Skeptics with a K: Episode #187


Placebo pills, star-shaped balloons, skepticism in politics, and Matt Smith. Plus gastric ulcers, media cynicism, Chinese lanterns, and fantastic beasts. Stronger in Germany, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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  1. #1 by Tom Williamson on December 1, 2016 - 18:20

    Loving the skeptical approach to politics! I personally find the attitude of “it’s politics, skeptics shouldn’t go anywhere near it” to be really arbitrary and unhelpful. Politicians make bullshit claims as a matter of course, they need to be challenged.

    I must put my fly in the ointment in something Marsh said though. The idea that David Cameron said that “Brexit will lead to World War Three” is a right wing press fantasy. Much as I deplore our former PM for everything he did, including giving us a referendum whose result could be disastrous and scarpering when he lost, what he actually said was this:

    “The European Union has helped reconcile countries which were once at each others’ throats for decades. Britain has a fundamental national interest in maintaining common purpose in Europe to avoid future conflict between European countries.”

    It’s part of a longer and ultimately fruitless speech, the full text of which is available here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-on-the-uks-strength-and-security-in-the-eu-9-may-2016

  2. #2 by Jason Jones on December 1, 2016 - 20:02

    Outside of science, I cant think of anywhere else that Skepticism is more important than Politics.

  3. #3 by Neil Sedgwick on December 2, 2016 - 10:55

    From an actor-agnostic non-profit centred on scepticism to full fanboyism in the time it takes to talk about a kids’ film. And sure enough, it was a condescending swing to Matt Smith

    In contrast, the Kermode and Mayo podcast had balanced, nuanced yet critical examination of Eddie Redmayne’s performance, and achieved it without being patronising. Try that or better yet, don’t do film reviews. Otherwise, the other stuff was great as usual.

  4. #4 by Neil Sedgwick on December 2, 2016 - 10:56

    Having studied available data, I’ve concluded that Brexit IS more likely to trigger World War III than Kim Jong Il throwing a hissy fit. Mainly because Kim Jong Il has been dead for the best part of five years.

    Otherwise, the other stuff was great as usual.

  5. #5 by Greg on December 3, 2016 - 01:58

    I certainly agree with Jason that skepticism

    However, I would also like to note two issues I had with how you depicted the election in this episode. First, I would object to Marsh’s notion a that those who voted against Clinton did it because she was a woman. Certainly, some may have voted against her because she was a woman. Labeling all those who voted against Clinton as woman haters is factually untrue and not conducive to a political dialogue.

    I voted for her, but with a great many reservations. Speaking of reservations…

    While I don’t disagree with labeling Trump a misogynist and racist, I would like to point out the “Pocohantas” comment was about Elizabeth Warren, a politician who had been accused of claiming Native American heritage to bolster her diversity credentials at Harvard. When she couldn’t prove her claim of some family history (a great xn grandmother was Cherokee), Republicans began openly mocking her about it. So, you can file this one as Trump just being a jerk and not so much about him being a racist.

    So, yes, we should treat political claims and canards with as much skepticism as we should do scientific claims. But we should be cautious and considerate as a rule. In the US, skeptics are often left leaning, but there is a good deal of libertarianism among American skeptics, particularly the old guard. More than one local skeptics group has broken up over petty differences in politics.

  6. #6 by Simon on December 4, 2016 - 02:12

    I wasn’t expecting a line by line deconstruction of my criticism of of the last podcast and some of my points didn’t seem to translate well when condensed into short rant form. In particular, I only used Le Pen as an extreme example as I felt the sexism charge was pretty lazy (I’m pretty sure more than a few ‘sexist’ who didn’t vote for Clinton, did vote for Sarah Palin).

    Anyway, I’m not an economic, political or cultural expert, but I’ve read a lot of books from people who are and formed my own opinions from those and not Breitbart, Fox News et al.
    I’ve also come to understand the opposing argument of the left, often screechingly, from the anti-science Greens, no borders/know nothing millennials, garden variety regressives and the different shades of Marxist throughout.

    I do get frustrated as I think genuine scepticism could apply to politics, and I know the sceptical movement has the right tools to do it. In fact I see the left’s stance on economics and political culture analogous to the dodgiest of alternative medicines;
    they are often paraded as panaceas in opposition to compromises, are self deceptive and dogmatic, use emotion and nebulous emotive language, trend away from debate towards censorship, and even rail against profiteers. To appreciate these similarities and without going into the immense detail required, you would need to weigh up the historical evidence of outcomes and not focus on the minutiae of ‘teeth analysing racist’. With exceptions, the left is my ‘ideological homeopathy’: it continues regardless of proof, and mostly in opposition to it, causing harm along the way.

    Of course, I brought up these points in my first post not to silence you; I’m on the side of freer speech after all. In fact I’m even going to finally become a Patreon Patron (Seems hypocritical to get it for free) so you know that I appreciate 95% of what you produce. Just remember I listen to you guys at work and that other 5% may one day be responsible for a broken keyboard.

  7. #7 by Muz on December 17, 2016 - 14:19

    “they are often paraded as panaceas in opposition to compromises, are self deceptive and dogmatic, use emotion and nebulous emotive language, trend away from debate towards censorship, and even rail against profiteers.”

    Are we talking about right or left now? I’m confused 😉

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