Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The end of Innocence and thoughts of 2012 and 2013

NYC in the 1870s
The Age of Innocence is a favorite movie of mine.  I am referring 1993 Martin Scorsese movie and not the 1934 film both films are based on the Edith Wharton novel of the same name.  The story is a melodrama, but it is expertly filmed by Scorsese and acted by a topnotch cast.  I typically dislike melodramas, but damn if it is not a stunningly detailed and pretty film.  The film is of a society that on its surface is calm and proper, but in actuality the participants are cunning and at battle.  It's beautiful on the outside, but not so pleasant on the inside.    

I am tired of authoring posts that touch upon the troubles and tribulations within the skeptical community.  While there have been various upheavals over the past seven and now going on eight years that I have followed skepticism online, this was the year my innocence was lost.  I am not sure what exactly put me over the top, but as I noted in my last post that enough is enough with the trials and tribulations among and between some of the more notable skeptics and their closest followers.  I plan to make an effort to not cover either the direct or the derivative aftershocks of the turmoil over the coming year.  I fully expect in the coming year there to be more twitter, blog, and commentary battles based upon slights at conferences or blog posts or whatever.  While my opinion of some skeptics has been deflated and others tarnished, there is still of lot of good material and work to celebrate.  I would like to highlight a few such projects.

Dr. Stuart Robbins' excellent podcast Exposing PseudoAstronomy continues to be a solid bed of skepticism  that is well thought out, produced, and released.  The most recent episode on the famous Face on Mars is a text book example of a take down of a persistent, but popular woo meme in our culture.  I highly recommend it this episode.  

Skepticallity the granddad of skeptical podcasts has evolved in format over the years to its current form of a few brief segments by various hosts followed by the main interview by Derek.  The beginning three or four segments before the interview are a worthy of listening on their own merits, and continue to keep this podcast fresh.  While Skepticality has changed throughout the years to maintain its relevance Skeptoid continues with its straight forward formula to great success.  Dunning's weekly work that churns out one 12 minute or so episode a week appears so simple on its surface but his ability to never miss a week is impressive.

The sun never sets on the SGU's
listening audience 
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, while I have shared my thoughts on some tweaks for the show, continues to be the weekly focal point for skeptics around the English speaking peoples.  Rationally Speaking hosted byMassimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef continues to produced some of the best thought out and consistently rational discourse on topics. Kylie Sturgess' Token Skeptic podcast continues to expose lessor known guests to the wider skeptical audience.  While the Token Skeptic does not have the audience of the SGU, it is good to know there are other outlets for people to get their word out.

The Virtual Skeptics vodcast has not missed a weekly video broadcast since launching in August, 2012.  I noted when VS launched that they should stick to video and not release a audio only feed.  I now think this comment was wrong.  I find myself listening to the live broadcast every Wednesday. Yes, I mostly listen to the live broadcast by gingerly slipping my iPhone into my pocket to not turn off the video feed so I can do stuff while I listen.  I do at times watch part of an episode on my iPad, but audio give so much greater flexibility for the consumer.  Second, the audio feed would likely increase the audience for a show that deserves a broader popularity.  The video feed is nice, and should not be abandoned.  I suspect that having all the hosts able to see each others reactions helps create the chemistry of the show.  Yes, it might be annoying for the listener from time to time when the panels discusses a photo in detail.  The pros I think outweigh the cons for an audio only feed.

There continues to be a lot of good podcasts produced by skeptics, and the above only scratches the surface.  Kylie Sturgess I believe at one point this past year started a twitter hashtag of #greatskepticism to promote tweets on skeptical activity over the skeptical flame wars on twitter.  It is sad that actually skeptical activity has to be pointed out over the sometimes twitter fights.  I shall endeavor to comment on great skepticism in podcasts and skepticism that is worthy of constructive criticism too.  I would like to thank my small, but loyal readership over the past year.  It is an honor to know that anyone reads my work.  I would also like to thank Dr. Stuart Robbins for allowing Lady and I to be guests on his podcast, and to the Virtual Skeptics allowing me on their Halloween special for me to share my 'ghost story.'  

As a side note:  One of the more troubling trends over the past couple of years of drama has been the continuous mixing of skepticism and atheism along with humanism, and treating them as a single entity.  Clearly there is overlap, and cross discussion between these areas is inevitable.  However, I will attempt to stay focused on the skepticism and leave the atheism to someone start the Atheistic Review blog.

Perhaps skepticism as a cultural/social entity has shown its warts to the world, but there is still a lot of excellent work being produced and more wonderful work to come.  My age of innocence with skepticism may have come to an end, but at least now I am realistic.  

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