TGA Podcast: Episode 69

Now that the podcast has reached such an illustrious number as 69, we here at TGA felt the need to do something a little special, so I asked Pharyngula superstar PZ Myers to join me on the show to talk about vaccination, Kansas, and his upcoming book.

If you love the show, remember that we also record a Bonus Show, but it’s for patrons only. For just 1.67 a month, you can help support us and gain access to hours of podcasting goodness. So if you want us to keep doing cool shit, think about becoming a member!

Comments (26)

  • avatar

    chocobar

    Great interview Jacob. Your questions didn’t seem to forced or awkward. You seemed to be able to keep a very natural flow to the conversation. Felt like you were talking over beers, not an interview. Can’t wait to hear more. When will you be interviewing Hitchens?

  • avatar

    Razzle

    Wow, that was pretty good. 9 outta 10 show. You draw all them cartoon shits? – them drawings are sweet.

  • avatar

    Dr.Death

    http://memegenerator.net/458115/use-metric-system-cant-build-a-space-shuttle

    I just couldn’t resist, the metric vs imperial argument.

    to level it out, heres one for the united states and is atheist relevant

    http://memegenerator.net/Instances/835/One-Nation-Jesus-told-me-public-healthcare-is-wrong2.jpg

  • avatar

    123

    Good interview–But I don’t really understand why there needed to be incessant comparisons to PZ about blog prolific-ness and book writing. That was awkward.

  • avatar

    nathan

    Great interview! The Good Atheist sounds a lot like Jian Ghomeshi.

  • avatar

    Rob S

    Do some analysis: What percentage of the words were spoken by the guest, and what percent by the host? Not only would I guess that the Host actually said MORE words than the guest, but it annoyed the hell out of me that the host would ask one longwinded, rambling question and then … before PZ could get any kind of substantial answer out… the host launched into another longwinded tangent.

    Admittedly, the host spoke much more rapidly, so word count might be unfairly split… How about a time analysis for each?

    And on topic, why, oh why, would anyone be afraid to admit their illiteracy in any area? A couple options pop right up: shame/peer disapproval; required change in attitudes; perceived loss of control.
    These are all “fears” and rather than simply wonder if people should be motivated by fear, admit that they ARE motivated by fear and ask yourself: will you fix it by shaming someone over having fears. Will you get your ideas adopted?

    I have no problem with asking folks to confront their fears, and certainly will push back if someone tells me THEIR fear should be MY fear (going to hell, dying, etc.), so I am not arguing for an atheist to be an accommodationist. But your approach seems counterproductive.

  • avatar

    Bram Janssen

    quote:
    “Do some analysis: What percentage of the words were spoken by the guest, and what percent by the host? Not only would I guess that the Host actually said MORE words than the guest, but it annoyed the hell out of me that the host would ask one longwinded, rambling question and then … before PZ could get any kind of substantial answer out… the host launched into another longwinded tangent.”

    So the interview was exactly in style with the podcast series overall. I don’t expect Jake to suddenly change his style just because he’s now interviewing a famous person. Hell, he even continues swearing as always! :p

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    ^ Why thank you for noticing, Bram, lol.

  • avatar

    Courtney

    Man getting PZ was an awesome catch. Congrats

  • avatar

    danielg

    Regarding vaccination concerns, I think you have painted a dumbed down, straw man of why people are wary.

    It has less to do with mistrusting science and your snot-nosed “the people are ignorant” view (typical atheist!) or the current reports that show the safety of vaccines. And while it does have *something* to do with distrust of government, it’s not some far right paranoia. Try on some objectivity in your criticisms.

    The reason your guest does’t know what to do is that he has not thought about it honestly or compassionately. The real problem is, he’ll have to address not just the people whom he thinks are ignorant, but the people who are *creating* the mistrust, which includes

    a. the liberal ‘educated elite’ who run the biased, unbalanced universities (which in the US are 70% liberal, how fair and balanced!)

    b. the arrogant atheists who mock faith and who push evolution as if it were proven. Your assumption that evolution is ‘just there’ and so true is part of the problem – we DO think you are insane, not because you believe it, but because you are so sure of a historical assumption which has NOT proven itself at all, except in your own minds. See 13 Misconceptions About Evolution.
    The New Atheism

    Until you realize that people have good, reasonable reasons to doubt your origins myth, you won’t change their minds at all.

    And this is the main problem – you can’t mock and persuade people at the same time.

    But here’s why people don’t swallow even good data regarding the safety of vaccines:

    1. People mistrust scientific reports because we all have seen how politics and money have warped science. See The Politicization of Scientific Research

    2. People have seen the vioxx and other pharma scandals, and those have eroded trust, and you can’t earn it back by saying “we’re really sure now.” We are all aware of scientific fraud. See Separation of Science and State
    Why I Trust Science in Principle, but not in Practice

    3. We all know that the media SPINS science even when scientists don’t intend their findings to be seen as conclusive. See How the Media Spins Science

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    No, people’s worry about vaccination is not generally warranted, and while they may feel these reasons to be justified and reasonable, the simple fact is that the vast majority of them are simply fearful of what they perceive to understand.

    Read about the similarity in the arguments from the 1880′s and today. They haven’t changed at all.

    Objectivity does not mean every opinion has the same degree of merit.

  • avatar

    danielg

    OK, one more thing.

    The barrier you keep hitting when trying to advance education and science is not religion, it’s in my opinion, opposition to your metaphysical assumptions, that is, your OWN materialist religion is not strongly held.

    Even worse, if you were interested in good science, you would not be holding to evolution so tightly, but would allow dissent, at least allowing the scientific problems and objections to it, esp. since it is so poorly supported by the data and so often contradicted. But you only want that discussion to happen behind your clergy doors because YOU can’t conceive of a universe where your origins myth is NOT true.

    When you are willing to push science and knowledge with a broader world view than materialism, and when you abandon your ‘must have’ view of evolution and focus on the scientific method and skeptical consideration of such origins and world view conjectures, you might succeed.

    But in my estimation, NO atheist is able to doubt evolution seriously, it is part of his worldview. If you are really interested in how we on the other side view ardent evolutionists, see Mass Delusion – 10 Reasons Why the Majority of Scientists Believe in Evolution. I’m sure it will get your goat. Baaaah!

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    congratulations on plugging your own ridiculous nonsense. It’s always entertaining, thanks!

  • avatar

    danielg

    >> Read about the similarity in the arguments from the 1880’s and today. They haven’t changed at all.

    Actually, while some of them have not changed, and you are correct, they are erroneous, there are many NEW arguments that have merit, even if you think that they are overblown.

    Rather than assuming people are stupid and uneducated, you should take the blame and say that those communicating the message are doing an ineffective job.

    Recent non-1880′s arguments include:

    1. The existence of a federal fund for those ‘injured by vaccines.’

    2. The lack of clarity around the longevity of immunity for vaccines.

    3. The prevalence of fraud, greed, and political expediency in corrupting modern science.

    4. The pollution of scientific credibility brought by a haughty, unswerving, uncritical adoption of evolution, the statistically impossible origins myth.

    5. Pushing vaccines like Hep-b at birth, not because these children are at risk, but because, for social epidemiological reasons, it’s easier to reach the at risk population at birth (everyone?) than when they are in the sex trade or drug addicted.

    I agree with you, vaccines are largely safe, but the issues I mentioned above, while they may be similar to those of the 1880′s, are not the same.

    And shame on the science and government agencies who have failed to eradicate the concerns of the 1880′s. But the arrogance of the ‘people are stupid’ position is part of the problem, and why traditional Conservatism shines against modern secularist liberalism. IMHO, of course ;)

  • avatar

    danielg

    >> Jacob: congratulations on plugging your own ridiculous nonsense. It’s always entertaining, thanks!

    Thank you for proving my point. Ridicule and ad hominems will really convince your opponents of how right you are!

  • avatar

    SmilingAtheist

    @danielg

    I know I shouldn’t feed the troll guys but let’s get this sorted. Your points are still meaningless.

    1. Medicine isn’t a ‘safe’ thing and is not ‘perfect’. If you’d listened to the podcast you might have picked that up.

    2. Ask your doctor I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you that information.

    3. Um proof? Don’t make statements without backup.

    4. Wrong crowd to say this to. Read a book about evolution then we’ll talk.

    5. Maybe you don’t know this but not all babies are born ‘pure and clean’. Some are born with Hep-B and a bunch of other ailments. If they happen to bite your child, guess what? Your child gets Hep-B. Are you also against young girls getting the cervical cancer vacine because it might promote sex?

    So let’s be clear here. You’re against evolution, you’re against vacination, your against science (unless it benefits you in some way that you understand) and you’re against government programs because you don’t like government intervention into your life. Am I right?

    I think you need to learn something other than conspiracy theories and get some real knowledge if you want people to listen to you. Waffling about things you don’t understand and making statements with no backing is pointless.

    Maybe I’m just a mean strident atheist.

  • avatar

    garth

    Trolls like this guy are actually powered entirely by other people’s responses to their idiocy. I thought it was a fun conversation, less of a journalist-type interview. The questions about mutual experience and comparisons to blog/authorship output fit in fine.

  • avatar

    danielg

    >> smiling: ou’re against evolution, you’re against vacination, your against science (unless it benefits you in some way that you understand) and you’re against government programs because you don’t like government intervention into your life. Am I right?

    Not really. I am not against vaccination at all. I am saying that your haughty approach misses the mark – people aren’t as stupid as you suppose, but rather, have good reasons to mistrust the media, politically and money-driven science, and arrogant officials who want to call the populace stupid. They commonly see fraud in the pharma industry, and don’t believe that pharma and the health officials that are in bed with them have their best interests at heart.

    I am also saying that the failure to convince people that their fears are unfounded is really the fault of the communicators, not the people.

    Further, I only mention your overcommitment to evolution at my own risk, because when I do, you resort to ad hominems (‘go read a book about evolution?’ I have a Biochem degree, and probably own more books on evolution (pro and con) than you do).

    I mentioned it because I want you to understand – In addition to the factors mentioned above, people don’t believe you because of your faith in evolution, which a majority think is bogus. And like it or not, they may think this precisely because of something that YOU are missing – that you believe it more for it’s world view value for you (it’s wonderful ‘explanatory power’) rather than it’s actual scientific merit and usefulness. But perhaps I am not getting through past your blind faith yet.

    And yes, I am trolling, but I wanted to at least let you know that it is not the stupid populace, but the stupid, often compromised by money and power, communicators of scientific data that may be more at fault.

    If you really want to SOLVE the problem rather than assuage your low self-esteem with thoughts of intellectual superiority, you will consider such things.

  • avatar

    danielg

    >> GARTH: I thought it was a fun conversation, less of a journalist-type interview.

    The fact that you were not offended by the guest’s arrogance and moral and intellectual disgust for the unwashed anti-vaccinators shows that you are part of this self-congratulatory love fest. I’m glad the interview tickled your fancy, but it certainly is not solving any problems with compassion and insight.

  • avatar

    Blue Nine

    FYI: My podcast player did not pick this episode up because it is not in the “Podcast” category.

  • avatar

    SmilingAtheist

    @danielg,

    Yes of course I have a low self esteem because I have to puff myself up to seem superior. Of course that’s my main goal here. Frowning down on the less mentally capable.

    Your list of five things we should be worried about is still meaningless to me and to anyone who has a brain.

    I don’t have ‘faith’ in evolution I have knowledge of evolution and it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has eyes. Children can see it if allowed to. The fact that you’re using the word ‘faith’ offers me little confidence in your big statement of having a biochem degree, which you seem not to use or have little use for. Your schooling was obviously useless to you from what I can see. There is no ‘con’ of evolution; if you were a scientist you’d know that.

    No one has ever stated the populace is stupid. However they are misinformed, mostly by people like you. Those who do their best to make issues where there are none. The media doesn’t help either. I don’t recall ever hearing the media calling people stupid. Normally they are held responsible for wanting to show a ‘balanced’ view on topics and creating controversy where there is none. So I have no idea what you’re on about there.

    All you seem to be doing is propping up fears. But fear of what exactly? Big pharma, big government and big science? If you’re supposed to be intelligent you do not impress me at all. This is conspiracy talk. I got better things to think about.

    Come back when you have something original to offer.

  • avatar

    danielg

    >> Yes of course I have a low self esteem because I have to puff myself up to seem superior. Of course that’s my main goal here. Frowning down on the less mentally capable.

    Actually, that is the tenor of the interview, of both the host and the guest. Your opponents are most certainly characterized as “less mentally cabable.” Do I need to quote mine the interview to show you that that’s how you come across?

    >> Your list of five things we should be worried about is still meaningless to me and to anyone who has a brain.

    Precisely my point. You don’t CARE about people’s objections or stumbling blocks to your ‘greater’ understanding, you rather rejoice in ‘being right.’ If you were really concerned about people’s endangering themselves by avoiding vaccination, you WOULD care about those things. But you do not. QED.

    >> I don’t have ‘faith’ in evolution I have knowledge of evolution and it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has eyes.

    So the >50% of Americans who doubt are dolts (or ‘blind’ using your metaphor)? That is the only conclusion one can draw from your stance. Good luck with that ‘enlightened’ stance. Don’t seriously entertain any doubt, it might shake your faith!

    >> Your schooling was obviously useless to you from what I can see.

    Ad hominems will get you nowhere in reasoned debate.

    >> However they are misinformed, mostly by people like you.

    What I am saying is that, despite the existence of ‘people like me,’ perhaps you should share your part of the blame, which is that you have ineffectively (poorly, badly, clumsily, arrogantly, stupidly) communicated your position to the ‘misinformed’ masses. Why don’t you OWN your part of the problem rather than blaming, name-calling, and scapegoating? That’s my point.

    >> So I have no idea what you’re on about there.

    I know, because you are, um, misinformed – or more likely, uniformed. A simple google search on ‘media and science’ and the first article is just one of a slew on the subject. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4771154.stm

    >> All you seem to be doing is propping up fears.

    You are missing the point. I am educating you on WHY people fear vaccines and why they don’t trust the pharma-governmental-media complex when it comes to science.

    The problem is that YOUR METHODS are self-congratulatory but not really trying to solve the problem. Until YOU address the problems with humility, compassion, and self-reflection, you’re just bloviating.

  • avatar

    SmilingAtheist

    danielg,

    I think you misunderstand a lot of things. You seem like an intelligent person but unfortunately I think you are blinded by other influences.

    I’ll do my best to put this as polite as I can.

    For some reason people have this strange ability to accept some things easily but others they have difficulty doing. Why this is, is anyone’s guess.

    The issue here has always been how to talk to the layman. The simple reality is people are scared of things they don’t understand and it’s easy for those who wish to confuse an issue by simply creating more fear of it.

    Vaccination is a prime example. People are scared of it. Why? Because they simply don’t understand it. Then to top it off people get confused because there are those out there, most of whom have no real understanding, confuse the issue. To be realistic vaccination is a really simple concept but fear of it has overridden the reality.

    How to address unwarranted fears is anyone’s guess. The only thing we have is evidence. If a person refuses to agree with evidence then what? You can’t push a person to agree with you if they’re not going to listen or take the time to learn.

    If evidence isn’t enough to convince a person then we might as well throw out the justice system and all court cases that require evidence to convict someone. What more is there to say? Evidence is what science uses; you should know that, being a person with a BioChem Degree.

    We also base a lot of our life on the concept of evidence for practicality. I don’t see what more scientists can do to convince someone they know what they are talking about.

    The sad part is that it takes years and years for scientists to come to answers and it takes only one public face to disagree to override the whole thing. I can see why a scientist gets so frustrated. Wouldn’t you?

    Everything you have said up to now is the same thing I’ve read and listened to and have disagreed with for a long time.

    What more can I say? I can understand your points but I don’t agree with them. The reason I don’t agree is simple, I find them to be nothing more than fear mongering.

    I have no idea what exactly you want to be honest. You complain about my lack of humility, compassion and self-reflection without knowing squat about me and you seem to think I have some self-congratulatory pompous attitude. Maybe I did come across a bit harsh and I do apologize for that but I will say this. I believe you have your ears closed and are only listening to what you want to hear and seeing only what you want to see. From what I gather this is for religious reasons?

    If anyone lacks compassion it would be a person stopping someone from vaccinating their child from disease. Dying of measles, whooping cough, and living a crippling life of polio, to me, is a lack of compassion. I could be wrong though.

    Anyway I’m done with this topic. If you have more to say by all means post it and I’ll read it but I’m not going to say more.

  • avatar

    danielg

    >> To be realistic vaccination is a really simple concept but fear of it has overridden the reality. How to address unwarranted fears is anyone’s guess.

    If you are unsure of how to address unwarranted fears, then I would say you have confirmed my diagnosis of your methods – that is, you don’t have any because you lack understanding of (a) the reasons people are afraid (which I tried to explain) and (b) the methods for addressing them.

    The latter is not rocket science, and has been addressed not only by psychologists and philosophers, but politicians and marketers!

    >> The only thing we have is evidence. If a person refuses to agree with evidence then what?

    At least now you are asking the right questions.

    >> You can’t push a person to agree with you if they’re not going to listen or take the time to learn.

    You’re getting warmer, although politicians on both ends of the spectrum HAVE unfortunately concluded that (a) people are stupid, (b) there is no way to change them, so (c) we have to legislate our ethically and intellectually superior position.

    So to answer your question, what can you do if the ‘facts’ are not being received?

    1. Address the issues that keep them from receiving the facts – that is, what are their fears? Why do they mistrust the messenger? How can you earn their trust?

    In marketing, they speak of ‘lowering their barriers to purchasing.’ For example, many people fail to buy a product on the internet because they need assurance that you aren’t going to sell their credit card information on the black market. To address this fear, we get certified by some third party and put that up on our site with a strongly worded privacy policy.

    I would take each one of the perceived problems I stated above and ask myself (if I were you) “how can I change this perception, reduce this fear, and gain their trust (without compromising myself) so that they hear me?”

    2. Repetition through multiple communication methods.

    Not everyone is going to read Nature, Science, or the WSJ. You will need to ‘over-communicate.’ Communicate through many channels, including print, tv PSAs, community education, blogs, etc.

    3. Find spokespersons that they already trust.

    Listen, having Nancy Pelosi tell me that vaccines are safe isn’t going to cut any mustard at all. But if Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, or Rick Warren tell me, I’d be more open, since I trust them. You should find allies from the ‘other side’ to help get your message out.

    And these are just my uninformed suggestions – a pro in this area (Public Health professional?) could probably do even better. These things, however, are not as mysterious and frustrating as you make them out to be.

    It’s not because people are stupid, religious, or conservative, it’s because you (we) haven’t addressed their real or imagined fears, earned their trust, and we do things every day to violate their trust.

    And I want to again just say that I found the interview offensive, arrogant, and a poor example of what a “good” person or atheist might think or do. Sorry to be so negative, but I was put off.

  • avatar

    danielg

    >> I can understand your points but I don’t agree with them. The reason I don’t agree is simple, I find them to be nothing more than fear mongering.

    I want to repeat that they aren’t really *my* points, nor do you have to agree with them. You must *understand* them and come up with a strategy to address them, not just keep repeating your ‘facts’ as if they are self-evident truths.

    In science, you must prove, but in political science, you must persuade and earn trust. This is the next necessary step. Throwing out the facts an concluding that anyone who does not see them as you do as evidence of their stupidity is lazy and ineffective, though it does stroke the ego!

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