Cara Santa Maria talks science and religion on the Nerdist Podcast

May 17, 2012

A few months ago, I had no idea who Cara Santa Maria was, but I’m quickly becoming a huge fan. I first discovered her when she was announced as a leading contributor to the Huffington Post’s Science section. And if ever a publication was in more need of one since in the past, the Huff Po’s idea of an expert on medicine included Jim Carey and Jenny McCarthy.

Still, after the announcement, I started following Cara Santa Maria on Twitter, but hadn’t really checked out her work until very recently when she did a great video piece in her column called “Talk Nerdy to me”  that investigated the scientific research for intercessory prayer. Since then, she did several interesting pieces including one involving a conversation with Chris Mooney, whom I have a kind of love/hate relationship with if you’ve read my past writings on him. But one thing I loved about Cara Santa Maria is how she couldn’t be further from the science nerd stereotype. She is a young, attractive woman with a kind of rock n’ roll look who is just great at communicating science to the public in a fun and entertaining fashion.

But then she started to turn up as a semi-regular co-host on The Young Turks internet show, which I’ve been a huge fan of for awhile now. And if I had any doubt that she wasn’t stalking me, now she turns up on my current favorite podcast (now behind Filmspotting and The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe) , the Nerdist Podcast. On that show, they cover a lot of fascinating topics, but almost inevitably once they began discussing about criticism her pieces have generated, they got into a lengthy discussion of her hate mail from religious fundamentalists who reject evolution and insist on the existence of a soul despite all the evidence to the contrary, etc.

It’s just a really great conversation about communicating science to the public and dealing with denialists who reject scientific facts. Plus there are dick jokes! Here’s a link to the episode. And as they say on Nerdist, enjoy your burrito!

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Help! Ann Leary is hopelessly confused about Occupy Wall Street!

November 19, 2011
Wall Street Sign. Author: Ramy Majouji

Image via Wikipedia

I really have no idea who Ann Leary is other than that she’s comedian/actor Dennis Leary’s wife…and apparently she’s got a blog. This second thing I learned today when I discovered a piece she wrote attacking the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Now once again, I’m delving into political territory here, but really my response to Ms. Leary here is about addressing some very popular pieces of bullshit that she’s perpetuating, whether deliberately or not. As far as I’m concerned, people are free to disagree with OWS. I just want them to be disagreeing with them for legitimate reasons and not because of misinformation.

Leary begins her piece by saying that until yesterday, she supported OWS…which is odd because she spends the bulk of the piece as well as the bulk of her replies in the comments section insisting that for the life of her, she just can’t even figure out what OWS is all about. Another issue she had was the anti-cop mentality seen among some protesters. The final big criticism she makes that stands out in the article is reflected in her title, “No, Please, Not….DRUM CIRCLES!” Remarking about the presence of individuals at the OWS protests playing drums as well as embedding a video of two young female protesters going topless to draw attention, it’s clear that Ms. Leary is embracing the popular negative stereotype of the OWS movement as just a bunch of hippies.

Now most of her commenters state that they support Leary’s opinion “100%” which is worrisome on its own. One would be hard pressed to find anyone who I agree with “100%” on any issue. If someone told me they agreed with me “100%” on something, I’d advise them to think harder about it.

But I digress. After several comments, one brave soul calling himself Todd finally stepped up to challenge Ann Leary. Todd, like me, doesn’t agree with a lot of things about how OWS has been operating. However, he did a fairly decent job of politely pointing to sources explaining some of the goals of the movement as well as his own grievances. He also linked to this amusing little comic strip, though I think the strip’s defining the OWS mission as simply protesting “economic injustice” is too vague to be really meaningful.

But since this “I can’t understand their message” rhetoric is so common right now and since Ann Leary is so utterly, utterly lost, I decided to help her out by listing some of the very specific goals/solutions being championed by OWS. It’s not a complete list and certainly not every single protester will necessarily agree with each item but it’s a start:

-close the loopholes that allow corporations to shirk paying their fair share in taxes
-stop corporations from bribing our government officials. Elected officials are elected to represent the people who elect them, not just the donors who give them money.
-Remove the overarching effect that big business has on our government. Reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which decided that corporations are people. Take corporate money out of the election process and eliminate the super-political action committees that have turned our elected officials into myopic, self-serving zombies. Reform the business of lobbying our elected officials so there are no more meetings between elected officials and lobbyists at private retreats or expensive restaurants–and let everyone know what the conversation is about by doing it out in the open.
-Reform the tax code so it’s understandable and fair to everyone who contributes to the economy.
-Provide incentives for companies to create jobs here in the U.S.

That’s just a few very specific goals of this movement. There’s also a great piece on the Daily Kos about OWS here. And here’s a fairly concise video from The Young Turks addressing both the specific goals of the movement as well as the transparent media bias:

Now regarding the whole drum circle and topless girl thing, part of me wishes the minority fringe hippy/Commie/etc. elements would just get out of the way because they paint a negative picture of the whole movement, but those people have shown up at EVERY protest I’ve ever been a part of so it’s unreasonable to think the OWS organizers have greater power to get rid of them.

What DOES bug me a great deal is the OWS vs. NYPD mentality. While there have been several examples of a few individual cops who seem to have abused their power and used unnecessary force, by in large, the NYPD has done a phenomenal job of keeping the peace in a difficult situation. The other day, I even briefly spoke with some cops at Zuccotti Park. They were very friendly and sympathetic to the movement. One even said he had walked through the park himself on his day off. They didn’t want to have to be there but it was their job. So I strongly oppose this anti-NYPD rhetoric coming from OWS. And I’ve personally seen one protester try to claim the right to be belligerent to the cops. He was given a friendly warning and escorted across the street. I also have no patience for those claiming “America’s the most fascist nation in the world” with no sense of irony. The very fact that they feel comfortable saying that in public without fear that secret police will disappear them in the night proves the absurdity of this statement better than anything. But even at its worst, the U.S. wouldn’t make the top 100 most fascist nations in the world. Anyone who makes such a claim is obviously just saying “don’t take anything I say seriously because I’m crazy.”

I also strongly condemn OWS for some serious lies they’ve made. After the first attempt to cross the Brooklyn Bridge led to massive arrests, they claimed the cops gave them the okay to do it even though video later surfaced showing cops with bullhorns telling them NOT to march over the bridge. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, I was at Zuccotti Park as protesters waited for the judge to rule on whether they could restore their camp. At one point, protesters claimed that they’d gotten word that the judge had ruled in their favor and demanded the NYPD step aside. Many accused the cops of violating a court order because they were following their original orders until they got word otherwise from their more legitimate sources. The crowd got very riled up. But there was no judge’s order. It didn’t come for hours later, and when it did, the judge ruled against the protesters. Such lies do not help the movement and it is despicable that anyone would make up such lies in order to incite violence.

Still, however, over all I support this movement and condemn the easy stereotypes the media pushes. If these people were lazy, would they commit themselves to working 24 hours a day for two months maintaining their encampment?

Here’s how one commenter described the impression Ann Leary gave them of what OWS is all about:

BRAVO… I couldnt not have said it better. You have put the whole OWS into perspective. I am the wife of a retired police officer and the mother of a firefighter. When i was growing up if a cop told you to move and you were sitting on your stoop you MOVED. These people just look like a bunch of new age hippies with no respect for people. I admire your outspokeness and insight.

thank you

Of course, when out of thousands of people, Ann only focuses your attention on the two (count ‘em, TWO) naked, hippy women yelling at a cop, it’s understandable that you’d get the impression that the movement is just “a bunch of new age hippies with no respect for people.” Of course, having been down there numerous times now, I’ve found most of the movement to be fully dressed, non-new age, normal people with legitimate grievances and who treat the NYPD as well as many others around them with respect.

Ann Leary doesn’t need to agree with this particular movement, but I have to insist she stop perpetuating biased, inaccurate ideas about it. She also stated that she felt the protests should be targeting Washington, not their bosses here on Wall Street.

Ann, I hope I’ve helped you to understand just a little bit about this movement that you found so very confusing.

And just because I enjoy ridiculous, topless, young protesters as much as the next guy:

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