Thursday 27 January 2011

Podcast Posting - Interview with Mark Crislip

If you haven’t come across Mark Crislip yet, it’s about time you did. Mark’s an infectious diseases doctor in Portland Oregon, but it’s not only the diseases he studies and treats that are catching. Mark approaches the subjects that so fascinate him with an enthusiasm and sense of humour that are in themselves contagious.

I first stumbled upon him on the Quackcast three or four years ago. Here he reviews the findings and thoughts on matters around Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicines (SCAMs). He does a line in withering scorn and pithy put downs the like of which I haven’t heard since my PE teacher’s attempts to turn me into a rugby player at High School.

This interview was a great excuse for me to meet (via Skype at least) somebody that has entertained and educated me over the last four years. The Quackcast is not a podcast of complex production. It’s Mark, a microphone and some editing software. There are no fancy gimmicks, no catchy jingles or special guests. Despite this it’s won the People’s Choice Podcast Award in Health and Medicine for two years running, because it is just rock solid content and a pleasure to listen to.

Anyway, that’s enough said. Rather than read my opinions about him and his podcast listen to our discussion here then find the Quackcast here. When you’re done with that check out some of his infectious diseases stuff. It’s surprisingly fun and some of the words I’ve learnt on there have done wonders for my Scrabble scores.

Patrick Redmond - Born in Stoke and moved the vast distance to live in Birmingham. He is one of the organisers of Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub.

Monday 24 January 2011

I knew you were going to say that

There is a certain set of associations that go together to form a stereotype. Unix Sys Admin = Geek, Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars, Maths, Science, Rationalism, Scepticism, Atheism, Humanism.

Ok, maybe I added the last four on and that's just me. I do also conform to many of the other aspects of that stereotype though. However I also feel the need to say "I am not a trekkie" of course all trekkies say that but it is true in my case. No really.

I've spoken before about my atheism and this is part of a larger scepticism about anything new age, psychics, alternative medicine etc. I have even been known to bend people's ears about this if they will stand still long enough to listen. Of course some people, well actually one in particular, enjoys baiting me for his entertainment with various outrageous statements like Dawkins is your pope etc. He should know better really given he is currently researching for his PhD in Neuropsychology however it was whilst at his studies that he came across an unrelated article by Professor Daryl Bem that purports to show evidence of psychic abilities, namely presentiment or precognition and my friend couldn't wait to share it with me to say "ha, what about your scepticism now?"

Thursday 20 January 2011

Can brain-parasites influence human culture on a global level?

A blogpost by Peter Harrison
The claim that parasitic organisms are influencing our culture may initially seem quite far-fetched, and the idea stems from the somewhat worrying claim that brain-parasites are able to control our behaviour. Could any of your actions really be influenced by a microscopic organism living in your brain? Could there be more to this than science fiction? Believe it or not, science says (probably) yes.
The parasite that we are focusing on is Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan species that has intrigued biologists and psychologists all over the world. Everything we know about this parasite is interesting, so deciding where to begin is a challenge. The best place to start is probably by explaining how wildly successful T.gondii really is. Specialised parasites are often very exciting to study as they have evolved incredible abilities, but many parasites become so specialised that they are only effective in a specific host species, or sometimes even a specific organ within a specific host. But T.gondii is able to use many warm-blooded animals as hosts. Another truly amazing thing worth mentioning is that

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Some thoughts on Steve Fuller's "If you're pro-science, what are you pro?"

As you’re probably aware, Steve Fuller dropped by Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub last week to do his talk “If you’re pro-science, What should you be pro?”.  It was a lively and confrontational talk and is well worth a listen, it is available here in full.  Here are some thoughts from Birmingham Skeptics regular Tulpesh Patel on the talk.

Last Wednesday, Steve Fuller spoke to the Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub, asking the question ‘If you are pro-science, what are you pro?’. Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of minutes, but I’m glad I made it to the talk because he certainly made for an entertaining evening.

Despite the title, much of Steve’s talk was not actually about science, but rather about the definition of skepticism and why, with regards to everyone in the pub attending a SITP meeting, it was a misnomer.

Monday 17 January 2011

Podcast - Steve Fuller at Birmingham Skeptics

The Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub Podcast is back, we took an extended vacation over Christmas, but we are back, and wow do we have a bit of a special for you. Instead of the usual interviews, we thought we would bring you an entire SitP talk by the excellent and controversial Professor Steve Fuller!

Here is the full blurb: "Professor Steve Fuller has never shied away from tackling controversial subjects. He is the author of many books that challenge the accepted interpretations and conventions of science and testified on behalf of the “Intelligent Design” protagonists in the Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District trial in 2005. In his book “Science, the Art of Living”, Fuller argues that science