My latest hosted episode of the show just went up:
Ever been in an argument with someone and felt massively frustrated, because nothing you can say seems to change the person’s mind?
Maybe that’s what you should expect to happen. Maybe you should get used to it.
According to University of Michigan political scientist Brendan Nyhan, that’s how our minds work-and it’s not just that. When it comes to politics, people who believe incorrect things tend to be strongly convinced that they’re right, and moreover, often become stronger in that conviction when they’re refuted.
It’s a pretty alarming aspect of human nature-but in this interview, Nyhan explains how we know what we do about people’s intransigent clinging to misperceptions, and how we can work to change that.
Brendan Nyhan is a political scientist and Robert Wood Johnson scholar in health policy research at the University of Michigan. He was previously a co-author of the political debunking website Spinsanity.com, and co-author of the New York Times bestselling book All The President’s Spin. He blogs at www.brendan-nyhan.com.
You can listen to the full show here.
My latest hosted episode of POI has gone up–it’s about the newly created Climate Science Rapid Response Team, formed by several climate researchers to battle back against misinformation. Here’s the show description:
For the community of scientists who study the Earth’s climate, these are bewildering times.
They’ve seen wave upon wave of political attacks. They’re getting accustomed to a public that grows more skeptical of their conclusions even as scientists grow more confident in them.
No wonder there’s much frustration out there in the climate science world—and now, a group of researchers have organized to do something about it. Their initiative is called the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, and it pledges to organize dozens of researchers to help set the record straight.
But can scientists really maintain a war room? What would that look like? How far can they go in fighting back against misinformation, without leaving themselves politically exposed?
To answer these questions, Point of Inquiry called up two of the initiative’s founders: John Abraham and Scott Mandia.
John Abraham is an associate professor of engineering at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has some 80 published papers, conference papers, and patents to his name.
Scott Mandia is a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in Selden, New York. He runs the “Global Warming Fact of the Day” group on Facebook, and is known as @AGW_Prof on Twitter.
You can listen to the new episode here.
Massimo Pigliucci thinks so. In his new book Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk, Pigliucci attempts to rescue the notion that there are claims we can rule out, and claims we can rule in—a real means of determining what’s science and what isn’t.
Along the way, Pigliucci touches on howlers like creationism and astrology, and borderland areas of research like SETI—and weighs whether science can ever hope to test claims about the supernatural.
Massimo Pigliucci is chair of the philosophy department at CUNY-Lehman College. He was formerly a professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook. He’s a prolific blogger and commentator on issues concerning science and skepticism and a prominent battler of creationists and other nonsense peddlers.
Its author was also one of our most popular guests on Point of Inquiry (listen here).
They’re the New Yorker‘s Michael Specter and Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives, and I recommend both heartily.
This week on Point of Inquiry, I’ve got one of my fellow Discover bloggers–Carl Zimmer–as a guest. Here’s the write up:
On the show this week, Point of Inquiry features one of our most distinguished science writers—Carl Zimmer. He’s the author of many acclaimed books, including Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, and now he’s taken on an experiment: Publishing his next book, Brain Cuttings, as an e-book, digital only.
The book collects Carl’s many writings about the brain—including essays about why we zone out, whether Google is making us stupid, and perhaps most memorable of all, the Singularity folks who think our brains will soon be downloadable. Needless to say, Zimmer isn’t quite so sure.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Zimmer also discussed why science’s biggest undiscovered continent is inside our heads—and what our growing understanding of the brain means for the future of religion.
Carl Zimmer has been called “as fine a science essayist as we have” by the New York Times Book Review. He contributes regularly the New York Times science section, as well as numerous other publications, and blogs for Discover magazine’s Discover Blogs site. In addition, he’s the author of seven books, including Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life, and teaches science and environmental writing at Yale University.
As the midterm election nears, Sheril has been doing some great blogging about Christine O’Donnell’s wacky views on science, religion, and the constitution.
On Friday, I’ll be mining this vein some more on Point of Inquiry. My guest: Top climate blogger Joe Romm, who will discuss the Tea Party movement’s anti-science and anti-environment tendencies, with particular respect to climate change.
Romm never pulls any punches, and for this show, um, he didn’t either.
So stand by….with the PZ Myers debate last time around–which is on track to be my most downloaded show–and now this one, I think we’re going to have a pretty popular run of programs.
The show just went up, and he’s my latest guest. Here’s the write-up:
Our guest this week needs no introduction for those in the skeptical and secular world. After all, he has a frakkin’ asteroid named after him.
He’s Phil Plait—science blogger extraordinaire for Discover Blogs, where he authors “Bad Astronomy.” Recently, Plait joined Point of Inquiry for a wide ranging conversation about standing eggs on end, Apollo moon landing deniers, wacky yet endearing Hollywood bad science, something called “spaghettification,” … and the end of the world.
Phil Plait is a skeptic and an astronomer, and former president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. He lectures widely across the country and is the author of two books, most recently Death from the Skies: These Are the Ways the World Will End.
I’m on a couple of podcasts recently talking about the clash within atheism between “New Atheists” and people like me.
First, I was on the “Reasonable Doubts” podcast discussing this topic for a good half hour or so. You can listen here. Many things came up, including the Templeton Foundation and the problem of online incivility. A few brief comments:
* On the Templeton Foundation, I’ve already had my say, and in a post that has been very interestingly ignored, reporter Dan Jones does a far better job than me at explaining why it is doesn’t make sense to discount views just because they may have received Templeton support. On an intellectual level, I think Dan really deserves an answer from those who dismiss Templeton funding and those who receive it in a blanket way. (Note: My post defending Templeton has not been prominently answered either, at least that I have seen.)
* I also am tired of the label “accommodationist.” It seems to imply that there is something weak about my view, as if I’m all ready to just cave to some common enemy. On the contrary, I think that I’m being tolerant and pragmatic.
There’s an added point here, which is that while some strong atheists may not like the “New Atheist” label, there doesn’t seem any consensus here–Vic Stenger has put it in the title of his book! However, I’m not sure any alleged “accommodationists” like or embrace the “accommodationist” label.
As for “Point of Inquiry,” I’m not sure yet how it is going to handle this very heated subject, or if it will do so on one of my own shows. We’ll see.
The latest episode of Point of Inquiry is something a little different–and I hope in a good way. Here’s the write-up:
Recently in Amherst, New York, two of Point of Inquiry’s hosts sat down for a special in-studio episode of the show. One was a conservative (Robert Price), one a liberal (Chris Mooney)—and both were atheists.
The topic they tackled: Is there any necessary correlation between one’s disbelief in God and one’s place on the political spectrum?
The result was a fascinating—and notably civil, and frequently entertaining—conversation ranging across foreign policy, abortion, stem cell research, animal rights, and many other topics. In the end, the discussants actually found not only much disagreement, but also some common ground.
The latest episode of Point of Inquiry just went up, with Bill McKibben, the author most recently of Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, a truly intense read (as I say on the show). You can download it here, and stream it here. Here’s the show’s description:
Global warming, we’re often told, is an issue we must address for the sake of our grandchildren. We need to cut carbon because of our moral obligation to future generations.
But according to Bill McKibben, that’s a 1980s view. As McKibben writes in his new book Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, the increasingly open secret is that global warming happened already. We’ve passed the threshold, and the planet isn’t at all the same. It’s less climatically stable. Its weather is haywire. It has less ice, more drought, higher seas, heavier storms. It even appears different from space.
And that’s just the beginning of the earth-shattering changes in store—a small sampling of what it’s like to trade a familiar planet (Earth) for one that’s new and strange (Eaarth). We’ll survive on this sci-fi world, this terra incognita—but we may not like it very much. And we may have to change some fundamental habits along the way.
Eaarth, argues McKibben, is our greatest failure.