Sunday, December 5, 2010

RD Extra: Carl Sagan Day 2010


This extra was recorded at the Carl Sagan Day 2010 celebration hosted by the CFI On Campus group at Grand Valley State University. Doubtcasters Luke Galen and Jeremy Beahan share their respect for Carl Sagan with two short presentations. Luke talks about Sagan's "baloney detection kit" and Jeremy shares his favorite passages from Sagan's 1985 Gifford lecture series on natural theology.

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30 comments:

tinyfrog said...

http://www.google.com/search?q=and+then+a+miracle+occurs

kennykjc said...

Great up until the token "don't be a dick" part at the end. I'm really getting tired of hearing this everywhere I go.

Anonymous said...

Kenny, I'm not quite sure I get why it's so bad...

Fletcher said...

Kenny, if you get told not to be a dick everywhere you go that might be something for you to look into on a personal level.

kennykjc said...

Fletcher: As I was responding to a DBAD moment from a podcast I thought I was making it clear that this is a complaint I have about the movement in general making nebulous claims about vague definitions of dickishness.

I don't get called a dick personally - I’m sick of the surging sanctimony from podcasts and blogs, pretty much everything I do as an atheist makes me a dick. When Phil Plait says he has a friend of a friend who is a theist but cries away from science because of those mean atheists. Stop with the pointless anecdotes.

Seriously, the guy in this podcast has a complaint about Richard Dawkins calling religion a delusion? That's totally pathetic! Do you seriously think if he called his book "the god hypothesis" instead that it would have changed much of anything at all except censor his own reasonable honesty?

Dawkins told of a story were he bumped into the archbishop of Canterbury who was actually reading his book and they had a pleasant conversation about it apparently. Carl Sagan was Carl Sagan. Maybe that’s why he was invited to speak at the thing you mentioned. Maybe Richard Dawkins gets invited to places atheists typically don’t get invited to as a result of his own infamy.

I have been appalled at this podcast in the past for taking quotes like “demented fucktard” (PZ) and “faith-head” (Dawkins) completely out of context. I haven’t read any articles by them that have these quotes so I can not judge for myself. What if it they were justified when talking about suicide bombers or whatever? No context is given, and that is a typical tactic of the tone patrol… they isolate words and ignore context.

Fletcher said...

Kenny,

I do get what you're saying. I was just making a joke because of how you phrased your first post.

Jeremy said...

Here is what I said...
"Whats conspicuously absent from his arguments are name calling and de-humanizing language, talking about people who believe as being 'faith heads' or idiots or [saying]'only delusional people believe this' or that it's a virus. Nobody could maintain that [Sagan] was soft on religion. He confronted what he believed was ignorance or ideas not supported by evidence wherever he found them, but he did so in a serious thoughtful and respectful way...There is this notion that in order to sell books or get skepticism into the mainstream you need to shock or beat people over the head with it, but again Cosmos was seen by a billion people"

Kenny, If thats what you would call an "appalling" instance of "surging sanctimony" then you need to either reevaluate your values or your vocabulary.

Kenny Coughlin said...

Jeremy: What I called "appalling" was your repeated attempts to take words used by notable atheists to frame an argument without informing your audience of ANY context. I haven't memorized names of logical fallacies, but there's gotta be a couple in there. Can I at least get you to admit that you must add context to your criticisms of dickishness?

And what I called "surging sanctimony" is parts of the skeptic/atheism movement are asking us to be respectful of religion and censor our positions. Um no, that doesn't work accross the board. I will not characterize people from Birmingham, Alabama as "truth seekers".

Jeremy said...

First of all I don't criticize "dickishness." That’s Phil Plait and you're right to call it vague. I criticize name calling when used in a sweeping manner and de-humanizing language in all contexts--especially terms usually reserved for diseases and mental illness (incidentally I'd challenge you to read Glover's book "Humanity" which discusses dehumanization in detail and see if you'd still be willing to stand up for such language in any context). Far from an appalling disregard of context most of our accommodationism show was discussing/debating what role context plays in all of this. Also when I discovered I had used a quote from PZ out of context I made an apology and correction immediately in show description, before the show was even released. Really I'd be surprised to see another podcast in our genera that shows more concern for accurately representing the ideas it critiques.

But yes in a 30 second quote praising Sagan for what he DID NOT say I didn’t feel the need to pause and cite passages from the God Delusion chapter and verse just to prove that Dawkins at times uses terms flippantly to the one person in the room who can't admit it. How self righteous and appalling of me.

Jeremy said...

Sorry, I realize hyperbole is the norm when it comes to blog comments (myself included)...but I do take challenges to my character very seriously and I could't let this go.

Kenny says "Um no, that doesn't work accross the board. I will not characterize people from Birmingham, Alabama as "truth seekers".

That is twisting my words. When I said "the desire to understand the truth is the impulse attracts many people to religion" no one would seriously think I was bestowing the honorific title of "truth seeker" to all believers. Especially when the very next sentence was "…what I thought was this great quest for truth, was fantasy." Same with the Sagan quote at the end...he shows respect for that impulse, but then the very next line is how it isn't enough.

That was the entire point after all. One does'nt have to choose between civility and skepticism. And there is no better example to me of this than Carl Sagan. In only one circumstance will a call for civility need be a request for self-censorship..if you happen to be a major dick. Most of us can be honest and civil at the same time.

Melissa said...

In reading this thread I wondered how often Kenny actually listens to RD because of his gross mis-characterisation of the show with accusations of lack of context and self-censorship. I've always been very impressed with RD's intellectual integrity. Jeremy, I'm glad you said, "Also when I discovered I had used a quote from PZ out of context I made an apology and correction immediately in show description, before the show was even released. Really I'd be surprised to see another podcast in our genera that shows more concern for accurately representing the ideas it critiques. " That's exactly what I thought when reading Kenny's responses. Not only did you correct yourself for the PZ misquote, but you've also been very careful to make corrections for any wrong you've discovered including taking the time to interview someone from the "Emergent Church" so that you wouldn't mischaracterise it, and putting yourself on the shit list for misquoting Jefferson. Well done Jeremey, well done Fletch, well done Luke. The point I think Jeremy was trying to make, and correct me if I'm wrong, was admiring Carl Sagan's ability to stand on the empirical evidence without making believers feel stupid. Like Luke has said and proven with evidence, people become defensive when their world view is challenged and those views become stronger. If you really want to make an impact on someone, get them to think about the evidence. If you're mean about it then they'll tune you out. There is a time and place for the shock-and-awe point making of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, etc., but if you want to change someone's mind you must maintain some level of civility and human decency. Being civil is not synonymous with self-censorship. My de-conversion is proof of that. And Sagan was able to maintain his firm stance without being demeaning. Well done RD.
And Fletch, I totally laughed at your joke.

kennykjc said...

"There is a time and place for the shock-and-awe point making of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, etc., but if you want to change someone's mind you must maintain some level of civility and human decency"

I guarantee you; those authors have changed countless minds, and grown the atheist movement considerably.

And this is the crux of my disagreement. Melissa, you say you are proof that civility converts, I don't disagree, but it's still just an anecdote. Many years ago I went to an Astronomy forum saying how I thought the face on mars and pyramids were proof of past life on Mars, and I was lambasted. It left an impression on me and I almost immediately after that ditched remaining stupid beliefs.

My dad told me how he read "The Secret" and believed it, I drew a line in the sand and told him it was the craziest bullshit I ever heard of and couldn't believe he was gullible enough to be taken in by it. Who knows if that alone stopped him believing it, but he no longer does.

I am not comparing Reasonable Doubts to hacks like Chris Mooney, but it definitely gets my back up with I hear anything from reasonable doubts sounding ANYTHING like Mooney. Just don't go there, I beg you.

My main podcast of choice is the "Non Prophets" & "The Atheist Experience". I believe their approach is spot on.

Lausten North said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lausten North said...

I happen to be reading "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan. Its 10 years old, but still timely. He has a great discussion about the history of hallucinogenics and religion at the end of the section on marijuana. It includes a reference to an essay that Carl Sagan wrote and published as Mr. X, and only revealed as his after his death.

http://www.icmag.com/ic/showthread.php?t=156481

This is much better than any other discussion of "mushroom gods" or other speculative ideas on history that I have heard. Pollan discusses modern chemistry as well as drug-induced philosophy from the past. Apparently Sagan was doing a little experimenting of his own.

I summarize this section of the book here

http://winter60.blogspot.com/2010/12/botany-of-desire.html

Anonymous said...

Yah, so, have you guys quit doing the show or what?

Anonymous said...

When are you guys gonna do another podcast??? Please, you're the best atheist podcast out there.

Mark said...

For CRYING out loud. Do another podcast already!!!!! I discovered this podcast like a couple months ago, and have since listened to ALL of them. And I want MORE!

Anyways, hope you had a happy Newtonmas and New Year.

Daniel said...

I'm going to throw in my plea for another episode as well. Definitely by far the best atheist podcast out there and I'm out of old episodes to listen to.

Jeremy said...

Stand down....Were getting to it. We never intended to go this long without a show. Reasons are complicated and will be explained soon. Please don't delete our feed. Something will show up on the feed by the end of this week but it might be another week before a full show. I've wanted to inform listeners as to when we are returning, but embarrassingly, we are still trying to peg that down. It's complicated.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the words and I/we understand life gets in the way of producing free content. You really don't owe me/us anything but I/we do *so* love your show. It is literally one of the best atheist podcasts around.
P.S. I'm not Borg, just speaking for the "silent majority".

Roberto said...

Yah, like a lot of listeners, I'm definitely "jonesing" for another RD podcast. I understand how hectic the holiday season can get.

Now that I've said that...I want my Reasonable Doubts fix!!

Thanks for the awesome work guys. And I do think Kenny and Melissa bring up some valid points...but I have to say that timing is everything. Sometimes you wear 'em down softly like Sagan. Sometimes you just nuke 'em like Hawkins. Just get your timing right. I imagine both fellas have converted an equal amount of faith-heads.

Anonymous said...

Add me to the list of those looking forward to hearing our RD friends (and they sure feel like friends!) once again.
And given the lavish salaries you receive for doing the show, this delay is really beyond the pale, fellows. :)

Speaking of beyond the pale, or Palin, to be specific, I'm going to post an interesting essay (not by me) about "blood libel" on the forum right now. Anybody remember the forum?

I trust we might hear some commentary on a podcast about Ms. Beyond T. Palin's statements as well as on the Tucson memorial service sometime in the relatively near end of the elastic space-time continuum...

Anonymous said...

Thanks much, Lausten, for the link to the cannibis essay.

Can anyone cite any other evidence that this was, in fact, authored by Mr. Sagan?

In any event, it's very enjoyable to read aloud or in one's mind while affecting a Carl Sagan voice imitation!

Jeremy said...

Anon,

It's legit. Sagan's biographers recorded it (See William Poundstone). Lester Greenspoon confirmed it. Anne Druyan never denied it (hell, she was the president of NORML for several years)

Jeremy said...

Heh,...meant Lester Grinspoon. It would have been better if he was named Greenspoon though.

Anonymous said...

everyone misses you guys. we don't know what we did to deserve this, but please baby, come back...we promise not to do it again.

Anonymous said...

I bet you it is the fault of that lazy bastard Luke.

Anonymous said...

so, obviously someone had a mystical dream, probably Dave, and is now reconverting to christianity, and the gang is trying to decide what to do :) it's COMPLICATED.

Jeremy said...

Anon,

That was actually the premise of a episode-long radio skit I proposed to the guys about a year ago. Never happened, but I still think it has potential.

An extra will be released this afternoon. Next regular episode should be out a week from Monday.
Sorry again for the huge wait.

Tucker said...

Oh man, Dave's reconversion would be such a good sketch. Believers would rejoice, "see! see! see!!" and then a few episodes later Dave could have another dream in which god tells him to be an atheist, so he obediently un-re-converts and stops believing.