S.G. Collins provides an excellent takedown of the “moon hoax” argument. Watch it through to the end: Collins not only dismantles this particular theory but shines a much-needed light on the difference between knowledge and belief, the nature of paranoia, and the utmost importance of distinguishing between imagined conspiracies and very real government shenanigans.
Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy offers lots more debunkery here and here.
(h/t Bob Cesca)
In 1981, Carl Sagan — astronomer and science educator par excellence — was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association, and delivered his acceptance speech at the association’s annual conference in San Diego. The AHA has now made the audio of the entire speech available online, and if you have 45 minutes, it’s absolutely worth your time. (If not, I’ve transcribed some excerpts below.)
The speech is wonderful for the same reasons that Sagan’s remarks and writings are always wonderful: his gift for eloquent, inspiring — and often humorous — prose; his powerful argument for the fundamental importance of science in our lives; his ability to communicate a clear-eyed and rational view of the cosmos that is yet open to poetry, astonishment, and wonder. But this particular speech is also notable for a couple of specific things. First, Sagan refers early and often to the accomplishments of the woman who introduced him to the audience: the astrophysicist Margaret Burbidge, who, like many female scientists, deserves much more public recognition for her scientific contributions. And second, Sagan takes particular aim at the threat of creationism — 1981 being the year of McLean v. Arkansas and the movement to have “creation science” taught in American public schools, a movement that sadly still has traction today.
I find it fascinating that Sagan’s decades-old speech still feels fresh and relevant today: not just his argument against the creationists, but also his stirringly democratic notion of science as every person’s birthright, and his description of “cosmic evolution” and the deeply intimate connection between humans and the universe — concepts that Neil deGrasse Tyson, considered by many to be Sagan’s heir, has been communicating to great effect.
Some lengthy excerpts below.
Adam Savage’s outstanding speech at last weekend’s Reason Rally in Washington DC:
Transcript here. My previous post on Savage and the skeptical spirit of Mythbusters here.
For your perusal this holiday season: Continue reading
Kathryn Schulz talks about being open to the possibility of being wrong:
Schulz has some really good insights here, I think, particularly about a couple of things. First, our fear of being wrong is closely tied to our fear that something is intrinsically wrong with us — that is, we identify so closely with certain cherished beliefs that having those beliefs shaken amounts to a crisis of identity and self-worth. And second, an unshakeable faith in our rightness causes us to assume “ignorance, idiocy, and evil” in those who disagree with us. But in this particular talk she doesn’t answer an important question: While it’s important to acknowledge our own human fallibility, how do we know when we are, in fact, right? Continue reading
Hot off the presses, here’s DC Turner’s short animated film of Tim Minchin’s celebrated beat poem “Storm”:
(Update: Interviews with Minchin and the filmmakers here and here.)
Very well done, I think, though I prefer Minchin’s live delivery (which you can listen to here — with titles but no visuals, unfortunately). I hope to see him perform it when he comes to New York this May.
Graphic artist Michael Lester at the blog Ninjerktsu has a brilliant take on Carl Sagan and his “Spaceship of the Imagination” from the series Cosmos (click on the images for the full storyboard and dialogue):
Astrology is really too easy a target (so to speak), and I think it’s hardly worth linking to Sagan’s elegant takedown of its absurd claims.
Oh, what the heck.
(And I’ll throw in Tim Minchin’s beat-poet assault on pseudo- and anti-science to boot.)
After more than 30 years, Cosmos is still, hands down, the best general science documentary series ever produced. Watch all 13 episodes for free here.