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

This week, we discuss a short important article written by Jim Baggott about the lack of evidence in theoretical physics. The problem, according to Baggott, is that much of theoretical physics has crossed the line from physics to metaphysics. Theoretical physicists are sometimes eager to try answer the big questions concerning the origins of the universe, the underlying structure of reality and the meaning of life. The theories that emerge from this pursuit are often speculative; they are not based on any observable and measurable evidence. This is precisely where lies the danger! Baggott rightly notes that "the purpose of science is to seek rational explanations and ultimately an understanding of empirical reality by establishing a correspondence between the predictions of scientific theories and the results of observations and measurements."

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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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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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The Mind-Body connection is best understood through the lens of neuroscience. This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we discuss how brain damage clearly affects the mind and one's perception and relationship to self, others, time, space, and environment. We also mention the important work of Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran on phantom limbs (see also his book Phantoms in the Brain, as well as the YouTube video series) and how the brain can be tricked into believing things that do not exist. Ramachandran's research is an example of the most most compelling evidence for embodied realism, and that the mind is truly in the brain. Please note that there will be no podcast on July 7 and 14; we will be on vacation. We will resume our activities on Monday, July 21.

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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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