Podcast #69 - November 15th, 2006
Interview with Seth Shostak; News Items: Qi-Gong on You Tube, Cryotherapy,Chicken-Tac-Toe; Your E-mails and Questions: Hallucinations, Chiropractic, Religion and Mental Illness; Randi Speaks; Science or Fiction; Skeptical Puzzle
- Qi-Gong master on You Tube www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JYGqVA9xc4
- Cryotherapy www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_article_id=416211&in_page_id=1774&ico=Homepage&icl=TabModule&icc=GOOD%20HEALTH&ct=5
- Chicken Tac-Toe www.nationalreview.com/23dec02/stuttaford122302.asp
play the chicken: www.gamezero.com/gamezero/games/1998/chicken/index.html
Questions and E-mails
- E-mail #1 I love the podcast, I subscribe to many but yours is the only one I listen to devotedly. You guys do really great fun work. I'm currently reading Dr. V.S. Ramachandran's book 'Phantoms in the Brain.' There is a small snipit in chapter five, which is about blind spots, in which Dr. Ramachandran briefly makes the claim that angel, ghost, UFO etc. sightings by sane people may be caused by Charles Bonnet hallucination. He mentions it in this one paragraph and then doesn't bring the point back up again, but the notion intrigued me. Has there been any research on this topic, and how common are Charles Bonnet hallucinations?
Orlando, FL USA
- E-mail #2 Hello esteemed skeptics
I have been a faithful listener since your first interview with James Randi (episode 7). You are without doubt my favorite podcast and I always look forward to the end of the week when iTunes tells me there's a new episode available. You are in no small part responsible for my *successful* deconversion from mindless faith; I feel I am much more critically responsible and attuned to logically fallacious arguments thanks to your work.
My question for discussion comes from a paper proposal one of my first-year English students submitted for their persuasive research assignment. She is arguing for the effectiveness and adoption of chiropractic to cure ear infections (Otitis Media) as opposed to antibiotics. One of her research sources is at this link: www.n8chiro.com/article-ear.htm
Naturally, my first reaction was skeptical--how can bone and tissue manipulation do a better job of curing an infection than antibiotics--but I don't feel I can adequately support my position with simple skepticism. Are there any sources/studies on this subject which show it to be fanciful or incorrect? I passed on my skeptical comments to the student, but I would like to follow it up with some suggestions for further research.
Thanks very much,
Cameron Fraser (FRAY-ZERR)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
- E-mail #3 Hi all,
Love the podcast - I finally feel I have some like-minded friends.
Why didn't we hear Randi speak in the last Pocast?
There's a debate I often hear started but then is very quickly shied away from. It's fascinating for me so I'm usually left frustrated by the lack of candour.
Here it is: Is religion a mental illness?
'Mental illness' may be a bit harsh and most religious people take immediate offence. Maybe instead of 'mental illness' we should say 'aberrant brain wiring'. I know for example (I'm sure Dr Novella, will correct me here) that certain types of epilepsy instil feelings of religion and some cases cause people to believe they're god. Also some brain tumours can cause similar effects.
I'm fascinated by this because I recently read about some experiments in which non-religious volunteers' brains were subjected to very strong localised magnetic fields and again, religious feelings were instilled as well as feelings that someone with great or sinister powers was standing next to the subjects or touching them.
I've also read about certain drugs having these effects.
To me, there is a lot of evidence that religion is an aberrant state of mind; but the fact is the vast majority of the population are sufferers.
Evolution seems to have let us down here. There were obviously evolutionary advantages for religious people and so they survived to breed.To the point where the religious 'illness' is now very widespread. As examples, these religion-inspired evolutionary advantages probably resulted from inadvertent food hygiene: those who believed, for the wrong reasons, that you shouldn't eat x, y or z or should wash thoroughly before eating, had the advantage over those who just ate anything from anywhere, became weak or ill and didn't breed.
Has evolution resulted in a race of sick people?
Keep up the good work,
- Interview with Seth Shostak Dr. Shostak is a SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute Senior Astronomer.
He has a BA in physics from Princeton and a PhD in astronomy from Caltech, and is involved with the Institute's SETI research. But he's also responsible for much of the outreach activities of the Institute. He is science editor for 'The Explorer', gives more than 50 talks annually for both academic and general audiences, and writes magazine articles (and books) about SETI.
He is the host for the SETI Institute's weekly radio program Are We Alone?
- James Randi The Uncompromising Observations of a Veteran Skeptic
Each week James Randi gives a skeptical commentary in his own unique style.
This week's topic: Johnny Carson
Science or Fiction [ Show Answers ]
- Question #1 Fiction New sequenced Neandertal DNA surprised scientists by suggesting that Neandertal man evolved from Homo Sapiens.
- Question #2 Science Scientists have shown that giving amputees with phantom limb pain a virtual limb in a computer simulation decreases their pain.
- Question #3 Science Scientists have discovered and now tested a gene that produces the same enhanced performance in muscles as does training and exercise.
- Puzzle This Week's puzzle
He began in Lebanon, and ended in Belfast.
He tinkered in clocks, and invented saws.
His consumption almost got the best of him, until he used the healing
power of his own mind.
He would often have new thoughts pertaining to the health of mind,
body, and spirit.
His main friends would go to the park to seek his advice.
He had a great distrust of doctors and the disease theory.
He believed disease was only a disturbance of the mind.
He believed everything in the natural world had an origin in the
He called himself a doctor, though he had no formal education or
He peddled the wares, to show the world his methods were sound.
He is still revered today, and his theories continue to influence New
Who was he?
Last Week's puzzle
Perhaps it was Socrates
Or Plato, his pupil
One of their theories
Appeared to be a scruple
Perhaps it was Hippocrates
Or maybe by Homer
It may have looked like philosophy
But it was a misnomer
More believers would follow
Tolerant and exacting
Such a theory, so shallow
They must have been acting
To the 21st century
This belief still is held
In the face of integrity
It flies un-repelled
What is it?
Quote of the Week
- Quote 'I viewed my fellow man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape.'
- Desmond Morris