Skeptics Guide to the Universe just became a little less interesting

SGU is still an excellent podcast, of course (and by the way, they’re being sued by a quack and could use your support), but Rebecca Watson has amicably left the show. It was a smart move on her part — she has an identity that isn’t defined by SGU, so she didn’t need it anymore.

It will be interesting to see what SGU does next — it would be entirely reasonable if they decided she was irreplaceable and just went on without her. It would also be interesting if they brought on another co-host on the team, since right now it’s an all-guy show.


  1. yazikus says

    I’m glad she is doing what she wants, but I’m sad to see her go. I really enjoy my Saturday mornings where I cook and listen to the SGU. Rebeccaless episodes are always not quite as fun. I can’t say I’m surprised, though, it has sounded more stressful as of late.

  2. lancefinney says

    Both Mythbusters and SGU are reverting/regressing to their original, all-male format. I’m not happy about this – they are too important to science communication not to demonstrate the contribution that women make.

  3. says

    Watson was definitely my least favorite voice on SGU. This has nothing to do with her being a woman; rather, I found her contribution to the show to be off-putting from the large dose of I-don’t-give-a-shit sarcasm. Hopefully they find another female voice to balance the show and the new person is more engaging and a little less ‘snarky.’

  4. says

    That’s too bad. Steve and Rebecca are my favorite hosts. Both of them are good at keeping some damned perspective on some of the stories, but Rebecca best voices my “Holy crap, seriously?” response to a lot of the show’s content.

  5. Alverant says

    I’m glad she’s leaving on good terms. I liked how she brought a female perspective to the show and her “This Day in Skepticism” featured a woman when possible to help include everyone in skepticism. She was also the only voice I could identify and pair with a name. But that’s more to do with me than her. I hope they can find a good replacement for her. Ideally another woman and someone who isn’t a USA citizen so we can get a broader perspective.

  6. ehmm says

    Why do I sense a chorus of raging assholes frantically pecking at their keyboards to announce their victory laps?

  7. congaboy says

    Rebecca was my favorite host on the show. I enjoyed her humor and how she called the guys out on their nerdiness. I hope her new endeavors pan out the way she wants. I think she’s pretty awesome.

  8. Sili says

    Ah, good. I haven’t been listening for a while, since my ooooold ipod concked out. Now there’s no reason to try to make the thing play nice with Doubletwist. I can live without Steve and the others never really contribute anything.

  9. allosteric says

    I wasn’t a big fan of RW when I first started listening, but she definitely became the breakout star of the podcast IMO, and seemed (IMO) to do better research on various topics rather than rely on (sometimes spotty) background knowledge like the guys. She also brought a funnier, more likable voice to the show–the guys sometimes do tend to sound like know-it-all assholes or a bit condescending and ranty (I like them overall, but friends/family who have overheard snippets tend to find their tone off-putting).

    She also tended to find a more interesting variety of science stories and had an interesting take/angle, whereas the guys tend to fall into a rut of alt-med-is-bad, new-material-is-stronger-than-steel, better-batteries-but-not-really, garbage physics, and overhyped nano nonsense.

  10. thetalkingstove says

    I’ll probably stop listening without Rebecca. She brought a subtle feminist/social justice aspect to SGU; now it will be all Official Skeptic Business – which is fine, but only so many times you can hear about anti-vaxxers, big foot hunters, etc

  11. weatherwax says

    I don’t have a most favorite/ least favorite host, but I’ll definitely miss her on the show.

    I hope they just leave the slot open and wait for someone appropriate to come along, and not try to grab someone just because they’re ______. But I don’t think there’s any danger of that, they’re savy guys.

  12. chris says

    Good for her. I met her when she did a talk in our city a few years ago, and it seems she was going in other directions. Take note that during the SGU tour of Australia and New Zealand she also went to Hong Kong. I remember when she first posted on the JREF forum over ten yeas ago, and she was just starting out. I wish her all the best.

    I still enjoy the SGU, and I hope they recruit another female voice, and there are several to choose from. I am a long time listener since encountering Dr. Novella’s article on “Doman/Delcato patterning” about fifteen years ago. It was something that was being promoted heavily to parents like us with “brain damaged babies” (from the title of the idiotic Doman book which was a book length advertisement for his “institute” in Philadelphia, a much better book was No Time for Jello by Berneen Bratt).

  13. Muz says

    That’s a damn shame. The general rapport and vibe on that show was noticeably different when she wasn’t on. Not that the others are bad. But I feel like she kept those guys on their toes making entertaining radio.

    This’ll sound dumb (and it probably is) but I liked that combo for being the ‘UN’ of skeptic politics through all these ‘troubles’. That the venerable SGU included Rebecca Watson and supported her presence, when ‘net wide assholes were calling for her head, was a sort of defiant island when some were trying to draw up clean borders between “proper skeptics/atheists” and “pinko-feminist usurpers” (or insert the slur of your choice).

  14. chris says

    Muz: “This’ll sound dumb (and it probably is) but I liked that combo for being the ‘UN’ of skeptic politics through all these ‘troubles’. That the venerable SGU included Rebecca Watson and supported her presence…”

    And good on them for that. I am just listening to the podcast, but it reminded me when I was her age when she first joined the SGU and the following few years. Back then in the late 1970s and early 1980s I got lots sexist idiocies from men because I was majoring and/or working in a non-traditional field for women (engineering). One classmate tried his best to get my ire up by making the blatant sexual suggestions he could (fortunately it was just one, though one guy was stupid in thinking I’ll let him get by with not doing lab work… he had to change majors because he did not want to even get together to write the report, so his name was not even on it… note it was the second year in a row he failed that class), and I was propositioned more than once when I entered the work field. Plus my qualifications were often questioned, usually by those who were freaked out by imaginary numbers.

    What I experienced pales to what Ms. Watson has had to deal with in the last few years. I may not always agree with her (just minor stuff), but I think she has grown so much since I first encountered her on the JREF forums a year after I joined. She has endured the abuse from the MRAs with grace and humor.

    Go Rebecca go! Best of luck to you.

  15. says

    That’s a pity. I’ve always found them a bit weak on social science, and not having Rebecca exacerbates that. She is also good at contextualizing the issues discussed and talking about how these things gain support, which is essential in creating a skepticism that is relevant in society.

  16. Lyn M: G.R.O.S.T. (ADM) -- Membership pending says

    I will miss her. I will continue to listen to the show as I like Steve Novella’s take on things, and the interplay with the others is often funny.
    I hope they bring in another person who is as bright and interesting as Rebecca. She can’t be replaced, but someone else could still add to the show.

  17. luka says

    That’s really too bad. I think she brought a much-needed dose of fun and (sometimes) sarcasm to the show, shaking things up a bit. The episodes without her always seem a bit too predictable, because everybody else on the show seems to have really consistent viewpoints. I do hope they’ll try to find somebody else (or maybe more than one person) to take her place.

  18. Albert Bakker says

    That really sucks. But I understand. I enjoyed her don’t-give-a-shit-but-actually-you-just-got-under-my-skin sarcastic comments, her wonderful sense of humor, her inimitable personality and everything that she contributed to the show. I am really grateful to her and the guys of SGU for all the incredible work they did and do. It will be incredibly hard if possible at all to fill her shoes.

  19. Alex says

    I hereby formally register my protest!

    But seriously, while I greatly enjoyed her being on the show, I always had that nagging sensation that she could not play to her full potential, was often drowned out by Steve’s domineering ever lecturing know-all-about-everything style, and was for a long time not given good enough tasks on the show to really contribute adequately. It showed when she gave interviews or talks on her own where she really shines compared to her limited role on the SGU.

  20. Sili says

    he could not play to her full potential, was often drowned out by Steve’s domineering ever lecturing know-all-about-everything style

    Rem agu tetigisti.

    Add to that Bob’s attempts to do the same thing without knowing anything or bothering to do basic research half the time. And … just what is the point of Jayvan again? Seriously. I could never tell them apart nor for the life of me recall what they contributed. Well, one of them appeared to be very upset Hollywood didn’t recognise his obvious talents, but again I couldn’t tell you which one.

  21. gussnarp says

    I’m certainly going to miss her on the show. Honestly, when she and Steve would argue about some point was always one of my favorite parts of the show. Rebecca could always hold her own with Steve, and while he could be a bit of a pedant, he was also always clearly on the right side, if his white male perspective was a bit overwhelming at times. What I liked about it was how it showed a fairly amicable way of arguing on sensitive subjects. I also thought it really helped hone a lot of Rebecca’s arguments and make them, ultimately, stronger.

    I was going to leave a supportive message on the SGU Facebook thread linking to the announcement, but my god it was a cesspit of men talking about how Rebecca was wrong to lump all who disagreed with her together and then going on to prove that she was right. There were plenty of good and supportive comments, too, but those awful ones were truly awful.

    It was always a bit more organic that the SGU was so male dominated because it just started from this small group of brothers and a couple of friends, but that they sought out Rebecca to join them made it better and they really do need to seek out a new female voice for the show (or two, they’re two rogues fewer than they used to be, ought to be room for two women). In the meantime, it is my sincere hope that whoever does the “this day in science and skepticism” segment will choose women subjects for the foreseeable future, just to let the MRA types know that this is no victory for them.

  22. mothra says

    Looking forward to that far future day when the public face of the skeptics ‘community’ is not so male dominated that podcasts such as SGU would not need, and commenters here would not have to say another female host is needed. Ideally, there just would have been a number of female and male voices of SGU from the beginning. Since we do not live in this ideal world, I will miss Rebecca’s perspective, I hope they add one or two female co-hosts (it may take two to replace Rebecca’s brilliance). Note that ‘This Week in Science’ podcast has two female and one male host (formerly two and two). Only started to listen to SGU a year ago, long after Rebecca was ensconced as a regular.

  23. questioningkat says

    I think they should have guest hosts for the month. Maybe known and unknown individuals could fill the void for this upcoming year. Who knows maybe some little know scientist can be helped to be introduced to the world.

  24. John Thimakis says

    It’ll be like a dimension is missing. I hope her replacement is a similarly minded woman.