Saturday, March 29, 2014


Originally posted November 6, 2013

The Prism Podcast is a new skeptical podcast hosted by Jason Luchtefeld and Grant Ritchey.  I have recently listened to two episodes, and my overall impression is that the podcast has some real promise. 
The first episode I heard was episode 8 featuring an interview with Bob Blaskiewicz ofSkeptical Humanities, Virtual Skeptics and a whole bunch of other skeptical stuff.  The interview centered on Bob’s work bringing to light the highly dubious practices of the infamous Burzynski cancer clinic in Texas.  Given the depressing topic matter of people suffering from brain cancer and being treated with highly questionable treatments, the interview was not uplifting.  However, the interview questions were smart, flowed well, and a fair of amount of information was shared in a reasonable 30-minute time frame.  For a show that only has eight episodes under their belt, I was impressed.   
I also listened to episode 4, which was a discussion of the dangers of carbonated sugared beverages (known as soda in my part of the world, but pop, soda pop, or coke in other parts of the civilized soda consuming world).  The episode was done as a retort to a comment made by Dr. Steven Novella on his Skeptics Guide to the Universepodcast on which Dr. Novella shared that the dangers of drinking soda to one’s teeth were not that great.    
Yes, two skeptics on a start-up podcast have the gumption to disagree with Dr. Novella.  Luchtefeld and Ritchey happen to be dentists, and in a respectful and thorough manner discussed recent studies of soda and other acidic beverages' actions upon the teeth to argue that soda consumption is indeed not good for tooth health.  The hosts also discuss other trends that are causing tooth problems including the popularity of non-fluoride bottle water over fluoridated tap water, and the popularity of even more acidic power drinks.  
One can't discuss health fallacies without running into Dr. Oz.  Dr. Oz apparently has promoted using lemon juice and raisins as a method of teeth whitening.  The hosts made clear that while while it might work to whiten teeth it is not good for tooth health.  The dental duo went on to discuss ways to reduce tooth decay risks such as regular mouth rinsing after drinking acidic drinks and drinking soda with a straw. (The straw causes the soda to bypass the teeth.)  
It was dentists talking about healthy teeth.  For many it was not the most engaging topic, but it was well done and a good example of how skeptics ought to calmly and rationally criticize other skeptics' conclusions and processes without going after the person. The end of the episode included a brief laugh on how they were going to picket SGU HQ until Dr. Novella gave a retraction.  (It was a joke.) 
I enjoyed these two episodes.  There were no news bits which could quickly date the shows, so someone could listen to either episode in two years and not find the content out of date.  I plan to keep an eye on the show, and, as interesting episodes arise, from time to time give the show a listen. 
As a side note, the episode regarding Dr. Novella’s tooth advice brought to mind an issue that bothers me from time to time, but for which I have no good answer.  In general, in skeptical podcasts how does one keep from getting it wrong and sharing incorrect information?  As an example, the SGU covers all manner of topics skeptical, scientific, and pop items at times.  In medicine, Dr. Novella is a medical doctor and in general is a medical expert, and clearly an expert in the field of neurology, his specialty. In computer sciences Jay has that covered, but in other areas how often are things just not quite right in a complex topic in which there is a lack of expertise with the Rogues.  Sharon Hill has admonished Strange Frequencies Radio crew for not using her as a science advisor to the show.  I wince from time to time when folks discuss legal issues (especially in the US) or historical events and just butcher things.  However, theSkepticality podlette, The Odds Must be Crazy, does consult Barbara Drescher or Ed Clint for their expertise for their segments.  Then again, Odds, is a focused segment and not a wider ranging podcast.  The only thing I can think of is that each show should have a team of experts vetting topics before recording, but that is highly impractical.  Although that gives me an idea for a podcast, where the premise of the show is that for each topic a relevant expert in the field must be consulted to help ensure basic errors are not made.  The expert could be named at the start of the segment or actually give the segment dissertation.  Hum-m-m.  Someone ought to get on that, and just give me a hat tip at the start of the first episode.     

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