Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, The Skeptic Zone, Point of Inquiry, Mysterious Universe

I am going to hit a few points in a couple of podcasts I have listened to over the weekend.

Point of Inquiry

D.J. Grothe interviewed Russel Blackford co-editor of 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why we are atheist. It seems Russell stayed away from using any of the big new atheists: Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, or Harris. However, the book does contain entries from James Randi and Susan Blackmore, so the authors are not all a bunch of unknowns.

I must confess I found it a bit boring. It has been awhile since POI has been down this path of "religion is irrational", so if we get rid of irrational religion what will people do for comfort and to live "the good life," -why join a secular humanist group.  While the show has been down this path a lot in the past, but not recently, it sounded like an interview from November 2007. This is not to say the book is uninteresting. This was not what the entire interview focused on. It sounds like an interesting text, and since the book has view points from all across the globe save Antarctica it would be different to hear religion free view from a person from a Hindu background. I think it really might have something to do with the term "the good life." There is something with the phrase that just strikes me the wrong way.

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe

Rebecca was missing, and filled in with a remote segment from TAM London with three brief interviews with Phil Plait, Chris French, and Christina Martin.  For me, the most interesting part of the show was the interview with Michael Goldstein, who is a 17 year old Austin, Texas high school student who is starting a skeptical society.  He was a Facebook friend with Jay, and next thing you know he's on the show.  If I were a 17 year old today instead of in 1988, I would be a lot like Goldstein.  If Goldstein plays (or attempts to play) the baritone horn in marching band, then it is freakier still.  The rogues are apparently attempting to promote the growth of skepticism with our youth, which is great.  I am all for it.  I think what Goldstein is doing should be encouraged.  Goldstein sounds as if he is a tad bit of a nerd, but so was(am) I.  I hope the show stays in contact with Goldstein to see how things go with his group.  I would not be surprised if someone so young and enterprising does not end up as a speaker at TAM 12.

The show discussed Carl Sagan day, and discussed that if Sagan were alive today he'd probably be at TAM and a guest of the show.  Man, I miss him.  Although I am not such a fan of the auto tuned Sagan songs.  I am sure the two songs out are incredibly difficult to do, and take an immense amount of dedication and skill.  I just hate auto tuning.  I have a friend who loves something similar, auto-tune the news.  I can take it for about two minutes.  I find it kind of creepy unless used very judiciously, or to make Miley Cyrus songs a tad bit tolerable.

They aired another round of brief interview segments from TAM London.  The first time they did this, I was all excited to know that Watson was making an effort to not leave the show.  Now, sure it is swell to hear Rebecca.  Maybe I am Mr. Cranky-pants, but the brief spots did not really seem to have a point.  I am sure everyone was learning a great deal, and having a hell of a fine time.  These brief blurbs were just out there.  Perhaps this was a just a low patch in the interview booth.

Bet'n on the ponies.

I am believe I am beginning to learn the pattern with The Skeptic Zone, which is there is no pattern.  This week featured the second part of an interview with recently retired editor-in-chief of Scientific American magazine, the always hyper John Rennie, by Dr. Rachel Dunlop.  This part of the interview focused on the media and science reporting.  Rennie discussed while the reporting is poor overall, there is some good reporting out there.  Dunlop does a fine job shepherding along the interview and it is well worth the listen.

Saunders then interviewed Michael Brougham of the U.K. based Bad Psychics at the Crown Hotel in Sydney, Australia prior to a Skeptics in the Pub meeting.  Saunders briefly but entertainingly interviewed Brougham on mediums and cold reading.  A thoroughly enjoyable interview.

This was followed by a poetry reading by Jim Wilshire of his own work "Min Min Man."  It was a bit random, but a nice bit of poetry, which I am almost certain refers to the Min Min lights of the Australian outback that appear in the distance, but that you can never actually reach while moving toward them.  I learned this from season one of the Mysterious Universe Podcast.

This nice interlude was followed by a lecture given by Peter Vels in 1988 (when I was Michael Goldstein's age) on The New Age.  Vels lecture was a nice bit of history to show that things have not changed a great deal in 21 years, and that even back then pyramid power was stupid.  Even as a kid watching In Search of . . . I thought the whole idea was just silly.

Then all of the above was followed by Saunders and Amanda Rose drinking champagne and betting on the ponies at the Melbourne Cup Horse Race.  I take it that the Melbourne Cup is the same idea as the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes in the United States.  I still cannot figure out why this was covered on the show.  It would be the same of Bob Novella and Evan Bernstein drinking beer and watching Yankees defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. (I had to get that in.)  They sounded as if they had a great time, and lost.  It sounded fun, and makes me finally want to go to our local Penn National Race Course and bet on the horses.  I am not sure if they wanted to encourage gambling on the show, but I think they just did.

The show was entertaining and I enjoyed all the segments, but it all seemed a bit random.

No Tricks or Treats

I was listening to Mysterious Universe episode 210.  Yes, they had their normal allotment of exo-politics and whether "off worlders" mean us harm or not.  Strange stories of red lights and repressed alien abduction memories, etc.  What I did learn that surprised me was Australia does not celebrate Trick or Treat with kids roaming the neighborhood and knocking on doors to collect candy.  (Candy.  Not little boxes of raisins, or little religious books, or popcorn, if it does not have a high sugar content with chocolate or nougat it does not count.)  I knew Great Britains did not celebrate it unless you are on a U.S. Air Force base or something, but I always assumed our friends in Australia would be all into trick or treat.  Grundy seemed very dismissive of the whole enterprise.  I feel sad for any of my Australian readership.  You really are missing out.

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