Skeptics with a K: Episode #037


Merry Christmas! (Yeah, yeah we know). Marsh and Colin are on holiday, so Mike presents some snippets cut for time from previous shows. Featuring R2D2’s Dad, Homeopathy in Wavertree, Tatty Raoul and Liberal Jean. Plus, from the archives, our debunking of the Nativity, first published as part of Episode #011.

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  1. #1 by Greg on January 4, 2011 - 09:24

    Nice episode, fellas. The Nativity bit had me in stitches the entire time.

    One point, Christine “Witchipoo” O’Donnell was technically correct when she said the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution. The First Amendment is, in its entirety:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    The Supreme Court has interpreted that (rightfully, IMHO) as establishing a separation between church and state. She may be an idiot, but she’s not incorrect.

    Keep up the good work, and fuck George III.

    Best,

    Greg from Philadelphia

  2. #2 by Mike on January 4, 2011 - 09:38

    Hi Greg,

    Not sure I agree with you there. True, the actual phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the constitution, but I think the concept is quite unambiguously laid out by “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

    I think the actual phrase “separation of church and state” was coined by Thomas Jefferson a few years later when he attempted to relate the purpose of the establishment and free exercise clauses to someone in a letter.

  3. #3 by Erik on January 6, 2011 - 14:49

    Mike– I think the comments in the podcast, as well as your post above, totally miss the point of Brian Dunning’s Sarah Palin podcast that you mentioned.

    Dunning was pointing out that just because someone says something that disagrees with your preconceptions, it doesn’t mean they are “stupid”. They may be arguing from different premises than you, and if you want to engage in intellectual discourse rather than simply slinging mud, you must try to understand the source of the differences.

    In the case of “separation of church and state”: as Greg points out, it is *not* in the U.S. constitution. The common liberal interpretation is that it is implied by the language there– but this is not the only possible interpretation. Many conservative legal scholars have argued that it still permits some government acknowledgement of religion, as long as it is noncompulsory and falls short of an “establishment”. This is relevant, for example, to discussions of whether a town hall Xmas tree is actually unconstitutional or merely insensitive to non-Christians. The fact that O’Donnell sides with this legal analysis does not make her “stupid”, even though you may disagree with the conclusion.

    Overall, I was very disappointed in the political comments in your podcast. Ironically, this seems like a clear illustration of what the study you started out discussing labelled “conservative” thinking: unwillingness to engage rationally with ideas that conflict with your emotional preconceptions.

  4. #4 by Greg on January 8, 2011 - 12:44

    Mike :

    I think the actual phrase “separation of church and state” was coined by Thomas Jefferson a few years later when he attempted to relate the purpose of the establishment and free exercise clauses to someone in a letter.

    That’s all well and good, Mike, and I agree that it should be interpreted that way. However, O’Donnell was technically correct. In fact, I’ll go so far as to agree with Erik that the interpretation that the gov’t can acknowledge religion without establishing it is a reasonable viewpoint.

    That said, O’Donnell may, in fact, be ignorant, which is certainly different from outright stupid. Her view that corporations are crossbreeding people and mice (likely a misunderstanding of basic genetics research) is an indicative example.

    I think it might be fairer to say that she’s a whackjob, even among conservatives.

  5. #5 by Richard Carter, FCD on January 11, 2011 - 22:50

    Re. the Nativity, it always amuses me that the Bible goes out of its way, for prophesy-fulfilment reasons, to establish Jesus’s descent from David on his dad’s (Joseph’s) side, while also going out of its way to establish that Joseph wasn’t actually his dad.

  6. #6 by Andy on January 13, 2011 - 09:41

    Apropos of absolutely nothing, I’ve discovered what I’d like for Christmas 2011.
    http://www.valkee.com/en/
    Fight depression by shining light through your ears…..really?

  7. #7 by Sam Steele on February 4, 2011 - 07:04

    Dear Sirs,

    I love your podcast except for your left-of-centre political views.

    It is possible to be skeptical, athiestic and right-wing.

    I reckon that more conservatives are skeptics than are liberals.

    Sam Steele.

    Melbourne, Australia.

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