Atheists Talk

Radio with a frankly atheist perspective.

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"The Believing Brain" Michael Shermer on Atheists Talk #145, Sunday, December 11, 2011

Michael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptics Society and editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine. He is the author of several books on the topics of belief and the history of science. His latest book is The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.

In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world's best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.

Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.

Join us on Sunday as we discuss why the processes that help our brains makes sense of the world also trip us up and make it easy to believe strange things. Interview by Carl Hancock and August Berkshire. Hosted by Stephanie Zvan.

Related Links

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

"The Believing Brain: Why Science Is the Only Way Out of Belief-Dependent Realism"

The Believing Brain reviewed at Science-Based Medicine

Michael Shermer's main page

The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

 

Atheists Talk is produced with funding from the Minnesota Atheists and the Humanists of Minnesota. We also wish to thank Q. Cumbers restaurant for purchasing on-air advertising and for providing a great place to eat and gather. This radio program is put together by dedicated volunteers and the generous donations of listeners. If you are able to help with a donation please consider doing so at our Radio Fund page.

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Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists.Stream live online. Call in to the studio: 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org">radio@mnatheists.org during the live show.

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"The Rap Guide to Evolution" Baba Brinkman on Atheists Talk #144, December 4th, 2011

Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rap artist, writer, actor, and tree planter. He is well known for blending rap music and literature and science. He coined the term "lit hop" to describe his literature-based rap music.

Baba Brinkman earned a Master of Arts in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature and he studied human evolution and primatology with the orangutan researcher BirutĂ© Galdikas. His thesis compared modern Hip hop freestyle battling with The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

From Baba Brinkman's website.

To date Baba has written or co-written five hip-hop theatre shows, including The Rap Canterbury Tales, The Rap Guide to Evolution, and The Rebel Cell, with MC Dizraeli. He won three awards and entertained thousands while performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for six of the past seven years. Baba is also the founder of Lit Fuse Records, which represents Aaron Nazrul and the Boom Booms, Smoky Tiger, and Mud Sun, as well as his own music. Besides executive producing and developing new talent through his label, Baba has recorded and released seven solo albums since 2004.

The Rap Guide to Evolution won the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award in Edinburgh in 2009, and went on to tour the USA, Australia, and the UK, including three appearances at regional TED conferences, an off-Broadway showcase, and an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show on US national television. The Rap Guide to Evolution is currently enjoying an extended off-Broadway run in New York, produced by Dovetail Productions.

Baba Brinkman will join Atheists Talk to discuss The Rap Guide to Evolution this Sunday. Make sure to tune in!

Related Links: 

Atheists Talk is produced with funding from the Minnesota Atheists and the Humanists of Minnesota. We also wish to thank Q. Cumbers restaurant for purchasing on-air advertising and for providing a great place to eat and gather. This radio program is put together by dedicated volunteers and the generous donations of listeners. If you are able to help with a donation please consider doing so at our Radio Fund page.

 

SUBSCRIBE TO THE iTunes PODCAST
SUBSCRIBE TO THE STANDARD RSS FEED
Write a review of Atheists Talk

Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists.Stream live online. Call in to the studio: 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show.

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"Believing Bullshit" Stephen Law on Atheists Talk #143, November 27, 2011

Stephen Law (Oxford, England) is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London; provost for the Centre for Inquiry UK; and the editor of Think: Philosophy for Everyone (a journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy). He is the author of numerous books for adults as well as children, including The Greatest Philosophers, Companion Guide to Philosophy, The War for Children's Minds, and Really, Really Big Questions, among other works. His latest book, for adults, is Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole.

Wacky and ridiculous belief systems abound. Members of the Heaven's Gate suicide cult believed they were taking a ride to heaven on board a UFO. Muslim suicide bombers expect to be greeted after death by 72 heavenly virgins. And many fundamentalist Christians insist the entire universe is just 6,000 years old.

Of course it's not only cults and religions that promote bizarre beliefs. Significant numbers of people believe that aliens built the pyramids, that the Holocaust never happened, and that the World Trade Center was brought down by the US government.

How do such ridiculous views succeed in entrenching themselves in the minds of sane, intelligent, college-educated people and turn them into the willing slaves of claptrap? How, in particular, do the true believers manage to convince themselves that they are the rational, reasonable ones and that everyone else is deluded?

Believing Bullshit identifies eight key mechanisms that can transform a set of ideas into a psychological flytrap. Philosopher Stephen Law suggests that, like the black holes of outer space, from which nothing, not even light, can escape, our contemporary cultural landscape contains numerous intellectual black-holes—belief systems constructed in such a way that unwary passers-by can similarly find themselves drawn in. While such self-sealing bubbles of belief will most easily trap the gullible or poorly educated, even the most intelligent and educated of us are potentially vulnerable. Some of the world's greatest thinkers have fallen in, never to escape.

Listen on Sunday as we discuss the book with Professor Law and try to avoid being bleeped by the engineer.

Related Links

Atheists Talk is produced with funding from the Minnesota Atheists and the Humanists of Minnesota. We also wish to thank Q. Cumbers restaurant for purchasing on-air advertising and for providing a great place to eat and gather. This radio program is put together by dedicated volunteers and the generous donations of listeners. If you are able to help with a donation please consider doing so at our Radio Fund page.

 

SUBSCRIBE TO THE iTunes PODCAST
SUBSCRIBE TO THE STANDARD RSS FEED
Write a review of Atheists Talk

Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio: 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show.

Add a comment

Shawn Lawrence Otto on Atheists Talk #142, November 20, 2011

This week on Atheists Talk, hosted by Stephanie Zvan, Greg Laden will interview author Shawn Otto.

Shawn Lawrence Otto has just launched his book, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, a richly documented and well-reasoned analysis of modern science denialism, especially addressing climate change. Shawn notes that scientists are inherently apolitical in their work, but that science itself is always political, and ties this important observation into recent patterns of partisan maneuvering, questionable journalistic ethics even among the upper echelon of the fourth estate, and religious distortion of scientific findings and science-based policy making.

Join us on air for what is guaranteed to be a lively and enlightening conversation, and then join us at Q. Cumbers for brunch. If you bring a copy of Shawn Otto's book and a pen, you can get it signed!

We would also like to note that this Sunday's Q. Cumbers brunch will be also be a meet-up of a different kind. There will be at least three FTB.com (Freethought Blogs) bloggers at the brunch, Stephanie, Greg, and coming down from Canada with his wife Jodi, Jason.

Shawn Lawrence Otto's website is here.

Atheists Talk is produced with funding from the Minnesota Atheists and the Humanists of Minnesota. We also wish to thank Q. Cumbers restaurant for purchasing on-air advertising and for providing a great place to eat and gather. This radio program is put together by dedicated volunteers and the generous donations of listeners. If you are able to help with a donation please consider doing so at our Radio Fund page.


SUBSCRIBE TO THE iTunes PODCAST
SUBSCRIBE TO THE STANDARD RSS FEED
Write a review of Atheists Talk

Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio: 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show.

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