If I understand, Mr. Dunning's thesis is that in order to promote skepticism (critical thinking, rational thought) to the masses, the best delivery system is through solidly entertaining, and yet thoroughly and rationally researched material. Wrap the puppy pill of skepticism in a intriguing story of peanut butter and they will swallow, then follow you around the house for the next hour begging for more. Just trying to brute force the pill of critical thinking down the throat with the podcast pill popper, and you'll be lucky if the dog does not hid under the couch for a week. (enough with the tortured metaphor)
I agree. Clearly, "House" on Fox, and "The Mentalist" and "Numbers" on CBS which have a strong skeptical bent to varying degrees of success reveal this to be true. Mythbusters does not really have plot, unless you count blowing stuff up a plot, but it sure is entertaining to watch a program that promotes rational experiments that one usually should not try at home.
How helpful this advice is in the world? My take, to quote Mrs. Rebecca Watson in a different context, is "meh." I am sure it is safe to assume that podcasts, TAM, the skeptical portion of DragonCon, and the JREF reaches a few folks on the fence, fewer still on the other side, and almost nobody who are busy living their lives and hoping the Yankees overtake the Braves, so they hold it over that nouveau rich Boston fan in the office. I digress. Clearly, a mass market television show, or motion picture with a strong skeptical bent that in the end does not finish with the arrogant skeptic with egg on her face is always welcome. An entertaining and educational show such as Mythbusters such as a daytime talk showed entitle "Get up with Jay and Rebecca" would be swell.
But just who was this podcast aimed at in the end? I doubt Oprah is going to listen to it and think "you know I was going to give Jenny McCarthy a show to proclaim her ignorance to the world, but instead I am going to call Swoopy and give her a slot on my Sirius-XM channel." I would be all for it. I really do hope there was a screenwriter with a rock solid development deal at TAM, or an up and coming studio head listening to the show thinking I just might give "The Skeptologist" a shot. Perhaps it was the hollywood and entertainment types that this episode was aimed. If so, it's a small audience, but I salute Mr. Dunning for trying.
Perhaps, I had a preconceived notion at the beginning of the show that Mr. Dunning had a grassroots idea that might take hold and spread. I don't know what I thought from the title, maybe it would be t-shirts hocked by pretty girls at a rationally minded carwash. Again, I cannot say I disagree with Mr. Dunning's thoughts, his aims, or goals, I just am not quite sure how helpful the episode was for me.
You're reading "The Skeptical Review." I am Nigel St. Whitehall at skepreview.com.