Posted: 28 April 2007 04:14 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Joined  2007-04-28

Hey, I love the podcast, and have been a fan of Skeptical Inquirer since I read James Randi’s book Flim-Flam! during my undergrad years. While I agree with the views expressed in your publications and podcasts, I find myself wondering how it is that we are goingt o reach a wider audience.

To illustrate what I mean, Bill Maher’s show Real Time features not only the people Maher (and his primary audience) agree with, but also people they don’t agree with at all. The whole thing is set up like Firing Line, where two opposing sides square off on each other. Same thing with the MacLaughlin Group.

Now, you can argue that this doesn’t lend itself to deep discussions, and it leaves you open to your guests using logical fallacies to rebut your claims, but in a way, taking that risk strengthens your argument. After all, if the best your opponent can do is an ad hominem attack, then you’ll come off looking great when you respond to that in a mature and logically sound manner. Your opponent, however, will look as rational as a rabid dog.

It also expands your audience. You see, your current format pretty much insures that no fundamentalist will listen to it with an open mind. At best, they’ll tune in just to get material to attack you with. However, even hyper-conservatives tune in to see Maher and the MacLaughlin Group. Why? Because they get a chance to see their own kind on the show and make an attempt to express their point of view. The sneaky bit is that they also get to see that point of view dissected and looked at closely. This kind of examination allows the more logical elements of their psyche to question their own point of view.

That kind of mental irritatation, the "little voice" Socrates referred to in Plato’s books, is what leads us from irrationality to reason.  Just preaching to the choir isn’t going to do much. Yes, I listen to you and read your magazines. But I already agree with you, so you’re not gaining much ground here. If you want to really affect people’s perspective, get the word out tot he people who don’t agree with you.

To do that, you have to feature people you don’t like on your show.

Posted: 28 April 2007 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14

Good points all, and IIRC DJ has said somewhere recently that they do plan on having some who disagree with the CFI’s general stance. My own personal preference is to have mostly the skeptics we all want to hear, but to leaven that with other sorts every once in awhile.

I’d prefer mostly skeptics just because they have such few other outlets in the mainstream media. Media nowadays is absolutely swamped with credulousness of all sorts. So I’d argue we shouldn’t be going overboard to allow that sort too much more airtime.



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El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Posted: 28 April 2007 04:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  4231
Joined  2006-11-28

I guess I would agree with Doug. Occassional opposing points of view, if reasonable (as opposed to foeaming-at-the mouth fundamentalists) would keep us all honest. But POI is a rare opportunity to hear sweet reason in a media awash in nonsense, and even if it preaches to the choir a bit, the choir benefits from that.


The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Posted: 28 April 2007 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ll add that hearing from the opposite side may help some to stop demonising the believer. One thing that bugs me is the impression I get in a lot of the free thinker realm is the attitude of superiority. That we are better, smarter and more evolved than those of faith or belief. Having smart people from the other side (there are many) in for honest debate can be a good thing for all.

Or as Blues Traveler once sang it in Trina Magna:

As I Was taught to lead
I was fed well On what had come before
Everyone Who had ever lived
Left a lesson Regarding what’s in store

They Were just like you and me
Guessing their asses off
Oh yes, they tried to guess well

It’s our turn now I hope we’re forgiven
Chalk it up to knowledge and change And life itself

And as I Shall learn to follow
I’ll feed the leaders With everything I can
They’ll Bring revolutions
That try as I may I just won’t understand

They Will be just like you and me
Pretending they’re not guessing As if we couldn’t tell

It’ll be their turn then I hope we can forgive them
Chalk it up to knowledge and change And life itself

It seems a cycle that we all seem to share
The passing from hand to hand of our pride and despair
Both parents and child cry apathy but every- body cares

And then we vanish in thin air
And only time is there
Time and a legacy…

History holds questions for everyone
A story that’s only just begun
Blind passed the goddamn horizon
Sees more than father less than son
Life and death merely pretending
We’re part of the infinite ending

We Are gonna teach and learn
We’re gonna get fed well
And then we shall feed

We We are ancient
We are brand spanking new
We shall follow and lead

Cause we Are simply you and me
Improving our traditions
On the brink of heaven and hell

We each get a turn And then we’re forgiven
And we call it knowledge and change And life itself.

Posted: 28 April 2007 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Total Posts:  63
Joined  2006-01-21

Well said!

Just so you know, we have invited Ann Coulter (about her book Godless) and Dinesh Disouza, and also Sylvia Brown, but all have declined our invites. We’d love to have John Edwards on the show, and we are working on getting Andrew Weil, who is somehow friends with one of our major supporters.

We do plan to have David Nobel on in the near future, and hopefully Kirk Cameron, who is now a popular and increasingly influential Evangelical apologist.

Many people of opposing views are for some reason reluctant to be on the show. But it is important that we explore these issues from all perspectives, as we’ve recently done with Nisbet and his views on Dawkins and we’ll have a show coming up on the so-called “New Humanism” as well.



Thomas Donnelly
Center for Inquiry?
716-636-7571 ext 420
tdonnelly (at)

Posted: 28 April 2007 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Total Posts:  7843
Joined  2007-03-02

I don’t have anything new to add, except that I think both agree and disagree with is best also.  Even those I agree with I don’t always agree with everything they say.

Take Dawkins and Harris for example. I agree that extremism should end and that the door is through the moderates, it’s a source of violence, hatred, control, oppression, and all, but I disagree with yanking the rug out from under them because that could cause more problems.  They would not know what to do with themselves if we did that.  I truly believe that education is the key the end religious dogma and alike though.

So even those I do agree with, I don’t agree with absolutely everything they say.


“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

Posted: 29 April 2007 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Total Posts:  38
Joined  2007-04-28


First of all, thank you to everyone who replied to my post. It’s good to see that everyone is willing to deal with this issue on some level, rather than ignore it.

Secondly, I can understand the administrators’ dilemma. I heard a Bill Moyers podcast recently where he interviewed Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, and Jon Stewart talked about how hard it was getting to be to get people on his show. He recently did a show with John McCain, and when asked why he didn’t invite somebody from the current administration, he replied that McCain was the only one on the side of the Bush Administration he could get to appear on the show at all. One of the things I find particularly irritating about the right wing is the hypocrisy of having a purely one-sided media platform ( Faux News Channel) while criticizing the media as having a ‘liberal bias’, especially since what passes for the left in this country is considered by every other nation on the earth to be center-right.

I digress. It is indeed difficult to find people who are willing to have their ideas questioned when those ideas are based in nothing particularly substantial. What I would like to hear is you folks debating against the lady who wrote the book ‘The Secret’.

One thing I think I share in common with the posters that stated that the podcast and magazines should not feature points of view from the opposition is that I too find having to constantly defend science tiresome. And I do get a bit of a thrill from watching people like Dawkins put them on the defensive for once, instead of it always being the other way around. I think that featuring both sides of the debate still allows for that, however. In fact, it may even strengthen your position if you do it right. One thing I admired the most about Carl Sagan was his ability to take somebody who was an absolute believer in the paranormal, aliens, and other form sof irrationality, and lead them through the logical criticisms of their arguments, always respectful, and maybe even giving them just enough of a sense that it was worth debating him, because they might win-and wouldn’t that be a great victory!-only to find themselves at the end contradicting their originally stated viewpoint, unraveling their own arguments, and essentially affirming the science and reason they came into the discussion so ready and willing to do combat with.  It’s not easy to do, and Sagan was far more adept at it then I will ever be, but if you can pull it off, you come out of it with the best of all possible arrangements- everyone’s dignity is preserved, and yet the opponent endorses, even if only implicitly, your position. I so wish the man had run for high political office during his lifetime!

So you see, debating the opposition isn’t always just lending a platform to irrationality. If you do it more with a velvet glove than an iron fist, you might find it a valuable tool in expanding the reach of your influence, even into the areas that really matter. For all those kids with bright young minds ready to explore the universe, setting them free from the dogma that chains their imaginations, not by attempting to smash the chains, but by exposing those chains as mere illusions, you enlighten not only the child but the parent(s) as well, and maybe even elevate the community from it’s ignorance. This is how we reach the Red States. THis is how we open them, gently.

Posted: 29 April 2007 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Total Posts:  363
Joined  2006-02-23

It is true that the conservative religionist commentators Coulter, O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Chris Matthews, and others are very reluctant to appear in ANY, emphasize ANY arena they do not control. Why would they? Even if treated with kid gloves there is no upside as far as they are concerned.
Assume one would appear here
If we treat whoever it is that deigns to appear in this forum very sweetly and that person leaves feeling he/she has made us feel good about him/her of what benefit is that to that person? I’ll answer - none at all.

Those personalities are extremely successful doing it their way. they are always in total control of the buttons (on off and cut off) on their shows. Sam Harris is someone I admire, greatly. I listened to his appearance eon the Coulter radio show. She did not give him time to respond to any of her questions. He was reduced to asking her whether she’d feel the same if it was Zeus. He got great exposure from his appearance on her show so it was worth the abuse.

They gain nothing by coming into our playground. If Limbaugh were to expose himself to the members of this forum on almost any topic he’d come out the major loser. Why would he want to risk that.
As I said even if treated with kid gloves so that he leaves the interview appearing to be the intellectual giant he is in his own mind what has he gained?
I doubt we’ll ever be graced by one of those named above.


Jimmie Keyes
Tavernier, FL
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

Posted: 29 April 2007 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Joined  2007-04-28

Kid Gloves

Not quite what I meant. I wasn’t asking you to treat them with kid gloves, not was I asking you to put them in control. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t try to become their photo negative.

If we allow ourselves to engage in the same tactics employed by the right wing-say, if we had a liberal Hannity and a conservative Holmes- what would that do to contribute anything to the discussion?

When both left and right are engaged in a winner-take-all duel to the death, no light is shed on anything. In fact, we sink into darkness. What knowledge do we gain from slandering our opponents? The same that they gain when they slander us-precisely none.

Now, if it’s short term political gain you want, hammer away. Just remember that Bush and his camp have been hammering away for 7 years now, and while it worked for the first six, the country stopped believing it back in November. Maybe you can fool them for the same amount of time the conservatives did, or even a little longer. In the end though, nothing lasting will be created.

If what you want is to elevate the minds of the American public, however-to show them that science is a legitimate way of viewing the world- then you have to employ different tactics.

As contrarian as the French may be, we the American public are even moreso. We just hate being patronized or led, at least overtly. Expert politicos point to their opponents, and show the country how those opponents are misleading us-note that the word ‘leading’ is part of misleading- and then they portray those opponents as smug, as if they think they are ‘better than you’- and it’s a sone deal. Clinton did the same thing when he ran against Bush I, and Reagan did it to Carter, who did it to Ford. Look at how Nixon portrayed Johnson and Humphrey, and you get the general idea. Mudslinging is an age-old tradition,a nd there’s no better mud than an air of superiority.

Decide what the business you’re in is, exactly. Are you here to break the mold, and contribute to the end of this nonsense, by fostering reasoned debate and open-minded examinations of the world? I hope so. If you are, then you have to be willing to open up a little, and make yourself a little vulnerable. It takes more courage to walk into this world unarmed than it does to hide in the shadows or to intimidate your opponents.

Remember that Socrates was willing to debate anyone-and the way he did it was to ask questions, to examine everything bit by bit. He did so with humility, and even claimed that he didn’t know anything at all, and begged his opponents to enlighten him. As they tried to do so, he exposed the fallacies in their arguments by asking questions, by using reason, all the while never rubbing their noses in it. It’s true, this sort of thing cost him his life in the end, mostly because his opponents could not assail his logic, so they had to attack his person. But which of them is more famous today, 2500 years later? Does anyone now even mention Milletus, or know who he was? Or do we praise Socrates for being the progenitor of western philosophical thought?

Yeah, he lived before TV, but there was just as much spin in ancient Athens as there is in modern Washington. And if we are to create an institutional change in American thought, it is not to be done except through the bravery required of those who face their opponents on equal ground, unarmed save for their reason, trusting that reason alone is all they’ll ever need.

Don’t be afraid. Fight the good fight with your head held high, and show the world that reason can and does triumph ultimately over fear and delusion.