Virtual Skeptics #21 (2 Jan 2013)

This week on the Virtual Skeptics:

– Bob pokes dead things with a stick
– Eve looks into her crystal ball and sees elves
– Sharon loves rocks, strange sounds and giant eyeballs
– and Tim talks about the “Year of the Skeptool”

This Week’s Panel:

Bob Blaskiewicz – CSI’s Conspiracy Guy web columnist, blogger for Skeptical Humanities and Swift Blog contributor
Eve Siebert – Editor and blogger at Skeptical Humanities and Skepticality contributor
Sharon Hill – Editor of Doubtful News and author of the CSI’s Sounds Sciencey web column
Tim Farley – JREF fellow and creator of What’s the and the Skeptical Software Tools blog

Host: Brian Gregory – Bon vivant, chapeau connaisseur

Bob’s Links:

Spitzer’s original paper:

Spitzer’s Retraction:

Original Criticism: Oct 2003

Village Voice Blogs by Tony Ortega:

Tony Ortega now blogs here:

Jim Lippard’s article from Skeptic Magazine 17.1

What’s the Harm in Scientology?

Eve’s links:
Iceland Review: Icelandic MP Moves Elves’ Boulder to His Home

Sharon’s links:
Doubtful News favorite stories of 2012

Tim’s links:
Obituary slides from #TAM2012:

Back in April Tim asked if 2012 was the “Year of the Skeptool”


Truth Market

Pundit Tracker

Brian’s Robot’s links:
Roboy Junior YouTube Site
Roboy Junior on Facebook


  • Eve has an article in Skeptical Inquirer (although she only has hearsay evidence for this).
  • Sharon is on this week’s edition of Monster Talk talking about the best cryptozoology stories of 2012. Catch up on all the Bigfoot news on that podcast.
  • Registration is open for Skep Tech in Minneapolis April 5 & 6th. Tim is speaking, and they just added Maggie Koerth-Baker from Boing Boing as a guest:
  • Bob has a new Conspiracy Guy article coming out soon.

The Virtual Skeptics is an independent production of Doubtful News,, Skeptical Humanities, and Brian Gregory. Our logo was designed by Sara Mayhew at Our theme music is by Tremor and is used with permission.

3 Responses to Virtual Skeptics #21 (2 Jan 2013)

  1. Pacal says:

    Rather sadly Spitzer’s very dubious study had a baneful effect on friends of mine who were pressured by well meaning relatives to try “therapy”.. The results were a few disastrous marriages, a few kids, depression, alienation and suicide attempts. And that is not taking into account their wives. Those who didn’t get married suffered from low self esteem, self loathing and being cut off from their friends in exchange for “change” they got years of misery.

    Spitzer’s study was dubious to begin with. It had all the flaws that Bob pointed out. I was NOT impressed that it was based on phone interviews. There are things you can do to minimize the effects of people lying and engaging in self deception. Those weren’t done. The people selected for the study, (Not selected by Spitzer it seems), were a highly motivated group who were and had been under enormous pressure to show that they “changed”. They were not interviewed face to face or subject to any tests to see if they could possibly be faking it.

    Not surprisingly no one wanted to do that lovely little test involving measuring blood flows, (To the Penis and Clitoral region), that is a half decent test to see if someone is still turned on by X rather than Y.

    Concerning Scientology. I do hope it implodes. That snake oil deserves to perish.

    I’m sorry to hear that Thomas Szasz died. He is wonderful example of how a serious scholar and Scientist can get into woo territory. The boundaries are not fixed. It is i8nteresting to know that Szasz was a Libertarian and a pretty extreme one at that. If you know that a lot of his opinions regarding psychiatry and medicine etc. begin to make sense.

  2. Bob says:

    It was really remarkable that someone as eminent as Spitzer got something so wrong in his own field on such basic counts. These were freshman mistakes, as far as I can tell from reading the accounts. He has a propensity for being contrary (which is how he got the DSM to remove homosexuality in the first place). It takes a lot to step up and admit that he was wrong. I appreciate that gesture.

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