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Category Archives: Science

Episode 48: Abby Hafer – Unintelligent Design

Gabe and Erik chat with Dr. Abby Hafer about how the human body does not show the hallmarks of intelligent design. Plus, plenty of examples of better designs from the animal kingdom. And if you’re a fan of the intelligent design movement, be warned: they don’t come out on top in this episode.

Listen to this episode

Thanks again to Dr. Hafer for taking the time to chat with us!

Show outline:

How Abby got involved in criticizing the intelligent design movement (4:00)

  • Rebranding creationism as intelligent design
  • Abby emails her minister about testicles, which he reads over the pulpit
  • The human body provides a good vehicle to talk about biology to non-biologists

Intelligent Design does not do science; it is a political pressure group (12:20)

  • Science is a method of investigation, not a collection of facts
  • Science is really hard to do: experimentation, predictions, results, falsification, statistics, replication, peer-review
  • The quantitative difference between evolutionary biology and intelligent design papers
  • Hey, does anyone have a microscope? I’m trying to find my p-values!
  • Why scientists are bad at politics and debating

Unintelligent design in the human body, and animals with better body parts (26:20)

  • Bad design in the testicles
  • Traveling to Maine by way of Utah
  • Bad design in your throat
  • Choking on a hot dog isn’t just sexual innuendo, it’s a serious design flaw!
  • Bad design in your eyes
  • Squid can see polarized light, and you can’t. Some pinnacle of creation you are…
  • Bad design of the human birth canal
  • Pain during childbirth isn’t from Eden-era punishment; it’s because you aren’t a kangaroo or a centaur
  • Bad design in the fertilization process
  • God is the world’s busiest abortionist

The implications of bad design in the human body and some common responses (1:05:25)

  • These designs couldn’t really be better
  • The design flaws are a result of the devil fiddling with the plans!
  • God works in mysterious ways

Abby’s forthcoming book (1:18:45)

  • “The Not So Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not”
  • Why Soviet agriculture failed
  • The politics and history of intelligent design
  • Bad body parts
  • Way more cool stuff!

External links:

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Guest, New Episode, Science

 

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Episode 44: Daniel Dewey – Thinking Carefully About Artificial Intelligence

In this episode, Gabe and Dan have the opportunity to chat with Daniel Dewey about artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligence explosion. Daniel is a researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute, researching artificial intelligence, reinforcement learning, and how machines could have values.

Check out Daniel’s TEDx talk: The long-term future of AI (and what we can do about it)

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Some links to what we talked about:

The book we mentioned in the episode:

Links to other people whose cool research came up in the discussion:

Thanks for listening!

 
 

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Episode 43: Dr. Eric Meikle – Anti-evolutionism and Human Uniqueness

Continuing in their quest to talk about evolution, Erik and Gabe chat with Dr. Eric Meikle about the Nye-Ham debate, anti-evolutionism in the education system, and what makes humans unique in the animal kingdom. T’was a total blast, so listen up!

Dr. Eric Meikle is a physical anthropologist and the Education Project Director for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). He has done a lot of awesome work in the origins of humans, and countering groups who want to bring anti-evolution material into science classrooms in the public schools.

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The show:

  • The recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham
  • Countering anti-evolutionism in the public education system
  • What (if anything) makes humans unique compared to other animals?

Links:

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Guest, New Episode, Science

 

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Episode 42: Bad Objections to Evolution

We once again attempt to digitally celebrate Darwin Day with a few episodes about evolution. Here, we take on some bad and common objections to evolution.

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What does the show say? This:

  • Hello, listeners!
  • Wait, What…? Alan Keyes on the coming (sp?) gay dystopia
  • Evolution can’t happen, because something can’t come from nothing
  • Evolution takes too much time to have been observed, so we can’t know it’s true
  • Ring species (see a cool look at some of these here)
  • Micro evolution is true, but macro evolution is not
  • You never see a Crocoduck
  • Why don’t you see dogs giving birth to cats?
  • If humans came from apes, why are there still so many apes?
  • Darwin was wrong about some aspect of evolution
  • Hitler believed in evolution and used the principles to drive Nazi ideology
  • The human eye is too perfect to have evolved (find your blind spot!)
  • The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex and couldn’t have evolved
  • We don’t observe any transitional forms in the fossil record
  • Mutations are always negative, so they can’t be making us better and better
  • Mutations don’t create new information
  • Life is balanced on a razors edge (ex: because of the proportion of oxygen in our atmosphere), it is only rationally attributable to an intelligent creator – Cliffe Knechtle in a debate with Matt Dillahunty at 1:12:30
 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Mailbag, New Episode, Science, Wait What?

 

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Episode 40: Matthew Ferguson – Metaphysical Naturalism and Secular Humanism (Part 1)

We chat with Matthew Ferguson about metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism. It was a lot of fun and maddeningly interesting. This is part 1 of 2 of our discussion.

Matthew is currently a PhD student in Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He has written several scholarly papers about ancient history, and blogs about naturalism, secular humanism, and counter apologetics at his blogs Κέλσος and Civitas Humana.

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We discussed:

What is a worldview?

  • Comparing worldviews
  • Explanatory scope and explanatory power
  • Worldviews used as a rhetorical tool by presuppositional apologists

What are metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism?

  • What questions do each of these answer?
  • How do they fit together and compliment each other?
  • The relationship with methodological naturalism, physicalism, materialism, and atheism.
  • The role of science in our knowledge
  • Getting knowledge from science and history
  • Can a metaphysical naturalist or secular humanist be religious?
  • Making sense of minds, consciousness, shapes, numbers, propositions, and other abstract object on metaphysical naturalism

How does metaphysical naturalism compare to christian theism?

  • Eschatology
  • Rules to live by
  • Agreeing about reality
  • Authority
  • Religion, religious experience, and the evolution of agent over-detection

Books we referenced:

Matthew was kind enough to provide a metric ton of really great resources for anyone interested in learning more about what we were talking about. Check them out below:

Matthew’s Blogs:

Κέλσος

Civitas Humana

Resources for Naturalism:

The Naturalistic Worldview

Defining Theism, Atheism, Supernaturalism, and Naturalism (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Secular Outpost: Arguments for Naturalism (by Jeff Lowder)

The Best Argument Against God (by Graham Oppy)

Sense and Goodness without God (by Richard Carrier)

Naturalism’s Support among Professional Philosophers:

Even If Most Scientists Are Atheist, Don’t Philosophers Come to the Rescue for God and Religion? Turns Out, No. (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Teleological Argument for Naturalism:

Finely Tuning a Killer Cosmos (by Richard Carrier)

The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (by Victor Stenger)

Naturalism as the Best Explanation for Irrational Suffering:

The Evil-God Challenge (by Stephen Law)

Naturalism and Mind-Body Physicalism: 

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology: Biointerface Research Group

The Phineas Gage Case

Naturalism, Secular Humanism, and Ethics: 

Confused Metaphysics: Apologetic Efforts to Corner the Market on Ethics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Naturalism and Epistemology: 

C.S. Lewis’ Milk Jug: Apologetics and the Retreat into Epistemology (by Matthew Ferguson)

Evolutionary Naturalism, Theism, and Skepticism about the External World (by J. Wesley Robbins)

Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism Refuted (by Stephen Law)

Critical Review of Victor Reppert’s Defense of the Argument from Reason (by Richard Carrier)

Dishonest Apologetic Debate Tactics:

Southern Evangelical Seminary Tricks Bart Ehrman after a Public Debate with Mike Licona

A Response to Cliffe Knechtle’s Campus Apologetics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Counter-Apologetics:

Counter-Apologetics FAQ (by Matthew Ferguson)

 

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Episode 26: The Evolution of the Human Mind with Dr. Gary Marcus

Continuing with part 2 of our series about evolution, we cover a special topic within evolutionary biology. We are joined by Dr. Gary Marcus to talk about the oft-overlooked evolutionary history of the human brain. Our discussion draws largely from some of the chapters of Dr. Marcus’ book Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind. Read it and love it.

Dr. Marcus’ book Kluge shows that our brain, like the rest of our bodies, has evolved not to function well, but to function well enough. Evolution works with what it has, and cannot start over with a better design, regardless of how much better a new design might be. As a result, our brains work with neuro circuitry which did not evolve to help us solve complex problems or think critically–and yet they do (or, at least, our brains tell us they do). This presents interesting problems which might undercut common notions of our own rationality.

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Use your evolved brain to understand the following from our conversation:

  • Decisions about chocolate cake and sex
  • Quantified Self
  • Evolution of cognitive biases (familiarity biasstatus quo bias, etc)
  • The strength of evolutionary accounts of homosexuality
  • The halo effect and the pitchfork effect
  • How can we use our evolved brains to become better thinkers?

Dr. Marcus is a professor of Psychology at New York University, whose research covers neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, and molecular biology. He is also a best selling author and contributor to The New YorkerThe Wall Street Journal, as well as other important popular media. He is a top-notch writer, so check out his other books about psychology and neuroscience.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Cognitive Bias, Guest, New Episode, Science

 

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Episode 25: Evolution 101 with Dr. Zach

In celebration of Darwin Day, we embark on a short series about the theory of biological evolution. Gabe is joined by Dr. Zach to talk about the theory of evolution and natural selection. Dr. Zach is a microbiologist and secular activist in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and as you can tell from the episode, an entirely pleasant fellow.

Content covered:

  • Charles Darwin and Russel Wallace
  • Anthropomorphism in science
  • Natural selection, sexual selection (you know, breasts and penises), and random disasters
  • Adaptation and exaptation
  • Common misconceptions about biological evolution, and addressing them
  • Genetics and information in biology

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It’s worth noting as well by the way, that Dr. Zach also hosts the Apologia podcast, which was very influential on the content of style of NonTheology. They strive to be ecumenical while still hitting at some of the tough issues between theism and atheism, and they do a pretty solid job, so definitely go check them out. Incidentally, Apologia is also the name of a biblical creationist publishing company, producing textbooks and coloring books to “help homeschooling families learn, live, and defend the Christian faith”. Nice.

Other good evolution resources:

Plus, some other notables mentioned:

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Guest, New Episode, Science

 

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