Where I get my doses of reality and reason.
July 9, 2009 was the opening day of The Amazing Meeting 7, an annual gathering of skeptics. This year (and last, too, I believe), they’re meeting in Las Vegas, NV. If I weren’t contracted to sit around and wait for it to rain here in central Washington state, I’d be there among them, breathing the fresh air of reason, meeting people who know how to think for themselves, and watching presentations that help me to understand more about the world around me.
The real world.
I realized that I was a skeptic about four years ago. I’d begun listening to podcasts and had stumbled upon Penn Jillette’s radio show podcast. He and his guests and callers spoke frankly about religion, helping me realize that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts on the topic. Somewhere along the line, the term “skeptic” must have been mentioned. I searched out other resources. Soon, I was listening to skeptic podcasts and subscribing to skeptic magazines. Penn’s radio show has since been discontinued, but I’ll cherish its memory — as weird as that might sound. After all, it triggered the dawn of my skepticism and every free-thinking thought that came afterwards.
A skeptic — in case you’re not familiar with the term as I use it here — is someone who does not believe in anything without evidence to support it. Religion, psychic power, homeopathy, ghosts, Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster — these are all topics we’re not very likely to take at face value. We look at everything — or at least most things — with a skeptical eye, always thinking about the evidence that might prove it’s true. I found that the deeper I dug into the world of critical thinking, the more I really thought about the world around me.
It also made me a lot less tolerant when I encountered stupidity, but that’s something to discuss elsewhere.
Anyway, I can’t attend TAM7 in person, but I’ve found a way to attend it virtually, through the tweets of fellow tweeple online. If you’re a Twitter user and skeptic, you might consider following these folks:
If you’re not on Twitter, you might want to tune into some excellent Skeptic podcasts. These are the three I’m currently subscribed to:
- Skepticality is probably my favorite skeptic podcast. Derek and Swoopy have a great casual style as they interview folks in the world of science and philosophy, and are able to share information in an enjoyable, approachable way. After a Skepticality interview, I feel as if I’ve not only learned something, but I’ve had fun doing it. This is the official podcast of Skeptic magazine, which I subscribed to until recently. (Long story what I can discuss elsewhere.) Each episode is an hour or longer in length, making it a good listen on a long car ride.
- Skeptoid, by Brian Dunning is a different sort of podcast. Each episode is about 10 minutes long (although some go longer) and looks at the facts behind “pop phenomena.” Brian does his homework and presents each argument well, often making you wonder why you ever thought there was a shred of truth in some of the non-scientific claims. He tends to be a bit sarcastic at times, but the sarcasm often makes for an entertaining episode. Brian is not connected with any particular organization and appreciates contributions; a donation is a good way to get all back episides as MP3s on a CD so you can easily listen to an old episode or share it with a friend.
- Point of Inquiry is the official podcast of the Center for Inquiry. Hosted by D.J. Grothe, it also uses an interview format. D.J.’s interview style can clearly be seen as “devil’s advocate,” as he often takes the opposite view of his subject, encouraging to explain or defend their views. I’m not a big fan for this kind of interview style, but fortunately, D.J. falls just short of overdoing it. I enjoy most episodes, but since I tend to listen to several in a row, I find that the somewhat lengthy and repetitive advertisements for the Center of Inquiry and its publications can get a bit tiresome. Still, I think this is one of the best out there.
This is my list, in celebration of TAM. Have Twittering skeptics to add to this list? Or skeptic podcasts you think I might enjoy? Please list them in the comments for this post.