Thursday, April 8, 2010

"For Good Reason" meets "Skepticality"

This week on For Good ReasonD. J. Grothe interviewed Derek and Swoopy of Skepticality in honor of their show's five year anniversary of podcasting excellence.  The show is generally credited with being the first skeptical podcast.  In my mind and to my knowledge only The Infidel Guy has a colorable claim to the title of oldest skeptical podcast.  However, IG is more religion focused, so Derek and Swoopy keep the crown.

I believe I began to listen to Skepticality when they had their iPod give away, and it was color or something, which at the time I was jealous over since my iPod was monochromatic.  I too wondered what happened to Derek and would he pull through and be okay after his aneurysm, and I selfishly pondered if the show was finished.  The surprising news around Derek's triumphant return was that they were now under the umbrella of Skeptic Magazine.  I've laughed with Derrick and Swoopy, had a lump in my throat at times, and sometimes would be shaken by disbelief at a wacky news story or with something said during the show.  Now the show has been out there for at least three or four podcast generations, and at to all appearances seems to be going strong.  

I will not bog the reader down in a detailed blow by blow of the interview since you ought to just give it a listen.  This is history people!  Show some due respect, but I will note a few things.

Most important to me right now is that Grothe shared at the top of the show that he owns a freaking iPad!  I would be green with envy except he did not wait for the 3G version, which is likely a mistake.  (Unless he has a mi-fi card, then I am indeed green with envy.) I also did not know that the day Skepticality was pointed out by Apple Tsar Steve Jobs at an event is the same day that Derek suffered his life threatening aneurysm.  I must admit if Jobs ever pointed out SkepReview at an Apple meeting, I would hopefully not be so terribly stricken, but I might, metaphorically speaking, die a little bit.  

Derek and Swoopy discussed where they think the skeptical movement and community is now compared to five years ago, and where they think it is going.  One question I always ponder and which is discussed on the show is are we just talking among ourselves or are the number of skeptics actually growing.  Derrick and Swoopy are a bit more optimistic that while there is a bit of an echo chamber, the movement is also growing too.  While I think there is some growth, I think the echo chamber is stronger than I'd care to imagine.  There was discussion that if 1/2 of a percent of the million listeners to podcasts are converts that it is great.  If you do the literal math that is 5,000 people.  A quick Wikipedia search finds about 900,000,000 English speaking people in the world alone.  5,000 out of a zillion people to me is depressing.  I do not take this figure as literal, but merely illustrative of the situation.  Yet, if all skeptics thought like me, there would be no Skepticality or SGU or Token Skeptic or Righteous Indignation.  

I also thought it interesting that Grothe sort of admitted that in certain ways two skeptics with an idea and some earnest ambition are more successful from the ground up than Grothe's former employer Center For Inquiry was working from the top down.  I basically agree, and I thought it was to Grothe's credit that he brought this aspect up.   

I enjoyed the interview a great deal.  It did make me long a bit for the days when the show was less interview focused and more news, discussion with interviews.  When Derek and Swoopy get into a groove, it does work quite well, and the interviews just do not show off this aspect of their personas.  

To Skepticality, I say nice work and congratulations.* 

Jamy Ian Swiss in his Honest Liar segment told a tale of woo which can cause a great deal of harm, which was sad and bracing.  Needless to say, if you suspect you have breast cancer you ought to get it checked out no matter what any healer says.


*The first real comment left on this blog by a reader was written by none other than Derek Colanduno, which was incredible.  "Derek read my blog."  However, he was disagreeing with my take on what recently returned guest to Skepticaliaty Dr. Marc Bekoff said on his first interview on their show about the plural of data equalling evidence.  That was a bummer, but skeptics do and ought to disagree so it was cool.  

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