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Fixing Former Fumbles

Donate Skeptoid corrects another round of errors in past episodes pointed out by listeners.  

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions

Skeptoid Podcast #909
November 7, 2023
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Fixing Former Fumbles

Once again it's time to open our inbox and wade into the sea of corrections pointed out by you, my listeners. As mind-boggling as it may sound to some of you, I do occasionally make errors in these episodes; and in the interest of keeping it as good a resource as it's possible to make it, I correct those errors as expediently as I can. So today I have for you a raft of specific corrections, so please, sit back and enjoy.

Was Jesus Born or Raised in Nazareth?

We'll get started with this error from only three weeks ago. Episode #906 considered the question of whether the town of Nazareth existed at the time of Christ. Predictably, many of you replied by schooling me that Jesus himself never existed, so what does it matter whether Nazareth did? — apparently unaware that I had already taken a deep dive into that much weightier question in episode #666 on the historicity of Jesus Christ. So we'll leave that question there and return to this one: because if Nazareth didn't exist at the time, how could there be a Jesus of Nazareth, said to have been born in Nazareth?

The moment the episode was released, I got the following email, followed over the course of a few weeks by about a thousand more just like it. This one came from listener Blake:

Now I'm no Bible scholar, but my immediate thought was "Hang on... wasn't Jesus supposed to have been born in Bethlehem? Jesus is often known as "Jesus of Nazareth" because Nazareth is the place where he was supposedly raised, and where he grew up, but not where he was actually born.

Sure enough, twice in the episode I referred to Nazareth as the place where Jesus is traditionally said to have been born. But of course that's wrong; his traditional place of birth was Bethlehem. The recording and the transcript were quickly corrected, hopefully before too many of you got the bad version.

But as the astute among you might observe, that's not the end of the story. Upon mentioning that fix on Facebook, I quickly heard from listener Ross of the Oh No, Ross & Carrie podcast:

Your "mistake" was quite more likely the truth, but you'll save yourself a lot of impassioned emails by sticking to the official story.

Listener Paul replied to him:

Well, you were probably right anyway. The Bethlehem-myth is only included in Luke's gospel. Jezus is always called "from Nazareth" in the rest of the texts.

And Ross continued:

Well, and Matthew, too, but that account is incompatible with the Luke telling.

With a quotation from John 7:41-43 NIV:

Still others asked, "How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David's descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.

Anyway I left the correction as-is, and will leave further debating to all of you who wish to.

The Bite of the Pit Bull

Episode #904 was a pop quiz covering the past 17 years of this podcast. Each multiple-choice question was a little fact from an episode. But the question for the 2011 episode on pit bulls did not offer a correct option! I somehow managed to misquote my own episode, and I wouldn't have caught it except that listener Linda wrote in:

As a long time listener I was shocked and disappointed to hear you repeat a common misconception about dogs on your most recent episode. There is no truth to the claim that pit bulls have stronger bites than other breeds. My co-author and I address this in a section about pit bull myths in our book The Pit Bull Life (Countryman Press, 2016).

Sure enough, I had remembered my own episode wrong and offered "pit bulls have the strongest bite strength of any dog" as the "correct" option. That's false. They don't — and in my original episode, I had actually debunked that belief myself! I replaced this answer option in the transcript with an actually-true fact about pit bulls, but I won't tell you what it is here; you'll need to go to episode #904 and take the quiz to find out. Thanks, Linda.

The Noisy Salamander

Episode #903 was about the alleged existence of a monster salamander, the size of a person, hiding in the streams of Northern California. This would be some five or six times the size of the largest salamanders known to live in California, and I happened to mention that one of those is one of only two salamanders in the world known to vocalize, a fact reproduced in many popular texts on salamanders. Well, listener Matheus was one up on me:

In a quick search for papers with "vocalization in salamanders" I separately found at least 20 species where some vocalization has already been found in at least 8 of the 9 families of salamanders suggesting that vocalization must be common throughout the group.

And then he provided a whole raft of links, verifying that the number two popularly given is not very current. Many more have been discovered since then. Interestingly, salamanders do not have vocal cords; the vocalizations they make are by various methods of clicking and popping in their mouths, nose, and jaws, and rapid exhalations.

The Roving Eyes

Episode #902 was about eye exercises, mainly the claim that they can help improve your vision, which they can't. There are a few things they can help with, though — they can't help your focus (which is what everyone wants), but they can help to some degree with a limited number of conditions. In the episode, I listed three, and said these are the only ones. I quickly heard from listener Eric, who identified himself as an eye doctor:

You list three things eye exercises can treat: convergence insufficiency, strabismus and glaucoma. Additionally you mention eye exercises do not improve vision (with some caveats) Amblyopia however, can substantially affect visual acuity and it is a treatable condition which was not mentioned.

Actually his email was a bit condescending, acting like I'd never heard of amblyopia and didn't do basic research for the episode. Don't do that, please, folks; when I get something wrong, it's not for lack of hard work. Of course I knew about amblyopia; nearly everyone does, either through personal experience or, like me, because that's what Charlie Brown's sister Sally had, and why she had to wear an eyepatch. Where I was wrong was in thinking amblyopia was included in convergence insufficiencies. Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is where one eye doesn't quite want to follow what the dominant eye is doing. But convergence insufficiency is the name of a specific condition, it's not a category that includes amblyopia; so I updated the transcript to clearly include both conditions. My thanks to Eric.

UFOs and Mental Health

Next we have an important correction to episode #900, on the old 1933 Italian UFO hoax, which was the centerpiece of David Grusch's testimony to the US House subcommittee hearing on UFOs in July of 2023. It's a old-ish UFO story, first conceived in 1996, when an unknown hoaxer created a set of documents claiming a UFO crashed in Italy in 1933. Then, a few years later in the early 2000s, more details were added by a very interesting individual. His name was William Brophy Jr., and his thing was contacting other UFOlogists and adding details to their UFO stories, always claiming that his father, a long deceased Air Force transport pilot, had been intimately involved in their case. With this particular story, Brophy contacted some Italian researchers who had been taken in by the hoax documents, and wove a tall tale for them that his father had transported that UFO wreckage back to the United States after the Allies took Italy back from the Axis in World War II.

It was difficult to tell this story without a word concerning Brophy's evident mental condition, because his habit was not one consistent with a healthy mind. Brophy appears to live in a fantasy world where his father was some kind of a legendary figure who was a prime character in every UFO story Brophy heard. In the episode, I said his behavior appeared consistent with some sort of dissociative disorder — he seemed to be somewhat dissociated from reality. Listener Todd wrote:

I have one correction: when you wrote about your concern for Bill Brophy, Jr.'s mental health due to his tendency to connect unrelated details, you said it may indicate "some sort of dissociative disorder." According to the DSM-V, connecting unrelated details to fuel a fallacious belief is not part of the diagnostic criteria for any dissociative disorder; it could fit in with some psychotic disorders, though, such as delusional disorder or schizophrenia.

As I've mentioned before, my wife is a mental health therapist, and we often discuss cases like this during my research for such episodes. We did in this case, too. Todd is correct — or, I should say since neither he nor my wife have examined Brophy, Todd is more likely correct; and it's somewhat unaccountable how I came away from our conversation with the wrong potential diagnosis — it's all on me, as my wife was in complete agreement with Todd after I showed her his feedback. But I did, and it's now been corrected in the transcript.

It's worth pointing out that speculating about a mental health diagnosis of someone you only know from articles is fraught with pitfalls and it's impossible to have enough information to make any such claim. The best we can say is that certain behavior as it's been reported in articles appears consistent with common traits displayed by individuals who do present with such diagnoses; and what's been reported about Brophy certainly fits that bill.

How to Speak Mvskoke

Episode #884 was about the Florida Skunk Ape, a southeastern version of Bigfoot. As you've probably heard me point out a number of times on this show, modern cryptozoologists will often claim that their cryptid has a place in the legends of the local indigenous population, in an effort to make it sound more credible. These claims are almost always false. The same is claimed about the Skunk Ape; they say the words esti capcaki are Seminole for "tall man" and that the creature appears throughout their cultural traditions.

Something that's worked well for me in the past is to join a Facebook group, or other online community, dedicated to speakers of a particular native language, and that's exactly what I did here. I joined a Seminole community on Facebook, posted those words with the legend's context, and asked if anyone could confirm or deny. Nobody recognized either the words or the legend, and so I pointed out in the episode that this was just one more false claim by the cryptozoologists. Listener Aster wrote in:

I'm not a native speaker, but I'm a Mvskoke tribal citizen who knows a bit of the language from studies in my spare time… You said that the claimed Seminole words for the Skunk Ape, esti capcaki, are not known to be legitimate Seminole words. However, while these are slight misspellings, they are recognizable as words. Esti is recognizable as a slight misspelling of the Mvskoke/Seminole word este, meaning man (it's pronounced like esti). Similarly, the word capcaki can be found as the identically-pronounced cvpcvke, meaning overly long or tall.

Aster also provided a link to the listings in a Mvskoke (we'd say Muscogee) dictionary, and sure enough, he's right. He also helped me pronounce them. He also clarified:

The legend is still false, as este cvpcvke is not an actual Native legend, but the words are at least correct.

So I may have done better to join a Muscogee group instead, but I didn't know. In the decades around 1800, the Seminole were formed when Muscogee and other tribes immigrated into Florida to escape European encroachment, and were later the victims of the infamous Trail of Tears. I've updated the transcript with Aster's better information.

And so, please keep those corrections coming. Every time we can fix something that's in error, Skeptoid becomes a better resource. If you have one, please do come to, and follow the instructions given there to submit your information and references.

By Brian Dunning

Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.


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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Fixing Former Fumbles." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 7 Nov 2023. Web. 23 Apr 2024. <>


References & Further Reading

APA. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. 89, 90-93.

Brodie, E. "Biting and Vocalization as Antipredator Mechanisms in Terrestrial Salamanders." Copeia. 10 Feb. 1978, Volume 1978, Number 1: 127-129.

Estrada, G. III. "Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Why the Gospels disagree over the circumstances of Christ’s birth." The Conversation. The Conversation US, Inc., 15 Dec. 2020. Web. 24 Oct. 2023. <>

Lindner, D., Marretta, S., Pijanowski, G., Johnson, A., Smith, C. "Measurement of bite force in dogs: a pilot study." Journal of Veterinary Dentistry. 1 Jun. 1995, Volume 12, Number 2: 49-52.

Loughridge, R., Hodge, D. Muskokee and English Dictionary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1914. 110, 131.

NEI. "Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)." National Eye Institute. National Institutes of Health, 22 Sep. 2022. Web. 24 Oct. 2023. <>


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