The Biskeptical Podcast #29: But His Emails!

(I’m releasing this a day early because I’ll be out of town tomorrow.)

On today’s episode, we go over some recent news items, including Donald Trump Jr.’s rendez-vous with Russia, Turkey taking evolution out of schools, Hobby Lobby’s new illegal antique collecting habit, Katy Perry’s plot to turn kids gay, and what can possibly the premise for the weirdest gay Catholic porno ever (trust me, we’ve seen a few). We also revisit bad vaginal hygiene practices—a particular favorite subject among our fans—and we top off the show with another reason why my home state is better than Morgan’s.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #29: But His Emails!” on Spreaker.

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Do Fidget Toys Work? — My latest for Paste Magazine

I got my first fidget toy a couple of weeks ago at my friend T’s birthday party. We were at their kitchen table playing Munchkin when I suddenly started experiencing sensory overload. I never played Munchkin before, so between trying to learn all the rules plus everyone talking, I felt anxious and fidgety. (I’m not autistic, but I do have ADHD, and some people with ADHD experience sensory processing problems.) I started playing with T’s fidget toy, and I started feeling calmer. T noticed this, so they gave me a simple green-and-white wooden spinner with four rings that spin in different directions. I became so immersed in the fidget toy that I forgot I was supposed to be learning how to play Munchkin.

Three weeks later, I still have my fidget toy (in fact, I’m playing with it right now as I think of what to write next). It helps center me when I’ve got too much sensory stimuli around me, like when I’m listening to a podcast while trying to do other projects (not something I recommend). However, being a good skeptic, I know very well that personal anecdotes don’t prove anything, so I decided to do some research. What I found was that with most things in science, it’s complicated.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #26: From Russia with Love

On today’s episode, we talk about Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, and whether or not it’s enough to get his ass impeached. We also discuss the Manchester bombing, a Mississippi representative who wants to lynch people, and why that shitty social construct penis hoax article doesn’t prove the entire gender studies field is bullshit. To top it all off, the Social Justice Galaxy Warriors take a trip to Wootopia and discover it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #26: From Russia with Love” on Spreaker.

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Meet the Science Moms — My newest article for Paste Magazine

In 2015, a group of bloggers wrote an open letter to celebrity moms Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ginnifer Goodwin—criticizing their stance on the anti-GMO Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The letter explained what GMOs actually are, how they are safe to eat, and how they require fewer pesticides. “When GMOs are stigmatized,” they wrote, “farmers and consumers aren’t able to benefit from much-needed advancements like plants with increased nutrients, or plants that can adapt to changing environmental stresses.”

The letter caught the attention of several people, including Natalie Newell, who discovered it while feeding her then-infant son Zeke late at night. “I was so impressed to see this group of intelligent, relatable and reasonable moms standing up for science and against the fear-based culture that seems to have infected the world of parenting,” she said. Shortly after that, she contacted one of the letter’s writers, Jenny Splitter, about possibly making a short documentary about science-based parenting. Splitter then contacted a few other science-based mothers she knew, and thus Science Moms was born.

Science Moms is an upcoming documentary that profiles five mothers—Splitter, Kavin Senapathy, Alison Bernstein, Anastasia Bodnar and Layla Katiraee—who advocate for science-based decision making when it comes to children’s nutrition and health. “Through interviews with ‘science moms’ who are on the front lines of this struggle,” the film’s website states, “we’ll dissect the bogus claims of these celebrities one by one and explain in simple language what the science really shows about GMOs, vaccines, homeopathy and any of these topics that are often in the headlines, yet even more often are misunderstood.”

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Is The Bell Curve Scientific Racism? — My Latest for Paste Magazine

Sam Harris is no stranger to controversy. Known as one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, critics have accused the neuroscientist and author of being racist and Islamophobic for his comments, including suggesting we should profile Muslims at airports. He also raised eyebrows in a 2015 when he laughed along with gay conservative Douglas Murray’s transphobic comments during an episode of Harris’ podcast “Waking Up.” Most recently, Harris interviewed Charles Murray, co-author of the infamous 1994 book The Bell Curve, which suggests Black people are genetically predisposed to low IQs. According to Harris, the controversy surrounding the book is due to political correctness:

People don’t want to hear that a person’s intelligence is in large measure due to his or her genes, and there seems to be very little we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence — even in childhood. It’s not that the environment doesn’t matter, but genes appear to be 50 to 80 percent of the story. People don’t want to hear this. And they certainly don’t want to hear that average IQ differs across races and ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, Harris must have missed the memo that the truth is more complicated than that.

For starters, critics are quick to point out Murray and co-author Richard Herrstein’s scholarship is shoddy at best and outright political propaganda at worst. In a 1995 Scientific American article, psychologist Leon Kamin noticed that one of their sources was a 1991 paper by Richard Lynn comparing the average IQs of people of different ethnicities which, according to Kamin, “reported only average Matrices scores, not IQs; the other studies used tests clearly dependent on cultural content.” He also claimed that Murray and Herrnstein ignored social and economic factors that lead to individual success and instead just focus on IQ. Then there’s the fact that Murray and Herrnstein devote two chapters of The Bell Curve criticizing affirmative action, which led Kamin to believe the book was politically motivated (Wikipedia refers to Murray as a “libertarian conservative”).

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Oh boy, this is gonna piss a lot of people off!

Don’t Take Medical Advice from Gwyneth Paltrow — My latest Paste Magazine article

Launched in 2008 by Gwyneth Paltrow as a personal newsletter, Goop has since evolved into a lifestyle blog and online store. The website features a wide variety of recipes, travel tips, expensive clothing (seriously, $1,500 for a dress?), detoxes and “holistic” health advice. Recently, for example, Goop did an interview with “earthing” expert Clint Ober, who claims that walking barefoot in the grass can cure depression and insomnia. “The earth has an infinite supply of free electrons,” he explains, “so when a person is grounded, those electrons naturally flow between the earth and the body, reducing free radicals and eliminating any static electrical charge.”

There’s just one problem: there’s no evidence for Ober’s claims. “Our cells don’t need an infusion of electrons,” wrote Dr. Harriett Hall in a 2016 Skeptic article. Hall also explains that there’s “no evidence that EMF [electromagnetic fields] disrupts communications in our body or that grounding protects us from any hypothetical ill effects of using cell phones and other technology,” or that you can absorb elections through the ground. Plus, although feeling grass between your toes feels great, you’re more likely to absorb parasites from the soil than electrons.

Sadly this is just the latest example of Goop trying to pass pseudoscientific woo as legitimate medical advice. Not only are these tips not based on science, but they can also be dangerous.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #23: Debunking Transgender Myths

CN: Transphobia, Sexual Assault

Today’s show comes from our friend Ingrid who suggested we talk about myths surrounding being transgender and transitioning, which is exactly what we do on this episode. We get into the science behind gender identity, deconstruct what sociologists actually mean by “gender is a social construct” (spoiler alert: it’s complicated), and, yes, explain why there’s no comparison between Rachel Dolezal and being trans.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #23: Debunking Transgender Myths” on Spreaker.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #22: Big Bird Meets Big Pharma

Today on the show we find out how Sesame Street is a shill for Big Pharma with the introduction of the new autistic character Julia. We also go over where this whole idea that vaccines cause autism came from, why the anti-vaxx movement is basically ableism, and why it’s better to have a nonverbal child than a dead child.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #22: Big Bird Meets Big Pharma” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #93: Science Enthusiasm with Dan Broadbent and Natalie Newell

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My guests for today are Dan Broadbent and Natalie Newell, hosts of the Science Enthusiast Podcast. Dan is the creator of the Science Enthusiast Facebook page, and Natalie is the co-director of the upcoming “Science Moms” documentary which features Kavin Senapathy, Alison Bernstein, Anastasia Bodnar, Layla Katiraee, and Jenny Splitter. Today we’re going to talk about their backstories, the podcast, and how to make America skeptical again.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #93: Science Enthusiasm with Dan Broadbent and Natalie Newell” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #92: Race, Atheism, and CPAC with Tiffany Harding

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My guest for today is Tiffany Harding. She’s one of the co-hosts of Road to Reason TV, a weekly TV show which airs on Fairfax County Public Access channels that discusses issues involving atheism and skepticism. Today we’re going to talk about her backstory, representation in the atheist community, and sneaking into CPAC.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #92: Race, Atheism, and CPAC with Tiffany Harding” on Spreaker.

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