— Michael Shermer (@michaelshermer) August 21, 2017
By Gretchen Mullen
UPDATE: Filmmaker Ben Fama has now made the full film available for free on YouTube. See link at the bottom of this article.
Filmmaker Ben Fama Jr. was kind enough to provide us with a private screening of his new film Reasons to Believe. Here’s our take on this exciting project available for general release on September 11, 2017.
Allegory of the Cave
The film begins with a cinematically pleasing vision of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where humans are imprisoned in a cave and denied knowledge of the outside world. In the allegory, humans move from darkness to light, from false beliefs to truth and reason.
Fama then poses the following questions:
- How do beliefs shape our reality? Why do we believe?
- How are we influenced to believe?
- How do other people affect our thinking?
- How do our beliefs hold us back?
- How do we free ourselves from false beliefs?
- MICHAEL SHERMER, Author, The Moral Arc; The Believing Brain
- PETER BOGHOSSIAN, Author, A Manual for Creating Atheists
- CALEB LACK, Coauthor, Critical Thinking, Science, and Pseudoscience: Why We Can’t Trust our Brains
- JENNIFER WHITSON, Author, “The Emotional Roots of Conspiratorial Perceptions, System Justification, and Belief in the Paranormal”
- CHAD WOODRUFF, Author, Neuroscience of Empathy and Compassion
Fama’s questions are carefully considered by each expert and are addressed through carefully interwoven comments on each topic.
The film takes us through the human brain’s need to understand the world, often through a process in which beliefs come first and evidence comes second. In other words, beliefs are often not evidence-based, but make us feel better, perhaps even superior to others. These sometimes false beliefs are further influenced and reinforced by family, community, education, and the time period in which we live. While our beliefs often make us who we are, or who we feel we are, they also have the power to divide us into ideological communities.
The discussion expands on the idea that we may be predisposed to accept certain beliefs because they are often confirmed by intense personal experiences. However, we are reminded, that experience does not equal objective truth.
The experts then explain that much of our human propensity for superstitions, magical rituals, and religious beliefs are rooted in the fact that life is random, unpredictable, and downright scary. We seek to avoid anxiety and a feeling that we like control; we seek comfort and meaning; we want to make sense out of chaos; we want to cope with uncertainty. This magical thinking is reinforced by the brain as we seek out patterns, even if these patterns are false and illogical.
So if false beliefs make us feel better, why does it matter? In the long run, false beliefs can lead to problems, the greatest of which is violence. Bad ideas lead can easily lead to bad behavior. Science teaches us that it really does matter what is right and what is wrong. Faulty beliefs lead to real world consequences and must be combatted. We must update our view of the world and weed out bad ideas. We must use data as opposed to anecdotes.
The film ends on an encouraging and positive note. The experts make practical suggestions to embrace reason. Some of the best:
- Be comfortable with the words, “I don’t know.”
- Model the behavior of a skeptic.
- Use the scientific method.
- Don’t attack beliefs—be polite, be thoughtful, use humor, listen to others and then respond with statements that open a conversation such as “I wonder how that could be true? What do you think?”
- Study scientifically why religion has been viewed as so beneficial and how we can address that need in other more rational ways.
- Help others to trust reason and value correct information.
- Introduce critical thinking in early education. Teach children to recognize that our brains can fool us.
- Assert that a more thoughtful and examined life has value.
- Suggest that an alignment with reality will help humans flourish, that science and reason can and will lead to justice, freedom, prosperity and peace.
Reasons to Believe is well-organized and builds nicely from a primer on the brain to the foundations of belief, ending with a lovely, positive message about the future of skepticism and science and practical solutions we can embrace as individuals and as citizens of the world. It is a film you will want to view more than one time to take it all in.
Michael Shermer ties it up nicely at the end of the film: “I think we have a new enlightenment—a science-based enlightenment.”
View the trailer
BEN FAMA JR: DIRECTOR
Ben Fama Jr. is an award-winning filmmaker, podcaster, and entrepreneur noted for his work on his short film A Virus Called Fear and his documentary Reasons To Believe. He has been featured in Huffington Post and his films have been featured on PBS, Medibiz.tv, and IndieFlix. Ben’s films and talks reflect the social and psychological behavior of humans and their social constructs on society. He is a very outspoken skeptic and atheist, as well as an advocate for mental health. His goal is to challenge the way we think and see the world, as well as what we believe.
He is the owner of Fama Media Productions, LLC. and the host of the podcast Reality Trip with Ben Fama Jr.
MESA FAMA: PRODUCER
Mesa has produced three award winning films with Ben Fama Jr. including two documentaries and a narrative. She holds a degree in psychology as a graduate from Arizona State University. She continues to produce and manage Fama Media Productions and sometimes is a guest host on the podcast Reality Trip with Ben Fama Jr.
Release date: September 11, 2017
Plan your skeptic/secular/science-related events around these calendar dates. All events occur annually on or about the same date each year:
February 12, 2018
International Darwin Day
March 11-17, 2018
March 16, 2018
National Freedom of Information Day
April TBA, 2018
March for Science
Sunday, April 22, 2018
May 3, 2018
National Day of Reason (first Thursday in May)
June 21, 2018
World Humanist Day
September 24-30, 2017
(2018 Dates Last Week in September)
Banned Books Week
November 10, 2017/November 10, 2018
World Science Day for Peace and Development
Eclipse Fascism Purification Ritual with Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman. August 21 7PM. Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY Bring a candle.
— Queen Mama Donna (@queenmamadonna) August 18, 2017
According to Hemming, the objective of the campaign is not to attack religion, but to support the ideas that evolution is a fact and the Earth is not 6,000 years old, as taught by some religions.
Odd. No one is in denial of America’s Aug 21 total solar eclipse. Like Climate Change, methods & tools of science predict it.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 10, 2017
A standup comedian for over 20 years with an inquisitive and intense comedic style, Rogan is host of The Joe Rogan Experience, a long form conversation with guests that is broadcast live via YouTube.
Rogan just broke 1000 episodes on YouTube with timely guests such as Bret Weinstein, Gad Saad, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris and Peter Boghossian.
Rogan is amazingly well-informed and comfortable with a variety of topics and guests. He often invites skeptics and freethinkers and the sometimes up to 3 hour or more interviews are very in-depth. One of our favorite practices with Rogan is that facts are checked in real time through live internet searches.
1,610,980 subscribers • 381,002,382 views
Joined Jan 11, 2013
Atheist Alliance of America and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science are pleased to announce David Silverman as the 2017 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award. Silverman is President of American Atheists and was the creator and executive producer of the 2012 Reason Rally.
The award will be presented to David Silverman at Atheist Alliance of America’s convention in Atlanta, September 1-4, 2017, which will be held at Dragon*Con’s Skeptrack, where Atheist Alliance of America will be celebrating its 25th-year anniversary.
Previous winners of the Richard Dawkins Award:
2003: James Randi
2004: Ann Druyan
2005: Penn & Teller
2006: Julia Sweeney
2007: Daniel Dennett
2008: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
2009: Bill Maher
2010: Susan Jacoby
2011: Christopher Hitchens
2012: Eugenie Scott
2013: Steven Pinker
2014: Rebecca Goldstein
2015: Jerry Coyne
2016: Lawrence Krauss
Britsoft game developer Gordie Ross plans on teaching America a lesson
On March 10, 2017, Richard Dawkins and EvoRevo Ltd, the video game team founded by veteran Britsoft game developer Gordie Ross, launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new entertainment product Richard Dawkins: Evolution. The Kickstarter campaign failed to meet its goal of £50K ($62.5K US dollars) by the deadline, April 10, 2017.
Gordie Ross made the following announcements to his backers via Kickstarter:
April 5, 2017: “It looks of course like we will not meet the Kickstarter target, but we are very happy to have received everyone´s good wishes, support and feedback for the project. Your enthusiasm will drive us to make a game full of fun learning going forward.”
April 11, 2017: “Thank you again to everyone, I bear the responsibility for not getting the word spread far and wide enough.
For those who would like a few stats:
We had tremendous support with 1 in 46 video views resulting in a backer… final total of video views was around 6200, most of which came from the early activity and the average pledge was 57 pounds.
We shall press on now with the game and look forward to staying in touch as we get the job done.”
View the game trailer here:
More about the game:
The video game is set in a solar system similar to the newly charted Trappis 1 where 7 Earth-sized planets were recently discovered by NASA. The game relies on cutting-edge cloud technology to simulate a population of hundreds of thousands of lifeforms as they evolve in wonderful ways.
Richard Dawkins said, “Evolution is happening all the time; however in most cases, the rate of change is so small that it is difficult for a human to come to terms with the length of time involved. Our goal is to strike a balance between explaining that it is a gradual process and showing it happening at a rate that is entertaining to our audience.”
Like The Oregon Trail, an entertaining yet brilliantly educational video game which blazed its own trail in the classrooms of the 1980s, Gordie Ross (the game´s creator) envisions the Richard Dawkins: Evolution video game will ultimately make its way out of the home and into the classroom alongside exciting and entertaining learning resources.
Gordie Ross said, “Ultimately we see America as the greatest challenge where roughly 40% of the population believes the Earth is less than 10 thousand years old. Using a video game, we hope to additionally talk to this different audience who generally do not read science books. It´s Richard and I´s hope to trigger a curiosity about Evolution and Science that sets a new generation on an amazing journey of discovery.”
We will update you as we learn future plans on the development of this game.