Was Syd Barrett an Acid Casualty? On Psychedelics And the Psyche — My Latest for Paste Magazine

Syd Barrett is one of the most tragic stories in rock and roll. As the founder and lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for Pink Floyd, he revolutionized rock and roll and spearheaded the burgeoning psychedelic sound of the 1960s. However, shortly after the release of the band’s 1967 debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, something changed. Barrett’s friends and bandmates claim he became more withdrawn, started playing only one chord during concerts, and even becoming catatonic. After Floyd replaced him with David Gilmour, Barrett recorded two solo albums and then left the limelight altogether until his death in 2006. Most people believe his excessive LSD consumption led to Barrett’s demise, but recent studies suggest psychedelics can perhaps improve mental health, not ruin it.

The most recent study comes from Brazil and tested the effects of a hallucinogen called ayahuasca on people with treatment-resistant depression. Fourteen people were given the hallucinogen while 15 people received a placebo. Within one week, more people who took ayahuasca claimed their depression went from severe to mild than those who took the placebo. Of course, as David Mischoulon of Massachusetts General Hospital points out, we need studies that follow patients for longer periods to see whether these effects are sustained.” However other studies that examined the effect of psychedelics on mental health found similar results.

Click here to read the rest.

The Biskeptical Podcast #24: Reflections on ReasonCon3

Your Biskeptical hosts Morgan and I

Instead of either picking apart a complicated topic or debunking pseudoscience, today Morgan and I talk about our experiences last week at ReasonCon3 in Hickory, NC. It’s a conversation about our experiences and our feelings about it. As a warning, in the end things get a bit emotional, but we hope you still enjoy this conversation.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #24: Reflections on ReasonCon3” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #97: ReasonCon3

Today’s episode is a collection of short interviews I did with some of the speakers and attendees of last week’s ReasonCon3 conference in Hickory, NC. First up is Gene Elliott, who helped organize the event. Then I chat with Matt Dillahunty, one of the speakers. Then we hear from friend of the show, Louis Mendez, followed by Heath and Eli from God Awful Movies. And finally I chat with Callie Wright from the Gaytheist Manifesto, who pretty much stole the show, and you’ll soon find out why.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #97: ReasonCon3” on Spreaker.

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Finding Family in the Atheist Podcast Community – My Latest for Splice Today

I didn’t expect to be a podcaster. After co-hosting the progressive Christian podcast Something Beautiful for two years, I got burned out and decided to hang up my headphones and stick with writing. Things changed in 2015, however, when I asked blogger Alex Gabriel for a blog interview. He wanted to do it through Skype, but I was too lazy to transcribe the conversation, so I started the Bi Any Means Podcast. I still didn’t consider myself a podcaster, though, until I started getting more guests and eventually joined a Facebook group for atheist podcasters. Turns out not only did people like what I was doing, but that I became part of a large family.

The first time I realized this was at Reason Rally 2016. It was my first atheist gathering, and also the first time traveling and staying in a hotel room by myself. On the night before the rally, I met podcasting friends in person at a bar, and it was surreal. Everyone that I’d just listened to week after week suddenly became real people. Not only that, but they actually wanted to talk to me. How’s that possible? I’m just some schmuck in Easton, MD with a nasally voice who has a handful of listeners. It was the first time I felt accepted at the popular kids’ table, and didn’t get any sleep that night because I was trying to process everything. That sense of acceptance continued the next day during the Rally as I met more atheist activists who not only recognized me, but also let me know I was one of them. I came home from that weekend feeling like I was no longer the Token Freak; I was part of a family.

Click here to read the rest. I must warn you; this is the first of several posts gushing about ReasonCon3.

Don’t Take Medical Advice from Gwyneth Paltrow — My latest Paste Magazine article

Launched in 2008 by Gwyneth Paltrow as a personal newsletter, Goop has since evolved into a lifestyle blog and online store. The website features a wide variety of recipes, travel tips, expensive clothing (seriously, $1,500 for a dress?), detoxes and “holistic” health advice. Recently, for example, Goop did an interview with “earthing” expert Clint Ober, who claims that walking barefoot in the grass can cure depression and insomnia. “The earth has an infinite supply of free electrons,” he explains, “so when a person is grounded, those electrons naturally flow between the earth and the body, reducing free radicals and eliminating any static electrical charge.”

There’s just one problem: there’s no evidence for Ober’s claims. “Our cells don’t need an infusion of electrons,” wrote Dr. Harriett Hall in a 2016 Skeptic article. Hall also explains that there’s “no evidence that EMF [electromagnetic fields] disrupts communications in our body or that grounding protects us from any hypothetical ill effects of using cell phones and other technology,” or that you can absorb elections through the ground. Plus, although feeling grass between your toes feels great, you’re more likely to absorb parasites from the soil than electrons.

Sadly this is just the latest example of Goop trying to pass pseudoscientific woo as legitimate medical advice. Not only are these tips not based on science, but they can also be dangerous.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #96: #NormalizeAtheism with Mel Rice

My guest for today is Mel Rice, operations manager for the Normalize Atheism Campaign. The Normalize Atheism Campaign was created by Mark Nebo of Be Secular as a way to destigmatize atheism back in 2014, but recently joined forces with Sincere Kirabo and Steve Shives to reinvigorate it. So today we’re going to talk to Mel about the campaign, her role there, and her backstory.

As a head’s up, part of Mel’s story involves being a domestic violence survivor, so listener discretion is advised. See? I issued a trigger warning, and nobody’s free speech got taken away. Maybe I’m not doing it right.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #96: #NormalizeAtheism with Mel Rice” on Spreaker.

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The Anti-Vaxx Movement: Where Pseudoscience Meets Ableism — My Latest Paste Magazine Article

In 2015, Sesame Street announced they were introducing a new character with autism named Julia. She first appeared in the 2016 digital storybook “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!” and made her official television debut on April 10th of this year. While many believe Julia will help autistic children feel less alone, some aren’t too pleased. According to the anti-vaxx website Natural News, “The rollout of autistic Julia is Sesame Street’s attempt to “normalize” vaccine injuries and depict those victimized by vaccines as happy, ‘amazing’ children rather than admitting the truth that vaccines cause autism in some children and we should therefore make vaccines safer and less frequent to save those children from a lifetime of neurological damage.” The article further claims that Elmo is “exploited as a literal puppet by the vaccine industry to push a pro-vaccine message” using “social engineering propaganda.” With its debunked claims and disturbing rhetoric, Natural News sums up why the anti-vaxx movement is dangerous: it’s based on both pseudoscience and ableism.

Read the rest here.

Why I’m Not Thrilled at Trump’s Supposed Secularism

CN: Donald Trump, Michael Shermer

Skeptics, come get your boy Michael Shermer! For the last couple of weeks, he’s been on a Twitter rant about how the March for Science is supposedly playing identity politics (topping it all off with this lovely gem). Now he’s shifting his focus on Trump’s supposed secularism in this Politico article. Although Shermer doesn’t claim Trump is one of us (he suspects Trump practices “Cafeteria Christianity, where one orders only the most appealing items on the menu”), nor does he praise Trump as a president, he does find Trump’s lack of religiosity as “hugely refreshing.” Shermer writes:

It looks like the U.S. religious reawakening from the 1950s through the 2000s, then, might have been an anomaly. The long-term trend is certainly toward secularization.

The Evangelicals who helped put Trump in the White House would probably dispute that. But they are missing the bigger picture: Trump was elected president despite being the least religious major candidate in the 2016 field. Looked at this way, Trump isn’t the evangelicals’ savior. He’s just another data point in America’s long march away from religion.

Now look, I’m as happy as the next atheist that society is gradually moving away from religion. I long for the day religion becomes either a historical artifact or at least just a social thing people did on Sunday and nothing else. But Trump’s lack of religiosity doesn’t mean a damn thing to me because his  secular values are not humanist values.

Look at the Muslim ban. Look at his transphobic policies. Look at his climate change denial. Does this guy look like he cares deeply about science, reason, and human rights? I think not. Also, if Trump’s such a secularist, why does he pick a far-right anti-abortion anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian like Mike Pence as his running mate? I know secularism doesn’t automatically make you either pro-choice or pro-LGBTQ, but if Trump’s lack of religiosity is such a huge leap forward towards secularism, why do his politics look like the same old Religious Right song and dance?

I also find it interesting that Shermer didn’t mention another largely secular presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, in his article. Throughout his campaign, Sanders exemplified progressive humanist values that emphasized human action over divine intervention. Where’s the article saying his campaign marked a shift in our religious landscape? Where’s the article praising Sander’s humanism, whether it’s religious or secular?

Besides, Trump doesn’t give a shit about us atheists. During his weekly address last Friday, he said, “America is a nation of believers . . . And we pray for the strength and wisdom to achieve a better tomorrow—one where good people of all faiths, Christians and Muslims and Jewish and Hindu, can follow their hearts and worship according to their conscience.” It’s great he gave a shout-out to Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, but what about us atheists? What about us who don’t pray to any god?

If Trump’s lack of religiosity is a sign of our increasingly secular nation, I’ll gladly take our previous liberal Christian president any day of the week.

 

The Biskeptical Podcast #23: Debunking Transgender Myths

CN: Transphobia, Sexual Assault

Today’s show comes from our friend Ingrid who suggested we talk about myths surrounding being transgender and transitioning, which is exactly what we do on this episode. We get into the science behind gender identity, deconstruct what sociologists actually mean by “gender is a social construct” (spoiler alert: it’s complicated), and, yes, explain why there’s no comparison between Rachel Dolezal and being trans.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #23: Debunking Transgender Myths” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #95: Jesus Mything in Action with David Fitzgerald

 

My guest for today is David Fitzgerald. He’s the author of the books “Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All,” “The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion Book One: The Mormons,” and the new three volume “Jesus: Mything in Action.” Today we’re going to talk about his life, his work, and why there probably isn’t a historical Jesus.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #95: Jesus Mything in Action with David Fitzgerald” on Spreaker.

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