Commentary on Scientific Skeptical podcasts and random musings on various topics Skeptical and otherwise.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Irreligiosophy, Just Skeptics, Righteous Indignation
I was hoping to have a post with an overarching theme this week, but nothing really grabbed my fancy. Instead, I'll just touch upon of few of my most recent listens.
Irreligiosophy had guest "Nathan Phelps." Nathan Phelps - as in the son of the infamous Fred Phelps who is the head of the Westboro Baptist Church otherwise known as those jerks who protest at fallen servicemen's funerals - was a fascinating guest. He left the family in the 70's. He has no direct connection to any of the recent protesting events. He shared how his father who made his mark and wealth litigating civil rights cases in the 1960's only did it for the money, but deep down was racist and raised his family in this vein. The tale elicited from Nathan ranged from what his strict family life was to endure to his "escape" story all the way to how he became in charge of an office of CFI was engaging from start to finish.
There are times when Chuck and Leighton can get a bit bogged down on any particular episode. The crude humor and blunt discussion is nearly always welcome, but sometimes a tad more editing could help, but this week's episode put the spotlight on why "Irreligiosophy" is a must listen to show. I am not sure if Nathan is often interviewed. I am glad that he was able to give his story in such an open setting.
While on the "Skeptics' Guide to the Universe," pleasantly all the Rogues were present and accounted for. The interview this week focused on investigating paranormal beliefs with a panel interview of Karen Stolznow, Ben Bradford, and Joe Nickel. It was an interesting interview, but there were no real surprises in it. Jay Novella asked Nickel about his debunking and that received the expected discussion that Joe or anyone else on the panel do not really"debunk", rather they investigate. I agree with this approach, but if there is one person I would never discuss "debunking" in front of it is Joe Nickel. His position against this manner of skepticism is rather well known.
Speaking of Jay, he learned of his punishment for losing the "Science or Fiction" challenge against brother Bob this week. I won't ruin for the fair reader, but thought it was a disappointing sentencing. I was not expecting him to walk around the top of the Empire State Building in his skivvies, but the meted out justice was a bit weak.
"Just Skeptics" this week featured guest Michael Marshall, otherwise known to the reader as Marsh from "Righteous Indignation" and Karl's man crush. How Marsh finds time to hold down a job, be an Indignate, be on Skeptics with a K, as well as a whole host of other skeptical stuff is completely beyond me. Marsh fit right in the pack, which is not surprising as he has worked with Gavin and Janice on other matters.
Marsh's five minute rant which is allotted to all guests was on Newspapers, and in particular how mainstream news is more and more basically republishing press releases with wacky and surprising poll results as news without any proper vetting. While Marsh is best known for his work on the Ten 23 homeopathy campaign, his real forte to me is his dissecting the quite poorly performed and incredulous journalism.
On a personal note, Janice brought up something she remembered from grade school, the strange case of Alex St. Martin. A man who was shot in the stomach at the start of 19th century, and instead of dying healed with a hole from his stomach to outside. He was used to perform direct observations on how the stomach works. The others on the show had no clue what she was talking about, but I remembered it. It always freaked me out too that a person was alive who just stuck food into his stomach directly without having to swallow it. Janice is an okay sort.
Might was well finish off with the latest Righteous Indignation.
This was a highly interesting episode although on the whole there was a bit of downer note during the show. Hayley Stevens is no longer of the Wiltshire Paranormal Society as Hayley, the founder of the society, has pulled the plug on it. Hayley explains why she killed the organization, but the short version is that she disagreed how a recent big cat search in the forests in England was being handled by other members of the Society. The others were bringing disrepute to the group by claiming that a leopard lived in the English woods based upon a bit of hair discovered on the search. The disagreement turned ugly with accusations of a possible conspiracy to coverup the find being bandied about by members against Stevens. Stevens had enough and is now with a network of independent researchers. I know only what Hayley relayed on the show, but accusations of conspiracy seem a bit dubious at best.
The guest was clairvoyant, psychic medium healer Tina Wilkins. It was a long interview. Marsh led it with a few questions from Hayley and Trystan. It was interesting because when you really break down what she does with her crystal healing she is just giving people an emotional support service based on crystal placebo nonsense. The Indignates took care to be respectful. Wilkins took care in how she spoke. There was a real tension in the air about this interview. I don't know if Trystan wanted to pop out a "oh come on now," or Hayley wished to blurt out an "oh bloody hell now this is w** w**." I also had the impression that Wilkins never really ponder how what she does works with crystals, or how you can tell what is the crystal and what is the medicine as she advises her clients not to stop what the medical providers are prescribing. (This is actually a very good thing. You don't want some crystal healer to tell a person with leukemia to stop the chemotherapy.)
Her discussion on mediumship was also as tension filled, and equally less thought out by the guest. Yet, while I found the entire discussion quite interesting, and loved hearing the Indignates interviewing believers once again, it was also a rather bleak bit. Sadly, there are equally deluded and perhaps desperate folks willing to give it a go with this apparently deluded provider of, at best, placebo services.
It won't cause you to feel like you've listened to a double header of Sarah McLachlan and James Taylor with an encore of Radiohead. However, the episode won't leave you with that jot of happiness you get after your typical dose of R.I.