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This week on Think Atheist Radio we have our chat with Dr. Christopher French. Dr. French is a Professor of psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London where he teaches courses on the psychology of paranormal beliefs and of ostensible paranormal experiences. He is the founder and head of that institution's Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit where research into these beliefs and the claims of paranormal experiences is conducted. Dr. French is the Special Adviser to and former Editor-in-Chief of The Skeptic magazine, the UK's premier and longest-running magazine for skeptics. Dr. French has been recognized as a Chartered Psychologist by the British Psychological Society, has been marked out by the British Humanist Association as a Distinguished Supporter, and is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He has published over 60 articles in peer-reviewed journals, is a frequent contributor to tv and radio in the UK, and is a regular contributor to the science news section of the UK newspaper The Guardian. We asked Dr. French to talk to us about the psychology of paranormal beliefs, scientific investigations into paranormal phenomena, and the philosophy of science generally. Join us!
If extreme weather becomes the norm, starvation awaits.
Panspermia is the idea that microbes could hitch a ride on a comet or meteor and seed life on another planet. But there's a paradox here. Because if life was so hardy that it could survive the conditions of space, shouldn't there be life everywhere we look? Can that paradox be solved?
Under pressure from the EU to pass the law, the government of Italy has stripped the Catholic Church in Italy of its tax exempt status. Beginning in 2013 the Church will pay taxes.
Motivated by the recent account by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander who while in a coma claims to have had experiences that should lead us all to conclude that consciousness exists apart from the body, Rebecca Watson tells of her experience in a dream of Narnia and concludes that therefore Narnia must be real too. A great parody.
A planet with FOUR suns has been discovered. Can you imagine being on the surface of that planet and looking up at the sky? Incredible.
I love this. Boing Boing's science contributor Maggie Koerth-Baker pointed to a parody of an anti-gay pamphlet (pdf). Produced by the group Box Turtle Bulletin, it shows how anti-gay groups misuse legitimate-seeming citations, twisted just the right way, in order to give the appearance of having support for their bigotry. Worth the read.
This week saw Ada Lovelace day. Don't know who she is? She was a pretty remarkable woman and she serves to focus us on all the remarkable women that go unnoticed. The Royal Society and Wikimedia put on an event that urged people to get on to Wikipedia to create pages for remarkable women that didn't have a page already, and to expand the pages that already existed but only in stubs.
How bristlecone pines give us insights into past and future climate.
The Merseyside Skeptics Society in the UK is challenging psychics to test their abilities under controlled conditions. Anyone want to lay bets?
After analyzing Eben Alexander's– the neurosurgeon who argues "I was in a coma and saw some shit, therefore God"– claims Steven Novella received a comment to his piece asking if critiquing harmless nonsense was a fruitful venture for skeptics. Novella's response is excellent.
Following California's lead, state lawmakers introduce bills against "ex-gay" therapy.
A Florida judge in a recent decision ruled in a way that seems to indicate that he thinks there's little difference between common Christian belief and schizophrenic delusion.
The RNA World hypothesis is the favored hypothesis for the process by which life arose from simple chemicals on the early Earth. However, there are questions about how the process would go exactly given the nature of RNA. A new paper, described by Ed Yong, seeks to explain a way around those questions.
State legislators say they're for religious freedom but don't be fooled. They're for the freedom to impose their religion on other people.
The favored theory of the formation of the Moon has been that it formed out of the debris from a collision between Earth and another Mars-sized planet in the early solar system. That theory has been called into question recently as a key prediction failed to be confirmed. But new modeling has rescued the theory and reconfirmed that it is the most likely.
Has the discovery of the Higgs meant the end to particular physics?
Kyle Hill at Scientific American uses surveys of people's perception of the risk of smoking and second-hand smoke to examine one of our cognitive biases.
Another bias. The psychology of hindsight bias. Did you know it all along?
The stand western nations have taken against a ban on blasphemy that's been pushed for at the UN has paid off. The push has been shelved.
Another judge has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. What's different about this time? Well. This time it's a very conservative judge. And the ruling applies the very same skeptical standard applied to discrimination decisions regarding women.
An ultra-detailed look at Uranus reveals mysterious weather patterns.
Another right-wing phony embroiled in a sex scandal. Why does sexual hypocrisy flourish on the right?
One sticking point in any notion of religion's decline and ultimate demise has always got to be the fact that religious people have children at a higher rate than the non-religious do. Tom Rees at Epiphenom takes a look at a couple of recent papers that provide insight into this difference.
A win for Mitt Romney would cause harm to women's rights all over the world.
Cave paintings and the human brain. How neuroscience explains abstract prehistoric art.
Another instance of speciation has been observed. There may be something to this whole "evolution" thing...
At the bottom of a Japanese lake lies the key to more accurate carbon dating.
A Martian genome? Is there DNA on Mars?
A list of distinguished scientists has signed a letter to the Dr. Oz show pointing out the show's presentation of highly inaccurate information.
New evidence suggests that racism isn't natural but instead is learned.
A GOP congressman says there shouldn't be an abortion exception for the life of the mother because with modern technology and science you can't find one instance of a woman dying in childbirth.
An inquiry being conducted in Australia into claims of sex abuse of children was told by experts that Catholic clergy commit SIX TIMES MORE abuse than all the other churches combined!
The first samples from Lake Vostok– the pristine Antarctic lake that's been isolated for perhaps 15-25 million years– are back and they're lifeless, no signs of native microbes.
Did the solar system start with an extra Uranus/Neptune-sized planet that stabilized the solar system but was ultimately booted?
The 20 weirdest religious beliefs. Can you match them with the religion they're a part of?
In just 4 generations we've massively slashed mortality. In just those 4 generations we've outdone the gains we've made in the previous 8,000 generations.