13, 2015. Dawkins is easily one of the world’s most influential and controversial scientists; a pioneer in evolutionary biology, science communication, and the public visibility of atheists. He is the author of several bestselling books including The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, and Unweaving the Rainbow, and he is founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
Dawkins is joined by Point of Inquiry host Josh Zepps, discusses how he found his love for science and evolution, the importance of secular values, and how we can inspire people to appreciate and embrace science. It’s not all serious and lofty, of course, as Dawkins cops to being “pretty condescending and bossy,” and displays his remarkable proficiency with an outlandish American accent.
Dawkins, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from CFI at this conference, brings the audience to its feet with his wit and insight.
Jun 22 2015
Rank #3: Trying to Throw Science at Them: Yvette d'Entremont and Kavin Senapathy on Food, Fads, and Fear
We are living in a land of confusion, as the band Genesis warned us back in 1986, but even they could not have predicted just how much more confusing things would get 31 years later. With a storm of misinformation engulfing almost every field of human endeavor, 2017 was ripe with confusion. And one of the most bewildering subjects is also one of the most personal: our health.
With celebrity gurus pitching pseudoscientific nonsense, conflicting news stories about what will and won't kill you, and an entire culture of hyper-privilege teaching people to be suspicious of science, people are being made to be afraid of their food. And there's a lot of money to made off of that fear.
To help us navigate these choppy waters, Point of Inquiry host Paul Fidalgo is joined by two brilliant science communicators; Kavin Senapathy, a science and parenting columnist and co-author of The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House; and Yvette d'Entremont, better known as the SciBabe, whose writing has appeared in a variety of outlets such as The Outline, Gawker, and Cosmopolitan. The two of them will guide us through this land of confusion, and maybe, with their of smarts and humor, make this a place worth living in.
Bonus for Point of Inquiry listeners: Get a special discount to purchase the new documentary Science Moms, featuring Kavin, when you use the promo code "CFI" (without quotes) at checkout.
Dec 30 2017
Rank #4: Lawrence Krauss - A Universe from Nothing
Host: Chris Mooney
We had Lawrence Krauss on Point of Inquiry less than a year ago, to discuss his recent book on the scientific works of Richard Feynman.
But in order to keep up with him, we had to have him on again. Already.
You see, Krauss has a new book out that's causing quite a stir right now—A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing.
Here's a hint as to why: Krauss's answer to this age-old question isn't God. In fact, as discussed on the program, Krauss has arguably written the book that "kicks God out of physics."
And along the way, he also manages to explain a heck of a lot of science.
Lawrence Krauss is an the internationally known theoretical physicist and popular author. He has published hundreds of scientific papers, as well as acclaimed books like the bestselling The Physics of Star Trek and Fear of Physics. He's director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University.
Feb 07 2012
Rank #5: Chris Hayes - Twilight of the Elites
Host: Chris Mooney
Our guest this week is Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC's Up With Chris Hayes and editor at large of The Nation.
Hayes has come out with a much anticipated new book that makes a surprising argument. It's called Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, and in it, he attributes the stunning loss of trust in American institutions to, well, the system by which we chose who runs them.
That system is a meritocracy—and it's supposed to be a fair one in which people get ahead or fall behind based on their own inherent abilities. But in reality, Hayes says, inequality in, inequality out.
It's an intriguing and unexpected thesis, and after reading it, we wanted to ask Hayes about what this means for science in particular—which is, after all, a meritocracy. We also wanted to ask Hayes why people at the top of the totem pole—supposedly so smart, supposedly so well-trained and cultured—are in fact so poor at reasoning about those below them.
Jun 19 2012
Rank #6: Jonathan Haidt - The Righteous Mind
Host: Chris Mooney
Why is it that some of us are religious, some of us not... some of us liberal, some of us not?
If you've been paying attention, then by now you might have noticed that this doesn't really have a lot to do with the intellectual validity of religious, or irreligious, or liberal, or conservative ideas.
So what causes it? And why can't we all get along?
To get at this, Point of Inquiry invited on a scholar and thinker who has become famous for his scientific approach to this question—Jonathan Haidt, author of the new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Jonathan Haidt is a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia, and a visiting professor of business ethics at the NYU-Stern School of Business. Haidt's research examines the intuitive foundations of morality, and how morality varies across cultures. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and he and his collaborators conduct research at the website YourMorals.org.
Mar 19 2012
Rank #7: Sarah Posner: How Trump Got His Hands on the Religious Right
How did a man living an ostensibly godless, hedonistic life become the champion of the very groups who one would expect to denounce his behavior? Being a real estate mogul and reality TV star, it’s no secret to anyone that President Trump has spent far more time in country clubs than churches. A man who’s had several wives, owned casinos and bars, and had multiple accusations of sexual assault leveled against him is hardly the pinnacle of virtue the religious right professes to yearn for. Trump’s aggressively nationalistic campaign rhetoric clearly appealed to the so-called “alt-right,” but he could not have won the election without simultaneously appealing to religious conservatives. So what happened?
Today’s guest is investigative journalist Sarah Posner, whose expertise in reporting on religion and the conservative movement enable her to unravel the reasoning behind Trump’s success with evangelical Christians. Posner’s newest piece for The New Republic is "Amazing Disgrace,” which explores how “a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator” hijacked the religious right. While the alt-right and the cultural conservative movement have long been at odds, they shared common goals and prospects in the 2016 election, and that what unites them in terms of race and nationalism may be greater than even they would like to admit.
Special note from the Center for Inquiry: This is Lindsay Beyerstein's final episode of Point of Inquiry. We are enormously proud of Lindsay's remarkable body of work with Point of Inquiry. She is smart, insightful, witty, and has always been a genuine pleasure to work with, having grown tremendously as an interviewer over her time with us. We wish her great success with her new endeavors, including her new podcast, The Breach. Thank you, Lindsay!
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for news about what's next for Point of Inquiry!
Apr 11 2017
Rank #8: Daniel Dennett: The Magic of Consciousness…Without the Magic
Daniel C. Dennett is one of the most influential philosophers of our time, perhaps best known in cognitive science for his multiple drafts (or "fame in the brain") model of human consciousness, and to the secular community for his 2006 book Breaking the Spell. Author and co-author of two-dozen books, he’s the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, where he taught our very own Point of Inquiry host Lindsay Beyerstein.
Beyerstein and Dennett catch up to discuss Dennett’s newest book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. It’s a fresh look at Dennett’s earlier work on the subject of consciousness, taken in new directions as he seeks a “bottom-up view of creation.” Join Dennett and Beyerstein as they discuss the how’s and why’s of consciousness, not just from an evolutionary and neurological standpoint, but also through the lenses of computer science and human culture.
Jan 17 2017
Rank #9: Be Not Constrained: James Croft on Humanists’ Responsibility to Fight Oppression
The modern conception of secular humanism arose in large part as a response to the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust, and the evils of racism and bigotry. Humanist Manifesto II, written in 1973, called for “the elimination of all discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national origin,” and envisioned a world in which all human beings were given equal dignity within a global community.
It is now two weeks since newly emboldened white supremacists, including Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen, marched on Charlottesville, attacked counter-protesters, and murdered Heather Heyer. President Trump has exacerbated the ensuing tension and fear by refusing to assign full responsibility to the white supremacists, and insisting that the blame be shared by some contingent of an alleged “alt-left.”
It is time for humanism to respond once again. Our guest for this episode of Point of Inquiry is James Croft of the St. Louis Ethical Society, who encourages us to fully live out the values of humanism, not just as an academic philosophy but as an urgent call to act on behalf of others. “Be not restrained,” he advises, as he and host Paul Fidalgo discuss how humanists can lead the way in healing our national wounds, but that the process must begin by honestly acknowledging and addressing the injustices that have permeated American society from its very beginnings.
Aug 24 2017
Rank #10: David Niose - Nonbeliever Nation
Host: Chris Mooney
Can people who care about secularism take America back from the religious right?
Of all the questions that concern us on this show, this is perhaps the most important, the most central, of all.
And David Niose has an answer to it. Simply put, he thinks we can.
In his new book, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, Niose outlines the damage the religious right has done, and how the growing forces of secularity stand poised to finally effectively counter them.
Central to the strategy? Embracing the atheist, or at any rate, the secular identity, and wearing it proudly on one's sleeve.
David Niose is an attorney and president of the Washington-based American Humanist Association. He has appeared widely in national and international media advocating for secularism and humanism, and serves as vice president of the Secular Coalition for America.
Jul 16 2012
Rank #11: Neil deGrasse Tyson - Space Chronicles
Host: Chris Mooney
This week, Point of Inquiry is thrilled to welcome back one of our most popular guests: Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed astrophysicist and Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.
Last time we had him on, Dr. Tyson engaged in a wide ranging discussion about science communication and the place of science in America.
This time, we focus in on his new book—Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier—and his call for revitalizing NASA and letting it play a central role in reconnecting America and science.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's most pre-eminent science communicator. In addition to his work at the Hayden Planetarium and his books and television appearances, he is also the host of Star Talk Radio.
Apr 02 2012
Rank #12: Sam Harris: Seeking Transcendence Without Religion
It is this last item that is the subject of his latest book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, in which he seeks a rational approach to transcendence; one that puts the supernatural aside in favor of an honest, scientific exploration of the mind, altered states of consciousness, and other (as he puts it) “spooky phenomena.”
On this special episode of Point of Inquiry, Harris talks to host Josh Zepps about his foray into the mystical. In this fascinating interview, Harris asserts that experiences such as bliss and transcendence must be removed from the realm of sectarianism, but that “one of the great holes in secularism” is that “we don’t have a ready answer for someone who wakes up tomorrow morning with an extraordinary change in their conscious life which they deem positive.”
Harris talks about the search for this answer, as well as the illusion of the self, expanding our moral circle to include other creatures, and an evaluation of the progress secularism has made since the time “new atheism” was still new.
Sep 02 2014
Rank #13: D.M. Murdock - The Christ Conspiracy
Host: Robert Price
D.M. Murdock, who also goes by the pen name "Acharya S.," is the author of The Christ Conspiracy, the most controversial of modern treatments of the Christ Myth theory. She has had to field flack from both apologists and atheists.
An independent scholar of comparative religion and mythology, Murdock was educated in Classics and Greek Civilization, at Franklin & Marshall College and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece. She has traveled extensively around Greece, participating in the archaeological excavation at Corinth, in addition, probably, to eating loads of squid.
Her other books include Suns of God, Who Was Jesus? and Christ in Egypt. Her articles and books can be found at her websites TruthBeKnown.com, StellarHousePublishing.com and FreethoughtNation.com. Point of Inquiry is happy to feature an interview with Acharya by fellow Jesus Mythicist Robert M. Price (assuming, of course, that both of them exist!).
Jun 28 2011
Rank #14: Dan Ariely - The Honest Truth about Dishonesty
Host: Indre Viskontas
There is no doubt that our world is populated with cheats and liars. Most of us, slaves to the availability heuristic, think of major cheaters like Bernie Madoff, Tiger Woods, and Barry Bonds as inflicting the most damage onto society. But just how honest are we, with others and with ourselves? The surprising finding from several studies conducted by Dan Ariely and his collaborators is that we all cheat. What's worse, the consequences of these little everyday deceptions can sometimes far outweigh the ill effects of even the biggest lies. Following up on his previous books demonstrating our irrationality, this week on Point of Inquiry Dan walks us through his account of the irrational forces that determine whether or not we behave ethically.
Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, with appointments at the Fuqua School of Business, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Department of Economics, and the School of Medicine. Dan earned one PhD in cognitive psychology and another PhD in business administration. He is the founder and director of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. His work has been featured in many outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and others. His two previous New York Times best-selling books are Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality.
Sep 25 2012
Rank #15: Ta-Nehisi Coates: A Country Built on Black Bodies
This week on Point of Inquiry, our guest is Ta-Nehisi Coates, a renowned journalist and celebrated essayist on culture, history, and politics. He’s a senior editor at The Atlantic, where last year he ignited national introspection and heated debate with his cover feature, “The Case for Reparations.” He is also author of the new bestseller, Between the World and Me, a book he wrote for his son about surviving in America as a black man.
Coates joins Lindsay Beyerstein to discuss the heightening racial tension in America, the result of what he describes as a country built on black bodies and black suffering. In this evocative conversation, Coates compels us to look clearly at our illusions about American identity and social mobility, and explores what difficult remedies will be necessary to begin to rectify the damage American policies have done to black men and women over the centuries. He also considers how his atheism has influenced his own thinking about civil rights, justice, and forgiveness.
Aug 03 2015
Rank #16: Dawkins on his new Book Outgrowing God
Richard Dawkins is the recipient of a number of awards for his writing on science, including the Royal Society of Literature Award and the LA Times Literary Prize, he has also been awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Award for the furtherance of the public understanding of science. He is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books, such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Devil’s Chaplain, and The Ancestor’s Tale.
In this week's interview with Jim Underdown, Dawkins discusses his newest book, Outgrowing God, designed for young people. It is Dawkin's attempt to address the cyclical nature of growing up religious.
Dec 12 2019
Rank #17: Ask a Mortician: Caitlin Doughty on the Death Industry's Dirty Secrets
Caitlin is the author of the new book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory, the story of her stint as a crematory operator in Los Angeles. She went on to become a licensed mortician to launch a one-woman crusade to change our culture's attitudes about death.
Sep 08 2014
Rank #18: Will Gervais - This is Your Brain on Religion
Host: Chris Mooney
In late April, a study came out in Science that really got the secular blogosphere hopping.
It was a paper showing that something we've long suspected may be true—less critical thinking is associated with more religiosity. In fact, having a cognitive style where you're less analytic, and more intuitive, promotes faith.
And vice versa.
It turns out this paper is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we're learning about the religious mind. So to get deeper into the topic, we invited on Will Gervais, lead author of the current paper and of much other work besides.
Will Gervais is a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Next year he will be an associate professor in psychology at the University of Kentucky.
His research studies the cognitive, evolutionary, and cultural reasons why people entertain in supernatural beliefs—or, why they don't, which is perhaps equally interesting.
Jun 04 2012
Rank #19: Temple Grandin - The Science of Livestock Animal Welfare
Host: Indre Viskontas
According to the USDA, Americans produce and consume more beef, veal, and chicken than any other nation in the world. As a result, the status of animal welfare in the meat production industry should be of some concern to all Americans, regardless of dietary habits. One of the world's leading experts in livestock handling practices is Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University.
In addition to gaining international recognition for her research on animal behavior and designs of feed yards and slaughterhouses, Dr. Grandin is also arguably the most famous high-functioning autistic adult. Her story has inspired countless individuals and families who have been touched by autism spectrum disorders, as well as other conditions that cause sensory hypersensitivity. In 2010, Clare Danes won both Emmy and Golden Globe awards for her portrayal of Temple in the critically-acclaimed HBO biopic Temple Grandin.
This week on Point of Inquiry, we talk to Grandin about science, animal behavior, autism, ethics, and much more.
Temple Grandin teaches courses on livestock behavior and facility design at Colorado State University and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare. She has appeared on television shows such as 20/20, 48 Hours, CNN Larry King Live, PrimeTime Live, the Today Show, and many shows in other countries. She has been featured in People Magazine, the New York Times, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Time Magazine, the New York Times book review, and Discover magazine. In 2010, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people. She has also authored over 400 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design. She is the author of Thinking in Pictures, Livestock Handling and Transport, Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals, and Humane Livestock Handling. Her books Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human were both on the New York Times best seller list.
Aug 28 2012
Rank #20: Marlene Zuk: The Paleo Delusion
We evolved to eat berries rather than bagels, to live in caves rather than condos, to sprint barefoot rather than wear sneakers—or did we? These, along with many other questions about what is or is not "natural" for humans from an evolutionary perspective and is the subject of the new book by biologist, Dr. Marlene Zuk, Paleofantasies: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live. The book was recently long-listed for the Royal Society's Winton Prize, one of the most book prizes in science writing.
Dr. Zuk is an evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist at the University of Minnesota, where she heads the Zuk Lab. She has published many papers and books on evolution and evolutionary biology.
Lindsay interviews her about the book with a view to the "Paleo" craze in health and nutrition, asking if we really know what some claim we do about our paleolithic ancestors and what impact, if any, that knowledge should have on our lives.
Jun 23 2014