Saturday, March 29, 2014

THE SKEPTICS' GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE MESSES WITH TEXAS, AND EXPOSING PSEUDOASTRONOMY AND THE "RED" PLANET.


Originally posted May 11, 2013

It has been awhile since an episode of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe truly piqued my interest.  Not that the show is ever terrible, or not listenable.  It is a very solid production, but much like The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, it was so solid it was somewhat routine.  But this week, the SGU was far from humdrum.  
The Rogues discussed the latest screw up of alleged psychic Sylvia Browne that has been bouncing around not only skepdom but also in the wider culture for the past few days.  Bob discussed how our current theories of how lightening is formed might be wrong and how cosmic rays may be the triggering event to cause lightening.  The Rogues discussed how this is the year of the cicadas in the Northeast and East coast of the United States.  The Rogues discussed their odd 17 year mating cycle, how loud they can get, and how they might taste when eaten.  All of it interesting, but nothing very memorable.   
However, the interview was of Dr. Don McLeroy, a Texas dentist who also holds a degree in electrical engineering.  He was also on the Texas State Board of Education and was the center of the controversy to change the science textbook standards to teach the weaknesses of evolution and to allow teachers to teach the controversy and let the students decide.  At the time this was a big, big deal and was viewed by many as back door creationism/intelligent design.  Dr. McLeroy was interviewed by the Rogues or at least Jay, Rebecca, and Dr. Novella.  Dr. Novella took the lead.  
I give Dr. McLeroy a lot of credit agreeing to the interview.  He had to know he was not walking into a possibly contentious discussion with people not disposed to his own views.  This requires real moxie and I respect it.  This being noted, Dr. Novella who keeps his calm and cool during the interview did sound at times as talking from behind somewhat clenched teeth.  Overall, the discussion was respectful and civil.  
I am not going to give a blow by blow of the interview.  The reader can listen for the content.  I will note that Dr. McLeroy did sound sincere in his thoughts and rationalizations.  He was fairly candid in his faith views, and gave his reasons why the experts are wrong, and why evolutionary theory is wrong.  Dr. Novella gave counter arguments in his questions, and came off as passionate but polite.  Sure, I may wish that Dr. Novella had gotten in a real hard zinger or made Dr. McLeroy fumble more.  However, it was nice to get someone on the other side of the cultural competition directly from the source.  This was a nice bit of getting outside of our skeptic bubble.  If you have not listened to the SGU lately, this is an episode not to miss.
Before I listened to the above, I listened to the latest episode of Dr. Stuart Robbins'Exposing PseudoAstronomy.  The episode was on the conspiracy to hide the true color of Mars from the public.  As always, Dr. Robbins does an excellent job in breaking down the science: first, on how humans see, and then how the technology works in transmitting images to a screen of some sort.  I must admit I have learned more about photography and imaging during the run of Exposing PseudoAstronomy than I have anywhere else.  The Conspiracy Skeptic's Astronomer Royale then discusses the alleged reasons for this conspiracy, and why 'they' don't want you to know the real color for the "Red" planet.  Really, they are all rather thin theories.  It sounded like conspiracy that was around just because someone could either make it up or perhaps they were reaching.  Yes, the episode contains clips from Richard C. Hoagland.  What is a good space conspiracy without Hoagland?

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