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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What Ta-Nehisi Coates, an Atheist, Can Teach Us About Social Advocacy

Ta-Nehisi Coates is undeniably one of the strongest and most influential voices on racial inequality today. He also is one of the most polarizing. For those who have followed the career of The Atlantic‘s Coates — or, indeed, this blog — it’s far from a revelation that he is an atheist. This isn’t news. He’s written at length on his position, both as standalone pieces and social media posts. With the publication of his new book Between the World and Me, though, this element of his identity has once more come to the forefront in a manner worth interrogating.

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To Counter California Drought, Some Farmers Are Resorting to “Water Witches”

It’s said that desperate times call for desperate measures. In California, where farmlands have been ravaged by an ongoing drought, the desperation is certainly palpable. With government irrigation assistance cut off or strictly limited, farmers are looking for anything that will help their plants to grow. Even, as it turns out, magic:

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Texans Oppose Muslim Cemetery for All Sorts of Racist, Ignorant Reasons

This is what Islamophobia actually looks like.

In Farmersville, Texas, just outside of Dallas, there’s a proposal by the Islamic Association of Collin County to build a cemetery in the town. That shouldn’t be a concern. After all, there are Catholic cemeteries all over the place and you’ll never hear a single complaint about them.

But, you know, Muslims are brown. So. Um… logic.

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