It’s World Philosophy Day

20 11 2008

And at ABC News Online there is call for more philosophy and critical thinking in Australian schools. I share this view, though I find much to disagree with in Kellie Tranter’s article—especially her uncrtical citing of the think-tank Future Directions’ yearning for “a recognisable spiritual set of values and hierarchy.” But I have long felt that explicit instruction in critical thinking is at least as important as functional English.

Anyway, in the spirit of World Philosophy Day . . . .

By the way, if you haven’t done so already, do (as Ninglun would say) train your podcast feeds on The Philosopher’s Zone and Philosophy Bites.

And I might take the opportunity to bleg: if anyone is aware of decent philosophy/critical thinking in ESL resources, please let me know.

They should have axed The Spirit of Things

16 10 2008

Stephen Crittenden is justifiably incensed at the axing of his Wednesday morning Religion Report, but in all fairness, religion had a fairly big slice of the cake on the Radio National schedule with four weekly programs (The Religion Report, The Ark, Encounter and The Spirit of Things). His suggestion that the axing of his program and the religious history program The Ark will spell “the death of religion at the ABC” is a touch overblown in my view; but it is disappointing that ABC management chose to discard the two religion-themed shows that at least endeavoured to be informative, relevant and educational. Encounter‘s usually not that bad either, but Ark presenter Rachael Kohn’s The Spririt of Things is a syrupy paean to belief in belief and religious pandering that has been dumbing down the Radio National brand for a long time.

Of course, the shows mentioned here aren’t the only ones to go, and former RN presenter Andrew Dodd gives his take on the programming reshuffle at (“The dumbing down of Radio National“).

The good news is that The Philosopher’s Zone—perhaps the best philosophy radio show/podcast available anywhere—has been retained. They would have had to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Thinking Out Loud

6 10 2008

I wanted to pop in from my work-induced blogging hiatus to plug a podcast upon which I have just binged . . . only to find that it, too, is on work-induced hiatus.

Thinking Out Loud is the podcast of Citizen Philosopher, a philosophy discussion group based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Over the past three years or so (and yes, I’ve now listened to all three years’ worth), discussions have canvassed a broad range of topics, from free will to responsibility to the ethics of friendship. Moderator Steve Donaldson does his best to maintain a cordial panel discussion format with a minimum of cross-examination and formal debate—an approach I personally prefer though some may find the end result a little dull. Touches of woo and the occasional numerologist aside, participants generally make thoughtful contributions.

Unfortunately, the podcast has been into cryo-freeze at least until next year. But there are still about 30-odd shows available on iTunes if you’re interested.

Denis Loubet’s Crucifixion Challenge

22 08 2008
some things in life are bad. They can really make you mad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When youre chewing on lifes gristle, dont grumble; give a whistle, and thisll help things turn out for the best. And...

You know what they say: some things in life are bad. They can really make you mad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble; give a whistle, and this'll help things turn out for the best. And...

Denis Loubet is a graphic artist and co-host on the Atheist Community of Austin’s Non-Prophets podcast. This is from a recent comment of his on Pharyngula:

One question I like to ask Christians that makes them wriggle is this: If you could go back in time and successfully rescue Jesus from the crucifixion, would you do it?

I have yet to hear a Christian utter a yes that wasn’t then qualified into a no.

Me, I’d rescue the poor bastard in a heartbeat. Christians have no morals.

Can you hear it pumping on your iPod continues . . .

13 08 2008

More additions to my list of iTunes subscriptions. The tough part is that ever since my iPod Shuffle started to malfunction, becoming reduced in the process to a glorified thumb-drive, I have to trawl through Windows Explorer and add each episode of the podcasts I listen to individually to my girlfriend’s non iPod mp3 player. Baby Jesus gets his revenge!

Apologia: Hosted by Zach Moore, this is a very intelligent and very listenable roundtable discussion between theists and atheists, covering a range of philosophical, political, atheist and apologetics-related topics. As an English teacher, I’ve always found the panel discussion, as opposed to the formal debate, to be the best means of grappling with an idea or argument in a substantive way; one of the keys of Apologia’s success is, I think you will find, its adoption of this format. (Indeed, one of its worst episodes featured a debate between a regular panellist and a presuppositionalist; the show took a nose-dive when it became clear that the presuppostionalist was participating in the debate with his fingers firmly planted in his ears, waiting for his turn to repeat the same argument ad nauseam.) One of the panellists also co-hosts a podcast with William Lane Craig; in spite of this, he comes across as quite reasonable on Apologia.

The Bible Geek: I can’t get enough of Biblical scholar and skeptic Robert M. Price, when his audio is freely available, of course. Unfortunately, he’s one of these podcasters who, like the Infidel Guy, charges for much of his content. So those of you who, like me, baulk at the thought of paying for internet audio will simply have to make do with the 5-minute free samples he doles out here, usually in the form of responses to listener’s questions.

Atheist Talk: No, not that “Atheist Talk”! This is the cable TV show, also produced by Minnesota Atheists, featuring interviews, lectures and debates, minus the cheesy promotions, buffet-restaurant commercials and amateurism of the radio show. (Is there anything more frustrating, or awkward, than hearing a well-crafted line of thought cut off in its prime because the presenters have to cut to “Hey Bjorn! Hey Jeanette!”) I can’t see a feed on the webpage, but you can subscribe to the audio component of Atheist Talk (the TV show) through iTunes.

The Philosopher’s Zone: I can’t believe I haven’t added this one to my sidebar already, but I did mention it in an earlier post. The format of The Philosopher’s Zone is almost identical to that of Philosophy Bites, though each episode is almost twice as long. The fact that a radio programme like this would in all probability otherwise not be available is part of the raison-d’etre for having a publicly-funded national broadcaster.

Can you hear it pumping on your I-Pod? II

6 05 2008

Since I last blogged about the podcasts I regularly listen to, several more have been added to the rotation, and one has returned to the fold . . .

Dogma Free America

This was a favourite of mine, and I was disappointed when its fiftieth and final episode aired last November. Here’s what I had to say about it then:

DFA’s shows weren’t theme-based or guest-based like Freethought Radio and The Non-Prophets, and mainly consisted on commentary on the latest news concerning magical thinking and theocracy. DFA also canvassed more international (read: non-US) news than other podcasts, and often ran stories on religious violence in sub-Saharan Africa (usually perpetrated against individuals suspected of “witchcraft”), as well as atrocities perpetrated by theocracies in the Islamic world. Hence, Christian listeners might (I imagine) have found it more even-handed than other non-theist podcasts.

The good news is . . . it’s back! Rich Orman and friends have returned with their usual light-hearted take on the week in witchcraft and fundamentalism, and with the introduction of a new segment modelled on the “Science or fiction?” segment from The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. Read the rest of this entry »

Can you hear it pumping on your I-Pod?

14 03 2008

Sammy Jankis has tagged me with the following meme: “What are your favourite 3 podcasts? Why?

For mine (and for Sammy, incidentally), the cream of the crop has to be The Atheist Experience. This is actually a public access TV show filmed in Austin, Texas, on behalf of the Atheist Community of Austin, but it is also available in audio format. Several of the hosts are ex-fundamentalist Christians, including the host Matt Dillahunty whose no-nonsense approach–particularly when dealing with fundies who call in with (as Sammy puts it) “phone in one hand Bible in the other to tell some atheists what atheists think”–is an absolute pleasure to watch (or listen to, as the case may be). The Atheist Experience experienced a recent upsurge in intertube notoriety when a portion of a February show, in which a caller threatens to come down to the studio and punch Dillahunty’s “fat face”, was YouTubed. RUNNER UP: Atheist Talk.

My second pick is another product of the ACA: The Non-Prophets. This one is also hosted by Dillahunty, and is co-hosted by Denis Loubet (whose trademark is to phrase the introduction of each show in the form of a logical fallacy) and Russell Glasser (who often appears on The Atheist Experience as well). The website could do with an upgrade, but these guys have mastered the art of eviscerating apologetics and other religion-inspired chicanery with equal parts wit and outrage. Accept no substitutes, folks: what Lord of the Rings is to the fantasy genre, The Non-Prophets is to atheist podcasting. RUNNER UP: Another Goddamned Podcast.

My third pick would have to The Philosopher’s Zone, as heard on ABC Radio National, hosted by British ex-pat Alan Saunders, who earned his doctorate in the History of Ideas at ANU. The Philosopher’s Zone covers a wide range of topics and philosophical traditions, continental and analytic, Eastern and Western. RUNNER UP: Philosophy Bites.

I, in turn, tag Bruce and Ninglun.

No rest for the heathen . . .

7 03 2008

Apologies for the sparse blogging lately. I’ve been waist-deep in marking while trying to get through a Japanese language textbook as quickly as possible. I thought I’d take this brief opportunity to point you in the direction of a couple of good I-Pod fillers I’ve stumbled across recently.

The first is called, appropriately enough, “Another Goddamned Podcast.Hemant Mehta posted on it here. Though nothing has yet topped the output of the Atheist Community of Austin (responsible for the “Atheist Experience” and the “Non-Prophets”), I’ve been really impressed with the standard of discussion on this one, which is a collaborative effort involving several bloggers.

The second comprises the series of public lectures podcasted by the London School of Economics–a fantastic collection comprising expert opinion from across the political spectrum. Especially worth a listen is a presentation by the author of the Stern report, one year on, where he disquietingly suggests that his team may have underestimated the dangers posed by global warming.

If you know of any academic podcast services like this one, please let me know.

Reed Braden has a podcast

17 02 2008

It has been remiss of me not to have linked sooner to Reed Braden‘s podcast Two Smokin’ Hot Freethinkers, especially as Reed plugs Five Public Opinions at the end of the second episode! (Sorry, Reed: I’ve had a huge backlog of podcasts to get through, and I only got to Episode 2 of yours today.) Reed and his co-host Katie take a–shall we say–light-hearted approach to atheism and a variety of other topics, punctuated with some great (if sometimes) obscure choices of music.

You can also catch Reed on the theist/atheist collaborative podcast Apologia, in which he appears as the (self-described) “token gay” on an episode dealing with Christianity and homosexuality, as well as on an episode of the American Atheists podcast Atheist Viewpoint.

(Who is Reed Braden? You can read his story here.)

Another good non-theist podcast goes silent . . .

23 01 2008

Truth-Driven Thinking, the podcast of skeptical author Steven Gibson, has come to an end. Gibson, a former Christian, described his podcast as a continuing journey away from emotion-driven thinking, and while it did have the aura of the “self-help/motivation” section about it, and at times erred just a little on the side of self-indulgence, the show regularly featured fantastic interviews canvassing a range of topics and perspectives. It will be missed.

On the plus side, a couple of newer podcasts worth checking out include:
The Good Atheist
Path of Reason

and let us not forget the irrepressible Reed Braden!