Skeptics with a K: Episode #208


Toxic attitudes, conspiracy mongering, British prostates, and intensity modulated radiotherapy.  Plus tinned ravioli, carpenters selling beef, learning to count, and sexist crocodiles.  And a final call for QED from Skeptics with a K!  Get your tickets for QED now at qedcon.org/tickets

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  1. #1 by Yves Dubois on October 6, 2017 - 03:58

    Sorry Marsh, but your speech was cringe worthy demonstration of psychological projection. Denouncing both the use of least favorable interpretations and echo chambers while simultaneously engaging in the former and justifying why you engage in the latter while clearly implying you’re not.

    To start, Carl’s use of the pseudonym “Sargon of Akkad” originates from his early days on YouTube where he posted anonymously and even if we now know about the man behind the mask, the name stuck. Your attempt at making him appear immature and disconnected from reality because he “uses his World of Warcraft character’s name” is disingenuous, petty and a clear case of poisoning the well. You’re better than this. Oh, if you don’t think that having never heard of him before isn’t important, then why keep insisting about it? Not sure who you’re trying to fool here.

    Next, he made it quite clear why he sent that Tweet. The message was in response to Jess Phillips and the “Recl@im the Internet” campaign and the whole point was about sending a message that looked like a rape threat while at the same time not being one, basically asking the question “should this be disallowed too?”. But, of course, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt and using a favorable interpretation of the message (“because I don’t rape people”), you and many others used the least favorable one (“You’re not worth raping”, “I’d rape others but not you”). Why? Because it confirmed the opinion that Carl was bad guy and that poor Jess was victim of a harassment from rape threats of people that said… they wouldn’t rape her. Also, Jess’ sexual assault shouldn’t serve as protection from criticism. After all, the “Recl@im the Internet” campaign is in no small part about rape threats, so how exactly are people supposed to criticize it without mentioning rape?

    Next, please don’t accuse others of being in an echo chamber and follow it up with the story of badly it went the last time you invited someone with contrary opinions and how you don’t want to do it again. You are kind of shooting yourself in the foot there. QED is mostly an echo chamber. And the reason is quite clear: you want people to have a good time and honest robust debate about positions that make one uncomfortable or even mad isn’t exactly most people’s idea of “fun”. And that’s fine. The unfortunate truth is that we all live in echo chambers. Listening to opinions we ascribe to already is, at worst, boring (if you’ve heard it before). On the other hand, facing contrary opinions can be enlightening or even life changing… but is more likely to be frustrating or even anger inducing. That’s why we poor mortals can only take it small doses. That is why I always find the accusation that one’s ideological opponents “live in an echo chamber” to be quite hollow: the accuser is basically guaranteed to be a hypocrite.

    Of and before you accuse the spread of “hateful” ideas of scaring away people from skeptic/atheist conventions (note: while you didn’t say it like this, it really seems this is what you meant), perhaps you should equally also consider the possibility the encroachment of “moralistic” components may have made some found such events to no longer be of interest. For me, it was definitively the second.

    These days, in face of so much political polarization, too many, while trying to explain their failures search not inward for their own faults, but outward for excuses.

  2. #2 by Tom Williamson on October 6, 2017 - 10:17

    Why for the love of fuck would you want to “criticise” a campaign against online abuse by mentioning rape?

    Carl of Swindon and his ilk add nothing. They are not being clever, they are not being intellectual, and they are certainly not being skeptical. They are just being contrarian dicks.

  3. #3 by Chris on October 6, 2017 - 20:46

    Laughing at rape is contemptible (just listened to Thomas Smith’s rundown of his “conversation” with Carl of Swindon, the laughter and cheers were quite clear). Trying to make excuses that silly boy man’s behavior/attitude is contemptible. If you don’t like being accused of being contemptible, then learn to be civil.

    Or be like Milo, and just fade into obscurity where you belong.

  4. #4 by Brian Lord on October 6, 2017 - 23:18

    As a prostate cancer (pc) survivor listening to the bit in this episode about British prostates I am concerned that you may have given the impression that pc is a benign form of cancer that affects only older men and is therefore not really a concern. A quick on-line check of pc statistics shows that in 2014 there were 11,300 deaths from pc in the UK and that 43% of deaths were men under 80.
    It is therefore important that men get regular prostate exams or PSA tests. Early diagnosis is the key and age is a factor when considering treatment options or ‘watchful waiting’ as it is called here in Canada. But you need to know early so that you do have options.
    Love the podcast, keep up the good work (trite, I know but sincere).

  5. #5 by James on October 7, 2017 - 01:29

    100% on point, Yves.

    It’s very sad to see people like Marsh encourage echochambers like this, with his effective “anyone who holds different political views than me can’t be a skeptic” dismissal of Sargon. Absolutely ridiculous that Marsh accuses people like Sargon expressing their views as supporting an echochamber when doing everything they can to declare him some kind of skeptic heretic. I also love how “contrarian” is used as a gotcha accusation, as if holding an unpopular view is inherently bad.

    Overall, it’s very disappointing that Marsh and others aren’t willing to honestly engage with people they politically disagree with. I know Sargon and I are.

  6. #6 by Andy Wilson on October 7, 2017 - 09:35

    Yves Dubois is arguing there is a favourable interpretation of the use of “rape” in that context.

    I can see the perspective that Yves wants me to take. The one that Yves takes. I can see the context that is being pointed out. And I believe I understand the argument that is being made.

    I think Yves should go a little further back in time in their analysis. And consider the choice of target for THAT tweet. I think Yves’ analysis should include an explanation (from Carl) of Carl’s failure to demonstrate any sensitivity or humanity toward his target. Even if I was to accept your perspective (I don’t) it still leaves me with a man selfishly and awfully illustrating a point that HE wants to make by mocking HER personal experience as a SEXUAL ASSAULT survivor. That is bullying behaviour when you give it the most favourable interpretation. When you factor in the specific use of gender issues as the subject of the mockery that makes it sexist. Do you see?

    Somehow Carl has managed to brand his personal attitude toward women as some kind of crusading bravery. At least to some people including Yves. It’s not.

    I’ve made my fair share of gaffes, cock ups and wrong thinking over the years and I’d like to think that reflection has benefitted me and the people I engage with. It seems to me there are no lessons available for Carl or those who would cheer and clap him.

  7. #7 by Black Knight No. 3 on October 7, 2017 - 16:36

    Once again Marsh goes off on a politically inspired rant against someone on the poliically opposite side. Let me ask you Marsh, as a skeptic what types of argument lead you to believe that they have no foundation? i.e. what’s sets off your skepti-sense? How about:

    1. Ad-hominem attacks, usually littered with just plain name calling.
    2. Cherry-picking the evidence.
    3. Failing to engage with the actual argument the other side is putting forward.
    4. Trying to discredit the other.

    Now which of these tactics did you avoid? Well, let me tell you: none. In fact you came across as a cry-baby weeny who just realised that someone disagrees with him, and judging by what you said about the audience, quite a lot of other people as well.

    I have listened to Carl many times, he along with The Armored Skeptic, Shoe-on-head and Computing Forever make some interesting arguments. I don’t always agree with them; I have argued on line with Carl about some of his positions but I do honestly believe that Carl prefers to rely on evidence and tries to make rational arguments based on that evidence.

    The problem here is that Carls arguments tread on some of your political beliefs and you don’t seem able to cope with that. Rather than engaging in name calling why don’t you invite Carl on to Be Reasonable or do you fear another back-fire like the the interview with the men’s rights guy (sorry, I’ve forgotten his name and the pod-cast seems to have gone from the website).

    Personally I think that political theory is amenable to logic and science as much as anything else, take off those goggles Marsh and lets start to hear some real analysis from you rather than a load of words that just add up to “I don’t like it”.

  8. #8 by James on October 8, 2017 - 14:41

    Looks like you’ve upset the Akkad fans Marsh, while not exactly eloquent your assessment of him and these other so-called sceptics is spot on. Nothing but ten-a-penny “i’m just asking [disingenuous] questions” contrarians using the shield of scepticism to milk the wallets of social conservatives by pandering to their regressive ideology with cherry picked “facts”, concern trolling, rants against the most pathetic of straw-men and repeating each others talking points ad-nauseam to try and create consensus. You even start seeing academics like Jordan Peterson pandering to this lot with his ‘feminists/sjw are using post-modern nihilism to destroy western civilization” narrative nonsense.

    I saw these videos by hbomberguy a while back in response to the reaction these “sceptics” had to the recent Bill Nye series which makes it plainly obvious Akkad and his ilk don’t give two shits about research or evidence, which disqualifies them from able to be called sceptics. Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dklVypazQsA and Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqYgjGDaMYg

  9. #9 by Cappy Charlie on October 8, 2017 - 20:11

    I feel the reply from Tom Williamson is essentially the perfect summation i.e. they are just being contrarian dicks.

  10. #10 by Chris on October 8, 2017 - 21:41

    Thank you, Tom, for the use of “Carl of Swindon.” My Google of that has brought up some of the most amusing things.

  11. #11 by Oskar on October 9, 2017 - 02:28

    Ditto most of what Dubois said. I’m not even sure what Marsh is complaining about; is it just that someone he dislikes uses the same label as him? And what is with this nonsense that anything rude is sexist if the offended person is female?

  12. #12 by Chris on October 9, 2017 - 04:38

    Hmmm, I seem to need more popcorn. There are more seriously offended fans of some nonentity from Swindon.

  13. #13 by Black Knight No. 3 on October 9, 2017 - 08:51

    Chris :
    Hmmm, I seem to need more popcorn. There are more seriously offended fans of some nonentity from Swindon.

    Instead of standing in the wings and throwing your popcorn why don’t you try, oh I don’t know, adding to the debate. Just to give you a clue, the debate isn’t about some guy from Swindon, it’s about Marsh and how he seems to be a perpetrator of the behaviour he denounces.

  14. #14 by Tom Williamson on October 9, 2017 - 11:06

    Go on then, I’ll bite. What “interesting arguments” does Carl of Swindon make?

    PS it’s not an ad hom or name calling to call him Carl of Swindon. His name is Carl. He lives in Swindon.

  15. #15 by Gittins on October 9, 2017 - 12:18

    Nice to see you taking the right side here Marsh. Can’t stand Sargon, a while back he tweeted a picture of a girl working in Cardiff Lush just because she was wearing a feminist t-shirt, causing thousands of his followers to hunt her down and send rape/death threats.

    https://lilythelostgirl.com/2017/02/15/a-shirt-that-says-feminism/

  16. #16 by Black Knight No. 3 on October 9, 2017 - 16:49

    Tom Williamson :
    Go on then, I’ll bite. What “interesting arguments” does Carl of Swindon make?
    PS it’s not an ad hom or name calling to call him Carl of Swindon. His name is Carl. He lives in Swindon.

    I didn’t intend to respond to this as I thought you were trolling but on a second reading I’ve changed my mind and think you are being genuine.

    Firstly, though, let me explain that I am not a Sargon fanboy and I don’t feel any urge to defend him. He’s got hundreds of hours worth of his material online so why you would want me to pick something from memory is a bit odd when it’s all there for you. I haven’t listened to him for a while but since you asked, something that sticks in my memory is his claim that when the Left and Right are discussing equality they are actually discussing two different concepts: the Right is taking about equality of opportunity, the Left about equality of outcome. The “interesting” bit comes from thinking about how the two concepts inter-relate and after some thought you soon realise that to increase one is to decrease the other, but where is the sweet spot? Ok, you may not find that interesting but I did.

    As far as ad-homs are concerned I was referring Marsh’s name-calling on the podcast, not to anything posted here. The problem (for me) is that I like the podcast, I like the presenters and it really irks me when they slip. I’m not expecting perfection but I really want the podcast to be the best it can be and Marsh is building up quite a CV of politically inspired non skeptical output. I’m trying to hold up a mirror to him (if he actually reads these posts) and also chide him a little in the hope that it will get him to be a little more introspective.

  17. #17 by Chris on October 9, 2017 - 18:07

    Black Knight: Aw, poor baby. There is no debate. You, little Carl of Swindon, Yves and the rest of your ilk are just plain contemptible little manboys. Get over it, stop getting triggered by valid criticism of your idiotic ideas.

    Here is an idea, if you dislike what Marsh says, then don’t listen.

    Hmm, time to get more popcorn.

  18. #18 by Flamadidle on October 9, 2017 - 20:49

    Black Knight,

    The men’s rights guy is Mike Buchanan, he was on episode 26, and it’s still on this site.

  19. #19 by Muz on October 9, 2017 - 21:58

    Gamergate made Sargon. Which tells you much of what you need to know really. Anti-feminism is his bread and butter. Pretty much literally in fact, as that particular “field” is such a cottage industry on youtube. There’s a few hundred thousand views out there every day for delivering that “8 minutes hate” a certain sector needs, and plenty of ‘skeptics’ lining up for the job.

    He never struck me as a particularly deep thinker or terribly knowledgeable about anything but giving his audience what they want. His vaunted calm reasonableness (seemingly the only thing his fans care about) is superficial at best. Matt Dillahunty posted about his encounter at Mythcon that tells the story. When challenged he typically flounders, reveals he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or has thought about things very hard, but hey, he’s got more youtube subscribers.

  20. #20 by Bill on October 10, 2017 - 20:40

    Interesting podcast, but I think the section on prostate cancer was grossly misleading with potentially dangerous false reassurance.

    The figures below are taken from the cancer research uk website and, although the figures are out of date, there is no reason to believe they have changed substantially .

    In 2014 there were 11,287 deaths from prostate cancer In the uk compared with 11,433 deaths from breast cancer.

    The quoted 10 year survival rate 2011 is 84% for prostate cancer and 78% for breast cancer.

    I accept entirely that most cases of prostate cancer occur in men over 70 and accept the old saying that old men with cancer of the prostate die of old age, but it certainly does occur in younger men and is often more aggressive in these individuals. Men are often not great at looking after their health and anything that gives false reassurance and may discourage men from seeking help is just as bad as those who peddle scam treatments.

  21. #21 by Chris on October 12, 2017 - 01:06

    BL #3: “He’s got hundreds of hours worth of his material online so why you would want me to pick something from memory is a bit odd when it’s all there for you.”

    That is the “google it yourself” response. In short he cannot support his assertion that Tom is asking about. We are not surprised, it is a common tactic.

  22. #22 by Chris on October 12, 2017 - 01:27

    Fortunately we do not have to slog through the YouTubes by Carl of Swindon, others have already done that! And it is quite amusing:
    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sargon_of_Akkad

  23. #23 by Gregory on October 12, 2017 - 04:17

    Regarding “panties.” I’m a native speaker of U.S. English. Yes, we say “panties”, but almost exclusively in reference to underwear worn by women. Men generally wear underwear, sometimes “undies”, especially when talking to children; or sometimes “boxers” or “briefs” if you are wearing one or the other.

  24. #24 by Chris on October 12, 2017 - 07:43

    I apologize for initializing “Black Knight” to BL… I do not know what I was channeling, but it may have been a slip of the keyboard (K and L are next to each other). Or it could have been a word in my head that guided my finger to slip over to the key just to the right. One will never know.

    I have comment in moderation, but that is a good thing. The content of the evil link might “trigger” Mr. Knight the Third. So this will give him a chance to find a safe space. This is just because of his very visceral reaction to Marsh’s commentary. The poor thing.

  25. #25 by Black Knight No. 3 on October 12, 2017 - 10:55

    Flamadidle :
    The men’s rights guy is Mike Buchanan, he was on episode 26, and it’s still on this site.

    ahhh .. thanks for that. I scanned the list twice but somehow contrived to miss it both times.

  26. #26 by Tom Williamson on October 16, 2017 - 22:10

    Yeah, I’m not going to slog through literally days of videos on the off chance there may be a gleaming gem buried amongst the mountainous turd. How about a specific video and a time signature?

  27. #27 by Minori on October 17, 2017 - 01:49

    Hey, longtime listener. Just an FYI, I think Mike and Marsh had their wires crossed when they made their digression into Thomas Smith and Skeptical Inquiries Only. Thomas Smith (as far as I’m aware) never made a rebuttal to Milo’s Provocateur review, but he *did* make a rebuttal with Eli about the Conceptual Penis sokal hoax. I guess it was clear enough in the discussion, but with me not being familiar with either SIO or the Yiannopoulos piece, it made it sound like SIO did a takedown of the Yiannopoulos review (which led to quite a bit of confused Googling on my end).

    I haven’t listened to him for a while but since you asked, something that sticks in my memory is his claim that when the Left and Right are discussing equality they are actually discussing two different concepts: the Right is taking about equality of opportunity, the Left about equality of outcome. The “interesting” bit comes from thinking about how the two concepts inter-relate and after some thought you soon realise that to increase one is to decrease the other, but where is the sweet spot? Ok, you may not find that interesting but I did.

    My two cents: I feel like that that’s a pretty commonly believed point, and not something particularly unique to Carl/Sargon. It’s like saying how the right believes in free enterprise and laissez-faire deregulation, the left believes in strong consumer/labor/environmental/etc. protections and state regulation, and those two sides interrelate and require a balance.

  28. #28 by Black Knight No. 3 on October 17, 2017 - 15:37

    @Tom:
    You previously said:
    “Carl of Swindon and his ilk . They are not being clever, they are not being intellectual, and they are certainly not being skeptical. They are just being contrarian dicks.”

    And in your latest comment you said:
    “I’m not going to slog through literally days of videos on the off chance there may be a gleaming gem buried amongst the mountainous turd”

    So your happy to call someone a “contraian dick”, to say someone “add[s] nothing” and then admit you haven’t heard what they have to say, after all why would you need to “slog through literally days of videos” if you were already aware of their arguments. You do realise that this website is for skeptics don’t you? More specifically about scientific skepticism? If you want to be a credulous follower of an ideology then there are many religions and political movements you can join. Please do your own thinking and try to argue against the idea a person puts forward not the person themselves.

    So back to the point: earlier I accused Marsh of ad-hominem arguments, cherry picking, not engaging with the arguments and poisoning the well. Anyone like to take me up on those accusations? Or do I have to watch the same metaphorical tumbleweed blowing through town?

  29. #29 by Tom Williamson on October 18, 2017 - 08:01

    @Black Knight

    I know you’re not arguing in good faith because you can’t fulfil a very simple request. All I’m asking for is a video and timestamp where Carl of Swindon makes a good point. Why is that so much to ask?

  30. #30 by Black Knight No. 3 on October 18, 2017 - 09:34

    @Tom:

    Your request was:
    “What “interesting arguments” does Carl of Swindon make?”

    My response to that request is given in comment #16 which answers that request in full. Now you ask me for specific timestamps on particular videos. Keep moving those goalposts. I am not your googlemonkey. You keep getting back to “Carl of Swindon” and I keep trying to return to my original, unanswered point and *you* accuse *me* of not arguing in good faith, unbelievable!

    BTW I apologise for my misquote of you in comments #28, a few words are missing. I think I must have done a cut&paste rather than a copy&paste as I intended.

  31. #31 by Black Knight No. 3 on October 18, 2017 - 11:45

    @Minori:
    “I feel like that that’s a pretty commonly believed point, and not something particularly unique to Carl/Sargon”

    Thank-you, you appear to have read my comment and responded appropriately, that seems to be quite rare around here.

    I agree, it can be quite a challenge to find out where ideas originate but I find it can be a pointless task. What’s important are the ideas/arguments themselves and the conclusions being drawn from them. Sargon builds on the ideas to make points that are consistent with his own world-view and he does appear to be consistent, at least in the small percentage of his output I have seen.

    For some reason other posters seem to think I’m defending Sargon, I probably should take some of the blame as I tried to indulge them to demonstrate my good faith, alas I am now characterised as arguing in bad faith.

    I still feel as though Marsh lets too much of his political ideology creep into the show but at the end of the day the show belongs to them and they can do as they please but it is a shame when a podcast has so many good things to teach and then tries to undo that work by behaving like the other side.

  32. #32 by Ian on October 18, 2017 - 13:21

    Was that a rationalwiki link? Wow. Might as well start quoting conservapedia over here for the full spectrum of biased nuttery.

    I’ve listened to tens of hours of Sargon and my conclusion is this: I don’t like him. He’s a rabblerousing pundit rather than a skeptic, usually relying on ideology in place of actual thought or investigation, deeply in love with himself while having no empathy for others. But that said:
    – he does make interesting arguments at times. I actually liked listening to him before the extra nonsense he brings ground me down. No, I will not be giving specific examples since the last video of his that I watches was well over a year ago and I never thought I’d be tested on this so I never bothered to remember
    – I’ve watched Armored Skeptic’s take on that discussion (including the crowd cheering scene which, context-free, was cringeworthy – though there exist possible contexts in which it would make sense), I’ve read Sargon’s fans take on that discussion, now I’ve listened to SWaK’s take of that discussion… I’m deliberately avoiding actually watching it myself since I can’t stand Sargon and because by this point I’m interested in it as a case study in online debate. What I’ve found is this: the Sargonites are celebrating “the on-stage destruction of an SJW cuck”, AS went “nobody ended up looking good in this”, SWAK went “what an awful, awful man that Sargon is”… and I still don’t have a clue what this whole thing was even about and what even happened at any deeper level. Everybody’s busy throwing judgements around on personalities and the content and any analysis of it are just completely absent. I would like to know what he’d say he was doing with that tweet, for example, because clearly it was a stunt, yet this wasn’t brought up even in passing and even in order to call it stupid. He just did it because he’s a bad man. I see. Disappointing coverage, that.

  33. #33 by Tom Williamson on October 19, 2017 - 14:01

    On Brendan O’Neill’s panel appearance at QED 2013: I knew who he was, I was expecting a farce and I got a farce. It was fairly entertaining. Brendan had no interest in contributing to the skeptic community. He turned up to the panel, made a fool of himself, then fucked off. I learned nothing from him.

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