Thursday, September 22, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E19: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World with Catherine Nixey

Catherine Nixey is the author of The Darkening Age, which documents how early Christians burned texts, defaced or demolished statues, and became increasingly intolerant of any thought or behaviour that deviated from their interpretation of Scripture. Catherine and I discuss religious pluralism in the Roman Empire and how it changed after the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity - and why Christianity, despite its similarity to many other cults that arose at that time. It is a rare book that is well-researched, engrossing, on an interesting topic, and superbly written, but The Darkening Age is all of these. 

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Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E18: The Declaration of Modern Humanism with Andrew Copson

Andrew Copson (@andrewcopson) is the president of Humanists International, which published its Declaration of Modern Humanism earlier this year. Andrew describes the content of the Declaration and the process by which it was created, and we talk about how it differs from its 1952 and 2002 incarnations. 

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Monday, August 29, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E17: Will Artificial Intelligence bolster or destroy humanity? Christopher DiCarlo on the future of AI

Christopher DiCarlo is a philosopher of science and the founder of Critical Thinking Solutions. We start by discussing the potential future for Artificial Intelligence (AI); both to help humanity (through DiCarlo’s Onion Skin Theory of Knowledge (OSTOK) project), and how to avoid a robotic apocalypse. But we quickly realize that the most difficult question is: What would we want a perfectly functioning AI to do? This leads to a fascinating conversation about society, philosophy, and politics, before coming back to AI and our ability to integrate new technology into our mindset, outlook, and culture. 

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Friday, August 12, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E16: Eric Schnurer on what happens when territory no longer defines a government’s authority

Eric Schnurer is the author of the essay Democracy Disrupted: Governance in an Increasingly Virtual and Massively Distributed World. In it, Eric argues that the Internet will revolutionize our society on a scale similar to the agricultural and industrial revolutions, but on a timescale of years instead of decades or centuries. Eric and I discuss how Estonia points to how government services of the future may look, the importance (and eventual impotence) of antitrust enforcement, and how to reconcile the fact that most economic sectors are becoming more concentrated (with fewer competitors) with the unbundling and disaggregation that digitization allows. 

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E15: Brandon K. Gauthier on his book: Before Evil

Brandon K. Gauthier (@bk_gauthier) wrote Before Evil, about the childhoods of six of the twentieth century’s most notorious dictators, to show that even the most vile among us share a basic humanity. We must remember that if we are to avoid becoming like them. The two of us discuss the impetus for writing the book and Brandon reads a couple of excerpts. The passionate conversation ranges from the importance of democratic norms and structures in avoiding sliding into autocracy (reminiscent of PfI S01E05 with Miriam Mufti) and the importance of free expression while recognizing the difficulty of determining where its limits lie (echoing a discussion in PfI S01E06 with James Turk). Brandon emphasizes that we are all subject to ideologies that view others as less than human, and implores everyone to approach complex subjects with humility.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E014: John Gleason, the Godless Engineer, on Jesus mythicism and online activism

John Gleason is known online as the Godless Engineer (@GodlessEngineer Facebook) and has spent the past decade debunking religious apologists and anti-science beliefs. I ask John about his journey to atheism, and whether Jesus was a historical or mythical figure. John describes how he chose the audience he wanted to reach, and how he strives to be both memorable and entertaining. He talks about how his activism has affected his career and relations with his family, and concludes by giving some advice to activists just starting to find their voice. 

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E13: Emma Allen-Vercoe on the importance of microbes to human health

Dr. Allen-Vercoe (@EmmaAllenVercoe) talks about how to think of microbe populations across different people, and why they are important for digestion and overall health. She describes her research on the microbiome of the Yanomami, and why it is important. The role of serendipity in scientific progress is often underemphasized, and Emma shares how one such moment led to an enormous grant for colorectal cancer research. She explains her role in improving a disgusting but effective medical intervention. Finally, Emma summarizes her extensive efforts to fight pseudoscience and the need for personalized medicine in the years to come. 

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E12: David Good on the Yanomami and the Good Project

What is it like to stand astride two different worlds? Few people know better than David Good, born to an American father and Yanomami mother. Listen to David describe the experience of meeting his mother in the jungle after twenty years in suburban America and talk about the Yanomami equivalent of laws and means of settling disputes. Learn more about his efforts to protect the Yanomami way of life at The Good Project

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Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E11: Steven Pinker on Rationality and Humanist Values

Even as a young teenager, Dr. Steven Pinker (@sapinker) prized rationality as a virtue, and considered himself an anarchist. He changed that belief, however, when evidence indicated that anarchy was not a path to human flourishing. In this special episode, a co-production with the New Enlightenment Project, previous Podcast for Inquiry guest Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson returns as a co-host. Together, Lloyd and I explore with Dr. Pinker whether universities are betraying their mission, how the human brain spectacularly fails while also working wonders, the loose connections between science and technology with social and moral progress, and what humanity needs to do to continue to thrive for the next 50-100 years. 

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Podcast for Inquiry S01E10: William B. Davis: On Acting …and life.

William Davis is best known as the Cigarette Smoking Man on the popular TV show The X-Files. He is also the founder of The William Davis Centre for Actors’ Study and has just published a new book On Acting…and Life. William and I discuss how his presence on The X-Files expanded from the silent portrayal he gave in the pilot to the series’ most frequent recurring role, the importance of seeing the world from the perspective of the character you are portraying, and how William’s undergraduate education in philosophy informed both his career and his worldview. We discuss many tips, tricks, and traps to help any aspiring actor, and William shares a few insights that did not make it into the book. 

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A video recording is also available: