Catching up on Naturalism w/ Tom Clark

One of the core principle, perhaps THE core principle, of Humanism is Scientific Naturalism, which states that everything in the macro-verse is natural (not supernatural), obeys the laws of cause and effect, and is interconnected. With naturalism at the core of humanism, we can apply critical thinking skills to understand the universe, life, and human consciousness itself. It’s a worldview with many implications for our global sociopolitical systems, as well as for our own personal lives.

We will be talking today with Tom Clark, founder of the website and movement Naturalism.org, about these things and more. What is new this year in the world of naturalism and what might it mean for you?

Consciousness and the Social Brain w/ Michael Graziano

What is consciousness and how can a brain, a mere collection of neurons, create it? The human brain has evolved a complex circuitry that allows it to be socially intelligent. This social machinery has only just begun to be studied in detail. One function of this circuitry is to attribute awareness to others: to compute that person Y is aware of thing X. Can the machinery that attributes awareness to others also attribute it to one’s self? If we were to damage that machinery, therefore, would we disrupt our own awareness? We will discuss the science, the evidence, the philosophy, and the surprising implications of this new theory with its presenter, Dr. Michael Graziano.

Islamophobia, ISIS, Hamas, & the Politics of Empire w/ Deepa Kumar

A few days ago marked the 13th anniversary of the attacks on America on September 11th, 2001. Among the still many unanswered questions concerning politics, religion, and the nature of global violence — at least for Americans and some Europeans — is what role Islam has played in all of this? That is, it is assumed Islam is different, somehow, from other major religions because it was founded as a warrior religion and seems to be immune to the liberalization process other religions tend to have gone through.

But of course, religion can not be separated from the people who practice it, and thus there have been many racial undertones and overtones to the debates. Even in the atheist and otherwise secular world, many condemn and blame Islam far more than they condemn and blame Western Imperialism, geopolitics, or economics… And this has once again taken hold of the Western imagination with the recent battle between Israel and Hamas, and the brutal actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known as ISIS.

Today, new host Abby Davenport, will discuss these topics with a guest who we’ve had the pleasure to talk with on Equal Time in the past, Deepa Kumar. Deepa Kumar is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at Rutgers University; and is affiliated faculty with Middle Eastern Studies and graduate faculty in the Sociology department. She is a public speaker and has spoken at dozens of university and community forums on a range of topics: Islamophobia, Political Islam, US foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, the Arab Spring, women and Islam etc. She has shared her expertise in numerous media outlets such as BBC, The New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Hurriyat Daily News (Turkey), Al Jazeera and other national and international news media outlets.

Today we will be discussing current events in light of her latest book, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.

Naturalistic Support Workshop!

Sam Harris on Spirituality, Minus Religion or God

This Saturday, host Matthew LaClair speaks with neuroscientist, philosopher, and author Sam Harris on his upcoming book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.  Mr. Harris is the author of books including Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and the NY Times bestseller The End of Faith. He is also cofounder and CEO of Project Reason, “a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society.” Mr. Harris’ new book, Waking Up, is a personal, rational, and scientific exploration of the benefits of meditation, without the myths, stories, and theistic assumptions typically attached to such practices.  Throughout the book, Harris challenges the notion of “self,” arguing that such a feeling is an illusion, rather than the only state of being conscious.  It is both an attempt to better understand the nature of being, and to explore ways in which we may improve the quality of our lives.

Patricia Churchland: Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

The human experience, and the ‘self’, is so rich it must be produced by some transcendent being, some ultimate self that goes beyond the physical body, or so it is claimed.  How else can spiritual experience and deep emotion be explained?  Can they all be products of the brain?

It turns out that by studying the brain, scientists have gained profound understandings of much of human nature.  The brain really is capable of generating the rich, varied human experiences we call ‘spirituality’.  But that fact challenges our ideas about who and what we are.  If our ‘selves’ are “just” the product of some physical mechanism, even one as complex as the brain, are we really robust human beings?

Patricia Churchland, professor emerita at the University of California, San Diego, teaches neurophilosophy.  She’s accustomed to tackling the big philosophical questions with respect to the brain, and has become comfortable with the idea that our ‘selves’ really are our brains.  She’ll discuss these questions and more on this brain-twisting episode of ETFF!

Greta Christina on “The Atheist Condition”

On ETFF we have discussed religion, supernatural beliefs and atheism from a philosophical and political perspective. We have asked why people believe without evidence, what role religion plays in our political landscape, and what role does our political natures play in the sorts of religious teachings we accept or reject. And we have asked what the relationship is between religion and science.

But what we may not have talked about well enough may be the more personal aspects of atheism for the non-believer. Why is it so hard, even in 2014, for atheists in some parts of this country to discuss their belief — and not just in public, but even with friends and family? How does one “come out” as an atheist in perhaps the most religious nation in the developed world? Why is it important that atheists do come out, just as the LBGT community has learned over the last several decades? And when atheists DO come out and discuss their beliefs and express their ideas with the general public, why does it seem many believers find us to be obnoxious, arrogant, stubborn, and angry?

Greta Christina will discuss these questions and more with us in just a few moments.  Greta is a regular atheist correspondent for AlterNet, Free Inquiry, and The Humanist, and has been writing about atheism in her own “Greta Christina’s blog” since 2005. As a public speaker, she is part of the Speakers Bureau for the Secular Student Alliance and the Center for Inquiry.  Greta was a speaker on the Diversity in Skepticism panel at The Amaz!ng Meeting in July, 2011, the Reason Rally in 2012, and the 50th annual convention of American Atheists in 2013.

In that same year, she was named the International Team Honored Hero of the Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB). The Foundation’s teams raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Greta received the 2013 LGBT Humanist Pride Award from the American Humanist Association.

Her two books we will be discussing with her today are Coming Out Atheist: How to do it, How to Held Each Other, and Why, and Why are you Atheists so Angry: 99 Things that Piss off the Godless.

Hobby Lobby Goes to Washington

Are Corporations “persons” that can have their religious liberty taken away? Does the Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case set ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? Was this ruling really just about contraception and sexuality, or was it more about a growing anti-women sentiment in America? Or perhaps, was this the Right’s attempts to pull the teeth out of Obamacare? And are there far reaching potential consequences to this ruling which go beyond religion, health insurance, and a promotion of gender inequality?

Or does this ruling actually respect the Separation of Church and State, bring a much needed sense of morality back to America, protects religious freedom of employers (not the corporation itself), and is respectful not only to women, but to the rights of the unborn who would face possible (and legal) abortion should more women have sex relying on methods of protection which are not full pr0of?

Matthew LaClair will host a discussion on these questions and others along with two women from the secular perspective: Carol Price and Abby Davenport. He will also speak to corporate lawyer, Anne Tucker about the case.

Anne Tucker is an associate professor at Georgia State University where she teaches and research corporate law and corporate constitutional rights. She participated in an amicus brief on the Hobby Lobby case and was fortunate enough to attend the oral argument. She formerly practiced corporate law with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, which ranked first in The American Lawyer’s 2014 list of most successful law firms in America. She received her JD magna cum laude at Indiana University’s Bloomington-Maurer school of law.

Carol Price is the author of Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of RUSH. She received the BA in Philosophy from Montclair State University and studied with Matthew Lipmann at the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. With her husband Robert M. Price, she has hosted Heretics Anonymous and Skeptic Tank discussion groups in their home over 25 years. She has created the Mindvendor website and has recently founded Mindvendor Books. She has taught philosophy in area elementary schools and is now teaching kindergarteners and first graders in rural North Carolina.

Abby Davenport is a Freethought activist, an open atheist in the religious backwater of Oklahoma, a staunch opponent of magical thinking and “woo,” a political leftist, and supports logic, reason, and compassion in all activities. Abigail is looking to go back to university for Library Science in the near future.

Naturalistic Support Workshop

Judith Hand on Shifting our Thinking about War…

A few months ago we had on anthropologist Douglas Fry and psychologist Darcia Narvaez to discuss, among other things, violence, aggression, and war and how it relates to human nature. Some of the questions on that topic we asked included, Is war making inevitable? Why do we make war? Have we always made war? And, can we ever get to a time when there will be no more war?  Evolutionary Biologist Judith Hand has been working on these questions for a long time, and we discussed war and other aspects of human nature with her on Equal Time in the past. We have invited her back today to discuss her new book, SHIFT: The Beginning of War and The Ending of War.