Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Skeptoid, Righteous Indignation, Just Skeptics

First things first, Skeptoid (Yes, as in "this is Skeptoid at") tackled Scientology.  Brian Dunning gave a brief history of L. Ron Hubbard's life, alluded to how Mr. Hubbard may have made up parts of his biography, and gave a sketch of how Scientology might have been a money-making scheme more than a religion by Hubbard.  Dunning follows this by a very brief description of how one enters into the religion with various free tests and studies which lead to paid-for lessons.  Lessons that can cost the believer possibly thousands of dollars.  Somewhat surprisingly, Dunning ends the show with a "live and let live" attitude toward Hubbard's creation.  I am not sure I agree with Dunning in this regard, but I am not sure if he is dead wrong either.

It has been awhile since I covered Just Skeptics with Alex, Gav, and Janis.  The hot gossip is Janis is getting married this June.  We here at SkepReview HQ wish her the best.  Anyway, the guest Amber Sherwood is a member of Kitsap County Skeptics and the first American on the show.  (Blast, I lost my chance at fame and fortune by not trying to weasel my way onto the show earlier and losing the coveted title "First American.")  Anyway, Amber fit in well with the others despite not having a cool and charming British accent.  The gang discussed a number of topics including a well written and rehearsed "soapbox" rant against Oprah Winfrey and instead of using her substantial influence to enlighten her millions of followers, she uses her empire to spotlight a fair of amount of crap thinking and woo.  Amber is also trying to organize a email and twitter campaign to petition Oprah to use her arena for good and rational things.

The most interesting part of the show to me was when Amber discussed that during one of their skeptical gathers, the topic of discussion was 9/11 Truther Conspiracies.  Many of the members had some pro-conspiracy notions about 9/11, which took Amber aback.  This is one of the things that makes me think twice about starting Hershey Skeptics, or Central Pennsylvania Skeptics, or Skeptics in Amishland.  First, I am not sure anyone would show up, and second, scary truth-er types who are skeptical of all the wrong things and have guns for each family member including the cat.  I digress.

Also discussed was UFOPhil who is convinced he is abducted a number of times, and well to be honest, I think he is not just a believer in woo, but might be a bit psychiatrically disturbed.  The discussion regarding an MTV show on numerology and especially the "special powers" of the number 11 had me laughing out loud in my car ride home.  The discussion of Mike Adams and his crap medical notions had me hopping mad, and possibly driving the Honda a bit more aggressively.

Trystan and Hayley on Righteous Indignation had a return of Michael "Marsh" Marshall.  This episode was possibly the longest one in the show's history, but it was chock-full of material.  For the first time in a few episodes, the gang answered listener feedback including Marsh discussing an alleged exaggeration of a police brutality incident resulting in the death of protester.  Marsh gave an interesting and thoughtful discussion of not being perfect in his representation of the incident.

The guest was none other than Science and Skeptical icon, Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center of Science Education and featured speaker at Q.E.D. Con.  (By the way Q.E.D. is but a few days away.  Have you bought your tickets and made travel plans?)  The focus of the discussion was the Center's battles against keeping Creationism in check in the States as well as the difference in challenges in this regard between Britain and the U.S.  Trystan performed the entire interview, and he kept his cool much better than I would have.  I would have said after most of her comments something such as "and that's why you are awesome(US)/brilliant(UK)."

The episode had a bit of show inside of a show with ten minute or so interview vignettes surrounding 10/23 Campaign activities in Australia conducted by Token Skeptic's own Kylie Sturgess.  It is similar to going to the Theater to see Tron and finding a Felix the Cat cartoon bonus in the middle of the film.

So while a long episode it was chock full of good things, and at the end Trystan noted they would be back in a fortnight, which in American means two weeks.  Maybe the extra length of the episode was to make up for a weekend without Hayley and Trystan to chat into your ear while walking the dog, or driving, or doing the dishes.

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