Skeptical Podcast Review

If you like to keep up with Skeptical news, either locally or around the world, I think podcasts are a great. I know not all Skeptics like to listen to podcasts.  The main complaint I hear is, “Oh… I don’t have time for that”. You might have more time to listen than you think: maybe you haven’t considered all that time you spend commuting every day.

Are you the same as me?  Do you spend two hours a day in a car or on public transport, as part of your daily grind?  That adds up to 10 hours a week of being totally bored on a tram whilst maintaining your poker-face mask, or being assaulted by the nonsense of commercial radio in your car.  Yes you could listen to your favourite music; I’m not suggesting you must listen to podcasts all the time. Try mixing it up perhaps.  Surely The Best of ABBA is wearing a bit thin by now?  How about trying something new? Listen to something worthwhile instead, something with skeptical content by critical thinkers like yourself.

How to get and play podcasts? It’s very easy, but perhaps I should do a more detailed description of this in a later post.  Briefly; you can use an internet tool like Google Reader to tell you when a particular podcaster has released a new episode. The popular shows appear weekly.  You can listen to it straight away on your computer. I think most people move the file to a personal MP3 player and then listen whilst commuting.  There are also some neat solutions for hooking up your MP3 player to your car radio using small, personal FM transmitters.

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe (US)

This podcast is excellent. I highly recommend it. It’s probably the world’s most popular skeptical podcast.  Hosted by Steve Novella, it has a regular crew of another four people in support, known as “The Rouges”. The main reason I like SGU is its “round table/banter among friends” style. After a few listens the people become familiar and they don’t take themselves too seriously.  Any of the SGU cast with a skeptical news item to talk to can find themselves humorously interjected.  Typically the show follows the format of; skeptical news items, interview, perhaps an email question from a listener, then the Science or Fiction game to finish the show.  The Science or Fiction game is my favourite segment. It’s the kind of thing that’s both interesting and challenging to the listener.  Tune in and try and stop yourself from taking on Steve’s challenge. Everyone on the show is based in the US, except Rebecca Watson who recently moved from the US to the UK.

Favourite Episodes: (There all good!)

The Skeptic Zone (Australia)

The front person is Richard Saunders. The Zone is light hearted as much as possible, with plenty of room for the serious exposé of woo.  The show follows the general format of opening banter between Richard and Stefan, interview, pre-scripted spiel (perhaps Dr Rachie reports or “grain of salt” by Eran Segev), round table discussion, (known as The Think Tank) and finally the closing banter.

The cast are a rotating hardworking group, with big contributions from Dr Rachael Dunlop, Kylie Sturgess, Eran Segev, Dave the Happy Singer, Krissy Wilson, Joanne Benhamu and many more.   From my point of view, it’s also an easy and entertaining way to keep up to date with our Sydney Skeptical colleagues.

The Think Tank segment is the great. It consists of skeptical news and events discussed over a drink, often with riotous laughter and running jokes. Listen out for the bus announcements and the occasional ghostly appearances of Samuel Hahnemann (you know, the long dead inventor of homeopathy. Who knew he was such a wag?).

Favourite Episodes:

From time to time The Zone people are not immune to mixing it up a little.  Show number 25 was entirely a debate about ethics, a clash of the Ian’s, Ian Bryce vs. Rev Ian Powell.

Some of the great interviews have been with Adam Savage (show 42), Simon Singh (37), Tim Minchin (26) and Steven Fry (28).

One of the most thought provoking shows was the interview with Professor Ian Harris, interviewed by Eran Segev (show 52).  Ian discusses where science is not being applied to modern medical practice, particularly surgery.

Righteous Indignation (UK)

There are a number of very good UK skeptical podcasts.  RI is my favourite. The three main people are Trystan Swale, Hayley Stevens and Michael Marshall.  The “banter among friends” style with the interesting interviews is what makes this show work.  This podcast breaks ground for its willingness to politely interview the occasional merchant of woo, although I’d say the majority of interviewees lately are of a fully skeptical bent.  Hayley’s voice, (I’m sure she would absolutely hate me, if I ever met her, for writing this), sounds very cute. She probably gets ten marriage proposals a week from lonely male skeptics around the world.  However, like the guys on the show, Hayley is a sharp critical thinker, rational and humorous.

Favourite Episodes:

Episode 20, RI interviewed controversial figure Tim Mathews who, although he says he no longer makes crop circles, at least gave away one of the main motivations of the circle makers – to wind the believers up. It was fascinating listening.

Other great RI Episodes feature Jon Ronson of Men Who Stare At Goats fame (55), Simon Singh (32) and Ariane Sherine (19).

There are many, many more skeptical podcasts I could mention. I’m sorry it’s only a short list of three.  I’d welcome you letting me know of your favourite podcasts in the comments section below.

The skeptical podcast scene in Melbourne is, sorry to say, rather quiet.  Although Melbourne produced what I think was the world’s first purely skeptical based radio show, The Liar’s Club on 3RRR (1993-1995), skeptical audio programs (and I include radio programmes also offered as podcasts in that), haven’t been long-lived here.  It’s sad to say, many skeptical podcasts come and go.

So what is happening in Melbourne?

I’d really like to see the Young Australian Skeptics Pseudo Scientists podcast pick up steam again. At its best, it was brilliant.  I’d highly recommend listening to the back catalogue if you’ve never listened to the Pseudo Scientists before.  Elliot, Richard and Jayson are still running with it.

Tony Pitman often covers skeptical topics on his radio show (also available as a podcast) Reality Check, which also covers gay and lesbian issues.  Tony is well known amongst the Vic Skeptics.  He says his only excuse for not coming to more of our meetings is that Monday evenings clash with recording times for his show – fair enough then.

The Skeptics Testament is a podcast that I’ve only very lately heard about.  Sorry I don’t really know much about it; I’ve only listened to one episode.  As far as I know, and despite the name, it’s actually produced by our secular friends the Australian Humanists (not Skeptics but sceptical people none the less) based in Melbourne.  It’s generally about religious topics and in interview style. (If I don’t have the details correct, please correct me in a comment.)

Below is a short list of skeptical podcasts and radio shows; try something other than my recommended taste.  The shows below tend not to be the group-banter style that I prefer to listen to.

The Pod Delusion –  host James O’Maley, UK.

Geologic Podcast – host George Hrab, funny entertaining, good sound and music, US.

Little Atoms, a podcast of radio show, generally in interview style, UK.

Skeptics with a K – by a group of guys from the Merseyside Skeptics, UK.

Skeptically Speaking – interview style, Canada.

Skepticality – hosts Derek and Swoopy, interview style, US.

Skeptoid – host Brian Dunning, US.

Token Skeptic – host Kylie Sturgess, Australian.

I hope that was helpful. Happy listening!


5 Responses to Skeptical Podcast Review

  1. Trystan says:

    Hey Mal, thanks for the plug! Funny you mention Tim Matthews as of late some people have been very skeptical of the testimony he offered to us!

    • malvickers says:

      Well I’ll be! It sometimes amazes me the people who find this little website. Good to hear from you Trystan (and your whale) thanks for the notice about Tim Mathews. Excellent podcast, bye the way, great work, please keep it up. Give my regards Hayley and Mike.

  2. skylark says:

    Tim Matthews has previously been exposed as a state asset by Larry O-Hara and Notes From The Borderland. As revealed in NFTB’s publication “At war With the Truth”, Matthews, formerly known as Tim Hepple, a former member of the BNP and the Church of the Creator, infiltrated the Green Anarchist collective and became involved in encouraging illegal activity, specifically purchasing arms and setting up autonomous cells using hi-tech equipment. It led to the trial and conviction of members of GA on terrorism charges in the mid 1990s.

    Matthews has been further exposed as infilitrating UFO groups by NFTB in the publication “At War With the Universe” (can be ordered online at: ).

  3. skylark says:

    Ivan Fraser catches Matthews out in the following late night tv show broadcast (Jon Ronson’s “For the Love of: Big Brother”) in the late 90s. Watch 1 minute into this vid:

    • malvickers says:

      Hi Skylark, I’m not sure Tim Mathews was “caught out”. I tend to regard Mathews as some what of an attention seeker. He seems to be able to spout nonsense talk when it suits him and critical/skeptical comment at other times. That’s why I described him as a “controversial figure”, it could very well be that Mathews is just saying what he thinks skeptics will like to hear, I’m really not sure.

      Anyway, I don’t proclaim to be any expert on Mathews, I just wanted to point people to some episodes of RI that are worth a listen, in my opinion the episode with the Mathews interview is well worth a listen.

      You can make up your own mind about Mathews, perhaps we could agree to call him extremely unreliable?

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