Point of Inquiry is the Center for Inquiry’s radio show and podcast, drawing on CFI’s relationship with the leading minds of the day including Nobel Prize-winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers, and renowned entertainers. Each episode combines incisive interviews, features and commentary focusing on CFI’s issues: religion, human values and the borderlands of science. Point of Inquiry explores CFI’s three research areas:
1. Pseudoscience and the paranormal (bigfoot, UFOs, psychics, communication with the dead, cryptozoology, etc.)
2. Alternative medicine (faith healing, homeopathy, belief in “healing touch,” the efficacy of prayer, etc.)
3. Religion and secularism (church-state separation, the effects and proper role of religion in society, the future of secularism and nonbelief, etc.)
Point of Inquiry is produced at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, NY. CFI, a think-tank affiliated with the State University of New York, and is devoted to promoting science, reason, and freedom of inquiry in every field of human interest. It maintains additional branches in Manhattan, Tampa and Hollywood, and in eleven cities around the world.
Host: Chris Mooney
Over the weekend, the Center for Inquiry's Women in Secularism II conference unfolded in Washington, D.C.—and we caught up with one of the event's most distinguished speakers, the feminist poet and author Katha Pollitt.
You probably know her "Subject to Debate" column in the Nation—always both insightful and also hilarious to read. It has been called, by the Washington Post, the "best place to go for original thinking on the left." The column won the National Magazine Award in 2003.
Pollitt is also the author of four essay collections—most recently, Learning to Drive and Other Stories—and two books of poetry, the latest being The Mind Body Problem. In this interview, she discusses her talk at "Women in Secularism II" on the subject: "Sexism and Religion: Can the Knot Be Untied?"
Host: Chris Mooney
A few months back on this show, we heard from Bill McKibben, the celebrated environmental writer and, more recently, leader of a mass movement around preventing climate change that has focused on blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.
McKibben makes a compelling case that our climate system is at dire risk. But many thinkers who fully accept the science of climate change nonetheless take a very different approach to climate and energy policy. And as someone who personally sees strengths on both sides of this question, today I want to feature one of them.
So today we feature one of the smartest and most thoughtful of these environmental moderates: Michael Levi. He's author of the new book The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future—in which he talks favorably about natural gas drilling through "fracking" and even, yes, the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Michael Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and director of the CFR program on energy security and climate change. He holds an MA in physics from Princeton University, where he studied string theory and cosmology, and a PhD in war studies from the University of London (King's College).
Note: You can watch this episode on Youtube.
In this special episode of Point of Inquiry, Chris and Indre speak with the Pulitzer Prize winning Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel.
Dr. Diamond is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles and has traveled extensively to New Guinea for his research. His observations there form the foundation of his new book, The World Until Yesterday: What We Can Learn from Traditional Societies, which is the subject of this interview.
Afterwards, Chris and Indre debate aspects of Diamond's new book that they found both surprising and, on occasion, frustrating.
Host: Indre Viskontas
In the science section at your local bookstore, you'll find plenty of books on everything from the brain, to the climate, to the cosmos.
But how many books will you find that take you on a tour of the digestive tract—from our mouths, to our stomachs, to our intestines? Popular science writer Mary Roach's new book, Gulp, does just that.
Decoding the science of taboo topics like vaginal weight-lifting, amputee bowling leagues, and how much food it takes to burst a human stomach has become the signature style of Roach, who has been described by the Washington Post as "America's funniest science writer."
Mary Roach writes about human bodies in unusual circumstances and does not shy away from things that are gross. Her previous best-selling books include: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void but today we’ll be discussing Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.
Host: Chris Mooney
Back in the summer of 2011—just before the 10 year anniversary of 9/11—this show welcomed on Scott Atran, an anthropologist who is a leading expert on terrorism and violent extremism.
Now, in the wake of the Boston bombings and the dramatic capture of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, we called Atran back to discuss the first large scale U.S. terrorist bombing since 9/11.
As Atran's research shows, the Tsarnaev brothers share many parallels with other young, disaffected men who opt for extremist violence around the world.
But Atran's broader conclusion from the past week may be an unsettling one: When we devote such massive societal attention to a few homegrown terrorists, we may not ultimately be doing ourselves any favors.
Scott Atran is an anthropologist and an expert on terrorism with appointments at John Jay College, the University of Michigan, and Oxford. He is author of the book Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (un)Making of Terrorists, and in his research has personally interviewed mujahidin, Hamas, and the plotters behind the Bali bombing.