The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


2007 Episodes

December 11th: Music of the Divine?

This week Skepticality features Michael Adelson, a Staff Conductor for the New York Philharmonic, and Conductor of the Auros Group for New Music in Boston.

Mr. Adelson had the good fortune to study with the late Rabbi Sherwin Wine. A controversial secular organizer, Rabbi Wine founded Humanistic Judaism, a secular movement which provides atheistic and agnostic Jews around the world with a means for organization, mobilization, and a sense of community.

Speaking to Derek & Swoopy as a skeptic, Mr. Adelson shares insights from his lecture series, the “Forum for New Thinking” (inspired by Rabbi Wine). He also takes a critical look at music history, dispelling some false beliefs about artists — creative humans who are often painted with the brush of divine inspiration.

Building on the musical theme, Swoopy talks to Canadian blue grass trio The Dirty Dishes about their new rendition of “Lily The Pink”, an ode to the late 1800’s “queen” of patent medicine Lydia Pinkham.


November 27th: Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!

With the specter of the holidays looming and conspicuous consumerism running amok, Skepticality delves into the topic of vice with Peter Sagal, host of the popular quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR (National Public Radio). Peter is the author of The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things and How to Do Them.


November 18th: A Secret of the Universe

Many Skeptic readers are all too aware of The Secret, a slick repackaging of the principles of New Thought and Unity Christianity.

This week, Skepticality tackles an altogether different secret. Derek & Swoopy talk with author and podcaster Stephen L. Gibson about his own new book, A Secret of the Universe. A far cry from most books that offer up a secret message, A Secret of the Universe is a work of dramatic allegory about how we come to form knowledge about the Big Questions: God, sexual ethics, morals, political ideology — and how those beliefs affect our actions, our lives, and the world around us.

Then Derek gets an update from Jeff Wagg, General Manager of the James Randi Educational Foundation, about a recently administered Million Dollar Challenge in which Jeff himself became a test subject…


October 30th: Flock of Dodos

Recent episodes of Skepticality have touched on issues of outreach and activism in the skeptical community, and how skeptics like Jeff Wagg, Alison Smith and Daniel Loxton are using their particular talents to help nurture science and critical thinking.

This week, Derek & Swoopy are pleased to continue this trend with their interview of evolutionary ecologist-turned-filmmaker Dr. Randy Olson.

Dr. Olson’s film, Flock of Dodos: The Evolution — Intelligent Design Circus, is not your typical evolution versus ID documentary. Rather than simply pitting one camp against the other, this whimsical film explores how the two sides of the debate market their ideas to the public — and, more specifically, how the scientific community has failed to capture their audience as effectively as the Intelligent Design camp has done in recent years.


October 16th: Where Do We Go From Here?

Who is the watchdog for paranormal scams and mistakes if we won’t do it? This week, Daniel Loxton (editor of Junior Skeptic) offers his own personal perspective on the future of skepticism as a movement. Presented as an original full-length audio article (also available as a text article here, in PDF format), his op-ed essay argues that the search for a “new skepticism” is misguided—and that the early titans of skepticism had it right in the first place.

Then, Derek & Swoopy sit down with Daniel to talk about the skeptics paradox: that so many people feel exhausted and fed up by the paranormal, at the very time that the most exciting new developments—from podcasts to conferences to community—are firmly focused on our core paranormal concerns.

Has classic skepticism run its course? According to Daniel, we’re only now getting ready to start.


October 2nd: Girl Power

This week Skepticality has a double bill of brainy, beautiful skeptics working to educate the public about the benefits of science and evidence-based reasoning. Astrophysicist Dr. Pamela Gay (of the Astronomy Cast podcast) and Private Investigator Alison Smith (the founder of the Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society) discuss their work and share their thoughts about the recent lectures they gave at Dragon*Con 2007 (as part of the Space, Science and Skepticism programs) — lectures that helped introduce skeptical investigation to a new kind of audience.

Also, Derek & Swoopy release the full length video from Dragon*Con’s “Skeptic Smackdown” debate, featuring skeptics Michael Shermer and Alison Smith, and paranormal proponents Patrick Burns and Graham Watkins.


September 15th: To Boldly Go Where Few Skeptics Have Gone Before

It seems for any particular social or interest group, there is a convention — including skepticism. The danger is that niche meetings may speak best to those who have already heard the message.

For over a decade, Dragon*Con (based in Atlanta, Georgia) has been integrating factual science and space programming with science fiction material from popular literature, film, television and gaming (such as Star Wars and Star Trek). This year, Skepticality’s Derek & Swoopy worked alongside the directors of Dragon*Con’s Space and Science content to bring a contingent of notable skeptics to the world’s largest culture convention.

On this week’s episode of Skepticality, Jeff Wagg (general manager of the James Randi Educational Foundation) and musician and skeptic George Hrab share their Dragon*Con experiences — and discuss how skeptics can promote their views at conventions to help the skeptical movement find a broader audience.


September 11th: Richard Wiseman, PLUS Skeptics at Dragon*Con

This week’s episode of Skepticality features an interview with psychologist, skeptic, and author Dr. Richard Wiseman, recorded at the Australian Science Festival. Michael McRae (previously a guest on Skepticality to discuss integrating critical thinking into the classroom — listen here) sits down with Wiseman to discuss new approaches to skepticism and the role of new media in promoting interest in science.

Also, Derek & Swoopy talk about the strong showing of skepticism at Dragon*Con 2007 — one of the largest pop culture expos in the world.

(They also share a happy surprise: Skepticality has just taken home two awards!)


August 21st: Water, Earth & Sky

This week, Skepticality tackles matters of politics on Earth, and discoveries out in the universe. First up, environmental engineer Kelly Comstock returns to answer listener questions from our bottled water episode (listen here) and address concerns about potential dangers lurking in municipal water systems (like chlorine and fluoride).

Then, Derek & Swoopy check in with their favorite lobbyist, Lori Lipman Brown from the Secular Coalition for America, regarding ongoing investigations into abuses of non-theists serving in our military, how the question of separation of church and state is being highlighted in recent political debates, and what to look for when the legislature reconvenes in the Fall.

Lastly, astrophysicist Dr. Pamela Gay shares her insights about recent media attention paid to NASA troubles, the paper by two German physicists who claim to have broken the speed of light, and the potential discovery of inorganic cosmic dust with lifelike properties.


August 7th: Primate Politics Heats Up Again

Put down that designer bottle of H20! Did you know that if you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend $1,400 US dollars annually? That same amount of tap water would cost about 49 cents.

Wealthy nations like the United States have some of the cleanest, cheapest and best tasting tap water in the world. The US is also the world’s largest consumer of bottled water: 8.3 billion gallons in 2006 (about 26 gallons per person)! Will our rising demand for bottled water harm our nation’s aging water distribution and filtration infrastructure? And why are groups like Presbyterians for Restoring Creation boycotting bottled water?

On this week’s Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy speak to Kelly Comstock, an environmental engineer and hydrologist who specializes in potable drinking water filtration technology, to answer these questions — and get to the bottom of the bottled water debate.


July 24th: A Skeptic’s Faith

Does a belief in God undermine one’s ability to be a skeptic? This is the question Hal Bidlack seeks to answer this week, as he movingly recounts his own personal experiences as a man of faith — and as a skeptic and prominent member of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Atheism is relatively common within the skeptics community, and so it is sometimes supposed (especially in press accounts) that skepticism implies atheism. Dr. Bidlack is one of those who disagrees. We’re certain you’ll enjoy his important, heartfelt contribution to this conversation.


July 10th: Hi-Tech Hype and the Biochemistry of Aliens

What’s with all the media hype over the latest must-have electronic device, the iPhone? This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy talk to Rob Walch, host of the Today in iPhone podcast, about the cult of Apple’s newest release — and ask whether it lives up to the hype.

While it seems most humans on Earth are busy looking for iPhones, the National Academy of Sciences has published a report that states we need to start looking for alien life with novel biochemistries. Skepticality correspondent Fraser Cain, of Universe Today, helps Derek & Swoopy interpret the The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems, and what it means for the search for life in the universe.


June 26th: The Haunting of YouTube

On the last episode of Skepticality, the Skeptical Inquirer’s own Benjamin Radford discussed new Nessie sightings and other lake monsters from his comprehensive book on the subject. This week, Ben is back to tackle a brand new paranormal mystery from his own back yard.

Almost over night, a video of a glowing, orb-like apparition at the courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico has soared into the media spotlight, with widespread news coverage and nearly 100,000 views on YouTube. Was it the spirit of an infamous murderer, the ghost of a construction worker who met his demise, or a disturbed Indian burial ground? Derek & Swoopy discuss paranormal investigation in the age of viral video with author Benjamin Radford, who examined the video tape and went to the site to investigate the mysterious Santa Fe Courthouse Ghost.


June 12th: Interview with Benjamin Radford

With a whopping new prize of £1 million offered for proof of the elusive monster, over 30 Nessie sightings were reported last week by concert goers at the Rock Ness festival (who were offered “Nessie Snapper” cameras to keep an eye on the water). On this week’s Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy talk to Skeptical Inquirer Managing Editor Benjamin Radford about Nessie, and about his latest book (with coauthor Joe Nickell), Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World’s Most Elusive Creatures.


May 29th: A Visit to the Trenches of Nontheism

Atheism is outside the mandate of the Skeptics Society and Skepticality. And yet, negative public perception of atheists weighs heavily on many nontheistic skeptics. Last episode, Skeptic publisher Dr. Michael Shermer shared his thoughts about a recently televised Nightline debate between evangelical ministers Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron and Rational Response Squad members Brian Sapient and Kelly. Brian and Kelly contacted Skepticality, and Swoopy had a chance to talk with them this week about the work of the Rational Response Squad, and about what went on behind the scenes of the Nightline debate. Also, Skepticality’s Washington DC correspondent — former Nevada State Senator Lori Lipman Brown, the federal lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for America — updates Derek & Swoopy about legislative issues pertaining to nontheists.

The Rational Response Squad had far more to say than could be included in this regular Skepticality episode. For eSkeptic readers who may like to hear more, extended interview content is available in the supplement to Episode 53.


May 15th: Interview with Phil Plait & Michael Shermer

This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy check in with two of their favorite skeptics: the ever-popular Bad Astronomer, Dr. Phil Plait; and Skeptic magazine publisher Dr. Michael Shermer. Michael shares some thoughts about the recent “Does God Exist?” debate on ABC television’s Nightline. The debate pitted atheist activists Brian Sapient and Kelly from the Rational Response Squad (creators of the internet-based “Blasphemy Challenge” campaign) against confrontational Christian evangelists Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron from The Way of the Master televised ministry (creators of the infamous “Atheist’s Nightmare” argument that the Intelligent Design evident in bananas proves the existence of god). For more on the Nightline debate, an ABC News summary article and extensive video content from the show is available.


May 1st: Interview with Lynne Kelly

Why does Australia give the world so many great skeptics? This week on Skepticality, Derek seeks the answer in conversation with writer, educator and noted Australian skeptic Lynne Kelly (author of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal). It’s been over a year since Lynne last spoke to Skepticality, and Derek is very pleased to catch up on topics ranging from current science, to Australia’s drought, to critical thinking in the classroom — and her latest book, Crocodile: Evolution’s Greatest Survivor.


April 18th: Interview with Scott Sigler

This week on Skepticality, author and skeptic Scott Sigler talks to Derek & Swoopy about finding the skeptic movement, and the recent success of his newly released, science-informed horror novel Ancestor (an bestseller). Scott also tackles the future of traditional book publishing in the age of podiobooks. Before we let him go, Scott reveals the names of the folks who will be receiving autographed copies of his books Earthcore and Ancestor. Long-time listeners, take note: also included this week is the return of Skepticality news.


April 3rd: Dr. Michael Shermer interviews Dr. Philip Zimbardo

We are honored to present this special edition of our Skepticality podcast, featuring an extended interview with the legendary Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo. Dr. Zimbardo is famous for his landmark Stanford Prison Experiment, one of the most important experiments ever conducted in the history of the social sciences (and one that could not be run today).


March 19th: Report from the Amazing Meeting 5! (part 4)

This week, Skepticality bids a fond farewell to The Amazing Meeting 5 conference in Las Vegas. Derek & Swoopy wrap up with a recollection of a few of their favorite moments. Fittingly, their last TAM interview is with a fellow Atlanta-based podcaster who happens to be one of their skeptical heroes. Skepticality is pleased to sit down with an important early trailblazer in skeptical radio (a guy who brought critical thinking to podcasting before the word “podcast” even existed): Reginald Finley, The Infidel Guy.


February 27th: Report from the Amazing Meeting 5! (part 3)

This week, Skepticality nears the end of its Amazing Meeting 5 wrap-up. Derek & Swoopy are honored to sit down with retired Lieutenant Colonel Hal Bidlack PhD, who is one of the warmest people in skepticism. Hal discusses not only his Master of Ceremonies role at past and future Amazing Meetings, but also his role as an Alexander Hamilton scholar — and his own future career in politics. Then, Skepticality interviews Aussie educator Kylie Sturgess about her award-winning work to bring skepticism and critical thinking into her classroom.


February 13th: Report from the Amazing Meeting 5! (part 2)

This week on Skepticality, we continue our coverage of James Randi’s The Amazing Meeting 5 conference in Las Vegas. Derek & Swoopy talk with some of their favorite Real Skeptical Heroes, including author and CSICOP spokesperson Benjamin Radford, MythBuster Adam Savage — and the first Congressional lobbyist for nontheists and director of the Secular Coalition for America, former Nevada State Senator Lori Lipman Brown.


January 31st: Report from the Amazing Meeting 5!

This week we’ll begin sifting through our treasure trove of new audio and video, presenting some of the best candid moments from the four day brain-expanding extravaganza that was The Amazing Meeting 5. We’re very pleased to feature interviews with a cast of familiar characters — as well as some brave new voices in skepticism.


January 16th: Interview with Michael Stackpole

This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy are practically out the door on the way to The Amazing Meeting 5! But before they go, they talk with New York Times Best Selling author Michael A. Stackpole, Chairman of the Phoenix Skeptics Society, about the group’s 2007 predictions list and the accuracy of their 2006 predictions. Mr. Stackpole discusses balancing skepticism in his daily life with his work as a science fiction author and role playing game designer, and gives his views on practical methods for teaching critical thinking.


January 2nd: Interview with Sam Harris

This week on Skepticality, we kick off the first show of 2007 with a recording of author and lecturer Dr. Sam Harris speaking at the Symposium on Science, Religion & Politics, part of the Skeptic sponsored Caltech lecture series.


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