Skeptics with a K: Episode #091

Cancer, cabbage, chem-trails and creationism. Plus serial killers, bacon, more cancer and mormons. Using social engineering in a multiple choice exam, it’s Skeptics with a K.

  1. #1 by Disagreeable Me on February 8, 2013 - 11:43

    Enjoyed the episode as always.

    About allowing skeptics to go to hell or have cancer, I think while the behaviour of these people is irrational, it’s not necessarily as bad as it seems. I think there is a conflict of values here. Sure, nobody wants their friends to go to hell or get cancer, but people these days have a deep respect for the autonomy and beliefs of others.

    For atheists, this is probably a good thing on the whole. People don’t feel they have the right to judge us for not adhering to majority beliefs. They don’t desperately try to save us from hell, or punish us for non-conformity.

    The other side of that coin is that they don’t feel they have a right to judge risks for other people. If we have different beliefs, then we have every right to act in accord with those beliefs. It’s a small step from allowing us to go to hell by inaction than by asking us to commit a sin. If we want their bacon which they don’t want, then it would be self-righteous rather than respectful to refuse to give it to us out of concern for our health.

    I feel this dilemma most keenly when a friend asks me to pick up some cigarettes for him while I’m at the shop. I hate cigarettes. I encourage my friend to quit. I would not smoke them myself. By buying cigarettes for him, I am hypocritically supporting his habit. However, to refuse to do so would be judgmental and self-righteous so I do it anyway. Is this not analogous to the bacon?

  2. #2 by Disagreeable Me on February 8, 2013 - 11:54

    On post-modernism, I doubt too many people seriously think we should not pursue scientific research programmes because of radical skepticism.

    Radical skepticism is more about pointing out that we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that we can ever have absolute proof of anything. Of course, that’s no reason not to make some basic assumptions and work from them.

    So I’d have quite a bit of sympathy with the post-modernist views you discuss. It is regrettable that new age mystics and the like choose to co-opt these arguments to support their batshit beliefs.

  3. #3 by Mike on February 8, 2013 - 12:24

    The difference in the bacon situation is that free bacon is offered to me. It’s not a case of “hey, are you throwing that out? I’ll have that!”

    In fact, I’d been accepting free bacon for a while before I was told why!

  4. #4 by Disagreeable Me on February 8, 2013 - 20:39

    “The difference in the bacon situation is that free bacon is offered to me. It’s not a case of “hey, are you throwing that out? I’ll have that!””

    Point taken!

  5. #5 by brainfisch on February 9, 2013 - 08:04

    Your friend might also be an economist and might be realizing that both of you have differing value scales. Although you know, that eating bacon will give you an increased risk of cancer, you might value the experience of eating the bacon more than the potential loss of life years. Another example would be a mountaineering trip to Mount Everest: although there is a considerable risk of dying, many climbers would love to go. Therefore giving them the opportunity by offering to pay for the trip would do them a favor, even if you would not go yourself (under the assumption that you value your life more than a trip up a mountain). So your friend might be rational in giving you the bacon, as she does not prefer smoked bacon to the risk of cancer, while you obviously do – there is no evidence for an increased risk, but it is quite probable that the risk is increased but by so little an amount, that normal statistical metrics cannot measure it.

  6. #6 by Dave C on February 9, 2013 - 15:28

    As regards multiple choice exams I recommend the excellent XKCD:

    Does this discussion about bacon decrease my (and every other SWAK listener) bacon number? 🙂


  7. #7 by emmjay1501 on February 9, 2013 - 21:19

    Hi Guys. Great show. I only came across you today after listening to an old episode of Cognitive Dissonance. I’ve now downloaded all your episoded on iTunes and look forward to listening to them. I also hope to come to one of your meetings soon as I live in Cheshire.

    Anyway, I was listening to your Dexter story about the cancer, and your bacon story, and it immediately reminded me of an article I read earlier today in Skeptical Inquirer (Jan/Feb 2013). The article was written by a group of psychology researchers into why some people can hold two different beliefs around the same issue. In this case why some people believe in prophecies of apocalypse even when they do not believe in the apocalypse itself. They called it dissociation, or dissociative tendencies, which incline people to this cognitive incoherency. It struck me that maybe your stories fall into the same area. I’m no psychologist, but it seems similar.

    Anyway thanks for the show.

  8. #8 by julie on February 9, 2013 - 23:27

    Mt. McKinley is in Alaska, and it’s the tallest mountain in North America. It was originally called Denali, but it was remained after President McKinley.
    Though now that I think of it, the new name does just sound like a nearby hill.

  9. #9 by America on February 11, 2013 - 03:46

    As an American, I feel I’m qualified to say that Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in the USA, so somewhat comperable to Eversest

  10. #10 by Henry on February 12, 2013 - 04:58

    As an American, I was somewhat surprised that you blokes didn’t know that Mount McKinley is the tallest mountain in America. It is beaten into our heads during school, as is the fact that anything about America is critically important to the entire universe. Please don’t disappoint me further by admitting that you are unaware of the location of the world’s biggest ball of twine or the legend of Paul Bunyan.

  11. #11 by Murff on February 13, 2013 - 18:10

    Colin’s little 1 line jabs this episode were spot on, had me laughing enough for co-workers to notice.

  12. #12 by Sindre Søreide on February 15, 2013 - 16:26

    I have a problem with the dexter/bacon comparison which haven’t been taken up in the previous comments. I don’t think it’s a perfect analogy because since dexter isn’t a catholic and would go to hell anyway it wouldn’t be worse of for killing camilla. It would be analogous if you we’re terminally ill with cancer in which case it wouldn’t be a problem if you ate cancer giving bacon.

  13. #13 by Mike on February 15, 2013 - 16:34

    Obviously, this is just my interpretation of the events that happened in the show, but I don’t think Camilla is asking Dexter to kill her because she thinks he is already going to hell anyway.

    The way it is put over, to my mind, is “I’m catholic, so these rules apply to me. You are not, so they do not apply to you”. I think that is exactly the same situation as the bacon “I think this causes cancer, so I can’t eat it. But you don’t, so you can”. As I said on the show, I don’t think Camilla is asking Dexter to go to hell, or that my friend is giving me cancer bacon. What I think is happening is that these people are not applying their beliefs consistently. In the quest to “respect” what other people believe, they treat what the other person believes as if it were also true.

  14. #14 by DannoG on February 18, 2013 - 03:10

    Just thought you should know that yes, you had at least one new listener (very first episode). I now have to go back and download your whole catalogue back to episode 7. Unfortunately I think it unlikely that I’ll listen to them all before the end of the month.

  15. #15 by VictorB on February 20, 2013 - 07:50

    I remembered your guest appearance on the Cognitive Dissonence podcast a couple of months ago through Stitcher Radio. Is it possible that your podcast would also be available on Stitcher Radio sometime in the future?

  16. #16 by Ian on June 7, 2014 - 10:28

    “Egypt is located on the continent of…”

    …….singular? It’s located on two continents. That’s not an example of an easy question, that’s an example of a stupid question where even the “right” answer is wrong.

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