SGU Episode 80

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SGU Episode 80
January 31st 2007
SGU 79 SGU 81
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week
'I am not a fan of Sigmund Freud because his theories are not testicle.'
Richard Wiseman
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


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

News Items ()[edit]

Randi takes on Sylvia ()[edit]

  • Petition to demand that Browne takes the Randi Challenge

The Hobbit Returns ()[edit]


Questions and E-mails ()[edit]

The Whole God Thing ()[edit]

I enjoy your podcast, and listen regularly. Other than Perry's persistently whiney complaints about things clearly over his head (though, I know, he's a 'personality'), your crew seems like a decent, balanced bunch. In particular, Steven's breadth and depth gives credibility to the whole affair.

Other than my observations of dubious merit, I do have a question: I have enjoyed riding the recent tidal wave of interest generated by Dawkin's 'God Delusion' and Harris' 'Letter To ...', and read both with nodding head. (I'm most of the way through Harris' 'The End of Faith', a great companion/compliment to 'The God Delusion', btw).

After reading Dawkin's book, though, I felt dissatisfied with his refutation of the ontological arguments for the existence of God. (E.G., the one that begins 'Can you imagine a being such that there is no greater being...He must be real b/c that's greater still' I spare you the full argument, as I trust you know it. If not, consult the text and/or the web). He essentially dismisses them as simply 'prestidigitation' without really going into adequate detail (from my point of view) as to why. Now, these arguments seem to lack common sense to me, but greater minds than mine - and, dare I say, Dawkin's - have wrestled at length with these constructions, including logician Bertrand Russell's formidable grey matter. I'd love a more complete exploration of them, and their weakness(es).

So, the question: Do you think you might pause your witty banter for sufficient time to tackle so weighty a topic, and provide a more compelling refutation of these 'God Proofs'?

(And, I trust you read my jibes as they were written: tongue planted firmly in cheek)


'Skip' Tickol

The ontological argument:

Difference between Religion and Cults ()[edit]

Dr. Novella,

Hello I am a sophomore at Loyola University of Chicago. I love your show, but my attempts to get my fellow students into it are usually to no avail. When the panel talked about scientology, you spoke about it like it is a scam and nonsense. But what is the difference between scientology and any other religion? Cannot following Jesus and the Bible be just as 'crazy' as following L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics? And in terms of being a scam, how much money do Christians and Muslims spend on their church? I doubt any of you are too religious, but don't you think it is hypocritical for religious people to dismiss scientology, or for people to take some religions seriously while calling scientologists fools? Thank you, and will you write me a recommendation? (Joking)

Ross Donnelly
Chicago, United States

TAM5 Interviews Part II ()[edit]

TAM5 Interviews Part IIThese are interviews recorded during The Amazing Meeting 5 (January 18-21 2007). Included are highlights from the interviews. The full uncut interviews will be made available soon.

This week's interviews include:
- John Rennie, the Editor and Chief of Scientific American
- Teller, of the skeptical magician team Penn and Teller
- Jim Underdown of the Center for Inquiry West

Science or Fiction ()[edit]

Question #1: New study shows that men enjoy romantic movies, so-called chick flicks almost as much as women. Question #2: A recent study has found that the most unpleasant sound to humans is the sound of nails scratching across a blackboard. Question #3: Researchers have witnessed free-ranging spider monkeys anointing themselves with crushed aromatic plants that they believe is used as a type of perfume.

Skeptical Puzzle ()[edit]

This Weeks Puzzle

I came into being in the mid 19th century in Iowa
But I was only discovered a year later in New York
My fathers name was George
But the man who found me was my first cousin, once removed
I am larger than any person that has ever lived
Yet millions of people believe that others like me once flourished
People from far and wide would visit me
Theyd line up by the hundreds to get a glance at my visage
I was no great thinker, some thought I had rocks in my head
But I was gentle, firm, and thought provoking
I traveled the country and displayed my uniqueness to the masses
Though my star shone brightly, it faded quite fast
And a year or so later, I was little more than a joke
But before I was through, I had carved out my place in history
And solidified myself as one of the best known fakes of all time

Who am I?

Last Weeks Puzzle

If an insane person loses power, and decides that the only way to restore the power is to make a list, send it to God, then informs other people of this and apologizes to them for the power failure, what has this person actually experienced?

Answer: Alcoholics Anonymous, or a 12 step program
Winner: Iron Man from the message board

Quote of the Week ()[edit]

'I am not a fan of Sigmund Freud because his theories are not testicle.'- Richard Wiseman

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation. For more information on this and other episodes, 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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