annabelle and aiden featured image

J.R. Becker on the Annabelle & Aiden Books and Teaching Children Critical Thinking

October 22, 2020

Author J.R. Becker joins Leighann Lord in this episode of Point of Inquiry to speak about his book series, Annabelle & Aiden. The series is a pro-science children’s book series that explores science, philosophy, and critical thinking. Their conversation dives into:

  • What inspired Becker to write the series
  • How the books teach critical thinking and a skeptical outlook to children and why that’s important
  • The push back the series has had from various religious groups
  • How adults can enjoy and learn from these books as well
  • What’s in store in Annabelle & Aiden’s future

You can learn more about the Annabelle & Aiden series on

We are proud to announce that this episode of Point of Inquiry was sponsored by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund. Our friends, Spike Wadsworth and Sherry Sheng, are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to thought-provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture. We are grateful for their support. If you would like to learn more about how to support Point of Inquiry or the work of its umbrella organization, the Center for Inquiry, please contact our Director of Development, Connie Skingel, at

Point of Inquiry has a listener survey available that we are asking you to complete! Visit the survey at Filling out the survey will help the show grow and improve as we understand the fine folks who listen. Thank you.

This Week’s Music

“A Happy Smile With a Big Long Dull Knife” by Monplaisir / CC0 1.0
“Bon Journée” by Chad Crouch / CC BY-NC 3.0
“Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

[00:00:07] My name is Leighann Lord, your co-host for Point of Inquiry, my guest today holds a B.A. in philosophy and a juris doctorate from Emory University School of Law and is the author of The Annabell in Eight in series. This is a pro science children’s book series dedicated to inspiring a new generation of scientists and thinkers. The books encourage curiosity, wonder and critical thinking skills by exploring the line where science and philosophy meet. The mission of the series is to show children that learning about the incredible natural world around us can be just as enchanting while being educational. At the same time, we talk about his inspiration for the books were Each one is about and of course my personal favorite, what happens when we die? And spoiler alert adults enjoy and learn from these books as well. So please enjoy my conversation with J.R. Becker. [00:00:57][49.9]

[00:01:08] They are welcome to point of inquiry. Thanks, it’s so great to be here. I have to tell you right up front, I really wanted to have you on the show because it seems that many people come to their skepticism and their critical thinking as adults. But, you know, some of our listeners may be wondering how they can share that, you know, with their children and grandchildren in a creative and imaginative way. And it seems like your books fill that need nicely. [00:01:33][25.0]

[00:01:34] Yeah, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. And there was a huge gap in children’s literature about this. [00:01:41][6.8]

[00:01:41] You know, the quote unquote, the big questions from a secular viewpoint and skeptic viewpoint. So we wanted to fill that gap. [00:01:49][7.8]

[00:01:50] Well, well done. So is that what inspired you? You sort of you looked into the void and said, oh, I can I can put something there. [00:01:56][6.3]

[00:01:57] It was more I was I mean, we could go through my quote unquote origin story. [00:02:02][5.3]

[00:02:03] But at the end of towards the end of that story, I became as an adult, very, very excited about these scientific concepts, basic concepts that I that was not really in my education or was largely glossed over. And I was just very excited about it. And my wife was like, I don’t want to hear about this anymore. [00:02:22][19.6]

[00:02:23] And I’m like, I don’t know what I’m like, but I have to tell somebody. [00:02:27][3.7]

[00:02:28] So I thought children’s books would be a good outlet to do that. So I was just excited about it and wanted to do something. And children’s books was that. [00:02:37][8.4]

[00:02:37] Wow, I love that. I love that now. What’s the ideal age range for your for your books? Like, I don’t even want to say there’s a cap because I enjoy them, but what what were you aiming for. [00:02:47][10.0]

[00:02:48] I would you know, I know this will sound very cliche. I wrote it. I did not have in mind what age to write it for. [00:02:55][7.4]

[00:02:56] I just wrote it the way it came out. OK, but it is probably best for ages five to ten, I would say. [00:03:04][8.1]

[00:03:04] Very well then I’m going to skew my age down just a bit so I can fit myself in there, because as I said, I’m enthralled. And by the way, even though this is ideal, I’ll let folks know that the books are absolutely beautiful. You’re I’m blanking on the name of your illustrator, but the illustrator is wonderful. The quality of the books. I’m a little late to the party. I apologize. These books that you published, your first one in twenty sixteen. But the topics are really timeless. What was your first one? Can we go through them and you sort of describe each one. Sure, sure. [00:03:43][38.1]

[00:03:43] So in science I am most excited about evolution and now really evolutionary psychology. But I thought evolution was where I wanted to start. That is what I was most excited about and that is what was lacking in children’s literature. So the first one is called The Story of Life. People kind of challenged me and said I should not write it because it’s not a story. Evolution is a bunch of facts. And I’m like, hold my beer. You know, I think science is best told. I mean, it depends on why you’re teaching it and who your audience is. But for children, I like to take a macro stance and really step back and tell it as a story chronologically. So, you know, we start with the first living thing, single celled organism, I think probably a bacteria in the water. And it wanted, quote unquote, to make some friends, you know, so it makes copies of itself. And we all know how how it goes from there. It made some mistakes and some of the copies came out a little bit different. Natural selection, worms, fish, reptiles, mammals, humans, et cetera, et cetera. And then all of my books, I try to end with a moral lesson because I really want to try to cross over that wall that without we too often put around science saying this is just facts and really try to learn how we should live and who we are and the deeper meanings that could really speak to the heart. So the book closes with pictures of different readers and different people from around the world. And it it says we are all related in the same family tree. Literally. We don’t need a metaphor. We’re all literally related. And we have to be kind to each other because we’re all part of the same family on the same blue dot. So that’s. Yeah. [00:05:38][115.4]

[00:05:40] And and hopefully not a dysfunctional family in sending it off the rails. I’m really surprised to hear you say the people said evolution is not a story, that it’s just a collection of facts. And if we weren’t with that idea, there’d be no school. [00:05:54][14.3]

[00:05:56] You know, we always have to find a way to to teach or to tell a story. And because that’s that’s how human beings engage. I mean, one of my fondest memories, you know, is being read to as a child, you know, I wish we had these books. That would have been great. [00:06:13][16.8]

[00:06:13] But I didn’t start off science in my family. What was what was the second book that you wrote? [00:06:20][6.4]

[00:06:20] It was just second. It’s funny. I actually wasn’t really I was hoping maybe to turn it into a series. [00:06:25][4.3]

[00:06:25] But the real reason why I wanted to write a second book is because the first book was banned by the Christian News Network. But if you put into Google the word aggressive atheist, Annabel and Eden, you’ll see an article from Ken Ham’s organization or from Ken, it might be by Ken Ham himself, just completely condemning the first book. And I was kind of scared about that. Like it was weird for me to see because at the time I wasn’t used to that sort of any media attention. So I ended up writing a second book on critical thinking and sending him a copy with no telling him. He inspired me to do that. [00:07:04][39.3]

[00:07:05] And congratulations on getting banned. I you know, I’ve been a nonbeliever for quite some time now, but I haven’t really been banned from anywhere. I had to work harder. I got to work harder at it. What was the title of that one? The critical thinking. [00:07:19][14.4]

[00:07:20] It’s called Oh, the Things We Believed. Oh, yes. [00:07:23][2.9]

[00:07:23] Yes, of course. Of course. With the the one of the kids I don’t remember which one was it. [00:07:28][5.0]

[00:07:28] I didn’t see the face in the clouds and like he thinks it’s a real face. Yeah. And I loved how you explained that this is sort of something that’s developed in us, you know, through evolution. And, you know, it it really helps us to recognize faces and but we sort of overdo it. And that’s why we see faces in the clouds. That was beautiful. Beautiful book. Thank you. Yeah. [00:07:49][20.8]

[00:07:50] And then we tried to go into some of the whimsical math stork’s delivering babies and a flat earth on the back of turtles all the way down and just. [00:07:58][8.0]

[00:07:58] Yeah, and with it. So I will I will tell you, I did I did not know the stork story. Can you share that. Oh, is that it. Do you think that’s a spoiler. Oh it’s not a spoiler. [00:08:06][8.5]

[00:08:07] I mean we just it’s kind of a famous myth that that, you know, where do babies come from? So something that some people used to believe is that they were delivered by storks. And there’s actually a footnote in the book. I could probably find it in ten seconds. I have my little bookshelf next to me. But it’s sort of interesting why how that came about. I mean, I’m sure that myth wasn’t large among adults because we see babies coming and now they come. But as migratory birds starts would fly south in the fall and return to Europe in early summer. And Midsummer’s Eve was a pagan holiday of marriage. So many babies would be born around the time the storks returned, which contributed to the connection between storks and fertility. So it’s just a fun thing. [00:08:56][49.0]

[00:08:56] Yeah, yeah. I honestly didn’t know like that was the background of it. You know, the the original Amazon drones bring in babies. So you did the first one. You got bands and you weren’t playing on that and you said, you know what, I’ll show you. You’re right. A second one. Yes. [00:09:11][14.3]

[00:09:11] And then I guess you kind of got carried away. [00:09:13][2.0]

[00:09:13] So, yes. Tell me about the next few books in the series. [00:09:18][4.7]

[00:09:19] Sure. So the third one is called Worlds Within US. And it’s about probably the most poetic and popular message in science that we are all made of stardust. We are all made of the same stardust, and we are the world experiencing itself. So it goes through the Big Bang and how the world started and how we are all made of stardust. That was that really helped us. That book did better, a lot better than the two before it. We we it grew our series very much. And then the fourth one was the riskiest one. I did not want to write it, but a lot of secular home schoolers came to me and they said they want a book about death. Yeah. [00:10:06][46.9]

[00:10:07] And I said, really? I thought it would be a hard book to write, but I was very inspired by two things. One was an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson. [00:10:17][10.6]

[00:10:18] You know, he talks about how immortality helps shape our lives. And we have to it brings an urgency to to cause us to make our lives as meaningful as we can and celebrate the only life we know we have. And then there was a video by Stephen Fry that actually inspired me, and he says much of the same thing. [00:10:39][20.9]

[00:10:40] So I made a book called What Happens When We Die? I mean, it raised twenty four thousand dollars on Kickstarter. It did very, very, very well. I had no idea how needed it was. And there is no front, to my knowledge. [00:10:53][13.4]

[00:10:53] There is no secular children’s book about death that that that brings that message. So that was a great site. [00:11:00][6.2]

[00:11:00] I will tell you, I that is my favorite. I completely love that book. You won an award for that book, the Purple Dragonfly Book Award. And I have to say, I completely understand why you would be hesitant to I mean, first of all, nobody wants to write about a book about death for grown, far less for kids. [00:11:21][20.8]

[00:11:21] So, you know, but the feedback you got tell me a little bit more about that. I mean, my parents and you said to home schoolers, you know, home schooling teachers and homeschooling parents, you know, this was something that they they asked for that they thought would be a good idea. [00:11:35][14.1]

[00:11:37] Yes, they were largely puzzled what to tell their children. Children inevitably are curious about everything, but they do ask about death when they’re five to eight years old, they’re really most kids think about it and parents don’t know what to really tell them, let alone secular parents who don’t believe in an afterlife. You know that mommy, daddy, whenever we die and that’s what happens. And, you know, their friends at school are hearing about heaven and hell and all these other things. And, you know, in the secular community, it was people were at a loss, you know, largely as to what to say to their children. And one thing that, you know, the most powerful event that happened, I have to say, is after the book came out, a man sent me a video actually right before it came out. But he I gave him an early copy. He sent me a video of him reading the book at his mother’s memorial. His mother had passed away and her picture is actually in the back of the book. And we yeah, he sent me a video of him. He said he didn’t have he didn’t know what to say at her memorial, and he read the children’s book at her memorial. [00:12:46][68.8]

[00:12:47] And it really touched me when I saw that is that is incredibly, incredibly beautiful. And I to say, I wish I wish I had had that as a child. [00:12:55][8.2]

[00:12:56] I will settle for having it as an adult because I will I will tell you, like we my parents didn’t talk about death at all. I mean, like I and my family, like nobody died in our family. People just stop showing up for Christmas dinner, you know, and you you learn to stop asking questions. I particularly enjoyed the foreword that Michael Shermer wrote, which it reminded me. I remember I was four years old and I was listening to my parents. You know, they were talking about some incident. And I said, I don’t remember that. And they said, oh, well, that that happened before we were born. [00:13:31][35.0]

[00:13:32] And I was flabbergasted. Like, I just I couldn’t believe in, like, what do you mean before I was born, you know, because my four year old mind, you know, it was like I just assumed they sort of came into existence when I did, you know, and then in a way, they did, you know, I made them parents. So you’re welcome. Right. But the idea that they were living a life before me was was fascinating. And and at four, I was still I was still too young then to make the mental leap that if there was a before there was going to be an after, either after they were gone or after I’m gone, like, that’s the next step. And how do you how do you teach that to people in the wonder of we go from being this to stardust or trees or plants or whatever it is, I find it fascinating and wish. [00:14:25][52.6]

[00:14:28] Again, I wish this book could come into my life sooner. [00:14:30][2.1]

[00:14:31] What’s what’s what is the. So you wrote this book, you know, clearly under duress. I’m kidding. He wrote this book in the. What’s some of the response now? [00:14:41][10.2]

[00:14:42] Now that’s out there in the world of, you know, what are what what are the teachers saying? What are parents saying is and do you know what the kids are saying? Like, how does this strike you, your target audience, so to speak? [00:14:52][10.5]

[00:14:53] But, you know, I it’s really all been positive. And I do try to make my books. [00:14:59][5.5]

[00:14:59] I go to great efforts to make my books pro science and not anti anything. So I really do want to leave room for people of faith who want to read these books, who want to learn about science. Annabell, as you know, is there an afterlife? And he dreams of this, you know, very whimsical afterlife with marshmallow shoes and chocolate kangaroos and all these other things jumping around. And then the skeptic saurus dinosaur kind of jumps and he’s like, hold on a minute. And he doesn’t say there is no afterlife, but he says we don’t have evidence for it yet. We don’t know. But here’s what is real. And that’s what my books are trying to do. They’re trying to show people that, like, we don’t need to resort to metaphors or myths or stories or that which may or may not be true because that which we do know is just good enough or even better. [00:15:50][50.6]

[00:15:53] Hello, thank you for listening to Point of Inquiry. You’re taking a short break to announce that this episode was made possible to the Wadsworth Schang Fund. The fund was started by supporters of the shows Spike Wadsworth and cherishing we’re both committed to science, critical thinking and making accessible thought-Provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics and culture. We are grateful for their generous support point of inquiry and its umbrella organization, the Center for Inquiry, critically examined and advocates against pseudoscience, the dangers of alternative medicine, and analyzes the intersection of religion and science in our society. This educational and advocacy work of the Center for Inquiry is more central now than ever before, and your support is more essential than ever. Point of Inquiry is a listener supported show, which means continuing this work is only possible because of the financial support of listeners like you. Visit Center for Inquiry Agapito Pouye to make a donation today and ensure that point of inquiry can continue. If you would like to learn more about how you can support the show, or for more information about the Watch Worth Schang Fund, please email Center for Inquiries. Director of Development Connies Ginkel at Development at the Center for Inquiry that. [00:17:12][78.7]

[00:17:13] Thank you. [00:17:14][0.3]

[00:17:17] Tell me about the skeptics as well. [00:17:19][2.4]

[00:17:21] He’s a dinosaur, he’s kind of like he’s got to sort of cool, but he comes along and he’s, you know, he teaches the children what I’m trying to teach him with my book series, which is reality is good enough. Reality is not only good enough, but if it’s even better and more incredible and more amazing than anything that we could dream up and it could change the world. So the skeptics source is this funny dinosaur that that comes along and kind of tells the kids, or especially Aiden in the book, who is a very dreamy and he dreams up all these funny ideas of a skeptic stories kind of says, slow down. You know, we don’t know if that’s true or not. And then another character I have, Tardigrade Tom, he’s the one who comes in and he steps in. He has a cane because he’s very old, because tardigrades have been around for many, many years. And he kind of tells the kids, you know, I’ve been here for thousands of years and I could tell you what happened. And then he to tell us what happened. [00:18:25][63.8]

[00:18:25] Well, an elder tardigrade and I will say I didn’t I wasn’t familiar with tardigrades. This is so embarrassing until I watched Star Trek discovery, I was not always zipping around the universe. [00:18:36][11.0]

[00:18:37] That’s cool of it. How do you have a tardigrade? [00:18:40][3.3]

[00:18:41] Forgive me. [00:18:41][0.4]

[00:18:41] No, no, I’m sorry. I’m such a rabid Star Trek fan. I assume everyone has seen every single episode. It was it was a really interesting turn in the series that actually diehard Star Trek fans are not fans of it. It was better than warp drive. It sort of allowed the power of the tardigrade was that it was sort of connected to everything in the universe in harnessing its power, allowed the blink in the name of the ship, all the discovery to travel through space much, much faster, to be anywhere at any time. So very exciting, but also ripping a fabric in space and time. And everything’s going to be destroyed because we’re not supposed to be traveling that way, you know. [00:19:21][39.7]

[00:19:21] So there was there was a message in there about, you know, environment and protecting, you know, other species. And, you know, it was very to me that was very Star Trek. Some folks will disagree, and that’s fine. But, you know, I’m willing to have a bar fight over it any day. You’re a dinosaur. We shall note in your book, not a velociraptor. Very friendly. [00:19:45][23.4]

[00:19:48] So now, Annabel and Aiden, where did you get the names? And are those perhaps your children? [00:19:54][6.1]

[00:19:55] Those are my children. Yep. How yes. How old are your children now? Annabel is eight and eight and a six. [00:20:00][5.5]

[00:20:02] OK, so are they old enough to start asking for royalties? [00:20:06][4.2]

[00:20:09] You know, it’s funny. [00:20:10][0.5]

[00:20:10] I told my wife we can’t have a third because I it’s way too late to change the name of the series. [00:20:14][4.6]

[00:20:15] So you can’t have a third kid and the kid not be in the series that because that’s that has complex written all over it. Now, how do your kids feel about your books? I mean, this is seems like a family enterprise, so how do they feel about it? [00:20:30][14.5]

[00:20:30] So it’s funny. So right now they like the books a lot. But I will confess that even though you’ll have to trust me over my children, my books are going to go buy them. [00:20:39][9.3]

[00:20:40] But not a bill did not like them. Annabel, Annabel was like, I don’t want you know, she just didn’t like it. [00:20:48][8.0]

[00:20:48] Maybe it’s because it’s her daddy’s books. Maybe that’s the reason. But, you know, she actually helped me because the earlier books tell more science in a data sort of way. And Annabel says to me, I want a story once upon a time, a sequence of events, not just events. This molecule split off to there, but but really more surrounded about characters and character building. And that’s why the later books, especially the six one This World was made for me, is much more story oriented taking place in actually the present tense as opposed to the past. [00:21:27][39.2]

[00:21:28] She sounds like you’re in house editor. You know, just like, oh, no, take this back. I want more pages. You don’t do this. I want more story. And I don’t know what the earlier drafts look like, but, you know, if she’s in your age range or your your target audience, as well as being the main character of the book, those sound like very valuable contributions because you seem very invested in empowering children with information and knowledge and sort of spurring them to think and question and get those juices flowing before we don’t wait till high school. We don’t wait till college. You know, you sort of build on on the innate ability that children have to ask questions. It’s usually annoying. But if you can set aside the annoying part and go now, this is what they do and this is the time to. Capture their imagination and their inquisitive spirit and actually feed it with something. [00:22:22][53.7]

[00:22:23] Absolutely. [00:22:23][0.0]

[00:22:23] And I love I love that about I think it was about 10 minutes ago you said that your parents mentioned about a time before you were born and you were amazed that there was a time before you were born. We all are, because we are all as humans. We are all self-centered in a way. I mean, our perspective is from ourself. And I think your feelings about when your parents said that is a perfect example of how humankind feels when we hear about before we were born as a species, we we scratch our heads a lot before we were born. You know, I thought I mean, my books kind of teased the title of my sixth book is This World was made for US in a satirical way because it wasn’t. But we think that this world was made for us and everything was just laid out perfectly for us. And the world is not old, but it just came around just when we were born. [00:23:15][52.0]

[00:23:16] And Tardigrade Tom is the one who comes along and he’s like, I’ve been waiting for you. Where were you? We’ve been around for, whatever, 13 billion, 14 billion years. And you guys just showed up about two hundred thousand years ago. So we’ve been waiting and then we tell the story of what happened. And I’m trying to shake people out of that blindness and out of that bias and try to explain to them how new how incredibly, absurdly new humans are to the world. [00:23:44][27.9]

[00:23:45] You know, you go from a personal level like, you know, I’ve I haven’t I always been here. Doesn’t my parents life revolve around me? No, it doesn’t, too. There was a time before us as a species. Man, that’s huge. It’s really huge to wrap your your mind around. And I can understand why people resist it because it feels too big. It feels because we again, like you said, we are we’re an arrogant little species. [00:24:07][22.3]

[00:24:08] We’re just a couple of days here on the planet. I’ll teach you this place wasn’t built for us at all. This place is trying to kill us. Yeah. [00:24:15][7.1]

[00:24:15] Yes. This place nature wants us dead by about the age of twenty seven or so. [00:24:20][4.3]

[00:24:21] Actually, the fact that any of us survive past the age five or six is amazing and good parenting. Now, I don’t please don’t think of me calling you out on this, but I, I’m going to I’m going to ask you this question. [00:24:34][14.0]

[00:24:35] I did you really write this book for these books for children. [00:24:39][3.3]

[00:24:41] But I got to tell you, I was sitting in my comfy chair blanket on my lap cat, then on top of the blanket on top of me. And I’m flipping through the book and I’m like, this is perfect. I feel like I’m reading a beautiful book. There’s no child in sight. And I’m learning as as an adult, you know, because I think sometimes we get caught up in facts and everything has to have big words and presentations. And in order to be grown up about it, I’m like, no, this had such an accessibility. And yeah, I’m I’m grown, but I’m still learning things. So, you know, I’m I know you did write it for children, but it feels like it’s such a wonderful thing for parents and grandparents to enjoy and learn as well. Was that something that you thought about when you were writing the book, or is that just a bonus? [00:25:30][49.1]

[00:25:31] Right. I mean, that was not just a bonus. I, I want parents to learn. And these are concepts that most people don’t know, Lee-Anne. I mean, a lot of I speak to a lot of people in our community and they don’t believe me when when I tell or they don’t agree with me when I tell them, I. I think if you walk down the street in any major city or suburb, I mean, I guess it depends where you are, but even in even in educated areas or with a science, you know, Zite guys, people don’t know what evolution is. They think a lot of people think evolution was a one time event thousands of years ago that some scientists claim happened where a few monkeys turned into humans or people think it means, you know, that you mean that’s not it. [00:26:18][47.6]

[00:26:19] That’s not all there is to it. [00:26:20][1.1]

[00:26:21] Or people think, oh, you know, birds, their beaks get a little bigger and a little smaller. They don’t understand that. It explained. They don’t understand that it’s a fact and they don’t understand how much it explains. [00:26:31][10.3]

[00:26:33] I actually I’m about has it been two years now or three years? I was invited to speak at the American Humanist Association in Vegas. And the day before that, I put on a spacesuit and I walked up and down the strip with a microphone and a camera. And I asked, you know, when I did kind of some jaywalking or whatever you want to call it. [00:26:57][23.5]

[00:26:57] And I ask people and nobody out of I asked about fifteen people and one guy kind of got it, but you know that no one knew what it was. No one knew what it was, you know, someone that someone said, oh, it means things could change. [00:27:12][15.2]

[00:27:13] And I’m like, well do you know that, that that human. Came from other species. He’s like, oh, that’s not evolution, that’s Darwinism, that’s different. Or I mean, people didn’t know, people don’t know, you know, how old the earth is or I mean, these basic concepts, people don’t know. [00:27:30][16.7]

[00:27:30] And I don’t think it’s their fault. [00:27:32][1.4]

[00:27:32] It’s the it’s the society and the culture and the education. [00:27:34][2.2]

[00:27:35] But I was I was just going to say or there’s also the possibility they might have been thrown off by the spaceship. Just throw that out there. Yes. I often say you can’t spend, you know, how many decades has it been underfunding education and get Rhodes Scholars? That’s not how that math works. You know, I consider myself to be reasonably educated, you know, not outrageously. So, you know, I can I can get through a book. I can read The New York Times, but for good or ill. [00:28:01][25.9]

[00:28:02] But there were things clearly things that I missed my my my primary and my my high school education were Catholic school. [00:28:09][6.9]

[00:28:09] I really don’t recall getting a class on evolution in there. Right. I didn’t get that. I didn’t get critical thinking. You know, now you might get those things when you go to college, depending on what your major is. And then next thing you know, you’re out in the world. And unless you are that person that, you know, believes in the continuing education that goes on in, you know, in your life, that you have a responsibility to educate yourself about certain things. You’re not going to get it that like that those opportunities were missed, which is why it’s so important. You know, I think your books are important because we’re starting them out young. We’re given given little ones, you know, our little scientists, our little critical thinkers, our future big humans, a head start that a lot of us didn’t get, you know. [00:28:56][47.3]

[00:28:57] So, you know, twenty years from now, you know, somebody walking down the Vegas Strip at a space suit and they ask one of your grown up readers about evolution, they’ll go, oh, yeah, how much time do you have? Be good. [00:29:09][12.6]

[00:29:10] Yes, exactly. And I also wanted so I was really excited about these messages. I didn’t know that myself. And I feel like most adults don’t know them to such a great extent. So the books are really for children and adults alike. [00:29:22][12.6]

[00:29:23] And I don’t know if you saw, but if you look carefully at a lot of the illustrations, there are footnotes hidden in part of the illustrations. So the books with the children and the adults can enjoy them, too. [00:29:34][11.3]

[00:29:35] You made me put my glasses on. I tell you that again, I love the idea of like the oh, they’re footnotes in here. I don’t have to wait, you know, to the back of the book. [00:29:44][9.6]

[00:29:45] All there’s more more information if you want it. I did enjoy that. But yeah, you made me put my glasses on. [00:29:52][7.2]

[00:29:52] Some people complain that it’s hard to see half of a lot of the readers. [00:29:57][5.4]

[00:29:58] Some of them leave me negative reviews. The footnotes were so hard to read and then the other half leave. Very positive reviews say I love how the footnotes didn’t interfere with the illustrations that were part of it. So I’m like telling my illustrator, you know, make them more bold and easy to see and then shoot. And then I’m like, no, actually scale it back. But the one thing that we do. [00:30:18][20.5]

[00:30:19] So, yeah, no, I you know what? I can see both sides. You know, what both sides are saying is I want it to read this. You know, that’s that’s even when they’re being critical, they’re like, oh, what does that word I want to see it. You know, it kind of felt sort of like a physical Bugs Bunny cartoon like you can. What do you know what I mean? You like you could watch Bugs Bunny as a kid and you’re laughing hysterically and you have no idea why your parents are laughing, too. I’m sure there’s a more modern day reference to its own. Have it. Do you want your books to be somewhere where they’re not? Should these be part of every kindergarten curriculum? You know, what do you what are you hoping for? And are there are there more books? [00:30:59][40.4]

[00:31:00] Recently, someone really deep in the homeschooling community gave me a talking to. [00:31:05][5.2]

[00:31:05] They said you need a curriculum, you need to put these together in a curriculum. [00:31:08][3.2]

[00:31:09] You have to do it. I have been lazy. I, I have a full time job in the morning that I do. [00:31:16][6.2]

[00:31:16] Yeah, that’s exactly. [00:31:20][3.7]

[00:31:21] Bills, children, other things, laundry, my own curiosity and my own learning. [00:31:27][6.3]

[00:31:28] So there are these books are not in Barnes and Noble or Target brick and mortar stores. That’s something I want to do. School visits. [00:31:35][7.1]

[00:31:36] I’ve probably done two or three school visits in the past two or three years. There are many things that I hope to do and want to do. [00:31:44][7.7]

[00:31:45] If anyone’s listening and wants to write the curriculum, let me know. [00:31:47][2.6]

[00:31:48] There are some teachers out there can lend some some guidance because you say write a curriculum like, oh, yeah, that’s easy. Well, it’s easy when you know how to do it and someone has some some expertize we should mention that your books are available. These books are available in the Amazon as well at your beautiful website. [00:32:05][16.4]

[00:32:05] Annabell and Aiden Dotcom, I wanted to answer your question about we are working on there are three books that I want to write and one of them is written and it’s being. He was treated right now and it’s entitled There’s a Dragon in My Garage, which is obviously many people here would have heard of Carl Sagan’s Dragon that he writes about in a demon haunted world of. [00:32:31][26.1]

[00:32:33] Yes, so, you know, there’s an and has a friend that says, come, there’s a dragon in my garage, you got to see it, and then they look in the they look in and I don’t see any dragon. And then the friend says, oh, I forgot to mention he’s invisible and needed aid and comes up with all these fun ways to try to find out if the dragon is there. We can spread flour on the floor and see if his footprints are there. We could take this can of spray paint and spray it. And to each thing, their friend Helbert has the answer, you know, oh, he doesn’t have footprints because he’s a floating dragon and the infrared sensor won’t work because he has his his fire is less and on and on and on through the book. And that really, I thought was a fun way to teach children critical thinking and unfalsifiable claims and how to test claims. And at the end, you know, Aidan says, what is the difference between this dragon and no dragon at all? You know, so I’m not going to give away everything, but I kind of embellish the story and make it very funny, entertaining and educational so that I hope will come out. I hope my illustrator will be finished with that in six months or so. And I’m looking forward to that. And then I’m look, I hope to write a book on gods and a history of belief and maybe one on aliens. So these are some ideas I have. [00:34:03][89.9]

[00:34:04] The gods and aliens are separate, but maybe I could put them together. [00:34:08][4.6]

[00:34:09] Gods and aliens. [00:34:09][0.5]

[00:34:10] That’s kind of a great title. But yeah, probably separate the the the aliens one will be on the Fermi Paradox and the Drake Equation and Voyager and the Golden Record and all of that. [00:34:23][12.8]

[00:34:23] And so you are not lacking of wanting for ideas and the ideas. [00:34:29][6.2]

[00:34:30] I need the time and the and the, the it’s also, you know, honestly, ideas are moderately difficult to come up with, but they’re really not so hard. It’s the execution and it’s what angle to attack the topic. Frankly, it’s very hard. [00:34:48][18.2]

[00:34:49] And for you know, I want to write about, you know, the history of religion and the history of gods and mythology and belief. But I’m I’m reading I’m in the middle of my second book on the history of belief. It’s you know, I need to learn a lot to be able to. [00:35:07][18.2]

[00:35:08] I know that everything I learned about this, I’m going to take five percent of it out and summarize it in a children’s book, but I need to learn so much to find that perfect five and figure out how how do we take it now? [00:35:22][13.8]

[00:35:22] That’s the that’s the art of teaching right there. How do you take something complex and not oversimplify it, that it has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re trying to teach, but to give it enough substance so that it’s a good foundation and a good start? JRA I really want to thank you one for the work that you’ve put out in the world for for parents in kids and their their future learning, but also taking the time to, to come in and talk with me. Point of inquiry. I appreciate it. Thank you. [00:35:53][30.6]

[00:35:53] Sure. It’s been my pleasure. Thank you for everything that you do and it’s been a lot of fun. [00:35:58][4.5]

[00:36:06] Point of inquiry is a production of the Center for Inquiry, Center for Inquiry confronts the misinformation, conspiracy theories and magical thinking that are at the heart of many of the challenges facing us all today. [00:36:18][11.5]

[00:36:19] These challenges are not getting any easier as people continue to believe in things that simply aren’t true and never have been. Climate change is not being confronted because people are told it’s a hoax. Viruses and infectious diseases run rampant because people are told that science is lying to them and to be afraid of vaccines. Everyone is not given equal treatment under the law because so many people believe that their holy book forbids it for over 40 years. [00:36:45][26.2]

[00:36:45] The Center for Inquiry has been taking on the false and dangerous claims of conspiracy theorists, snake oil profiteers and religious extremists. This work is more important today than ever before. Point of Inquiry provides valuable insight into these challenges with the leading minds of the day, including Nobel Prize winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers and renowned entertainers. Point of inquiry is listener supported. This means that confronting these challenges is made possible only because of your financial support. Show your commitment to science and rational thinking by visiting Center for Inquiry that OAG slash Pouye and make a donation today so that we can continue this fight if you enjoy today’s episode. [00:37:31][45.3]

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[00:37:41] You can visit us at point of inquiry that OAG. Thank you for listening and talk to you again in two weeks. [00:37:41][0.0]


Leighann Lord

Leighann Lord

Standup Comedian Leighann Lord was the New York City face of the African Americans for Humanism outreach campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and it’s Millions Living Happily Without Religion campaign. Author Chris Johnson featured her in The Atheist Book: A Better Life. Leighann has been a co-host on the Emmy-nominated StarTalk with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Leighann has shared her comedic and hosting talents at many secular conferences including American Atheists, American Humanists, Center for Inquiry, CSICon, DragonCon – SkepTrack, The PA Freethought Society, NECSS: The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism, PASHTACon, and Skepticon. Leighann is also a CFI certified Secular Celebrant; officiating at milestone life events commemorated with a nonreligious worldview. And she was honored with the 2019 Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association. As a veteran standup comedian, Leighann has been seen on Lifetime, VH-1, Comedy Central, and HBO. She is the author of Leighann Lord’s Dict Jokes: Alternate Definitions for Words You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Will Definitely Never Forget (Volumes 1 and 2) and Real Women Do It Standing Up: Stories From the Career of a Very Funny Lady; available on Amazon.