Listener Feedback X

Another dip into the listener feedback files for Skeptoid.

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions

Skeptoid #182
December 1, 2009
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As I sit here at my desk, it's a beautiful fall morning, sunny and clear. What better way to brighten it even further, than to open my inbox, and hear what some of my detractors have to say. People often ask me if all my email is really this bad. The fact is that very little negative feedback ever comes through email; it's almost always posted to the web comment form. I guess the people who hate me don't want the comparatively personal confrontation of email. In fact I welcome it, so bring it on! But for today, here is a selection of a few more interesting snippets of feedback.

The first comes from Rob in Burbank, CA, regarding my episode on The Rendlesham Forest UFO. In 1980, some new young recruits to an airfield in the UK chased a blinking light through the forest, unaware it was merely the beam of a nearby lighthouse. Later some of them embellished the story to turn it into a fullblown UFO encounter. Like many people who watch the cable networks, Rob seems to prefer the supernatural explanation:

I've been studying this case for years, and I'm not sure what your objective here is but you certainly missed a great deal of the story.. I've heard interviews of all the men involved and where's the letter from Lt. Col Halt? Where's the statement from the British Ministry of Defense.. It is so funny that you mentioned the lighthouse. That was debunked years ago as the lighthouse has a shield on the back so it doesn't interfere with the the AFB operations. Love how you picked just the pieces that would prove your skewed point.. What a flake you are.

I have no idea whether a shield may have since been installed, but if you've been "studying the case for years", you've no doubt seen the video of the lighthouse taken from the base, and read the police reports taken on that night where the local constables stated the airmen were following the lighthouse. So there certainly was no shield in 1980. I find this assertion bizarre. You also ask about Col. Halt's report and the statement from Ministry of Defense. For time constraints I summarized their contents in the episode, because they don't really contain anything particularly interesting. But if you'd like to see them for yourself, here are links to them: Col. Halt's memo, statement from the Ministry of Defense. Col. Halt simply reported the stories given by the men, which I gave in detail; and the Ministry of Defense simply said that as far as they're concerned it's a non-incident. If this is your best evidence that "I'm a flake" and I cherrypicked evidence, I hope your profession is not in research.

On a lighter note, here's a profound and insightful thought from "Mr. Nook" on the "East Coast" of the USA, on my episode about shadow people:

HAH. I have just made a decision. I am going to be like Brian Dunning. I am going to become an authority on something i know nothing about. let's see, I do not know how to perform open heart surgery, so I am going to start writing articles on a website with my thoughts on the subject and how i think it's not done right. this guy probably works at McDonald's when he's not typing on his site. I bet his kids are totally jacked up. he's probably brain washed them. I see another Fred Phelps rising up.

If that's really the way I am, why do you want to be like me? Oh well, I guess we all have our aspirations.

Here's a good one. My episode on multilevel marketing, predictably, drew in all sorts of multilevel marketers, who used the comment form as a stump from which to pitch their miracle business plan. "Team Acai Chico" from Chico, CA, posted the following:

MonaVie has a document called the Income Disclosure Statement that is essentially our W-2. It show's the High, Low and average earnings of it's Distributors. The document states that 99% of Distributors earned an average of somewhere in between $23 and $65,548 per week for the weeks of July 4, 2008 to June 26, 2009. Link to Income Disclosure Statement is: monavie.com/ids

Take a look at that document. After the $2K minimum required purchases, it shows that 85% lost money, and 97% made less than $7K/yr. How reliable is that? All the data is self-reported ON THE ORDERING FORM!!!! But even crazier, a sharp reader pointed out that to even be included on that statement, you have to have recruited at least one person and received at least one bonus. MonaVie reported to Newsweek that fewer than 1% of their distributors who make these required purchases ever qualified for any commission at all, so the remaining 99% who never recovered a dime are all excluded from the "averages" reported on this statement. So, in effect, this document (produced for marketing purposes) boasts that 99% of all MonaVie participants, plus 85% of the top 1%, lose money. This is the best that Team Acai Chico can come up with to try to impress me?? Like I said in the episode: Victims like Team Acai Chico are susceptible to these plans for two reasons — (a) lack of business acumen, and (b) poor math skills.

"PJ" from "DK" had this to say on my episode about the safety of food cooked in a microwave oven:

I've been eating micro stuff for a decade, and i'm feeling worse and worse, my memory is bad, my concentration is bad etc.

Let me just ask you a question, PJ. What happens to the average normal human being as they age? They feel worse, their memory and concentration seems to go. These are called "symptoms of life". They're the things that happen to most people as they get older. But let me ask you another question: Over that entire decade where you've eaten microwaved food, have you ever done anything else that might affect your health? Have you aged? Are you obese? Do you smoke, drink, exercise, swim in toxic waste, take good care of yourself? Do you have any congenital conditions? Is it really likely that eating microwaved food is the only risk factor you've been exposed to? Why single it out?

Do you feel you're not as young as you used to be? Yes. Do you eat microwaved food? Yes. Omigod, a correlation!!! Let me ask you one more question: Do you use toothpaste? Yes? Omigod!!! It must be poison!

I did an episode called Screwed, a musical parody of a meeting of a secret society of Illuminati planning their takeover of the world through conspiracy and deceit. I waited curiously to see what people this one would draw from the woodwork, and was not disappointed in the person of Joe from Hanover, ON. Interestingly, Joe was, for a while, one of the most prolific posters of pro-Christian commentary on the web site, preaching Biblical literalism and Young Earth creation. When he heard Screwed, Joe said:

...If any of you don't believe that "the New World Order of Masonic Illuminati" or something similar do not exist, then they have successfully pulled the wool over your eyes. Doing spoofs or parodies on secret societies is fun, but there's a line from an old song that says "the devil thinks it's great that you don't believe in him...". The same applies to the hidden hands of governance. Are you paying attention, Mr Dunning? When you have been plastic-monied, data-chipped, phone-tapped, email-tapped, and protected by a ton of "for-your-safety" laws, to the death of your liberty, you may not have room to wonder where and why it all came upon us. "The best thing for tyranny to succeed is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke. Oh yeah, deception is hilarious.

It's funny. Of course everyone (or almost everyone) agrees that unreasonable invasion of our privacy is detrimental in many ways. I don't like it that everything I buy with my debit card can be tracked. I don't like it that phones and emails can be tapped, even though I don't have any particular reason to care. What I do is my business. To that point, I think most of us would agree with Joe. And I'll agree with Joe on one other point: There is almost certainly something out there that most of us don't know about that would allow the goverment to track some aspect of what we do. I don't care for that. But tracing your point-of-sale purchases and archiving your Gmail are not really the driving evils of the type of secret society I was parodying in Screwed.

Where Joe leaves the realm of rationality is in his belief that such tracking is not only pervasive and malevolent, it extends to far more than just surveillance and constitutes control. He believes his life is being controlled by a secret power. He believes that anyone who does not embrace a belief in this secret power has had the wool pulled over their eyes. Secret, Joe, means secret. That means you don't know about it. That means there is no evidence. There's nothing secret or mysterious about ATM transactions. The secret overlords manipulating Joe are really just one more expression of his faith. Well Joe, I don't choose to live and make my decisions outside the realm of what's real. I don't put entities whose very existence requires faith in charge of my life. If you prefer to do so, then there's a secret alien entity out there that wants you to make large contributions to Skeptoid.

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

I like to always close with a particularly fun one. I did a joke episode about homeopathy. It was ten minutes of silence, which I thought was a fun way to make the point. Tom from Dusseldorf had this to say:

You are just an arse homeopathy works no matter what you spew out your mouth

Even, apparently, when I spew nothing at all.

Brian Dunning

© 2009 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Dokoupil, Tony. "A Drink's Purple Reign; Devotees claim MonaVie cures their ills and makes them millionaires. But is it just hype in a bottle?" Newsweek. 11 Aug. 2008, Volume 152, Issue 6.

Halt, Charles I. "Unexplained Lights." Ian Ridpath. ianridpath.com, 1 Jul. 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2009. <http://www.ianridpath.com/ufo/Haltmemo.jpg>

Kelly, L. The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2005. 199-201.

Leamy, E. The Savvy Consumer: How to Avoid Scams and Ripoffs That Cost You Time and Money. Sterling: Capital Books, 2004. 223.

Rutkowski, C. A World of UFO's. Toronto: Dundurn Press Ltd, 2008. 27-32.

Sharpe, C. Frauds Against the Elderly. Jefferson: McFarland, 2004. 180-182.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Listener Feedback X." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 1 Dec 2009. Web. 24 Nov 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4182>

Discuss!

10 most recent comments | Show all 23 comments

Valery, while it is more likely that the microwaved food is 'junk food' (a term that deserves some critical analysis in and of itself), a microwave is often used to cook frozen vegetables and reheat baked potatoes.

Microwaved food is correlated to high calorie foods yes, but it in no way is a cause of them.

You do bring up a possible confounding variable in that specific anecdote.

Brandon, Falconer NY
December 16, 2009 9:20am

Brian, I love your podcasts. The only issue I have is with the one on vitamins. You said that if people eat a well-balanced diet, they generally don't need supplements.

The new recommendation for calcium for women over 45 is 1000 to 1500 mg per day. That's really hard to get in a normal diet. Vitamin D is even worse. My rheumatologist told me that 800 to 1000 is the new RDA for D, compared to the old one of 400 IUs. Even if people *don't* have a vitamin deficiency, after a certain age it's good to be aware of our calcium and vitamin D intake to prevent osteoporosis, and to supplement unless you eat large amounts of dairy and fish.

Thanks for all the great work you do. Sigrid

Sigrid Macdonald, Ottawa
December 22, 2009 4:38pm

"then there's a secret alien entity out there that wants you to make large contributions to Skeptoid"

Priceless.

Cam, Thunder Bay, ON.
January 4, 2010 1:12pm

If anyone ... particularly Tom from Dusseldorf ... can give me evidence that homeopathy works, then I will ditch my Doctor in an instant. Now when I say 'evidence', I don't mean anecdotes or testimonials, I mean something like peer reviewed clinical trials, and other scientifically proven methods. The fact is (please note this Tom!) that nobody ever has been able to provide that sort of evidence ... and never will!

Rob, Sydney Australia
January 11, 2010 8:23am

Brian,
I did not mean to infer that you were a sucker for easy deception. If that’s what you think, I apologize. Please allow me a couple of points:
First, secrets are indeed secrets, but they’re not as totally hidden as you would think (try Ralph Epperson’s ‘The Unseen Hand’). History doesn’t just happen; it is often planned. The planners are those in positions of very high powers, and we all know that power corrupts. They don’t need to manipulate our every move, and in fact they don’t. They just assert enough control to suit their purposes, which is to hold the upper hand in finance, law, and major policies etc. You’ve already admitted to the creeping infringement of our freedoms and privacies. As for the ‘pervasive’ and ‘malevolent’ natures of this ‘surveillance’ (again, your words – I didn’t use them), you might do a study of this topic and make a new podcast on it. Or one on deceit (would you pull our legs?).
Secondly, I do not recall where I ever mentioned in my posting that I felt or believed that I was being controlled by such societies. I wish you would not insinuate something which I didn’t say. [Brian: “He believes his life is being controlled by a secret power” and “The secret overlords manipulating Joe…”]. And please don’t try to connect this to my faith in either. There isn’t a Christian alive who does not practice complete free will. We’re controlled by our own choices, nothing more, and nothing less.

Nevertheless, Brian, thanks for the good work.

Joe Boudreault, Hanover, Ontario
February 12, 2010 2:05pm

I'm thinking of starting an pedantoid website. Any, UK doesn't have a Ministry of Defense, though we do have a Ministry of Defence;)

Ross Bowen, Bridgend, Wales
May 17, 2010 12:28pm

"History doesn’t just happen; it is often planned."

Not really. Chance always plays a roll--just look at the history of battle. Besides, it's a tremendous leap form "sometimes it's planned" to "these people are planning it", and you've offered no proof to bridge that gap.

Gregory, Alabama
November 2, 2010 12:27pm

Thanx for explaining the kids and the process to get them Gregory.

Can I polish my knob here and say these disgraceful drains on the MudEconomy have got minor awards for trade and education this year?

Damn I love chance when it suits me.

And Ross, by definition, the ministry of deefense never talked to the guys protecting Michael Vick.

Let it never be said that I am not trivial! or superficial..

Henk V., Sin City, Oz
October 12, 2011 11:32pm

Here is Col. Halt's actual investigation audio tape recorded as the event unfolded. It is a live recording of the unexplained event including radiation readings, multiple light and object sightings. Including objects beaming lights down to the ground.

It is not a lighthouse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QBgkPOzEfY

Reed, Chicago
November 1, 2011 6:28pm

Sneaky critters these aliens..

I call for International Gullibility..

Mud (Dr Syd), sin city, NSW, OZ
October 5, 2012 10:51pm

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