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This week on Think Atheist Radio we're featuring our chat with Dr. George Church. Dr. Church performed his undergraduate studies in Chemistry and Zoology at Duke University before moving on to Harvard University for his MA and PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is now a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His work has led to advancements in the next generation of genome sequencing and synthesis of cell and tissue engineering, with the result being that he has either founded, co-founded, or advised 22 biotechnology companies. He has started the Personal Genome Project to seek volunteers to have their personal genome made publicly available. He is Director of the US Department of Energy Center for Bioenergy at Harvard and MIT and Director of the National Institutes of Health Center for Genomic Excellence at Harvard. With 50 patents and 270 papers published, 2011 saw Dr. Church's election the National Academy of Science. He recently released a book, co-written with Ed Regis, titled Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. We asked Dr. Church to join us to discuss how advancements in synthetic biology will impact our lives, the challenges left to overcome, and the ethical considerations involved. Do listen in!
No, you can't become an expert in something in 10,000 hours. That and other "facts" that aren't really facts.
50 reasons to boycott the Catholic Church.
A year in jail for not believing in god. How Kentucky is persecuting atheists.
These maps are sobering, showing the low-lying coastal areas in the US that are likely to be swamped by rising waters due to climate change. This, while the UN is reporting that seas are rising 60% faster than forecasts. Just as worrisome and demanding of action, Arctic permafrost is melting faster than predictions. Indeed, an area of Arctic sea ice the size of the United States melted this year. Greenland and Antarctica have lost 4 trillion tons of ice in the last 20 years. Owing to a La Nina condition, 2012 is likely to finish up being the 9th warmest year on record with 9 of the 10 warmest on record coming in the years since 2001. Ignoring the problem isn't working.
Conjoined twins that may share a mind pose interesting questions for the philosophy of mind (to say nothing of the existence of a soul).
Should scientists– particularly climate scientists– be bolder in public?
Ex-Muslim atheists are becoming more vocal.
Antarctic lake find pushes back the limits of what life can endure, has implications for the search for life elsewhere.
Inattentional and change blindness are two aspects of cognitive science research into how our minds work. Steven Novella asks, if you can't identify where something is when you probably ought to be able to, is it because you didn't notice or that you don't remember. Fascinating stuff with implications for perception, memory, and critical thinking.
Evangelicals are becoming more devout, Catholics less so.
A new study claims to find an association between air pollution and autism. But upon closer examination...
Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander claims that his weird experiences while in a coma are evidence that consciousness exists apart from the body and Heaven is real. John Horgan, having experimented for a time with psychedelics, asks whose experience we're supposed to believe are true, Alexander's tale of beauty, or Horgan's horrible visions under the influence of drugs.
An Australian judge this week rejected the argument from a mother who claimed that her homeopathic regime was as effective as real medicine for her son. Meanwhile, in the UK MMR vaccination rates reach a 14 year high. However, the rate is still less than what experts consider necessary for herd immunity. Whooping cough is also an issue as three more babies have died in the UK, bringing the total of infant deaths this year to 13 for an entirely preventable illness.
Humans may be headed back to the Moon, and, perhaps, beyond.
Questions continued to swirl around what NASA might have discovered on Mars following the breathless comments by Curiosity project leader that this would be "for the history books" and "earthshaking." Then NASA backpedaled, seeming to describe the find not as they had but as merely "interesting." But it was a big let down when that same project leader clarified his statements as describing the entire mission, not some particular find.
Pat Robertson says that you should trust science, Young Earth Creationism isn't true! Yes. THAT Pat Robertson.
A science writer says stupid things about creationism, science, and atheism.
These incredible images of swirling clouds at Saturn's north pole simply must been seen.
Lots of excitement over a piece appearing in the New York Times alleging that a species of jellyfish may hold the keys to human immortality. But. It doesn't. And a careful reading of the piece shows why.
This black hole is positively huge. It's just... Seriously. Just click the link. Amazing...
When arguing about pseudoscience here's a helpful analogy.
Civil unions for gay couples are now on the fast track toward passage in the Colorado legislature.
Bayes Theorem is an incredible tool for skeptics looking to be more rigorous in their critical thinking. But its sometimes a little unwieldy. That's why this post is so helpful, making Bayes much easier to employ.
Following the recent death in a Catholic hospital in Ireland of a woman who was denied a termination to save her life you would think that the Irish people would have woken up to a reality. Alas, no. This week they voted down a measure that would have allowed abortion to save the life of the mother.
New research offers that when people make moral judgements they're speedy and extreme.
NASA warns that talk of a Mayan apocalypse has a dark side as it risks people committing suicide to avoid what they believe is coming.
Bill O'Reilly calls David Silverman a fascist for... ya know... insisting that the constitution's Establishment Clause is honored.
Bible believers would do well to learn just what's in their book.
One of the nominations for Time magazine's Person of the Year is the Higgs boson. But the magazine's description of the particle hardly goes one sentence without an error of some kind.
Water ice and organic material has been identified on Mercury.
The first computer model to produce complex behavior performs almost as well as humans at simple number tasks.
The Republicans are so worried about the minority and female demographics, and rightly so, but the demographic they should really be worried about is the non-religious.
We often investigate questions about morality by reasoning from how we talk about morality– as if it has an objective quality– to descriptions of morality. But that doesn't seem to be the right way to go about it.
Free Schools in the UK are exploiting loopholes in order to promote creationism on the public's dime. But a new ruling will put a stop to that.
Anti-feminist atheists choose sexism over a commitment to rationality.
Along with artificial intelligence comes the ethical conundrums: if you have a self-driving car, should it run you and it off the road to avoid hitting a bus full of children?
Often it seems a week doesn't pass with a new study being touted for its association between one food or another and cancer. Two researchers have taken a look at those studies and have found little reason to worry about their claims.
Have you heard??? Bigfoot DNA! Ya srsly!