Short show today, covering a few stories:
Tell me what *you* think.
(Pic by Newton Graffiti)
Short show today, covering a few stories:
Tell me what *you* think.
(Pic by Newton Graffiti)
Here’s the list of stories we chatted about:
NYT has an article about how the “Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming. But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.”
What say you to that, climate change skeptics?
From the “Just-Cuz-We-Say-We’re-Going-To-Do-Something-Doesn’t-Mean-We-Will” department:
The Center for Science in the Public Interest points out that ExxonMobil has just announced “for the second consecutive year” that it is cutting funding to groups which promote skepticism about global warming. The groups that are supposedly being cut off include the Capital Research Center, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Frontiers of Freedom Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, and the Institute for Energy Research. However, CSPI points out, “Each group continued to receive Exxon funding in 2007 after the companyâ€™s first announcement that it would discontinue the payments. Exxon did not immediately return calls seeking comment on how serious it was in following through on its plans.”
It’s easy to companies to make a big splash, put out some advertising, put out a press release, but how often do they actually follow through? And who holds them responsible when they don’t? Perhaps we need more people like Stephen Mayne, who buy shares in these companies, and then rock up to their Annual General Meeting with a video camera to ask the hard questions.
Today TPN is pleased to launch “The Better World Show“, hosted by Scott Sherman (from TPN’s hugely successful Digital Photography Show) and Cameron Reilly (host of TPN’s G’Day World, Napoleon 101 and CEO of The Podcast Network).
You work hard, you raise your family, and you try to do the best you can. But in the back of your mind youâ€™re aware of those huge problems out there that seem unsolvable: global warming, poverty, genocides, AIDS, war. You know life has to be about more than making a living, taking care of the kids and accumulating more stuff. But when it comes to the big issues facing the planet, you wonder: What difference could I possibly make? The answer: Plenty. If enough of us take even small actions, the difference we can make is huge. Itâ€™s a tough world out there. Join hosts Scott Sherman and Cameron Reilly and help us make it a better one.
Happy ANZAC Day to all you Aussies!
My guests today are Dr Pamela Gay and Fraser Cain from the very excellent Astronomy Cast! They agreed (a decision they may now regret) to try to answer some of my insanely big questions about the Universe. Questions such as:
- what is the fabric of spacetime?
- what is energy?
- why is the speed of light a constant?
- why is it that nothing can move faster than the speed of light?
- what is string theory and why can’t we talk about it?
- how is it that a Scotsman can drop a penny from the top of a building and then run down to the bottom fast enough to catch it?
All these questions and more (well not much more actually) will be answered on today’s show! … in less than an hour…
And if you’re interested in such matters, be sure to check out the Astronomy Cast!
And also check out the amazing new STEREO images of the sun brought to you by the US government. I told you the Americans were useful for something other than fast food and global warming!!
Don’t forget to make use of my new comments line – Aussies can dial into +613 9016 9699. The rest of you can either pay international charges (cmon, what price can you put on being on my show??) or just start begging me to set up an international number.
If you enjoyed this podcast, make sure you don’t miss future episodes by subscribing to our feed and leave us a voice comment!
The G’Day World Theme Song is â€œSave Meâ€ by The Napoleon Blown Aparts.
Lately I have been accused by a few people, in email and in person, of “attacking” Christians and suggesting they are all “stupid”. Perhaps I should clarify myself. I’ve been writing this out in email and saying it in person, so I thought I should include it here just in case more people are taking me the wrong way.
I don’t think I’ve intentionally made any personal attacks on people who disagree with my position and, if I have, please point them out to me so I can correct them. That said, I’m not being politically correct either and I understand that. I think it’s time that the human race had this discussion, openly, honestly, and in public. Too much is riding on the outcome of it.
And I really don’t think I’ve suggested that people who believe in god are necessarily ‘stupid’ (although I’m sure some are). In fact I’ve said many times that the people who amaze me the most are the ones that are intelligent and well educated and *still* feel the need to
subscribe to bronze age mythologies about supernatural beings. I can understand peasants in the middle ages buying it. I can even understand modern uneducated peasants in the middle east buying it. But well educated, middle class people in the West? It has me mystified and, quite honestly, more than a little scared.
What I have said is that people who believe in religion are irrational and that isn’t meant as an insult. It is just a statement of fact. And here’s my justification. Tell me where you think I am wrong.
Rationality is, by definition, based on logic and reason. And religion is not based on such things. It is based on faith: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Because faith is not based on logic or reason, it is therefore, by definition, “irrational”.
As I said before, if you think I’m wrong about the “irrational” tag, tell me why. Or if you think I have attacked anyone, show me how and I will promptly apologize.
I’m certainly not suggesting that changing anyone’s perceptions by force is acceptable. Not at all. But changing them through argument and debate is fine. In fact, that’s probably the only way. Issues like this should get debated strongly and people will, in the end, decide what they want to decide. But I *hope* more and more people, when presented with the facts, will agree that religion is an inherently negative force that is holding back humanity. 200 years ago, most people believed slavery was acceptable. Most people believed “blacks” were inferior to whites. Most people believed blacks and women should not be allowed to vote. There were all ideas which had been around since recorded history, subscribed to by Christians and religious people of all denominations, and most people subscribed to them. And they were fundamentally wrong and immoral by today’s standards. A small few fought openly against them and, eventually, public
perception changed. I believe the same thing will happen with religion. How long it will take, I don’t know. But I feel compelled to do my part.
I do believe religious beliefs harm the rest of the world – directly and indirectly. Direct examples are obvious (justification for oppression, war, violence, segregation, preventing scientific
progress, human rights, AIDS, etc). Indirectly, all religious people subscribe to what I believe in an inherently negative view on humanity. We are all born bad (sinners) because the God of the Old
Testament didn’t want Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. He didn’t want him to KNOW. That’s such an inherently negative view on the human race. And then Yahweh told “his people” to murder anyone who didn’t believe in him and he took care of millions himself (flood, brimstone, plague, etc). THEN Christians believe he sent his only son (or came himself depending on which Christian you ask) down to earth to be tortured and murdered for reasons which escape me. And Christians somehow think this is all okay. I think it horrifying and to teach this kind of stuff to kids and tell them it is somehow “holy” and honourable defies imagination.
The other indirect way I think religion harms the human race is that is teaches people that faith without evidence is not only acceptable but preferable to searching for solid evidence. And that viewpoint has to hold us back from understanding the true nature of the universe. It slows down scientific progress, if for no other reason than there are millions of kids who grow up without a solid appreciation for the scientific process. One of those kids might have been the next
Einstein or Darwin or Da Vinci. We need all hands on deck if we are going to survive on this planet. Bronze Age mythologies aren’t going to help us figure out global warming, or preventing an asteroid collision, or the next mega-volcano eruption. Yes I know that Darwin was raised a Christian. Remember though that pretty much EVERYONE in the West during the early part of the 19th century and earlier was a Christian. To be otherwise was to make yourself a social outcast and, until at least 1800, put your life in danger. And yes, of course, some great thinkers broke through and managed to hold both thoughts (faith and reason) in their minds. They straddled the fence. But surely our chances of finding new Darwins would be better if people weren’t told
“believe without evidence” as well as “search for evidence”. They are incongruous thoughts. There is a good reason that the vast majority of scientists in the West today are atheists.
Yes, some of the leaders of the fight against slavery, etc., were Christians. Again, EVERYONE was a Christian until the Enlightenment and even today, 90% of Americans claim to believe in a personal God. But of course that also means that there were far, far more Christians defending slavery and those other crimes than there were fighting against them. How is that justified by the Christian community? Isn’t it true that until the mid-20th century, “Love Thy Neighbour” really finished “… if they look like you. Persecute everyone else.”? Take the American South. They went to war over the defense of slavery. And today they think of themselves as the Bible Belt. Don’t you find that slightly ironical?
When the Christians from Europe invaded the Americas, Australasia, PNG, NZ, The Pacific Islands, they justified the wanton murder of the indigenous peoples because they were “heathens”. Again, religion was the justification for wide-scale genocide. I think it’s pretty easy to see that, over 2000 years, Christianity has been responsible for far, far more murder and bloodshed than it has good works.
But hey, if you disagree, tell me how and why and I’m always listening.
Last week, after the very excellent STIRR Sydney event, me old mate Brenton Perry (remember him from our free will cast?) drank beer and discussed how free will doesn’t exist, how we will save Shane from Christianity, why you shouldn’t take your position on global warming from Michael Crichton, and how damn insignificant humans are in the whole scheme of things and arrogant it is of those humans how think the whole universe was created just for them. And then I happened to stumble onto this six-month old post from Dick Hardt which puts our place in the Universe into some perspective. I highly recommend you check it out.
I’m currently reading Ideas: A Brief History by Peter Watson and it’s very enjoyable. Today I was learning about FOXP2 (“forkhead box P2″), a gene that is implicated in the development of language skills. Many scientists believe evolved in humans about 200,000 years ago and which, when mutated, gave early homo sapiens the ability to communicate which of course gave them an enormous survival advantage. The same genes appears in mice and chimps, with only a couple of molecules different from the version that we have.
And I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Richard Dawkins’ new book “The God Delusion”. The preface is here to read in pdf format. Sounds like a brilliant book and I’m going to try to get him on the show. Father Bob should love that.
What do Borat, Global Warming, Milton Friedman and Bono have in common? They are all mentioned on today’s show!
Shane Williamson joins me again today to talk about:
and then I finish with an interview I did earlier today with Emma Phillips who wants to work with Bono.