Afternoon InquisitionSkepticism

AI: My CPU Runneth Over

With Rebecca off the grid for a couple weeks, the rest of us have been experimenting with different schedules (as well as with different illicit substances).

Hey, the boss is away, the Chicks will play. What’s she gonna do, fire us???

Anyway, I usually pose the AI on Thursday, but this week, you all have to put up with me Wednesday and Thursday.

So here we go . . .

About a hundred years ago, when I first got involved in skepticism, there were only a handful of outlets on the web dedicated to discussing the method of skepticism and its attendant topics.

Well, with the proliferation of free blogging sites and free podcasting software, things certainly have changed in the last few years, and it’s extremely exciting to see so many people getting involved.

However, I have to admit that I have a hard time keeping up with all the blogs, podcasts, forums, etc. that interest me. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to catch them all, and I find that many of them eventually fall off my radar.

What do you think?

Is the Internet overly saturated with skeptical sites and podcasts? Can there be too many? Do you think the message becomes diluted in any way?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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47 Comments

  1. Fortunately, the saturation is counteracted by the lack of indexing. There’s lots out there, but actually finding all of it is such a pain that it stays mostly manageable.

    Really, I’m not sure that quantity matters irrespective of quality. Sure, effect per unit goes down as frequency goes up, but I don’t think it ever goes negative. As long as any given piece of new material is of approximately equivalent quality to what’s already out there then adding it can only be a net plus.

  2. I don’t think there can be too many. There are certainly too many for me to listen to, but I like being able to choose between them. The great thing about podcasting is there don’t have to be winners and losers. As long as people are willing to not make much money off of a podcast it can go on forever regardless of audience size. I find this anticapitalism heartwarming.

    On the other hand, I am all for anyone who wants to monetize their podcast. People are certainly entitled to make money off of their hard work if they want to. If I like you I’ll go out of my way to support you. (I’ve got a weekly subscription to Mr. Deity, a Skepchick Calendar, and three copies of Tikibar TV’s DVD just in case you thought I wasn’t serious.) If you stick too many annoying ads into your podcast, however, you risk upsetting the pain/pleasure balance. Hear that, Dan Savage? You’re totally on the bubble!

    (This week’s Skeptic Zone has a kick-ass interview about science-based surgery. I highly recommend it.)

  3. I’d say say no each question. The more diversity there is online, the more there is to pick and choose from. For instance, I find that my knowledge of logical fallacies is a bit on the low side. Well, while listening to “The Skeptic Zone” I heard promos for “Hunting Humbug” which is, Hey Presto! a podcast devoted to in depth discussions of logical fallacies.
    There are a lot of niches to fill in this community and the variation, in my opinion, is really nice to see. I can’t see a downside, although I am certainly open to persuasion.

  4. No. If the Internet is oversaturated with anything, it’s with sites & podcasts of exactly the opposite mindset.

    Like SKrap said, the willy-nilly organization more than makes up for the ample numbers. I can’t seem to go a week without discovering a new one, only to find out it’s not new at all except to me personally.

    As Zapski said, once our message doesn’t need as much defending, there will be too many. But not until then.

  5. Are there too many skeptical things online? No!

    I mean, there may well be too many skeptical blogs, podcasts, websites, YouTube channels, etc for any one person to keep up with, but do you know anyone who tries to do that? I mean, I consume more media than most (7 hrs of podcasts a day, give or take) but I can’t even approach watching/reading/listening to all of the skeptical content available.

    But then again, look at how large the internets are! Sure, for a rather minority position, the skeptical community probably takes up a healthy chunk of digital real estate. But we’re nothing compared to the mass of pop culture, tech, or sports blogs/sites/podcasts, to say nothing of the collossal amount of woo out there.

  6. No, No and No. Think about it : the number of skeptical sites is totally swamped by the woo sites and no-one thinks they’re diluting their message.

    Except for homeopaths, who are trying to dilute the message as much as possible.

  7. Also:

    I don’t think our message gets diluted, as it were, so much as endlessly repeated. There aren’t enough topics for everyone to have novel content, nor is there a wide enough variety of ways to say “This is BS” for everyone to generate a vastly different take.

    But the thing here is that WE are the only ones who see this repetition. The rest of the non-skeptical world probably isn’t paying us enough attention to realize how many people say essentially the same thing to criticize, say, anti-vax activists.

    For that reason, the more results we get in Google, the more likely it is that someone gets the right information about whatever woo-woo thing they’re looking up. And as long as the information we all repeat stays accurate through each iteration, then then the more’s the better!

  8. This is a problem I’ve been pondering also. I’ve been thinking about starting up a blog/podcast myself-skeptical of course, but geared more towards the non-straights. Two problems that I’ve pondered are: Market share and Street cred.

    With so many skeptical podcasts, radio shows, blogs, and channels, it makes me wonder would anyone notice the candle next to the floodlight?

    Additionally, everyone is funded/supported/ran by someone with credintials-can’t figure out how to spell that word. POI is run by CSI, who is chaired by the founder, who has a list of degrees and the like. The host is a magician-street cred in the skeptical world. TBA is run by an astronomer. SGU is run by a neurosurgen. (my spelling is off today) Everyone has something they can claim as experience, education, and/or intelligence. I feel like an ant among giants already since the most formal education I have is a HSD. So, who would/should listen to me?

    The only thing positive I could think of is the target audience-GLBT. While there are GLBT in the skeptic movement, no one seems to talk directly to them. There are outreach programs for women and blacks in skepticism, but I feel the GLBT are the Great Paradox of Skepticism.

    So, as my target date approaches, I question if this is a goal worth pursuing, or just another hair-brained idea-I come up with them on an almost daily basis.

  9. @infinitemonkey:

    I’d say it’s definitely worth pursuing.

    And fuck all that “people with credentials” nonsense. It may be impressive to some people if you have letters after your name, but people with letters after their names can be as full of shit as anyone. There are no expert skeptics; just people who know how to apply the method of skepticism.

    What matters is, if you start a blog or podcast about skepticism (and I think your niche is a unique one), know how to deploy critical thinking skills and be engaging. The rest’ll work itself out, or it won’t. Your “credentials” won’t matter.

  10. @Sam Ogden:

    I agree. Compelling content is compelling content. I don’t even know what most of my blogroll’s authors do for day jobs, much less their educational levels. And frankly I don’t really care, except insofar as it affects the content they produce.

  11. @jtradke:

    Exactly!

    @infinitemonkey:

    And one thing you would have in your favor would be the fact that you’re first to address your target audience specifically. I’m not sure, but I don’t think a GLBT-specific skeptics site is currently operating, so you’d be on the ground floor for that.

    I mean, that’s part of the reason this site is so successful; it was one of the first (if not the first) targeting women specifically. Sure, the most awesome women in the world post here, and they let me play along, but that “first in the door” position is valuable.

  12. We all like to believe that good evidence and reasonable arguments are capable of changing people’s minds; but it seems clear that in reality, the loudest person wins.

    So no, a good message can never be to much or too loud.

    (infinitemonkey: Why not hook up with The Gaytheists {.com} and see of y’all can get something going? You got one listener already.)

  13. @infinitemonkey: The only thing positive I could think of is the target audience-GLBT. While there are GLBT in the skeptic movement, no one seems to talk directly to them.

    I’m intrigued. What sorts of topics would you cover on an GLBT skeptical show? What topics would you exclude?

  14. Googling “homeopathy” gives 2 skeptical sites in the first 10. Other woo topics give similar results. I think that’s a good indication that there aren’t too many sites. While I’m pleased to see skepdic and/or quackwatch show up on the first page of most searches, it wouldn’t hurt to see a few more.

  15. @davew: I’m still trying to bang that out. I do know I would want to stay on top of ANY information science has to say about homosexuality. I would also like to occasionally address the schism in how gays are portrayed in the media versus how they are in real life. The main topic would be science, and how it effects YOUR life. I don’t want it to be a tirade about gays getting the short end of the stick, nor a bashfest against those who oppose homosexuality. I would also like to find and highlight the work of GLBT scientists. My goal would be to stay on topic, and not fall of into a rant.

    I should also find a co-host.

    Like I said, its a work in progress, and I hope to bang these things out. Its a massive undertaking to not look like a 12 yo playing with daddy’s radio.

  16. Also, we (as in Equality Arizona, which is the org I volunteer for/with as the (volunteer) Volunteer Coordinator) work heavily with the faith community, and while I don’t really mind, and I even plan on popping by the local LGBQT church down the block from where I live after service to network, it would be so very nice to be involved somehow with other LGBQT skeptics.

    At the very least the religious LGBQT folks we work with are really nice people who actually *don’t* judge, and I don’t feel at all uncomfortable being honest about my atheism. They don’t try to convert me.

  17. @marilove: The woo is very heavy in the LGBQT community

    I don’t doubt it, but I was thinking if @infinitemonkey limited the show to the strict intersection of LGBTQ topics and skeptical topics the material choice might be a bit thin. I liked answer to my question.

    @infinitemonkey I should also find a co-host.

    I think this is a good choice. My favorite podcasts all have multiple hosts. I especially love the chemistry between Jad and Robert on Radiolab. The panel on Cosmic Tea Party also rocks pretty hard.

  18. @davew: I don’t think it necessarily needs to just be a show restricted to the intersection of LGBTQ topics and skeptical topics, just a skeptical show FOR LGBQT skeptics. Skeptics for and by LGBQT folks.

    Rainbow Skeptics! lol

  19. Oh, and biiiig topics would of course be “being gay is a sin and you’re going to hell!” and “is gay natural, a choice, or a combination of the two?” And what about, “Why gay marriage won’t break down society.” Or even, “Is gay marriage necessary?” Even tho I’m pro-gay-marriage, not all LGBQT folk are.

  20. @infinitemonkey:

    Just one thing to add – skepticism is not for the intellectually elite. The idea is not to find a scholar to tell us what to think. Skepticism is for everyone everywhere. It is a tool we should be using in our day to day lives.

    Skepchick is not written by a bunch of women with advanced degrees. It’s written by a bunch of women. A few have graduate degrees. Most have undergraduate degrees. A couple of us have associate degrees. One of us went to trade school. One of us dropped out of music school to pursue her dream of making very little money then raising a child who flings poo across the room (I won’t tell you who that last one is). Some of us are geniuses, some of us are not. What we do have is a passion for skepticism and ridding the world of bad thinking.

    That’s all you need. And you have a niche market… that’s really important, too. There’s probably not a need for another ghost busting website, but there’s not enough people talking about GLBT issues and woo and skepticism.

    I can discuss this with the girls (and Sam), but I think we can get you an Official Skepchick Blessing to start your own site/podcast.

  21. Wow, I thought this was going to go over like a runaway child-bearing balloon hoax. Thanks for all of your words of encouragement!

    @davew: Two skeptical brains are better than one, and the other one can keep me on target.

    @marilove: I think the rainbow is overused. Elyse mentioned it one time, and I’m thinking, “why not Skeptigay”-if its not already taken. Skepticism needs to go first. We aren’t gays who are skeptical, we are skeptics who are gay.

    @marilove: That should be a good discussion, especially since I’m anti-all marriage. I think its a church/state issue, and it makes me mad that a preacher has the same power as a judge-but that’s another AI.

    @Elyse: Thank you for your blessing. Do I need to eat a wafer, or consume an alcaholic beverage to make it offical? Can I do the latter just for the halibut?

  22. @Elyse: Yeah I was gonna mention that there are a number of Skepchicks who are not “credentialed.” Also, @infinitemonkey: , don’t forget there’s Derek and Swoopy, neither of whom are scientists as far as I’m aware, and they have a rather respectable podcast. Reginald Finley, aka the Infidel Guy, has his degree in broadcasting, and has been at this whole internet radio thing for well over ten years now.

  23. There are too many, but only from a strictly subjective point of view. In other words, I don’t have time to listen to all the podcasts and read all the blogs I want!

    Objectively, I don’t think there can be too many. The more I read, the more I want to read. The more links I follow take me to more interesting commentary and information. Like a good skeptic, I don’t swallow it all, but I feel less that there is “too much” and more that there is an embarrassment of riches. Everywhere I turn is somewhere else to learn from.

    As for starting a blog, I started mine with a focus on disability & geekiness, but somehow my skeptical interests keep poking their nose into my posts. I’ve registered another domain name, chronicallyskeptic.com, in case I ever decide to go the full skeptic Monty. (Nakedly critical thinking! Full frontal rationality! Live nude SCIENCE!)

  24. Quoted””No. If the Internet is over-saturated with anything, it’s with sites & podcasts of exactly the opposite mindset.””

    Add to that the general media, which seems often to be on the gullible/credulous side. Either because they are more entertaining, or just ill-informed (from Ghost Hunters, and spin offs, to ‘The View’) there will always be a need for skeptical sites.

    As also will be a need for atheist sites, and other minority views. (though between ethical culture, religious humanist, secular humanist, and simple ‘church/state seperation) there may be more strictly ‘atheists’ than one might think.

    I think it’s human nature though to ‘want to believe’ so we’ll have the chinese zodiak and horoscopes for entertainment at least. — (It’s October in Salem, Cold Reading for fun and profit time) people will want to know how such skills work.

  25. Nah, I don’t think that there’s such a thing as too much when it comes to the internet. The more porn.. err… skeptical blogs available, the happier I’ll be. Anyway, Google Reader (if you’re not already using it) really expedites the blog following process.

  26. @infinitemonkey: Nah, I agree with you about the rainbow thing, I just thought it was hilarious.

    Though … I kind of like HomoSkeptical haha. SkepticalHomos? Hmmm.

    And I thought you’d like that suggestion! I seemed to remember you aren’t all that into the marriage thing, and I know other LGBQT folk who aren’t. :)

    Other good topics, of course, are — do we use the faith community as an ally? Is it worth it? Even I think it is, but not everyone does.

    So anyway, enough suggestions here, this is off-topic. You seem to have quite a bit of support already! I would serrrriously love to be part of this.

    I wonder how many LGBQT skeptics there are in Arizona…

  27. No they aren’t enough skeptical websites, but I don’t think any number will ever make the sort difference that a religion can, because skepticism is hard work and “Because God says so” is really easy.

    I’m trying to write a religion. I see skepticism vs. woo along the lines that my “property control instructor” taught it at restaurant shift manager store.

    He said that about 10% of the population are thieving bastards, 10% are saints. The thieves will steal no mater what, the saints won’t, no mater what. We make the policies for the the 80% in the middle.”

    Skepticism is for a small portion of society, total woo is for another. Most people either cannot or will not do what it takes to have a rational mindset, or to totally immerse themselves in woo. They need a prepackaged worldview. I think there is the possibility for a religion to deliver that worldview, and that religion to be the symbols of religion with the heart of skepticism.

  28. I just wanted to say Howdy to the homo and otherwise queer folks here (as well as everyone else). I’ve only posted a couple of times in threads here at Skepchicks, but visit nearly every day. I had the privilege of meeting Rebecca and the other SGU folks back at the NECSS conference in NYC last month, which I photographed http://homepage.mac.com/laarree/Sites/NECSS_photos/

    In my long sojourn thru the gay world here in New York City, I’ve encountered so many different kinds of woo and bizarre belief systems it isn’t funny–it especially wasn’t funny when I was embracing them and indulging in long jags of disappointing self-experimentation. I’m heartened that there is a little eruption of discussion about this subject today — I’d be interested in at very least networking with others about this.

  29. Good atheism always looks for better ideas. Now ‘contiguous dimensional worlds’ are understood, and its a new ballgame.
    With the existence of ‘Techie Worlds’ (available at amazon.com) believers in Christianity can hold their views utilizing sound logic, clear thinking and a mechanistic view of worlds. Applying Flatland’s concept of contiguous dimensional worlds, Trinity, Resurrection, Judgment and soul are sensible and mechanically viable beliefs. ‘Techie Worlds’ follows that rule of science by which individual details are tested for their conformity to the overarching hypothesis. Admittedly, agnostics may choose not to follow such obvious and sensible logic, but no longer can they denigrate believers for fuzzy thinking. Moslems and pagans who read and understand the sound logic of the Flatland concept must adopt the reasonable Trinitarian view. ‘Techie Worlds’ will make them abandon the ways of terror an adopt the way of love. Techie Worlds is not standard preacher-prattle. Only by reading it can you open your mind to its valid way of understanding Christianity.
    GeorgeRic

  30. No, I certainly dont think there are too many. I think our goal is for skepticism to become the norm instead of a movement; for everything to be treated with a measure of skepticism, and as Steve touched on way up there, for skeptic sources to be the first results that come up when someone googles any woo.

    Too long have we been on the fringes!
    Too long have our collective voices been drowned out by the mountains of woo out there!

    Go forth and multiply, voices of skepticism..
    Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of reason
    :D

  31. Yes … and no.

    Yes, because there is usually too much of everything available on the internet.

    No, if one believes in survival of the fittest – and, since we are here, on this site – we do.

    The best will get the most hits, remain influential, and thrive. The also rans will have to improve or simply fall by the wayside, at least in terms of influence. Also, many will survive as being important to a smaller number of special interest readers.

    Either way, if the content is poor, then over time, they will fail, and that is not a bad thing.

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