Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Righteous Indignation, Skepticality, and The Skeptic Zone



A few highlights from my podcast listening over the last few days:

Righteous Indignation featured a few mini interviews by Trystan of various folks while at TAM London including David Allen Green of "The Jack of Kent" legal-skeptical blog, and Prof. P.Z. Myers.  Prof. Myers did not share anything new.  Not that I expected him to suddenly exclaim he has seen the light and has given his heart over to Jesus, but it is always nice to get an interesting tidbit or two in an interview.  Green gave a quick thumbnail sketch how his blog came to be and how the libel reform catapulted his blog to notoriety.  Green also discussed how witch trials in Britain were a bit more evidence-based and not nearly as common as they were in other parts of Europe.   In the States, we always think of witches and Salem.

The show itself was Trystan-free, but in Trystan's place was AJ who is the Merseyside skeptic event coordinator.  He fit in quite nicely with Hayley and Marsh.  The Indignates had an interesting discussion of Feng Shui and why it seems impossible to follow even if you want put its tenets into practice. 

Skepticality episode 140 featured an interesting interview by Swoopy of Dan Hofstadter, author of "The Earth Moves: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition."  The book apparently focuses on Galileo and his difficulties with the Roman Catholic Church, and in particular, his trial for exposing a sun-centered view of the solar system.  What I found interesting was Hofstadter discussing the larger world and in particular the political climate in which Galileo endeavored.  He also gave an interesting idea as to why Galileo basically confessed he was in error instead of sticking by his guns.


Hofstadter opined that much of the trial against Galileo had to do at least in part with political intrigue of factions within the Church - the Spaniards vs the Italians vs the French - as much as it had to do with Galileo's observations.  Also of interest was how there are still apologists for the Church's action to this very day basically noting that Galileo had it coming. Even more depressing is that while Pope John Paul II basically 'fessed up to the Church being in the wrong with Galileo, the current Pope Benedict XVI in a speech prior to being Pope basically blamed Galileo for going off the reservation and being the source of all manner of evil.  Hofstadter also noted that a lot of the problems the Church had with Galileo was their inability to comprehend his scientific, math-based process.  This strain of disbelief continues to this day with climate change disbelievers and creationists. 

In part, I think I enjoyed the interview because Hofstadter covered this issue not as someone who is a scientist but almost as a dispassionate observer, and I think it at times threw Swoopy for a loop. Swoopy exhibited her normal enthusiastic interest in the topic, but Hofstadter's approach and lack of equal exuberant energy at times seemed off.  It wasn't a problem or an issue but an interesting dynamic at times.  I did find this an interesting interview, and it caught my interest to read this book at sometime in the future. 

Finally, on The Skeptic Zone, there was a brief interview with Paul Kurtz by Eran Segev discussing his recent break or at least partial break from the Center for Inquiry resigning as Chairman Emeritus.  Kurtz had a few slightly harsh words for CFI hinting they were now more interested in building physical infrastructure than promoting humanism.  I really am in no place to comment in this regard.  The rest of the episode was given over to The Think Tank, which is usually a thing of joy.  However, perhaps it was because Dr. Dunlop was missing, but this Think Tank was a meandering disappointment.  While I enjoy the Tank's off the cuff style most of the time, this episode could have used a spot of editing.  

I enjoy the Skeptic Zone a great deal.  I do appreciate how they release a new episode like clockwork on a weekly basis as does the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, but sometimes I do think the push to do a weekly episode contributes to the show as a whole being uneven.  One week the show is thirty minutes long, the next it is well over an hour with multiple segments, the next it is forty-five minutes with three segments.  To an extent this can be charming, but as a whole, I tend to see it as a weakness.  I humbly would suggest one solution might be to do the show on a bi-weekly basis.  Still like clockwork, and focus on keeping each episode to two or three segments with a Think Tank to tie it all together at the end.   One might object, but what about all that quirky goodness that will be shelved or edited out?  I would recommend that the good folks at the Skeptic Zone steal a page from the Indignates at Righteous Indignations with their "Unlucky Dip" companion episodes and do a clip show of left-out bits.  

Finally, it is my understanding that there is still time to get tickets to the Q.E.D. conference in Manchester, England this winter.  A lot of skeptical goodness for £99 and a pleasant weekend in balmy, tropical England.  




Sent from my iPad

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