PLEDGE NOW
The Next Great Extinction: It’s Now

Elizabeth Kolbert takes on humanity, right now, driving a great wave of extinctions around the planet. Plus, a top religious scholar on serpent handlers in America.

In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Suci, a female Sumatran rhino, sniffs the air at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati. Her brother, Harapan, is in a separate area next to hers. With the global population of Sumatran rhinos plunging at an alarming rate, Cincinnati Zoo experts who have some success with captive breeding are trying something they admit is a desperation effort _ bringing back the brother of a female rhino in hopes they will mate.  (AP)

In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Suci, a female Sumatran rhino, sniffs the air at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati. Her brother, Harapan, is in a separate area next to hers. With the global population of Sumatran rhinos plunging at an alarming rate, Cincinnati Zoo experts who have some success with captive breeding are trying something they admit is a desperation effort _ bringing back the brother of a female rhino in hopes they will mate. (AP)

Over millions of years, life on Earth has seen great waves of life – species – come and go.  Coming into being takes a long time.  Going, going extinct, can be fast.  As fast as an asteroid collision.  Right now the planet is in one of those rare and terrible waves of extinction, says my guest today, Elizabeth Kolbert.  It’s big and its fast – and this time, humans are the asteroid.  The cause and calamity.  Huge chunks of life, headed toward oblivion.  This hour On Point:  the sixth extinction of life on Earth.  And we’ll look at the death of Kentucky snake handler Jamie Coots, and the culture of snake handling.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer for the New Yorker. Author of “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” Also author of “Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.” (@ElizKolbert)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Yorker: The Lost World — “The Geological Society of London, known to its members as the Geol Soc (pronounced ‘gee-ahl sock’), was founded in 1807, over dinner in a Covent Garden tavern. Geology was at that point a brand-new science, a circumstance reflected in the society’s goals, which were to stimulate “zeal” for the discipline and to induce participants ‘to adopt one nomenclature.’ There followed long, often spirited debates on matters such as where to fix the borders of the Devonian period. ‘Though I don’t much care for geology,’ one visitor to the society’s early meetings noted, ‘I do like to see the fellows fight.'”

The Wall Street Journal:  Book Review: ‘The Sixth Extinction’ by Elizabeth Kolbert –“What raises her book far above ‘Silent Spring,’ especially for those who share neither author’s ecological fervor, is Ms. Kolbert’s use of key incidents in the study of natural history to illustrate how accepted scientific knowledge can be radically disrupted. At a time, like our own, of apocalyptic assertions and predictive hubris, it is tonic to be reminded of such paradigm shifts and of the contingent nature of scientific interpretation.”

Slate: Elizabeth Kolbert and Gillian Blake — “ I was trying to figure out the vantage point to write it from. I’m not a scientist, so I couldn’t write from the perspective of an expert. But nor could I write from the perspective of a naïf, who just sort of wandered into what’s arguably the biggest story of our time. So I had a hard time coming up with a way to get the book going and to explain—implicitly, of course—why I, as a journalist, was writing it.”

Read An Excerpt From “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert

On Snake Handling And Faith

W. Paul Williamson, professor of psychology at Henderson State University.

Lexington Herald Leader: Snakebite death of Middlesboro pastor was quick, son says; medical treatment refused — “Snake-handling preacher Jamie Coots, who never backed away from his beliefs despite derision, criminal charges and excruciating bites, died Saturday night after being bitten by a rattlesnake during a church service.”

BuzzFeed: Pastor Andrew Hamblin Would Rather Die Or Go To Jail Than Give Up Handling Snakes — “Hamblin’s is one of an estimated 125 active serpent-handling churches. He and his congregants handle venomous snakes in the name of Jesus — a century-old practice inspired by the verse Hamblin mentioned in his post and outlawed in every state but one. You’d think a church where supplicants risk their lives and break the law would keep itself small and secret. Hamblin’s is anything but. After a write-up about the church in ‘The Wall Street Journal,’ Hamblin and his mentor, a fellow serpent-handling pastor named Jamie Coots, became the stars of a new National Geographic Channel reality-television show called Snake Salvation.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 31, 2015
Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, second from left, appears before Judge Megan Shanahan at Hamilton County Courthouse for his arraignment in the shooting death of motorist Samuel DuBose, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Cincinnati. Tensing pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter. (AP)

A new police murder charge and a black man dead in Ohio. Iran Deal heat and Huckabee. Malaysia Air. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Jul 31, 2015
In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Two Zimbabweans arrested for illegally hunting a lion appeared in court Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (AP)

Canned lion hunts and the fate of big game in Africa, after the outrage over Cecil.

RECENT
SHOWS
Jul 30, 2015
Conan O'Brien speaks at the 43rd AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Tribute Gala at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Los Angeles.  (AP)

Who owns jokes? Seriously. In the age of social media, the lines are murky.

 
Jul 30, 2015
Shereef Bishay, co-founder of Dev Bootcamp, center, talks with student Ryan Guerrettaz during a class at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Dev Bootcamp is one of a new breed of computer-programming schools that’s proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These “hacker boot camps” promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation. (AP)

From barista to tech wiz. Computer coding boot camps are hot. Vaulting their graduates in just months into high-paying jobs. We’ll look at the surge.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: July 31, 2015
Friday, Jul 31, 2015

A regular reminder that RTs are not endorsements, links have specific authorship and patience is a virtue.

More »
Comment
 
Q & A: Scott Walker On The Iran Deal, Huckabee Comments
Monday, Jul 27, 2015

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker explains his opposition to the Iran Deal, his record of statewide electoral victory and why he feels he’s set to win the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.

More »
Comment
 
Q & A: Carly Fiorina On Trump, Sexism, And Being Cut From The GOP Debate
Monday, Jul 27, 2015

Republican Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of computer giant Hewlett-Packard, joined guest host John Harwood to talk Donald Trump, the upcoming Republican candidate debate and sexism in modern life.

More »
Comment