Thursday, April 15, 2010

Righteous Indignation, Conspiracy Skeptic

This month's Conspiracy Skeptic Podcast featured an interview of Johnathan Abrams of the Reality Check podcast, which is described by Karl as Canada's Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, except instead of all the panelists skyping, they do it Think Tank style live all together.  Abrams was on to discuss two jewish conspiracies.  (Which I hate typing it makes me sound like a Nazi discussing "jewish physics.")  It was a brief episode of less than an hour, which likely has more to do with two seasoned podcasters talking then when Karl interviews boob bloggers like me who have zero command of the spoken word and don't know when to shut their yap. I found it all quite entertaining.

The first jewish conspiracy was the much discussed Protocols of Zion which is a document published by Czarist Russia at the turn of the last century which allegedly listed out the Jews' plan to rule the world (muh-ha-ha-ha.)   When in actuality they were plagiarized from earlier works of satire, which was first revealed by Times of London.  These days you can substitute in the Kind of Bullshit, David Icke's, reptoid or lizard overlords and get the same story.  Yes, it is that stupid but not stupid enough for the Czar's henchmen to use it as a pretext to terrorize jews in their soon to be defunct empire of slightly over 300 years.  Yes.  The Nazis used it as well as evidence of various and sundry jewish plans to do in your average blue eyed aryan.

The second part of the interview was the Kosher tax on food.  Allegedly, the ability of food companies such as Hershey's Food Corporation to list that some of the items they sell are kosher can cost the average family up to $2,000 per year.  I have to be honest, I have never noticed the little K symbol or other symbols that an item is kosher.  I went to the supermarket tonight and forgot to look.  I will check soon.  Basically, with a bit of logic, some number crunching, and a little research reveals that making some items kosher does not cost the average non-jewish family $2,000 per year, and likely it is nothing per year.  Unless you are me, and you live where I do and you have an actually chocolate syrup pipeline to your kitchen.  It might cost me only $300 or $400 per year.  This is an exception, really.

I really enjoyed this episode since I had no clue about the kosher tax, and I always enjoy stories of those wacky Romanov Czars.

Karl Mamer announced on the show that he will be attending TAM 8 this year in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada.  We here at SkepReview HQ are jealous and really ought to lobby for a mini-TAM in chocolate pipe-lined Hershey, PA.  I will ask Karl to procure and send to me a bottled of exhaled breath of Richard Saunders or a lock of Jay Novella's hair. (I am sure Prof. Bruce Hood would shake his head at such shananigans.)

On the other side of the Queen Elizabeth II's lake, all the Indignates gather via skype for an episode of Righteous Indignation.  The Indignates covered various topics including Trystan's two pence on the religion vs. skepticism debate.  He seems to take a less hands off approach, while still not being in your face.  This topic has been swirling around the skeptical internet world these days in no small part due to the flair up of the Catholic Church rape and buggering of kids that leads to a cover up to the very tippy top of the current Pope's funny little hat.

The gang also discussed that Simon Singh has won a round at the appellate court, which is good for him, but if the BCA continue the case in the face of now longer odds, it could still bankrupt Singh or themselves if they lose.  Karl's skeptical superhero Marsh did some investigating to see if the dowsing rod in a plastic box bomb detector could still be purchased.  Although the web site is lousy, and a lot of phone numbers are disconnected, Marsh found they way overpriced useless devices are still available to the right sort.

Also discussed is a website called the Skeptical Voter to show where various Members of Parliament stand on issues important to skeptics, and what evidence they use for their positions.  One of the founders of the site, Richard Wilson, was briefly interviewed by Trystan.  On the one hand, I think this is a great idea. Yet, I know in the States and likely in the mother country, politicians take positions based on all sorts of political necessity and evidence that is convenient.  It actually had echoes of the thoughts of many of the Founding Fathers, and could see Dr. Ben Franklin, or James Madison making similar arguments based purely on Enlightenment principles (until it came to slave ownership, then oops let's forget such high minded talk for a moment.) I like the idea a lot, but unfortunately it broke down here and as one of the many side results Alexander Hamilton caught a bullet during a duel.  (I doubt MPs today would be so brave.  I have no such fears.)

There was an interesting discussion of a War of the Worlds-type radio show where listeners went mad by an April fools news story in Jordan of an invasion of ten foot tall aliens.  Luckily, few people did anything too rash.  Finally, Trystan's pet whale was let out to sea, Free Willy-style.  This just days after I friended him on FaceBook.

The interview was of Matthew Smith, a protege or at least of former student of Richard Wiseman's, who wishes to see if he can train himself to be psychic enough to win the JREF's million dollar prize.  I am not sure if Smith is a poor skeptic or a huckster, but I did not have a positive impression of him after the interview.

He has this, for lack of a better word, naive idea that one is not truly a skeptic unless a person does an experiment himself to validate or invalidate a claim.  To an extent, I can sympathize with this position, but a more (to me) realistic outlook is to look at the totality of the evidence.  No single skeptic, not even someone like Joe Nickle, can first hand investigate or experiment on every claim that is brought before them.  Science does not work this way, each generation of scientists does not revalidate all of the findings of the past unless an anomaly is found.  Yet, to an extent it seems this is what Smith is trying to do, to find out for himself if psi exists and then use his newfound powers to win a million dollars.

He does bring up a good point that if someone won the million dollars, how many minds would be changed that psi does exist?  I have pondered this myself, and to me it would make it much more plausible and definitely warrant much further investigation.  If someone wins the challenge, not just in regard to the challenge, but as experiments get more rigorous psi effects diminish.  Smith indicates that perhaps psi is not something that responds to controlled conditions that can be readily reproducible, but this is the out that psychic researchers have hung their hat on for decades.  Psi is something beyond your mere science -pf-f-f.  I like to think of it as the Mystery Men argument where invisible boy could only turn invisible if nobody was watching.

It is more than conceivable that I have garnered the wrong or an exaggerated impression of Smith.  This is up to you the listener to determine, but I can't help but wonder what Wiseman thinks of his former pupil.

There you have it. Two fine podcasts, and Karl jetting off to Las Vegas.  My advice to Karl is that the breakfast buffet at the Paris Resort and Casino is awesome as the crepes are to die for.  No trip to Vegas is complete for a single guy unless he decides to wed a fellow skeptic or showgirl, and then he ought to follow in the St. Whitehalls' footsteps and do so at the Little White Wedding Chapel.  (If you mention my name I get 20% my next marriage, I think.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.