Ibn Warraq – Why I Am Not a Muslim

January 06, 2006

Ibn Warraq is the author of a number of books, including Why I Am Not A Muslim, considered among the most important critical looks at the negative aspects of Islam today. He is an outspoken critic of Islam who has written extensively on what he views as the oppressive nature of Islam and religion in general.

Since the publication of Why I Am Not A Muslim, Ibn Warraq has appeared often in the media, including C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and Canadian radio, in addition to consulting with Washington, D.C. think tanks, speech-writers for President Bush, international NGOs and the Center for Inquiry.

In this interview with DJ Grothe, Warraq discusses his problems with Islam, and why he thinks Islam is incompatible with the democratic values of the West.

Also in this episode, Tom Flynn presents Did You Know? breezing facts and figures about Islam, Mormonism, secular humanism, and paranormal belief in America and Benjamin Radford, in his regular segment, Media Mythmakers, casts a critical eye on blogosphere journalism. Also, in the first of a three part series entitled Can You Be Good Without God? Paul Kurtz explores the real origin of morality.

This point of inquiry for Friday, January 6th, 2006. 

Hello, I’m DJ Grothe. Welcome to Point of Inquiry, the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank affiliated with the State University of New York with branches in Manhattan, Tampa and Hollywood. Point of Inquiry seeks to draw on the Center for Inquires relationship with the leading minds of the day, including Nobel Prize winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers and renowned entertainers. And to bring you each week interviews and commentary focusing on the three research areas here at CFI. First, pseudo science and the paranormal. Second, we focus on the growing alternative medicine movement. Third, on point of inquiry, we focus on religion, secularism and nonbelief. On today’s episode of Point of Inquiry, we will be joined by Ibn Warraq, the infamous Islamic dissident and secularist. Later in the show, I’ll talk with Paul Kurtz in the first of a three part series entitled Can You Be Good Without God? And you’ll even learn how you can get a free copy of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. During our regular feature, we call from the pages of Benjamin Radford will share his regular commentary, Media Mythmakers. But first, Tom Flynn with an occasional segment we simply call. Did you know? 

Did you know that there are almost 13 million Mormons worldwide and that there are more Mormons in the CIA and the FBI than members of any other religion? Did you know that there are over 3000 mosques and Islamic community centers in America, over half founded in just the last 20 years? Did you know that one third of all incarcerated African-Americans are converts to the Muslim faith and that there are seven million Muslims in America? Did you know that the second largest belief group in America is the non-religious? The unchurched, the total number of non-religious or those unaffiliated with the religious tradition in America numbers 16 percent or roughly 48 million people. That outnumbers Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and every other faith tradition except Christianity. It’s also more than the number of African-Americans or gays and lesbians in America. Most of these unaffiliated. That’s ten point seven percent of all Americans are secular, humanist, atheist or agnostic. Did you know that there is only one openly agnostic atheist or secular congressman or senator? It’s Representative Bernie Sanders, independent from the state of Vermont. Did you know that 73 percent of Americans responded in a Gallup poll in June 2005 that they believe in the paranormal? 41 percent believe in E.S.P. Thirty seven percent believe that houses can be haunted by ghosts. And one quarter of all Americans believe in astrology. The poll also showed that 42 percent, nearly half of all Americans believe that people can sometimes be possessed by the devil. 

Each week, point of Inquirer contributor and Skeptical Inquirer managing editor Ben Radford brings us a segment entitled Media Mythmakers, offering criticism and insight into how the media and others sometimes deceive the public. 

Over the past few years, there has been a troubling trend in mainstream journalism toward including the audience’s opinions as part of the news. This isn’t new after all. Television shows and newscasts sometimes feature a man on the Street segment in which viewers call into the station and respond to a story or comment on topic. But the practice has recently skyrocketed, in particular with the explosion of blogs. It’s not uncommon to find professional journalists quoting from anonymous bloggers on stories of the day. Many so-called news articles are written with material largely taken from Internet respondents. A good example of this pseudo journalism is a piece that appeared May 5th, 2000 on iVillage DOT by Eileen Livres called Boys Do Cry. The article discussed why and how men show emotion filled with phrases like, as I villager Talitha puts it, men who Krier brave and I villager llana is onto something when she says this semi anonymous forum allows just about whoever to say just about whatever in this world. Facts are relevant with personal opinion and whim. The coin of the realm. There’s nothing inherently wrong about writing an article on Internet opinions on certain topics, but it’s also misleading and disingenuous to label it journalism. There are a few facts to be checked. Much of the text is simply everyday people who might or might not know what they’re talking about. Most of the opinion is correct because is it because it is simply opinion and opinion, of course, need have no basis in reality. If I villager Betty is quoted as saying that most men crowd the time in public. That’s certainly her opinion and no less valid than anyone else’s. Also, of course, sources could be lying about anything or fabricating their accounts. Contrast this to mainstream journalism, which by its very nature deals with supposedly verifiable facts and interviews with knowledgeable sources, even the results of opinion polls of which the story is a variant are grounded in reality. Either the claim number of people expressed a certain opinion or they didn’t. Methodology is can be questioned, examined. The biases can be uncovered. But the inherent difference is that between testimonial and science, unless the news story is the public’s reaction to an event as opposed to the event itself, journalists must be careful. Exactly the sort of testimonial journalism runs a slippery slope and lends itself to fabrication. For example, there is the case of Julie Paronto, a columnist dismissed by the Arizona Republic newspaper in August 1999 on Barona, wrote a column titled Conversations, which ran three times a week in the Life section. The column featured interviews with average people expressing their concerns and highlighting their achievements. Newspaper editor tried to find some of the people on Parana quoted, finally concluding that, quote, We can’t find them or prove they exist. Nor has Zambrano been able to substantiate these sources. It seems she made them up. But just because you’re telling one person’s opinion or experience is no excuse to spin tales, make up quotes or embellish stories. Readers have a right to expect that the columnists and writers whose work they read are not passing a fiction as truth. Writers who feel the need to do so should put a disclaimer at the beginning of each piece warning the reader that what they read may or may not be accurate. Depending on how much effort the writer felt like putting in that week. Many other cases of fabricated journalism have come to light, including Jason Blair’s fictionalized New York Times articles and letters to advice columnist to women’s magazines. The June July 1995 issue of Young Modern, for example, ran letter to love crisis advice columnist Sally Lee from Mortified, a young woman who she said, quote, got trashed and had sex with three guys. The only problem was there was no mortified. The letter was a fake. The only reason it came to light was the young model whose photo accompanied the letter, sued the magazine for implying that she was mortified. Reporting on bloggers comments is cheap and easy, whereas real journalism is rarely cheap or easy. Journalism needs more facts and less opinions. That’s my opinion anyway. Think about it. 

Science and reason are increasingly under assault in our society, even that our leading colleges and universities, if you are a student, faculty or staff member, we invite you to join center for inquiry on campus. It’s free to join. And you’ll receive educational and promotional materials in the mail at no cost to you so that you can work with us to promote science and reason at your school. Visit w w w dot. Campus Inquirer, dawg. 

You are listening to Point of inquiry. Visit us online at point of inquiry. Dot org. 

This week, I’m pleased to have as a guest on Point of Inquiry, bestselling author Ibn Work, the noted Islamic scholar, an ex Muslim. He’s an outspoken critic of Islam and he’s here today to discuss his book, Why I Am Not a Muslim, Even Work. Before we talk about your book, I understand that the name Even Work is a pseudonym that’s traditionally been adopted by dissident authors throughout the history of Islam. 

I took the name Ibn Warrick because he was a noted skeptic who looked at religions in general in a very rational, skeptical manner. I had wanted to take the pseudonym Ibn Ron Lindsay, who was one of the great atheists in Islam who left Islam totally. But this name was already taken by somebody who is now, in fact, a friend of mine. He wrote a book on Islamic mysticism. So he had already taken the name Ibn Roundy’s. So I decided to take the name of Ibn Rwandese tutor and teach it like those. Very appropriate that I should take that name since he was the teacher of this great infidel. 

The answer might seem obvious, but let me ask you, why are you taking someone else’s name in the first place? Why aren’t you writing under your own name? 

Well, this was a time I wrote this. In 93, it was eventually published in 95 because this was soon after the Salman Rushdie affair where all sorts of threats, of course, were made. Most notably, the threat by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who offered a reward of a million dollars to anyone who killed, assassinated Salman Rushdie for having for having insulted Islam in his book The Satanic Verses. Yes. And this was a time soon after that most publishers in the world were wary of publishing, in fact, anything by anyone which was even remotely critical of Islam. So there’s great courage on the part of Prometheus books to take it on. But nonetheless, I had to protect my family. I am most of my close family members don’t even know that I have written this book, really. And the other obvious reason is that I if I am to travel in the Islamic world and I still have friends and even relatives in Pakistan, in India, in East Africa, it would make sense not to go as even Warraq, of course, I possibly travel to these countries. Right. I’m hoping, in fact, even to pilgrimage to Mecca. 

Now, what about your book? Why I’m not a Muslim, which I’d I’d like to let our listeners know they can purchase at a discount on our website point of inquiry dot org Ebbin work. Why did you write the book? Why not just be a former Muslim quietly and go about your way? 

Well, I was very much a critical tendency. I, I was subscribing at the time to free inquiry and and I noticed that there were frequent political attacks on Christianity in all the various Protestant groups or offshoots and even Judaism. There were all sorts of secular Jews who were critical of Judaism and there was never anything on Islam. And then, of course, finally, it was the Rushdie affair which pushed me over the top, where I had expected various intellectuals in the West to defend Rushdie, defend the very well values which one would have thought were so close to their heart, like values of freedom of expression. But instead of defending Rushdie and his right to freedom of expression, they condemned him. 

They were they were blaming the victim, the intellectuals like the ones in the West and is well-known names. I discussed them and what they said. It’s quite shocking in my first chapter in my book. Who are some of these intellectuals? Well, I don’t know if they’re well known to the general public, but the feminist author, Germaine Greer, for example, the professor of history, Hugh Trevor Roper, who incidentally, was taken in by The Hitler Diaries, which would soon to be fake. So but he was a very distinguished scholar who’s written on 17th century European history and. So on. And there were people like John Birger, very left wing critic of art. 

It seems like the leftist intellectuals have an a certain empathy for. 

Yes. Yes, Islam is. Then there are no other. Right. I just thought of one more this. John Le. If you’re a fan of his writings, I created the character Smiley, all about Cold War spies, the spy who came in from the cold. He was one of the biggest critics of Rushdie and a great defender of Islam. Extraordinary enough. 

But so I was absolutely outraged that the media had a frenzy of articles and so on. And none of them, none of the specialists on Islam dared to write anything that might upset the Muslims. Nothing in defense of Salman Rushdie. Yes. Many were not defending Rushdie. Right. But there were there were notable exceptions. I was very impressed by some people whom I don’t normally admire, in fact, who took his side very courageously. And of course, many, even many bookshops refused to stop the book, which is understandable because they don’t want them. They want to protect their employees and so on. 

So you wrote this book because of the Salman Rushdie affair. What do you say about those scholars and politicians who argue we shouldn’t confuse Islam, which is a religion of peace with Islamic extremism, that Islam is really a beautiful religion, a religion of peace, and that we’re just misunderstanding it? 

It’s understandable for a politician, some to me, like the president of the United States. He can not go around insulting a religion of so many billions of people around the world. 

Could be diplomatically unsound and embarrassing, of course. Let’s pardonable is the attitude of many scholars who have repeated this mantra that Islam is a religion of peace. And you’re saying it’s not a religion of peace? 

No, I no one has to. Why? I’ve been accused of essentialism. That’s to say I’ve been accused of saying that Islam is this and nothing else. By Islam, I mean, what is in the Koran? What was supposedly said by the Prophet Muhammad, which is collected in the books, which we call the Hadith, and these are the sayings and the doings of the Prophet Muhammad. And some of his companions and the commentary’s developed over the centuries by the theologians, philosophers and so on. This is by what I mean by by Islam. No, there’s no reason to think this cannot change, that. People don’t always, always follow to the letter what is in the Koran, for example, the chopping off of hands and feet in case of various crimes has not been applied, in fact, in in recent years, except in in Iran and in Saudi Arabia. 

Many other countries, Islamic countries have simply not applied them. These these are habits, these traditional ways of interpreting the Sharia Islamic law. 

So they haven’t been followed, Haridas and have not been applied. 

Indeed, yes. 

So when I say that it is Islam itself, which advocates, for example, killing infidels, not taking Christians and Jews as friends. I’m quoting the Koran. I am saying, for example, that the theory and practice of jihad comes from the Koran. It’s not something that has been made up by the enemies of Islam. All the theologians derived their theories of jihad. That’s to say the holy war against infidels from the Koran. They quote various verses from the Koran. So it’s not something that I have invented or so-called Islam foes have invented. It is something in the Koran and has been interpreted by theologians in this way. This is what I mean when I say Islam is not a religion of peace. 

Did Mohammed, according to your lights, your research or scholarship? Did Muhammad preach a message of peace? What was Mohammed’s message, if not a message of peace? 

Well, no. If you are earliest source of the life of the Prophet Muhammad is written by an Arab written in Arabic. DeBonis Haqq, his life of the prophet. Called the Ceara has been taken by Muslims themselves as gospel. They they follow it carefully. They accepted it. Absolutely true. So, again, it’s this is a portrait which has not been painted by the enemy, but has been portrayed that we have from the Muslims themselves. And this is not a very flattering picture that we get. 

If you read the biography of the Prophet, you will read about him the way he how he earned his living. He earned his living as a brigand, as a Rahbar or a group of. He was in a band of Robert Price, a band which attacked caravans, and they then divided up the booty among themselves. This is all described in the book, which is written by a Muslim, by the way, not by an enemy of Islam. 

He attacked Jews periodically, most famously the bean craze where he attacked and executed all the male of this tribe, over 300 men. He took the women into captivity. They became slaves. And this includes the children. Um, so he OK, he’s not an attractive character for me. 

But neither was Abraham or some of the figures of Hebrew Bible. You look at mass murder accounts in the Hebrew Bible, yet there’s not really a militant Judaism in the world. There’s not a militant extremist Judaism movement that threatens the West. 

No, there’s this is this is true. There are all sorts of passages in Deuteronomy, in Leviticus and so on. How the early patriarchs behaved is, of course, also quite scandalous. If you read carefully the Old Testament. Indeed, absolutely correct. But certainly not true of Jesus Christ. The only, the most and most that freethinkers can accuse Jesus Christ is of cursing a fig tree and causing it to dry, to die and so on. Occasionally says one or two rather aggressive things against parents. You must leave your parents because you must follow me and so on. But on the whole, I think Jesus Christ does preach tolerance and peace. 

So you would see it from your secular perspective, a big difference between the message of Mohammed and say, the message of Jesus. 

Indeed. Yes, I think there is undoubtedly a big difference. So what was the message of Muhammad? Well, Muhammad that said that you must do as he did, that you must not take Jews and Christians as friends. 

And then, of course, those without those people that he called the people of the book people beyond that, that’s to say Hindus, for example, were really beyond the pale and they had no choice. They had to convert or be killed. 

Hence the the periodic massacres by Muslim leaders in India. Mm hmm. 

Was there anything redeeming in his message? 

Well, there are certain precepts in. Yes, in Islam, in Syria and in the Koran. He does preach the need for charity, the need to look after your parents, the need for respect for your parents, for discipline. You know, you must certain amount of devotion. These these can be seen as positive qualities, moral qualities. 

But on the whole. But I what I would say on the whole, um, the Sharia is very intolerant. That’s to say the Islamic law, because it tries to control every single aspect of an individual’s life. It’s I mean, he’s totalitarian in that sense and gives you no scope for independent thinking. You have to do as you’re told. And you must accept implicitly what I’ve taken to be the very words of God. 

And that’s why you argue in your book and your other books, your book, Why I’m Not a Muslim, which I’ll remind our listeners they can get at a discounted price on our website point of. Inquired Dawg. That’s why you argue Islam is inherently incompatible with democracy and human rights. 

Yes, indeed. Because as Sharia is going to go under, the sovereignty in Islam lies with God. Whereas in human rights, in democracy, for example, the sovereignty lies with the people and the human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights on several occasion clashes with grace aspects of Islamic law. Especially in the treatment of women and non Muslims, under Islamic law, women are inferior creatures. They have half the rights of men they have. They cannot marry non-Muslims. They are not free to marry who you know, I am. And same thing is true of non-Muslims. They have fewer rights than Muslims. This is also there is no question of cruel and unusual punishment. Again, these clashes with various aspects of the Universal Declaration and then, of course, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration talks about the freedom of religion in Islam. You don’t have the right to leave your religion. You’re born a Muslim and that’s it. And opposed to see that say, leaving your religion in Islam is punishable by death in the West. 

It doesn’t seem really a big deal to leave your religion. People are always talking about not being religious anymore. I’m a lapsed Catholic. I am a secular Jew. Indeed. 

This is this is the biggest single difference between Islamic societies and Western societies in the West. You can have a movie like The Life of Brian, which can, even if indirectly, mock various aspects of Christianity, even the life of Jesus Christ, a central figure in Christianity. Of course, this is unthinkable. Absolutely. Apsley, an Islamic version of the life of Brian that that’s incidentally, that has been proposed by a Dutch member of parliament. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she’s might be working on a script on that, but it is even among friends, even in the West. You got lapsed Muslims who are scared of coming out of the closet. Mm hmm. They think it’s something unthinkable at my at our conference here in Buffalo. In Amherst. I, I was I was wearing my badge with the name Ibn Warrick, and I was stopped by, I think, five of five Indian looking people from the subcontinent, that is. 

And the having confirmed that, I was indeed even Warraq, the author of Why I’m Not a Muslim. They then confessed that they had been greatly moved and influenced by by my book. And then they repeated what I say in my book as well, saying that it’s so difficult for them, even though they were living in the United States, to confess to friends and family that they were no longer Muslims. They no longer consider themselves Muslims. And so on. 

So it is the even those who do convert from Islam to Christianity have been threatened, have been physically attacked. There was several hundred conversions a year that people don’t talk about. The media don’t don’t review this situation. They don’t talk about it. But there are several hundreds, if not thousands, who convert from Islam to Christianity. A few number go from Islam to humanism or eight years or more agnosticism. There is an increasing number of Web sites which discuss this. The most famous is apostates of Islam. 

And are you involved with that Web site directly? I know that you are involved with a number. Yes. 

Wires, network person, personal runs it to somebody I know. He has read my books. He contributed an article to a collection of essays that I gathered all the apostates for your book, Leaving Islam called Leaving Islam Apostates Speak Out, but also published by Prometheus. 

And a number of Muslim ex Muslims talk about the spiritual journeys, how they left Islam and so on. And the founder of this Web site, Apostates of Islam, was one of them. And he well, he he’s generously puts me at the top of the list and he’s on his Web site. He refers to my books on several occasions. 

It seems like you’re a lone voice in the wilderness and really a beacon for a secular former Muslims around the world. You are involved in another Web site. Is it secular Islam dot org? 

That’s right. Secular Islam, dot org. That’s a place on the web. 

Four former Muslims for apostate Muslims to congregate, to organize, to share experiences. 

We had submissions or articles from X Muslims who were critical of Islam in various aspects of Islam, particularly the the status of women. We had a series of articles by Azam Cumbrian, who is an atheist from Iran. She defended very valiantly the the rights of women. 

Before we go, I just want to remind our listeners that they can get a copy of your very influential book that Christopher Hitchens said was his favorite book on Islam in the world. Anthony Flew said was the most important thing that your publisher is now doing the books, why? I’m not a Muslim and you can get a discounted copy if you’re listening to the show by going to point of inquiry. Dot org. Ebon Work. Thanks for being on the show. Thank you. 

Get active with the Center for Inquiry and join our growing network of activists to work with us to advance science and reason across America, participate in action alerts. Letter writing campaigns. And stay up to date on center for inquiry events happening in your community and across the country to join. 

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I’m joined in the studio now by Paul Kurtz. For the first of a three part series entitled Can You Be Good Without God? Considered by many the father of the Secular Humanist Movement. Paul is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As Chair of Psychology at the Council for Secular Humanism and Prometheus Books. And also as editor of Free Inquiry Magazine, he’s advanced a critical, humanistic inquiry into most of the cherished beliefs of society for the last 40 years. He’s a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has been featured very widely in the media on topics as diverse as reincarnation, UFO abduction, secular versus religious ethics, communication with the dead and the historicity of Jesus. In this first of a three part series entitled Can You Be Good Without God? Paul explores with me the question of where values come from. Welcome to the show again, Paul. 

I’m delighted to be here. D.J. to join you in the studio of this new podcast and a particularly pleased that we’ve heard from listeners worldwide who have sent us many emails and reaction to our earlier broadcasts. 

Yeah, we’re gratified with the positive response. Paul, you’re here today to explore secular versus religious ethics. Can you be good without God? Don’t values come from religion? Well, I insist that you can be good without God. And although some people try to develop or derive their values from religion, I’m afraid they’ve not been too successful. 

If you look at the conflicts, the bitter acrimony and controversies that defend religious traditions have led to and the contradictory moral values. So I insist. Yes. Yes, indeed. You can’t be good without God. And that goodness flows from human experience. Goodness is part of what it means to be human. And we need to recognize that and cultivate it. 

A lot of religious thinkers and critics of secular humanism say that goodness without God is impossible. That when you’re promoting secular ethical position, you don’t know it, but you’re actually promoting what God has written in your heart, your advancing goodness that God implanted within you. 

Well, I reject those assumptions that they’re making. And again, I reiterate that people have believed in God, have not necessarily been good, and that all the saints are in the churches and all the sinners outside. Indeed, there’ve have been many noble people historically who have been skeptical about religion and yet lived exemplary lives. And for people to say that unless you believe in God, you can’t be empathetic, loving, creative, you can’t be happy, you cannot be good, is simply a libel against hundreds and hundreds of millions of people throughout the ages who’ve lived with dignity and discovered values in their own terms. Why be good if there is no God will be good with. There is no God because life itself is good. Look, my first premise is that life is good. The life of every individual. You have one thing your own life. Your life is like a work of art. It’s you. And the great challenge and opportunity is to fulfill your life, to live fully, to live a creative, enjoyable, satisfying life for yourself and in cooperation with others. 

That sounds pretty selfish, though. It sounds like you’re saying just live for yourself. Fulfill yourself. Where does respecting and loving other people come in? 

Well, I think everyone has to be self-interested. And I think that the beginning on happiness is self-hatred. So, yes, you have to love yourself. I mean, you see yourself every day in the mirror. You’d take care of yourself. You feed yourself, you satisfy yourself. So so there’s nothing wrong with being concerned with who you are as a person and trying to realize your aspirations. However, I don’t think that we’re complete as human beings simply as Robinson Crusoe living an island alone. Of course, he had Friday. He’s good man Friday to help him. So we need other people. And in one sense, the flowering of who and what we are as a person depends upon other people. So I believe in personal happiness. Yes. Personal realization of actualization. Yes. But also doing good to others, being kind and sympathetic and helpful and beneficent and sharing the goods of life with other human beings. 

How do you decide what those goods of life are without revelation from on high? Well, when you say revelation on high. From who? Mohammed Moses. 

Jesus, these revelations are contradictory. And I think it’s a indignity to say that you cannot decide for yourself. It must be revealed by some historical tradition. Well, I think you decide within yourself. I consider human beings to be potentially moral. We are either beasts or gods outside of the society. And so we said Aristotle. So we are moral beings potentially, and that can be cultivated and developed. There is a kind of biological roots of morality. Now, some people do not fully develop morally and they may have a low moral IQ, a low moral quotient. Like some people have, they have a low IQ and you try to cultivate and improve and ameliorate the appreciation for morality. So that depends on moral growth. I think human beings are capable of growing morally, discovering moral truths and leading the good life and the light of it. So the answer to your question, the recognition of goodness grows out of human experience itself and also reason. So we are emotional, passionate, experiential and rational beings. And morality is essential to our nature. It’s not something alien outside of us. 

So morality doesn’t come from outside of us. You say it’s natural. It’s it’s not supernatural. 

Oh, yes. I think the roots of morality are derived from within human experience. See human nature. Now, it’s true that the social climate in which we live. Influences us. 

So we are conditioned by people around us in this society. I’m not denying that. But the full flowering of the human person involves a moral flowering in which we’re willing to take responsibility for our own future and live a life fully in our own terms and recognize the needs of others and try to, if need be, provide some kind of caring relationship to them. Do you only do this so you can feel good about yourself? No, I do it so I can feel good about myself, but because I feel good about others, I deny that there’s a conflict between self-interest and other regarding behavior, between selfishness and altruists. And we are both altruistic beings and concerned with her own good. And every person recognizes that it’s a lie to say that we’re never self-interested. It is also a libel to say that we never can develop other regarding love and appreciation of others. 

Many followers of Ayn Rand Objectivists, when they read your affirmations of humanism, they agree with so many until they get to the one where you champion altruistic behavior. There are those who say there’s no such thing as altruism. 

Well, I think that is totally false. We make sacrifices for others. We make sacrifices for our children. Our children do so for their parents, sacrifices for a loved one, sacrifices for our country, for our society, for our colleagues. I do think that the milk of human sympathy and kindness is intrinsic to who what you are granted. Some people may not develop that fully. 

May 5th of followers have had Rand do not develop these altruistic feelings. In which case I deplore that. But I think altruism can and should be part of who would what we are. 

Paul, thanks for joining us this week. I want to invite our listeners to go to the Web site, point of inquiry dot org. You can purchase a discounted copy of Paul Curtsies book, Forbidden Fruit, a book on his ethical philosophy. 

Thanks a lot, Paul. Thank you very much, D.J.. 

If you listen to point of inquiry regularly, you know that each week we have a segment entitled From the pages of this time it’s from the pages of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. I’m joined in the studio again by Benjamin Redford, whom you heard from earlier in the show during his Media Mythmakers segment. Benjamin is managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, and he’s here to talk to me about this issue of Skeptical Inquirer. January, February 2006 issue, which let me remind our listeners, you can get a sample copy of Skeptical Inquirer magazine by calling 800 six, three, four, sixteen, ten and mentioning point of inquiry. That’s eight hundred six, three, four, 16, 10. Ben, welcome to Point of Inquiry again. Thank you, T.J.. Good to be here. This issue of Skeptical Inquirer seems to have it seems to really run the gamut. 

It does. We have we have material on the conference down in Buenos Aires, Argentina, earlier this year. Went to that. I attended that as as did Joe Nickell, our senior research fellow. What was that conference? It was the first I Berro American Conference on Critical Thinking. 

Skeptical Inquirer is called The Magazine for Reason and Science, Science and Reason Fresno. And it’s not just about skepticism of the paranormal. 

That’s true. We actually cover quite a broad range of material, everything from pseudoscience to intelligent design, mysterious creatures, big foot UFOs, Atlantis, things like that, as well as other things such as investigation in the current issue. Pleased that we actually have a piece on the Kevin Trudeau National. She’d been Natural Cures infomercial. 

All right. That’s a topic we explored on point of inquiry when we had Andrew Skolnick on that whole alternative medicine craze. That seems to be bigger now than ever. 

Exactly, exactly. What we find is that there are different issues that come up, sort of they’re cyclical in nature. So we’ll go for a couple of years and then, you know, something that will we will have thought had died away. It’ll be back in the news once again. 

So belief in the paranormal, belief in superstition never dies. It doesn’t even fade away. It just it’s like the Phenix. It always comes back. 

And it does tend to do that. I mean, there are there are very few examples of phenomena which, at least for the time being, seem to have been put to rest. Such as Atlantis. But even then, I mean, we have new new claims pop up every now and then. 

Right. There’s a new series on on what is it the the sci fi channel on Atlantis. So even that seemingly dead in the water, no pun intended notion is back. What else is featured in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer? 

Well, the current issue, we have a piece by the former skeptical Inquirer columnists, Martin Gardner, who also wrote the Mathematical Games column in Scientific American public intellectual recreational mathematician, considered really the grandfather. 

American skepticism. Absolutely. And worldwide skepticism. The whole movement. 

Yes, indeed. Hidden here. He did a piece for us called The Memory Wars, which is essentially it’s a review of the scandals that we had mostly in the 80s regarding recovered memory and suggestive techniques and noses. So that was that was an interesting piece we had by him. And we also have, for example, a piece by Brian Farra on paranormal beliefs among college students. 

That’s especially interesting at the Center for Inquiry, because we have the campus outreach program where we’re trying to provide pro science, secular alternative to groups like the Campus Crusade for Christ, anti evolution movements on American campuses. One of the features in this issue is a piece by David Capsule called The Ethics of Investigation. Tell me about that. 

Well, that’s that’s interesting piece that in which gives looking at skeptical inquiry and using Joe Nichols and takes it as an example of how how investigation can actually have a sort of an ethics surrounding it. 

Joe Niccolò draws this distinction between debunking and skeptical inquiry. So I guess that’s what that feature that article of capsule is zeroing in on. And it’s a great piece. Few weeks from now, we’re going to feature Joe Nickell again. So if you’re a regular listener to point of inquiry, be be ready for that. You have a lot of features in skeptical inquiry. We’ve been talking about that. But you also have regular departments columns. Tell me about some of those. What are some columns that people will be going to every issue flipping to and really enjoying? 

Well, the main the really the the feature column we’ve had is the piece by Joe Niccola, his investigative files in which he actually goes out, investigates things. I myself have a column called The Skeptical Inquiry in which readers will write in asking questions about skeptical topics. And I try to answer in a page. 

It’s kind of like Ann Landers for skeptics. I am the end. Ann Landers of skepticism. I love that. Yeah. We also have columns by Massimo Pulla D’Oro, Massimo Politi, Robert Schaefer. 

People people like that who each bring their own sort of different area of expertize and different flavor to it. 

You’re too modest dimensioned, but you have a piece here in this issue. 

I do indeed. In fact, there’s is investigation that Joe Nickell and I both did in cooperation with National Geographic television that actually recently aired in which we went to British Columbia and we investigated the most famous Canadian lake monster, Ogopogo. And we spent about a week there and did all sorts of investigations. And it’s an interesting one because it’s sort of a you’ll see different facets of a modern day lake monster. 

How many episodes of this National Geographic program have you been on? What’s it called? Is it real? 

I believe it’s called. Is it real? I’ve been on, I think, four or five. I was on for psychic detectives, Bigfoot, Lake Monster and Chupacabra. 

So listeners to of Inquiry, check your local listings and see Ben Radford on National Geographic. Well, we’ve run out of time for the segment. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule editing all of the publications coming out of the Center for Inquiry. There’s something like 17 and your publications director here, in addition to being managing editor, Skeptical Inquirer called you just a minute ago. You ran down here. You’re having this discussion. I appreciate it. We’ll see you next time when you’re on the show. 

Fantastic. Thank you, T.J.. 

You’ve seen the headlines, Bill seeks to protect students from liberal bias. The right time for an Islamic reformation. Kansas School Board redefined science. Judge Roberts record shows long crusade against church state separation. These stories sum up the immense challenge facing those of us who defend rational thinking, science and secular values. One adviser to the Bush administration dismissed as the reality based community. Who could have imagined that reality would need defenders? The educational and advocacy work of the Center for Inquiry is more essential than ever. And your support is more essential than ever. Show your commitment to science, reason and secular values. By becoming a friend of the center today, whether you are interested in the work of psychology and skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry magazine, the Commission for Scientific Medicine, or a Center for Inquiry on campus. By becoming a friend of the center, you’ll help strengthen our impact. If you’re just learning about CFI, take a look at our Web site. W w w dot center for inquiry dot net. We hosted regional and international conferences, college courses and nationwide campus outreach. You’ll also find out about our new representation at the United Nations, an important national media appearances. We cannot pursue these projects without your help. Please become a friend of the center today by calling one 800 eight one eight seven zero seven one or visiting w w w that center for inquiry dot net. We look forward to working with you to enlarge the reality based community. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry. Join us next week to hear the world’s leading mind reader, Max Maven, for a discussion on the ethics of deception. Also, I wanted to let you know that tomorrow, Saturday, January 7th, Thomas Donnelly and I will be attending podcast or con 2006 at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Views expressed on point of inquiry do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org or by visiting our Web site. Point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Executive producer is Paul Kurtz. Point of Inquiries Inquiry’s music is written and composed by Michael Whalan. Contributors include Tom Flynn, Paul Kurtz, Lauren Becker, Benjamin Radford, Sara Jordan and Nathan Bupp. I’m your host, DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.