Episode 154: New Religious Movements

Lauren hosts and Laura edits on this topsy-turvy episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else! The gang discusses New Religious Movements: Lauren relates their experience with Discordianism, Laura is over the moon for the Moonies, Gem expresses his disgust for the Internet’s own Cult of Kek, and Ashlyn provides a primer on Pastafarianism. Then the panelists end the show with some fun ways to pass the time under COVID-19 lockdown.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a podcast that delves into issues of science, critical thinking, and secular humanism.

New Religious Movements: New religious movement (Wikipedia) | Is Theosophy a Religion? (Wikipedia) | Academic study of new religious movements (Wikipedia) | Cult (Wikipedia) | Sociological classifications of religious movements (Wikipedia) | Theosophy and visual arts (Wikipedia) | List of new religious movements (Wikipedia) | Charismatic authority (Wikipedia) | Discordianism (Wikipedia) | Sect (Wikipedia) | Communitarianism (Wikipedia)

The Unification Church: Unification movement (Wikipedia) | Former member of the Unification Church describes life in a cult (Insider) | The Fall of the House of Moon (The New Republic) | The cultlike church behind a ceremony with AR-15s and bullet crowns, explained (Vox) | The Unification Church (ReligiousTolerance.org)

The Cult of Kek: Cult of Kek (Know Your Meme) | Savitri Devi: The strange story of how a Hindu Hitler worshipper became an alt-right icon (International Business Times) | Savitri Devi: The Woman Who Turned Nazism into a Religion: Part One, Part Two (Behind the Bastards) | Pepe the Frog (RationalWiki) | Pepe the Frog (Wikipedia) | Kek (mythology) (Wikipedia) | Western esotericism (Wikipedia) | Esoteric Nazism (Wikipedia) | Laughter Sounds in Korean (TalkToMeInKorean)

Pastafarianism: Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster | Pasta strainers and pirates: how the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was born (The Guardian) | Flying Spaghetti Monster Wiki | Flying Spaghetti Monster (Wikipedia)

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Episode 141: Return of the Quiz Show Show!

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Gem, Laura, and special guest Dave compete to see who knows most about myths, riddles, hippos, and this very podcast!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a podcast that delves into issues of science, critical thinking, and secular humanism.

Beginnings and Endings: Creation myth (Wikipedia) | Genesis 1 (Bible Gateway) | Debate between sheep and grain (Wikipedia) | Rangi and Papa (Wikipedia) | Benben (Wikipedia) | Mbombo (Wikipedia) | List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events (Wikipedia) | Eschatological verification (Wikipedia) | Revelation 6 (Bible Gateway) | Frashokereti (Wikipedia) | Our Generation Ships Will Sink (Boing Boing)

Riddles: Hard Riddles (Riddles.fyi)

Hippos: Hippopotamus (Wikipedia) | Hippopotamus: Diet & Facts (Britannica.com) | Hippo (San Diego Zoo) | Hippopotamus (African Wildlife Foundation) | Animal Groups (The Almighty Guru) | Pygmy Hippopotamus (San Diego Zoo) | Hippopotamus (Saint Louis Zoo) | Pygmy hippopotamus (Wikipedia)

Ashlyn’s Segments: Life, the Universe & Everything Else

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Episode 127: Save Us from “Saving Christmas”

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn subjects Lauren, Gem, and Laura to a viewing of Kirk Cameron’s 2014 evangelical holiday film, Saving Christmas.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a podcast that delves into issues of science, critical thinking, and secular humanism.

Links: Saving Christmas (Wikipedia) | Kirk Cameron (Wikipedia)

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Episode 123: Heretics

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn talks heresy with Laura, Gem, and Lauren. Heretics discussed include Hypatia of Alexandria, Roger Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, Charles Darwin, and Giordano Bruno. Also on this episode, Gem drones on about ancient writing materials and the sizes of various libraries for some reason.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a podcast that delves into issues of science, critical thinking, and secular humanism.

Note: In preparation for the discussion of the Library of Alexandria, Gem reached out to Winnipeg’s Millennium Library to ask about the size of their collection. After we recorded the episode, he received a response informing us that the collection contains roughly 338,000 items, which is on the same order of magnitude as the Great Library of Alexandria—but at least some of the items in circulation are going to be non-canon Star Wars novels, so they don’t really count.

SkeptiCamp: If you’d like to present at SkeptiCamp, send an email to skepticamp@winnipegskeptics.com or skepticamp2017@gmail.com. Visit winnipegskeptics.com/skepticamp for more information!

Links: Heresy (Wikipedia) | Library of Alexandria (Wikipedia) | Hypatia (Wikipedia) | General Fact Sheet (New York Public Library) | The Encyclopaedia Britannica hits rock bottom (Quodlibeta) | Neoplatonism (Wikipedia) | Roger Bacon (Wikipedia) | Roger Bacon (Encyclopaedia Britannica) | Roger Bacon (Catholic Encyclopedia) | Bacon biography (History of Mathematics Archive) | Roger Bacon (British Heritage) | The Persecution of Philosophers (Bad News About Christianity) | Darwin’s Heretic | Charles Darwin: A heretic and a hero (The Globe and Mail) | Religious views of Charles Darwin (Wikipedia) | Are great scientists always heretics? (BBC Science) | Darwin on a Godless Creation: “It’s like confessing to a murder” (Scientific American) | Evolution and the Catholic Church (Wikipedia) | Reactions to On the Origin of Species (Wikipedia) | Giordano Bruno (Wikipedia) | Archimedes (Wikipedia) | Our Unknown Martyrs (The Scientist Magazine) | 7 Scientists Who Died Violently (FamousScientists.org) | Baruch Spinoza (Wikipedia) | Science and Religion (MarkHumphrys.com) | Michael Servetus (Wikipedia)

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Episode 102: Apologetics & Counter-apologetics

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem runs through several arguments for the existence of God with Ashlyn, Ian, and Laura, and the panel ponders whether it’s worth talking about religious arguments at all.

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

Links: Selling Religion Door to Door (Startled Disbelief) | Ontological argument (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Miracle of the Sun (Wikipedia) | Sanal Edamaruku (Wikipedia) | The Argument from Miracles (Arguments for Atheism) | Thank You God (Tim Minchin) | Euthyphro dilemma (Wikipedia) | Euthyphro dilemma (Iron Chariots Wiki) | The Euthyphro Dilemma (Philosophy of Religion) | Episode 132: Euthyphro’s Revenge (Reasonable Doubts) | Argument from design (RationalWiki) | Occam’s razor (Wikipedia) | Cosmological argument (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Kalam (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Leibniz cosmological argument (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Ontological Girlfriend (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) | 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Strange Notions) | Dietitian at Home

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Episode 83: Live from the Calgary Secular Church

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Greg Christensen visits the Calgary Secular Church and interviews CSC minister Korey Peters.

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: Calgary Secular Church Website | Meetup Group

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Episode 68: Atheist Myths

Episode 68: Atheist Myths

Is atheism a religion? In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Donna Harris, Greg Christensen, Pat Morrow, and Jeffrey Olsson take on a few of the myths and misconceptions about 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: Atheist vs. Agnostic | Atheism starts its megachurch: Is it a religion now? | Calgary Secular Church | Michael Enright: Could Atheists please stop complaining? | Elizabeth Renzetti: Heavens, we atheists have become a smug, dreary lot | Betty Bowers Explains Traditional Marriage to Everyone Else

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Episode 67: An Evening with Ray Comfort

Episode 67: An Evening with Ray Comfort

It’s time for another movie review show! In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Greg Christensen, Richelle McCullough, and Robert Shindler discuss Ray Comfort’s most recent YouTube “documentaries”: Evolution vs. God and 180.

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: Evolution vs. God | Ray Comfort | The Atheist’s Worst Nightmare (The “Banana Fallacy”) | Crocoduck | PZ Myers on Ray Comfort (I Met Ray Comfort Tonight, Ray Comfort Confesses, Ray Comfort Sinks to New Depths of Pathos) | Jaclyn Glenn’s Rebuttal of Atheism vs. God | Rick Mercer’s Talking to American’s Special (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) | Bilateria (Animals with Bilateral Symmetry) | “Your Argument Is Invalid” | Biblical Contradictions | “180” | Godwin’s Law

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Episode 43: News Update

Episode 43: News Update

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn Noble, Donna Harris, and Mark Forkheim discuss local and international news of interest to skeptics, including Palestine’s admission to the United Nations, a study demonstrating the benefits of flax, the Pope’s new Twitter account, and more.

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) | Flaxtastic! | The Palestinian UN Bid: What Happened and What Changed | Everyone Can Benefit from Naturopathic Care (apparently) | Pope Gets More Than Half a Million Twitter Followers Without Sending a Single Tweet | Cambridge University to Open Centre Studying the Risks of Technology to Humans | What If? The Robot Apocalypse

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What Does Creationism Say About Our Culture?

Cross-posted from Skeptic North.

According to a 2007 Angus-Reid poll, 59% of Canadians accept evolution and common descent, while 22% are convinced that God created human beings within the last 10,000 years (with acceptance of evolution being correlated with youth and with higher levels of education, and belief in special creation being more prevalent on the prairies). While it can be tempting to dismiss those who claim that evolution is a religion or that there are no transitional fossils as backward or fringe, the truth is that the prevalence of these beliefs (even in high places) is actually an interesting phenomenon.

As any skeptic can tell you, simply correcting misinformation—supplying the relevant facts, highlighting a logical fallacy, whatever—is nearly never enough to dissuade a believer. Why? Because beliefs don’t stand and fall simply on their own merits. Understanding why people believe things that are sometimes downright odd can provide us with important insight. It seems to me that this sort of context can not only tell us how we might go about winning the argument, but it can give us insight into what the argument is really about.

Look, it can be great fun playing whack-a-mole with creationist claims (I’ve done it many times myself)—we can say that evolution is the cornerstone of modern biological sciences until we’re blue in the face—but when you get right down to it, belief in creationism seems relatively benign when compared to (for example) the conviction that lemongrass makes a good cure for pancreatic cancer. But it’s important to understand that pseudoscientific beliefs do not exist in a vacuum, that they are instead part of a larger cultural context: and that context should be of great interest to skeptics.

I’m sure that many of our readers remember that in a 2009 Globe & Mail interview Gary Goodyear (our Minister of State for Science & Technology, for those of you who were about to check Wikipedia) refused to answer a question about his stance on evolution, stating “I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate.”

While many people were justifiably appalled that Canada’s Minister of State for Science & Technology confused a question about his position on an important scientific issue with a question about his religion, I’m inclined to think that Goodyear may have simply been engaging in a rather artless attempt to dodge a question that he may have considered politically awkward (recognizing that his position is probably not in line with the overwhelming scientific consensus). Regardless, countless people swarmed to Goodyear’s defence, with National Post columnist Jonathan Kay characterizing the Globe & Mail article as a “witch hunt”.

So what does the prevalence of creationism (or at the very least, the hesitation to accept the strong scientific consensus) say about our culture?

When a person finds that an opinion (even if said opinion is a deeply held religious opinion) is contradicted by the scientific evidence, most reasonable people would probably agree that this person has two real options: to impugn the evidence or to change the opinion. The choice that an individual makes may be in some sense mediated by the answer to this question: Does this person think that the evidence is contradicting the belief, or do they think that the belief is contradicting the evidence?

However, there is a hidden third option: to blithely ignore the conflict. Whether it takes the form of treating science as just another social construct, no more valid than any other, or of simply denying the necessity of basing one’s beliefs on evidence, this seems to be an increasingly popular tactic for coping with cognitive dissonance.

The fact remains that we now live in a culture in which personal opinion and scientific evidence are, in the eyes of many, given equal weight. We live in a culture in which it is commonplace for a person, upon finding that established science contradicts their personal opinion, to say, “All the worse for science!” This is troubling.

It seems that many people treat their opinions about science (or politics, for that matter) in the same way they treat their preferred sports teams. These opinions are strongly influenced by social and geographical factors, but that doesn’t prevent anyone from strongly and cheerfully proclaiming the superiority of their side of the argument—and in both cases, people are unlikely to be swayed by the evidence (sorry, Maple Leafs fans).

In fact, for people who hold strong opinions on any subject, evidence that contravenes the opinion is actually likely to strengthen the opinion, rather than erode it. This phenomenon is known as the “backfire effect“. A widely reported study on the subject (as it relates to factual claims in politics) was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Georgia State University in 2006, and it concluded that “corrections fail to reduce misperceptions for the most committed participants. Even worse, they actually strengthen misperceptions among ideological subgroups in several cases.”

No one can be completely immune to the backfire effect (or to any other cognitive bias). But if your primary conviction is to the method rather than to the conclusion, then perhaps you will be better equipped to recognise that it is your opinion that is in need of correction.

So what does creationism say about our culture? That, at the very least, we must remain vigilant.