Podcast about “Expelled”.

Here’s a podcast from Skepticality, of Skeptic Magazine, about the upcoming film Expelled. The documentary, by Ben Stein, is about Intelligent Design, which as most of us know is the latest disguise to be put on creationism.

Now, many would cite the old notion that you can put a pretty dress on a pig, but it is still a pig, and thus this film will just crash and burn. But apparently it is a well made, humorous film, and uses a high level of sophistication to put forth the same old creationist inaccuracies and nonsense. Note — I use the term “sophisticated” in the sense of “sophisticated propoganda”.

Skeptic Magazine also has some additional information on the web. Get informed.

Michael Shermer speaks!

Last night I went up to the community college to hear Michael Shermer, of Skeptic Magazine, speak on the topic of “why people believe weird things”. Here’s the press release.

Why People Believe Weird Things” is, of course, the title of one of his books, which was orignally published in 1997. I’m happy to say I read it when it came out, and after weeding my personal book collection down to practically nothing it is one of the few that survived the slaughter, right next to the rest of my science/skepticism/pseudoscience material. I wish I’d thought to take it to the lecture to get it signed. Next time!

I sat next to and spoke to an interesting couple. Both had been raised with very fundamentalist religious upbringings. As they said, they were taught to filter their experience through the lens of biblical literalism.  At some point they both decided there were too many contradiction between their religious worldview and actual reality, so they began reading about science, became interested in critical thinking and skepticism (and I use the term skepticism in the more popular sense, rather than the more specific philosophical sense), and eventually adopted the scientific worldview (for lack of a better term). They say it took a couple of years to really break the old mental habits. Anyway, just an interesting conversation.

Back to Shermer’s talk — he took bits and pieces from his various books, mixed it with some interesting and entertaining video clips — and, well, it was good. Having read a lot of his material and having been into the whole science/skepticism thing for a long time, I didn’t find a lot of new ideas, but it was cool to actually be there for the live presentation. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room with that many like-minded people before, which was kind of weird.

Of course, the lecture was at the local community college, so I realize there may have been a lot of students there involuntarily, haha. But what a great experience for a young student! I would love to have heard someone like this in college. I’m sure that for at least a few this was an eye-opening experience.

So a huge thanks to CCCCD.edu for having Michael Shermer out. And an even bigger thanks to Shermer himself for visiting North Texas.

There were two young guys behind me who had brought there books with them to get signed. I overheard them talking about various related subjects/thinkers, and the topic of Carl Sagan came up.  Both these guys were about 7 years old when he died. Watching Cosmos on PBS was kind of a formative experience for me. It is good to know that Sagan continues to be a positive influence on young people. We need another Carl Sagan.

That is all.

Zeitgeist

There’s a great conspiracy movie floating around the ‘net right now, called Zeitgeist. Very entertaining, but almost all bullshit. The stuff about the Federal Reserve is particularly amusing (totally incorrect, of course, but amusing in a science-fiction sort of way). Then there’s that old line about how you don’t have to pay your income tax, and of course how 911 was an inside job.

Here’s some interesting comments on the James Randi Educational Foundation message board.

Here are some good debunking links from that thread:

The God Who Wasn’t There analysis
Loose Change Guide
Debunking Federal Reserve CTs
Income Tax myths

From Popular Mechanics:
http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1227842.html?page=1

and Scientific American:
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=13&articleID=000DA0E2-1E15-128A-9E1583414B7F0000

To me, the most obvious question for these kinds of conspiracy nuts is this: IF you have discovered the Truth with a capital T, and you have made this movie, THEN why is the movie still up on Google, and why are you still alive?

TED talks

I just discovered this website:

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

 If you enjoy fascinating lectures, this site will make you happy. Registration is free, and from there you can download the talks in various formats. Here is a short excerpt from the “about” page:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 100 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

Interesting podcasts

If you are interested in skepticism, religion, science, and related issues, you might want to check out the podcasts available as MP3 files from Skeptic Magazine and Point of Inquiry. I’ve been listening to a lot of these lately, and they are really pretty good. Interviews with people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Ann Druyan, etc. Good stuff.