Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Righteous Indignation, Skeptoid, The Skeptic Zone, and SGU

Righteous Indignation found Trystan missing from the Indignates and in his place was U.K. man of mystery Dr*T.  As usual, Marsh was keyed and sprang into action discussing Joe Power, the local talking to the dead wannabe in the Liverpool area, and his recent fail.  Power apparently was heckled and booed during a recent appearance where the crowd did not take to Power's cold reading techniques.  Marsh shared how a pro-paranormal group sent a (a-hem) real psychic to rate Power, and it was not pretty for Power.  I was in stitches.  I was also enjoying the discussion of the Noah's Arc Zoo, which is a Zoo that teaches a young Earth Creationist view point.  (They are totally kooked.  They believe the Earth is 100,000 years old and not the really nutty 6,000 years by many American Fundamentalists.)  The Zoo has had some run ins with Johnny Law for mistreatment of their animals.  They also teach that it was possible to stick all the world's animals on the Arc since it was only 37 or so "kinds" that had to get onboard.  This included T-Rex, the dinosaur and not the rock singer from the 1970's.

The biggest part of the show was spent discussing the sadistic Urban Fox hunting hoax, which was discussed by the Indignates the week before, except they did not know at the time of recording that it was a hoax.  Interestingly, by the time the episode went on the net, the news broke that it was a hoax.  However, the Indignates made an editorial discussion to keep the segment.  They did this since at the time they thought it was real, and they stand by their opinions on various ideas on fox hunting in general and the fox controversy swirling about England in recent years.  I think this is fine, but I just wondered why before or after last week's segment they did not add a quick voice over indicating that since recording the sick Fox torture video was a hoax.  I am not sure why they wanted the week to let the listener know what actually occurred or that they knew at the time of release?  Nevertheless it was an interesting discussion and the interview was with Chris Atkins, one of the makers of the hoax video, as the guest.   Atkins and his friends made the video as a statement against the local uproar over an alleged spate of Urban Fox attacks, and to mock the current stories.  (I wonder if it is like the shark attack uproar that infected the American press during of the Summer of 2001, which only died down with a real story which unfortunately was the 9/11 terror attacks.)  

While I believe Atkins that he did not expect the hubbub that erupted over his videos, and was especially shocked by how quickly it caught on with the public, it seems to me that he could have cut off the furor a tad earlier.  It seems to me he decided fess up not when the furor started to get a bit crazy, but when threats began to roll in at the videos companion mock website.  Regardless, I thought the attacks were real.  I was a bit stunned by some idiots who were trying to defend those who would torture a fox to death.  I was also surprised but also relieved when they turned out to be bogus.  

The Skeptic Zone featured two short interviews this week both of which were recorded at TAM 8.  The first was an interview of Derek Bartholomaus creator of "The Jenny McCarthy Body Count" site which lists three numbers.  The first is the number of vaccine preventable illness that occur since McCarthy started on her anti-vaccination crusade in 2007 as well as the number of preventable deaths from such diseases.  The site also lists the number of cases of autism scientifically verified to be link to vaccine.  The site was inspired by a running commentary by Dr. Novella of some site called the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.  I ought to check it out sometime.  I wonder if it is any good?  Anyway, Dr. Novella kept rhetorically asking the number of people who became sick due to parents listening to McCarthy's wrong notions and not vaccinating their kids.  Bartholomaus decided to find out, and post it on the web.  He gains his information from the CDC reports and basically reposts them weekly.  It is a very simple website and idea, and while not very accurate in assessing how much damage is directly attributable to McCarthy, it is satisfying to those who promote science based medicine.  

Richard Saunders interviewed Captain Disillusion who puts out YouTube videos that explain how various videos are either faked or at least performed.  Cap discussed how he went about creating his character and his attempts to figure out how the videos in question can be disproven.  He's been wrong at times, but he fesses up to his mistakes.  He does do some impressive work on less than a shoe string budget.  I am always impressed by folks who actually contribute to skepticism from the comfort of their personal chambers as shown by Cap and Bartholomaus...rather than lazy, happily married men blogging a lot a clap trap from their couch while watching reruns of "The Big Bang Theory."  

Skeptiod returned to form focusing an episode on just a single discrete topic.  This week the topic was whether Uncle Joe Stalin had a secret project to crossbreed humans and apes.  Uncle Joe allegedly desired a mindless and servile army of "hapes" to be super soldiers and labor that did not require holidays or wonderful Soviet Concrete block apartment housing.  Dunning, in his expert manner, breaks the myth down down and traces it back to a real Czarist Russian and later Soviet biologist Il'ya Ivanovich Ivanov. Ivanov was known for cross breeding horses and cattle at the turn of the last century.  He did plan to mix chimps and humans with artificial insemination but he was arrested and eventually died while imprisoned during one of Uncle Joe's wacky evil purges.  In the end, there really is not too much meat to the myth, but it was nice to hear Dunning returning to a single highly entertaining topic again.  It was a good episode.

The Rogues on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe this week featured two interviews.  **The first with Rhys Morgan who neither authored an incredible blog, nor peddled a science book, nor is Dr. Phil Plait.  Ms. Morgan is a teenaged boy who unfortunately has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the intestines.  Ms. Morgan reported on his travails on a Crohn's disease internet forum regarding alternative medical treatments for Crohn's, and in particular discussion regarding some quack remedy that is basically industrial bleach for swallowing or gargling.  Anyway, it has been shown to not be efficacious yet for Morgan's troubles of relaying this information he was banned.  The most impressive part of the interview was Morgan.  He carried herself as if she were 27.  When I was 15 or so, I would say such things as "so there was this quack trying to sell us this stuff'n junk."  Instead, he was a rather well spoken and thoughtful person.**

Guest number two was Aubrey de Grey, expert in growing old and author of books on possible ways to slow it down so people can live a long time.  I think all the science discussed by de Grey seemed legitimate, and it was quite handy having one of the interviewers be an actual academic medical doctor.  However, these discussions always creep me out.  When (maybe if) we figure out how to slow down or reverse parts of aging so one's average life expectancy is 200 odd years, it seems to be quite greedy.  Sure we are all greedy to one extent or the other, but while obviously we all would love to be yachting around in a big ole Buick Enclave (the unofficial car of Hershey) wanting to live for centuries makes such things seem humble.  I did find the discussion interesting, although a lot of what they discussed technically went right over my head.

The Rogues also discussed the popular news story that prayer can help cure, except they spelled out quite nicely why the study was crap.  (The Indignates also covered the same topic on R.I. and they might have been a smidge more effective since they delivered it in impressive British accents.)  The Rogues covered how scientists have solved the "Bermuda Triangle" problem positing that it is caused by large amounts of methane bubbles being naturally released into the area.  The only problem with this idea is that it is not new, and there is not a statistically significant number of missing ships, planes, or UFO sitings for similar sized and traffic filled areas of the sea.  So there was no real problem to solve, and therefore what these scientists are trying to show . . . I dunno.

Rebecca also covered a witch or warlock who is willing to cast a spell to increase the size of a person's (I would imagine typically female) booty.  All to be purchased for a few bucks on e-bay.  Bid your way so your baby got back.  I was highly amused by this segment.

Anyway, this was what I listened to over the past weekend.  Most of it good, and none of it terrible.  I also listened to an episode of Rationally Speaking with Karl's recent interviewee Julia Galef.  I enjoyed the episode where Galef and Dr. Massimo Pigliucci interviewed Jennifer Michael Hecht, poet, science historian, and philosopher.  I found it quite polished and enjoyable.  I hope to listen to more shows, but until old man winter rears his ugly head and my listening and blogging time increases I likely will not covered it regularly in the near term. 



  1. Atkins was a really compelling guest. Without Trystan the episode had a bit of Skeptics with a K feel. Not complaining. I do like chatty shows. But this leads me to believe SWAK (skeptics with a k, not sealed with a kiss) should have Hayley on as a guest. *shimmers his eyes*


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