Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Token Skeptic, Amateur Scientist, Righteous Indignation, Token Skeptic

Kylie Sturgess has decided to put out a weekly podcast Token Skeptic, which is quickly becoming a favorite at SkepReview.  Funny thing is Sturgess has apparently decided that instead of putting out a podcast each week, instead she'll put them all out at once and the listener can just listen to them one a week.  It's very DVR of her. 

No.  I kid.  Sturgess has put out two episodes in two days, and word on the street is that a third is due out any moment.  

First, the Token Skeptic has a new logo.  The sexually suggestive female person/feline hybrid, which is against god's will, playing with tarot cards is out* and this is in:tokenskepticprintforpag.jpg

Now onto the episodes.  The first episode was an interview with Scott Sigler, podcast scifi author and author of the novels: Ancestor, Infected and Contagious.  Sigler is on the cutting edge of new media methods of getting his work out, but also is a supporter of getting people to read.  He means read anything from trash novels to the finest works of fiction such as Infected.  I must admit I am not much of a fiction reader.  Ask Mrs. St. Whitehall, a consumer of vast quantities of trashy romance novels, I call fiction in general "books of lies." (Ed. note - My romance novels are not trashy. {author's note - yes, they are.}) Yes, I have read some fiction.  All the Fleming James Bond novels and short stories, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne, and some Tom Clancy until he went way off the right side of the wagon.  Yet, I appreciate those who can write, and I like the idea of someone who writes science fiction based on something that at least in theory could actually occur.  (Sorta what Jules Verne did back in the day.  I swear if you followed "From the Earth to the Moon" you really can fire a shell from a large canon in Florida and get men to orbit the moon.)  The conversation also touched upon how difficult and time consuming is podcasting, which is something most listeners, like me, under-appreciate.  

The next episode of Token Skeptic was an interview with Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, a psychology professor at Emory University in Georgia.  He has co-authored "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology."  Sturgess and Prof. Lilienfeld discussed some of the more common myths many people, including himself, hold near and dear.  People do not act more loony around a full moon, and to my personal surprise, that going with your first hunch on a test is not necessarily the way to choose.  I have always heard this one from elementary school to taking the bar prep course.  I might have done better on my LSATs and attended a better law school.  We'll never know.  

I enjoyed his discussion, and I appreciate the empathy he showed for folks like Jenny McCarthy who are stunned by the terrible affliction of their child into spreading terribly unscientific thoughts to the detriment of other struggling parents. (Did you hear McCarthy and Jim Carrey have gone splits-ville! OMG it is so-o-o-o fitting for her. Lilienfeld had empathy, not me.)  Lilienfeld discussed how intuition, which is that hunch people have about something or someone basically does not exist.  He did not say that part of this might be attributed that women seem to read emotions better than men.  People who have fast-paced professions after a bit get a quick thinking reflex response to an extent.  In the end, there has been no intuition tracked down.  

He also touched upon that he would like to do a study of skeptics to see where they (if you are reading this blog then likely "we") come from in our past beliefs.  He noted that he had some pseudo-scientific beliefs when he was younger.  I know when I was a kid, I kind of hoped Extra Terrestrial visitation was real.  Anecdotally, it seems many religious skeptical shows are tilted to de-converts.  It appears to be an interesting topic of research.  

I found the second interview with Lilienfeld more interesting, but if you are a fan of lies, er-r-r science fiction then go with Sigler's interview first and then be sure to hear Lilienfeld.  

I would be remiss without a brief discussion of this week's Amateur Scientist podcast.  First, as always Thompson's laser-like precision of sarcasm and weenie jokes was humor filled from top to bottom.  I have one exception.  The show begins with Thompson talking about a wind box that captures wind power and then can power things in his house with the free electricity that it generates.  He then figures out this device has to be plugged into a wall outlet to actually work, mumbled cursing and laughing listener ensues.  He closes out the show with a call to customer service to Hitachi asking the poor guy on the other end of the phone why his wind box contraption does not function as advertised.  The CSR on the other end was exceedingly patient, and not once inquired "are you on drugs?"  I always feel for the poor sod on the other end of the phone during a prank call when callee is just some employee cog in the wheel trying to make a living.  When Thompson does his prank calls to an actual woo-meister, as when Thompson tried to sell his H1N1 homeopathic remedy to the natural medicine shop owner, it is hilarious.  Maybe I'm just getting soft in my advanced years, but to me there is a fine line. 

Thompson did a bit on talking the President into using his powers as Commander-in-Chief to end "don't ask, don't tell" regarding gay servicemen and women in the military.  I have little doubt the President would like to alter policy, but politics being politics, and election being elections I doubt he'll do it until his second term or the final act of this term if he loses re-election.  (Yes.  I'm a politics nerd too.)  Thompson discussed why Republicans hate or really dislike gay people.  I disagree.  I think many Republicans, and more than a few Democrats, fear homosexuals.  I have no studies to back this up, but it seems to me that the jokes, and commentaries reveal underlying insecurity and/or fear of sweat humpy same sex love.  For some, it is the fear of the same gender trying to jump their bones, for others it is a fear that they'd like the feel of the same sex jumping their bones. It's all kinds of stupid in the end. 

All of the above, and more including murdered monkey medical remedies.  It was a good episode, and Thompson seems to be hoarding all of the phoned in confessions he is collecting.  Maybe he'll do confession-palooza over the Labor Day break or for Cinco de Mayo.  

This week's episode was chock-full-o-fun including a story of a British model, who Hayley disparagingly noted had a talent for being photographed topless.  As a skeptic, I shall with hold judgment pending a review of any photographic evidence, but the model should be disparaged as she is selling her house due to its alleged haunting.  As the owner of a century old house, with at least one known person who has died in it, we are always asked if it is haunted.  The answer is no, and I would be shocked if topless model/actress' house was not ghost free too.  Old houses have creaks, and rattles, and sometimes bats in the basement that are not actually there. (long story)  Haunted?  I suppose such a tale might actually help in resale value.  The Indignates also covered a story about Mexican police who are engulfed in an escalating fight against drug lords, worshipping voo-doo style to stay alive and avoid harm.  Apparently, there is also an unofficial patron saint of drug lords.  Who knew?  

While the Church of Rome does not officially sanction patron saint drug pushers, they do not do such a great job policing their ranks against pedophiles, and buggering of children in general.  Needless to say, the Catholic priest coverup/moving pervert priests is well known at this point.  It appears the Pope himself might have had some part to play in the severe lack of justice carried out against the pervert priests.  What can you do?  He's the Pope.  The vicar of christ on Earth, he can't be impeached or get voted out of office.  Needless to say, the panel of Indignates noted that the whole situation basically sucks.  I doubt it will drive many away from religion, but is likely (at least in the States) to drive people into other sects.  

The Indignates answered an email from Jack who questioned how involved the show wishes to get into the religion/science/skeptical debate.  I wonder if Jack knows Mike who asked a similar question on the latest SGU?  Anyway, while none of the Indignates was as elegant a speaker as Dr. Scott on SGU, they all tended to agree that science and skepticism cannot really go after religion other than some of the testable claims that religion makes at times.  I believe it was Marsh that pointed out that Jesus was a bit fixated on food, turning water into wine, a few loaves into many, etc.  

The panel, Marsh, Hayley, and Gavin, all professed atheism with Gavin being a bit more strong in his atheism, while Hayley and Marsh do not form their identity around their atheism.  It was a very intriguing bit of conversation.  

The guest interview was with Barry Fitzgerald of "Ghost Hunters International" television series.  To be frank, it was an odd interview.  Fitzgerald seems to be an perfectly affable guy.  He does not pretend to being doing a scientific investigation, yet he tries to make it somewhat controlled.  He does not put a lot of faith in EMF detectors, but he does use them.  The thing that struck me is that he is on a show broadcast in various countries, but he does not watch the shows.  I understand he is not a producer.  I'd watch a show that represented me to hundreds of thousands and perhaps even millions.  

I have not watched an entire episode.  The ghost shows bore me.  They never see anything, but the hosts still freak out.  Trystan asked why do they make references to demons and evil spirits on their investigations, and Fitzgerald honestly seemed to me to be stunned by the question.  Fitzgerald thought such commentary were not appropriate, yet he did not know his show apparently brings this up quite often.  

I kept thinking about the latest SGU when Dr. Novella brought up that many paranormal proponents do 95% of the science, but not the last bit to find out what really is going on, but do enough to support their belief system.  Fitzgerald seems to fall into this category, either that or he just does not care.  I have no idea which it may be.  It was strange.

Finally, although Trystan was only on the show for the interview portion, Trystan's Whale did make an appearance to announce a speaking engagement of Swale's.  Hayley and Marsh had a brief skype conversation with the whale, who knew they spoke whale?  This could be trouble as the show has a history of adding on guest hosts as regulars, and if so a full time translator will be required.  

It was a thought provoking episode with an odd interviewee.  

Irreligiosophy featured an interesting interview with a philosopher, but I'll punt this one to Karl if he so chooses.  No.  It was not the ghost of Kant being interviewed on the one true podcast.  

edit: *old logo, as revealed in the comments, it is still for viewing pleasure at podblack.com 

PodBlack Cat by Michael McRae


  1. Hey, my 'hybrid' (actually based on a photograph of me - the artist, Mike McRae, who you would have heard on earlier TS episodes - requested that I send a pic of the pose and he based the image on me) still exists on the Podblack site! :) It's just the inquisitive cat checking out the title with a raised-paw is gone. :) Thanks again for the reviews!

  2. RI: I think Barry's viewpoint is not uncommon amongst people who try to investigate the paranormal. They recognise they are not truly scientific in their approach but still invest faith in the findings of their investigations. Like you Nigel, I was surprised that Barry doesn't seem to mind how he is portrayed in the show. I think he may have mentioned time constraints. Perhaps he really doesn't care?

    It's a shame I missed the recording of the rest of the show as my take on the God question is different to the rest of the team. Whilst I think that anyone should be entitled to hold any belief unless it crosses the testable line, I think those beliefs should not be beyond criticism. Whilst scientific skepticism may not be able to assist, logic and critical thinking can be used. Dawkins did a fantastic job in the first half of 'The God Delusion' in making a case as to why there is almost certainly no God. Why believe in anything if there is no compelling evidence for its existence?
    All the best

  3. My take on the whole atheism/skepticism discussion is that there are really at least two separate questions. The first is the logical consistency issue. Does skepticism -rational thinking and scientific inquiry even reach religion. If our tools only work in the natural world why bother with that which is alleged to beyond it. (unless some testable claim is made such as healing prayer) versus The natural world is all that there is so religion has to be within it, and therefore it is fair game. I must admit depending on the day, my mood, etc. I flip between the two.

    The other question is a political one. If someone uses rational thought, reason to conclude that big feet, homeopathy, UFOs, psi, etc have no strong evidence in their existence, but believe in heaven or some such idea not based on evidence is it desirable to attack them in this one realm? If they are not basing a belief on evidence, but pure belief/faith I do not see reason to keep them out of the club. They may not be allowed in the humanist club, or the atheist club, but I have no big issue with the skeptical club.

    To be honest, despite numerous discussions and well known members of skepticism saying its a big tent, the big tent seems to be filled more with those professing atheism vs. agnosticism than faith vs. no faith. I like the open door approach myself, although I am dubious as to how many skeptics of faith are active. I like to have the welcome sign up.

    Wow. That was long winded for a comment on my own blog. sorry.


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