Monday, June 23, 2008

PZ Myers on Point of Inquiry - Part 1

Here is a Point of Inquiry interview with PZ Myers. I think many things get squished in here. For example, there is no real discussion over the definition of religion. This is crucial if statements are being made about science and atheism equivalence. Similarly, the issue of spreading atheism gets entangled up here with public understanding of science. It should be clear that a public discussion over atheism is different than a public discussion over science, and this distinction got blurred couple of times during the interview. But the questions are good and the discussion goes very well. Give it a listen - this is an important issue about a fault-line that exists within the scientific community.

Here is the description of the program:

P.Z. Myers PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris and the author of Pharyngula, the most heavily-trafficked science blog online.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, P.Z. Myers explains the purpose and impact of his blog, and whether his priority is to advance science education or atheism. He talks about what he sees as his roles in the scientific community and the atheist movement, and how related these roles are. He explores the relationship between science and atheism, and argues that the more a public learns science, the likelier it is that they will become atheistic. And he talks about where a science educator's atheism fits in the classroom. He also addresses the position of leading scientific organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academies of Science regarding evolution being compatible with religious belief, and their use of religious scientists as spokespeople, and he assesses their motivations and strategies to advance science to a largely religious American public.

Listen to the podcast here.

Update: Here is another related Point of Inquiry podcast: Taner Edis on Science and Nonbelief. This is a good supplement to the above podcast, as it gets into a more nuanced discussion over naturalism. The most interesting aspect of the interview (at least for me) is the discussion about rational choice theory in understanding religions (its about half-way into the interview).