The Humanist Hour
Summary: A typical episode of the HH podcast features interviews, commentary, news, and music. Notable guests have included Sir Salman Rushdie, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, E.O. Wilson, Alan Dershowitz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Andy Rooney, Greg Graffin of Bad Religion, Holly Near, Dar Williams and Julia Sweeney. The HH podcast is hosted and produced by Bo Bennett, PhD, from the American Humanist Association.
In this episode, Bo Bennett interviews entertainer and career skeptic Brian Brushwood. Brian is an American magician, podcaster, author, lecturer and comedian. He is known for the series Scam School, a show where he teaches the audience entertaining tricks at bars so they can "scam" a free drink from their friends. In addition to Scam School Brushwood co-hosts the podcasts Weird Things, Too Long Didn't Listen, Cordkillers and Night Attack. Brushwood is also a regular guest on the This Week in Tech podcast. Brushwood performs his Bizarre Magic stage show across the United States and is the author of six books. Brushwood has appeared on national television numerous times including on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CNN and Food Network. From Brian’s website: Ever wonder how those guys on TV seem to talk to the dead? What about ESP and psychic surgery? How do street scams and cons work? Want to know how YOU can trick your friends into believing you have psychic powers? As a magician, Brian’s wise to all the tricks used by frauds, tricksters, and scam artists …and now he’s ready to take YOU to scam school. This is no ordinary lecture: we’re talking hands-on experiments, a live performance of psychic surgery, free giveaways of cash and prizes, and all the secrets TV psychics DON’T want you to know.
In this episode, Bo Bennett interviews Kevin deLaplante, philosophy and religious studies professor at Iowa State University. They discuss several aspects of critical thinking, including it is so important in everyday life. From Dr. deLaplante’s website, Critical Thinking Academy: When I’m not working on the Academy I teach at Iowa State University in the Depart-ment of Philosophy & Religious Studies. I was Chair of that department from 2009-2013. My early training was in physics. In graduate school I focused my studies on the history and philosophy of science. Over the years I’ve taught courses on Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, Symbolic Log-ic, Logic and Scientific Reasoning, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Physics, Phi-losophy of Biology, Philosophy of Ecology, Philosophy of Mathematics, and others. I’ve always had an interest in critical thinking, human (ir)rationality and the psychology of belief and judgment. The Academy is a place where I can indulge my interests in this area and share what I’ve learned with a broader audience.
In this episode, Bo Bennett speaks with David Niose about his new book, Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America from the Attack on Reason. David is the immediate past president of the American Humanist Association. He currently serves as the legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, running the AHLC's Massachusetts office. From Amazon: The political scene is changing rapidly in America. The religious right is on the defensive, acceptance of gay rights is at an all-time high, social conservatives are struggling for relevance, and more Americans than ever identify as nonreligious. What does this mean for the country and the future? With these demographic shifts, can truly progressive, reason-based public policy finally gain traction? Or will America continue to carry a reputation as anti-intellectual and plutocratic, eager to cater to large corporate interests but reluctant to provide universal health care to all its citizens? Fighting Back the Right reveals a new alliance in the making, a progressive coalition committed to fighting for rational public policy in America and reversing the damage inflicted by decades of conservative dominance. David Niose, Legal Director of the American Humanist Association (AHA), examines this exciting new dynamic, covering not only the rapidly evolving culture wars but also the twists and turns of American history and politics that led to this point, and why this new alliance could potentially move the country in a direction of sanity, fairness, and human-centered public policy.
In this episode, Bo Bennett speaks with John Figdor, the current Humanist Chaplain at Stanford University where he organizes events and programs for both students and community members of the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the first Humanist Chaplain on the West Coast serving a university community. John received his B.A. with honors in Philosophy from Vassar College and holds a master’s degree (MDiv) in Humanism and Interfaith Dialogue from Harvard Divinity School. He was an Organizing Fellow of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University and former Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, working with Greg Epstein. John is a former Board Member of the Secular Student Alliance, and his work has been discussed in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post. In 2014, John coauthored with Lex Bayer the book "Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-First Century".
In this episode, Bo Bennett speaks with James Woods, an openly-atheist congressional candidate for Arizona’s 5th district. Though he lost in the November 4 general election, his trailblazing campaign helped pave the way for other openly secular candidates in the future. Read about James Woods (in his own words): I’ve lived in Arizona my whole life. I was born in the Arizona East Valley and raised by good-hearted working class parents. My dad is one of my best friends and supporters. We lost my mom to cancer in 2002, but I think she would be proud of how close and strong our family has remained. I graduated from Dobson High in ‘97 and went to Mesa Community College, working toward a career in the tech industry. I wanted the kind of job where I could support myself and a family, but also contribute to the quality of life in Arizona by developing technology-based solutions to the problems our state faces. A month before my 27th birthday, I was hospitalized for a rare illness that nearly killed me. I didn’t have health coverage. I survived organ failure and amputations. While my medical team fought to keep me alive, my vision started fading. On a Monday I told the doctor that things were starting to look dim, and by Friday I never saw again. I ended up on dialysis and even spent time in hospice. I would not be alive today without all the people who invested in me. You invested in me through your contributions to government programs like Medicaid, Social Security Disability and Nutrition Assistance. My dad invested in me and became my caregiver. And someone I never met gave me a new chance at a healthy life through organ donation. After all of that generosity and support, it's time for me to start giving back. Last February I received a new kidney, and from my hospital bed in Phoenix I signed the paperwork to run for the US Congress in Arizona’s CD5. After my long struggle to get the health care I needed and the losses I experienced when I couldn’t get it, I knew I had an opportunity to start advocating for change. There is a damaging disparity between the decision-makers in Washington and the people who have to live with the decisions they make. We deserve representatives who know what it’s like to face hard times and what’s needed to overcome them. I can provide that representation. I have already overcome some tough odds, and I believe it’s time to overcome the conservative ideology that hurts the most vulnerable among us.
In this episode, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with Bart Campolo, the Humanist Chaplain at the University of Southern California who recently left Christianity and became a “preacher of reason.” Bart talks about his journey and offers advice on how secular groups can use some of the “secret sauce” used by many religious groups to build communities. After receiving his BA in Religious Studies from Brown University, Bart served as youth pastor of the Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis before returning to his hometown of Philadelphia to found Mission Year, which recruits Christian young adults to live and work among the poor in urban neighborhoods across the country. During his fifteen years in that role, Bart became a popular writer and speaker in evangelical Christian circles, focusing on interpersonal relationships, community development, and social justice. In 2005 he returned to street-level ministry as leader of the Walnut Hills Fellowship, a missional, interfaith community in inner-city Cincinnati, and also began consulting with a variety of non-profit organizations. Most recently, he worked with the Abraham Path Initiative and the Telos Group, educating American faith leaders about the causes of and potential remedies for the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over the course of his ministry career, Bart gradually transitioned from Christianity to secular humanism. As the first Humanist Chaplain at USC, he is committed to developing a community that offers regular inspiration, pastoral care, supportive fellowship, and service opportunities to students, faculty, staff members, local families, and individuals exploring or actively pursuing secular goodness as a way of life. Bart and his wife, artist Marty Thorpe Campolo, have three adult children.
In this episode, Bo Bennett and Todd Stiefel interview Dr. Susan Blackmore about near death experiences, the paranormal, consciousness, and memes. Dr. Blackmore is an English freelance writer, lecturer, sceptic, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, and is best known for her book The Meme Machine. She has written and contributed to over 40 books and 60 scholarly articles and is a contributor to The Guardian newspaper.
In this episode, Bo Bennett interviews George Eighmey, officer and spokesperson for the Death with Dignity National Center. The mission of the Center is to promote Death with Dignity laws based on their model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, both to provide an option for dying individuals and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care. George was an Oregon state legislator in 1997 when opponents to the Death with Dignity Act were working to dismantle the citizen's initiative passed in 1994, and he was instrumental in blocking this opposition. After the law was implemented, he took up a leadership role as the executive director of Compassion in Dying of Oregon which later became Compassion & Choices of Oregon. After twelve years helping terminally ill patients navigate Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, George retired in 2010.
In this episode. Bo Bennett speaks with Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider on the issue of criticizing Islam and analyzing some of the recent comments made by people such as Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Reza Aslan, and Ben Affleck. Muhammad Syed is a resident of the Washington, DC metro area. Due to the desire to better understand his faith, he embarked on a long period of research and study culminating in the inevitable conclusion that Islam, like other religions, is nothing more than bronze-age mythology. He decided to be public about his apostasy in 2007 in a desire to engage in open dialogue and break the apostasy taboo, encouraging other like-minded individuals to follow suit. In 2012, following the lead of the groups in London and Toronto, he started organizing an Ex-Muslim Community in the Washington, DC area. Sarah Haider, a recent transplant to DC, was born in Pakistan and raised in the US. She grew up on a diet of debating and reading which, as a surprise to no-one, led to her atheism. Muhammad and Sarah had a long-standing friendship based on their similar background and she was involved in launching the DC-area Ex-Muslim Community. Her tireless efforts were instrumental in creating Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) and she has been involved in public relations with EXMNA from the start. Sarah has been active in atheist and secular circles. Inspired by FreeThoughtBlogs, she conceived the idea of ExMuslim Blogs.
In this episode, TheHumanist.com contributor Dan Moran shares his 1992 interview with the late Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922 – 2007) was an American writer of noted works such as Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). Known for his humanist beliefs, he was awarded the AHA’s Humanist of the Year award in 1992 and served as the AHA’s honorary president. Vonnegut grew up in a family of German-American freethinkers. His great-grandfather was the first president of the Freethinkers Society of Indianapolis and he maintained the family tradition of rejecting religious dogma in favor of humanism. The sarcastic tone of Vonnegut's work came from major personal traumas, including his mother's suicide and witnessing first-hand the 1945 bombing of Dresden, Germany while a prisoner of war. Despite such experiences, Vonnegut never felt the need to fall back on irrational beliefs to explain irrational actions. He maintained his belief in a humanist worldview throughout his life. "I am a humanist," Vonnegut wrote in a letter to AHA members, "which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead." Daniel Thomas Moran served as Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, New York from 2005 to 2007. His work has appeared in The New York Times, National Forum, and the Poetry Salzburg Review. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine. His website is www.danielthomasmoran.net.
In this episode, Bo and Kim discuss the Openly Secular campaign with the chairman of the campaign, Todd Stiefel. Todd lives in Raleigh, NC. He is a secular humanist, an atheist and full-time freethought activist. He serves as an advisor to many of the top nontheistic organizations. He has given over $4.5 million dollars to charities in the Freethought Movement. This is highlighted by $3.5 million to found the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. Todd graduated cum laude from Duke University. He worked 12 years for Stiefel Laboratories, holding positions in marketing, sales operations and strategy. During his tenure, the company’s revenues quadrupled. He was the Chief Strategy Officer, the Enterprise Leadership Team chairman and member of the executive committee of the Board.
In this episode, Bo Bennett has the honor of getting to know Maggie Ardiente and Roy Speckhardt from the American Humanist Association, when they drop by the recording studio for a live, wide-ranging discussion. Maggie Ardiente is the director of development and communications at the American Humanist Association and senior editor of TheHumanist.com. She graduated with a B.S. in sociology from James Madison University and served as Vice President of the JMU Freethinkers, a student group for atheists, agnostics, and humanists. She is a former board member of the Secular Student Alliance and a graduate (Class 15) and board member of The Humanist Institute. Roy Speckhardt has served as executive director of the American Humanist Association since 2005. He is a frequent media commentator, having appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, and NPR, among others. He also writes a regular column for The Huffington Post, and has given speeches at colleges, conferences, and local humanist groups across the country. Speckhardt also serves on the boards of The Institute for Humanist Studies, the United Coalition of Reason, The Humanist Institute, and the Secular Coalition for America Education Fund. He served as deputy director of The Interfaith Alliance from 1995 to 2001. Speckhardt holds an M.B.A. from George Mason University and B.A. in sociology from Mary Washington College.
In this episode, Bo interviews Jason Eden, a guy who was about as “Christian” as a Christian can get, yet recently left Christianity for atheism with a Humanist worldview. Eden is a former Southern Baptist preacher, youth minister, worship leader, and Christian apologist. Now a humanist celebrant, he resides near St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and two children. He wrote about his journey away from faith and his coming-out in the book That’s Me in the Corner: Coming Out as an Atheist on Facebook. Professionally, he works in corporate education capacities in the fields of big data and cloud computing, and sometimes writes at TheHumanist.com and at TheBookofWonder.org.
In this episode, Todd and Kim interview Dr. Steven Novella live at the 2014 Dragon Con. They discuss a variety of topics, but mostly cover what being a good skeptic is all about! Dr. Novella is an academic neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. In addition to being the host of The Skeptics’ Guide podcast, he is the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society. He is also the author of NeuroLogicaBlog, a popular science blog that covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella also contributes every Sunday to The Rogues Gallery, the official blog of the SGU; every Monday to SkepticBlog; and every Wednesday to Science-Based Medicine, a blog dedicated to issues of science and medicine. Dr. Novella a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and a founding fellow of the Institute for Science in Medicine. His column “The Science of Medicine” appears regularly in the Skeptical Inquirer. Dr. Novella is also a Senior Fellow for the James Randi Educational Foundation and directs their Science-Based Medicine program. Dragon Con is a multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction & fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe. Special thanks to AbruptMedia, LLC and Skeptrack 2014 for providing the audio file for this podcast.
In this episode, Bo Bennett interviews Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin about being a Humanist in politics. Raskin serves on the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and is a professor of constitutional law and the first amendment at American University’s Washington College of Law. He is the bestselling author of "Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus the American People", and "We the Students: Supreme Court Cases For and About Students". As a freshman senator, Raskin has seen more than a dozen of his bills pass into law, including a statewide civil rights law, the National Popular Vote plan for presidential elections, a law protecting tenants in condo conversions, a law establishing September 17th as Constitution and Bill of Rights Day, and a farm-to-schools initiative to get locally grown farm food into public schools.