Point of Inquiry
Point of Inquiry
Center for Inquiry
Point of Inquiry is the Center for Inquiry's flagship podcast, where the brightest minds of our time sound off on all the things you're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table: science, religion, and politics. Guests have included Brian Greene, Susan Jacoby, Richard Dawkins, Ann Druyan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Eugenie Scott, Adam Savage, Bill Nye, and Francis Collins. Point of Inquiry is produced at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, N.Y.
Revisiting The Life Of Frank Sinatra – Living A Life Of Homelessness
In 1997 Jim produced and directed a short documentary called “A Day in the Life of Frank Sinatra” that was an exploration of what it was like to be a homeless man with a famous name. Twenty three years later, Frank Sinatra is recently off the streets, lives in a government-funded camper in Los Angeles, and is trying to live a normal life. In this episode, Jim sits down with Frank and asks him about being a cab driver, a one-time contestant on the “Gong Show”, about homelessness in Los Angeles for the last 28 years, the troubles and lasting damage addiction can cause, how Frank believes that no one is immune to turning to drugs, and his hopes for the future. This episode of Point of Inquiry does contain explicit language.
Nov 25
31 min
The Puritan Roger Williams, Church State Separation, and The Impact on Today
What does the Puritan founder of both the state of Rhode Island and the Baptist Church have to say about modern evangelicals?   Roger Williams had certain ideas that didn't fit into 17th century England or its American colonies. Freedom of conscience, separation of church and crown, fair treatment of indigenous peoples, and supporting the rights of women were all a tough sell in the 1600s. But sell he did, and though Roger Williams is far from a household name in 2020, some of his ideas still reverberate through our country and our world.   In this episode, Jim Underdown speaks to Roger Williams' 12th great-granddaughter, Becky Garrison, about her book, Roger Williams's Little Book of Virtues. They speak about and his legacy, dive into his beliefs and their context in the 1600s, and how much of Williams' legacy impacts us today.
Nov 12
58 min
J.R. Becker on the Annabelle and Aiden Book Series and Teaching Children Critical Thinking
Author J.R. Becker joins Leighann Lord in this episode of Point of Inquiry to speak about his book series, Annabelle & Aiden. The series is a pro-science children's book series that explores science, philosophy, and critical thinking. Their conversation dives into: What inspired Becker to write the series How the books teach critical thinking and a skeptical outlook to children and why that's important The push back the series has had from various religious groups How adults can enjoy and learn from these books as well What's in store in Annabelle & Aiden's future You can learn more about the Annabelle & Aiden series on annabelleandaiden.com
Oct 22
38 min
Chris Matheson on Writing Bill and Ted and his Books on God and Buddha
Screenwriter and author Chris Matheson joins Jim in this episode which touches on the recently released Bill & Ted Face the Music, then dives deeply into Matheson's two comedic books on the Bible and the Buddha.   In his The Story of God, Chris gets into the mind of what must be an insane and sadistic deity by using the Bible itself to retell the story. In The Buddha's Story, he points his rapier wit at the “Awakened One” -- also through scripture -- and unveils a religious icon most would find rather reprehensible.   Both books find a way to raise incisive questions about key religious figures in a very humorous way. Chris Matheson is one of those rare people who can get people to laugh and learn at the same time.   You can find both of Matheson's books, The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate) and The Buddha's Story on Amazon We are proud to announce that this episode of Point of Inquiry was sponsored by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund. Our friends, Spike Wadsworth and Sherry Sheng, are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to thought-provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture. We are grateful for their support. If you would like to learn more about how to support Point of Inquiry or the work of its umbrella organization, the Center for Inquiry, please contact our Director of Development, Connie Skingel, at development@centerforinquiry.org. Point of Inquiry has a listener survey available that we are asking you to complete! Visit the survey at bit.ly/poisurvey. Filling out the survey will help the show grow and improve as we understand the fine folks who listen. Thank you.
Oct 8
47 min
Rev. Barry W. Lynn on The Supreme Court, Retirement, and His Upcoming Book
The recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left many shaken. A few weeks prior to her passing, Leighann Lord had the opportunity to speak with Rev. Barry Lynn, former executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the Constitution’s religious liberty provisions. Rev. Lynn has spent much of his career working between religion, government, and fighting for the rights of marginalized communities. He and Lord discuss his new retirement and how it was not what he was anticipating, stories from his new book, “You Don’t Know Me - But You Might Have Heard of Some of the People I’ve Met”, the importance of the separation of church and state, the hyper-politicization of US politics, how we've moved away from finding creative compromises, and how this has bred a new kind of evil in men like Tucker Carlson. Finally, Rev. Lynn speaks his views on the Supreme Court and what needs to change for anything meaningful to happen and how even before Justice Ginsburg's passing, the difficultly and unlikelihood that certain policies, like The Green New Deal or Medicare for All, would be passed. You can find out what Rev. Lynn is up to by visiting his website or twitter. We are proud to announce that this episode of Point of Inquiry was sponsored by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund. Our friends, Spike Wadsworth and Sherry Sheng, are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to thought-provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture. We are grateful for their support. If you would like to learn more about how to support Point of Inquiry or the work of its umbrella organization, the Center for Inquiry, please contact our Director of Development, Connie Skingel, at development@centerforinquiry.org. Point of Inquiry has a listener survey available that we are asking you to complete! Visit the survey at bit.ly/poisurvey. Filling out the survey will help the show grow and improve as we understand the fine folks who listen. Thank you.
Sep 24
54 min
Dr. Raymond Hall on Physicsfun and Teaching Critical Thinking
One professor is using social media to remind us that physics is the real magic of the universe. Through showing off his massive collection of science gadgets and physics toys, Dr. Raymond Hall is teaching many, young and old, the wonderful world of physics and how everyday phenomena is just science in action. In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Dr. Raymond Hall joins Jim Underdown as Hall explains how his physicsfun Instagram was started and how it launched into popularity, the power of social media to spread awareness of science, physics, and complex topics, Professor Hall's research into why people believe in pseudoscience and magical thinking, and his quest to answer this question: does simply teaching science or methodology innoculate folks from believing misinformation and pseudoscience or do you need to do more? Dr. Raymond Hall is a professor of Physics at California State University-Fresno. His work has involved working with a team that discovered the top quark, a fundamental particle of nature. You can see more of his great physicsfun experiments on Instagram and Youtube. This Week's Music “Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0 “Cold” by Pictures of the Floating World / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 “Teahouse and Bamboo Trees” by springtide / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Sep 10
54 min
The Brazen Atheist Erin Louis on Countering Conspiracists With Critical Thinking
Would you rather have your children looking at QAnon conspiracy Youtubers or porn online? That's a question author Erin Louis has had to confront with her teenage son. How do you employ critical thinking, media literacy, and a skeptical mindset in the every day world to make a real impact.  In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Erin Louis joins Leighann Lord as they discuss her journey through the freethought movement, countering conspiracists with critical thinking, why she wrote Expose Yourself, stories from her life as a stripper, and how to get over our unconscious or implicit biases.   Erin Louis, also known as the Brazen Atheist, has authored the books EXPOSE YOURSELF: How To Take Risks, Question Everything and Find Yourself - Humor and Insights From My Life As a Stripper, Dirty Money: Memoirs of a Stripper, and Think You Want To Be A Stripper? Her goal is to facilitate and foster self acceptance and critical thinking. You can follow Erin on her website erinlouis.com and on twitter @ErinLouis666
Aug 20
40 min
Steven Hassan on Breaking Down The Cult of Trump
The names Jim Jones, L.Ron Hubbard, David Koresh, and Sun Myung Moon might come to mind when someone uses the term cult leader. Many have suggested that Donald Trump falls into the category. But does Trump himself truly qualify as a cult leader? Can Trump's followers be correctly described as a cult?   In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Steven Hassan joins Jim Underdown as they dive into persuasive reasoning, the work of BJ Fogg's persuasive marketing technology used widely on social media platforms, why cults are successful, the processes involved that lead people into joining a cult, and why the President of the United States can accurately be described as a cult leader.   Steven Hassan, is an expert on Undue Influence, brainwashing and unethical hypnosis and author of the best-selling book, Combating Cult Mind Control. He is a licensed mental health professional and cult expert. Steven helps people leave destructive cults after he was deprogrammed and left Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. He is the founding director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center. He developed the BITE and Influence Continuum models to assess what control methods an individual or group uses and where they fall on a continuum from not harmful to extremely harmful.
Jul 23
58 min
Anthony Pinn on Religion, Oppression, and Humanists
In this episode of Point of Inquiry, co-host Leighann Lord talks with professor, writer, and humanist Dr. Anthony Pinn. Lord and Pinn discuss the power and persistence of magical thinking as we face the current pandemic, the role of the church at a time when science is so important, Black Lives Matter and Pinn's opinion on struggle and progress, how women of color deal with oppression based on race, gender, and class, and the issue with respectability politics. Pinn also proposes the question, "What does our nontheistic perspective offer folks at this moment? What do we offer them beyond the critique of religion?" as we face the pandemic and the ever growing need for honest discussions and action on the issues of race. Anthony Pinn received his Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University, and is currently the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is also the Founding Director of The Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning at Rice University, and Director of Research at The Institute for Humanist Studies. Among his many books are Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist and When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer: Humanism and the Challenge of Race.
Jul 9
46 min
Scientology in Hollywood | A Guided Tour
Looming over the sidewalk of Hollywood, California are tens of millions of dollars of buildings owned by the Church of Scientology. This beleaguered religion may have had a decade of bad PR, but they still own a substantial amount of real estate in California and Florida. In this week's episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim Underdown decided to ride his bike to six major Scientology facilities in Hollywood. Activist Tory Christman, who spent 30 years in the "Church" of Scientology, spoke with Jim the following day to sit down and walk listeners through what happens in these buildings. You can follow along below with the pictures that Jim took while on his bike.
Jun 26
49 min
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