Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Irreligiosophy, Token Skeptic, Righteous Indignation, For Good Reason, Point of Inquiry, Plug for AmSci

I have a lot of podcasts to discuss and oh so little time.


Leighton's very brave brother Sean was a guest on the show to defend the LDS church and to admonish Chuck and Leighton for being disrespectful of other points of view.  Actually, I listened to all of part 2 and about half of part 1.  It's how iTunes downloaded them, and time is short so if the second half of part 1 is a revelation, I'll add an addendum.  Basically, Sean sounds like a very nice, earnest, sincere, and not stupid guy.  He was forthright enough not to fake his way into an area where he had no answers, but he did bring in some stinging points about how their no holds barred attack on the religious is an attack on their own families, distant and immediate.  Clearly, Sean had his work cut out for him and ultimately he was not convincing (at least to me) with his arguments about the necessity for respect in all walks of life and thought.  To be honest, in a way it reminded me of about 25 percent of all Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter dinners where at some point my dad would lecture relatives (especially my late and very missed grandmother and great aunt) on how incorrect religion and in particular organized religion was in the world.  Chuck at one point near the end sounded a heck of a lot like he was speaking through clenched teeth.  Even I was thinking in my post work errands in the car for Chuck to chillax a bit, calm.  (The show opened with a playful knock against the Skeptics' Guide which Leighton confused with Karl's, Conspiracy Skeptic show. Leighton needs to get out more.)

The Token Skeptic 

Daniel Loxton, editor of Junior Skeptic and author of Evolution: How we and all living things came to be was Kylie's guest to discuss "Loxtongate."  Loxtongate is Daniel's harrowing tale of breaking into the Discovery Institute under cover of darkness to see what "experiments" they are working toward to prove intelligent design.  Ok.  None of that is true.  The 'gate' is Loxton's few lines in his children's book, the above mentioned Evolution, telling the reader (likely a child) if they have religious questions to go ask friends or family.  A whole hubbub was sparked online with P.Z. Myers weighing in on it, and about two hundred or so commenters on the Skepblog.  Bascially, Loxton, an atheist, humanist, and skeptic, thinks that all three are basically separate realms and it does no good to mix them together or push a general rationalist viewpoint on all items.  It can get stuck, especially in regard to politics.  I've discussed this briefly on another post.  Needless to say in about 17 minutes, Sturgess gave Loxton a chance to share his point of view without injecting herself into the debate.  It's not that Sturgess herself would not have something to contribute that is likely thought-provoking and of greater insight than I could muster in a few weeks of deep thought.  I just thought it was more appropriate and necessary to give Loxton a platform to state his case.

Righteous Indignation

The Indignates were down one Marsh, but up one intoxicated blogger Dr. T.  Dr. T. fit into the show rather well.  R.I. is a sponge for thoughtful skeptical Brits.  Anyway, the main event was an interview of Rose Shapiro, author of suckers and a participant in the 10:23 anti-homeopathy campaign, gave a short (or least well edited) interview about why alternative medicine is a waste of time, and can be harmful.  Hayley discussed "The Sun's" top ten ghost photographs of the past year including one that was a photoshopped picture of the 9 year old Anakin Skywalker (or Annie for us Star Wars geeks or actually an abomination upon all that is Star Wars) on a fence line of a farm or someplace in the country.  My only issue with this segment is that it's a podcast.  Visual segments just are not that effective.  (If my wife was not such an iPad hater and would let me get that 10 inch device of electronic happiness, life suddenly might get better.)   The Indigates also discussed the now well known finding by a committee of Parliament that homeopathy is not worth the British taxpayers' money, and should not be funded.  Tristan, I think, was less impressed by the committee's findings, and seemed doubtful that much if anything would change.  The others were more hopeful.

The most interesting part of the show was the discussion of the appropriate tone of the show either leaning to glib in its remarks of believers in psi, paranormal, and pseudo-science, and being boring.  To me, I get what they are trying to do despite the cultural divide.  (Maybe it's because I'm a Beatles fan or love Top Gear, or my mother knows the entire line of Kings and Queens of England to the turn of the last millenium.)  Anyway, apparently a lot of overseas ('mericans) seem to think the Indigates are either a bit too serious or not serious enough.  They also discussed how some complain they are too soft on woo believers and others thinking they are too mean.  Again, I think if they are overly harsh the pool of guests would soon dry up.

Needless to say, it was a good show.  The Indignates know how to have a discussion between themselves without any single one of them overpowering the debate.  I cannot think of any examples off the top of my head, but on SGU at times Dr. Novella or Watson can just dominate the whole.

For Good Reason

I am behind on Grothe's new effort; his last two episodes had Dr. Harriet Hall followed by Prof. Lionel Tiger as his guests.  Dr. Harriet Hall is always an impressive listen.  I enjoyed how she described her work as a columnist in "O."  Yes, that "O"--Oprah's magazine.  She did not seem to be enjoying that much.  She was not given many words in her column and the editors seem to dictate the topics.  Things such as myths on weight loss.  Let's face it, Dr. Hall is a medical skeptical machine, but if it pays the bills and gets her to reach into a broader audience, I do not think it is fair to be critical.  It is not as if she's had to ditch her other work to be exclusive to "O."  Dr. Hall discussed how she became involved in skepticism and how wrong-headed those in alternative medicine are in their thought processes.

Tiger (how cool of a last name is that anyhow?) discussed his scientific approach to viewing religion in people.  His take is that the mind creates religion and then the religious experience feeds the mind.  It is a self sustaining circuit.  He discussed how being in a religious group releases chemicals that make the participant feel good and really there is nothing else in human experience to duplicate it.  Grothe brought up that skeptics have the growing skeptics in the pub groups, but Grothe seemed just a dash crestfallen that Tiger did not think it was an equal substitute to an all encompassing religious affiliation.   I found Tiger's interview fascinating.  This is not a knock against Dr. Hall, but I'd listen to Tiger's interview first and then Hall's second.

As an aside, For Good Reason seems to be getting more of a unique footing.  The show seems to be going with a longer format than Grothe typically did on Point of Inquiry.

Point of Inquiry

Robert Price, Professor of Theology and uber-guest on all sort of skeptical podcasts and raconteur of biblical stories galore, interviewed Robert Miller, who is a Professor of Religious Studies at Juniata College, and author of Born Divine: The Births of Jesus and Other Sons of God, The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics, and editor of The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate and The Complete Gospels.  The Bobs have attended the Jesus Seminars and had a grand old time discussing biblical theology in general as well as how biblical scholars saw their works for decades and how the public is only just beginning to learn what scholars view the bible.  The Bobs had a grand old time talking.  Price sounded most uncomfortable doing the rote intro and exit dialogues.  Once the interview came into swing, the Price that is known and loved far and wide came to the fore.  I enjoyed Price's interviewing style as he was not being or trying to be Grothe.  He had his own unique style, and it made the show more enjoyable.  I have no doubt as Karen Stollznow and Chris Mooney get more time under their belt, they will hit their stride.  Price with his considerable charm and practice had a much cleaner break with the show's past style.

There you go, a bunch of shows quick and dirty.  I would recommend to not miss Loxton's interview on Token Skeptic and Righteous Indignation, especially for the discussion on a skeptical tone and better feel for the great "victory" over homeopathy in Parliament.  None are to be missed, but that is my take.

I try to cover as many podcasts as I listen to each week.  Some weeks are better than others.  Don't ask me when I am going to fit in Reasonable Doubts.  If you are lucky enough to be in the greater Atlanta area this weekend, on Saturday March 13, 2010, you too can be a part of a live recording of The Amateur Scientist Podcast.  


  1. Irreli... that mormon show continues to put some of the most challenging content online in the skeptical podcasting world. It's really stand out stuff.

  2. I do think Chuck is one of the few people, other than Hitchens, that if given the proper ground rules and time could "win" a theological debate with an apologist. As knowledgeable as the Doubtcaster are, as an example, they are missing that certain something that cuts past a lot of BS and not appear to be a pinhead. First, Chuck should pop a low dose valium.

  3. Hello! Sorry, I'm behind on saying 'hello!' :) Yes, rather like most of my interviews, I wanted to focus on how Daniel Loxton felt and what his experience is. I think that the biggest 'interjection' I made was when I said something along the lines of 'people are grumpy at you? Well done you for riling things up!' :p I do like conflict sometimes, it gets people talking and thinking 'so, why do I feel so emotional about this, what are the factors?' :) Thanks again, K.


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