Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Point of Inquiry, For Good Reason, The Skeptic Zone

I am nearly comatose from Easter ham, lamb, soup, bread pudding, cheese, etc.  The perils of attending the mega brunch with the family.  A few comments of some podcasts I have recently heard before I pass out:

Prof. Robert Price interviewed J.J. Altizer, who discribes his well known "death of god" theological viewpoint.  I normally love Prof. Price.  However, this time around I was so damn lost during the discussion, that I had just a vague notion of what Altizer and Price were discussing.  To be fair, Price did set up Altizer's view before the interview, but I do not think it was sufficient for someone who either does not read philosophy as a past time, or was a theology/philosophy major in undergrad to get much out of the discussion.  Afterwards, I went on wikipedia ('cause you know everything is accurate there, right?) and figured out partially what they were discussing.  I have this trouble at times with Reasonable Doubts, but this was a new level of dunce-ness for me.  I would suggest reading up on the Death of God viewpoint first before listening unless you have a B.A. in philosophy.  

D.J. Grothe interviewed Bruce M. Hood known for his book Supersense.  Grothe interviewed Hood about a year ago on his gig P.O.I.  Hood discusses how non-evidenced based thinking can be advantageous and help group cohesion.  He pointed out that most skeptics also imbue things with magic or special traits such as when they get a well known scientist such as Prof. Richard Dawkins to sign a book, or own an item that once was owned by Harry Houdini.  There is no actual trait of the object or signature, but people treat it as such, and hence a skeptic in the above would be exhibiting magical thinking.  He discussed how he is not out to end religion or spiritualism since it is imbued into us and our culture dictates what for that magical thought might take.  I enjoyed Hood's earlier interview with Grothe and I enjoyed this one as well.  It is worth the listen.  

Jamy Ian Swiss told of his first skeptical investigation that took place during the '64 worlds fair, and cold reading.  It was quite interesting.  I also find stories of their first skeptical experience of interest, and Swiss is a master of the fast talking raconteur.

Dave the Happy Singer interviewed comedian Jamie Kilstein who performed at the Global Atheist Convention, or rather Singer said a few words and Kilstein spoke a lot.  Kilstein is quite transfixed by his girlfriend, which is great.  I am all for love.  Anyway, the greater part of his interview was how he went from being 'not religious but spiritual' to atheism.  Turns out, he just needed someone to explain how mountains and waterfalls were formed and the rest is history.  Actually, Kilstein was an interesting listen.  An interview with numerous questions and answers it was not.  

Richard Saunders then did a segment describing how he investigated and debunked both Powerbalance and Fusionexcel.  Both items were to amazingly make it possible for someone to at the very least not lose their balance while standing on only one foot.  I always find Saunders' description of such "war stories" interesting, and educational.  

Finally, the Think Tank featured Dr. Rachel Dunlop and Dave the Happy Singer discussing the recent victory of Simon Singh to a Royal appeals court of some sort.  The court overturned the lower court's decision that when Singh used the term "bogus" as an adjective with Chiropractic, he actually did not mean the Chiropractors were knowingly using ineffective or improper treatment.  This now makes the case harder for the Chiropractic association to win their libel case.  I am not sure if the British Chiropractic association will give up the litigation, but if it does not, Singh is in a much stronger position. 

A mini-interview occurred with Jason Brown who has started a skeptical blog aggregator called Skepticator.  I went on it, and while in an admitted early stage by Brown, it is a fantastic place to check out skeptical blog posts from various sites through out the day.  Brown states that he is going to make the search function more sophisticated, and add ongoing features to it in the future.  I hope to have a link to this blog in the near future.  It's a great idea.  

It was a brief episode at about 45 minutes, but well worth the listen.  

Dr. Eugenie Scott, who is made up of 99.7% awesome, was the guest Rogue on this week's episode.  Dr. Scott was fantastic.  I recently received a comment from a former avid listener to SGU that they thought the show was- to sum up in one word -stale.  I do think the show has reached a mature stage.  It's no longer a hipster (in the skeptical world) show, but now is a standardbearer for and a brand name within the community.  I liken SGU to "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson" compared to "Late Night with David Letterman" in the 1980's with say "The Skeptic Zone" being "Late Night."  

Anyway, Dr. Scott was able to bring back in some freshness and weight to act as a bit of a foil to Dr. Novella and perhaps a bit even to Rebecca Watson.  No, I am not ripping on Dr. Novella.  At least for me, since Perry DeAngelis has died, a certain tension has been lacking in the show and keeping everyone in check.  Scott played the role, in a completely different manner from DeAngelis, in a good way.  To me, this was true when Bob was discussing a new possible method to treat cancer, and Bob became as he is wont to do quite excited by the new technology's possibilities.  (It is rather cool.  The treatment interferes with the cancer cells RNA.)  Steve was a bit negative about whether this would revolutionize treatment, but Scott sorta mildly, gently yet firmly smacked Steven down.  I cannot recall when something like this occurred on the show.  DeAngelis did it a fair amount when he was alive, but nothing like this has occurred lately.  

It was not mean or cruel, but it is a balance that has been missing for a long time.  

Dr. Scott also gave a very reasoned and calm discussion of the tension between skepticism, atheism, and humanism to an emailed question about this topic.  Watson started to give an answer, but Dr. Scott quickly yet politely took the reigns of the discussion which perhaps  was not contra to Watson's, but was set in a different tone.  Scott's insights into the Dutch prison system using psychics to talk to prisoner's dead relatives was insightful.  

I am running out of steam at this point, but I would recommend this week's SGU to the reader.  The Rogues ought to convince, beg, or blackmail Dr. Scott to be a Rogue on a monthly basis.  She really added to the show.  


On a side note, I've tested the iPad in my local Apple store and it lives up to the hype.  

Now if I can only convince my wife to be less skeptical . . .

Edit: Jeez.  I forgot that this was the 200th Skeptoid episode with Brian Dunning.  Dunning gave a brief behind the scenes how he investigates and records each episode.  He then requested that loyal listeners donate, donate, donate.  The episode clocks in around 13 minutes, and is worth the listen.  I do have to say I am surprise he uses plan old Garage Band to record the shows.  I thought he'd use something more complex.  It must be the microphone set up.  The guy is dedicated. (It was a long weekend.  This should be above the iPad photo.)


  1. Oh, if people would like to hear the full, unedited Jamie Kilstein & Dave the Happy Singer interview (with lovely bad language!):

    If you listen to the full thing, you'll hear that yes, there was not many questions, but the vibrancy of Kilstein's responses more than adequately filled up the time with his views on a variety of things. :) I took what I thought was a nice clip that reflected his relationship with his co-host and her influence on his world-view, but do listen to the rest to get a better understanding.

    Dave the Happy Singer should do more interviews, I was really proud of the job that he did! :D

  2. Dave the Happy Singer did a fine job with both interviews, but Kilstein sure can talk.

  3. You should have seen him at the Atheist convention! :D He had five to ten minutes allowance and went for nearly half an hour, I think! :D


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