Saturday, August 8, 2009

the skeptics guide 211, Reasonable Doubts 49, Skepticality 107

One depressing week in podcastville:

Nearly every podcast I listen to regularly made me either miffed, depressed, or disappointed. I have chosen the quick and dirty route this week instead of a series of long, long posts on each show.

Let's start on the animal front:

The skepticality interview with Marc Bekoff -evolutionary biologist. Did Dr. Bekoff actually say that the plural of anecdote is data? Really? Swoopy did not even question or challenge Dr. Bekoff. I am not saying Dr. Bekoff is a pseudo-scientist, but fair is fair, and I am sure if some UFO believer, or Big Foot proponent said we have all these anecdotal stories equal data that "woo belief X" is real the believer would have at least be questioned about the statement.

Reasonable Doubts

The vegetarian commentary that Jeremy has become a vegetarian with Luke and Dave was a bit much. On the one hand, I have no problem with it. Someone wants to deny themselves meat, does not bother me. Rebecca Watson is a vegetarian for reasons that I have never heard. Don't really care.

However, it would have been better if they left it like that instead of launching or relaunching into a philosophical polemic about not eating meat reduces suffering, and we should all be about reducing suffering. Now, they admit there is no bright line, and is arbitrary after all since some third world nations do have the luxury for them it could be meat or starve. In sub-saharan country x, eating buffalo is fine. Fish can be okay, although some fish might know what it is to be a fish. It is after all not a bright line, and just saying that I am for my species {home sapiens} is not a good enough excuse to eat other animals.

Here's my take on it briefly. It seems to me that the arbitrary line between eating meat or not eating it being your own species is a very solid line, and much more so than say the chicken vs. trout line. People are evolved to eat meat. It tastes good, and has lots of nutritional value. It really is denying part of the human experience to cut yourself off from something that we are geared to enjoying. Sadly, they are playing into the academic ivory tower stereotypical portrait of a sanctimonious thought process that causes many to wonder how big of a diamond Dave, Luke, and Jeremy seem to be competing to form in their rectums.

As a side note, Chris Rodda just may have all her marbles, and I am not saying that there is no battle for the scientific minds of future students. Ms. Rodda sure seemed to have a lot in common with many of interviewees style, tone, and temperament of many an interview I've heard on Coast to Coast AM on late night drives. We should have a grain of skeptical salt for everything we hear on all podcasts. I just might have an extra one or two for Ms. Rodda.

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

The interview with Carrie Iwan was just sort of a big downer, and a bit of a disappointment.

I am a white male. Guilty as charge. Bill Prady, of "The Big Bang Theory" made a comment about trying two separate lines to a woman who asks you your sign. For some reason if you reply that her eyes are pretty that is offensive to women in general. Now, if the woman came up to you in a bar, and asked what you did for a living, your thoughts on the current health care reform bill, or the meaning of life and you respond with the eye comment, sure, it might be offensive response to a thought out and reasonable question. Anyone who comes up to you with a woo based ice breaker line, or is stuck in 1973, I think the eye comment is gong to be just about the right line. Most likely countering "the sign question" with an explanation on why astrology is bunk (if the questioning woo woman can even think through the four syllable word astrology) is going to lead to a night without a phone number. Again, how big of diamonds are some people trying to form in their fanny's? (American slang, not Australian.) Prady is doing a show focused on science geeks. That what a stereotypical geeks kinda are like. I was (am one) I always thought their was a magic code to cracking the female code. I probably would have commented on why signs are bunk, and lost the chance of female companionship for the evening.

Further, it seemed to me that Carrie and Rebecca were really asking for some manner of affirmative action for the panels to offset the traditional middle age white male historical stereotypical skeptic that probably made up most skeptics up until the recent past. (In large part the change is due to Rebecca's activities.) Steve indicated that the planning committee people tried to get a more gender balanced speaker roster, but the invitees could not attend. What's a white male to do? It takes time for things to percolate and change. If the attendance to the TAM 7 was near 40% for women, that seems to be a huge gain. I am sure the number of women on the panels, etc will grow with or without affirmative action to do it. (For what it is worth my wife noted that if she were Steve she'd be a bit offended at the comments. It's not as if Steve indicated that he invited women to join the TAM lady's auxiliary.)

Finally, as long as I am on a rant. Carrie seemed to be disappointed that it was the same old people giving the lectures. Well, compared to what? This was only her second year there which seems to be a short track record of comparison. I'd kill to see Phil Plait or almost any other speaker at any of the TAMs.


As a compete aside, the most touching thing I listened to over the past week on a podcast was on a Bloggingheadstv when Jonah Goldberg talked about his love for his dog with Peter Beinart. Peter did not get it, but found it sincere. I got it. No. I would not eat them.


  1. Listen again to what Dr. Bekoff said, I think you misheard what he said, or you were already in a bad mood and wanted to post something negative.

    He was QUOTING something that someone else said.


  2. I have listened again to the podcast. Dr. Bekoff is replying how a lot of people consider information in his field loose, and he agreed and then says " . . . I always like to say the plural of anecdote is data (datum?)" and then he goes on to note that a hundred reports of something should be studied because it means its real.
    It sounded to me that Dr. Bekoff was saying it, and not quoting someone's else's work or opinion. Maybe it was different pre-edited? However, I will not that Dr. Bekoff then stated that stories do not replace data.

    I do not know if Dr. Bekoff was contradicting himself, it was in the editing, or poor world choice, but at least to me it sounded like a "whoa" moment.

    thanks for reading

  3. Lately, Reasonable Doubts has really been challenging me to stop listening. I love their skeptical examinations of the Bible, but it's really getting hard to stay tuned when they start getting political.

    Actually, in response to one of your statements, I would never argue that we are evolved to eat meat. They mentioned that on episode 43, and they identified it as committing a naturalistic fallacy. Of course, what I found most irritating was that they seemed to present it as thought that's the best argument in favor of an omnivorous diet they could come up with.

    What I found most abhorrent was that they said that we have a moral obligation to know where our food comes from. Really? A *MORAL* obligation? What does morality have to do with other species, especially when they can't reciprocate morality. Morality is a two-way road. A big part of why I don't feel bad about eating cows is that there's no moral interface between our species. I'm not losing sleep over the suffering of cows. People are more important.

    They also seems to believe that there's some sort of correlation between the avoidance of harm and avoidance of pain, which isn't even necessarily true. There are plenty of organisms that avoid harm, not because they *want to avoid pain*, but because it's instinct. It's a survival advantage to avoid death and injury.

    And then they shift to whining about acres being wasted on cattle instead of growing crops. Is this really a problem? We live in the first society where it's actually possible to be obese and destitute at the same time, and we have people like this talking as though we're running out of crop space and we can't afford to have cattle. Gimme a break.

    I'd say that if they're really worried about crop space, they should support genetically modified crops, but I'm pretty sure I heard a snide comment in there about that on their show.

    Oh, and I also caught the very affirmative action sort of thinking on Skeptic's Guide. If you have to go out of your way to find women to fill the gender gap, then you are doing something that is very, very sexist.

    The quality of the presentation is more important than the gender ratio. And bear in mind, my opinion would be exactly the same if there were MORE women than men.