Saturday, March 29, 2014

SKEPTICALLY CHALLENGED


Originally posted December 1, 2013

I stumbled upon a new podcast Skeptically Challenged.  Sharon Hill tweeted that she had been interviewed by this podcast, so I decided to give it a listen.  The host Ross Balch engaged Hill in a very even-tempered and well-paced 45 minute interview.  The interview covered a number of topics.  They discussed Hill's views of skepticism, skeptical outreach, and outreach to engage more women in skepticism.  Hill discussed the genesis of Doubtful NewsVirtual Skeptics, The Media Guide to Skepticism and Balch even managed to get Hill to share some of her future plans.  I was so impressed with the interview style I decided to listen to another episode. 
I downloaded the episode released on October 17, 2013.  Unlike the Hill interview episode which consisted of solely Balch interviewing Hill, this episode consisted of Balch with a co-host Dan Abrahmsen discussing news topics and doing a number of topical segments.  They engaged in an interesting discussion of GM foods and Monsanto. In particular, whether or not Monsanto is a particularly evil corporate entity or if they get a bad rap.  Also, even if Monsanto or any other company is evil in their business practices, it does not follow that the GM food stuffs are also bad.  I enjoyed the discussion.  
The episode also covered why herbal supplements can be dangerous.  The supplements may interact with medications a person may be taking to the person's detriment.  As supplements in Australia and the U.S. are poorly regulated, the consumer may not even be purchasing what they think they are, or have any idea what actually constitutes the product.  They also gave a good overview on how vaccines actually work, and why it is important for society at large to depend upon community immunity. This was wrapped in with a basic interview on how the immune system works.  Also covered was how the burial practices of Norway in the years immediately after the Second World War by covering their dead in plastic caused a burial plot crisis in land-starved Europe.  
The final bit of the episode was a long clip from the smackdown of Chip Coffey, an alleged psychic of some note.  In the clip, the radio host, Cory Cove, frankly told Coffey that he was a fraud and that psychics are not real.  Cove gave Coffey no quarter, and I think to any skeptic it was great but the average listener might not have the same reaction.  As much as I enjoyed hearing someone tell Coffey what many skeptics think, I am not sure it is a win because I think Cove could be accused of beating up on Coffey by a Coffey supporter or by someone on the fence.  Balch seemed a bit more positive about the exchange than I was after listening to it.  It might say more about me being less confrontational by nature than anything else.  
Overall, I enjoyed both of these episodes a great deal.  Balch is a polished and skilled host.  The production values were quite good, and overall I plan to try to listen to more episodes over the next few weeks.  
I plan to spend the holiday season, and perhaps a bit beyond it, attempting to listen to new podcasts, and in order to do so will have to sacrifice some of my regulars to make the time. To be frank, my skeptical OS could use a bit of a reboot.  I am hopeful that spending some time listening to new material will hit the spot, but at the very least it cannot hurt.  Yes, there are some shows that I cannot image not hearing on a regular basis and plan to keep enjoying such as Skeptoid and Exposing PseudoAstronomy, but surprisingly some old reliables such as The SGU and Skeptics with a K might need a little rest.  Luckily, the useful Skeptunes site is around to help me find new (or at least to me new) shows.  We'll see how it goes.  

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