Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dr. Stuart Robbins on Dark City

Dr. Stuart Robbins appeared on Art Bell's Digital Network as a guest on Dark City, a show hosted by Steve Warner.  I thought about placing in the title 'Robbins appears on Art Bell digital radio network  Show" to gain hits and as a laugh, but decided that would be uncouth.

I have never listened to Warner's show.  Actually, after listening to a few episodes after Bell's return to the airwaves on satellite radio for a brief period a couple of summers ago, I think I was subconsciously boycotting Bell.  Anyway, I thought Warner was a pretty solid host.  My fears that Warner would be some Alex Tsakiris type were thankfully not met.  Warner, at least on this episode, came across as a reasonable person who had at least done some basic homework and had an appreciation for science with a dose of realism. He was not attacking or trying for any 'gotcha' moments.  

The interview lasted two hours and was fairly wide ranging.  Dr. Robbins discussed how he came to be interested in astronomy, and his particular field of studying impact craters on Mars and other celestial bodies.  Warner asked reasonable questions what Robbins thinks of people who are reading into the latest and earliest round of photographs to come back from Pluto.  Warner was clearly skeptical of such notions.  Even the nature of the current understanding of science and the likelihood of our current models of the universe and physics might be upended was discussed.  In particular what manner of evidence would be necessary to trigger a paradigm shift as when the existence of ether was disproven or Relativity accepted.  The conversation even wandered to how evolution on another planet may or may not track with evolution of life on Earth, and how worthwhile is S.E.T.I.  Also, of note was Dr. Robbins' issues with calling String Theory a “Theory” at all when it seems on its face to have some merit.


Interestingly, Dr. Robbins shared that it is possible that a person with a unique and possibility profitable line of inquiry could be dismissed by science at large since the person may not have the scientific chops to support their idea.  This is not likely, but not to be wholly discounted.  


Anybody out there?
For me, the most intriguing question raised by Warner was that skeptics including Dr. Robbins admonition for people to do their own research on the various topics presented to them and not take anyone’s or including the presenters own views on face value.  The problem as pointed out by Warner is that when one does research, and basically that means Googling a topic, one gets back all sorts of stuff pro, con, or whatever.  Supportive evidence can be found online for nearly any position.  There is no clear way to deduce what is good well-sourced information and which is nonsense.  Worse, if someone does their own research and starts out sympathetic to some woo woo topic, one is bound to find supporting information on the web.  Unfortunately, Dr. Robbins did not have a good solution to this issue.  To be honest, neither do I.  This is a topic that I have pondered from time to time, and I think skeptics need to come up with a reasonable succinct response. 

 Overall, it was an interesting conversation that paused me to think a few times, and sometimes that is just what the skeptic needs to keep in practice.  Warner kept the pace moving, and Dr. Robbins is getting rather adept at this format.  If one find's oneself with a couple hours to kill or on a road trip, this hits the spot.  

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