Monday, May 23, 2016

Horgan Affair

John Horgan.  I am not going to go into depth on Horgan's lecture at the last NECSS, or the three pieces he authored for the Scientific American blog.  I am not going to dwell into my thoughts on his work in question or into my personal refutation of them.  Dr. Steven Novella, Sharon Hill, Daniel Loxton, or the lengthy tome authored by Orac, or as discussed by Jason and Bobby on the latest strange Frequencies podcast and Virtual Skeptics latest Vlog.**  I am probably skipping others.  They all make good points, and while I do not agree with them all point for point, I more than agree with them in spirit and most detail.  Suffice it to say, I agree that one can both abhor war and promote peace* and be anti-homeopathy.  It is not a choice between guns and water. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Monster Talk - UFOs with Robert Sheaffer

I have always had a soft spot for UFOs.  Therefore, it was with great interest that I listened while on a flight from Florida to Pennsylvania to the latest episode of Monster Talk.  Blake Smith and Karen Stollznow interviewed UFO researcher, blogger, and author, Robert Sheaffer, on his latest book Bad UFOs as well as the field in general.  The episode did not disappoint.

 As I noted in an earlier blog post, when I was in college I spent far too much time doing a literature review on everything UFOs that I could procure given that it was 1990-91 and before the internet.  Although I was not a skeptic at the time, and had no idea that Skepticism was even a thing, the chances of UFOs actually being machines control by extraterrestrial lifeforms was quite remote to me.  I am by no means comparing my efforts with Sheaffer’s far greater depth of a lifetime of research to mine.  But he did come to the same conclusion.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Monster Talk: Skepticism Primer

The latest Monster Talk podcast is an unusual episode.  Instead of focusing the discussion on a particular monster or cryptid, the episode was a primer on scientific skepticism.  To discuss the basics of Skepticism, hosts Blake Smith and Karen Stollznow had the Grand Poo Bah of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast Dr. Steven Novella as the guest.  As one might expect Dr. Novella has his skepticism down pat.

Stollznow & Novella (wiki)
 A few interesting takeaways was the tone of the episode felt a bit late night phony infomercial at points.  Karen would ask a softball pre-packaged sounding question that Dr. Novella would just have a spot-on answer.  Now, as someone who has heard a number of Dr. Novella interviews and knowing the background depth of knowledge of Stollznow and Smith, I suspect Dr. Novella would be able answer certain questions in his sleep.  However, the feel of the exchanges might seem suspicious to one not already steeped in Skepticism.  Clearly, it did not end in a pitch to sell the listener for three easy payments of $19.99 one’s very own Baloney Detection Kit if you act right now! But still, it seemed too pat.

The episode was tinged with a bit of world weariness.  I cannot help but ponder that had this episode come out in 2010 it would have been more upbeat.  It was not a dirge, but Smith shared that he has learned not to get into arguments on questionable claims on social media.  Dr. Novella shared how he hopes that rational-minded people might rise above human group dynamics, but this has been shown to clearly not be the case.  The schisms within the skeptical community clearly show just how very human skeptics are in practice.

Against this backdrop were some interesting tidbits and reminders.  A positive is that the skeptical community is much larger today than before the advent of modern social media and internet services.  There was a good discussion on the proper use and misuse of logical fallacies, and what is the difference between a skeptic and cynic.  Pointed out is how skepticism and science interact as well as skepticism and intellectualism.

Overall, I found it an interesting and worthy listen that might be of some interest and use for friends who are on the skeptical fence to give a listen, or as just a nice reminder to ponder one’s own skepticism.  It is nearly worth the listen to hear Dr. Novella give the rationale (believe me, it is well thought out) for his favorite monster that is asked of every guest at the completion of their interview.  It really is a window into how Dr. Novella's mind ticks.  This episode was entitled Skepticism 101.  I would not mind a Skepticism 102 some point down the line either with Dr. Novella or some other solid skeptic such as Sharon Hill, Robert Blaskowicz, or Dr. Stuart Robbins for a slightly different take.

On another topic, Dr. Robbins recently put out a brief podcast that given all of his time being taken up by doing actual science he will likely not resume regular production of his excellent Exposing PseudoAstronomy podcast until later this summer.  While this is a bit disappointing, it is good to know that Dr. Robbins has not abandoned his podcast.

Also, Karl Mamer is back with a brand new Conspiracy Skeptic podcast with guest Dr. David D. Perlmutter who is a Dean at the College of Media and Communications at Texas Tech University.  He and Karl engage in a discussion of how images are used to portray and mis-portray history with reflection on how this influences politics and then informs the public's worldview.  Unfortunately, Karl has not be keeping up with his website, so just search for the episode on iTunes or your podcast app of choice.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Reflections on The Amazing Meeting and Skeptoid tackles a {future} Saint

Brian Dunning, host and producer of the Skeptoid Podcast, which I listen to like clockwork on my drive home from work every Tuesday, recently posted a piece on the Skeptoid blog regarding the ceasing of The Amazing Meeting.  I also read a couple posts recently on social media positing if CSICON or NECSS could be the successor to T.A.M. as the premier skeptical conference.  One post wondered if the spirit of TAM could be repeated at one of them.  I nearly posted a comment on Dunning’s piece, but my thoughts are a bit too much for a comment.

We were only lucky enough to attend one T.A.M.  This was T.A.M. 2014.  The final one held at the South Point Hotel Casino Spa, and the second to last T.A.M. to be held.  After attending in 2014, I posted two pieces on my attendance.  My thought in authoring them was for the two posts to be read by people thinking of attending a T.A.M. to help in making a decision.  One post focused on the location and the logistics of attending the meeting, and the other post gave my thoughts on the event itself.  Little did I know my posts intended target were never to be materially useful ever.