Monday, March 19, 2007

Skeptiko Review

I am behind in updating Public Parapsychology about the latest podcasts at Last week, Skeptiko presented an interview with Dr. Charles Tart in which he discussed his research findings and personal conclusions about spirituality, meditation, and transpersonal psychology. This week, there is an interview with Stephan A. Schwartz exploring the connection between his research into remote viewing and global climate change.

Typically, I copy information from the press releases into these blog posts, and will probably resume doing so next week, but this week I just wanted to say a few words about Skeptiko. Since my day job requires me to drive around the city on Tuesdays, I've made a weekly habit of listening to these interviews in the car. I happen to be the last person on earth who doesn't own an mp3 player, but it's still a very simple process. All I have to do is download the mp3, burn it to a CD...and remember to pack it in my teaching bag before leaving. Today will be my fifth Tuesday of listening to Skeptiko podcasts as I make my rounds, and it has become a rather enjoyable routine.

The host, Alex Tsakiris, interviews various scholars who represent a variety of positions on parapsychological topics, from well-known skeptics to active researchers in the field. During many interviews, audio clips from other personalities in the field are presented, to which interviewees are invited to respond. The presentation is balanced, and there is clearly an effort to construct a dialogue between the people who are interviewed week after week. Skeptiko is not necessarily creating this dialogue. In a sense, it already exists at parapsychology conferences and in peer-reviewed journals around the world, but the site presents this dialogue to the general public in a manner that is both unique and accessible.

It has been delightful to witness how quickly the show has grown into its own since its inception just a few months ago. Now as I listen to each installment, I think about what myself and the host have learned since the last one. I wonder which selections from previous interviews might be replayed again, and who is going to have the opportunity to respond to them. The podcasts are developing into a series, where the narrative of science, at the tipping point, progresses week after week.


Phronk said...

I really enjoy Skeptiko too, but I don't know if I'd call it "balanced." The biases of the people producing it are clear. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing - and it certainly happens with other "skeptical" sources - but it's not like they are completely neutral on the issues being discussed.

The interview with Sue Blackmore was very well done though, and I felt like there was a good discussion going on even though there was some disagreement.

Annalisa Ventola said...

I don't think that you have to be neutral to provide a balanced view. The biases of the host and the guests are clear, as you said. Rather, I think the show is good for presenting differing points of view. The interviews with Blackmore and Shermer are obvious evidence of this, but if you contrast the positions of Radin, Schwarz, or Tart, you might recognize that there is much to debate even within the field itself...especially in regards to issues of survival, or the future of the field.