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Point of Inquiry
44 minutes | Aug 12, 2021
Banachek - From the Inside of Being a Mentalist
It’s a rare person indeed who can trick and amaze people on one hand while reassuring them that what they are experiencing is not real. Meet Banacek. He’s not only an illusionist, magician, mentalist extraordinaire, he’s a skeptic’s skeptic who for decades has been instrumental in exposing fraud and deception. In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim talks to Banacek about his life as a performer, investigator, and man on a mission. Banchek talks about what led him into magic and mentalism, his relationship with James Randi, his new show at the Stratosphere, and more. For more information about Banacek, or to get tickets to his mentalism show at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, visit Banacek.com This Week’s Music “Bon Journée” by Chad Crouch / CC BY-NC 3.0 “Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0
63 minutes | Jul 15, 2021
How to Live a Good Life With Massimo Pigliucci and Skye Cleary
Have you ever been curious about what other people believe in or how they navigate the ethical challenges of life? Ancient philosophy was partly used as a way to better understand the best way to live life. In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim Underdown talks to two of the editors of How to Live a Good Life: A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy. The book is a collection of essays by fifteen philosophers describing what it means to live according to a philosophy of life. These philosophies range from Eastern traditions like Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, Western beliefs like Stoicism, and contemporary philosophies such as existentialism and effective altruism. Massimo Pigliucci and Skye Cleary, who also wrote chapters for the book, discuss the book, what led to its creation, their specialties of Stoicism and Existentialism (respectively.), and how they incorporate their philosophical beliefs in their day to day lives. The book and this interview provide a beginner’s guide on choosing a philosophy and ways to live those beliefs out in the real world. Massimo Pigliucci is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and was formerly a biology professor at Stony Brook University. His research interests include the philosophy of biology, the relationship between science and philosophy, the nature of pseudoscience, and the practical philosophy of Stoicism. Skye C. Cleary PhD MBA is a philosopher and author of Existentialism and Romantic Love (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). She teaches at Columbia University, Barnard College, the City University of New York, and previously at ThinkOlio, the New York Public Library, and in a prison.
51 minutes | Jul 1, 2021
The Rise of the Nones with Ryan Burge
A question on the minds of many theists and non-theists alike is why are so many Americans leaving religion and becoming religiously unaffiliated? What are the underlying factors causing this shift? In today's episode we dive into what the data shows about this movement with Ryan Burge, author of the new book The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, And Where They Are Going (Fortress Press, 2021). Ryan speaks about how the field of social science is changing with the improvements made to surveying, the underlying causes moving people to become less religiously affiliated, unpacking why America has been so historically religious compared to other countries, how religious economy theory fits into this the rise of the nones, and the role the internet has played in shifting people away from religion. Ryan Burge is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Graduate Coordinator at Eastern Illinois University and a pastor in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
46 minutes | Jun 10, 2021
Greg Paul on the Lost Children and the Implications of Natural Evil
In the June/July issue of Free Inquiry, today's guest Greg Paul makes the case that a loving God cannot possibly exist next to all the suffering and death, children have had to endure throughout human history. In his piece, he claims this fact has the, "...potential to accelerate the already rapid decline of the illusion that is theism." On today's episode we speak with Greg Paul on what lead him to start looking into this idea, some of the various factors causing the decline of religion throughout the world, what happened after he published his findings in the Philosophy & Theology journal, and the link he sees between the religious right's stance against abortion and their hypocrisy. Greg Paul is a researcher, author, and paleoartist. His articles and artwork have appeared in Time, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Science, Nature, National Geographic, Discover, Scientific American, Natural History and Smithsonian.
44 minutes | May 27, 2021
Inside the Group Investigating Extraordinary Paranormal and Supernatural Claims
The Center for Inquiry Investigations Group tests extraordinary claims from anyone who believes they have paranormal or supernatural abilities like telekinesis, mind reading, and many otherworldly talents. The group offers a $250,000 prize for anyone able to prove a paranormal ability under mutually agreed upon test conditions. The group then reports on each of these investigations including the details of the claims, the parameters of the tests, and findings or lack thereof. The Center for Inquiry Investigations Group combines the principles of skepticism and practical science to debunk and disprove the existence of psychic powers, hauntings, and various paranormal claims. In this episode, co-host and Chair of the Investigations Group Jim Underdown speaks with members of the group to explore why they joined the group, details of past investigations, and the importance of the work.Inside the Group Putting Paranormal and Supernatural Claims to the Test
49 minutes | May 13, 2021
Annabelle Gurwitch on Living Through Ups and Downs
Annabelle Gurwitch is an award-winning actress, comedian, and writer. She's also a secular humanist and a skeptic, though that hasn't always been the case -- at least not the skeptic part. On this episode Annabelle speaks with host, Jim Underdown about her beliefs, her new book, life as a performer, new age religions and cults, and dealing with adversity. Annabelle's latest book, You're Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility (Counterpoint Press, 2021) is an insightful trip through trying times as experienced by a funny woman with a flair for living.
35 minutes | Apr 15, 2021
Interview with David Javerbaum, Daily Show Writer and host of Godcast Podcast
David Javerbaum is the guest on this week's episode of Point of Inquiry. David discusses his early writing career and his current gig as God. David discusses starting out with The Onion and what it was like working with David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. As former head writer and producer on the Daily Show, David gives his insights into what it was like working on the show and its cultural impact. David is also the mastermind behind the popular TheTweetOfGod Twitter account and host of the related podcast, Godcast. What began as the book, The Last Testament: A Memoir has since moved on to become a successful Broadway play and was the impetus behind creating the Twitter account. David goes into how it all started and what the journey has been like.
42 minutes | Mar 30, 2021
Behind The Mind of a Conspiracy Theorist
Have you wondered what it's like to get caught up in a conspiracy theory? QAnon, the 9/11 truth movement, lizard people who want to take over the world. What does it take for rational humans to believe such outstandingly irrational beliefs? In this week's episode, Leighann Lord speaks to Stephanie Kemmerer about her personal journey falling in and eventually coming out of being a conspiracy theorist. She began as a 9/11 Truther, believing that 9/11 was an inside job, and eventually came out of that movement as she discovered people she knew were personally affected by Sandy Hook. Kemmerer speaks about the psychology and mindset that led her and others down the rabbit hole, what she sees in QAnon believers, the huge role that social media and YouTube play in moving people into conspiracy theories, the dopamine hit when digging for the supposed truth, and how you can help others find their way out. Stephanie Kemmerer is a researcher and writer for the podcast, Even the Podcast Is Afraid and an occasional contributor for the Southern Oddities podcast. She is a contributing author to Skeptical Inquirer. You can reach her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @mcpasteface
40 minutes | Feb 19, 2021
An Atheist and a Christian Walk Into a Bar
An Atheist and a Christian Walk Into a Bar | Overcoming Differences America is as polarized as it's been in decades as our citizenry draws lines in the sand over a variety of issues. Friends and family who hold different political or religious persuasions may find it hard to impossible to hold civil conversation together. One friendship hasn't suffered because of all this divisiveness. Jim speaks to Christian Pastor Joe Manno of the Revelation Church in Florida. Joe and Jim have been friends since they met on the set of Cagney and Lacey in the mid-80s. Their conversations touches on how they've stayed friends and how they believe others can look past differences; by making the problem simple and only taking people for people. Manno recounts to Underdown his many experiences that have solidified his faith in a higher power, how miraculously not a single person in Manno's congregation would have anything negative to say to an atheist, and the importance of looking past a person's beliefs to their experiences in order to understand them even when their beliefs counter your own humanity.
47 minutes | Dec 24, 2020
The Trouble with Christmas for Atheists with Tom Flynn
Christmas in 2020 will be unlike any other in recent history due to COVID 19. Nevertheless, Christians around the world will be finding ways to celebrate the birth of Christ. On this episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim speaks to Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine and author of The Trouble With Christmas. Affectionately known as the Anti-Claus, Tom gives some insight to when Jesus may actually have been born, the origins of the Christmas holiday, how traditions have changed over the centuries, modern day customs surrounding the event, and the alleged "War on Christmas", real and imagined. Happy just another day everyone! We are proud to announce that this episode of Point of Inquiry was sponsored by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund. Our friends, Spike Wadsworth and Sherry Sheng, are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to thought-provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture. We are grateful for their support. If you would like to learn more about how to support Point of Inquiry or the work of its umbrella organization, the Center for Inquiry, please contact our Director of Development, Connie Skingel, at email@example.com.
32 minutes | Nov 25, 2020
Revisiting The Life Of Frank Sinatra – Living A Life Of Homelessness
In 1997 Jim produced and directed a short documentary called “A Day in the Life of Frank Sinatra” that was an exploration of what it was like to be a homeless man with a famous name. Twenty three years later, Frank Sinatra is recently off the streets, lives in a government-funded camper in Los Angeles, and is trying to live a normal life. In this episode, Jim sits down with Frank and asks him about being a cab driver, a one-time contestant on the “Gong Show”, about homelessness in Los Angeles for the last 28 years, the troubles and lasting damage addiction can cause, how Frank believes that no one is immune to turning to drugs, and his hopes for the future. This episode of Point of Inquiry does contain explicit language.
58 minutes | Nov 12, 2020
The Puritan Roger Williams, Church State Separation, and The Impact on Today
What does the Puritan founder of both the state of Rhode Island and the Baptist Church have to say about modern evangelicals? Roger Williams had certain ideas that didn't fit into 17th century England or its American colonies. Freedom of conscience, separation of church and crown, fair treatment of indigenous peoples, and supporting the rights of women were all a tough sell in the 1600s. But sell he did, and though Roger Williams is far from a household name in 2020, some of his ideas still reverberate through our country and our world. In this episode, Jim Underdown speaks to Roger Williams' 12th great-granddaughter, Becky Garrison, about her book, Roger Williams's Little Book of Virtues. They speak about and his legacy, dive into his beliefs and their context in the 1600s, and how much of Williams' legacy impacts us today.
38 minutes | Oct 22, 2020
J.R. Becker on the Annabelle and Aiden Book Series and Teaching Children Critical Thinking
Author J.R. Becker joins Leighann Lord in this episode of Point of Inquiry to speak about his book series, Annabelle & Aiden. The series is a pro-science children's book series that explores science, philosophy, and critical thinking. Their conversation dives into: What inspired Becker to write the series How the books teach critical thinking and a skeptical outlook to children and why that's important The push back the series has had from various religious groups How adults can enjoy and learn from these books as well What's in store in Annabelle & Aiden's future You can learn more about the Annabelle & Aiden series on annabelleandaiden.com
48 minutes | Oct 8, 2020
Chris Matheson on Writing Bill and Ted and his Books on God and Buddha
Screenwriter and author Chris Matheson joins Jim in this episode which touches on the recently released Bill & Ted Face the Music, then dives deeply into Matheson's two comedic books on the Bible and the Buddha. In his The Story of God, Chris gets into the mind of what must be an insane and sadistic deity by using the Bible itself to retell the story. In The Buddha's Story, he points his rapier wit at the “Awakened One” -- also through scripture -- and unveils a religious icon most would find rather reprehensible. Both books find a way to raise incisive questions about key religious figures in a very humorous way. Chris Matheson is one of those rare people who can get people to laugh and learn at the same time. You can find both of Matheson's books, The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate) and The Buddha's Story on Amazon We are proud to announce that this episode of Point of Inquiry was sponsored by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund. Our friends, Spike Wadsworth and Sherry Sheng, are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to thought-provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture. We are grateful for their support. If you would like to learn more about how to support Point of Inquiry or the work of its umbrella organization, the Center for Inquiry, please contact our Director of Development, Connie Skingel, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Point of Inquiry has a listener survey available that we are asking you to complete! Visit the survey at bit.ly/poisurvey. Filling out the survey will help the show grow and improve as we understand the fine folks who listen. Thank you.
54 minutes | Sep 24, 2020
Rev. Barry W. Lynn on The Supreme Court, Retirement, and His Upcoming Book
The recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left many shaken. A few weeks prior to her passing, Leighann Lord had the opportunity to speak with Rev. Barry Lynn, former executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the Constitution’s religious liberty provisions. Rev. Lynn has spent much of his career working between religion, government, and fighting for the rights of marginalized communities. He and Lord discuss his new retirement and how it was not what he was anticipating, stories from his new book, “You Don’t Know Me - But You Might Have Heard of Some of the People I’ve Met”, the importance of the separation of church and state, the hyper-politicization of US politics, how we've moved away from finding creative compromises, and how this has bred a new kind of evil in men like Tucker Carlson. Finally, Rev. Lynn speaks his views on the Supreme Court and what needs to change for anything meaningful to happen and how even before Justice Ginsburg's passing, the difficultly and unlikelihood that certain policies, like The Green New Deal or Medicare for All, would be passed. You can find out what Rev. Lynn is up to by visiting his website or twitter. We are proud to announce that this episode of Point of Inquiry was sponsored by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund. Our friends, Spike Wadsworth and Sherry Sheng, are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to thought-provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture. We are grateful for their support. If you would like to learn more about how to support Point of Inquiry or the work of its umbrella organization, the Center for Inquiry, please contact our Director of Development, Connie Skingel, at email@example.com. Point of Inquiry has a listener survey available that we are asking you to complete! Visit the survey at bit.ly/poisurvey. Filling out the survey will help the show grow and improve as we understand the fine folks who listen. Thank you.
54 minutes | Sep 10, 2020
Dr. Raymond Hall on Physicsfun and Teaching Critical Thinking
One professor is using social media to remind us that physics is the real magic of the universe. Through showing off his massive collection of science gadgets and physics toys, Dr. Raymond Hall is teaching many, young and old, the wonderful world of physics and how everyday phenomena is just science in action. In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Dr. Raymond Hall joins Jim Underdown as Hall explains how his physicsfun Instagram was started and how it launched into popularity, the power of social media to spread awareness of science, physics, and complex topics, Professor Hall's research into why people believe in pseudoscience and magical thinking, and his quest to answer this question: does simply teaching science or methodology innoculate folks from believing misinformation and pseudoscience or do you need to do more? Dr. Raymond Hall is a professor of Physics at California State University-Fresno. His work has involved working with a team that discovered the top quark, a fundamental particle of nature. You can see more of his great physicsfun experiments on Instagram and Youtube. This Week's Music “Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0 “Cold” by Pictures of the Floating World / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 “Teahouse and Bamboo Trees” by springtide / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
41 minutes | Aug 20, 2020
The Brazen Atheist Erin Louis on Countering Conspiracists With Critical Thinking
Would you rather have your children looking at QAnon conspiracy Youtubers or porn online? That's a question author Erin Louis has had to confront with her teenage son. How do you employ critical thinking, media literacy, and a skeptical mindset in the every day world to make a real impact. In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Erin Louis joins Leighann Lord as they discuss her journey through the freethought movement, countering conspiracists with critical thinking, why she wrote Expose Yourself, stories from her life as a stripper, and how to get over our unconscious or implicit biases. Erin Louis, also known as the Brazen Atheist, has authored the books EXPOSE YOURSELF: How To Take Risks, Question Everything and Find Yourself - Humor and Insights From My Life As a Stripper, Dirty Money: Memoirs of a Stripper, and Think You Want To Be A Stripper? Her goal is to facilitate and foster self acceptance and critical thinking. You can follow Erin on her website erinlouis.com and on twitter @ErinLouis666
49 minutes | Jun 26, 2020
Scientology in Hollywood | A Guided Tour
Looming over the sidewalk of Hollywood, California are tens of millions of dollars of buildings owned by the Church of Scientology. This beleaguered religion may have had a decade of bad PR, but they still own a substantial amount of real estate in California and Florida. In this week's episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim Underdown decided to ride his bike to six major Scientology facilities in Hollywood. Activist Tory Christman, who spent 30 years in the "Church" of Scientology, spoke with Jim the following day to sit down and walk listeners through what happens in these buildings. You can follow along below with the pictures that Jim took while on his bike.
60 minutes | Jun 9, 2020
Monuments to Misinformation | The Ark Experience & Creation Museum
A short drive south of Cincinnati, OH, lie two well-funded, well-executed museums dedicated to the telling of biblical "history." The Creation Museum and the Ark Experience came about through Answers in Genesis, a Christian Apologetics organization, and its founder and CEO, Ken Ham. While the modern science-based community always found fault in these propaganda factories' notions about the age of the earth (6000 years), and the theory of evolution (it's wrong) -- among myriad other beliefs -- the Ark Encounter brought a new layer of controversy to the table when it was granted land, cash, and tax kickbacks by local government and the state of Kentucky at taxpayers expense. A documentary called We Believe in Dinosaurs looks at some of the issues surrounding these facilities through the eyes of both believers and skeptics. Joining Jim Underdown on this episode of Point of Inquiry are Rob Boston, Communications Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Dan Phelps, President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, and Monica Long Ross, one of the co-directors of We Believe in Dinosaurs.
41 minutes | May 21, 2020
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.
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