Monday, June 30, 2008

Books and Ideas Podcast #21: Interview with Eugenie Scott

Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, was interviewed in Episode 21 of Books and Ideas. The focus of our conversation was the importance of teaching evolution in the public schools. Dr. Scott and the NCSE have worked for over 20 years to promote the teaching of evolution because it is an essential component of a modern education in the life sciences. Unfortunately, nearly 150 years after Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) many Americans still reject this fundamental idea and much of Scott's work is focused on trying to keep creationism and so-called Intelligent Design out of school curriculum.

Recently the NCSE launched a very valuable site called Expelled Exposed, which focuses on exposing the many inaccuracies presented in Ben Stein's recent pro-intelligent design "documentary" Expelled. One of the things that has come out in numerous interviews is that the producers of the film mislead all the pro-evolution guests that appear in the film. We discuss this briefly near the end of the interview, but it was not the focus of our discussion. (see below for more links regarding Expelled)

Since Dr. Scott has been interviewed about Expelled and Expelled Exposed on several other podcasts, I wanted to focus our interview more on the importance of accurate science education. Also, we discussed the fact that despite the claims of right-wing fundamentalists there are many Christians and people of other faiths who accept the theory of evolution as scientifically valid. Accepting evolution does not mean one is choosing atheism. I think this is a very important distinction because while atheists are outspoken in their support of evolution they represent a small minority. I was encouraged to learn from Dr. Scott that the NCSE is working closely with religious leaders and scientists of faith to try to educate their members.

Since Books and Ideas reaches an international audience I thought that it was important that we discuss the origins of the evolution versus creationism controversy, which is unique to the United States. Scott does an excellent job of explaining how our unique religious heritage along with our locally controlled school systems combine to create a situation that most of the world find's rather mystifying. Her book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction also provides an excellent overview of the subject from both an historical and scientific prospective.

Finally, we talk about the importance of evolution as a basic idea in modern biology. While we didn't dwell on this, I think we are both concerned about the implications for the future if a majority of young Americans are reaching college without a solid foundation in the principles of evolution. We also talked about why intelligent design fails to meet the basic definition of a scientific theory since it provides no testable hypotheses. Dr. Scott also provides a excellent review of the basic writings for those who want to learn more.

Listen to Dr. Scott’s Interview

Visit the Books and Ideas website for links and references.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Brain Science Podcast #40: Third Semi-annual Review

Episode 40 of the Brain Science Podcast is a look back at the highlights from the last six months. We have talked about numerous topics including brain plasticity, mirror neurons, language, brain rhythms, and the sense of smell. We talked with 9 guests and we have also explored the practical implications of neuroscience, including the importance of sleep and exercise to brain health. This brief review episode is intended for both new listeners and long-time subscribers.

Listen to Episode 40

For detailed show notes including links to all the resources discussed in the episode

please visit the Brain Science Podcast website

Friday, June 13, 2008

Brain Science Podcast #39: Michael Arbib on Mirror Neurons

Episode 39 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Michael Arbib from the University of Southern California. Dr. Arbib's work with functional brain imaging has established the presence of mirror neurons in the human brain. In our interview we focused on the role of mirror neurons in imitation and language. In particular I questioned Dr. Arbib about the Mirror System Hypothesis (MSH) of Language Evolution that he proposed in 1998 with Giacomo Rizzolatti. We also explored how this hypothesis diverges from the universal grammar proposed by Noam Chomsky. Dr. Arbib also shared his enthusiasm for future research and we talked about the special challenges caused by the interdisciplinary nature of modern neuroscience.

Listen to the Brain Science Podcast

Related Episodes:

Click here for detailed show notes including links and references

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

FINAL TAXI: Harvey Korman- Burnett Show and Blazing Saddles Star

Download MP3 of Podcast- Click Here

Harvey Korman, the comic actor who won four Emmys for his work on ``The Carol Burnett Show'' and appeared in the movie ``Blazing Saddles,'' took his Final Taxi at age 81.

Korman won the Emmy awards for his television comedy roles on ``The Carol Burnett Show,'' where he performed from 1967 to 1977 in a cast led by Burnett and including comedian Tim Conway.

His film roles included playing Hedley Lamarr in ``Blazing Saddles,'' a 1974 spoof Western directed by Mel Brooks. He also performed in Brooks's film ``High Anxiety'' in 1977. In 1983 he appeared in ``Curse of the Pink Panther.''