Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Skepticality . . . the part before the interview

 . . . In the beginning -Genesis*

*The band, not the book of the bible.
Genesis also experienced a
lot of changes during its existence.
The Skepticality podcast along with classic Point of Inquiry with host D.J. Grothe were the two podcasts that hooked me onto scientific skepticism.  (Shockingly, not the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, so color me weird.)  Skepticality in particular has gone through various changes over the years from the early years when it was an independent production, through Derek's terrible serious health issues, to joining with Skeptic magazine, to the current format.  The current era of skepticality appears to be a Derek only production.  Each episode begins with number of segments outsourced from various contributing skeptics and is followed by an interview segment.  Swoopy awhile ago due to personal needs appears to not be involved with day to day production anymore,  although on the latest episode Swoopy makes a cameo appearance to announce the episode.  

What I have grown to really enjoy about the current show are the upfront segments of each episode.  Each segment is about five minutes in length, and each has a returning skeptical discussing a new piece, topic, or tidbit every episode.  The current lineup of segments are "Unnatural Virtue," "The News in Religion," "Skepticism and Humanities," and the "Odds must be Crazy."  "Skepticism, Past and Future" is currently on hiatus.

I enjoy them all, and given my lack of patience, the five minute time frame actually maintains my attention.  Bob Carol, known for the Skeptics Dictionary, hosts Unnatural Virtue where Carol discusses logical fallacies often using popular examples, but at times critical of other skeptics logical errors as well.  The latest episode focused on the errors and fallacies of using lie detectors, especially in the U.S. government in screening its own employees.  

Heather Henderson who is in Penn and Teller's house band hosts "News in Religion."  This is one of the newest segments and I am still not quite sure what to make of it.  It is not positive of religion,  but also isn't completely negative either.  The segment just seems 10 degrees off the norm for Skepticality.  Maybe I'll get it more as more segments are produced.  

On the other hand "Skepticism and the Humanities" even though this was only the second segment produced shows much promise.  Host Eve Siebert of "Skeptical Humanities" who also has a blog of the same name hosted a segment on Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: The Science of Monsters authored by Matt Kaplan.  Kaplan's book is an alleged exploration on what were some of the root explanation for many of the monsters and mythical creatures in folk lore and in ancient cultures myths.  Siebert's book is less full of cutting edge research and more full of a lot of unfounded speculation and a lack of knowledge and respect for literary imagination, metaphor, or symbolism.  What I enjoyed about this segment is that it handled something fresh on a skeptical podcast.  I love my conspiracies, complimentary medicine, big foot, and psychic material like the next person, but this was something different.  My only complaint with Siebert's segment was the sound quality has a lot to be desired.  It sounds as if she is using the built in PC microphone.  The material and the delivery were first rate. As a side note, I also believe future segments will be hosted or co-hosted by Bob Blaskiewicz.  

I always enjoy the content of Wendy Hughes and Jarrett Kaufman's segment on the "Odds must be Crazy," which shared the name of their blog "The Odds must be Crazy."  Each segment covers a different strange story of what are the chances of some event occurring. The latest episode discussed what are the chances that a son would be in the car behind his parents' car at a traffic light in a major metropolitan area, when the parents live far away.  Wendy and Jarrett then discuss the thoughts of Barbara Drescher on the question at hand.  Sometimes the cutesy banter between Jarrett and Kaufman can get a bit too cute by half for my tastes, but the material is always interesting and educational.  

The ubiquitous Tim Farley's (of "What's the Harm") segment "Skepticism, Past and Future" is a "this day is history" segment, which as a history major and buff, I always find enjoyable.  Currently, the segment is on hiatus while Farley takes a partial skepticism vacation to hopefully recharge his batteries and come back swinging sometime in the near future.  

All in all, I enjoy the stable of segments in the beginning of the current version of Skepticality.  I must admit when the interviewed guest is not of great interest to me, or I am just crammed for time to get through my backlog of podcast in my queue, I make an effort at least listen to the above segments.  


  1. we really enjoy your atheist blog

    do a search on youtube for skepticality

    a little souvenir

    it is the video about the PIGS

  2. Maybe I should put the interview somewhere, randomly, in the middle of the show! ;)


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