Episode 57: Ghosts and Apparitions, Part 1

Episode 57: Ghosts and Apparitions, Part 1

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman swaps ghost stories with Greg Christensen, Ian Leung, and Mark Forkheim. Also on this episode, Gem chats with PZ Myers about religion, skepticism, and the supernatural.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Solstice Party (22 June 2013) | Drinking Skeptically (11 June 2013) | Ghost of Carl Sagan Warns Against Dangers of Superstition | Dualism | Sleep Paralysis | Apophenia | Pareidolia | Pharyngula | PZ Myers and Steven Novella on Atheism and Skepticism (PZ, Novella, PZ, Novella) | The Happy Atheist, by PZ Myers

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Episode 56: The “Atheist Agenda”

Episode 56: The “Atheist Agenda”

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Donna Harris is joined by Richelle McCullough, Robert Shindler, Greg Christensen, and Jeffrey Olsson to discuss the so-called “Atheist Agenda” and how it relates to what atheists actually want.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: @SkepticAction on Twitter | HAAM Meeting on May 11th | Drinking Skeptically on May 14th | The Atheist Agenda on Conservapedia | What is the “atheist agenda”? | Atheist Door Knockers | Studying science doesn’t make you an atheist… but studying literature does!

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Episode 44: War on Christmas (2012 Edition)

Episode 44: War on Christmas (2012 Edition)

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn Noble, Greg Christensen, and Mark Whatman talk about the (supposed) War on Christmas, and Jeffrey Olsson interviews A.J. Johnson, the Director of Development for American Atheists.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Apocalypse 2012: The End of the World Party (Facebook Event, Meetup Event) | Bill O’Reilly’s War on Christmas Montage | Fox News: War On Christmas | 3 Ways the “War on Christmas” Is Way Older Than You Think | Jeremiah 10:2–4 | American Atheists

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Episode 42: Skepticon 5, Part 2

Episode 42: Skepticon 5, Part 2

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman, Mark Forkheim, Ashlyn Noble, Laura Creek Newman, Brendan Curran-Johnson, and Gary Barbon conclude their discussion of Skepticon 5, and the LUEE crew reflects on 42 episodes of Life, the Universe & Everything Else. This episode also features interviews with Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience and Jen McCreight of Blag Hag.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Apocalypse 2012: The End of the World Party (Facebook Event, Meetup Event) | Skepticon | Skepticon Videos | Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) | Dawkins Quotation (from The God Delusion) | The Atheist Experience (website, blog) | Matt Dillahunty vs. Kristine Kruszelnicki: The Right to Abortion | Blag Hag | Boobquake | Atheism+ | Jen McCreight: Diversity in Your Group

Our Favourite LUEE Episodes: Leaving Faith Behind, Part 1 | Leaving Faith Behind, Part 2 | “Thrive” | Zombies! Part 1! | Zombies! Part 2! | To Vaccinate, or Not to Vaccinate? | Common Creationist Claims, Part 1 | Common Creationist Claims, Part 2

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Episode 40: Skepticon 5, Part 1

Episode 40: Skepticon 5, Part 1

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman, Mark Forkheim, Ashlyn Noble, Laura Creek Newman, Brendan Curran-Johnson, and Gary Barbon discuss their trip to Skepticon 5. This episode also features interviews with Skepchicks Rebecca Watson, Surly Amy, and Kammy Lyon, and with Lauren Lane, one of the founders of Skepticon.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Skepticon | Episode 4: Skepticon 4 Recap | Skepchick | It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too | The Humanist Community Project

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Episode 27: The Benefits of Religion

Episode 27: The Benefits of Religion

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Leslie Saunders discusses the purported benefits of religion with Greg Christensen and Robert Shindler.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Drinking Skeptically | Microsoft Adds “Big Boobs” to Linux Kernel | 10 Benefits of Religion | Will the Earth Survive the Sun’s Death? (National Geographic News, New Scientist) | The Nonbelievers’ Beliefs | The Book of Genesis, Illustrated by Robert Crumb | Unwin Formula

Also on this episode, the third instalment of Where’s My Jetpack? This week Old Man Newman asks, “Where’s my cure for cancer?”

Where’s My Jetpack? Links: Cancer Fact Sheets (World Health Organization, National Cancer Institue) | Cancer Statistics | Dichloroacetate (Dr. Steven Novella, Orac) | Genetically Modified T Cell Therapy | Thioridazine Cancer Treatment

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Episode 22: Skepticism in Fiction

Episode 22: Skepticism in Fiction

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman is joined by panellists Richelle McCullough, Javier Hernandez-Melgar, and Ashlyn Noble to discuss the way scientists, skeptics, and atheists are portrayed in fiction.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: TEDxManitoba: Curiosity Didn’t Kill the Cat (Gem Newman) | SkeptiCamp Winnipeg: Science & Media: A Love Story (Richelle McCullough) | Pediatricians in Canada Discharging Unvaccinated Children | Quebec Woman Sues Osteopath After Arm Amputated | Osteopathy | Osteopathic Medicine | Osteology | Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion | Dinosaurs Roar to Life at the Manitoba Museum | The Transit of Venus on June 5th at the University of Manitoba | The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (Oliver Sacks) | The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan) | The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Robert A. Heinlein) | My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Feeling Pinkie Keen” | The Hollywood Atheist | The Flat-Earth Atheist | Agent Scully | Straw Vulcan | Skepticon 4: The Straw Vulcan (Julia Galef)

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Correction: Near the end of the episode, I mention that the main character in Cosmos is an atheist. While I suppose that may technically be true, I meant to refer to Contact.

Mothers Day

Mothers Day can be a hard day for anyone who has lost a mother. It can be doubly hard for those of us who have lost both a child and a mother, but these things are multiplied if one is also a non believer.

Myself, I have some prep going into the mother’s day weekend, as my mom died weeks before mother’s day 2 years ago. May 2nd (the anniversary of her death)  I had a flood of Emails and Facebook posts telling me that mom was “in heaven” or that mom was “watching over me”.

I am always torn about how to respond to, or take these comments. I try my hardest to take the comments in the spirit that they are given in. I truly think that those who say such things (who should know me well enough to know that I don’t believe in heaven or that someone is capable of ‘watching over me’ after they die) still only tell me these things in an effort to try to comfort me. But on days where I feel isolated and alone most often, these comments make me feel worse.

I hate to sound selfish, but sometimes (especially when someone is trying to make ME feel better) I wish that people could put aside their own beliefs and try to make ME feel better.

Here is how I look at ‘life after death’:

Well… maybe I should back up. I think that we are all what the matter that makes us up lets us be. The matter that makes up my brain, my organs, my limbs…. If I lose use of an arm or a lung or a part of my brain I will act differently…. to varying degrees depending on how serious the injury is and what part it is.

I think that a large part of who I am is the neural pathways in my brain. And a not insignificant part of those neural pathways are make up my memory. For example: memory’s of my mom.

Lessons she has taught me, Skills she has taught me, Story’s she has told me, and the Morals she taught me; all woven in to my neural pathways and I couldn’t get rid of them even if I wanted to.

Not to mention the fact that I look so much like my mother (physical traits wise) that people mistake pictures of mom for pictures of me all the time.

The funny part of that is people mistook pictures of grandma for pictures of mom as well as pictures of great grandma for pictures of grandma. So anyone who wants to have an approximate of what I’m going to look like when I’m 70 needs only to meet my grandma.

But back to my original point. If all we are, is what we are…. if we are only what our minds and DNA says we are…. well…. I kind of get to decide how much of our mothers gets to live on.

The DNA; That me & my brother have already, it’s going to be my kids and it’s already my nieces… CHECK.

What I’m more concerned about for this mothers day is my moms memory. I mean that in an honest way. I have started making a flower bed the way she taught me to when I was about 5…. and who knows… maybe when we sell our house the new owners will keep it and that flower bed (& part of my mom) will be around for another 50 years. I am, myself, going to make an effort to learn from the lessons my mother taught me and the example she set for me. Also I am going to try to learn from her mistakes.

Most importantly (from my frame of mind right now) I’m going to try to talk about my mom and share the knowledge she has given me. If she was neural pathway pathways and created neural pathway pathways in me, and I pass on knowledge from those pathways that create new pathways in someone else… well… that’s the kind of living on I have no problem believing in.

What I would love for people to say to me instead of “your mom is in a better place” or “god needed an angel” or the thousand other cliches we have all heard already; is something personal, something unique. Tell me why I look or act like mom… Tell me a story about her… Even better, tell your kids a story about.

I may be wrong, but even if you are religious I can’t imagine anyone getting more comfort out of a trite saying than a personal story. And if you are religious and are reading this… well… try to keep in mind that your comments may be having the exact opposite effect that you intend. If you care enough about a person to send a thought to them when you know they are going through a tough time, try to care enough to not say something that will only serve to make you feel better, but them feel worse.

My Grandma, My Mom And Myself

 

Prayer at City Hall

Cross-posted from Startled Disbelief.

On Tuesday, I was contacted by a producer with Radio-Canada (the French division of CBC) for an interview. They were putting together a téléjournal (television news) piece about prayer in Winnipeg City Council meetings, and were hoping for comment from the Winnipeg Skeptics. I agreed to speak with them, and also attempted to put them in contact with Jeff Olsson of the Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba and Robert McGregor of the Winnipeg Secularists (who, I informed them, had put together a petition on precisely this subject).

Robert McGregor speaks to Catherine Dulude. Image from CBC. Used under fair dealing.

Winnipeg City Council generally starts the day with a prayer—see, for example, the minutes from the City Council meeting on 25 April 2012. (The minutes of all City Council meetings can be found here.)

There were several points that I stressed in the interview, which I’ll summarize here.

First of all, while the Winnipeg Skeptics has no official position with regard to any particular religious claim (except for those that relate to science, such as creationism), the organisation is supportive of secular government over sectarian government.

It is true that Canada doesn’t have a constitutional separation of church and state; indeed, while we have no official religion, our head of state is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. That said, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion.

I have no problem with members of City Council praying privately. I would never ask a politician to “check their religion at the door”. But when religious observance is carried out by an elected body that is meant to represent the people, that religious observance is effectively being carried out on behalf of the people. Canada’s government is committed (nominally, at least) to multiculturalism and religious pluralism. It seems to me that, in such a nation, governmental entanglement with religious practice (such as prayer) should be minimized.

Even the most benign, vague, and seemingly inoffensive prayers can be divisive. A simple prayer to “God” may be offensive to a deist, who may not believe in an interventionist god, or to a Hindu, who may believe in many. Members of minority religious or cultural groups may see governmental prayer as another way in which they are marginalized.

As is to be expected, the five-minute discussion that I had with the journalist was cut down to a single soundbite—but one that accurately represented my position—while Robert McGregor was (appropriately) given a more extensive interview. I thought that the finished piece (which is a distinctly Manitoban combination of French and English) was very good, and you can view it here.

Image from CBC. Used under fair dealing.

Less good was the online article summarizing the téléjournal piece, which identified me as the organiser of the Winnipeg Secularists and seemed generally convinced that Robert and I were the same person. This has since been corrected, but until about an hour ago still listed my name as “Greg”.

If you don’t read French, feel free to have Google translate the article for you. Alternatively, there is a similar article (bereft of any reference to yours truly) on CBC. The usual caveats against reading the comments section apply, of course.

Episode 21: How Rationalists Approach Death, Part 2

Episode 21: How Rationalists Approach Death, Part 2

Life, the Universe & Everything ElseIn this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Mark Forkheim concludes his discussion of life, death, and immortality with Gem Newman, Robert Shindler, and Greg Christensen.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Drinking Skeptically with the Winnipeg Skeptics | Imagine No Relgion 2 | Skepticon 4: How Should Rationalists Approach Death? | Cryonics (Wikipedia, Less Wrong, Alcor Life Extension Foundation) | Technological Singularity | Transhumanism | Technological Predictions by Ray Kurzweil | Curiosity: Can You Live Forever? | Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom | The Weekly Weinersmith, Episode 17: Dr. R. Douglas Fields and “The Other Brain”

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