Author Topic: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?  (Read 406 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« on: January 02, 2017, 05:35:16 PM »
In an interview that I can't date (but I suspect from the content that it is quite old), Steven Novella was asked about the purpose of the SGU podcast, and replied:

Quote
We deal primarily with controversial topics or topics on the fringe of science, although sometimes we do just straight up really interesting science news stories, whatever captures our interest. But we deal with the paranormal or conspiracy theories, or health fraud, consumer protection type of issues. And our goal is to give our listeners the tools to look at science in the news, science in society and have some way of navigating through all of the claims and all of the hype and basically have the tools to figure things out for themselves more than anything else.

So, how well do you think the SGU succeeds at its goal?

I think they do very well.

SGU is part of my weekly schedule. :)
"Large skepticism leads to large understanding. Small skepticism leads to small understanding. No skepticism leads to no understanding." - Xi Zhi

Offline daniel1948

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2017, 07:11:12 PM »
If their goal is to be a source of good information on science, health, medicine, skepticism, etc., then I think they do an excellent job.

If their goal is to reach people who do not already subscribe to the view that understanding of the world can only come through science and evidence, then I have no idea how well they achieve this.

If their goal is to promote a culture of reason generally, then they seem to be failing, since at least here in the U.S., reason seems to be steadily losing popularity.

The SGU remains my favorite podcast, with Oh, No, Ross & Carrie and Science for the People coming close behind.
Daniel
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Offline Andrew Clunn

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2017, 07:25:57 PM »
They were very helpful to helping me embrace atheism when I was at a critical juncture.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2017, 01:25:03 AM »
There's a subtle difference between a purpose and a goal.

A goal suggests that their is some kind of end-state to be working towards. On the other hand, you could work to a purpose without having a specific end-state in mind.

Steve explains both separately in his answer.

Offline DCLimey

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2017, 01:46:08 PM »
It's an Entertaining Romp Through Skeptical Issues of the Day (tm).

Offline daniel1948

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2017, 10:43:22 AM »
It's an Entertaining Romp Through Skeptical Issues of the Day (tm).

Very well put.
Daniel
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Offline Zed

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2017, 02:43:03 PM »
SGU is my favorite science-oriented podcast, but if I'm honest, it definitely has a "preaching to the choir" feel to it. It meets the goal of giving tools to be a critical thinker (they do a very good job of dissecting pseudo-scientific claims or bad science). But I would say that it's designed for someone already looking to be skeptical. Like, I could see some of it feeling very condescending for those that may have some not-so-evidence-based beliefs. So even though they meet the goal Dr. Novella stated, it's probably not as inviting for a general audience. Given that, I don't want the SGU to change. I like the intermediate-level skeptic feel it has.

An example of a show that I think does a good job of presenting skepticism to a more general audience is Science Vs (even though I don't think the show even uses the word skepticism): https://gimletmedia.com/science-vs/
It looks at controversial topics and sees whether scientific evidence supports popular claims. Even though I like the SGU better, the listener is brought on a skeptical journey without realizing it.

Offline Nosmas

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2017, 07:51:34 AM »
I agree that it's only really going to appeal to those who are already interested in science and lean toward already being skeptically minded. Given the goal stated seems to be giving listeners the tools to assess the validity of truth claims and make us aware of current science related events, I think they do a great job. I've shared it with multiple friends with some becoming avid listeners and some finding it too information dense (about 50/50).
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Offline AndrewzC

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2017, 11:43:20 AM »
I agree that the SGU preaches to the choir but that's no bad thing in my view. We sceptics need all the practical help and encouragement we can get in the current  environment, which is feeling more and more like something straight out of The Handmaiden.

On that note, I think it would be worth identifying ways in which the SGU's content could be e nhanced to provide even more support and have been thinking about a couple of possible new segments.  One would be "Who's That Wackjob?" in which one of the rogues lists a series of outlandish anti-science beliefs and the others (as well as listeners,of course) try to guess who is being described. Trump's cabinet nominees alone would provide the basis for a good number of episodes.

Secondly more seriously (although I was actually serious about the first one) how about a segment which covers practical actions that we can take to help stem the tide of woo and irrationality that's threatening to drown us? Called "...a single step" (working title only, based on "The longest journey starts with..." but I'm sure we can come up with something better) the segment could be very brief and could consist of ideas contributed by listeners, either of their own devising or things that they've experienced or spotted going on.

Some examples of single steps that occur to me:

  • Go to a Skeptics in the Pub meeting - brief discussion what Skeptics in the Pub is, what makes a good one succesfull, how to start your own group if there aren't any nearby etc.;
  • Arrange a talk/practical workshop on a skepticism related subject in your local/your chidlren's school: eg could involve inviting working scientists in to give a talk.
  • Making promotional material: ideas for bumper stickers, posters, cards to be stuck to notice boards

I'm sure there are dozens of other ideas, certainly more than enough for a year's worth of segments. There could also be some means of listeners reporting what they've done in terms of taking their own single steps - via a dedicated Facebook page, using a Twitter hashtag etc.

My feeling is that doing something practical which engages the hive mind of the skeptical community in a creative and interesting way could really add something and that a rogue led discussion of these practical actions could work very well. I'm not thinking of evangelising as such - the last thing that most people want is a couple of skeptics turnign up on their doorsteps trying to persuade them to developing critical thinking skills, just lost of small, subtle steps which, cumulatively, add up.

What do you think folks?

Bye for now from a cold UK.

www.twitter.com/andrewzcooper
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 11:50:43 AM by AndrewzC »

Online Ah.hell

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2017, 11:56:18 AM »
I'd definitely like "who's that wack job" better than "Who's that noisy."   Maybe they should combined who's that noisy with the skeptical quote, that would be ok. 

Offline Billzbub

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2017, 02:19:14 PM »
Sometimes for WTN, they play a whack job and ask us to guess who it is.  I assume they don't do it very much because you can usually just type the quote into Google and see who said it.

Offline Colonel Panic

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Re: How well does the SGU succeed at its goal?
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2017, 10:30:05 PM »
It's an Entertaining Romp Through Skeptical Issues of the Day (tm).


 

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