Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Skeptic Zone, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Point of Inquiry, and Righteous Indignation

Just a few brief thoughts on my latest podcast listening over the Turkey Day/Black Friday weekend.

The Skeptic Zone from TAM Australia was a pretty big deal since they were hosting the event, and it was the first time the entire crew of the Zone gathered in one spot.  It was Richard, Stefan, Eran, Kylie, Dr. Dunlop, Dr. Krissy, Nurse Benhamu, and I am sure I'm missing someone along with special guest Dr. Pamela Gay of the Astronomy Podcast.  Unfortunately, the sound quality was more than disappointing.  Perhaps the Zone made the same mistake as the Beatles during their "Get Back" sessions and hired Magic Alex as their engineer since Kylie Sturgess was sadly inaudible, and at times Dr. Dunlop was not far behind.  There was a part near the end when Dr. Gay is talking about her classes and I think her online classes that she teaches when she faded out and then the crowd starts clapping with enthusiasm.  I am not sure what she said but I am sure it was awesome.  I still think it is an interesting listen since it is the first time the entire crew is together and recording, but be prepared for frustration.  Also, my hearing just naturally is quite poor.

Dr. Dunlop talks as to the frustrations of being an astronomer and a woman even to the point where the equipment is not designed for the female form.  Dr. Dunlop and Nurse Benhamu talk of their frustrations and somewhat depressing aspects of visiting "The Mind, Body, Spirit" trade show.  Eran discussed his quite memorable visit to the Creation/Noah's Ark museum in Hong Kong.  (He knocks on the creationist museum and religion with Dr. Gay in the room -the shame.  I have more on this topic below.)  Richard discussed one of the first times he met Randi.  Kylie discussed what I am sure is some awesome stuff, but for the life of me, I could not make out.

It was a brief, less than an hour, podcast. I enjoyed it.  It was something of a historical piece.  Be prepared for auditory concentration.

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe had guest Richard Saunders to kick off and end the show with the rest of the Rogues.  Richard discussed the recent success against the power balance band, but also the prevalence of Power Balance band knock-offs including some branded by large pharmacy chains.  Richard also quizzed the Rogues with an Australian-themed science or fiction segment which was fantastic fun.

The in-between part of the show was SGU's "Unlucky Dip" style segment of cut bits from show of the past half year that did not make it the first time around.  For me, the most interesting was a discussion on whether The Rogues were disrespectful of previous guest Dr. Pamela Gay in joking that the junk DNA in bacterium is where the soul lies between Fraser Cain and Dr. Novella.  A blogger was offended for Dr. Gay who was on the same show in question and also a practicing christian.  Dr. Novella shared that Dr. Gay had noted that she was not offended.  Pennsylvania's own George Hrab noted that this was a manufactured outrage.  It lead into an interesting discussion regarding religion, skepticism, and atheism.  An issue of which I am tiring of hearing but is likely never to go away.  The Rogues also discussed whether skepticism is bound to fracture like other growing groups.  Hrab was rather bullish on skepticism to keep it together.  I hope he is correct.

The Rogues also discussed a variant of the Monty Hall Problem with the gameshow "Deal or No Deal."  Can a person truly be frozen stiff and revived?  Well, you'll have to listen to the show to hear the discussion as this is a covered topic too.  Also discussed, a proposed new logical fallacy - the argument from silence in the literature and the media on a topic.

I quite enjoyed this episode, and hope they continue these "Unlucky Dip" style episodes in the future.

On Point of Inquiry Karen Stolznow interviewed James "the Amazing" Randi as well as former host of Point of Inquiry D.J. Grothe.  The show was split into two segments with Randi in segment one and Grothe in segment two rather than one big three-way discussion.  The interviews were recorded at TAM 8.  Randi discusses the near death of the million dollar challenge which at one point was going to expire. Randi shared why he was going to end the challenge and why it was saved from demise.

Grothe discusses the new educational outreach emphasis of the JREF.  He also reiterates (or at least echoes) his thoughts that the TAM and other such large skeptical meetings are outreach and not just preaching to the converted since a large percentage of the attendees have not attended an organized skeptical event.  It comes down to definition in part, but in the end, if I ever pull it together enough to attend a TAM or NECSS event even though it would be my first such event, I really consider myself part of the skeptical choir.  There was not a lot new in the interview.  Grothe clearly has big plans for the JREF into the future, and it seems to bring all of Skepidom clearly into a closer alliance between the major North American-based skeptical organizations.

Righteous Indignation was without Trystan this week but Hayley carried on with Steven Rooney and Rhys Morgan.  First things first, Morgan is aged 27 or perhaps 32.  Yes, I know it is alleged that he is but a teenaged British lad, but honestly, if he sticks with skepticism, by the time he truly is 30, a powerful skeptic he will be.

The panel discussed Pope Benedict XVI loosening the church's ban on condoms, and exactly which circumstances it would be okay to rock a prophylactic.  The Bishop of Rome was a bit vague, and the interview from which this was taken was translated from German into Italian into English.  For all we know, the Vicar of Christ was saying it was okay for male prostitutes to make balloon animals at parties or some such mistranslation.  The Indignates discussed how a psychologist has performed a panel of studies that show everyone is a bit psychic and can kinda sorta predict the future.  The best points of the discussion were made by skeptical padawan Morgan.

Miracle of miracles, Marsh made a return, or at least prerecorded this interview before his departure, of Romanian skeptic Atila Nyerges.  Depressingly, the bulk of the interview was focused on the shockingly low rate of vaccination for the HPV virus.  Only around 5% of the targeted female population availed themselves of the free vaccine.

So there is the Holiday weekend podcast listening just add left over turkey, some delicious old school Chinese food, some wine and beer, and staying up late for Black Friday sales to get the full effect.

-Remember the reason for the season: It's the economy stupid! (Please stick to cash)


  1. Can you please write to Richard about that episode - I shouldn't be inaudible since I was using the same microphone as Pamela Gay. :/

  2. These conferences show the deeper emotions and frustrations of people as well as their beliefs.

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