Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Righteous Indignation, Podcast awards, comparisons

This week Righteous Indignation interviewed Dwayne Claud--paranormal investigator, demonologist, and hypnotherapist.  Trystan was sick so Haley and Marsh carried on with him.  The interview itself was interesting as Claud on the surface seems like a reasonable, even likeable person.  I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.   I am not going to go into great detail on where I have some problems with Claud's investigatory methods and suppositions.  However, he does make a leap of faith that if something is unexplained then his faith points to the fact that demons are causing the events in question.  It is a pretty big leap of logic to make.  Stevens and Marsh do a fine interview asking good questions without coming off as rude, dismissive or like Morton Downey, Jr. style interview.

Also, Marsh and Haley discussed a negative review for questioning their credentialing in hosting the podcast as no one on the show is a physicist, scientist, etc.  I have thought on this topic a few times, and what does one need in order to be a skeptic/rationalist method.  I do not believe it is a degree.  If this were the case, then almost nobody would qualify to be a skeptic other than in some subspecialty.  Karl Mamer, the Conspiracy Skeptic, would have to get his history degree, I suppose.  Dr. Steven Novella could only discuss medical issues.  Only biologist such as P.Z. Myers could discuss evolution or Bigfoot. That misses the entire point of the promotion of rational thought.  The rationalist should ask questions, do research, and determine what the best evidence is to answer an inquiry.  It does not mean the rationalist has to do all the basic research too.  All of the best evidence and studies point to the fact that ESP does not exist, that Qi does not exist, Bigfoot does not exist.  All of these things are researchable by a generally educated and thoughtful person.  I do not have to be a biologist to hold a rational position that Bigfoot does not roam the Pennsylvania hills, I can look at the evidence for the Pennsylvania Bigfoot, see that such idea, while really interesting, is based on flimsy evidence.  I think such attacks on skeptics are really a dodge to draw attention away from others' lack of evidence than on a failing on the part of skeptics.

What I do find interesting is that Righteous Indignation is able to consistently book believers in various paranormal/pseudoscientific positions.  The Skeptics Guide has not had a believer on in quite sometime.  Perhaps it is because RI is not well known enough on the other side for guests to be wary, or perhaps it is because they are quite polite and fair.  This does seem to be a forte in the general skeptical podcast world. 

In comparison, the SGU seems more geared as time goes on to more discussion regarding the latest science and medical issues and discoveries of the day.  The SGU has gone out in the field on a few occasions, and in the past they have interviewed believers, but the show appears to have its format, that works pretty well, down to news topics, email questions, and an interview of a skeptic or science advocate.  I also suspect that the SGU is such a known entity that few believers are bold enough to be interviewed.  

In another comparison, the other general skeptic podcast I listen to is the Skeptic Zone, and they are less structured than the SGU in following a weekly template, but they do seem to go do more field reporting.  Dr. Rachel Dunlop is always doing an interview, or investigating a woo market.

I am not saying that one of the above is better than the others in what they do more of on their shows.  If anything, they all complement each other rather nicely.  It is interesting to note how three generalist skeptical podcasts approach the same general idea in three different manners.  The beneficiary of these approaches is the listener.

Podcast awards

For whatever reason this year the Podcast Awards, which is sort of the People's Choice awards is being pushed by Quackcast, Skeptoid, the SGU among others in various categories.  I am not really sure what it gets you other than bragging rights. My advice to the listener is to vote for your favorite podcast regardless of its focus.  If your favorite podcast is not a skeptical or science podcast so be it.  It is the intellectually honest thing to do.  


  1. If a person offered you an amazing job where you had to pay a fee and then recruit 5 more friends who paid you a fee and then you had to pass some of that money up line... would have to be a math major or MBA to apply the tools of skepticism?

    Skepticism is, of course, a major tool of science, but it can be used in the day to day. It's a set of tool one can apply when people are making testable claims and taking them directly to the public.

    It's silly to think we have to sit and wait until someone in authority instructs us.