Mod+ 229. The 5 Things You Need to Know About Skeptiko

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. fls

    fls Member

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    I guess that's Alex's problem, but I don't get the impression that he worries about whether he comes across as smug and condescending in the interests of making a point.

    Linda
     
  2. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well I have been amazed by the poor performance of the skeptical guests that Alex has invited. Several times, I have heard the excuse that they haven't read about NDE's or Ganzfeld research. That in itself has to be pretty dumb - I mean why would someone with a professional reputation of one sort or another let themselves be interviewed for Skeptiko without reading around our forum, to find out what they should know.

    If I come across now, as fairly convinced, part of the reason has been the very poor performance of Alex's skeptical guests - and I don't think anyone could accuse him of trying to interview light-weight skeptics.

    David
     
  3. fls

    fls Member

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    I think I said so at the time, but to repeat myself (using Alex's new term), I don't think Alex's interviews of 'skeptical guests' illustrate anything but the kind of Stuck on Stupid debate the forum would be better without. As far as I can tell, we are all on board with this.

    Linda
     
  4. Larry

    Larry Member

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    It seems to me that Alex gives his Skeptical guests attention and time to present their own material, usually a book and at some point he goes into his own shtick about nde science, mind=equals brain and we are not biological robots. . . At that point the guests often feels blindsided except in the case of the professional debunkers like Shermer, Radford, novella where they square off and usually end up talking past each other. It would make sense to give the guests that aren’t in the professional category a heads up so they can prepare or opt out. I think to really know what they are getting into would require more than a cursory perusal and most people trying to promote their book are just trying to get the word out and don’t have the time to dig into the skeptiko site.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
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  5. fabkebab

    fabkebab New

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    I am a longtime listener of the show (since episode 11). I really appreciate the earnest attempts Alex has made to "get to the truth" by looking at the data. But I think the show increasingly has a flaw which is undermining the shows integrity.

    There used to be one type of show - Alex would conduct an interview to test the blurry edges of their understanding, and determine whether they were thinking clearly or not based on the data, or whether their bias was influencing them. A classic argument of this type was him pushing scientists on "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Occasionally he would throw a curveball by talking to a creationist or someone similar, which were IMHO not particularly helpful to the main premise of the show.

    There are now two types of show:

    1 ) Believers - Alex gushes over how wonderful someone is to go against science and follow their calling (for example,. the past life regression hypnotism interviewee). At no point is the interviewee tested to defend what they are proclaiming; the whole thing is just accepted based on the claims made during the interview. THIS DOES NOT INTEREST ME - I want to follow the data, which is what fascinates me about the show.

    2 ) Skeptics - Alex prefaces the show with his own editorial, where he dismisses specific comments made during the interview. We then hear the interview, where the person has clearly not understood what type of questions are going to be asked. Afterwards there is often a "cheap shot" where Alex quotes an email exchange with the embarrased (and annoyed) interviewee, as though thier human foibles are more significant than the ideas and science they promote.

    Why dont we get back to show type 1.5 (which was prevalent at the beginning) - Somewhere between 1 and 2?

    Is it worth giving interviewees some of the questions in advance, so we can hear their best answers rather than picking on them or cornering them?

    Why are the "believers" not pressed any more? They can't all be right! (Perhaps they were never pressed, before, thinking about it - but it would be nice)

    One other minor suggestion - I am not a fan of the 30 second teasers put at the beginnings of the show - they kind of spoil the anticipation of the interview, by previewing some of the best answers. Its like seeing the goals before you watch the full soccer match.

    Like I said, I have listened for a long long time - I like the show - There is nothing else like it which tries to openly seek answers - what I am complaining about is how the approach you take is no longer as "open" or "fair" to the interviewees as it once was.

    I think anything might be possible (if the data points to it) and this is where your show is really fascinating. But I also want to know why these outlandish ideas might *not* be true, but your show is browbeating those who offer that similarly important viewpoint.

    I have been with you for a long time (I think I have some good ideas for things to investigate too) - so please accept these comments as genuine feedback on my part to rebalance the show so it can get closer to the "tipping point" which is so fascinating!
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  6. fls

    fls Member

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    Welcome to the forum fabkebab. I agree with what you said, however, did you listen to Alex's most recent podcast on The Five Things You Need to Know About Sketiko? I think he addresses* your concerns, in that episode.

    Linda

    *Addresses as in "explains why your concerns are no longer relevant to the show's direction."
     
  7. fabkebab

    fabkebab New

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    Actually, for whatever reason, I my feedcatcher couldnt access that episode - i could see the title, but couldnt download the data. I guess since I am at my comupter, I can listen right now and get back to this thread :)

    OK - I listened.

    How I heard it was "I followed the data. I have reached a destination." Hopefully the scientific data which led him where he is continues to be his guide as he explores the terrain of consciousness.

    It might no longer be the show for me, depending on whether he brings the BS meter to his interviews or not. We will see. I loved the idea of "smart people being cross examined".
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  8. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    fabkebab,

    I half agree with you. The problem is that if someone does hypnotic regression (or many of the other things that interviewees get to discuss), they may not be easily subjected to full scientific rigor - the person often isn't a scientist, and the procedure may be designed with other goals (e.g. therapeutic). I still think it is worth hearing what these people have to say, but I do agree Alex could be a bit less gushy and incorporate little doubt here and there.

    There is no doubt that Alex has been on a journey doing Skeptiko, and obviously he can't approach the 250th podcast with the same open mindedness that he used in the early days before he heard the evidence.

    I agree that a lot of the skeptical guests seem unprepared for the questions they get asked, but I would guess this is their fault - Alex isn't hiding anything. A lot of skeptics don't seem to want to read the evidence, even though that ultimately leaves them looking stupid. Rupert Sheldrake has a radio clip in which Peter Atkins accused him in vague terms about not doing proper scientific studies. Rupert then asked him on air if he had read any of his papers. He had to admit that he hadn't - yet he had offered himself up as an expert, ready to dismiss Rupert Sheldrake's claims!

    I do agree the spoiler at the start is not a god idea.

    David
     
  9. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    I think that's a very arguable characterization, David. The fact that Alex (or someone else) is interested in exploring the various data and possibilities once he's become convinced that "mind ≠ brain" doesn't mean he takes these possibilities as certainties. But he's not going to go into these interviews with the attitude of "prove it from the ground up".

    Whether one finds that in a specific podcast, Alex didn't ask enough questions along the "how can we know this to be true?" angle (how does it compare with other data? are there specific problems regarding the validity of this particular source of data?, etc.) is a separate question.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  10. Saiko

    Saiko Member

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    But that rests on the assumption that "scientific data" is the best or only guide to knowing more of reality. It isn't. It is a part of that exploration.
     
  11. fabkebab

    fabkebab New

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    To me, "follow the data" meant experimentally derived data - some good science (like the gazillion ganzfeld studies) and some anecdotal study (like following a single psyhic detetective "hit") - As long as there is a credible reason to look at something, I am interested. Interestingly he mentions DMT research, which is scientifically interesting (I read the recent book on it by Rick Strassman) - He can still move on from "debate the skeptics" type shows, but persist with the "follow the data" approach.

    BTW, My very favorite era (when I was eagerly awaiting the next podcast to see his progress) was when he worked to replicate some studies, such as the "dogs that know" study, and the "medium" experiment. I know these were discontinued after a few months, but I am not sure why.

    Anyway, for the approach to future episodes - If Alan is continuing to make progress using a tool (in this case "following the data" ) why would he stop? There are a great number of podcasts that deal in the currency of "paranormal ideas", but very few which deal in the currency of "paranormal data"

    BTW - Hi David- I remember you from a long time back, probably you were one of the participants in the famous Ben Radford thread which caused me to leave the forum until Alan's recent request for us all to come back for a fresh start!
     
  12. The Ethical Skeptic

    The Ethical Skeptic New

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    I think the discomfort with the show is perhaps an illusory burden which resides in the foundational view of there being 1) Believers 2) Skeptics.
    The proponents are not believers and the opponents are not skeptics.

    I would contend that this is the source of the apparent discomfort with the show, as an attempt to shoehorn guests into preformed ontological bases, will always create problems, whether one is listening to radio, speaking at a conference, working in science focused organization, or posting in a forum. Just as in science, when one runs into a repeatable conflict between predictive models, examining the assumptions and disclosures underpinning the issue, is the first step - rather than attempting to reinvent the whole discipline.

    I do not see the guest categorization this way at all. Since science is first and foremost an action (method) it would be better to categorize people by their action sets and not by 'good/bad' positions regarding a 'good/bad' subject. I see (and of course my view will suffer its own predictive weaknesses as well, but is hopefully helpful :)):

    1) Sponsors (A legitimate role player in the scientific method) - Who have followed the data and/or have personally conducted testing; yet suffer the weakness in that they are overcompensating emotionally for a perception or reality of being denied access to the scientific method and the body of science, and

    2) Official Critical Spokespersons (has nothing to do with critical peer review nor skepticism) - These are not skeptics, in that they have made official peer conclusions and disseminated opinions on behalf of the body of science (due to position held in such) regarding the specific topic at hand; yet cannot be relied upon to be prepared on the topic nor show much history in having credibly researched the material.

    3) THEN - there are skeptics. Ones who do not sponsor, and are actively following the data; yet demonstrate the objectivity of not taking the step of publishing authoritative conclusions when they do not hold a full grasp on the material at hand. And when Alex gets an actual skeptic on the show (and he has from time to time) - I suggest your third category is applicable.

    Feeding #2) people questions in advance is disingenuous, runs counter to the whole point of the show, and simply serves to support people who have declared themselves to the community, via publication, to be competent on the subject, sufficient to represent the subject to the body of science. Yet cannot demonstrate such a claim.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  13. malf

    malf Member

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    Thanks for clearing that up ES... Perhaps you could provide a few examples of previous guests that you would define as types 1, 2 and 3?

    I would not be in favour of future guests having a list of questions. However, any future guests should, at the very least, listen to this episode (229) to aclimatise to Alex's position.
     
  14. malf

    malf Member

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    "Scientific data" has proven to be a pretty good way of discovering physical reality, and will continue to be so. The further one moves away from the "scientific", the more one can shape any anomaly or experience into "data". Great care is needed before building on such fragile foundations.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  15. The Ethical Skeptic

    The Ethical Skeptic New

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    I hoped to add perspective and value, but it was not my intent to attain the standard of 'clearing it up.' Wow. :) I have not been listening for as long as the average person in the forum, but gauging from what I heard them say - this is my call on how some recent guests might fall out. Bear with me - my short take. Of course, none will be exclusively homogeneous nor homologous in context. :)

    Sponsors - Proponing a line of research and/or decrying false barriers
    - Dr. Julie Beischel
    - Rupert Sheldrake

    Official Spokepersona - Promulgating truth or truth disguised as method
    - Dr. Stephen Law
    - Ben Radford

    Skeptical - Citing desire to follow the evidence
    - Dr. John Searle
    - Chris Carter
     
  16. The Ethical Skeptic

    The Ethical Skeptic New

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    Yet science is already its own 'great care' standard. The whole purpose of science is to remove the influence of this supplemental 'great care' and allow the data to be dispassionately adjudicated, independent of our subjective and a priori assessments of what is fragile and what is not.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  17. malf

    malf Member

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    Agreed... I was responding to Saiko, who was seeking to move the data away from (or beyond) the "scientific". What then provides the standard for "good" or "bad" data?
     
  18. The Ethical Skeptic

    The Ethical Skeptic New

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    malf you have the absolute best questions. :) What provides discernment between good and bad data is a handy thing called a confidence interval applied to an arrival distribution.
     
  19. steve001

    steve001 Member

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    It's worked well for several hundred years, that's no assumption. I've heard this offhanded gripe many times before, but I've never heard what the new and improved method would be. Do you Saiko, know?
     
  20. malf

    malf Member

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    ES, I'd love to say you have the absolute best answers, but they always somehow leave me wanting more... ;) I find myself strangely entranced by your website/blog though.
     

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