• Graham Cooks and his team at Purdue University have discovered a chemical process that has exciting implications for people who believe that life could have emerged spontaneously and through natural means. The idea that the building blocks of life started in a primordial ocean now has a competitor: airborne tiny water droplets.

    In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim Underdown speaks to chemistry professor and researcher Graham Cooks about his work in mass spectrometry and his discovery that adds an important piece of the puzzle of how life came to be. Does this find have religious implications?

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  • Realizing the faith you've had your entire life is wrong can be devastating for some people. The process of deconversion can lead to panic attacks, depression, and more. What does it take for someone to get through that complicated process?

    Our guest is Alice Greczyn, author of the memoir Wayward: A Memoir of Spiritual Warfare and Sexual Purity. She's an actress, author, and founder of Dare to Doubt, which provides resources like mental health professionals, aid organizations, and peer support groups to help heal the damage from indoctrination. Her own story includes a painful but rewarding transition out of evangelical Christianity.

    In a conversation with Jim Underdown, Greczyn dives into her early life living in a strict religious household and how she began to see the faults of Christianity. She also details her journey of walking away from her faith completely and how she hopes to help others do the same.Greczyn recently released her memoir Wayward: A Memoir of Spiritual Warfare and Sexual Purity as an audiobook, read by her!

    You can also read her cover story published in Free Inquiry, Excerpts from Wayward—A Memoir of Spiritual Warfare and Sexual Purity.

  • What do we do when television shows dealing with extraordinary events focus on the ridiculous to bolster views? In today's episode, we take a behind-the-scenes look at two people with experience in the industry and what they've done to create a more focused skeptical point of view on the air.

    Our first guest, whose name has changed to protect their identity, currently works on magazine/news shows, where he works on booking more balanced guests, skeptic-wise, to speak about UFOs/UAPs. Jim Underdown and the guest dive into what it takes to make these kinds of shows, the conceptualization of ideas, their execution, and what's being done to inject more science into the entire process.

    The second guest is Steve Muscarella, who has worked on shows such as Unsolved Mysteries, Sightings, It's a Miracle, and Scariest Places on Earth. Underdown and Muscarella speak about his time working on Scariest Places on Earth, how he worked to make things "real" for the participants, and how magic, misdirection, and mentalism played a vital role in bringing it all together.

  • This special episode of Point of Inquiry is brought to you by our friends at CFI Canada from their new podcast, Podcast for Inquiry. They recently spoke with author Steven Pinker and we wanted to make this special conversation available to everyone.

    Even as a young teenager, Dr. Steven Pinker (@sapinker) prized rationality as a virtue, and considered himself an anarchist. He changed that belief, however, when evidence indicated that anarchy was not a path to human flourishing. In this special episode, a co-production with the New Enlightenment Project, previous Podcast for Inquiry guest Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson returns as a co-host. Together, Lloyd and Leslie explore with Dr. Pinker whether universities are betraying their mission, how the human brain spectacularly fails while also working wonders, the loose connections between science and technology with social and moral progress, and what humanity needs to do to continue to thrive for the next 50 to 100 years.

  • This week's episode is a bit different. Please enjoy a talk from Timothy Caulfield that originally aired on Skeptical Inquirer Presents. SIP is a live online series of talks from some of the brightest minds in the reality based community and is just one of the many great shows that the Center for Inquiry produces. This recent episode of the series featured Timothy Caulfield where he was presented with the Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking. Afterwards, Caulfield gave an informative talk on the state of the infodemic of misinformation, what we've learned, and ways to deal with the problem. It was something we thought fans of Point of Inquiry would enjoy!

    The spread of misinformation seems to intensify with each passing week. From social media to cable news to popular podcasts, science-free bunk is everywhere. The ongoing “infodemic” is doing tangible harm to public health, public discourse, and public trust. So...what can we do about it?

    Timothy Caulfield is the bestselling author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? and host of the acclaimed Netflix documentary series A User’s Guide to Cheating Death.

  • In this week's episode, we are diving into the flat-earth conspiracy theory and why people could believe such a thing with guest Kelly Weill and her new book, Off the Edge.

    In 2019 Jim Underdown and the CFI Investigations Group produced a video where they designed a series of experiments to show that the earth is indeed not flat. CFIIG's conducted their experiment in front of over a dozen flat-earthers. Even in the face of conflicting evidence to their own beliefs, the flat-earthers held firm in their claims.

    Underdown and Weill speak about her new book, the history of the flat-earth conspiracy dating back to the 1830s, and the desire to belong to a community, which Weill saw as a reason some flat-earthers join the movement. Also, the role media and emerging technologies play in helping conspiracists spread their messages.

    You can also read Weill's piece in the Atlantic on the book and flat-earthers.

    Kelly Weill is a journalist at the Daily Beast, where she covers extremism, disinformation, and the internet. As a leading media voice on the role of online conspiracy theories in current affairs, she has discussed Flat Earth and other digital fringes on ABC's Nightline, CNN, Al Jazeera, and other national and international news outlets. You can find Kelly on Twitter @kellyweill

  • What does it mean to be alive? Does life have a clear definition? On this week's episode, Carl Zimmer joins host Jim Underdown to discuss his new book, Life's Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive to help answer those questions.

    Can we clearly define what it means to be alive? Scientists have been struggling with this question for centuries. For every rule or idea that's brought to the table, it seems a new species of plant or animal comes along that turns the whole thing on its head. For example, tardigrades, everyone's favorite microorganisms, are able to put themselves into a kind of suspended animation that stops their metabolization. Are they alive or dead at that point?

    Zimmer speaks about tardigrades and their special cryptobiosis, the intelligence of slime molds, and where viruses fit in the question of life.

    Carl Zimmer is an award-winning New York Times columnist and the author of fourteen books about science. His newest book is Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive (hardcover, Kindle, or audio.) You can find Zimmer on twitter @carlzimmer.

  • Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God who walked the Earth as a human being. Some Atheists believe none of the God bits but that there was a man named Jesus who did exist. There is also an ever growing community who believe Jesus did not exist at all. Not as the son of God nor as a man.

    On today's episode we speak to someone with evidence to support the claim of Jesus never existing.

    Duke Mertz joins host Jim Underdown to speak about his work on the subject of Jesus namely his Free Inquiry article, The Quest for the Mythical Jesus. They speak about what led Duke to undergo his research into this controversial topic as they dive into the substance of Mertz's claims. Core to these claims is the story of Christ fundamentally serves as a passion drama for the time. Mertz also provides details on the inaccuracies found throughout the holy text.

    Mertz has also provided Point of Inquiry listeners with a PDF of his book, The Quest for the Mythical Jesus, as a companion piece to this podcast. Read the book and learn more about this fascinating subject.

    Eugene “Duke” Mertz is a columnist for Free Inquiry and author. Duke Mertz took an early retirement from a career in finance to work with nonprofit organizations and to write. He is currently vice president of the Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation Board of Trustees in Chandler, Arizona.

  • On today's episode we introduce the show's new guest host, Julia Sweeney and her interview with author David G. McAfee on his new book, Hi, I'm an Atheist!: What That Means and How to Talk About It with Others.

    McAfee and Sweeney speak about the new book, how it helped Sweeney get back in touch with her atheism roots, his journey being raised in a religious household and becoming a non-believer, his challenges as an atheist in a Religious Studies program, what he sees in the bible from a literary perspective rather than from the perspective of a devout christian, and the role religion has in society.

    David G. McAfee is a journalist, religious studies scholar, and author of Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings, as well as a contributor to American Atheist magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with a dual-degree in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions. He lives in California.

    Julia Sweeney is known for her work on Saturday Night Live and as a pioneer for atheism. Her inspiring one-person stage show, Letting Go of God, chronicles her personal journey from Catholicism to atheism. In addition to being an actress Sweeney is a new addition to the Center for Inquiry board.

  • Throughout the modern world trust in science has continued to erode at dangerous speeds. From anti-vaxxers to climate change deniers, there is an ever growing movement of people that deny science at the peril of us all.

    The shift towards a public with increasing lack of scientific literacy and critical-thinking skills combined with the proliferation of online misinformation and disinformation and social media algorithms that reinforce ingrained worldviews has caused a situation that is out of control.

    On this episode of Point of Inquiry we speak with Gale Sinatra and Barbara Hofer on their new book, Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It. Sinatra and Hofer speak about their decades of research and work on science, scientific literacy, and how humans think and acquire knowledge, how "doing your own research" is explicitly not simply conducting a Google search. They also go into some of the psychological explanations for why people deny science and what everyone can do to help stem the tide.

    Gale M. Sinatra is the Stephen H. Crocker Professor of Education and Psychology at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, where she directs the Motivated Change Research Lab. She received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has been recognized by the American Educational Research Association for career achievements in research with the Sylvia Scribner Award. She resides in Altadena, California.

    Barbara K. Hofer is a Professor of Psychology Emerita at Middlebury College and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. She received her Ph.D. in psychology and education from the University of Michigan and an Ed.M. in human development from Harvard University. She is the recipient of national awards for both research and teaching, from the American Educational Research Association and the American Psychological Association. She lives in Middlebury, Vermont.

  • It’s a rare person indeed who can trick and amaze people on one hand while reassuring them that what they are experiencing is not real. Meet Banacek. He’s not only an illusionist, magician, mentalist extraordinaire, he’s a skeptic’s skeptic who for decades has been instrumental in exposing fraud and deception.

    In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim talks to Banacek about his life as a performer, investigator, and man on a mission. Banchek talks about what led him into magic and mentalism, his relationship with James Randi, his new show at the Stratosphere, and more.

    For more information about Banacek, or to get tickets to his mentalism show at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, visit Banacek.com

    This Week’s Music

    “Bon Journée” by Chad Crouch / CC BY-NC 3.0
    “Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

  • Have you ever been curious about what other people believe in or how they navigate the ethical challenges of life? Ancient philosophy was partly used as a way to better understand the best way to live life.

    In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Jim Underdown talks to two of the editors of How to Live a Good Life: A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy. The book is a collection of essays by fifteen philosophers describing what it means to live according to a philosophy of life. These philosophies range from Eastern traditions like Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, Western beliefs like Stoicism, and contemporary philosophies such as existentialism and effective altruism.

    Massimo Pigliucci and Skye Cleary, who also wrote chapters for the book, discuss the book, what led to its creation, their specialties of Stoicism and Existentialism (respectively.), and how they incorporate their philosophical beliefs in their day to day lives. The book and this interview provide a beginner’s guide on choosing a philosophy and ways to live those beliefs out in the real world.

    Massimo Pigliucci is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and was formerly a biology professor at Stony Brook University. His research interests include the philosophy of biology, the relationship between science and philosophy, the nature of pseudoscience, and the practical philosophy of Stoicism.

    Skye C. Cleary PhD MBA is a philosopher and author of Existentialism and Romantic Love (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). She teaches at Columbia University, Barnard College, the City University of New York, and previously at ThinkOlio, the New York Public Library, and in a prison.

  • A question on the minds of many theists and non-theists alike is why are so many Americans leaving religion and becoming religiously unaffiliated? What are the underlying factors causing this shift?

    In today's episode we dive into what the data shows about this movement with Ryan Burge, author of the new book The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, And Where They Are Going (Fortress Press, 2021). Ryan speaks about how the field of social science is changing with the improvements made to surveying, the underlying causes moving people to become less religiously affiliated, unpacking why America has been so historically religious compared to other countries, how religious economy theory fits into this the rise of the nones, and the role the internet has played in shifting people away from religion.

    Ryan Burge is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Graduate Coordinator at Eastern Illinois University and a pastor in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.

  • In the June/July issue of Free Inquiry, today's guest Greg Paul makes the case that a loving God cannot possibly exist next to all the suffering and death, children have had to endure throughout human history. In his piece, he claims this fact has the, "...potential to accelerate the already rapid decline of the illusion that is theism."

    On today's episode we speak with Greg Paul on what lead him to start looking into this idea, some of the various factors causing the decline of religion throughout the world, what happened after he published his findings in the Philosophy & Theology journal, and the link he sees between the religious right's stance against abortion and their hypocrisy.

    Greg Paul is a researcher, author, and paleoartist. His articles and artwork have appeared in Time, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Science, Nature, National Geographic, Discover, Scientific American, Natural History and Smithsonian.

  • The Center for Inquiry Investigations Group tests extraordinary claims from anyone who believes they have paranormal or supernatural abilities like telekinesis, mind reading, and many otherworldly talents. The group offers a $250,000 prize for anyone able to prove a paranormal ability under mutually agreed upon test conditions. The group then reports on each of these investigations including the details of the claims, the parameters of the tests, and findings or lack thereof.


    The Center for Inquiry Investigations Group combines the principles of skepticism and practical science to debunk and disprove the existence of psychic powers, hauntings, and various paranormal claims. In this episode, co-host and Chair of the Investigations Group Jim Underdown speaks with members of the group to explore why they joined the group, details of past investigations, and the importance of the work.Inside the Group Putting Paranormal and Supernatural Claims to the Test

  • Annabelle Gurwitch is an award-winning actress, comedian, and writer. She's also a secular humanist and a skeptic, though that hasn't always been the case -- at least not the skeptic part.

    On this episode Annabelle speaks with host, Jim Underdown about her beliefs, her new book, life as a performer, new age religions and cults, and dealing with adversity.

    Annabelle's latest book, You're Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility (Counterpoint Press, 2021) is an insightful trip through trying times as experienced by a funny woman with a flair for living.

  • David Javerbaum is the guest on this week's episode of Point of Inquiry. David discusses his early writing career and his current gig as God.

    David discusses starting out with The Onion and what it was like working with David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. As former head writer and producer on the Daily Show, David gives his insights into what it was like working on the show and its cultural impact.

    David is also the mastermind behind the popular TheTweetOfGod Twitter account and host of the related podcast, Godcast. What began as the book, The Last Testament: A Memoir has since moved on to become a successful Broadway play and was the impetus behind creating the Twitter account. David goes into how it all started and what the journey has been like.

  • Have you wondered what it's like to get caught up in a conspiracy theory? QAnon, the 9/11 truth movement, lizard people who want to take over the world. What does it take for rational humans to believe such outstandingly irrational beliefs?

    In this week's episode, Leighann Lord speaks to Stephanie Kemmerer about her personal journey falling in and eventually coming out of being a conspiracy theorist. She began as a 9/11 Truther, believing that 9/11 was an inside job, and eventually came out of that movement as she discovered people she knew were personally affected by Sandy Hook. Kemmerer speaks about the psychology and mindset that led her and others down the rabbit hole, what she sees in QAnon believers, the huge role that social media and YouTube play in moving people into conspiracy theories, the dopamine hit when digging for the supposed truth, and how you can help others find their way out.

    Stephanie Kemmerer is a researcher and writer for the podcast, Even the Podcast Is Afraid and an occasional contributor for the Southern Oddities podcast. She is a contributing author to Skeptical Inquirer. You can reach her by email: [email protected] or Twitter @mcpasteface

  • An Atheist and a Christian Walk Into a Bar | Overcoming Differences

    America is as polarized as it's been in decades as our citizenry draws lines in the sand over a variety of issues. Friends and family who hold different political or religious persuasions may find it hard to impossible to hold civil conversation together.

    One friendship hasn't suffered because of all this divisiveness. Jim speaks to Christian Pastor Joe Manno of the Revelation Church in Florida. Joe and Jim have been friends since they met on the set of Cagney and Lacey in the mid-80s. Their conversations touches on how they've stayed friends and how they believe others can look past differences; by making the problem simple and only taking people for people. Manno recounts to Underdown his many experiences that have solidified his faith in a higher power, how miraculously not a single person in Manno's congregation would have anything negative to say to an atheist, and the importance of looking past a person's beliefs to their experiences in order to understand them even when their beliefs counter your own humanity.