Inquisitive Minds Podcast Critical Thinking on History, Religion, Politics and Culture

In this third episode dedicated to Tim Whitmarsh's book, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, we review his section on the Hellenistic Era where kings were sometimes worshiped as "gods". Some philosophers, however, were skeptical of such ideas and adopted an agnostic position toward the existence of gods. Epicureans, on the other hand,believed in gods but not in their involvement in the world, and since the gods were different in matter and not part of this world, they even thought that there existed a plurality of universes; a concept similar to what is now referred to as "multiverse".


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We continue our discussion of Whitmarsh's Battling the the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. The second part of his book deals with the atheism in Classical Athens (5th-4th centuries BCE). In this episode, some important figures of that time period such as Thucydides (author of the Peloponnesian War), Protagoras, Democritus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Plato, as well as Anaxagoras, Diogoras of Melos, Socrates, and Theodorus of Cyrene and their impact on atheistic thought are reviewed.

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In this last podcast dedicated to Critical Thinking, we tackle more common logical fallacies such as: Personal Incredulity, Burden of Proof, Tu Quoque, Reductio ad Absurdum, Begging the Question, Red Herring, Argumentum e Silentio, Straw Man, Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, No True Scotsman, and Appeal to Emotion. We wish to remind our listeners that you can also find us on iTunes and Stitcher, as well as on many other providers. Please take a minute to follow us on Twitter and "like" us on Facebook!

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In our series on Critical Thinking, we will are now turning our attention to Logical Fallacies. A fallacy is an error in reasoning and inconsistency in Critical Thinking. Inconsistent ways of thinking are also manifest through contradictions and hypocrisy. This being said, people can also commit fallacies unknowingly. The important thing is to learn to identify bad thinking habits and correct them. People need to learn to stick to arguments and not engage in personal attacks, shift the burden of proof or make unreasonable appeals to authority to substantiate their claims. Building arguments on logical premises will lead to coherent and reasonable conclusions.

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As a follow-up to last weeks episode, we continue our discussion on the value of critical thinking. But one might ask: What exactly is critical thinking and what are the steps of inquiry needed to engage in such a practice? When tackling specific questions, people need to go beyond the descriptive and carefully analyse the topic at hand through the use of a coherent methodology, as well as to evaluate the outcome of any given inquiry. Failing to identify the implications of our reasoning is the most common mistake when attempting to apply critical thinking.

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In this last episode on atheism, we critique Gavin Hyman's idea that today's atheistic discourse is a reaction to modern theological conceptions of God, as expressed thought the work of 14th century philosopher and theologian, John Duns Scotus. In reality, Scotus' theological language is not modern; rather, it is a return to biblical notions about God. Duns Scotus rejected Aquinas' doctrine of analogy and God's ontology in favor of the idea that "being" is univocal to the created and uncreated. In the end, is sophisticated theological discourse too virtual in nature?

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In our series on atheism, we continue our review of Gavin Hyman's article, "Atheism in Modern History." René Descartes' Cartesian model was the rejection of Thomas Aquinas' theological method, where human reason was subject to the authority of divine revelation. Aquinas emphasized God's transcendence through analogical language; he believed that this was the only adequate way one could speak of the divine. Many philosophers, however, insisted on using rationalism and/or empirical sense data, even in the realm of theological inquiry. According to Hyman, modernity brought with it a "domestication of God", where the divine was now defined in quantitative terms, rather than with qualitative language. But Hyman also sees the shift from analogical language to a more "hypostatic" and representational conception of God, as the result of theological speculation in the 14th century C.E.

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This week's podcast is dedicated to the social impact of atheism. Some people today are "coming out" as atheists and speak about how religion has negatively affected their lives. They also advocate for a complete separation of government and religion. In the past few years, we have seen the rise of what some call the "New Atheists". Often labelled as radical and outspoken, these individuals have made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions people through their writings; for example, just think of the influential works of the famous "Four Horsemen": Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris. Many other prominent writers, bloggers, and vloggers have now followed their lead. But what exactly is atheism? How does it differ from theism and other forms of beliefs or non-beliefs? These are some of the questions we address in this episode.
 
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Embracing a Mind / Body dualism requires a leap of faith or a dose of magical thinking since one cannot explain how immateriality interacts with the physical world. But many people, nevertheless, hold onto such an illusion. For example, this is why some think that quantum physics has supposedly solved the "hard problem of consciousness". This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we briefly discuss the impact of Descartes' Cartesian dualism and its consequences for understanding the relationship between mind and body. We also notice that first-generation of Cognitive scientists (1950s-60s) adopted a similar perspective and but that a significant change was brought about by second-generation researchers (70s +): embodied realism. Our goal is to explore some of the philosophical and scientific assumptions behind common held beliefs about consciousness, scientific inquiry, quantum physics and the afterlife.

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In this week's episode, we ask: How do people believe in the afterlife? It is an established fact that a person's culture and worldview shape their belief system and provides the language necessary to interpret and narrate cognitive experiences. Neuroscience has also clearly demonstrated - through a host of empirical research - that "mind" is not separate or distinct from body, but it is rather embodied. All experiences are thus lived out in the flesh. This is a direct challenge to Western philosophical thought which favors a mind/body dualism. Cognitive science understands "mind" to be an epiphenomenon of the brain; that is, people are not "souls" or non-material entities who will separate from their bodies at the time of death and live in the afterlife; rather, individuals are fully embodied; their minds (or being) are in the flesh. The current evidence shows that once the body dies and the brain shuts down, so does the mind. 


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