Thursday, September 24, 2015

Observe & Report: Skepticism done correctly; Skeptics with a K

Peter of Verona Faith Healing back in the day (Wiki)
On the last two episodes of Skeptics with a K Michael "Marsh" Marshall discussed his interaction with and observations of Peter Popoff and his ministry. The televangelist, alleged faith healer, evangelical christian prophet that had a famous run in and exposure with the recently retired James "The Amazing" Randi.  Well, Popoff is back

On episode 156 of SWaK, Marsh describes his interactions with Popoff's current prosperity gospel ministry via the United States Royal Mail.  Marsh discusses how Popoff's organization would attempt to elicit money and 'plant a seed' of money to obtain a harvest of gain.  It is interesting stuff, but even more interesting was Marsh's rather in-depth discussion of his attending a show of Popoff's that he was given free via this letter postal exchange with Popoff.  This was the content of episode 157.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

JREF steps out of the limelight

If you read this blog you likely already are aware the James Randi Educational Foundation has changed course and is going to take a more low profile approach. You can read it here from the JREF site.  The JREF is going to be a secret Santa or a skeptic's sugar daddy in a manner of speaking. Of note, there is no mention of future The Amazing Meetings or some type of successor to it connected with the JREF.  I have only been to one TAM, but I had hoped to attend another.  I count myself lucky that I at least had the pleasure and the privilege for that one event.

I suspect one or more conferences will step in to fill the void left open with the lack of a TAM.  Maybe something better will come of it, or perhaps not.   I suspect as the years progress skeptics to some extent will be divided by those who went to TAM and those who either did not or became active after TAM ceased.  Those poor non-TAM attendees will likely get sick of "well I remember that one time at TAM" stories.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dr. Stuart Robbins on Dark City

Dr. Stuart Robbins appeared on Art Bell's Digital Network as a guest on Dark City, a show hosted by Steve Warner.  I thought about placing in the title 'Robbins appears on Art Bell digital radio network  Show" to gain hits and as a laugh, but decided that would be uncouth.

I have never listened to Warner's show.  Actually, after listening to a few episodes after Bell's return to the airwaves on satellite radio for a brief period a couple of summers ago, I think I was subconsciously boycotting Bell.  Anyway, I thought Warner was a pretty solid host.  My fears that Warner would be some Alex Tsakiris type were thankfully not met.  Warner, at least on this episode, came across as a reasonable person who had at least done some basic homework and had an appreciation for science with a dose of realism. He was not attacking or trying for any 'gotcha' moments.  

The interview lasted two hours and was fairly wide ranging.  Dr. Robbins discussed how he came to be interested in astronomy, and his particular field of studying impact craters on Mars and other celestial bodies.  Warner asked reasonable questions what Robbins thinks of people who are reading into the latest and earliest round of photographs to come back from Pluto.  Warner was clearly skeptical of such notions.  Even the nature of the current understanding of science and the likelihood of our current models of the universe and physics might be upended was discussed.  In particular what manner of evidence would be necessary to trigger a paradigm shift as when the existence of ether was disproven or Relativity accepted.  The conversation even wandered to how evolution on another planet may or may not track with evolution of life on Earth, and how worthwhile is S.E.T.I.  Also, of note was Dr. Robbins' issues with calling String Theory a “Theory” at all when it seems on its face to have some merit.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Seventh Rogue: Cara Santa Maria

Cara Santa Maria is the latest Rogue and only the seventh person to be anointed as a full-blooded member of the SGU in the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe’s ten years of production.   Since Rebecca Watson left the show after a nine year stint, the show has had an obvious hole in their lineup.  Once Maria was named as Rogue during the SGU’s annual live show at The Amazing Meeting, I determined I would listen to a few episodes of the SGU before commenting.

The SGU homepage is a tad out of date . . .
When Maria was named her name rang a bell, but I was not terribly familiar with her work.   Among other things, she has her own Talk Nerdy podcast.  I listened to her January 2015 appearance as a guest on the SGU as well as a couple of episodes of her own podcast.  I listened to a TN episode where the guest was none other than Dr. Steven Novella, and the one that I picked at more or less random with Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist blog.  From this sampling, Maria struck me as a fairly polished interviewer.  She was able to have Novella get more political personally than I have heard him in the past.  Novella dished on his thoughts about the U.S. health care system.  Her interview with Mehta also was paced.  For someone like myself who is a world weary aged 43, the part of the interview where Mehta and Maria discussing the trials of not only being a freelance science communicator by trade, but an early 30-something who is too old to party but not so old to care struck me as funny.  While the interview was lively and casual, it never slipped into snark or annoying self pity that is too often the case.  All in all, I enjoyed both episodes.