Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Righteous Indignation, Point of Inquiry

What would Don Draper think . . .

On the forums of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, the Rogues have posed the question on what their listeners think of them possibly running an ad per show to help defray costs.  My own view is that while a commercial free podcast would be wonderful, it would also be wonderful if television and terrestrial radio were commercial free too but content providers have to pay the bills, and advertising or subscription fees are the two ways to do it. 

I am sure the band width cost inherent with a show that draws approximately 65,000 downloads each week is not trivial. (If the Rouges find themselves buying the “Skepmobile” which is just another name for a Buick Enclave, my opinion could change.)  For all the swag I have purchased, and uncut episodes I have paid for the privilege of downloading, I have donated only a pitiful amount to the show.  I hope others are not as tight as I, but I suspect I am not in the minority.  I cannot be opposed to an ad or even two or three down the line if it keeps the show on the web.  I do not even think the ads have to be science or skeptically related, but as long as they are from legitimate businesses and the Rogues can actually support the items I do not care.  I find it hard to fathom that Audible, Square Space, let alone an outfit such as Scientific American would not want to reach 65,000 or so tech savvy listeners.  My only advice is not to have a canned ad.  They always sound stilted and are jarring.  The best ads are by Leo Leporte of the self made TWIT network, which he does on the fly during the show.  It just flows better. 

On the day Oral Roberts died I listened to . . .

Point of Inquiry this week found D.J. Grothe interviewing Frank Schaeffer, son of evangelical intellectual-thinking and arguably the forefather of the modern religious right, Francis Schaeffer.  Schaeffer was in to discuss his book, Crazy For God: How I Grew Up As One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, in which he describes his relationship with his father, and how he moved from intellectual evangelical to a more liberal religious/humanist. 

All in all, Grothe did a thorough job interviewing Schaeffer, although I do hope he returns to the program because he seemed to be at odds with the hardcore New Atheist and had as much to dislike about their takedown of the religious as the evangelicals had against those who were not faithful.   I also found it intriguing that Schaeffer has apparently not gone atheist or agnostic, but has maintained a level of faith that you often do not get from those who fell out with the hard core bible clutching crowd.  It is probably unfair to compare everyone who was once ultra religious to the guys on Reasonable Doubts, but I have thought (probably falsely) that once you fall from grace you fall out and down to the opposite side.  I suspect as the armchair uneducated shrink that it may have to do with the fact that his own father was actually not a jet setting rockstar type, was not a giant hypocrite, but still had a humanist interest in the arts and culture.  Perhaps, in his dad he saw glimpses of a less hardcore world view.  Or I could just be full of it, but I suspect it is the latter.  All in all, Grothe did a fine interview.  As the show was recorded in November there was no mention of his impending new positon as head of the JREF.

Are the recorded sounds telling gays to beware . . .

This week Righteous Indignation had a fourth guest host, Richard Stelling, of the newly formed Bristol Skeptics, and creator in whole or part of the Skeptical Exchange.  The Exchange, which I spent a few minutes browsing around, is much like Yahoo! Answers without all of the idiots.  It has only been up and running for about a month, but already has a nice list of questions with some decent answers.  Take a look at it, answer a few questions if you are up to it, or ask a few and help it grow.  I wish I had thought to host something like this first, instead I do this little project.  Go figure.

In the news segment they discussed a British celebrity chef admitted treating for rage by a cranial osteopathy, which to him worked and he has not gone bat-mad chasing people with a clever for eight years or so.  Which is just a goofy idea that the bones in the head can be moved around, in an adult, to perform some manner of treatment by changing the flow of the cranial fluid.  Weird.

On a much more serious note, Uganda is on the verge of a law that will basically toss in jail all known homosexuals, and have severe prison sentences for those who know of a homosexual but do not report them to the authorities.  Those who are HIV positive could face execution.  It is all quite barbaric, and the Swedes are going to cut off $50,000,000 in aid to Uganda if they persist with this law.  The Ugandan President Museveni blames homosexuality in Uganda on western influences, so this will show'm all right not to be gay.  Madness.

The guest was Mark Turner of the EVP research institute of the UK.  EVP are those weird sounds on tapes or flash drives that microphone pick up, when allegedly there is nothing for the mic to pick up that is someone speaking.  Turner's group, the EVP research institute of the UK, runs controlled studies at various locations in the United Kingdom where I take it they ask questions and wait for responses to the questions.  Afterwards they analyze the recordings to see if what they hear sounds like a reasonable answer to the question.  Turner indicated that they use faraday cages to block out unwanted radio signals, multiple timed recorders for backup, ex-NASA voice analyst, and historical research into the alleged answers to figure out what is the EV phenomenon?  On the one hand, Turner indicates that they do not suppose that an unknown voice type sound is a ghost or the spirit of the dead contacting them.  Turner is aware of audio pareidolia which is a reason they have the voice analyst, and that people tend to hear what they want to hear. 

On the EVP portfolio page, if this is an example of some of their better "hits" then it is unimpressive.  The one marked "Where is this" sure sounds like Pegasus to me, and Scotland sounds like noise.  The one person that they are missing from their team would be a psychologist, and perhaps a Novella.  

Although Haley touched upon it, Turner does not really have an answer to what they are finding, or think they are finding.  There is no hypothesis of what they are hearing other than "we're not saying it is ghosts."  I take Turner at his word, but it still strikes me as odd as to what they are doing recording at specified locations with the owners absent and asking questions that can be verified.  It seems to point to some kind of spirit hunting without saying it is spirit hunting.  

As always Haley, Marsh, and Trystan did a very cordial and interesting interviewing without being hostile.  As always an interesting listen with some rather sharp Brits.  

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