Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Open thread on episode #674

Oh yes, I said I'd be making more of these links when they're called for, right? Episode 674 happened last Sunday and featured Don Baker and Tracie Harris.

Have at it!


  1. Dang it all, the two least antagonistic host are on and no hardcore theist callers. I wonder if some of them are deliberately trying to get insulted for the ad hominem machine and will not bother with the nice hosts?

    Good show though. Nice to see some video content.

  2. I liked the show. Symphony of Science is always good for a contemplative moment. Only one complaint, and that came with the last caller. It felt like, to me at least, that the Don kinda monopolized the time left on the air. There was a moment after she provides her a brief introduction regarding what she wants to talk about, and Don, you kinda interrupted and then rambled on for several minutes. Just a small point, because I feel like she could have given us her story instead. Otherwise, good show overall...even the endearing mic problems at the beginning ;)

  3. Good call on the Glorious Dawn vid Tracie... I have been digging that one for awhile now.

  4. Re: Episode #674

    It wasn't a fiery show but it was a good show.

    The Symphony of Science videos are nice.

    One reason it was a good show is because I learned a couple things. I learned about Taoism and qualia.

    I certainly had heard about Taoism (from the old "King Fu" TV show ;) but hadn't looked into it. So I googled it some. Maybe it is more of a philosophy than a religion. All the better. Tracie's describing it as "efficient" seems aprapo. I like the efficient. (Except when it comes to food or sex.)

    I had never heard of qualia before. I had to google it. I certainly don't view it as gap in which to insert the supernatural but I can't totally explain it. Why is green green? Certainly the green cones in my retina respond to it but when I look at something green there isn't little flag attached to it saying, "FYI, this is green". It's just green. The experience of green cannot be conveyed to another individual by any other means than a physical example. I can explain light rays and wavelength to a blind person but I can't explain how green looks. (I'm sure that others experience green more or less the same as I do because we have the same evolved physical perceptual structures.)

    I can be critical of the show but I'll also point out the positive. (So I won't get into the pronunciation of "vehement" and "zeitgeist" now. ;) The show is A Good Thing. It serves the purpose of community. It connects us. It shows that we are everyday people. It shows ways to deal with theism (with both good and bad examples). It helps us complete our repertoire of reason. It's more fun than philosophy texts because it has moving pictures of real live people. :) Kudos to the AETV staff. They (you) have done it for years as volunteers. And they (you) do it live, without a net.

    xoxox Sue

  5. This is more of a technical issue. I assume that you have an oscillating fan standing in your studio. While this might help to keep your cool amidst theistic lunacy it also causes considerable noise. Especially the most recent show was plagued by this, with irritating regularity (about every ten seconds) it sounded like somebody was heavily breathing into the microphone.

    Maybe simply relocating the fan (if that is indeed the culprit) can fix the problem. Or you could consider this as an opportunity to ditch these horrible clip microphones that pick up every rustling altogether and go for something with style, like a nice studio microphone with shock mount.

  6. I think this is the reincarnation story the caller was talking about:

    For whatever the boy allegedly dreamed and talked about in play, we have no other evidence than the accounts by his parents. By the time the story was made public, they already had every opportunity to research details. I think the account that the father owned a book where he "fact-checked" his boy's story raises a red flag. The boy may have said some word, and then the father browsed through his book and happened to find a ship with a name that seemed to fit what he had heard. Little children are very good at making up words, and I think it's quite easy to find one ship to match almost anything they come up with, using a dictionary that would contain hundreds of ships.

    That's just one aspect where I would hook a skeptical view.

  7. All that was missing was dance. The studio should have faded between the freaky videos, and Tracie and Don dancing to them.

    Other than that the content was good.

  8. One of the callers mentioned this, I heard about the kid who is supposedly reincarnated from a world war II pilot before. This site pretty much shows that it is bullshit http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/07/reincarnation_a.html

    Also I think that the hosts didn't catch it or did but didn't say anything. But, that caller seemed to be trying to call you guys close minded, I think you guys should have shut him down on that, as he is not being open minded when accepting stupid claims on bad evidence.

  9. If you guys faded the lights and began dancing it may have been my favorite show ever...

    But the best thing that came from this show, for me, was a reminder that just because someone prefaces whatever they say with "I'm an atheist" doesn't mean what they say will be any more "skeptical" (I distrust that term more daily also) than anyone else. Who could possibly list "proof" of afterlife being a documentary or TV show? Much less one with such glaringly unscientific findings? I don't mean to pick on that one caller alone, because, if my foggy memory serves me, there was another call that had me facepalming also. The bottom line is that what you have to say on a particular subject is what is important, not any superficial label. Heck, there are people who espouse an atheist position far better than I could who won't use the term atheist.

  10. About that reincarnation story, that was broadcast a few years ago on ABC's Primetime Thursday show, and after I watched that I sent a letter to ABC. I also copied Michael Shermer on my letter and he published it in his weekly newsletter: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/04-05-04/

    Here's the relevant part to this story:

    For example, the story about the reincarnated boy differed from the account offered in the Pittsburgh Daily Courier from April 15. That article specifically said that the boy was taken to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum when he was 18 months old, and that his fantasies and nightmares started *after* that time. I don’t recall your TV show clearly stating this timeline – I had the impression after watching the show that the “memories” happened by themselves, without an incident to prompt them.
    Then in the interview with the mother, she tells the astonishing story about how her son knew what a “drop tank” is, and she had never heard of one. It didn’t take me too long to visit the web site of the Cavanaugh Flight Museum and see, among the few items exhibited that are not actual airplanes, a drop tank! This isn’t some obscure museum piece that wouldn’t be noticed, there are not that many of them there, others being an ejection seat and some guns. Why did you not mention this in your program? Was it because the reporter didn’t even do very basic research, or was it intentionally hidden?

  11. @ Michael Nam

    I agree about the last caller. It sounded like she would have had some interesting anecdotes. I was eager to hear them but Don did ramble.

    But I'll also say that Don served as a focusing and clarifying agent many times earlier.

    xoxox Sue

  12. While the symphomy of Science stuff was pretty good, I think it took too much time away from the potential callers and threw off the pacing a bit. It would also have been nice to have more theists thrown into the mix of callers. Mr reincarnation was rather credulous but no real hardcore debates. Still, good show.

    Rant off

  13. @Sue: Oh, I agree...it was just a small critique. An enjoyable episode all around.

  14. I thought I would write about the issue raised by Simon of Grand Rapids in AE of September 12th.

    The reason why we perceive colour is it assists us in being able to identify the discrete components of a scene, so for example we can more easily identify a potential threat such as a tiger hiding within the bushes.

    This survival benefit of light perception even works for those aspects of light that we cannot see, for example the ultraviolet spectra. We do not need to see this for our survival and thus there is no additional benefit to us. However, for butterflies, the ability to see these parts of the spectrum assist them in identifying the best flowers, and thus some butterflies can see them (http://photographyoftheinvisibleworld.blogspot.com/2009/08/rudbeckia-meadow-human-butterfly-bee.html: see how the butterfly could much more easily identify two different flowers but not the grasses). If I recall correctly, some flowers actually have patterns that show up in the ultraviolet band which helps some insects identify them.

    The human eye and brain work in a way that doesn’t just take the imagery at face value like a camera, but rather interprets what we are seeing. Thus we can see patterns, colours and movement according to those interpretive and physical capacities and limitations of our physiology. This is why we can experience visual illusions (my favourite illusion: http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/troufs/anth4616/images/illusion_circles.700.gif they’re stationary, but they are interpreted as moving by the brain).

    It is the misunderstanding of how these mechanisms work that encourage people to attribute the unexpected or incorrectly interpreted to the supernatural, for example seeing a face in a piece of toast and then attributing that to the supernatural.

  15. I liked the showa lot... It'snice to have a more laid back show once in a while.

    about the reincarnation caller, I think people on here are a tad aharsh on the guy. He obviously got interested in the reincarnation story, but didn't really know whetherit was true or not. He seemed to me like a recent arrival to atheism, with a gazillion new questions about life and the world. Reincarnation being one of those. He wasn't trying to tell the world reincarnation was true, he waswondering whether it could be true and asking the AE hosts for feedback, which is what he got. so I strongly disagree with aruman chan that he was being close minded or accusing the hosts of being close minded. If anything he is being extremely openminded without being sufficiently critical. And I know I was once like that but with sufficient info he probably will become more critical. Not everyone who is an atheist is at the same level of skepticism. And I think it is much more constructive to educate someone like that then attacking him for not being skeptical enough.


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