Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Odds & Ends: 1920s, Skeptoid, and Sounds Sciency

There are a few odds and ends I wish to comment upon and draw the readers’ attention to in this post. 

The first is the latest My History Can Beat Up Your Politics podcast episode The Dark Side of Booms, a meditation on the 1920s.  Now this is not a skeptical podcast, although it is a bit of a skeptical episode as it reviews what the 1920s actually were like rather than our collective memory of the decade.  I do wish Carlson would cite his sources, but this appears to be a genuine reflection upon the 1920s.  It weaves the popular culture of novels and movies, the technological advancements of the gasoline powered cars, and electrically driven machines, the Florida land boom, changes in public education, the rise of credit and consumer products into an entertaining and thought-provoking tapestry for the listener. 

1920s were a Doozy, but not all bad
(Duesenberg a swell's Touring Car)
It is not perfect.  I think the story line gets a bit disjointed at times, especially the weaved-in references to F. Scott Fitzgerald.  However, the overall effort does paint a more photo-realistic picture of what is normally just viewed as the splashy roaring twenties into something more nuanced.

More directly skeptical fare, Skeptoid has released another ‘what I got wrong’ episode, which I always enjoy a great deal.  In part for their content, but mostly because it reveals some intellectual honesty that despite the best intentions people get stuff wrong.  This is an act that not nearly enough skeptical podcasts perform.  Skeptics with a K have done this from time to time.  Doubtful News is very good at posting updates on their site.  Overall, admitting errors is one of the most important aspects of rational thought and good scholarship.  I salute Mr. Dunning for these episodes.

Finally, Sharon Hill has posted a piece at her Sounds Sciency page at CSI on her thoughts on the "Exploring the Extraordinary" conference which I attended for one day of its three day run this past March.  It is a long thoughtful piece, and it is well worth the read.  Hill ponders the idea of being in the middle of neither 'believer' nor 'naysayer.'   The one thing that confounds me is that Hill was the only skeptic to attend the entire event, I was the only other skeptic to attend at all.  Hill ends the piece by answering the question of a fellow attendee why she, Hill, is attending since she’s a skeptic.  For me, I do not understand why there were not more skeptics in attendance. 

Yes, skeptics have various sub-interests.  Not all skeptics are into all the topics discussed at ETE.  Still, the odd, weird, and implausible for me is the life blood of skepticism be it ghosts, dubious medical claims, UFOs, conspiracies or clairvoyance. Yes, skeptics look at these claims from a rationalist viewpoint compared to the proponents of these alleged events but the topics are of the same interest.  I can see why the debunker, which is a term skeptics get painted with in the popular culture, might see attendance as a waste of time.  To them, it’s bullshit.  Move along.  To people who are interested at looking into the claims and pondering what is behind them, this type of event is ground zero for skeptics.  I had personal reasons why I did not attend the whole conference, but I wish that I had been able to enjoy the whole affair.  I am glad Ms. Hill did.  I am perplexed as to why other skeptics did not attend.  This type of affair is the bee's knees.   

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