I am an avid listener to podcasts. I can attribute my enlightenment that I was a Skeptic from the early days of listening to Penn Jillette’s radio show rebroadcast on my iPod.
Now, as I spend my day making videos, working on pitch materials for The Skeptologists and also making breakaway bottles for SMASHProps, I have a lot of time available to listen to many great podcasts. Most are skeptically themed and feature several of the authors that contribute regularly to this blog.
One podcast that I listen to regularly is the Tech Stuff Podcast, from the folks over at HowStuffWorks.com. Chris Pollette and Jonathan Strickland regularly take on topics related to technology from how fiber optics work to the best Easter eggs found in video games. When I scrolled through my menu of choices for my evening listening, last night, I saw that the latest offering from tech stuff was labeled “Ghost Hunting Technology.” I have to admit that I almost skipped it! My fear was that I’d listen to this podcast and have to stop listening to their future shows because of something that they said and I would have lost all “faith” in their ability to report on topics related to, well, anything!
This is a mainstream podcast. While tech-heavy, it’s aimed at a general audience and as such cannot be considered a skeptical podcast by any means. I generally tend towards programming from people who share at least a reasonable amount of similarities with my world-view. Luckily, I’ve found many.
So with some trepidation, I listened to the podcast and held my breath. Lucky for my oxygen-starved brain I didn’t have to wait long, because co-host Jonathan Strickland opened his part of the show by saying: “I’m going to preface this by saying, I am a Skeptic.” Whoa! I thought! he just came out! Ha ha! Not only that, he then very clearly and concisely explained what being a Skeptic was: “And when I say skeptic I don’t mean someone that automatically denies that something exists. When I’m saying Skeptic I’m talking about a person that requires there be some sort of empirical evidence that something exists before I just go ahead and accept it.”
Aw shucks Jonathan. What a swell guy. A great, clearly stated definition that many of us can really get behind. He further goes on to say that there is a an enormous lack of empirical evidence that ghosts exist. He is steadfast in his position and when Chris Pollette begins to give a little slack to the rope, Jonathan is quick to reign it in. They both continue through the podcast explaining the tools that are frequently seen on the popular ghost shows, and how it’s really all just props for entertainment value.
The reason that this podcast is important in my perspective is that these are people that produce a program in the mainstream media market, and Jonathan presented a great case for being a critical thinker and held his ground in an intelligent way, without being confrontational. He discussed skepticism in a way that anyone could understand and appreciate. Furthermore, he and his co-host took the time to go through many of the ghost hunters tools of the trade and in a simple fashion explained how there is no evidence that these tool can detect the presence of ghosts, or that there is any good evidence of ghosts themselves.
This type of rational, entertaining discourse is what we need to see more of. It’s not enough to simply cheer amongst those of us that know and understand the tenants of skepticism. It’s important to inject rationality and critical thinking skills –perhaps by using science and technology as a vehicle– to help people understand. The world that we live in is amazing and wonderful and although filled with many unexplored and misunderstood things, we should not work so hard to create industries that support unfounded claims of the paranormal and supernatural.
I highly recommend that you listen to TechStuff, and even drop them a line and let them know that there are a great many people out there that support this work.
While I remain hard at work to bring a mainstream TV series to viewers all over, I also stand and applaud those that are not afraid to wear their true colors and stand by their convictions.
To go directly to the rs feed for the Podcast Click here: feed://www.howstuffworks.com/podcasts/techstuff.rss
Tech Stuff can be found at www.HowStuffWorks.com