More Outrageous Listener Feedback
My responses to some of the more "out there" feedback I've received.
by Brian Dunning
March 11, 2008
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The best part of my day is when I open my Skeptoid email folder. It's like Belloq opening the Ark of the Covenant. He stares inside for a moment as his eyes get wider and wider, and suddenly there's an explosion. Lightning bolts of illogic. Fiery personal attacks. Logical fallacies swooping past like flying demons, conspiratorial charges blasting everywhere. Then my face melts off and my carcass is spun away in a vicious whirlwind, and my laptop lid slams shut with a boom that thunders through the canyons. That's what it's like to read my listener feedback.
To start with, Tim from Virginia had some thoughts on the organic food myths episode:
Wow, very disappointing. I am (was) a fan of Skeptoid and the skeptical mindset, but this time Brian clearly shows his naive anarcholibertarian roots. Since Brian is neither an expert in agriculture nor even a scientist, I can understand how he is unable to separate his political ideology from the actual evidence. A shame. It's a good thing that organic/local agriculture is here to stay, no matter how many ill-informed corporate apologists are out there. Brian: please read "The Marxism of the Right" the best critique of libertarianism I've read lately.
Tim, I found your thoughts on organic food fascinating. Or, at least, maybe I would if you expressed them. Instead, you said a dozen things about me, about what you suspect my politics might be, about Libertarians, and about Marxism. Maybe you could clarify how any of these pertain to the points I made about the safety or environmental effects of organic food. Or, is it possible that your entire letter was an ad hominem attack? In fact, a perfect textbook ad hominem attack? Frankly, if this is the best defense of organic food that you could muster, your position is much more tenuous than you realize. And why do you think Libertarians would disapprove of organic food? They hate government regulation, and would love to see farmers carry whatever customers want to the local market. I'm not seeing that connection, but perhaps it's due to my lack of expertise in...well, anything. I'll be sure to put your books high on my reading list, because clearly, a good political agenda leads to better science.
Barry from Provo, UT had some thoughts on the episode where I pointed out a few of the factual impossibilities depicted in the Book of Mormon.
I am a professor at LDS Church-owned BYU and you made some very good points. Recently the church announced that the introduction to the Book of Mormon was going to be altered to say that the authors of the book are the progenitors of SOME (not ALL) of the native Americans.
He is correct. This change has been made and current editions of the Book of Mormon show the altered introduction. This effort to accommodate modern knowledge of genetics is a good start, but there's a long way to go. The Book of Mormon's actual content needs to be altered as well. References to animal and plant species which did not exist in pre-Columbian America will also need to be removed. Content pertaining to metallurgy, chariots, and other technologies unknown to the continent will also need to be expunged. But I warn you, Barry, your church leadership is embarking upon a dangerous path. Just this first little one-word change they've made has put the revised Book of Mormon directly at odds with non-negotiable, black and white statements placed into the official church doctrine by every single one of your prophets. I've never met a Mormon I didn't like personally. They are terrific people. But you can't overlook the fact that Joseph Smith's "translations of ancient Egyptian" are in a severe crisis. One of these days we'll need to tackle his "Book of Abraham", possibly the most egregious case of scholarly fraud of its century.
Listener Steven from northern California made a helpful clarification to one of my points in the episode on medical myths in movies, wherein I said that there's no actual medical procedure that involves the dramatic stabbing of a hypodermic needle directly into the heart. This is true today, but Steven points out that in the old days, they actually did try this sometimes:
When I was in dental school, I had a night/weekend job doing emergency blood gas analysis at the VA Hospital across the street, and as such was part of the "Code" team. I can remember many times when epinephrine was injected right into the heart and even got to administer it a few times myself. I don't remember it ever working, which is probably why it isn't part of modern-day ACLS protocols.
Eve from Ohio had some interesting thoughts on the episode about the Global Consciousness project, which claims that collective human emotions affect the output of random number generators.
Now I'm just an average undereducated white female, middle income, middle america. Even I can see that your bias is unreasonable. To think that your bombasity and pompous viewpoint proves a point is silly. Random equals random. When there are spikes in the Random Number Generators, something prompted it. What is your explanation? Or are you singularly interested in promoting doubt, fear, and insecurity to precipitate web-hits and dollars in the coffer?
I'll agree with one of her points - that she's undereducated. Thanks for tipping us off to that subtlety. Random data, by definition, includes spikes. There is no supernatural force required to justify random spikes in random data. And if you actually listened to my explanation in the episode, Eve, you'll recall that what you describe as my "promotion of doubt, fear, and insecurity" consisted of reporting that independent statisticians who have evaluated the project's conclusions found gross methodological errors and disagreed completely with their findings. I'm sorry about that, it was obviously very irresponsible of me.
And there are those "dollars in the coffer" again. Skeptoid is the only podcast I know of that does not accept donations [a policy since rescinded, - BD] or sponsors, and does not impose advertising on anyone, so I wish Eve would tell me where I'm supposed to pick up my check.
Another episode that generated a lot of heat was the one discussing the ways that television ghost hunters misuse their various electronic meters in order to produce a sensational, television-friendly signal. Ghost hunter Chuck from Santa Clara, CA believes that ghosts exist, that they speak using unpowered electromagnetism, that his microphone has some unique properties that only he understands and that audio engineers don't, and that the burden of proof should be on us to disprove his claims. He wrote:
Human hearing works on air pressure changes which move the [diaphragm] inside the microphone. But the [diaphragm] will also move in response to a changing magnetic field. I've recorded well over a hundred EVPs. To me that's proof enough there is more going on then we currently understand. But for people to disbelieve based on personal ignorance is a real shame. Get out and try it yourself, learn something, before you bash something you clearly don't understand.
Barry from Atlanta, GA felt that the TV ghost hunters are more appropriately compared to the great scientists in history. He wrote:
Yeah, "Science" has scoffed and laughed at quite an impressive list of fools and dreamers over the years: Einstien [sic], Pasteur, Edison...the list is long and distinguished by forward thinking vision and a complete and utter lack of regard what sniffy little prigs thought of them or their Ideas! What a biased, small minded, hateful little catbox of an article that was!
A listener from Ben Lomond, CA came to my rescue as I lay on the ground reeling from Barry's insult. He replied to Barry:
And then the scientific method convinced itself that Einstein, Pasteur, etc... were correct. That is the method. Take a theory apart, beat it up, question, critique, test, test, test. If it is a good theory it will stand up. The initial critique is necessary. That is the method weeding out the bad science. It isn't being small minded, it is being critical and testing the ideas. Ghosts don't stand up to the scrutiny.
When I did the exposé on MonaVie and other superfruit juices, I got a lot of replies, primarily from distributors in MonaVie's multilevel marketing system. One such distributor, Nilda from Puerto Rico, wrote a typical letter:
I have been healed of carpal tunnel with only one bottle of Monavie and 2 other friends also. At work my supervisor, [who] has never worked more than 20-30 hours, is now working 80 plus overtime after drinking 2 bottles...she has advance[d] multiple sclerosis and other ailments! Don't you think it['s] worth a try...how much are you willing to pay for good health? Drink it! Feel it! Share it! I share it with everyone I come in contact with because for me and my loved [ones] it has worked!
Well, Hallelujah, Nilda! I think I'm going to make an ad hominem attack of my own, since the claims you make collapse by themselves under the slight weight of zero evidence or plausibility. Is it more likely that a simple fruit juice instantly cures an incredible range of physical injuries, genetic disorders, and other ailments; or that you are simply an unscientific (and not very credible) salesman eager to get someone signed up to recoup your foolish investment in MonaVie's pyramid scheme? One of those two cases is more probable than the other. I'll leave it to our skeptical listeners to decide which — you shouldn't listen to a "hateful little catbox" like me.
By Brian Dunning
Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.
Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "More Outrageous Listener Feedback." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media,
11 Mar 2008. Web.
24 Mar 2017. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4091>
References & Further Reading
Gillman, Jeff. The truth about organic gardening: benefits, drawbacks, and the bottom line. Portland, Ore.: Timber Press, Inc., 2008.
Haahr, M. "Introduction to Randomness and Random Numbers." Random.org. Random.org, 7 Apr. 2007. Web. 17 Oct. 2009. <http://www.random.org/randomness/>
Leamy, Elizabeth. The Savvy Consumer. Herndon, VA: Capital Books, Inc., 2004. 317-320.
Smith, Alison. "TAPS vs. SAPS: The Atlantic Paranormal Society meets the Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society." eSkeptic the email newsletter of the Skeptic Society. The Skeptic Society, 10 Aug. 2006. Web. 22 Mar. 2007. <http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-08-10>
Southerton, Simon G. Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church. Salt Lake City, Utah: SIGNATURE BOOKS PUBLISHING LLC., 2004.
Taverne, Dick. The March of Unreason. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. 60-79.
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