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This week on Think Atheist Radio we have our chat with Dr. Joe Nickell. Dr. Nickell received his MA and PhD from the University of Kentucky, concentrating on folklore and on literary investigations. He is a well-known skeptic and investigator of the paranormal with a career going on 40 years. The main character in the 1997 movie The Reaping starring Hilary Swank is loosely based on Dr. Nickell– indeed, he consulted on set for the filmmakers. He has made multiple appearances on Point of Inquiry, has been on numerous television programs including Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, CNBC's News with Brian Williams, Dateline NBC, Larry King Live, and many more, and has been profiled by The New Yorker magazine. Dr. Nickell is the Senior Research Fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and an Associate Dean of the Center for Inquiry Institute. He is the author of several books including Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons, and Other Alien Beings and Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures. We asked Dr. Nickell join us to talk about his newest book, The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead. We talked about what it means to investigate paranormal claims scientifically versus the silliness appearing on ghost-hunting television shows, the scientific method, and scientific naturalism. Join us!
You've probably hear the news already but Paul Kurtz has died. The founder of Prometheus Books, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Center for Inquiry, if you weren't influenced directly by Kurtz's writing you most certainly were influenced by people who were. We've lost a giant in the humanist/atheist/skeptical movement.
The European Space Agency is set to begin the search for habitable exo-planets with a new space telescope by examining nearby star systems that ground based telescopes have identified as having exo-planets.
Last week's guest on Think Atheist Radio, Dr. Chris French, wrote in the UK newspaper The Guardian this week to ask why famed "psychic" Sally Morgan refuses to accept his and other skeptics' invitation to test her abilities under controlled conditions.
Physicist Dr. Sean Carroll (another past guest of TA Radio) gave a talk at The Amazing Meeting earlier this year titled From Particles to People: The Laws of Nature and the Meaning of Life, video of which is now online. I was in attendance when he gave this talk for the Caltech lecture series hosted by Michael Shermer and it's very good.
A team of researchers in Japan has used neuroimaging techniques to decode visual content of dreams.
Jerry Coyne examines the thoughts of a Christian writing at the Huffington Post who feels that the problem with the "New Atheists" is that they're too optimistic. We just can't win...
Chris Stedman must surely be what an atheist sounds like when she or he hates themselves. Well. He's written a book wherein he seems to express that self-hate. Lorry Moran, PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, and Ian Cromwell take him to task.
If current trends hold the death penalty will be gone worldwide by 2026.
Researchers have been stymied in their attempts at unraveling the genetics of intelligence owing to complicated results of their research. Maybe the solution is to assume not that intelligence is the outlier but that it's the norm and and look instead for the genes for stupidity.
A team of scientists has created what they say is the first really accurate reconstruction of a Neanderthal. How'd they do it? Like this. Meanwhile, who would win in a fight: Neanderthals vs. Homo sapiens?
A judge in Italy has sentenced 6 scientists to 6 years in prison for manslaughter charges stemming from the 6.3 magnitude 2009 L'Aquila earthquake that killed 309 people, sending a wrong and dangerous message to future scientists and engineers. An editorial in Nature offers that the verdict makes plain the Italian system's contempt for its scientists.
Jerry Coyne addressed the perception on the part of a friend of his that while atheists are great at criticizing religion, they fail to offer anything to replace religion with.
Modern grade-school level science books take for granted that we know just what the Sun is made of and how it generates its energy. But what most people don't realize is that we didn't know the answer to these questions as recently as a hundred years ago. Ethan Siegel takes an interesting tour through just what the Sun is made of and how we came to find out.
A comparison between President Obama and Candidate Romney and the beliefs about religion on the part of their supporters finds that while mainline and evangelical protestants make up the bulk of Romney's support, the greatest percentage group in the President's camp are the "nones", those unaffiliated with any religion. Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches discusses what these figures mean for the future of the culture wars and how Democrats can target this rising demographic. So why don't they?
Rebecca Watson had a piece published at Salon.com this week talking about sexism in the skeptics movement.
New research reveals that while we had thought that the red giant phase of a star's life would destroy utterly any planets within the expansion umbrella some massive planets– we're talking several times the size of Jupiter– might just survive in some final state.
That scrap of manuscript that appeared to refer to Jesus' wife? Forgery.
The Onion kills it again when, following recent comments about rape and abortion, God distances himself from the Christian right.
Larry Moran examines a list of five "myths" about intelligent design offered by an intelligent design proponent.
The first feathered dinosaur found in North America hints at feathers evolving for show, not flight.
A new paper shows that medical studies with striking results often turn out to be false.
Historian and philosopher of science John Wilkins points out that for all the talk about this person and that organization being about critical thinking, what exactly is critical thinking?
The only openly non-theist person in Congress is in danger of losing his political life. Pete Stark is under threat from a Democratic challenger that's using his non-theism against him to sway voters.
People, even atheists and agnostics, tend to think of Buddhism and Buddhists as distinctly peaceful in contrast to other religions. The truth is quite different.
Has philosophy lost its way or have people gone anti-intellectual and turned away?
What made us human? Cooking, says a new study.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court is set to hear a case attempting to put a stop to the requirement that kids in public schools in the state recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
How Christian fundamentalism feeds the toxic partisanship of US politics.
This look at how the "nones" have voted since 1980 is quite interesting. Not surprisingly, no Republican candidate since 1988 has received more than a third of the unaffiliated vote.