SGU Episode 491

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SGU Episode 491
December 6th 2014
SGU 490 SGU 492
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
“For a star to be born there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.”
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Show Notes
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You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

This Day in Skepticism (1:01)[edit]

S: But first, Rebecca, we're gonna start with a This Day in Skepticism for December 6th.

R: Yeah, I wish that I had a happier one for this episode, where we have listeners joining in, but we're recording on December 6th, so I pretty much have to mention that this is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Day. I just said "day" twice. You get the idea. And that's because this marks the day in 1989, that Marc Lapine murdered fourteen women, and injured ten more, as well as four men during a twenty minute long massacre known as the Ecole Polytechnique Massacre, specifically because, in his own words, he was attempting to "end feminism."

And he specifically complained about women encroaching on men's territory. And so he chose as his targets, women in the, were in a majority male industry. You know, they were going to school to become engineers.

S: How dare they?

R: The majority of them were engineering students, yeah. I think at least one was a worker at the university. But for the most part, yeah, they were all engineers. And yeah, it was a really horrific massacre that led to significant changes in gun control laws in Canada, and also really highlighted the problem of violence against women by men, and specifically this backlash against feminism, and against women achieving equality in the workplace.

So, December 6th is a date that I know many of my friends who are women in science, and women in science communication, they mark this day as a very important one to remember, and to honor.

J: Why did he kill some guys too? Like

R: They got in the way. There were a number of people afterwards who criticised many of the men who were involved that day, because, for instance, he started the massacre, Lapine started the massacre by going into a classroom, and telling all of the men to stand on one side of the room, and the women on the other, and then he made the men leave. And then he gunned down the women.

And the men were criticised by some for not rushing to the aid of the women. And I find it a particularly ironic and horrible thing to subject these men to. It's like this chivalrous sort of idea that modern feminists would say is absurd. Like, these men were not under any, you know, I mean, that's a horrible situation. You can't expect an average person to risk life and limb, you know, at the drop of a hat for someone else just because they happen to be women. So it was a pretty horrendous aftermath in that respect as well.

E: You don't know how you're gonna react at the end of a gun barrel. I mean, gimma a break! Nobody should be put in that position, and nobody knows how they're gonna react in that position. You're absolutely right. Nobody should be held to account for their reaction for that.

R: Yeah, exactly. But, yeah, the massacre actually didn't end until Lapine killed himself. Luckily, he did it before he ran out of ammo, 'cause he had quite a bit more. But he still made a significant impact in just twenty minutes.

S: Yeah, it's horrible. And it's just amazing, you know, whatever. Obviously, we can't get inside the mind of somebody who would do such a thing. I mean, you know, it's, I can't even imagine where somebody needs to be mentally, that they feel, "I know what I'll do! I'll get all the ammunition I can, and kill as many people as I can."

R: Yeah

S: The notion of protesting feminism by killing women, like, is he missing the irony there? Did he ...

J: Yeah, I know.

S: Did he, obviously, he was. But I mean,

R: It's like the addage of every article on the internet about feminism, the comments on it only makes it obvious that feminism is needed. (Snickers) Same sort of

S: Yeah

R: deal. This is, yeah, this is why we need to keep fighting for equality in the workplace, because these women literally lost their lives by simply pursuing a career that was traditionally one that was dominated by men.

J: Yeah, it needs to be pointed out though, that that's just one crazy ass douche bag, you know what I mean? That's not representative of ...

R: He, unfortunately has become representative, and continues to be so. You know, we see people like Elliot Roger following in his footsteps even last year. And, you know, he came from a family where his own father was completely, had this huge hatred of women, and instilled that in his son, and abused his mother. You know, so he comes from this background where hating women was an integral part of his life. And so that really can't be ignored.

The fact that he specifically was part of this, unfortunately, this community, this movement of people who do believe that women don't deserve equality. And that they shouldn't have it. I mean, this didn't happen in a vacuum.

S: Yeah, but I think Jay's point also could be, it is certainly this kind of thing is not institutionalised the way it was before equal rights. But still, there are individuals and subcultures and groups of people who still have these sentiments, are willing to act on them, feel they need to act on them. So, you know, I think certainly, it's better than it was fifty years ago, but events like this remind us that we're not there yet. I mean, there's still a lot of people who feel like it's even a question.

And I do think the younger generation, it's gonna get better every generation. I have two young daughters, and my older daughter, Julia, she's like, "How could anybody not be a feminist?" She just doesn't get it.

E: Wait 'till she learns history, yeah.

S: You know, "Of course men and women are equal! How could anybody think anything else?" Just, the idea is completely alien to her, which is good! It should be. But it should be completely alien to her. I mean, she obviously knows that people think that. She knows it's part of history and culture. But just the idea is so against her just basic world view that she can't wrap her head around it. And I guess that's a good thing.

J: That's a testament to her upbringing, you know, your influence on her, Steve. And Jocelyn's influence on her. She's seeing a very equal house, and that's not the case everywhere either. You know, my point before though, to Rebecca, was that, you know, this one guy with a gun that goes apeshit, to me, doesn't have any impact on who I am, and what I believe. And I think most of the people that I know, that guy is just a crazy son of a bitch who was acting on his own thoughts. I don't think that, by any interpretation of reality, that that's the norm.

R: Well, I mean, it's not the norm in that this doesn't happen every day. But it does happen every year or so.

S: But it's not uncommon. It's not the norm, but it's not uncommon. And again, I think that we're seeing, we are absolutely seeing a version of this on the internet, where people are responding to women trying to have an equal voice, you know, in the skeptical movement, by threatening them, literally attempting to harass them off the internet, and in some cases succeeding.

So it's not physical violence, but they're using emotional violence against women, just for being there, just for being women. It's ridiculous.

R: And threats of physical violence,

S: Yeah, threats of violence.

R: that sometimes they follow through with, like Elliot Roger, like others, yeah.

Special: Live Q&A (9:10)[edit]

  • With: David Young Isaak K. Samsel Jalita Jacobsen Julian Sammy Justin Pagano Matthew Jones Michael Espinos Mike Williams Nicolas Baker Qusai Al Shidi Alex Ford

How Do You Reach the Unconverted (9:20)[edit]

  • David Young from Hong Kong. Segment is full of things listeners can do.

Science Behind Spirituality (14:53)[edit]

  • Isaak Samsel

Pseudoscientist Logical Fallacies (20:48)[edit]

  • Jalita Jacobsen

(Commercial at 29:59)

Skepticism in the Workforce (31:31)[edit]

  • Julian Sammy

Skepticism and Politics (38:39)[edit]

  • Justin Pagano

Biggest Challenge for Sci Comm (44:22)[edit]

  • Matthew Jones (President of the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers)

Educating Without Bias (51:18)[edit]

  • Michael Espinos – Middle school teacher

Technological Stability (53:50)[edit]

  • Mike Williams – Fort Worth, Texas.

(Commercial at 1:00:41)

Info vs Entertainment (1:02:03)[edit]

  • Nicolas Baker – journalist from Paris.

Mindfulness in Medicine (1:09:59)[edit]

  • Qusai Al Shidi – Has bipolar disorders

Alt Med in Mainstream Medicine (1:16:56)[edit]

  • Alex Ford – his wife has chronic migraines

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:25:14)[edit]

“For a star to be born there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.” - Unknown

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at, where you will find the show notes as well as links to our blogs, videos, online forum, and other content. You can send us feedback or questions to Also, please consider supporting the SGU by visiting the store page on our website, where you will find merchandise, premium content, and subscription information. Our listeners are what make SGU possible.


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