Monday, February 15, 2010

Righteous Indignation #36, and For Good Inquiry

A diminutive precious one with the boys. 

Righteous Indignation featured an interview of Andy Lewis of the Quackometer website.  This is a website that he started to automatically gauge how much woo a website had using apparently a simple algorithm.  This in turn turned into his blog.  Lewis has a particular interest not in a particular belief, but on why people believe what they do.  Marsh took the lead on the interview, and Lewis had a few interesting takes on the 10:23 campaign.  He brought up that at on location the 10:23 campaign overdose was organized by an 18 year girl.  He further pointed out that lot of the people going after homeopathy are scientists and geeks.  This does not match up with homeopathy seeing itself under assault from big pharma and corporate medicine.  I suppose if I am a besieged homeopath and I see some attack against my profession organized in part by a teenager I suppose the defense mechanism to it would be either she's paid off, or she is not old enough to realize how wrong she is thinking.

Lewis also brought up if you look at Bath England over two centuries ago, which apparently was a mecca for then alternative cures, the arguments made today to defend alternative medicine echo the arguments made in 18th Century Bath.  The cures bring you closer to nature, and you gain more control over your health.  He discussed this in context of a talk he is going to give, and I hope it can be put on YouTube or some similar outlet.  I would like to hear his talk, but England is pretty far to travel to hear a talk.

Lewis also discussed that he does not think the 10:23 campaign will have a large effect on changing a lot of people's minds about it who use it.  Rather, this is way to show people what homeopathy really is which is not herbal medicines but remedies diluted down to nothing at all.  It might also put pressure on regulators to actually regulate homeopathy rather than turn a blind eye toward their activities.

In other news, Gavin Schofield apparently has passed his boards and is now an official Indignate.  I say congratulations to Schofield, and he seems to be a good fit with the show.

Some highlights on the news section of the show was the discussion of the imagine of the late British comic Tommy Cooper appearing on a meat-pie.  Turns out that it was a publicity stunt.  (Meat-pie is that the same as a pot-pie?)  There was a discussion of just how often Halley is called cute.  Not surprisingly the answer is a lot.  The Indignates discussed psychic speed dating.  It sounds like normal speed dating, if speed dating can be referred to as normal, except they add a psychic reading into the mix.  I think something similar was held around greater metro Hershey area, but I cannot find anything on the web.  Anyway, they had a good laugh on the psychic reading on the website of all the members.  It sounds to likely be a big money grab to me.

The Indignates discussed the "death cat," who was the house pet of a nursing home, and our feline friend would curl up next to a person, and bingo they would soon be dead.  This was discussed on the SGU a few weeks ago.  Interestingly, while on the SGU they seemed to question any correlation actually existed been the cat's location and impending death, the Indignates took that part at almost face value.  Dr. Novella thought it was "a massive exercise in confirmation bias," but also if it is some scent of death the cat is picking up it could be tested.  The Indignates thought the story was not that bad since they cat's owner thought the cat could smell death and was not saying the cat was psychic.  Yet, another mild disagreement between skeptics, which means skepticism is not true.  (Or does that only work with modest disagreements between molecular biologist and killing off Evolutions by means of natural selection.  I have investigate it.)

Finally, the Indignates discussed how the Prince of Wales does not think that people should follow Enlightenment rational thought principles in modern times.  I know Prince Charles has no real power, but still to have the next in light to be the Sovereign of not only the U.K., but New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and a few other places to not follow rational thought in this day in age is incredible.  For all of President W's faults, and there were more than a few, at least he left after four years.  Even though Prince Charles has no real power, he could be on the throne for a couple decades.  I hope Prince William has his head screwed tighter on his shoulders than  his old man.

All in all it was a very good show, and if for some reason Lewis ever comes to Philadelphia or Baltimore, I think I'll try can his talk.

Point of Good Reason

Point of Inquiry featured an interview of Prof. Richard Dawkins.  No.  For Good Reason with Chris Mooney featured an interview of Dr. Paul Offit.  No.  That's not quite right either.  Dawkins interviewed D.J. Grothe on Conspiracy Skeptic or was it Monster Talk? Now that clearly cannot be correct. (Joke might not be funny, but the shows are strikingly similar.  I am sure as time goes on they will obtain their own persona.  The logos are similar, the opening female voices are similar, the legal boilerplate at the end is the same.  It's weird to listen to them back to back.)

Ok.  P.O.I., featuring Chris Mooney hosting for the first time, interviewed Dr. Paul Offit.  In St. Louis, Missouri D.J. Grothe on F.G.R. interviewed Dawkins.  This was the first P.O.I. post Grothe, and Mooney who is one of three rotating hosts for P.O.I. did a rather nice job.  He said a few nice words about Grothe, and he indicated he wished to focus on the intersection of science and public policy with his interviews.  Mooney is not quite a smooth an operator as Grothe, but I am sure he will improve with time.  His guest, Offit,  is author of numerous books: Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.  He gave an interesting and modestly upbeat take on the current battle against vaccine opponents, and even though things might have to get far worse (more dying kids) before they get better.  I took from Offit that we may have turned a corner with the general public that vaccination are not a bad thing.  Offit was humble in how he noted in Autism's False Prophets new printing he basically apologies to parents of autistic child for brushing too many of them with the anti-vaccination paint.  He was self critical of medicine in how the removal of thermerisol from vaccines was done in such a way as to scare parents.  It was a very "human" interview of a respected physician and scientist.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Grothe interviewed Dawkins, and as it turns out Dawkins' foundation helped to underwrite the start up cost of F.G.R.  I really do not think it had an effect on Grothe interviewing Dawkins, but it was probably wise of Grothe to get it out into the open.  Dawkins discussed his new book The Greatest Show on Earth, and how it fits in with The God Delusion.   He opined that the existence of god or greater intelligence is a scientific question, and that for some scientist who indicate that they are separate spheres could be doing it for political expediency.  All in all, it was a good interview.  At this point Grothe could do a good interview drunk while battling a raging head cold, but Dawkins did not share anything terribly new.  He is one well spoken person, although I have never found him to be very warm speaker.  Dawkins did announce that he will be the keynote speaker at The Amazing Meeting 8, in Las Vegas this July.  I would love to see Dawkins playing the dollar slots at Paris or Mandalay Bay.

This is one of the few times I will not be doing a full write up on the SGU other than the note in my last post.  I have catching up to do, but on the bight side the office of the world wide headquarters of The Skeptical Reveiw looks much more pleasant.


  1. I always enjoy the Righteous Indignation podcast. They are all witty and I like their sarcasm.

    I'm not sure they needed a fourth member though. I don't see much being added. SGU is the number 1 skeptic podcast these days, and perhaps always will be on top with the talents of Steven Novella, but there are a few people on the crew that don't add much though, I'm afraid. Once you get past three regulars on a podcast, the law of diminishing returns hits pretty quick.

  2. I've been working through Marsh's Skeptics with a K podcast and it's really quite funny. As I commented to Marsh "it's like a skeptics in the pub but without the beer or the confused waitresses". ("You're what kind of group?")

    Marsh has this great voice and great delivery/timing. He's kind of a Fab 4 version of Jon Stewart from the Daily Show. He can communicate the idiocy of some woo with an economy of words.

  3. Scott,

    I think you make some intriguing points. Off the top of my head I believe chemistry has at least as much to do with a panel show working as raw numbers. This is an excellent idea for a future post. I have to collect my thoughts. One advantage four has over three is that if someone cannot make a show, there are still more than enough Indignates to push on.

    thanks for reading

  4. To be fair, Gavin has only done a handful of podcasts so far, he'll become more comfortable with it over time. We all did.

  5. Hayley,

    I think Gavin will be a good fit on his own terms and not just as the fourth, but I am intrigued by what makes some shows 'click.'

    For example: Scott brings up the SGU. Clearly, Dr.Novella is the heart of the show, but as I've posted in the past the show has never been quite the same since Perry died. This is an extra Rogue, but when say Dunning was a guest Rogue it was less successful. I am not exactly sure.

    I do think numbers has a part, but what is it in a show's hosts chemistry makes some shows work and others not as much.

  6. Podcast hosts become like intimate friends in our heads. I know there are many podcasts where the hosts seem like friends to me and I'm sometimes mystified why I'm a complete and utter stranger to them (are you reading, George Hrab? Well, are you, bitch?)

    I remember once I was a guest host on Dogma Free America and, Jimmy Crackers, people were almost violent in their reaction. Partially it's because I full on suck, but partially because people would rather hear their headphone friends and not some full on sucking new comer.

    So a new host to a show can sometimes be like sitting down for breakfast and there's a stranger sitting at the family breakfast table. What's all this, then?

    A new host can be initially like "so less of Marsh and Hayley? Is that what it's coming to?"

    And Gavin is his name? I could never remember Marsh's name until you mentioned his cute nickname "Marsh". Maybe Gavin could get a cute nick name like "Gavs". And then he won't be the New New Guy.

  7. It's odd, but I always imagine the Rogues or Indignates living Beatles style in the movie "Help." In the movie the fab four all live in four continuous row homes, but inside they are all interconnected. Strange. Highly unlikely to occur even in the Beatle mecca of Liverpool.

  8. As a podcaster, we sometimes need/want to bring in an extra cast member to lighten our work load. Especially with a skepticism podcast where research of topics to be discussed is needed, that takes time.

  9. Thanks everyone for your comments!

    Glad you liked Andy as a guest. He's a top bloke and very knowledgeable.

    You're right though. When skeptics disagree it means the whole thing isn't true. On a serious point though, skeptics do disagree from time to time to varying degrees of ferocity. I take it all with a pinch of salt. You can argue til the cows come home but ultimately we're all on the same side.

    Three reasons why Gav came on. Firstly, he just seemed to fit in on a personal basis. Secondly, myself and Marsh have quite busy jobs and it helps lighten the workload. Finally, it means we no longer have to ring around in a panic trying to get a guest host on if someone is ill, away or has IT problems. We have literally just finished recording this evening and Gav is getting more confident.

    Unfortunately I will have to disappoint with the whole Beatles movie thing. Marsh lives in Livepool as we all know and Gav is not too far away from him in Manchester. I live about 130 miles south in Cheltenham whilst Hayley is another 50 miles south in the Bath area. Incidentally, I am the only indignate to have met all of the others in person!


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