Episode 69 – 28th January 2011


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Equality (2:17) by Liz Lutgendorff
NHS Reform (7:30) by Adam Jacobs
Betelgeuse (16:37) by Kash Farooq
Delingpole (21:59) by Matt Flaherty
Libertarian Skeptics (28:11) by Pete Hague
Theological Debate (36:50) by Drew Rae
News In Haiku (45:31) by Martyn Norris

Follow-Up Stuff:

13 thoughts on “Episode 69 – 28th January 2011

  1. @Pete

    We knew before hand that Snowden was allied with the Cato institute and Craig asked him basically how he got paid for the book. He said that he wasn’t paid by anyone :/

  2. @Liz

    I’ve no proof he is paid by anyone, most likely he volunteers. His ideological bias is quite clear though, but you wouldn’t think so just listening to the recording of his talk.

  3. Blimey. It seems that you’re only allowed to be a skeptic if you’re as left-wing as Pete Hague, which – judging from this little tirade – doesn’t leave many of us.

    Pete is obviously upset that I wasn’t prepared to continue a Twitter conversation indefinitely with someone I don’t know, don’t follow on Twitter and only replied to in the first place because he was attacking me online and I wanted to know why. Despite his obvious lack of good faith, I did reply to all his questions and only stopped when he stopped asking them.

    I’ve recently written at length about the way Wilkinson and Pickett (W & P) have defended their work and how they have misrepresented the peer-reviewed literature. I hope anyone who is interested in the topic will read the five most recent posts at http://spiritleveldelusion.blogspot.com and listen to the SITP talk. You’ll find there’s a great deal more to it the facile summary given in this podcast.

    Of course, if you lack the inclination to look at it yourself, or lack faith in your ability to assess empirical evidence, you can do as Pete suggests and place your trust in W & P on the basis of them being lecturers in the social sciences (Wilkinson’s degree was also in history, BTW, so let’s not be too dismissive of a subject that teaches you how to evaluate your sources). It’ll save you time and will shield you from the knowledge that W & P have been criticised by academics across the political spectrum and that there is a mountain of peer-reviewed evidence that contradicts them (none of which is alluded to in their book). But while you could do that, basing your views on the appeal to authority and the argumentum ad hominem while refusing to look at evidence that might challenge your preconceptions doesn’t meet any definition of a skeptic that I’ve ever come across.

    BTW, not that it should matter but I’m not a researcher for any think tank, nor have I ever had a penny from a think tank, nor did anyone pay me to write my book. (‘Adjunct scholar’ just means ‘can contribute if he wants’.) And, unlike W & P, I am not the founder of two political pressure groups. Pete knew this before he got his poison pen out and I discussed the follow-the-money innuendo in the talk.

  4. Clearly I have touched a nerve here.

    Firstly, you accuse me of an argumentum ad hominem. That simply doesn’t apply here – because as you well know it takes far less time to make claims such as yours than it does to find out if they are correct or not. You can find a short quote that appears to support your position in minutes, but it would take far longer to dig out the paper, read the entire thing (and possibly the papers it refers to) to find out the context and verify whether or not your interpretation of the quote is correct. Demagogues can ruthlessly exploit this in order to overwhelm the amount of time an audience can realistically devote to fact-checking your claims.

    (By the way, I find it hilariously ironic that you accuse me of ad hominem attacks when in the first paragraph you pretty much call me a communist for questioning your libertarian beliefs)

    Demanding that each one of your statements stand as truth until someone specifically debunks it sounds like a fine tactic for the debating society, but here in the real world the number of claims and the number of varied fields and directions they come from makes this basically impossible to maintain. What is needed is a system to filter claims so that a person can dismiss most of them immediately and reduce the remaining ones to a manageable quantity.

    That system is peer review, and you have decided to ignore it and try to get your point across through showmanship. In this context, where you are using semantics and wordplay to convince people of your point, your character, motivations and background are perfectly valid criteria for judgement. You don’t get to demand that you’re scientific arguments be considered on their own merits when, having not been through the correct processes of science, they have no real merit as scientific arguments at all. Skeptics are under no obligation to consider your brainfarts with the same gravity as peer-reviewed research.

    For the record, I have not read your book but I have compared your side of the argument on your (libertarian-award-winning) blog to their side on the Equality Trust website, and found your side to be lacking and misinformed. The parts I read of it anyway – I freely admit I don’t have the time to fully analyze all your claims, but that is kind of why you make so many is it not?

    IF the academic case against the authors of the spirit level is as strong as you believe, wait for the literature to play out the conflict and then report the resulting consensus.

    Otherwise, publish your own work in a peer-reviewed journal, or STFU

  5. As a citizen of one of the only former British colonies to not have the queen on our coins I enjoy feeling that I am a bit worldly as I learn about political events outside our borders. I have confused my new neighbor by my accent and explained it was from listening to UK and Australian podcasts, though I seriously believe it is weird because I spend a third of my youth in South and Central America, and I cannot figure out where someone is from by their accents like my hubby, a former Canadian (who spent his youth bouncing between schools in two neighboring countries where he had to learn out to spell words differently).

    But I was confused by the phone messages to “Andy.” (see how I use punctuation? Obviously I am a savage!) So using my Google-Fu, and glad that I knew the name of the present resident of #10 Downing St. is David Cameron I found this article (is it common practice for UK journalists to make each sentence a separate paragraph?). Okay. I get it now!

    Then I felt like an idiot when I scrolled down your main page and noticed that there was a link to post phone messages to Mr. Coulson (still with the weird punctuation!). Oh, good grief.

    Liz does a wonderful Sarah Palin accent! I also don’t think she speaks too fast. Granted, I have gotten used to listening to many accents from Australia to Ireland through podcasts.

  6. Re: Spirit Level
    Can someone enlighten me as to whether the stats in the Spirit Level in the way they were used by the authors were peer reviewed. The authors point out that all their data is sound but what about the treatment of the data?
    In other words the accusation of cherry picking data surely must dealt with by making sure the treatment as well as the origianal stats have been peer reviewed. Has this process happened in this case?

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