Episode 94: Free Will

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem is joined by Donna, Ashlyn, and Ian to talk about free will, determinism, and what it means to make a choice. Also on this episode, Donna sits down with August Berkshire of Minnesota Atheists to discuss the moral implications of a world without free will. We went a little long, but don’t blame us: determinism exempts us from all ethical responsibility!

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

Note: Barium. Radioactive caesium decays into barium.

Links: Free Will: What is it? and Do we have it? (The Winnipeg Skeptics) | Free will (Wikipedia) | Phineas Gage (Wikipedia) | Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action (Behavioral and Brain Sciences) | Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain (Nature Neuroscience) | A Brief Defense of Free Will | Discovery of quantum vibrations in ‘microtubules’ corroborates theory of consciousness (Phys.org) | Quantum indeterminacy (Wikipedia) | Uncertainty principle (Wikipedia) | Minnesota Atheists | Freedom Evolves (Wikipedia) | Freedom Evolves by Daniel C. Dennett (Amazon.ca) | Free Will by Sam Harris | Breaking the Free Will Illusion by ‘Trick Slattery | Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner (Amazon.ca) | Killing of Tim McLean (Wikipedia) | Li case exposes ugly truth about Tories (Winnipeg Free Press) | The Fallaway Slam Podcast (The only podcast that matters!)

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Episode 58: Ghosts and Apparitions, Part 2

Episode 58: Ghosts and Apparitions, Part 2

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman talks about the evidence (or lack thereof) for ghosts with Greg Christensen, Ian Leung, and Mark Forkheim. Also on this episode, Gem chats with Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist.

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.

Warning: In the first few minutes of the podcast, Greg asks Gem to give a primer on Bayes’ Theorem and conditional probability (and why this is at all relevant to ghosts). It involves a little bit of math, so brace yourself.

Links: Solstice Party (22 June 2013) | Drinking Skeptically (11 June 2013) | Bayes’ Theorem | Sleep Paralysis | Apophenia | Pareidolia | Friendly Atheist | Steinbach Pastor Voices Opposition to Bill 18 | I Sold My Soul on eBay | The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide

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Bayes’ Theorem
P(A|B) = P(B|A) • P(A) / P(B)

The probability that it is raining, given the fact that it is cloudy:
P(Raining|Cloudy) = P(Cloudy|Raining) • P(Raining) / P(Cloudy)

The probability that ghosts exist, given the fact that you heard a weird noise:
P(Ghosts|Noise) = P(Noise|Ghosts) • P(Ghosts) / P(Noise)

In this instance, P(Noise|Ghosts) is the probability that you’d hear a weird noise, assuming ghosts exist, P(Ghosts) is the prior probability that ghosts exist, and P(Noise) is the probability that you’ll hear weird noises (generally speaking).

The example numbers plugged in during the podcast:
P(Ghosts|Noise) = 0.95 • 0.05 / 0.60 = 0.08

So in this case, hearing a strange noise might increase your belief in ghosts from 5% to 8%; definitely not a smoking gun.

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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