The listeners of the official podcast of the JREF, Skeptics Guide to the Universe, have cast their votes, and former President of the JREF, Phil Plait has emerged victorious. Honorable mentions included Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh, and Wired Magazine's Amy Wallace.
Phil states on his blog that "I have arrived as a skeptic," and we at the JREF have to agree. With his incredibly popular blog, and upcoming TV series, countless apearances on podcasts, radio shows, and documentaries, Phil Plait is a skeptical tour de force.
When informed of the award, he said "That's really cool!" And then went on to mention that he wasn't wearing pants at the moment. If you'd like to hear his explanation for that, you can tune into the podcast which is available here, where you'll also find out what Phil thinks the biggest astronomy item of the year was, and why the Bullet Cluster is so important.
While Phil will be missed at the JREF, we're gratified that he's still out there fighting the good fight.
This is not a debunking. For all I know, Ugandan witch doctors really may be using the bodyparts of sacrificed children in their magical ceremonies, as has recently been claimed. But I’m skeptical.
… which is apparently a pretty rare attitude vis a vis child murders by Ugandan sorcerers. Early this morning (Friday, January 8th), the pan-African publication Newstime Africawas reporting that the Ugandan government had issued a statement condemning the “barbaric crime” of child sacrifice, and that former witch doctors were coming forward with grisly tales of child murder and black magic. Then a BBC story on the same subject began making the rounds on Twitter, and then the Telegraph’s day-oldblurb entitled “Human sacrifices on the rise in Uganda as witch doctors admit to rituals” trumped them all by getting itself posted on The Drudge Report.
In this Pod Delusion podcast, D.J. Grothe's first interview since taking the Presidential reins of the JREF, more is revealed about the JREF's future plans. Hear about future Amaz!ng Meetings, D.J.'s departure from CFI, the future of Point of Inquiry and more.
Check out this poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The poll’s big finding is that Americans are mix-n-matching religions and belief systems as never before. No longer does a man’s self-identification as a Calvinist prevent him from getting smashed with the Asatruar, and Muslims from Maine to Mount Vernon are getting hip to reincarnation. Catholics, results show, are crazy for astrology, and almost one in five of us have had run-ins with the dead.
Our friends over at csicop.org have posted online a collection of essays by and about Carl Sagan.
One thing that stands out in them is how skepticism was for Carl Sagan a deeply ethical enterprise, not just a debunking hobby, or a way to show how smart we are compared to the numbskulls who believe nonsense. For Sagan, as for so many other leaders in skepticism — though it is not often framed like this — his skepticism came out of a kind of deep moral imperative. Because undue credulity causes so much measurable harm, it follows that there is an ethical obligation to work to mitigate it through speaking out and educating our neighbors. Whether you believe that space aliens are coming to Earth to solve all our problems so we don't have to do any work to fix them ourselves, or you believe that going to a faith healer or New Age huckster rather than relying on medical science to heal you is the right course of medical care, believing in things uncritically can be bad for you and bad for society. Sagan felt that it was the right thing — the morally conscientious thing — to work against those trends.