Point of InquiryAuthor: Center for Inquiry
17 Nov 2018

Point of Inquiry

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Launched in 2005, Point of Inquiry is the premier podcast of the Center for Inquiry. Point of Inquiry critically examines topics in science, religion, philosophy, and politics. Each episode takes on a specific issue and features lively discussion with leading scientists, researchers and writers. Point of Inquiry is produced at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, N.Y.

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    The Odyssey of the Plutophiles: Alan Stern and David Grinspoon on the Voyage of New Horizons

    In July of 2015, a spacecraft called New Horizons gave humankind its first close-up view of a small, misunderstood world called Pluto. It took almost 10 years for New Horizons to soar across more than 3 billion miles of space and give us our first meeting with Pluto and its family of moons.

    But that journey is just a small part of a much bigger and more harrowing story of how New Horizons came to be. It was a mission that was decades in the making, an endeavor that endured several near-death experiences, from its early planning stages all the way to the eve of its encounter with Pluto.

    Our guests are now telling this incredible story in the new book Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, having experienced this adventure first-hand and from two very different perspectives. Alan Stern is the principle investigator of the New Horizons mission, and his co-author, David Grinspoon, is an astrobiologist, author, and advisor to NASA who witnessed the New Horizons saga as it unfolded and helped to bring its story to life.


  • Posted on 17 May 2018

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    Trying to Throw Science at Them: Yvette d'Entremont and Kavin Senapathy on Food, Fads, and Fear

    We are living in a land of confusion, as the band Genesis warned us back in 1986, but even they could not have predicted just how much more confusing things would get 31 years later. With a storm of misinformation engulfing almost every field of human endeavor, 2017 was ripe with confusion. And one of the most bewildering subjects is also one of the most personal: our health.

    With celebrity gurus pitching pseudoscientific nonsense, conflicting news stories about what will and won't kill you, and an entire culture of hyper-privilege teaching people to be suspicious of science, people are being made to be afraid of their food. And there's a lot of money to made off of that fear.

    To help us navigate these choppy waters, Point of Inquiry host Paul Fidalgo is joined by two brilliant science communicators; Kavin Senapathy, a science and parenting columnist and co-author of The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House; and Yvette d'Entremont, better known as the SciBabe, whose writing has appeared in a variety of outlets such as The Outline, Gawker, and Cosmopolitan. The two of them will guide us through this land of confusion, and maybe, with their of smarts and humor, make this a place worth living in.

    Bonus for Point of Inquiry listeners: Get a special discount to purchase the new documentary Science Moms, featuring Kavin, when you use the promo code "CFI" (without quotes) at checkout.


  • Posted on 30 Dec 2017

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    Margaret Sullivan: Reckoning and Redemption for the Reality-Based Press

    In the post-truth world, the mainstream media is beset on all sides. Peddlers of propaganda, misinformation, and conspiracy theories seek to strip the media of its authority by creating parallel realities and fomenting anger and mistrust. At the same time, poor editorial judgments and a toxic culture of sexism have landed countless self-inflected wounds. How can a reality-based press ever hope to fulfill its mission to seek the truth, hold power accountable, and leave the public more informed?

    There may be no one better positioned to answer these questions than Margaret Sullivan. She's the media columnist for The Washington Post, and previously spent three and half years at The New York Times as its Public Editor, and as the first woman to be chief editor of The Buffalo News. She joins host Paul Fidalgo to talk about the crises facing journalism today, and why the reality-based press now finds itself at an inflection point: Its flaws have been exposed, and yet it is also producing some of the best journalism in ages. Can the press still deliver us the truth, or is the truth a sad casualty of a media landscape gone haywire?


  • Posted on 06 Dec 2017

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    Lee Billings on the Search for Life in a Silent Universe

    It’s a big cosmos out there. It wasn’t too long ago that we couldn’t be sure that any planets existed anywhere outside of our own solar system. But in just the past handful of years, we’ve learned that planets orbiting stars are the rule, not the exception, which suggests that there may be 200 billion planets just in our galaxy alone, and trillions upon trillions of planets throughout the known universe. Surely, many of the planets in the Milky Way must be home to life forms, and even technologically advanced civilizations.

    So where the heck are they? Why can’t we find them? Why won’t they talk to us? Would we even know it if they did? To talk about the prospects for life on other worlds, intelligent and otherwise, Point of Inquiry host Paul Fidalgo talks to journalist Lee Billings. Lee is a reporter and editor for Scientific American covering space and physics, as well as the author of Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars.

    Billings explains how this quest, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, has become increasingly daunting even as our knowledge of the cosmos grows richer. It is a quest rife with pitfalls, paradoxes, and plain old speculation, and so far, it has proven fruitless. But despite our apparent solitude, we keep looking. We keep listening. And we keep reaching out. Do we have the patience and the will to continue searching and waiting for a sign that may never come?


  • Posted on 27 Sep 2017

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    Be Not Constrained: James Croft on Humanists’ Responsibility to Fight Oppression

    The modern conception of secular humanism arose in large part as a response to the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust, and the evils of racism and bigotry. Humanist Manifesto II, written in 1973, called for “the elimination of all discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national origin,” and envisioned a world in which all human beings were given equal dignity within a global community.

    It is now two weeks since newly emboldened white supremacists, including Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen, marched on Charlottesville, attacked counter-protesters, and murdered Heather Heyer. President Trump has exacerbated the ensuing tension and fear by refusing to assign full responsibility to the white supremacists, and insisting that the blame be shared by some contingent of an alleged “alt-left.”

    It is time for humanism to respond once again. Our guest for this episode of Point of Inquiry is James Croft of the St. Louis Ethical Society, who encourages us to fully live out the values of humanism, not just as an academic philosophy but as an urgent call to act on behalf of others. “Be not restrained,” he advises, as he and host Paul Fidalgo discuss how humanists can lead the way in healing our national wounds, but that the process must begin by honestly acknowledging and addressing the injustices that have permeated American society from its very beginnings.


  • Posted on 25 Aug 2017

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