Skeptics with a K: Episode #047

Dianétique, Blood Diamonds, the Rapture and logical fallacies. Plus, thalidomide, breasts, homeopathy and Philip Schofield. Forcing eggs back into chickens – it’s Skeptics with a K.

  1. #1 by Paul Smout on June 2, 2011 - 15:32

    Philip Schofield. Forcing eggs back into chickens

    Is that a full stop or a comma after Schofield? can’t see with this screen setting.


  2. #2 by Marsh on June 2, 2011 - 16:03

    …most appropriate would be a colon, I’d imagine…

  3. #3 by Lisa Chalkley on June 2, 2011 - 18:53

    Excellent podcast – I like going over the types of arguments. Breast thing – aaarggghh. Thermo – heat -nipples -der! Putting people off getting checked out gggrrrr.

  4. #4 by martin on June 2, 2011 - 20:01

    Thanks for another good episode.

    I think you maybe meant Peltier Effect, not Piezzo-Electric? I know, you guys and things beginning with P eh!

    I recommend a great guide to logical fallacies from the much missed Hunting Humbug 101 podcast. It can be found here:

  5. #5 by Rupert on June 3, 2011 - 09:12

    Hi guys, thanks for keeping me entertained on my current long drive to Edinburgh, but the podcast is about 7 hours too short for this purpose.

    A few things I wanted to say about the end of the world:

    In Harold Camping’s eschatology, the date of the end of the world still hasn’t changed, so we will miss Halloween. He always said that the world would endow 21 October, and he still says that, it’s just that the proceeding Rapture and Tribulation turns out to be spiritual, not physical, on account of God’s mercy.

    Second, I wanted to comment on Marsh’s point that you can’t feel too much sympathy for someone who thought that he would be saved when everyone else was damned. In an episode where you have discussed logical fallacies, from his point of view that would seem like an argument based on unfortunate conclusions. He might not have relished the thought of everyone suffering, but that didn’t mean it was wouldn’t happen. He had, after all, spent all his money trying to warn people and stop them from being damned.

    When I was at school, I was a Christian, and I found it very upsetting to think that my parents, who weren’t, would go to Hell, but that was still the conclusion from Christian theology.

    Also, it certainly was possible to download Camping’s argument from the Family Radio website, and it was quite bizarre. There was lots of “23 is the number of wrath and 43 is often associated with judgment, so if we multiply them together and…” and so on. I didn’t read far enough to find out where the date comes from, but I notice that it’s only two days out from Archbishop Ussher’s calculation for the day of the world’s creation. I know that Camping thinks the world is older than Ussher did, so maybe he agrees with him about the time of year for creation and that’s the nearest Sunday? I don’t know.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the number of services that were offering to look after the pets of the Raptured. These were either set up by atheists or by faithful Christians who’d liaised with a network of atheists. There were at least three, so can’t be too hard to find.

    Finally, you argued that clothes didn’t have souls and so wouldn’t be Raptured. A curious oversight, as, of course, shoes in fact do.

    All the best.

  6. #6 by DaveC on June 3, 2011 - 12:04

    Nice one. Your friend Brian Dunning did some shows on logical fallacies a while back:

  7. #7 by Paul Smout on June 3, 2011 - 13:55

    You missed Strawman out of the list of terms.
    Whilst I’m now 90% of the way to fully understanding it, an extra nudge wouldn’t go amiss.

  8. #8 by Jon Massey on June 3, 2011 - 23:32

    Surely you mean the Peltier effect rather than the piezoelectric effect?

  9. #9 by Peter Foster on June 4, 2011 - 12:46

    Great episode guys, even more informative than usual.
    Can I give a heads up for this site :

  10. #10 by Mike Hall on June 4, 2011 - 14:51

    Hello everyone. A few people have asked if I meant the peltier effect, not the piezoelectric effect, in my self-indulgent rant at the top of the show.

    Just to clarify: I did actually mean the piezoelectric effect, and coolers which claim to be based on the piezoelectric effect are available. However, it looks like the peltier effect may be a more promising technology for what I want to see.

    Bring on the Cold Microwave! Hurrah!

  11. #11 by Derek on June 6, 2011 - 14:32


    For two episodes now you have been referring to a “golden bullet”. We all know chemistry is not your strongest suit but if you want to kill a homeopathic werewolf, I believe the phrase is “silver bullet” (best known from Frederick Brooks – “The Mythical Man Month”). It’s harder than gold and a lot less expensive. Also, werewolves like silver so a tiny bit of homeopathic silver in a bullet is known to definitely kill them. I will send references to clinical trials later.

  12. #12 by Julia on June 6, 2011 - 19:03

    I did once see for sale online a sort of cold stovetop like you described. I can’t seem to find it now, though.

  13. #13 by Plasma Engineer on June 7, 2011 - 20:12

    A good episode!

    For a collection of logical fallacies on a single page you might like

    And the Peltier effect is in general and fairly widespread use, e.g. for cooling the chips in specialised digital cameras. This is, in a sense, just a thermocouple run backwards, so instead of measuring temperature by giving an output voltage, you use a voltage to create a temperature difference. Minus 20 degrees celsius can be reached with a single-stage peltier cooler, and perhaps minus 80 with multi-stage

    Thermography is also a technique that works – but that is not to say that it is a good medical diagnostic tool. All warm objects, including people, radiate heat in the form of infra-red ‘radiation’. Light is radiation too – so its nothing (necessarily) to be scared of! If you have a camera that can see the different ‘colours’ of infrared it gives you an image of the distribution of different temperatures across the image. Its not surprising that someone has started to pretend that these stunning images mean something medically, and not surprising that it might not mean what they say it means.

  14. #14 by John on June 11, 2011 - 08:39

    I used to wonder about a cold version of a microwave when I was younger, and the only thing that I could come up with was a scaled up version of this,

    If you had microwaves or light tuned to just below the resonant frequency of the food molecules, then only molecules traveling towards the source would absorb them, thereby being slowed, which is of course cooling them.

    I think that it will be scuppered by there being far too many ways in which a photon can be absorbed when you are dealing with big food molecules as opposed to a few identical atoms.

  15. #15 by Kris on June 11, 2011 - 19:20

    You can explain logical fallacies until earth’s end and still the woo won’t get it.

    Using Latin really gets them going ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc’ comes across as something like ‘post op doc prostate hoc doc’ to the ignorant.

    Thing is, people making a living by speaking to the dead or believing magic water cures all, are not the sharpest knives in the box. You need better tools than mere logic to slay those beasts.

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