Skeptics with a K: Episode #084


Whales, psychics, genes and plum pudding. Plus Star Trek V, Channel 4 Racing, Mr Punch and the results of our psychic Halloween Challenge. Almost certainly val-val homozygous, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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  1. #1 by Rebecca on November 1, 2012 - 18:09

    This trekkie was very, very happy! Nuclear vessels?

  2. #2 by Tom Williamson on November 2, 2012 - 11:31

    Very interesting discussion on the placebo effect.

    In my experience (and I’ve certainly done this) there is the danger of automatically explaining the effects of modalities such as homeopathy with the placebo effect. I remember an online discussion where someone claimed that Boots homeopathic teething sachets always worked when their child was crying due to teething pains. I straight away tried to explain it with the secondary placebo effect, the parent being subjective etc. Then an actual doctor offered a much simpler explanation: the homeopathy is powdered sugar. What child doesn’t respond well to being given a sweet treat?

  3. #3 by russ on November 4, 2012 - 10:54

    Placebo stuff was great. I’ll admit at one time I thought it was some magical mind over matter effect. Which confused me when I heard that placebo had been observed in animals and small children. As you said it’s many effects, including the tester biasing their own results and ‘things just getting better’ – which I now see how this could happen with animals, etc.

    Steve Novella also did a great job explaining it in the TAM Australia live show Q&A (which i assume made it into the podcast) http://www.theskepticsguide.org/archive/podcastinfo.aspx?mid=1&pid=282

  4. #4 by Gari on November 7, 2012 - 17:31

    It was good to hear Marsh’s comments wrt the psychic challenge, after his sarcasm and comments regarding psychics in the last episode I was a bit concerned about bias!! lol

    I have thought for a long time that some, maybe many, certainly not all, of psychics genuinely believe they have special powers, and it has troubled me the way many skeptics label all psychics as charlatans consciously cheating the gullible, especially when, in a way, they may also be victims caught up in the gig themselves. Maybe it’s a psychosis that needs further investigation, who knows.

    I am still open-minded that out there somewhere, maybe, someone has magic brain powers, we can never be absolute as to say that no one is genuinely psychic, without sticking us all in a lab lol

    For me one of the main problems with testing these people is the subjectivity present, hard to test them without it but with any subjectivity comes bias. Surely, giving five lists to someone and asking them to choose the one that is a best fit, is kind of flawed in that do any of us really know who we are? I had a breakdown years ago and after psychiatric help I realized so much more about me, that was so obvious, things that other people – subjectively of course lol – had already worked out!!!

    Then of course it is nearly impossible to duplicate the ‘psychics’ method of working using strict controls, which of course seems to indicate, rationally, that we are dealing with known reading techniques and not magic powers. I know some psychics do phone readings and do wonder if something like that would be a more ‘natural’ protocol for them?

    However they feel about a trial, and hats off to them for trying, they can’t possibly know how they would perform in what is essentially an alien method of achieving what they claim to be able to do. My mind goes back to documentary years ago about a then up and coming male porn star, he could do it all day every day, but once the cameras were on he was Mr Floppy!! lol

    The placebo piece was interesting, to me the placebo has always been a subjective thing anyway, I see it as an umbrella term for everything from sham pills to a mothers kiss-it-better. I have to say it gets ruddy annoying when woo say crap like “Of course it works, it uses placebo..”. What Mike was saying does make the whole placebo game a lot more complicated than I really realized.

    As for the talking whale lmao I could hear La Marseillaise, I was trying to recollect the tune when Marsh said what it was….it’s just more human pattern matching,…I kind of remember a dog years ago that people thought said ‘Sausages’.

    …and Star Trek; didn’t think either of those films were that bad, saving whales and taking the urine out of religion…tbh I always liked the main character interactions – especially the over-emotional ‘Bones’ and the “pointed eared, green blooded hobgoblin..” lol

  5. #5 by Albert J. Hoch Jr. on November 13, 2012 - 16:57

    Concerning Psychics.

    I have been subject to audio hallucinations all my life. These are sounds I hear while drowsing or waking. Once I heard my timer ring when it had not been set. Its usually some kind of wakeup message. I always know its a hallucination because there’s something wrong : as if my mental “choreographer” can’t get it quite right. (engram??) The words are wrong, the speaker is absent, the wrong doorbell, etc. I assume this is related to the well known sleep paralysis phenomena. Now it seems to me a reasonable conjecture that some people could voluntarily place themselves in a hallucinatory state wherein they would hear voices like my halucinations. So here’s an explanation of your sincere mediums.

  6. #6 by Murff on November 15, 2012 - 01:53

    I was thinking about attending QED 2013, but since I would be coming from the U.S. (Oregon), I’m concerned with being solo the entire time. I know the talks will be awesome, but the rest of the time…what to do then? Another problem…I’m not a big drinker…lol.

  7. #7 by Marsh on November 16, 2012 - 15:20

    @Murff: Don’t worry, there’s lots to do, and everyone is very friendly so we’ll make sure you’re taken care of! There is also a mixer on the Friday night before it all starts, so you can meet a few people before the Saturday in any case. Even people who come alone don’t stay alone for long at QED!

  8. #8 by Murff on November 19, 2012 - 01:36

    After mulling it over for several weeks…I took the plunge and bought my ticket. Now I play the waiting game…

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