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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 35: Philosophy of Religion and Jesus v. Salem with Dr. Matt McCormick

Dr. Matt McCormick is an atheist who teaches and publishes on philosophy of religion. He joins us to talk about his experiences examining philosophical religious claims, confronting a public fear of philosophy, and to explain why if you don’t believe witches performed magic in Salem, you shouldn’t believe Jesus performed magic in Jerusalem.

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The outline of our discussion:

  • Being an atheist in the field of philosophy of religion
  • Demographics of philosophy
  • Teaching philosophy of atheism
  • Why we shouldn’t strive to be apologists for atheism
  • Dealing with a fear of philosophy
  • Salem vs Jerusalem: evidence of magic
  • Accepting a low threshold for magic, and subsequently opening the floodgates for all the other crazy magical claims: Hindu Milk Miracle, Miracles and healings performed by Joseph Smith, miraculous levitations of Joseph of Cupertino (now the patron saint of aviation and also, perhaps comically, of mental handicaps), the miracle of the sun, and on and on and on…
  • Epistemology of accepting miracle claims
  • Faults, biases, and glitches in human cognition (for more: see our other episodes about cognitive biases)
  • Dangers posed to the information age
  • Daniel Dennett’s proposal to teach a comprehensive comparative religion course.
  • The social benefits of being out as an atheist, at least if you’re mildly well-adjusted and not an axe-wielding maniac

Books referenced in the show:

Find out more about Matt, because he’s pretty awesome:

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Cognitive Bias, Guest, New Episode, Philosophy

 

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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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