Sunday, October 4, 2009

Skepticality, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Skeptoid, and the new fall fashion The Skeptic Zone

This post is going to be a catch all with a few brief entries on various podcasts:


I listened to the Skepticality podcast which covered the Charlotte Pop Festival.  I wish I could have been there to see and hear “The Smithereens” as well as other acts.  It sounded as it was a success.  I was a bit surprised that Derek, Swoopy and the festival’s organizer, James Deem, were taken aback by the local negative t.v. news coverage for holding a festival to promote science via an organization that is organized by and named for Richard Dawkins, a notorious Atheist and Evolutionist (say Evolutionist to yourself the same way you’d say pedophile.)  Dawkins is a renowned and respected scientist but you can’t expect to get a groundswell of support for a man (regardless of his accomplishments) who authored a book called the “God Delusion” in the American South.  To be honest, I was glad they were not reporting ugly demonstrations or worse.  I hope the festival continues next year as it sounded like a lot of fun.  


Brian Dunning did a nice cover on why astrology is silly on his Skeptoid podcast.  He did an experiment with a Twitter poll.  It was admittedly not a scientific poll, but it helped to illustrate the general point that horoscopes are a cold reading in a cheap suit.  (What I wondered is what if the poll seemed to validate astrology, since it was a non-scientific poll?  Sweep it under the rug?  Do another more controlled poll?  I doubt it is to declare woo is real and buy copies of Sylvia Brown’s books like there is no tomorrow?  I always question the use a of non-scientific study to prove a skeptical point.  This is not just geared solely at Mr. Dunning, but it is oft-used device as well on Penn and Teller's Bullshit television series.  There it has some entertainment value, but still has the same flaw.)  

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe this week was without Rebecca Watson who was busy moving to London, and I imagine preparing for the first ever T.A.M. London.  The rogues interviewed George Edward, who is one of the Skeptologists.  He spoke mainly about his years working for and infiltrating the Psychic Friends Network.  It was fascinating on a number of levels.  For one, it is scary to consider that at some point the PFN employed 1,000 "psychics;" another is that it seemed at least to Edward that most of the psychics knew it was a con, and if they started the job thinking they had special powers they quickly just went in on the con.  Even though Edwards noted that he never lied as a "psychic," it seems to me that is quite a tightrope to walk.  Isn't just giving someone a generic reading a form of lying?  The person at the other end of the line is expecting to hear from a psychic unless you start the call by saying "I'm not a psychic, but let me do a reading."  You are entering into an ethical gray area.  Yet, I am happy to learn some inside information regarding that woo factory.  One final observation is that this episode felt a bit subdued.  The show has been without Watson before, so I do not think it was her absence.  I just think it was a more mellow episode.  Maybe the last few live shows are rebounding on the rogues.   


This week on Irreligiosophy Leighton and Chuck interviewed Bob Price, biblical scholar.  Price as always was fantastic.  I think he would give an excellent interview in his sleep, and Leighton and Chuck were as irreverent as ever.  Enjoy. 

The Skeptic Zone

I am adding the Skeptic Zone, which originates from Australia, to my roster of podcasts.  I initially left it off the much "coveted" list of The Skeptical Review podcasts due to time constraints.  However, after some deliberation and a request, I have decided to squeeze it in with the rest of the stable of shows.    I just listened to their one year anniversary show from Dragon Con episode 49 and episode 50.  I have also listened to the occasional Skeptic Zone in the past, and it is a very slick operation.  Perhaps the most polished podcast next to Australia's own, Mysterious Universe.  Perhaps there is something in water in Australia that causes podcasts to buff up their shows whether full of woo, or not. 

I do have one observation based on the Skeptic Zone.  In episode 50, the show briefly interviewed Heidi Anderson.  She is a self described mother of two kids, rabid atheist, living in the heart of the bible belt.  Anderson indicated that she is an in your face atheist, who will get in people faces about why god doesn't exist, and why forms of woo are wrong, etc.  This raised to me once again the question of when skepticism and religion collide. (The Maher-Dawkins award brought up this question a couple weeks ago)  The number generally tossed around is that 70% of skeptics are atheist and agnostics, but that means that 30%, a rather large minority, of skeptics have some religious belief.  While generally all skeptics can come together to discuss why the Loch Ness monster, homeopathy, and creationism are silly, there is a point where the existence of a paranormal intelligence can be assaulted on evidence grounds by skeptics, yet three out of ten people in the room will be believers and on some level disagree.  Here the coalition of skeptics hits a dividing line.  I am not sure I have it completely thought through, but at the moment I do think to the average person on the fence that being argued at either by a rabid atheist or a rapid evangelical preacher will come off the same way.  I can't help but think that being rabidly anything may sell great to the choir, but have less persuasive powers to those outside the fold.  I hope to hear a more in depth interview of Anderson at some point by one of the shows on my list, to give me an excuse to give this topic a more thorough and comprehensive treatment.  I look forward to commenting on the Skeptic Zone in coming weeks.   

---A side note:  One of my upcoming posts will be a very special post.  Perhaps not in the same way as when Tootie became a woman on "The Facts of Life," but special nevertheless.        

1 comment:

  1. Wahh, we got reviewed! Thank you! :)
    Excellent points about Heidi - as someone who has contributed to the Skeptical Inquirer on the 'Deist Skeptic' and as a committed member of a podcast that doesn't want religious division to dominate what should be a show about skepticism, I see your point.
    I do think, however, that Heidi demonstrates a personality that is out there amongst skeptics who happen to be atheists too (fully aware that they may overlap, but certainly not a guarantee!). She's the person who is unashamedly passionate and yet is willing to be tempered with a balance of compassion with either reasoning or the example of others. I quite liked that and although the majority of the interview is more about her atheism rather than her 'skeptic' side (as she says at the start, she had a slightly different introduction to skepticism), I thought that attitude would be familiar to some listeners. :) Thanks again, K.