If you download podcasts on a regular basis, this is one to add to your iTunes list. If you’ve never downloaded a podcast before, or if you don’t use iTunes, click one of the links in the following paragraphs to read more and download an MP3 file that you can play on Winamp, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, or any other MP3 compatible media player.
Point of Inquiry is a weekly podcast produced by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), "a think-tank devoted to promoting science, reason, and freedom of inquiry in every field of human interest." From the Point of Inquiry website, CFI’s research areas are:
1. Pseudoscience and the paranormal (bigfoot, UFOs, psychics, communication with the dead, cryptozoology, etc.)
2. Alternative medicine (faith healing, homeopathy, belief in "healing touch," the efficacy of prayer, etc.)
3. Religion and secularism (church-state separation, the effects and proper role of religion in society, the future of secularism and nonbelief, etc.)
The show is hosted by DJ Grothe, who has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley and others on topics of education, humanism and secularism, and he has interviewed some of the most interesting luminaries in the fields of science and philosophy and critics of pseudoscience and the paranormal.
Some recent shows:
James Randi – Science Magic and the Future of Skepticism
Grothe interviews James Randi, author of Flim Flam! , The Truth About Uri Geller, and The Faith Healers in a discussion that takes place after Randi’s recent heart problems. It’s good to here The Amazing Randi back in proper form, speaking out against the bunk in faith healing and future of skepticism. In this interview, Randi recounts his early involvement in the skeptical movements after being expose to local faith healers (and his run-in with the law as he tried to expose them as an adolescent skeptic!). He gives a brief overview of his successes in debunking con artists like Uri Geller and Peter Popoff, who, Randi reveals, is back in action with a program of faith-healing on BET -fleecing money from willing believers.
Joe Nickel – Psychic Detectives
In this interview, Joe Nickel, the author of Psychic Sleuths and regular contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, discusses the motivations and methods of so-called psychic detectives who claim to assist the police in solving crimes. Points covered include the reasons why police investigators are often reluctant to discourage or deny assistance from "psychics," even if they don’t believe they’re genuine. Nickel also discusses Alison DuBois, for whom the fictional television show Medium is loosely based.
Daniel Dennett – Breaking the Spell
A wonderful interview with philosopher Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and, more recently, Breaking the Spell, which was the main topic of the interview. Dennett discusses the scientific study of religion and justifies how and why religion can and should be studied. Dennett’s book, for those that haven’t read it, is also high on my recommended reading list. He makes a solid case for the illogical nature of religious dogma and explores the human instinct of religiosity from a scientific perspective.
Richard Dawkins – The Root of All Evil?
Finally, Groethe interviews Richard Dawkins, author of The Ancestor’s Tale, The Devil’s Chaplain, and The Selfish Gene. The main theme of this discussion centers around Dawkins’ recent BBC production titled The Root of All Evil? in which Dawkins explores the failings of religiosity from a skeptic’s perspective. Dawkins discusses the two part documentary’s production and highlights some of those he interviewed. I watched both parts of this documentary in full, but it’s not yet available in the United States, and may not ever be. You can see a clip below.
There are many, many more interviews available at Point of Inquiry and these are just a few of my many favorites. Visit them and download your podcasts today! And, once you have, share with us here what your favorite shows were and why.