Saturday, March 29, 2014

SKEPTIC ZONE AND THE SKEPTICS' GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE


Originally posted September 1, 2013

In 2008 I was married, beloved dog and cat, Ike and Pip, came into the world, and theSkeptic Zone was launched.  Yes.  The Skeptic Zone which was launched at Dragon Con is now five years old.  There are older and more popular podcasts such as The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe and Skeptoid.  While the Zone is no longer a must listen each week in my podcast queue, I do still listen to it quite often and the show does have a special spot in my heart.  In part, it is where I learned Australia has an ass kicking skeptic scene, which in some ways appears more successful than their American counterparts.  Australian skeptics have had some impressive success battling against and marginalizing anti-vaccination down under as well putting the power balance goons on the run.  I find their measurable success commendable and envy-inducing.  
I enjoy skeptical podcasts from the U.K. too.  However, the Skeptic Zone rarely wonders into religion bashing.  I enjoy Skeptics with a K a great deal, but the show tends to frolic at the implausibility of many religious tenets.  I tend to agree with their thoughts on religion, but I always wince when skepticism and religion mix more than necessary.  (It might be a cultural thing.) The Zone was also where I learned of the work of Kylie Sturgess who at one time had a recurring segment on the Zone before she launched theToken Skeptic Podcast.  
The Zone is not perfect.  Sometimes the various episode segments gel together into a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening whole, while other times an episode is a bit of a jumble.  Yet, I would recommend the podcast to anyone as it is worth a listen.  The Australians do have it going on in Oz.  I give a hearty congratulations to the Skeptic Zone.  I hope there is another five. 
On the latest Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, the episode touched upon one of those topics that always get my mind turning.  The guest interview was of Cara Santa Maria, who is a science communicator.  The interview contained a discussion between Dr. Novella and Santa Maria on blogging for the Huffington Post.  Dr. Novella shared that he turned down an offer from the HuffPo as he did not want his work to appear beside some of the pseudoscientific material the HuffPo is known for publishing.  On the other hand, Santa Maria shared that she thought this was a good way to reach a broader audience.  
I am not sure what the correct position is here, but I lean towards reaching new audiences than staying away from them.  This dovetails into the idea of false balance in reporting where traditional reporters generally give equal time to two sides of an issue even if the preponderance of the evidence is that one side is wrong.  Skeptics fret about being the token skeptic in an issue when the equal or greater weight is given to the anti-vaccine/moonhoax/climate change denier/creationist.  Yet, giving the stage to the other side and only talking on your own stage seems less than productive too.  
The other issue brought up in the interview was that of believers in woo woo walling themselves off into their own little worlds, and also of skeptics doing the same thing.  Dr. Novella offered that skeptics are different as skeptics actively look to engage the other side so we are breaching our own walls.  I think this is true to an extent, but I still think skeptics are within our own bubble. I think skepticism has to find a balance between engaging our cultural competitors, engaging the public at large with our skeptical take on the world, and talking internally on how to best perform the first two.  
A pleasing looking walled city.   
A pleasing looking walled city.   
Obviously, it was a thought provoking interview for me.  I have not had much contact with Santa Maria’s efforts, but at least during this interview she was engaging.  
So happy five year anniversary to the Skeptic Zone, and I think this week’s SGU interview is worth the listen.  Also, if you are for engaging the public at large with a skeptical spin on the topics of the day, a leader in this effort is Doubtful News.  Now there is an easy way to support Doubtful News’ efforts.  If you like to shop online then next time you order something on Amazon don’t forget to go through the link on the Doubtful News homepage.  This way one gets to buy stuff and show DN a little love.  Do it today.

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