Skeptics with a K: Episode #178


Facilitated communication, acupressure, Santa, and emesis. Plus long walks, Twister, spinning wheels, and copper sulphate. Sheltering under a cow for some shade, it’s Skeptics with a K.

Support our charity walk raising money for Mind at justgiving.com/mersey-skeptics.

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  1. #1 by DocM on July 29, 2016 - 10:29

    Second episode in a row with a really good discussion about a topic the hosts actually do not completely agree on. It’s nice to see people you respect argue with each other in that way. No matter what your personal opinion is – it is a good demonstration of how to discuss a topic in a way that’s both serious and fun to listen to. (Last episode’s discussion was more serious, probably because it was more personal for Alice. I still liked it.) Anyway: Well done, I’d listen to more of that.

  2. #2 by Jan on July 30, 2016 - 02:52

    It was nice to hear a reasonable debate on the Jolly Red Dude . Far better than what I got when I told my brother that no we are not going to do the whole Santa thing with my children . He said I was cruel and my son would have no fantasy in his life . Reasons for not doing were I wanted my son to realise the gifts came from people who valued him as a person and it was their kindness that meant he had stuff . My second reason it just seemed like far to much effort to do the whole Santa charade .

  3. #3 by oskar on August 2, 2016 - 05:40

    As DocM said, these conversations have been interesting. Many thanks MSS.
    I think Marsh’s approach is better, unless your child is ridiculously gullible, but even then I suspect you’d have to teach them to be skeptical somehow.
    Over there, are religion classes taught in public school? If so, how common is it? I don’t think that’s done here in the U.S.A. and if it is, it’s far from common.

  4. #4 by Vicky on August 2, 2016 - 12:39

    On the communication thing- if the kids did have control over their eyes (which is one thing the facilitators claim) there’s hardware called eye gaze- which uses words or symbols on a screen and camera to read the eye movement. If they have control it works. If not it doesn’t. I suspect this boys teachers tried that and it failed.

  5. #5 by Seth Squires on August 2, 2016 - 15:43

    I was three and a half when I started to doubt Santa wasn’t real. I hid at the top of the stairs on Christmas Eve and saw my dad bring in all the presents. After Christmas, I told my entire preschool class at the Congregational church that Santa wasn’t real. Ten years later I told the pastor of the same church that God wasn’t real and declined to attend confirmation.

    As an adult, I was very much in agreement with Mike on the Santa issue. I thought stories of Santa and Tooth Fairies were simply lying to children. I was adamant that my hypothetical children would never be told Santa was real. That lasted until my daughter was born.

    As if someone had thrown a switch, I was pro-Santa. Without any thought, I was talking about Santa all December long. We’ve been on a train ride to see Santa, hung stockings, and laid out cookies on Christmas Eve. She is very excited by Santa but I don’t really know if Santa is any more real to her than dragons, Supergirl, or the endless cups of tea she keeps bringing me.

    She’ll be precisely three and a half this Christmas day. I will be both delighted and crushed if she catches me placing the presents under the tree.

  6. #6 by Muz on August 6, 2016 - 04:19

    I think Mike seemed like he was a little hung up on a sort of morally absolute definition of a ‘lie’, whether he meant to be or not. But as alluded to in the discussion it can’t possibly be that cut and dry from moment to moment. Language and communication, and therefore the world, is full of inaccuracy. Comprehension itself is dependent on navigating wrongness (the factual sort) at all times. There’s deception, but there’s also performance, games, jokes, sarcasm etc etc. The faculties and skills to negotiate all of these things aren’t wildly different, it seems to me. And someone is just as likely to encounter them on a screen as they are from adults or other children in the day to day, intentionally or otherwise.
    To refer to that great ethical treatise, Galaxy Quest, in general we would not call acting, as in drama, lying. But there wouldn’t be too many other ways to explain it to aliens who had no conception of such things.

    Inevitably the counter is that dramatic arts have generally agreed upon and broadly identifiable conceptual boundaries where we can say reality pauses and the ‘lies’ begin (the programme, the space, the manner etc etc). This is true, but there’s a lot of performance in life too, and it’s unavoidable at times.
    There comes a point in every parent or child carer’s life where they need to make the kid do the necessary thing and understand the appropriate behaviour in a given situation. But at that point the kid is being hilarious and adorable. All you want to do is laugh and smile. And you know fairly well that the kid loves making you laugh and smile and will just keep going. But they have to stop. Now! But inconveniently and contrary to pop culture and comedy, you’re not angry or even that worried. The emotions are not lining up neatly with the desired communication. Here the parent must perform in order to send the proper message (now, ‘proper’ there is a cultural can of worms, but the performance is the thing here).

    That’s one of the more significant moments to me, but even if you think about every awkward parenting trope ever, (family skeletons, other parents’ ugly kid, your kid’s hideous scribbles you say are great art etc) raising children is awash with deception, lies and performance.

    So, given this, what is “lying to children”? On the face of it I agree that seems morally wrong and to be avoided. But on closer examination it’s not so clear.
    The only option when judging these things is to use the usual ethical assessments, such as time length and harm, since we can’t rule them out entirely (or reasonably define a broad standard). In that I suspect we find that it’s the lies that rise to dogma that are truly objectionable and not anything that’s simply an ‘untruth’, willful or not.

    So playing with and allowing the fantasy of Father Christmas to persist for a while is ok. Dogmatically maintaining it until a kid is nine or whatever because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or your absolute power over their reality – you’ve probably crossed into being the bad sort of liar.

  7. #7 by Stuart Vyse on August 6, 2016 - 14:33

    Indeed, bow ties are the recommended neckwear (or none at all) for physicians. See “Bow tie or no tie: a rule to reduce healthcare-acquired infections”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4612704/

    Great show!!

  8. #8 by Michael on August 17, 2016 - 13:03

    I don’t understand why people have a problem with telling kids that there are no god or gods, as on the other side the religious people will have no hesitation telling their children that god or gods are real.
    We should be able to say that all the religions in the world are just made up by people and have no basis in reality, and we have facts on our side.
    The Muslims have no issue telling their kids that Jesus was not the son of God, so we should also say it, but we also don’t think he was a profit hearing from God.

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