More Wet and Wild Listener Feedback

Another round of listener feedback from the past several months.

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions

Skeptoid #68
October 2, 2007
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe
 

It's been another 35 episodes or so since we did this last time, and it's time again to check in with some of the listener feedback I've received. I guess I'm just not getting through to some people. Maybe it's because those people don't base their beliefs upon rational understanding of the facts. Gee, can you imagine that? What a world that would be, where people actually clung to irrational beliefs!

Case in point, some of those who replied to my episode on the Phoenix Lights, an event in which all the photographic evidence was absolutely consistent with the flares that are known to have been dropped. An anonymous listener made a point about logic:

This is just a piece of junk!!! Just because no human has actually made [it] to another planet to get proof doesn't mean that there's no such thing as aliens! I know we have those robots and all to investigate but those things aren't technological[ly advanced] at all compared to the inventions of these extra terrestrial creatures you mistakenly call flares!

Yes, Mr. Anonymous, you are correct. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Nobody ever said it was, certainly not I. But absence of evidence is absence of evidence, and that's a poor foundation on which to base a claim as extraordinary as alien visitation. My explanation is supported by hard evidence from beginning to end, including every photo and video taken that night, and when yours is too, I'll be only too happy to give it another look.

A listener from San Diego, California wrote:

My friend worked at the AFB base in that area. He didn't see anything but he was in Vegas that day. Yes I believe the community before the others' disbelief...

Well, that's compelling: Your friend was out of town and so didn't see anything. Case closed. Maybe others you know did see the lights, and you believe their stories. I believe their stories too, because there is substantial evidence for what they saw. Until enough of that evidence was brought forward, nobody really had any way to identify the event in the sky, so we all had crazy ideas of what it might be. The decision you've made is to support those who have made a conclusion that is contrary to the evidence, and to reject those whose conclusions are consistent with the evidence. Is that really the best way to approach the situation?

I got tons of crap for my episode on chiropractic. I think the biggest problem here is that more chiropractors are performing physical therapy, which is effective when properly administered, but it's not chiropractic. This leads patients to conclude that chiropractic is effective, when in fact they did not receive chiropractic treatment. Note that it's illegal for chiropractors to give physical therapy unless they are trained and separately licensed to do so. Here's a fair sample of the feedback I received, from San Antonio, Texas:

I visited a chiropractor after a car accident with some back/shoulder pain. I felt great after each visit, and after a few visits, the pain was gone altogether.

A perfect example of confirmation bias resulting from an uncontrolled test. Much of the other flak I received was in the form of conventional anticorporatism, embracing chiropractic only because it can't prescribe drugs which might put profits into the pockets of Big Pharma, as if this alarm about science-based medicine means that there is anything useful about chiropractic's magic-based fundamentals. From Fredericksburg, Virginia:

When I look at the current medical system, I see prescription drug companies sending lobbyists and representatives to congress and to doctors' own offices. I see doctors over prescribing medication and possibly causing epidemics of influenza which we have no control over except to buy more medicine from the crooks who started it all.

And from a chiropractor in Columbus, Ohio:

It is country of free choice and drugs are not a choice of most of my patients. Considering 100,000 visit hospitals [sic] from the side effects of NSAIDS and 20,000 die each year. Anywhere from 160,000-300,000 are KILLED in the hospital each year due to mistakes.

300,000 killed each year. Wow! Genocide on that scale is going to be all over CNN. I better go sit in front of the TV and catch this report, I'm sure it's coming any minute. But wait, this comment's from last May. Well, maybe CNN is still struggling to collate the vast evidence.

One episode dealt with the demonstrably bogus history set forth in the Book of Mormon. Criticism of that episode came, predictably, from Mormons. Here's a comment from a listener in High Point, North Carolina:

Although some Mormons may still believe that all American Indians were descended from Lehi, the Book of Mormon doesn't actually state that. The DNA research "disproving" the Book of Mormon starts with that assumption. This is a classic straw man argument: Claim that the text states something that it doesn't; and then disprove the claim. The mitochondrial DNA studies referenced cannot show whether a small group (under 30 people) were inserted into a Native American population that probably numbered in the millions.

A valiant effort, listener, but you're quite wrong about that. The latest molecular genetics studies indicate that the Amerindian founding population could have been as small as 70 individuals who crossed the Bering land bridge some 12,000 to 17,000 years ago and whose descendants migrated to the tip of South America as recently as 11,000 years ago. We would know if a small group from Europe had migrated in, and especially if they were the forebears of the Nephites and Lamanites. Although the church has stated in recent years "Nothing in the Book of Mormon precludes migration into the Americas by peoples of Asiatic origin," the highest authority — the prophet himself, in fact every prophet from Joseph Smith to the current one, Gordon B. Hinckley — has proclaimed in clear black and white non-negotiable language that Lehi's family group was the sole founding population of the American continent. This is absolutely impossible according to any reasonable interpretation of the genetic evidence. Rather than correcting me, you should be working internally and correcting your own prophet.

My episode on The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking was very well received by all but the most fervent believers in the paranormal. One anonymous listener wrote the following:

I look forward to you doing some skeptical analysis on mainstream science to reciprocate your great commentary on the left-field work, otherwise I will become skeptical about your motivation as it may appear you are not thinking skeptically at all but are merely a mouthpiece for your paymasters and their agenda.

The people who use the tired old logic of "being skeptical of the skeptics", or who reference my corporate paymasters, are always the ones who write in anonymously. Curious. I'm still waiting for that check, by the way; when you locate my corporate paymasters, please get me the number of Accounts Payable.

It's time to be skeptical of mainstream science, or to be skeptical of the skeptics. Let's translate that into what it really means. Skepticism is the process of requiring a higher standard of evidence. So this listener, and his ilk, are criticizing me for not requiring a higher standard of evidence from those who require a higher standard of evidence. Well, that's a very logical and thoughtful suggestion. Thank you, but I think I'll reserve my skepticism for those subjects where evidence is being ignored, not where it's already being required.

My episode about the claim that George Bush is actually one of a shape-shifting race of reptilian beings controlling the Earth got some interesting feedback. Here's one from a listener who gave her location only as Weathertop Farm:

I'm so happy to have people to tell me what and who to believe without having to think for myself...it makes me feel superior and confident to boldly dismiss the ideas of others out of hand. because i would not want to accept something on the basis of no proof....wait a minute...you do have the ability to verify what YOU claim don't you?

Ah yes, the logical fallacy that the burden of proof should not be on those making wild claims; the wild claims should be accepted at face value and it's up to those hearing the claim to disprove it. Neither science nor logic can prove a negative, so I guess we're all forced to accept the fact that Reptoids are controlling the world. And the undisputable reality of the Loch Ness Monster, and Zeus and Neptune, and Shiva, and psychic powers, and extra-terrestrial UFO's, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and anything else that anyone wants to invent.

The episode on global warming was quite popular, and received overwhelmingly positive feedback. My only point was that it's impossible to know how much we need to do or how much we can afford to do to reduce global temperatures, since nobody knows how much a given reduction in carbon dioxide emissions will reduce temperatures, if at all. That's not to say that we should do nothing; far from it. The danger we face is the risk from doing nothing while we wait for an answer that has thus far proven intractable. Releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is bad no matter what and should ideally be stopped, but that doesn't mean we should replace everyone's car with a Prius at a cost that exceeds the GNP of most countries to achieve a completely unknowable result. Since I wasn't particularly inflammatory, I didn't get a lot of dissent but there were still some good comments.

A listener from Amherst, Massachusetts wrote:

I'm angered and saddened by how the whole discipline of climatology seems to have been poisoned by politics. Nowadays the only thing one can truly tell from a climate paper is who the authors voted for in 2000. The truth seems to be, well, inconvenient and therefore ignored. This is true of both sides.

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

A listener from York, UK said the following:

Whether the oceans are going to rise 1 cm or 5 cm over the next century do you really need to drive a SUV? Or subscribe to a glossy magazine that you barely read? Or have the temperature in your house at 73 degrees?

I think his comment is naïve, because the answer is yes, people do demand to have those things. Telling people to change their behavior and adopt a less comfortable lifestyle is like expecting factories to switch to a less profitable and less polluting method out of the goodness of their hearts. This is a strategy that will fail.

No listener feedback episode would be complete without a visit from the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. On my episode about fire melting steel, the conspiracy banner was held by yet another anonymous poster who calls himself "truth01". It has been suggested that so many conspiracy guys refuse to give their real names because they honestly fear retaliation by government agents. Truth01 gives a fair recap of most of the usual 9/11 conspiracy talking points, such as the twin towers fell at a speed that's impossibly fast, presumably accusing the Bush administration of affixing rocket engines to the top of the buildings to force them down faster. No less than eight times, truth01 asked if anyone had the courage to answer the simple questions he had asked, but in fact he never clearly articulated any questions, prompting several people to ask what questions he was talking about. Anyway it's the usual stuff, if you're interested it makes an entertaining read, just go to the Fire Melting Steel online transcript on Skeptoid.com.

The episode about vaccinations causing autism drew ire as I knew it would. The supposition is that autism is caused by mercury poisoning (in fact no such link has ever been found), that mercury comes from thimerosal (in fact thimerosal contains ethylmercury, which is quickly discharged from the body, not methylmercury, which does stay in the body but is not contained in thimerosal), and that thimerosal is used in vaccinations (thimerosal has not been an ingredient in childhood vaccinations for more than a decade). It's a supposition based on a lengthy chain, every single link of which is broken. But that does not sway the believers who insist that vaccination against disease costs more lives than it saves. One listener from Crawfordsville, Indiana, wrote:

Would you be so kind to cite your factual statements (e.g. "Vaccinations save more lives worldwide than any other medical advance in history") ... On the other hand, if I'm alone in this request, maybe you need to do an episode on the importance of being skeptical of even skeptics...

Brian Dunning

© 2007 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Busko, Marlene. "Autism Continued to Increase Subsequent to Thimerosal Removal." Medscape. WebMD, 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/568674>

Henderson, Donald A. "The Miracle of Vaccination." Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 1 Jul. 1997, Volume 51, Number 2: 235-245.

Kohn, L., Corrigan, J., Donaldson, M. To err is human: building a safer health system. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 2000. 31.

Pohl, Rudiger. Cognitive Illusions: A Handbook on Fallacies and Biases in Thinking, Judgement and Memory. New York: Psychology Press, 2004.

Wallace DC, Torroni A. "American Indian prehistory as written in the mitochondrial DNA: a review." Human Biology. 1 Jun. 1992, Volume 64, Number 3: 403-16.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "More Wet and Wild Listener Feedback." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 2 Oct 2007. Web. 21 Oct 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4068>

Discuss!

10 most recent comments | Show all 19 comments

Brian -

I'm just trying to be helpful in the spirit of constructive criticism so that the effectiveness of your tremendous time and effort is maximized.

Your "references" and statement that "that's my final word on the matter" go counter to the cause of science and critical thinking that you purport to promote. Both are mutually-dependent processes that include peer review and tentative conclusions in an effort to eliminate bias. By not including your references, your episodes can only aspire to be opinions, rather than stepping stones in an ongoing process - hopefully carried on by your listeners/readers - to insure that the best (tentative) conclusion possible is reached. If you expect us to essentially start from scratch, why should we include you in the process at all? If you're not interested in seeing what - if any - evidence you may have missed or used when you shouldn't have (because it was flawed in some way you hadn't considered), then how can you consider yourself a true skeptic, let alone someone qualified to write science books, even if they are just for kids?

As you point out, you do a crapload of research: cutting and pasting titles, authors, and URLs isn't hard and you don't have to read them in the podcast, just refer listeners to the transcript on the website. If that STILL takes too long, then don't do as many episodes. In the area of skepticism/science/truth, quality trumps quantity every single time.

Yours in critical thinking,

Todd Barton, Crawfordsville, IN
October 8, 2007 1:53pm

wow do people atualy say "pay master" i thought you were just exajerating.

the salamander, Australia
October 11, 2007 8:05am

Er, Todd, bynot including sources,does that discount, or ignore, the further reading section?

Tom H, Kent, UK
August 22, 2010 7:11am

one of is getting confused here... gotta get a new hat!

Henk van der Gaast, Sydney
November 26, 2010 8:43am

enjoyed hearing discussion of major sports stars should be compensated question: do they still fund all the other sports programs at school with those same moneies?

louis, lansing,ill
April 4, 2011 6:01am

We have poker machines funding our sports programs. What the hell is wrong in Illinois?

Mud, Sin City, Oz
October 25, 2011 11:10pm

The most important thing I've learned reading Brian's blog is the astonishing amount of idiots in this world.

I see a great deal of opportunity to perform pecuniary extractions on them.

Government Goodies, Secret Government Lab
November 29, 2011 11:59am

hey Brian, sorry i guess my previous post was out of date, im listening to all your episodes in order, (great stuff by the way) so i might be behind the time

i looked in to the timeline you provided for the settlement of America, and your right, pretty much everyone agrees that they came from Asia through Alaska. i did find quite a bit of controversy on exactly when, and even how they came. even how many migrations there were.

Dennis Stanford, Director of the Paleoindian/Paleoecology Program at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution suggests that early European people may have been among the earliest settlers of the Americas. Citing evidence that the Solutrean culture of prehistoric Europe may have provided the basis for the tool-making of the Clovis culture in the Americas, the theory suggests that Ice Age Europeans migrated to North America by using skills similar to those possessed by the modern Inuit peoples and followed the edge of the ice sheet that spanned the Atlantic. The hypothesis rests upon particular similarities in Solutrean and Clovis technology that have no known counterparts in Eastern Asia, Siberia or Beringia, areas from which, or through which, early Americans are known to have migrated

not a commonly accepted hypothesis, but my point is i think the issue of how and when the migration occurred is not yet a fact we can be sure of.

oh and thanks "Bad,Cleveland" ive said that in the past. nice to know better now.

Grant, utah
August 25, 2012 9:13am

Just as to advance a great comment to skeptoid..

Mud, Virtually Missing point, NSW, Oz
December 21, 2012 9:27pm

I find that a superb analysis against the central asian human expansion to the americas and europe.

This posit (not mine bur llterature) is dated and superbly posited and only requires an out of sequence (genetically and temporally)( to "bust it" for a want of a better term) to enhance or reduce migrtion claims (only).

Dated... by measurement... not by web searches..

Given that dating and sequence is the only tech that we have at present.. we will only know better reviweing the literature.... until a better application we have gets a better fix.

Better fix? I would concur that a migration path is a superb fix.

That is old genetic, so we need a better batter fix? yep... evry decade has a better fix as anthropologiclal sciences catch up..

Believe me or just look it up in the general web wise way... The anthroplogical sciences are intertwingled in hard sciences so grandly that they can make hard verifiable claims.

Verifiable is opinion, not view!

Mud, missing point, NSW, Oz
December 21, 2012 9:28pm

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