SGU Episode 590

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SGU Episode 590
October 29th 2016
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(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 589                      SGU 591

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

C: Cara Santa Maria

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

People are often more willing to believe lies than the truth. Lies can be made to sound pleasant. The truth, by its very nature, isn’t always so attractive.

Richard Rahl. From Terry Goodkind's The Third Kingdom

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion


  • Old Hallowe'ens of the rogues

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

Forgotten Superheroes of Science (5:19)[edit]

S: We're gonna start with a special Forgotten Superheroes of Science. This is actually a Forgotten Superhero of Skepticism. This is a good friend of ours, and fellow colleague, skeptical activist David Young, who founded the Hong Kong Skeptics. And Jay, you're gonna tell us a lot more about him.

J: Well, the hard part of this one is that David was diagnosed with ALS this year. And ALS, for most people that get it, you have about two years. And David's about half way through that. And it's been very difficult for him, and difficult for his friends and family that are around him, and seeing it happen.

David, however, has been unbelievable, with just the way he's been dealing with it. Definitely has an attitude where you're surprised at how good he's managing, and how positive he can be. David sent me a recording, over the summer. He was giving me an update, and he was going to visit his family. And he was just talking about how beautiful the sky was, and how beautiful the park was, he was sitting in. He was really appreciating the area around him.

And I gotta tell you, it's difficult, but also amazing to hear a friend of yours, just be positive, and be really appreciating their surroundings at a time when you'd think you couldn't get out of your own way.

But more importantly, David is the perfect example of what a single person, or a single skeptical activist can do. He found himself in China. I think his wife's job brought him there. It's one of the most difficult places for a skeptic to be, and to get work done, but David's become the center of scientific skepticism, and activism in Hong Kong, and southern China. He expanded the Skeptics in the Pub in Hong Kong from a few people, to a legal entity that invites speakers to come in, and educate anyone interested in attending.

He's been pivotal in getting skeptics in the pub Dongwan up and running. And he's a regular, scheduled radio show – he has a regularly scheduled radio show in Hong Kong about skepticism. He arranges talks with high schools and universities. He invites working scientists to come and talk at their Skeptics in the Pub. And David actually helped inspire many people to get involved in the movement in China. And a lot of these people are writing blogs, and the activism has been spreading all from that morning, he got up and just decided to take action.

S: Yeah, David's one of these people who doesn't really promote himself as a brand. He's not a self-promoter. He just works his ass off to promote skepticism, 'cause he really cares about it, you know? Which is why he's like a perfect Forgotten Superhero, because he doesn't really promote himself. But he is working really hard to promote other people and other things, and just anything to raise the profile of the skeptical movement, and to get people interested in it, and thinking critically. It's really fantastic.

C: Yeah, you may not have heard of him before this broadcast, but you've probably been touched by the work that he does.

J: What I like to think is that his work is always gonna be there, woven into the changes that are happening now in China. And he's still inspiring people. So, if you would like to email David through us, to send him a message of any kind, send us an email at with the subject line: David Young; and I will forward that to David, and probably talk to him about the emails that you send to us.

David, thank you so much for inspiring me as a skeptical activist. You know, I've been doing this a long time, and you actually got me enthusiastic about my own future as an activist. And I think the world of you. I think you've done a tremendous amount, and I still think you're inspiring people today.

C: Hear hear! To David!

E: Hear hear!

S: Thank you, David.

News Items[edit]

Alien Signals (9:03)[edit]

HIV Patient Zero (18:24)[edit]

Expanding Universe (31:37)[edit]

Mars Probe Crash (41:30)[edit]

Who's That Noisy (47:07)[edit]

  • Answer to last week: British money playing a record player's record

Name That Logical Fallacy (52:26)[edit]

Hi, today I was having an argument with a friend. I'll keep it brief but the basic gist is that he was using 'Being a rule implies that it is fair/just' in a certain context, I brought this logic to an extreme example (something about capital punishment) but he refused to back down and said that it was not fair to use his logic in that example because they weren't equal. I thought that I was using Reductio ad absurdum if I am not mistaken. I'm not really sure exactly what I'm asking but I wanted to know if there was a name for that he was doing ie believing that he could choose which contexts to apply his logic. Hopefully I wasn't doing anything wrong myself, if I was I'd love for you to point it out because I usually use that type of argument a lot. Thanks! Hayden Australia

Science or Fiction (1:02:39)[edit]

Item #1: The modern tradition of “trick or treat” evolved out of older traditions of singing and dancing, or even praying for the dead, in exchange for treats. Item #2: It is illegal in several states of the US for shelters to sell all back cats around Halloween for fear they will be sacrificed in rituals. Item #3: The LD50 of sucrose is 29.7 g/kg, which translates to 1,627 pieces of candy corn for an 82kg (180 pound) adult. Item #4: Halloween originated as the Celtic festival of Samhain (sow-in), which celebrated the end of the year and the beginning of the long winter.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:24:27)[edit]

'People are often more willing to believe lies than the truth. Lies can be made to sound pleasant. The truth, by its very nature, isn’t always so attractive.' Richard Rahl. From Terry Goodkind's The Third Kingdom. The Sword of Truth is a series of seventeen epic fantasy novels written by Terry Goodkind.

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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