Episode Archive for August 2011

Scott Atran - Violent Extremism and Sacred Values

August 29, 2011

In less than two weeks, the ten year anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil—9/11—will be upon us.

In the past decade, there has been much debate and discussion about the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism. There has also been considerable scientific study of the matter.

Fortunately, Point of Inquiry recently caught up with the anthropologist Scott Atran, a world leader in this research. Atran has met with terrorists face to face. He has interviewed mujahedin, met with Hamas, talked to the plotters of the Bali bombing-and sometimes found his life…

Dan Barker - U-Turn on the Road to Damascus

August 22, 2011

Host Robert M. Price felt uncannily as if he were talking to himself when he interviewed Dan Barker, the two share so much in common. But then their story is not so unusual, come to think of it. The same sort of thing seems to be happening to more and more Evangelicals these days! 

For you see, Dan used to be an Evangelical preacher and a Christian musician. One day he started having second thoughts about the path he once imagined God had chosen for him. Whoever had urged him to pursue the ministry had no idea…

Did Reason Evolve For Arguing? - Hugo Mercier

August 15, 2011

Why are human beings simultaneously capable of reasoning, and yet so bad at it? Why do we have such faulty mechanisms as the “confirmation bias” embedded in our brains, and yet at the same time, find ourselves capable of brilliant rhetoric and complex mathematical calculations?

According to Hugo Mercier, we’ve been reasoning about reason all wrong.  Reasoning is very good at what it probably evolved to let us do—argue in favor of what we believe and try to convince others that we’re right.

In a recent and much discussed paper in the journal Behavioral and…

Donald Prothero - The Psychology of Cryptozoologists

August 08, 2011

Our guest this week is Donald Prothero, Professor of Geology at Occidental College, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. Don is a distinguished academic; a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Paleontological Society, he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

Don contributes to the SkepticBlog and he has been featured on several television documentaries, including episodes of Prehistoric Monsters Revealed and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts. He has edited and written numerous scientific papers, textbooks and books, including Evolution of the Earth, Evolution: What the…

David Frum and Kenneth Silber - Conservatives and Science

August 01, 2011

When it comes to the U.S. political right, it often appears that the opposition to science-and reason in general-is everywhere. From climate change denial to anti-evolutionism; from debt ceiling denial to, that’s right, incandescent light bulb availability denial; conservatives today have plenty to answer for.

Fortunately, some conservatives know it. And given how much he has blasted the “Republican War on Science” in the past, on this show Chris Mooney wanted to hear their take.

So he invited on David Frum. Frum is the editor of the group blog Frum Forum, a former…