SGU Episode 54

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SGU Episode 54
August 2nd 2006
SGU 53 SGU 55
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

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Show Notes


You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

News Items ()[edit]

Creationism Museum open in Kentucky ()[edit]

  • Creationism Museum open in Kentucky

Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

Exorcism ()[edit]

First off, I love the show, easily one of my favorite podcasts. Its nice to get my weekly dose of skepticism, especially during the summer when I am away from college. I am just wondering what a skeptic's opinion on demonic possession and exorcisms is. I have heard some very convincing stories from Christian friends and the media that seem to defy explanation. Assuming they aren't outright lying, how do you explain this phenomenon? It would seem that mental illness can't account for every case. I don't think this has been mentioned before, but I could be wrong as I have not been able to listen to all of the older shows. Anyways, keep up the excellent work and look forward to hearing from.

Chris Boven
Michigan, United States

PS- Steve, you sound kind of like Ray Romano

Top 10 Exorcisms Resulting in Death or Injury:

10. In April 1994, Nicholas Sogunro of East Ham, East London, became convinced his fiancee was possessed by the Devil when she refused to marry him. Mr. Sogunro locked her is a bedroom, starved and beat her for 14 days, and force fed her communion bread and wine. After her death, Mr. Sagunro tried for 3 days to resurrect her, and then hid her body in the back of his church for a year. He was jailed for 6 years.

9. In January 1998, Charity Miranda, 17 years old of Sayville, Long Island, NY, was suffocated to death with a plastic bag by her mother and sisters after an unsuccessful attempt to exorcise her of demons. The women had recently embraced Santeria, which Charity resisted joining. When she developed the flu after resisting, her mother interpreted it as demonic possession and began the exorcism. Vivian Mairanda, the mother, was excused from a trial on the grounds of insanity, and will spend the rest of her life in a maximum-security psychiatric hospital.

8. In October 1993, Cheung Ho of Norwich England, b

PC Follow up ()[edit]

PC is alive and well in Canada, much to the detriment of critical thinking, and honesty.

Chris Obonsawin

Hi, enjoyed the podcast, finally you got around to debating in a mature fashion the issues of monkeys vs birds. I would appreciate if your distinguished panel could answer the following important questions too:

Ultra-humanite Vs Hawkgirl
Batman Vs Superman
Ninjas Vs Pirates

Also, Political Correctness is not a uniquely US phenomenom, we have it in Ireland and the UK, although more often you see people railing against 'political correctness gone mad!!' than being particularly PC anyway.

Gordon McCormick

Steve responds: Hawkgirl, Superman, and Ninjas. No contest.

Chiropractic ()[edit]

Hey guys, I have recently discovered your podcast and just absolutely adore it.

I always hear (from you guys and other skeptical minded sources) that chiropractic is a pseudoscience and such, and I've briefly studied it, but I didn't discover much. I wonder because my girlfriend's father is a chiropractor. I've been very skeptical of his line of work, mainly because I trust honest scientists who have rejected chiropractic as a legitimate form of treatment.

The thing is recently he's offered me free adjustments for the next few months. I figured it wouldn't be a big deal, even if it doesn't have any validity to it. I first had to go in and get x-rayed. We went over them together and he showed me these two bones in my neck that were not even (clearly there was quite a difference). He gave me this chart and the
symptoms it listed do seem to match up with various problems I have been having. Also after he adjusted me, besides being totally awesome, I definitely had much more mobility in my neck.

I hear that chiropractic can be effective for lower back pain and such (though to the same degree a masseuse can be) and maybe this is just in that limited range where it can be beneficial? I just am not really sure of what exactly...well, of much at all about chiropractic. It obviously isn't just kind of made up out of nothing like magenet therapy or something of that nature, and that it has some sort of methodology and scientific basis.

Maybe a past show or a good link could help me with the information that I just don't have, otherwise though, I would love for you to discuss it on the show. Thanks for your time. Again, love the podcast.

Steven Grissom
Oklahoma USA


Article by Steven Novella on chiropractic:

Chiropractic neck manipulation and strokes:

Singularity ()[edit]

Hey Guys (and Rebecca),

I love the show. I have turned at least three of my friends into regular listeners. I figure the best way, at this point, for me to make the world a more friendly place towards science and reason is to turn as many people on to your show as possible.

One guest I would like to hear on your show is Carl Zimmer. He is a science writer and has a fantastic blog called 'The Loom.' His blog is what piqued my interest in evolution and ultimately, skepticism.

The one question I have, which is tangentially related to your discussion of Audrey De Gray is: what is your take on the concept of the Singularity (popularized by Ray Kurzweil).

Like Audrey's SENS, the concept of Ray's general law of accellerating returns [1] is compelling to me. We tend to predict the future without taking into consideration the exponential nature of the advancement of knowledge and engineering. (Moore's semiconductor law seems to apply to many different fields).

Ray Kurzweil uses this logic to predict a future (within the next 30 years) of super human artificial intelligence, massively expanded lifespans, etc.

Thanks again,

Robert Isaacs
Tampa, FL USA

P.S. Ray Kurzweil would also be a great guest.

Gay Life Expectancy ()[edit]

Recently I was in Cambridge, England, home to one of the World's most prestigious universities boasting such distinguished alumini as Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking and Ali G. Probably their most famous former student was Charles Darwin which probably explains why there were so many religious preachers dotted around the city's streets armed with a microphone, leaflets and a portable notice-board. Out of curiousity I decided to stop and listen to what one of them had to say and to my amusement he was rattling off a list of scientific reasons as to why evolution was impossible and therefore God must be the cause of everything.

After a couple of minutes I got bored and left but was ambushed by a colleague of the speaker who asked me how I felt about what was being said. I told him that it was ludicrous that anyone could hold such out-dated beliefs and that I didn't want to get into an argument because they are impossible to win. As I was walking off he handed me a leaflet which I was about to throw in a trash can when I noticed something.

There was a section about the evils of homosexuality and one of the 'facts' which it claimed proved that homosexuality was indeed evil was that the average life expectancy of a gay man is 43 years. I found this very hard to believe so I asked him if it was a typo and he said no, that because of AIDS and other diseases associated with gay men the average age for queers (his words, not mine) was just 43. I told him that that was total crap but I had no evidence to disprove it.

So when I got home I attempted to investigate further but all my research on the web kept bringing me to creationist websites repeating the number 43 years over and over. I still don't believe it but I can't find any evidence to the contrary. My best guess is that perhaps the average lifespan of gay men with AIDS may have a life expectancy of 43 and that they have extrapolated that to all gay men.

So I guess my question is where does this statistic come from? But assuming the number is wrong, do gay men have a lower life expactancy than straight men, or indeed gay women? Because next time I am engaged in a conversation with a creationist I would really like a firm, water tight statistic to prove how wrong they are.

Rich Wallace

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1: Study finds that predators prefer prey that have smaller brains. Question #2: New study suggests that drinking apple juice may improve memory in Alzheimers patients. Question #3: New study shows that daily flossing is associated with lower scores on standard IQ tests.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

Last Week's puzzle:

All the electricity was out in Aberdeen. None of the street lights or traffic signals had power. A dark limousine was cruising down the newly paved blacktop, with its headlights off. A young boy dressed totally in black (with no reflectors) stepped out to cross the street. The moon wasn't out and the boy had no flashlight, yet the driver stopped to let the boy cross the street. How did the driver see the boy?

Answer: It was daytime

New Puzzle:

You have just made a cup of coffee but haven't put the milk in yet. The doorbell rings so it may take a couple of minutes before you can drink it. If you like your coffee hot, is it better to add the milk before answering the door or after you return.

Roel Winters

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society. For information on this and other podcasts, please visit our website at Please send us your questions, suggestions, and other feedback; you can use the 'contact us' page on our website, or you can send us an email to 'info @'. 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto and is used with permission.


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