Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Token Skeptic returns

I have a tummy full of what feels like three pumpkin pies, bread pudding, a pound of stuffing, a sack of potatoes, a peck of corn, and oh yeah a pound of turkey. Why not take this moment of customary gluttony with football on the television to jot down a few thoughts on the two latest episodes of the Token Skeptic? Kylie has assured her public (or publics to use a D.J. Gothe word) that after a hiatus she will be flooding the interwebs with her skeptical goodness.

Episode Forty featured an interview with none other than Michael "Marsh" Marshall of the Merseyside Skeptics, "Skeptics with a K" podcast, and until recently (and perhaps again in the future) "The Righteous Indignation" podcast, as well as a founding father of of the Ten 23 campaign, and one of the organizers of the upcoming Q.E.D. Conference in February, 2011. Between all the activities of Marsh on one hand and Kylie on the other, it is surprising there is anything left for others to do.

Marsh was on mainly to promote the Q.E.D. Conference and share that Ms. Sturgess will be a participating panelist with "the Ladies who do Skepticism" which will also feature SkepReview favorite, Dr. Janice Bennion. I have happily shilled for the Q.E.D. Conference in other posts, and I shall do so a bit more here. The Conference will feature Simon Singh not discussing libel reform, Dr. Steven Novella, Dr. Eugenie Scott, Bruce Hood, and Chris Atkins (of the urban fox hunters hoax) among a first rate list of speakers. All this for just £99 and less if you are a student.

The episode was an ad for Q.E.D. However, Marsh, as always, is a quick and engaging fellow and makes for a great interview. It is a good and interesting ad.

Episode Forty One was a panel discussion on "Naturally Skeptical? The Psychology Behind Being A Skeptic" with Prof. Barbara Drescher, Matt Lowry, Jamy Ian Swiss, Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, Kylie Sturgess and DJ Grothe. The discussion was part of the skeptic track at DragCon. I will give a bit of a spoiler off the top. The panel agreed people in general and even skeptics themselves are not naturally skeptical. At the beginning of the discussion I feared the panel was going to veer into a debate on whether theists or at least people of faith can be full-fledged skeptics, but while the topic of religion and skepticism was definitely discussed, it did not turn into an atheist/skeptic debate. (It is a viable topic, but at some point it gets a bit tired).

The panel discussed the definition of skepticism, and what is the role of the skeptic. Should skeptics just be teachers of critical thinking, or should they also advocate for generally held 'skeptical ideas' such as there is no good evidence to support the existence of ghosts, big foot, and flying saucers.

The panel also discussed what the goal ought to be in education when teaching critical thinking as well as how to teach science-based information to those who may disagree due to a faith-based belief system. (Teaching the big bang theory to creationist students as an example). The panel also discussed the challenges of teaching skeptical thought in a religiously affiliated school.

The panel also discussed other items including how even the best skeptics have illogical sacred cows such as lucky coins and feel a special attachment to an autographed copy of a book or first edition tome.

It was an interesting talk, and likely wisely, Sturgess did not include audience questions in her episode. I might sound like an elitist, but most of the time, audience questions stink and add little to the discussion. I do not know what was asked during the audience question portion, but I trust that if there was an interesting question raised, she would have included it. As a bonus, this likely editing decision keeps the talk conveniently under an hour.

There you have it. Kylie is back. Episode Forty is an entertaining chat between two smart and dedicated skeptics who are likely to be future major movers within skepidom. Episode forty one is a more sober and intellectual exercise. Both are welcome.

Oh. I also feel some cheese and birthday cake settling in my innards. Thanksgiving sure can be rough.

Sent from my iPad


  1. Thanks! Just recorded some audio this morning and you'll be able to hear it this evening - the Blogger's Breakfast. :) At this very moment, James Randi is talking to the audience of TAMOz about Carlos and his visit to Australia. :)

  2. Happy Birthday and thanks for the kudos!