Monthly Archives: March 2012

Episode 129 – 30th March 2012

This week we find out why health screenings might actually be a bad thing, discover how to make an IMAX film without CGI effects, and try to get Alan Turing on the £10 note.


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Screening Can Be Bad (2:24) by Margaret McCartney
Outside In (11:30) by Kash Farooq (ft Stephen van Vuuren)
Cash For Cameron (20:42) by Adam Jacobs
Girl On The Net (28:52) by Sean Ellis (ft Girlonthenet)
Turing on the Tenner (37:32) by Salim Fadhley
Doomsday Scenarios (44:20) by James Robson (ft Alok Jha)
Ban The Burka? (53:48) by Steve Page
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy and Brian Two

Follow-Up Links

Episode 128 – 23rd March 2012

We speak to IPCC climate scientist Michael E Mann, find out who won the Secularist of the Year award, try to build a space elevator and believe it not, have a story that’s vaguely about football. Don’t worry though – we’re not actually talking about sport.


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Secularist of the Year (2:33) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Peter Tatchell & Bideford councillor Clive Bone)
Religion in the legal system (13:410 by James O’Malley (ft David Allen Green)
How do atheists pray for someone? (19:52) by Georgia Gale Grant
The Hockey Stick & The Climate Wars (25:39) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Michael E Mann)
Space Elevators (38:24) by Sean Ellis
German Pirate Party (46:42) by Sven Rudloff
Gadget Lust (52:04) by Alex Fitch
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy & Brian Two

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Secularist of the Year 2012

On Saturday 17th March, the National Secular Society‘s Secularist of the Year award (“The Irwin Prize”) was presented to human rights activist Peter Tatchell by the writer and columnist Nick Cohen. In addition, councillor Clive Bone who was at the centre of the Bideford council prayers case received a special award recognising his work.

You can hear a full recording of the event below:

Going Nuclear – The Bomb: a partial history

You may remember back in February I did an interview with the artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre, Nicholas Kent.  The interview was about the Tricycle’s new season of plays and the not so traditional content for theatre productions – the history of the bomb.  As it did sound incredibly interesting and right up the alley of myself and your intrepid Pod Delusion host, we took the oppotunity to see all 10 of the plays on Sunday afternoon/evening.   We started the day tired and rather regretting that we had not decided to take the day off instead but before the first interval we were hooked.

There are 10 plays in total which span from the very beginning of the bomb to contemporary issues involving Iran, Israel and even Trident.  In fact it was the play about Trident – “The Letter of Last Resort” that was a particular highlight for both of us.  The entire program is broken down into two parts, which last about 3 hours each – so if you start at 2:30 like we did, you finish around 9:30 with a break in the middle to go get some dinner.  It may seem like a long time to spend at the theatre but it was worth it.  You can split your watching as well, watching one half one week and the other half another week.  However, I felt so immersed in the plays that it didn’t seem to take that long at all.

So.  Part 1

These plays take place in World War Two and Cold War era politics, from creating the bomb, to keeping the nuclear club small, to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  The highlight for us in this  half was “Seven Joys” which parodies the states limiting nuclear proliferation as a closed members clubs but with various individuals showing up by breaking in at various times.  The key figure is Wei, representing China who brings in a lot of the nuclear powers ‘through the kitchen’ as it were.  It was a fantastic parody because it really did get to the heart of the issue – keeping others without nuclear capability while those in the club get to keep theirs.  It was nuclear geo-politics in a nut shell but was also quite hilarious.  The tension about the Nuclear club and deterrence was a key theme in many of the plays, but treated with unique  perspectives in each iteration.

“Option” was my personal favourite of the first half, with a look at India’s nuclear program and the balancing of nuclear power with nuclear weapons.  It was told through the story of a professor, his former student and one of his current students.  It was just so heart wrenching to see the idea of nuclear power and power for his country, a country he identified with Gandhi and peace be corrupted to be used as a nuclear deterrent.  The complexities of deterrents was opened up to be brilliantly brought to a conclusion in the second half.  The look at other areas affected by debates about the bomb was refreshing in that it wasn’t just the US/UK/Russia (though they of course feature) but plays from the perspective of India, Iran, German/Austrian immigrants to the UK, Israel, South Africa and former Soviet satellites all wove the world politics surrounding nuclear weapons into a coherent narrative.

The first half ended with a very amusing take on the fall of the Soviet Union and what was being done with their nuclear assets.  In this case it was parodied by Ukranians with Irish accents and an old Russian with an English accent brokering a deal to sell the nuclear weapon.  I don’t know quite how to describe it other than hilarious and was a light hearted end (of sorts) to the first half.

Part 2 was rather more serious (though with inflections of humour throughout).  “There was a man.  There was no man” was a brilliant piece which shows both sides of Iranian/Israeli Nuclear tension through the interaction of two sets of brothers and sisters.  The complexity of family narratives interwoven with regional politics was brilliantly done.  It was tragic and heart wrenching and makes you wonder why there aren’t more plays like these.

Our personsal favourite though as mentioned earlier was “The Letter of Last Resort” which is a conversation between a newly elected PM and one of her staff from “arrangements” about the letter she needs to write to the captains of the Trident submarines about what to do if the UK is wiped out by a pre-emptive Nuclear attack.  It was enormously funny but really punched hard at the cost and use of Trident.  I think my favourite lines were what would be the most honest in that sort of situation:  “There has been a fuck up” she writes in one of the possible letters which received a roar of laughter.  It was just so well balanced and succinct in it’s encapsulation of the need/futility regarding nuclear deterrents.  It was definitely our highlight of the show.  I’m tempted to go again just to see that play.

I imagine anyone suggesting such a group of plays with this content could have been met with laughter or the assertion that it was impossible.  However, the playwrights and authors did such an astounding job of balancing artistic merit with geopolitics and the history of the bomb.  The are to be commended.  This isn’t a one sided look at the bomb, all the complexities regarding development and deterrent are examined in various guises.  It was truly an enjoyable and incredibly enlightening experience.  It has certainly set a new standard for the live performances that I expect to see from now on.

If you want to still go see the plays (and I really hope you do), check the Tricycle Theatre for tickets before the season ends on April 1.

AHScon 2012: Richard Norman and David Allen Green

The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies – or (mercifully) AHS for short – held their annual convention on Saturday 17th March. We’ve got a couple of podcasts from the event.

In this first podcast, philosopher Richard Norman gave a fascinating critique of Alain de Botton’s latest book, Religion for Atheists.

And in this second podcast, lawyer David Allen Green spoke about the role of religion in the legal system – and why it should become more secular.

Blake Hutchings – The Skeptic Song

So last weekend was the excellent QED Conference, and the organisers were kind enough to give us a slot to record a show in front of an audience – and excellent it was too. We’ll be uploading the full podcast shortly, but I couldn’t resist posting this video early – of Blake Hutchings performing a new song for us at the end of the show. It’s called The Skeptic Song, and as far as I’m concerned it’s essentially our skeptic anthem. You have to watch this:

Episode 127 – 16th March 2012

This week we get a horrifying update on the pro-lifers anti-abortion campaign, a nice update on Queen Mary Jesus & Mo fiasco, and a cautiously optimistic update on the libel reform campaign. Plus why the NHS risk register shouldn’t be released, assisted dying and we speak to Ophelia Benson.


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NHS Risk Register (3:32) by Drew Rae
Delia Smith (9:36) by Tom Williamson
Dodgy Abortion Counselling (16:29) by James O’Malley (ft Laura Hurley & Lisa Hallgarten)
Assisted Dying (26:36) by Adam Jacobs
Libel Reform (37:03) by James O’Malley (ft Hardeep Singh & Vaughan Jones)
Queen Mary’s Sharia Rejig (45:46) by James O’Malley (ft Simon and Robert from QM Atheist Soc)
Ophelia Benson Interview (50:49) by Liz Lutgendorff
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy & Brian Two
The recipe at the end is by Martyn Norris

Follow-Up Links:

We’ve won an award!

So we’re here at the QED Con in Manchester and last night we were stunned to pick up one of the Skeptic Magazine’s Ockham awards for Best Podcast.

It goes without saying that this wouldn’t have been possible without all of our hundred or so contributors – who are all consistently amazing and brilliant. Every week I’m stunned by the quality of our contributors – who for some reason don’t mind their work being interspersed with me talking bollocks.

And thanks to everyone who nominated us – and indeed everyone who listens. It makes the gruelling Thursday night edits all worthwhile. I love you all!

…And finally here’s a video of us accepting the award:

BPAS Lecture 2012: Abortion in the US

We often hear of the ‘Americanisation’ of abortion politics in the UK, but unpicking the substantive threats to women’s reproductive rights in the US can be a challenge. The 2012 bpas public lecture explored the current state of abortion politics in the US and, at a time when abortion appears increasingly politicised in the UK, reflected on what lessons can be drawn by those keen to protect women’s reproductive autonomy elsewhere.

Professor Carol Sanger is a leading international scholar in the regulation of abortion, motherhood, and family. She is the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at Columbia Law School in New York and a Senior Research Fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford.


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