Saturday, February 16, 2013

Skeptical Connections, Point of Inquiry

New podcast attempting a different point of view

A new podcast has gone into production entitled Skeptical Connections hosted by Marc David Barnhill. Yes, I know, another skeptical podcast? What can another skeptical podcast offer that isn’t already being done or covered by other skeptical podcasts. I must admit even at the Skeptical Review, I am overwhelmed with the amount material that is being produced in skepdom.

SC opens with Barnhill explaining the tact of this show is exploring skepticism and skeptical thought in broader contexts including popular culture, parenting, and the roots of racisim. While the show might touch upon more traditional skeptical topics such as UFOs, conspiracies and that crafty ole Big Foot from time to time, the show has a goal of attempting to examine daily and broad range of topics through the lens of scientific skepticism. 

The show is divided into segments with each five to ten minute segment hosted by a different skeptic. Think of the first half of Skepticality, and followed by an interview segment. Again this echoes Skepticality but with a more button down feel.

This WiFi is going to
kill us all! (or not)
The inaugural episode featured three segments: the first entitled "Doubtful Views," given by Sharon Hill. (Hill has corned the skeptical market on Doubtful, as Apple has managed to corner the market on iWhatever in technology.) Robert J. Blaskiewicz, of Skeptical Humanities shared a wrap up to his “Burzynski Birthday” cancer fund raiser for St. Jude's Children's hospital. Kevin Keith in his segment discussed why skeptics aren’t more fun, and then after these three segments Barnhill interviewed Dr. Jeanne Garbarino of Rockefeller University and Doublescience blog.

Blaskiewicz fighting woo
with his fairy friends. - no wait, huh?
I found all of the segments interesting.  In particular Hill discussed the current flap over alleged Wifi and electromagnetic induced illness.  Hill's segment was an indictment of the mass media continuing to give a platform for this at best dubious claim that has little to no grounding in science.   I also found Blaskiewicz's segment particularly interesting and uplifting.  Blaskiewicz shared a brief his how his cancer fund raiser came to be organized.  In these unfortunate days of skeptical infighting Blaskiewicz was able to pool the assistance of Prof. P.Z. Myers, Skepchick, Kylie Strugess, the JREF among others to rally around a cause.  To me it is a relief that a wide swath of skepdom can still work together when the cause is just.  A hat tip to Blaskiewicz is more than deserving for all his hard work and as well as to those who helped in this worthy cause.  Although in a weird way I almost wish to thank Dr. Burzynski for being such a handy target and rallying point, but his treatments are so dubious and the damage so sad, I won't.

Overall, I enjoyed the episode. The production values in general were good, and the content interesting.  As noted the goal of the show is to cover topics, at least in part, that is more than just the traditional skeptical big tent topics.  After all scepticism and rationalism can and should be applied to all parts of our lives.  I think I will have to listen to more episode to see if I connect with what Barnhill is pitching. As I am not sure based upon the topics covered on this episode represented anyting noticable different from what other skeptics have covered and discussed.  I think the show's goal to be met a tight editorial viewpoint will have to maintained, and it be with great interest to see if such a point of view will can can be maintained.  I hope to revisit this show after a few months to report on how successful the show is in this regard, and in general.  There is some real promise.

Don't know much about Ingersoll

Robert Ingersoll. I know very little about Robert Ingersoll, although I think as a proper skeptic and person aware of the other free thought groups I ought to know more about him. Well, this week on Point of Inquiry Chris Mooney interviewed Susan Jacoby author of a new book The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.

Ingersoll Speaking
Susan is the author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism and The Age of American Unreason. Obviously, given her background Jacoby has the chops to write on the great free thinking communicating of the 19th century in America. I am fascinated that Ingersoll discussing whether god existed was not run out of the various towns he spoke on a rail. Jacoby discusses how speakers such as Ingersoll lived in a world where people had the ability and desire to sit through three hour lectures, and learn about controversial topics. The audiences were attending to listen to someone who they knew might not agree, but were willing to be entertained and learn a little something. It's weird to think as the world in general has become more tolerant in many ways in some ways discussing religious subjects might have had a more receptive audience 120 plus years ago.

It was an interesting interview, and I suspect one of my next ebooks will be Jacoby's work. I will say the only draw back to the interview is that Mooney and Jacoby sort of spoke past each other a bit. It was a bit off, but nothing serious. It was a good episode.

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