Skeptics with a K: Episode #139

Charlie Hebdo, ibuprofen, nematode worms and Gerson Therapy. Plus Sonic 2, turkey leftovers, giblets and really bad sound quality. With apologies, on many levels, it’s Skeptics with a K.

  1. #1 by Lindsay Holloway on January 15, 2015 - 15:31


    This is the first podcast of yours I’ve listened to for a while and I can’t believe what I’m hearing re the Charlie Hebdo massacre and how terrified of being un-PC you sound.

    You immediately jumped to the secondary problem of racists using this massacre to further their own ends and whether or not to use the word “terrorist” rather than going straight to the primary problem of Islamic fundamentalism (the most intolerant ideology facing the world today) and the fact that Islam had EVERYTHING to do with it. You made the inevitable fatuous comparison with Christians murdering abortion doctors. Come on guys! The phenomenon of global Jihad is a far, far bigger threat than that from any other religious fundamentalists. No one suffers more under it than other Muslims.

    Marsh is undoubtedly highly intelligent and well read but, sadly, he knows chuff all about Islamism if he thinks the Charlie Hebdo gunmen were mentally ill. They were utterly deranged by their faith, certainly, but not mentally ill. Please approach Islam without kid gloves and give it the criticism and scrutiny it deserves and needs, the same way you approach Christianity, Judaism, the Mormons etc. You failed to point out the fact that virtually the entire Western media (Charlie Hebdo being a notable exception) is currently living under de facto Islamic blasphemy law by failing to republish the cartoons en masse.

    Genuine reformers like Maajid Nawaz and Irshad Manji speak honestly about the problematic parts of Islamic scripture that Muslims must face up to and challenge head on. Please help them by doing the same and stop being so terrified of sounding ‘Islamophobic’ by adding caveats before you begin a sentence about Islam. You sound cowardly.

    Oh, lone wolves do exist by the way.

    Kind regards,
    Lindsay Holloway (Mr).

  2. #2 by Marsh on January 15, 2015 - 17:00

    Hi Lindsay

    Thanks for your feedback. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I was worried about sounding Islamophobic at all – Islam is as awful a religion as the rest of the organised religions, and as worthy of visceral criticism. Perhaps more so, given the morally regressive phase the religion as an overall whole appears to be in – much like the Christianity of the Crusades and the Inquisition, I guess, but right now.

    But I think the point we were making (or at least the side of it I was expressing, as I speak best for myself and for nobody else – as is regularly abundantly clear) was that I don’t believe religion alone can account for such deranged and heinous acts, I think there has to be other things at play too. Your point that “They were utterly deranged by their faith, certainly, but not mentally ill” summarizes it perfectly for me – I would class being ‘utterly deranged’ as actually being mentally ill. Or else, what is it to be deranged? The type of illness, the cause, the mechanism – you’re right, I know chuff all about, which I think I may have put in as a caveat at points, even (perhaps I didn’t, but perhaps my hedging expressed it implicitly).

    I think Islam is absolutely deserving of criticism, 100%. But I’d also be wary of accepting that because it is the stated cause and a clear strong, huge contributor, it’s the sole cause; any more than the religious right in America’s objection to abortion and reproductive rights for women is solely the blame of their religion, rather than institutionalised sexism and the fear of losing privilege, which undoubtedly have a (perhaps smaller) contributing factor.

    I guess I, and perhaps even we, were primarily calling for an appreciation of the nuance of human action, amidst the clear and worthy calls for judgement. But what do we know – we lose count each episode of the number of times we tell people we’re uninformed dickheads whose opinions aren’t worth more than any other.

    All the best,

  3. #3 by Samuli Ulmanen on January 15, 2015 - 23:02

    Exchanges of opinion like the ones above make me glad to call myself a skeptic (with a K, no less).

    Thank you.

  4. #4 by Miisanthrope on January 16, 2015 - 21:14

    The sound was fine. Good thing you are loud.


  5. #5 by Vincent-louis Apruzzese on January 19, 2015 - 13:33

    I have been curious as to how skeptics would approach this Paris attack and overall while I like what’s been discussed I am a little dismayed that everyone, including skeptics seem to forget about the response to the attack… which was an amazing and positive one and talk about how that might or might not be as important as the attacks themselves moving forward. We can’t complain about news organizations constantly ramping up the fear propaganda for ratings when we ourselves focus solely on the horrible event as well. It was heartening to see millions in the street not being afraid and waving the very cartoons in the faces of those who wanted them suppressed on international TV. I would like to hear more discussions on that aspect and not just “Europe UNDER SEIGE” minutes after the rally ended and was forgotten by media outlets it seems.

  6. #6 by Geir Sjurseth on January 22, 2015 - 23:22

    I’m still in the middle of this last and most currently released episode and I have to admit I’m somewhat sympathetic to Lindsay Holloway (post #1) above. I will say, however, that in the time past what happened in Paris that *I* don’t need another run down of the tragedy in paris nor a diatribe on issues of Islam. A review of *how* the media reports it is reasonable…


    The impression I get from this episode does feel (at least up until now) does seem to indicate a desire to divorce the abominable action from the religion and belief behind it by just calling them “insane.” I must say I do have issues there. Ignoring the religion that these individuals (and loads of other before them) are themselves claiming is absurd. Just to be clear .. I *DO* think we should take christian abortion protesters at their word and accept the religions association with their action.

    Does religion cause insanity? Inherent cognitive dissonance?

    Meh .. I dunno. That’s more than I’m willing to commit too, but I feel *uncomfortable* with a rote dismissal of religious funded action by simply saying, “no, they were just crazy.” Yes, they were crazy, but let’s not pretend that they didn’t also have a crazy religious zeal as well .. Let’s not pretend that this action is entirely unprecedented in accord with religious motivation.

    Anyway, actually a great episode since it’s driven me to comment, which I very, rarely do. Let’s keep up the discussion.

  7. #7 by Geir Sjurseth on January 22, 2015 - 23:38

    Another comment having listened now to a few more minutes (maybe you’ll block me before this is over if I keep this up)…

    Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, Andrew Joseph Stack (sorry, I live in Sweden now, but I’m from Texas so it sticks), Wade Michael Page (Sikh temple shooting in 2012), and Breivik were all labeled “terrorists.”

    I actually don’t agree that the word “terrorist” is synonymous with “muslim,” rather, a disproportionate amount of recent terrorist have been muslims.

  8. #8 by Andrew Raeth on February 18, 2015 - 09:29

    I thought I was the only person who loved the Chemical Plant music from Sonic 2. 🙂

  9. #9 by Simon S. on June 17, 2015 - 09:33

    I agree with comment #1by Lindsay Holloway.
    You guys could do with reading The End of Faith, by Sam Harris. Oh, and refresher read of The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins wouldn’t go amis to learn how altruism & cooperation arises. It’s not because we are “like ant colonies”.

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