Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 64: Dr. Paul Offit, Vaccine Expert

Our latest podcast guest is Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert.

Dr. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of Vaccinology and Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He’s written tons of published peer-reviewed papers and received countless awards for his work. His latest book, Bad Faith, is all about how religious belief can undermine modern medicine.

On the day of taping, California had just passed a law making vaccinations all but mandatory, Jim Carrey had gone on a Twitter rant about vaccines, and a woman had died of measles.

We spoke with Dr. Offit about why people still don’t get vaccinated, how he responds to the most common arguments offered by anti-vaxxers, and why Bill Maher is wrong when he says we don’t need to get flu shots.

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In Defense of the $100 Million Donation Toward the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

After all those pictures of Pluto came back last week, plenty of people oohed and aahed over the details in the images. It’s really incredible that we landed on the moon 46 years ago and we’re already exploring the edge of our solar system.

But for all the jaw-dropping pictures, there are still people who wonder why we spent money on the journey at all… even though the $720 million New Horizons satellite cost less money than a football stadium. For that cash, we now have a slightly better understanding of the universe we live in and our place within it, arguably the biggest ideas humanity has ever grappled with. More directly, scientists will be parsing through the mission data for years to come, so there’s more information coming down the pipeline, and that doesn’t even address all the economic benefits that come from space exploration in general.

Following that, it’s exciting (yes, really) to hear that philanthropist and Internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner has just put down $100 million of his own money over the next decade to further the search for extraterrestrial life:

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Study Says Children Who Play “Pretend” Are More Likely to Become Atheists

Every few years, a new series of books will take off in popularity. Be it Harry Potter or Twilight, these novels tend to lean to the fantastical side. And each time this happens, you’ll find members of the Religious Right up in arms over the grave threat such fiction presents to their children’s souls. Cries of promoting Satanism are common.

While secretly yearning for an owl to deliver an invitation to Hogwarts does not a devil worshiper make, it turns out such parents may have a leg to stand on in terms of their children’s souls being “damned” — at least, by their dogmatic interpretation.

A recent study published in the International Journal for Psychology of Religion found that those who engaged in imaginative play during childhood were more likely to grow up to be non-believers.

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Professor Resigns from Christian College After It Mandates Acceptance of Young Earth Creationism

A couple of years ago, Bryan College in Tennessee (a Christian school) altered its Statement of Faith to say that the Earth was created a few thousand years ago. If professors couldn’t admit they were Young Earth Creationists, then they could find another job.

It’s bad enough for a school to fire faculty members who accept basic science, but to also kick out Creationist professors who didn’t buy in to the Ken Ham-approved timeline? That’s some crazy level of fundamentalism.

Bethel College in Indiana is now heading down a similar path.

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Did You Enjoy the Pluto Flyover? Wait Till You Hear Dr. Carolyn Porco Talk About the Mission to Saturn

If you’ve been mesmerized over the past week with the Pluto flyover, take an hour of your time and listen to Dr. Carolyn Porco talk about the Cassini mission around Saturn. Porco is the leader of the Imaging Team for that mission.

She gave the talk at Imagine No Religion 5 conference in Vancouver last month:

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