Welcome to this weekly or fortnightly column, where I provide links and other items on skeptical topics, as well as items from other domains of interest. This weekend, Ricky the Maine Coon offers the following tidbits of coolness. Enjoy!
I’ve been going through the feeds for the Skepticality podcast, currently 30-ish episodes away from finishing a favorite show which seems to have podfaded since January of 2018. So here is, in its entirety, the music which for a good part of twelve years defined one of the first skeptical podcasts to grace the Internet…
“Skepticism and the Law: Or, How to Earn Billions With Your Birth Certificate AND Make Bernie Sanders President Using this ONE WEIRD TRICK” 🙂
“Presented by P. Andrew Torrez, Law Offices of P. Andrew Torrez “
“Video contains strong language and adult content which may not be suitable for children. Skeptics are well-versed in applying the tools of critical thinking to a variety of claims we see in everyday life, from quack medicine to religion to agriculture.”
“But for some reason, skeptics tend to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to equally preposterous claims about the law. As the co-host of the popular Opening Arguments podcast, Andrew Torrez shares some of the most preposterous and unbelievable real-life questions that he’s gotten from skeptics just like you about the law. Is there really a shadowy cabal of international bankers to whom your entire life has been pledged as collateral from birth? Did a watchdog group really file a petition before the Supreme Court to undo the 2016 Presidential Election? Do criminals frequently escape justice due to technicalities? “
“This talk will equip you with the tools to help separate legal fact from legal fiction — without having to earn a law degree of your own.”
“After nearly 20 years in big firms, P. Andrew Torrez founded his own law firm in 2015 to serve start-up and small businesses in Maryland and the District of Columbia. In 2016, he started the podcast Opening Arguments to explain legal concepts in the news to non-lawyers; today, the show is one of the most popular news & politics podcasts with nearly 2.5 million downloads to date.”
“Andrew Torrez is a 1997 graduate of Harvard Law School with honors, is a member of the Board of Governors of the Maryland chapter of the Federal Bar Association, has been named a Fellow of the American Bar Association, and has been repeatedly honored as one of Maryland’s top lawyers by Benchmark since 2011.”
“Views expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Capital Area Skeptics.”
“For the 50th anniversary of the ancient dream being realized, I took the sights and sounds of Apollo, all the beeps, squeaks, booms, and sound bites, and wove them into this spaced-out funky tribute.”
In this podcast by Sean Carroll, he gives a deep dive on the topics of morality and reason’s role in it. He also discusses the so-called Intellectual Dark Web (IDW, not to be confused with the comic book label) in a mildly critical but fair way, without taking things out of context, without straw-manning, and without being too evenhanded.
Carroll lays out his views of some of the claims, ethical stance, and moral priorities of the IDW, but he says them much more nicely than I would, and more articulately in an audio format than I’m currently practiced at.
One downside to being a snarkitudinous eldritch entity from beyond space-time like yours truly is that sometimes I can be a bit rascally in my approach, which understandably rubs some the wrong way.
My old post from 2013 on the archaic morals and whiney privileged homophobia of Orson Scott Card is a case in point. One of my snarkier, and more satisfying, moments at the keyboard. While the late Carl Sagan is one of my role models, up to a point, I have to confess that no, Virginia, I just ain’t him.
I like how Carroll measures his words without inauthenticity, and in a way that would outrage only the most easily outraged IDW fanboy. He takes the “don’t-be-a-dick” approach here, which is commendable and wise, even though it’s not a big part of my own skillset.
You can listen in stages, or in one sitting, or you can simply turn your podcatching client to and subscribe to his podcast, then listen to this episode at your leisure.
Whatever works for you.
I recommend listening to the entire show using whatever means is most convenient. The IDW discussion really gets underway at about the 58 minute mark.
“Alternative medicine has become very popular over the past two decades, thanks to relentless promotion by the media, politicians, and a few highly visible celebrity doctors. Since the early 1990s, the NIH has spent over $2 billion studying complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but has yet to show that any “alternative” treatment is effective. Part of this funding has been dedicated to establishing training programs in U.S. medical schools. Through these programs, doctors-to-be today learn about treatments based on acupuncture and homeopathy that are little more than magical thinking. In the middle of an intensive training program, most medical students do not have time and are not encouraged to question these practices. These same academic medical centers that host these training programs also offer CAM therapies to unsuspecting patients.”
“This talk reviews some of the CAM topics now taught and practiced at major U.S. medical schools, and will discuss some of the conditions for which these CAM methods are used, including chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, and cancer. It will also cover the largely unscientific basis of these methods, and explain why proponents have succeeded in convincing both doc tors and patients that CAM is “worth a try” for many disorders.”
“Steven Salzberg is an expert on genomics and DNA sequencing whose lab has developed many of the methods used to decode and analyze genomes over the past two decades. He participated in the Human Genome Project and dozens of other genome projects for many plant, animal, and bacterial species He co-founded the Influenza Genome Sequencing Project and helped to decode the bacteria used in the 2001 anthrax attacks.”
“He is currently Professor of Medicine, Biostatistics, and Computer Science and Director of the Center for Computational Biology in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. He holds undergraduate and Masters degrees from Yale University and a Ph.D. in computer science from Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Society for Computational Biology. He writes a widely-read column on science and pseudoscience for Forbes magazine, at forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg, which received the 2012 Balles Prize in Critical Thinking from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.”
Views expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Capital Area Skeptics.
“Ideas on the fringes of paleontology — from the “aquatic ape” hypothesis of human origins and the ideas that dinosaurs were all aquatic, to Triassic hyper-intelligent “krakens,” to the “discovery” of microscopic fully formed people in Paleozoic limestone — will be examined.”
“Presented at Balticon 53, Baltimore, Maryland, May 27, 2019 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. is Principal Lecturer in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park. His research focuses on the origin, evolution, adaptations, and behavior of carnivorous dinosaurs, and especially of tyrannosauroids (Tyrannosaurus rex and its kin).”
“He received his Bachelors at Johns Hopkins in 1987 and his Ph.D. from Yale in 1992. He is also a Research Associate of the Department of Paleobiology of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and serves on the Scientific Council of Maryland Academy of Science (which operates the Maryland Science Center (Baltimore, MD)).”
“In addition to his dinosaur research, Holtz has been active in scientific outreach. He has been a consultant on museum exhibits documentaries.”
“He is the author of the award-winning Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages (Random House)”