Episode Archive for April 2013

Mary Roach - Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

April 29, 2013

In the science section at your local bookstore, you’ll find plenty of books on everything from the brain, to the climate, to the cosmos.

But how many books will you find that take you on a tour of the digestive tract—from our mouths, to our stomachs, to our intestines? Popular science writer Mary Roach’s new book, Gulp, does just that.

Decoding the science of taboo topics like vaginal weight-lifting, amputee bowling leagues, and how much food it takes to burst a human stomach has become the signature style of Roach, who has been described by…

Scott Atran - What Makes a Terrorist?

April 22, 2013

Back in the summer of 2011—just before the 10 year anniversary of 9/11—this show welcomed on Scott Atran, an anthropologist who is a leading expert on terrorism and violent extremism.

Now, in the wake of the Boston bombings and the dramatic capture of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, we called Atran back to discuss the first large scale U.S. terrorist bombing since 9/11.

As Atran’s research shows, the Tsarnaev brothers share many parallels with other young, disaffected men who opt for extremist violence around the world.

But Atran’s broader conclusion from the past week may…

Neil Gross - Why Are Professors (and Scientists) So Liberal?

April 15, 2013

We’ve all heard the claim: Academia is liberal. And it indoctrinates students.

It kills their religious faith and basically—or at least, so the allegation goes—transforms them into unkempt, pot-smoking hippies.

As it turns out, this claim is precisely half true. Yes, academia is really liberal. But no, this has virtually nothing at all to do with ideological brainwashing.

That’s the provocative claim of a new book by Neil Gross of the University of British Columbia. It’s entitled Why Are Professors Liberal? And Why Do Conservatives Care? And basically, it’s a powerful data analysis…

A.C. Grayling - The God Argument

April 08, 2013

Remember all the greatest hits of religious apologists—the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments for God’s existence?

You may have learned how to refute them in college—but not, perhaps, with the zest and humor shown by renowned philosopher A.C. Grayling in his new book The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism.

But Grayling isn’t just making a negative case—his book is about how to live, and flourish, without religion in your life. It’s about how to be good—and in the end about why, to find meaning, it’s important most of all to think.…

Frans de Waal - The Bonobo and the Atheist

April 01, 2013

You hear it a lot from religious believers: Faith is about doing good works, bringing about good in the world, and showing compassion.

In fact, some go further and argue that you can’t really be moral without religion.

Well, says primatologist Frans de Waal, they really ought to take a look at our close cousin the bonobo—in his new book The Bonobo and the Atheist.

For that matter, De Waal continues, those defending a faith-only version of morality ought to look at any number of moral, empathetic behaviors throughout the animal kingdom, in…