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.

Dale DeBakcsi on Quantum Quackery in the New Age: “Stop Heisenberg Abuse!” and “The Dark Side of Buddhism!”

Quantum Mechanics is one of the most counter-intuitive branches of physics, and consequently, one of the hardest to understand – especially at a popular level.  What can we make of the ability of quantum particles, for example, to exist in a superposition of different states – and hence different locations, with different speeds – at the very same time?  Does this signal the end of science as we know it, proving age-old claims about the supernatural?

Physics teacher, cartoonist, and skeptical writer Dale Debakcsy doesn’t think so.  His new article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine, “Stop Heisenberg Abuse! Three Outrageous Misappropriations of Quantum Physics”, examines some of the worst misunderstandings of the science, and why the resulting mystical conclusions are not justified.

One such unjustified conclusion is that Buddhist concepts, like Karma and Reincarnation, are vindicated by Quantum Mechanics.  Even the Dalai Lama has associated Quantum concepts with those of Buddhism.  Frequent listeners of ‘Equal Time for Freethought’ know that we’re no strangers to criticizing religion – and yet, while we’ve had shows on most of the other major religions, Buddhism has somehow escaped our ire.  Until now.

Besides discussing the Quantum aspects of Buddhism, Dale Debakcsy will tackle Buddhism itself.  Debakcsy spent nine years working in an American Buddhist school, seeing its effects firsthand and, in another recent essay of his, “The Dark Side of Buddhism”, he argues that Buddhist belief isn’t quite as rosy as the culture makes it out to be.

Join us as we discuss these fascinating topics with Debakcsy, on his third appearance on the show!

Extended Version!

Special Fund Drive Shows w/ Arnell Dowret and Matthew LaClair

Everyone knows that reality is not what is seems to be; but than what is it?  And what is our most effective approach to knowing?  With the major network premier of an updated version of the most lauded science series of all times, Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos.”  And with new exoplanets being continually discovered, along with ground breaking information pouring in about the nature of our universe, this is a great time to celebrate the explanatory power of scientific naturalism.

Also worthy of celebration – Equal Time for Freethought – a key part of WBAI’s delivery system of an evidence-based way of knowing ourselves and our world- airing our 500th installment!

And you can help us celebrate too as well and help ensure that we’ll be around for another 500 shows by donating to WBAI during this two-hour fund raiser special.  As thanks for a donation at the $100 level we are pleased to offer pairs of tickets to a fantastic state of the art show at the Hayden Planetarium, Dark Universe narrated by Neil DeGrass Tyson.

Featuring exquisite renderings of cosmic phenomena, seminal scientific instruments, and spectacular scenes in deep space, the new Hayden Planetarium Space Show Dark Universe celebrates the pivotal discoveries that have led us to greater knowledge of the structure and history of the universe and our place in it—and to new frontiers for exploration. Dark Universe whisks audiences out of the Milky Way galaxy, drops them alongside a parachute descending through Jupiter’s atmosphere, and brings them all the way to the afterglow of the Big Bang while revealing the breakthroughs that have led astronomers to confront two great cosmic mysteries: dark matter and dark energy.

As thanks for a donation of $50 we are offering a CD of two exclusive ETFF interviews with Dr. Tyson.  A donation of $125 will be thanked with both premiums.

Joining us live on the air will be curator of the Dark Universe show Dr. Mordechai-Mark Mac Low. Dr. Mac Low is an astronomer and chair of the division of physical sciences at the American Museum of Natural History.

Audio coming soon!

Theoretical cosmologist, Sean Carroll

On today’s ETFF, Sean Carroll will discuss with us the nature of time and space, and some of the newest ideas in modern theoretical cosmology and physics. He will also discuss time travel, the god hypothesis, and the origins of the universe.

Carroll works at Caltech in Pasadena, California. He does research on theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, gravitation, and quantum mechanics as well as work on dark matter and dark energy, modified gravity, topological defects, extra dimensions, and violations of fundamental symmetries. Carroll has written a couple of popular-level books: ‘From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time’, and ‘The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.’

We are a culture besieged by violence. Everyday we hear stories of mass shootings or stabbings, of a rising violent crime rate, of vigilantism, and we have been marred in one war or another since the birth of this nation… resulting in the maiming or killing of millions (usually far less Americans than those we target).

When peace activists, humanists, or even average citizens – tired of all the violence and war – try to speak out against the insanity, we are told human beings are violent by nature.  We are shown right-leaning works of social science which prove our bloody history to be the norm, not an anomaly, and told it goes back 50,000 years or more. We are told that war is either in our genes, or even something which is needed for homo sapien sapien to have balance in our societies. Even those who admit “war is hell” are pretty sure it is also inevitable; consequently they, and many in our society, feel those of us looking toward a peaceful, egalitarian, humanistic society without warfare are utopians living in a reality of our own inception… peaceniks left over from the radical 60s who have not grown up and who would be better served trying to help others within our current, often dysfunctional society, rather than demand another kind of world…

But what are humans REALLY like? What does the science ACTUALLY say? We will be speaking with evolutionary anthropologist Douglas Fry and psychologist Darcia Narvaez about these questions and more on the next edition of Equal Time for Freethought!