Skeptics with a K: Episode #191


Erectile dysfunction, handwriting analysis, secret topical cream, and skeptical ethics.  Plus passports, guest hosts, tunnels, and casting Doctor Who.  It’s the secret of eternal youth from Skeptics with a K.

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  1. #1 by NickT on February 10, 2017 - 08:18

    Quick note of pedantry regarding handwriting and Parkinson’s:
    There is actually an established link between small handwriting (micrographia) and Parkinson’s.

    There’s quite a bit out there, but here’s something that might be of interest:

    http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/79/4/368.full

    Of course, just as was mentioned there’s so much Barnum in there that overall assigning personality to handwriting types is nonsense. By pinning a few ‘real’ symptoms of diseases to the list, it lends credence to the field being scientific, and of course proponents can wheel-out the select scientific studies when challenged.

    It would be interesting to know when Parkinson’s was added to the repertoire of handwriting analysis. I suspect it is a recent addition, added only after the science established a symptomatic link, and not something that was discovered centuries ago by handwriting analysis alone…

    Thanks for the shows folks 🙂

  2. #2 by Tom Williamson on February 10, 2017 - 11:22

    I will never be able to watch Countdown in the same way again.

  3. #3 by Bill W on February 10, 2017 - 11:54

    Agree with NickT that micrographia is well recognised on Parkinsons disease and other neurological disorders. It can be the first sign of Parkinsons and, unlike other aspects of Parkinsons, does not tend to respond to drug therapy.

    I guess the important issue is that rubbishing something because it sounds daft isn’t scientific skepticism and so this isn’t really a pedantic response.

    Similarly handwriting analysis is used in court, not to determine character, but for forensic analysis of documents and signatures to establish their veracity.

    Still love the show and, more importantly, the great work that you do.

  4. #4 by Cailean Macdougall on February 10, 2017 - 12:06

    My initial reaction was, ‘this is plausible because I read it in New Scientist’. Hahaha. This is a comment given before finishing listening.

  5. #5 by John on February 13, 2017 - 20:05

    I’ve actually spent a great deal thinking about the interaction between ethics and skepticism. I have basically come to the conclusion that if we assume agents to be working in good faith, they can only affect good deeds when working in an accurate model of the universe. Much like the Weinberg quote, for those who intend evil there is no stopping them and for those who intend good proper tools are in order.

    Also, if you construct empathy completely from first principles such that it is indistinguishable from ‘natural’ empathy, isn’t it just as good? Let’s say we take someone who’s ‘bad’ at empathy (take here a racist or a person with mental illness) can they ever be said to be recovered through therapy? Since such therapies would probably rely on some sort of dialogue, wouldn’t there always remain the stain of former problems – no matter how reformed?

    Thanks for the show and keep up the puns.

  6. #6 by Suzanne on February 18, 2017 - 11:20

    This might sound pedantic but I thought I would add further that the tremors normally associated with Parkinson’s are resting tremors (the opposite being intention tremors). What that means is that when a Parkinson’s sufferer uses their hands, their tremor diminishes and can vanish while doing a task. Just another interesting symptom/sign of this particular disorder.

  7. #7 by Andy on February 20, 2017 - 19:07

    It’s a “pangram” not “pan-o-gram” or “panagram”.

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