Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Strange Frequencies

Strange Frequencies is a web radio show that broadcasts live every Sunday at 3pm, and it has recently begun to upload episodes for later listening as a podcast.  On the recommendation of a trusted skeptic, I decided to give the show a listen.  The show has a two host format both of which record together in person rather than via a Skype connection.  I have to admit I wish it were possible for more podcasters to use this format.  There is something about the delay and not being able to share a space with someone on Skype that keep the flow of conversation from being natural.  I think this is one of the reasons Skeptics with a K is so charming -- all three of the hosts record together in the same room. 

The show is hosted by Bobby Nelson and Jason Korbus.  According to the website bios, Nelson is a 'believer' turned skeptic and Jason has a cat named Lily.  Both hosts have appropriate voices for audio recording, and because it is live, there is no easy way for them to dip into the now overused voice modulation bag of tricks.  Brian Dunning is known for using this technique to differentiate quotes on his show, which is fine.  He’s flying solo and he sort of pioneered this technique on his show.   Sound modulation must be easier to do with the latest software as this trick has been spreading, and like 1950’s chrome accented cars that started out interesting, sadly became overused.  

The episode I heard was recorded and aired on Easter Sunday.  The episode featured two interviews, both regarding the "historical" Jesus, with Prof. Richard Carrier and Prof. Robert Price.  The show began with a news or update segment which in this case discussed Sherry Shriner and her ideas that the government is infecting everyone with a zombie virus, their opinions on the price of tickets for paranormal conferences, and regional professional wrestling. 

The Shriner discussion focused on a Facebook exchange Nelson and Korbus had with Shriner’s followers on what constituted evidence of the governmental plot to infect the citizenry.  Evidence that was purported to be on the CDC website was nowhere to be found, which fed into the conspiracy that they were hiding the evidence.  Nelson and Korbus discussed how at a certain point conspiracy theories are difficult to argue against given that a lack of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy. 

The hosts then discussed that the price of tickets for paranormal events are beginning to get rather expensive, and basically what you get in exchange is to hear stories by television ghost hunter stars.  They discussed an exchange with Ideal Event management, who promote and run such events who defended the ticket prices.  Nelson and Korbus understood why such events are expensive to produce, but the return for the money for them is not worth it. It was an interesting discussion.  Similar discussions have occurred within skepdom on the cost of various events especially T.A.M.    

The discussion of attending a Professional Wrestling match was fascinating, but then again as a kid from about 4th grade to 9th grade if you didn’t watch the WWF you really had nothing to talk about at school.  It sounds as if the match they saw was not much better or even worse than what I watched on Saturday morning television as a youth.  I just found the conversation interesting between two guys on a non-skeptical topic, where I could have been the silent third party.  I suppose for some this might have detracted from the overall paranormal/pseudoscience thrust of the show.  However, I found it to be a nice break. 

Prof. Carrier was the first interviewee and he is well known for his “Richard Carrier’s” blog and his latest book “Proving History:  Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus.” He discussed how he came to the conclusion that Jesus likely was just a myth rather than based upon a historical person.  He discussed how his fans raised money for him to do the research to study if a historical Jesus existed.  Yes, Carrier has a fan base.  Carrier also discussed his idea that historical research ought to be based upon Bayes’s
Richard Carrier's fans?
Theorem and research could be reduced to numerical calculations.  I found this part particularly interesting.  I merely have a Bachelor's of history, but even at the undergraduate level one did have to weigh which information seemed more likely than not.  I did not have a mathematical formula handy to write my term paper on Lee's Invasion of Central Pennsylvania in 1863 from a political viewpoint, and I wonder how one places percentages on material.    It might work.

Robert Price was well, Robert Price.  Price as always tosses in the names and works of various scholarly works on religion and philosophy, which I would be impressed with if I could just pronounce the names correctly let alone have read and understood their works.  I did find it interesting that while both Price and Carrier question the actual existence of Jesus, they did have differing views on whether Paul likely existed.  Carrier was in the Paul was real camp, while Price thought Paul was probably mythical too.  (I want to put a Paul is dead joke here, but will refrain.) Price always gives a good interview, and Nelson and Korbus kept Price within bounds.  

Korbus and Nelson were decent interviewers.  They came at it wearing their lack of knowledge on their sleeve instead of acting that they understood Carrier's Bayes's Theorem.  At the end of the episode, the hosts made it clear that they typically do not do an anti religion topic, and tend to not be that type of show.  Then they repeated it again, and again.  I believed them the first time.  This was my only real complaint with the episode.  This and the show clocked in at over two and one-half hours.  At this length, listening to an episode really is a commitment of time.  While I do plan on listening to future episodes, and look forward to it, I am not sure when I will be able to squeeze it into my podcast queue.  I suppose when This Week in Tech is unappealing, which is happening far too often these days, I will download Strange Frequencies.  It's good to know that Midwest Americans can produce a showing as charming as Skeptics with a K, and without the benefits of having British accents.

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