Love the podcast, but. . .
Posted: 18 August 2007 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]
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(Posted this on the JREF forum; thought it would be better placed here)

I think PoI is an excellent, informative podcast, and I am very impressed with D.J.‘s interview skills.

That being said, there are a couple of things about the show that are really bothering me:

1. The topics of investigation listed at the top of the show are “pseudo-science and the paranormal, alternative medicine and third, religion, secularism and non-belief”. Yet, nearly 50% of the episodes have dealt with religion and god. If this is going to be a podcast focusing on the secular fight against religion, with a bit of other stuff thrown in, then at least say so.

2. With all the ads and commentary claiming that there is ongoing conspiracy by the right to destroy non-belief/secularism/humanism, the podcast is starting to sound like the Bill O’Reilly show. Seriously. When O’Reilly’s show premiered in my area I listened to a few episodes. I was quickly turned off by his rabble-rousing anti-secular commentary, and the radio was turned off just as quickly. That is why I am disturbed to hear the same style of rhetoric being spouted on PoI against those whose belief system is different than ours.


Now, I am an atheist, a rational secularist, and a rationalist liberal, too. I happen to agree with the majority of the reality-based information I hear on Point of Inquiry, and I believe that the promotion of non-religious perspective is important. I would just like to hear more discussion on all the topics that the podcast is supposed to investigate, as well as focus away from inflammatory ads and accusations.

We’re supposed to be the rational ones, remember?

[ Edited: 18 August 2007 03:43 PM by Giandeau ]
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Posted: 18 August 2007 10:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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FWIW I agree that I’d like to hear more about science and the public and topics other than religion. There certainly have been some such episodes, but more would be appreciated.

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Posted: 19 August 2007 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, I’m getting a bit tired of various religious things myself too.  Some are very interesting, like what Bob and Hoffmann are doing with the Jesus Project and all, but others are just getting old.  More science would be good though.

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Posted: 19 August 2007 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The episode before last we had a renowned psychologist on to talk about cognitive dissonance (not about religion etc), last week we had a best-selling author on to talk about global warming and communication of science ideas to the public, and in the next couple weeks we have confirmed guests to treat topics related to the paranormal and alt med. That said, the current diversity of guests and their focus reflect the balance that CFI has decided best represents its educational aims and agenda. Thanks for listening and for the feedback!

Cheers,

Thomas

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Posted: 19 August 2007 11:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thanks for your reply, Thomas.

I didn’t mean to imply that religion is the only topic of the broadcast; I am aware that you have addressed other subjects recently and in the past.

Nonetheless, as I said, nearly 50% of the podcasts have dealt with religion, leaving only 1/2 of the shows to address the other 3/4 of the material you lay out as the focus of your podcast.

That being the case, if “the current diversity of guests and their focus reflect the balance that CFI has decided best represents its educational aims and agenda”, are you announcing here that CFI’s major focus is now to combat religion and those who follow it?

And would you be kind enough to address the second issue of my post, too?

Thank you.

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Posted: 20 August 2007 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The Center for Inquiry houses a number of organizations all devoted to advancing the outlook of science and reason rationality, but each in different areas. So among them are the following three: the Council for Secular humanism focuses on ethics, secularism, God-belief, and the effects of religion, etc. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry focuses on the paranormal and science questions, and has broadened its focus to no longer just be about pseudoscience and the paranormal (though it certainly focuses on that too). The Commission for Scientific Medicine comprises a network of leading medical and scientific minds to speak out against alt met and similar kinds of claims and movements within medicine, and publishes two medical journals.

Point of Inquiry deals with all of these kinds of topics, and then some. And yes, like CFI, Point of Inquiry spends a good deal of its time exploring religion and secularism as these issues are considered very important in the current political and cultural climate. This is not a change of focus, but in keeping with our long-time focus on all the enemies of reason, which in the United States today, center a lot around those who are working to push their ancient religions on the rest of us. We don’t shy away from these questions for fear of rocking the boat. In fact, some people at CFI feel like when considering the threats posed by activist religionists, CFI doesn’t spend enough time on these issues, arguing forcefully that keeping society officially secular must become the top priority of CFI.

And while, as producer, I don’t always decide the guest line-up for each and every episode (D.J. Grothe, Barry Karr, and many others at CFI often suggest which guests we should schedule, as well as our taking input from regular listeners) I and others feel the balance of guests that we have does accurately reflect CFI’s longtime areas of focus: CFI’s conference in New York City, for instance, is entitled The Secular Society and its Enemies, reflecting that focus. CFI has a point of view, and one of the things Point of Inquiry does is to promote it.

Regarding your second point, we make no apologies. I think D.J. does an excellent job challenging even the big name guests, and playing devil’s advocate. And considering all the platforms for the religionists, paranormalists and others, we are proud that Point of Inquiry has become a popular way for the reigning beliefs in society to be challenged by reason and the scientific view. As for political bias, well, we get a lot of flack for D.J. being a conservative! You should see the comments on iTunes which make him out to be as rabid as Bill OReilly! Others complain and attack him for being too much a liberal. You will always get this variety of views when you have a large audience. We try to strike a balance that makes sense for us.

I hope this addresses some of your concerns, and others can take the discussion from here, since we actually do Point of Inquiry in addition to our regular full time jobs and I have a to do list for work a mile long!

Cheers,

Thomas

P.S.—I just checked, and 12 of the last 21 episodes were not primarily focused on “religion and God.”

[ Edited: 20 August 2007 10:15 AM by Thomas Donnelly ]
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Posted: 20 August 2007 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thank you, again, for taking time to respond.

I want to clarify something, because I think I gave the wrong impression—the statements I made in my “second issue” were not, in any way, directed at DJ. I think he is a superb interviewer, and one of his interview techniques that I like most is the devil’s advocacy that you referred to. I’ve actually found DJ’s approach to topics to be generally (pardon the phrase) fair and balanced.

I was actually referring more specifically to the canned ads and commentary played, most often, at the top and bottom of the show; they have that O’Reilly “war on Christmas” tone to them.

I know you are busy, and I’m not expecting any kind of response—I just wanted to be clear about the intention of my commentary.

Thank you.

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Posted: 09 September 2007 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Mriana - 19 August 2007 02:30 AM

Yes, I’m getting a bit tired of various religious things myself too.  Some are very interesting, like what Bob and Hoffmann are doing with the Jesus Project and all, but others are just getting old.  More science would be good though.

Spot on. 

Religious people believe a lot of silly things can’t be proven in science.  We get it.  Now can we stop obsessing about what religious people think and focus on what science is telling us and how it has learned it?

One thing we can do to further an appreciation of science and reason is stop talking about science as if it is a belief system.  Example, “the majority of Americans don’t believe in evolution”.  “Do you believe in the Big Bang?”  Blecht.  I’ll tell you what we should be worried about.  We should be worried about the fact that the majority of people in this country who say they believe in evolution don’t understand the theory much better than the majority of those who don’t, which is to say, neither side understands the theory much.

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Posted: 09 September 2007 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Well, if this is to become a thread with suggestions for the POI podcast, let me add this.

To D.J. and Thomas - if you ever say to yourselves “it’s really hard to keep up this weekly podcast,” then I would say back it off to every two weeks.  You have an impressive backlog of shows for new listeners to discover, but how long can you keep up the pace of a different skeptical guest each week?

On the other hand, if the current pace is working for you, fine.  Keep up the great work that you do!

J. D.

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Posted: 09 September 2007 08:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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jdmack - 09 September 2007 05:18 PM

Well, if this is to become a thread with suggestions for the POI podcast, let me add this.


J. D.

I think the podcast is great and it’s one of my few consistent downloads from iTunes. Thanks for all your work. I think getting interviews with authors of new books in the area you’ve scoped out has been really effective.

For those who want to benchmark other podcasts, a list I recently found which is interesting is on a website called digg.com

Here is the list of science sites:
http://digg.com/podcasts/view/science

I find the Point of Inquiry podcasts are consistently clear, the editing is good so that things are on-topic, and the length seems to be about right.

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