Sunday, December 2, 2012

Latest podcast listening

What's up with Ireland? 

The latest Token Skeptic podcast episode one hundred forty six was rather depressing.  Kylie Sturgess interviewed Rebecca O’Neill and Fionnuala Murphy of Skeprechauns podcast on the disturbing case of Indian national living in the Republic of Ireland, Savita Halappanavar, who from what was described in the podcast had a failed pregnancy undergoing a spontaneous abortion, and from her symptoms of fever and chills possible Chorioamnionitis.  The Irish medical providers refused to perform and expedite the already taking place failed pregnancy as the fetus had a continued heartbeat and the health care providers could not perform an abortion as Ireland is a Catholic country.   Ultimately, it appears the infection caused Ms. Halappanavar to become septic and ultimately contributed/caused her death.  An unpleasant way to die to be sure, and possibly avoidable if the fetus were aborted allowing the infection to be more effectively treated.  

Ireland: ideal cottages and
crappy birth laws
I work in a medical-legal field, and what boggled my mind was that apparently the standard of care in Ireland is to not perform an abortion in order to preserve the life of the mother.  This is not medical malpractice in Ireland, but plain old medical practice.  I know during the latest election cycle abortion became an issue in various U.S. Senate races for some certain Republican candidates who indicated that raped women did not become pregnant, or that rape was god's will among some despicable statements.  At least in the States a number of fellow Republican parties members were horrified by some statements, but Ireland appears to be stuck around 1957 by U.S. standards.  

O'Neill and Murphy brought up ways to shame the Irish government into updating their abortion laws.  However, the law on abortion appears to be controlled by Constitution prohibitions against abortions. I am not sure what the Irish can do short of amending the Constitution, which I suspect is not the easiest thing to accomplish.  Alas, Sturgess brought up if the E.U. court system could order some change in Irish law, which apparently it cannot.  So, for me this was a stunningly depressing episode.  I just never knew Ireland was so strict in its social and cultural outlook.  Sobering.  

The Guide was slightly off . . .

On the Skeptics Guide to the Universe the Rogues interviewed Banachek, which was recorded at TAM 2012.  The interview or at least the portion aired was fairly brief and did not cover any new or interesting ground.  This is not a knock against Banachek of whom I am in awe, and who is whip smart, charismatic and a skeptic I truly admire. The interview covered Banachek's duties as being in charge of the JREF's million dollar challenge, and Banachek's new act where he discusses more of his personal story.  Yet, somehow the interview just seemed a bit stale.  

While I do not wish continue the negativity, I was a bit put off by the discussion of the alleged DNA evidence by Dr. Melba Ketchum that Bigfoot is a human hybrid.  Now this story has been making the rounds over the last week, and to be clear I think it is exceedingly unlikely that this alleged Bigfoot evidence will pan out. (I mean extremely small chance.)  Dr. Novella shared his opinion that this is likely human DNA with some sort of contaminant, which sounds like a reasonable hypothesis and more likely than a hybrid human primate living in the back country.  However, the entire tone was a bit more dismissive than necessary.  Rebecca noted flat out there is no Bigfoot, while the specimens still have to be peer reviewed and scrutinized by fellow scientists. (Granted, this may never reach the peer review stage.)  My problem is that if I were someone who was a Bigfooter or someone on the fence on the topic, the Rogues did not present themselves as skeptical.  The Rogues presented themselves more as dismissive, or more dismissive than necessary.  This gets back to my post on tone of skepticism being less inviting to the uninitiated.  It's not that I disagreed with the Rogues' take, so much as I suspect if you were not already in the skeptical fold one might find the demeanor to be bit arrogant.  

Something funny

On a more positive and funny note was the latest episode of Ikredulous, which is a comedy skeptical podcast that has a thin veneer of gameshow.  The latest episode features Dr*T, George Hrab, and Jay Novella.  The overall humor and chemistry of the episode is quite good, but by far is the third segment of the panelist performing math/science raps.  Yes, they all take a turn rapping.  They are all quite funny, but Novella's is hilarious.  It is well worth the listen.  

A Non-skeptical geek's view of geek culture

Mr. John Siracusa 
Finally, on the 5by5 networks, Hypercritical host John Siracusa shares his views on the state of geek culture, the alleged Fake Geek Girl/Idiot Nerd Girl, and misogyny in geek culture.  Now, I enjoyed Siracusa's views as he, as far as I know, is not a skeptic.  He's a geek from the computer geek part of the culture.  Siracusa shared his personal view on where geek misogyny stems, which was very unscientific and very seat of of the pants.  While his views are interesting in this regard, I do not put much stock in them.  However, his view on the best of geek culture being an inviting place rather than an exclusive place had me cheering at the end of the episode.  

The first half is mostly a discussion on chip supplying and CPU production for Apple in the future, which is of interest to me.  However, the second half of the podcast I think might be of interest to non-computer/non-Apple folks for the geek cultural discussion.  I recommend it. 

-edit- for spelling errors


  1. I felt the exact same twinge of irritation during the SGU segment. Steve did a fine blog post on it and strong criticism is certainly warranted but Rebecca's comments were overtly dismissive and, as you said, not in the right spirit of skepticism. It's hard not to go there on some topics so we have to be diligent to try not to.

  2. I'm listening to the SGU segment in question now. I concur with what's been written here.

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