Feb 1 2010 6:19am

GGG#005: Crystal Skulls! Alien Abductions! Bigfootology! (Guest: Brian Dunning)

Brian Dunning of Skeptoid joins us as our guest this week. The Skeptoid podcast is one of the most popular science podcasts around, with over 50,000 listeners. Brian joins us to discuss critical thinking and its application in everything from alien abductions to medicine in the movies. Dave and John apply a little critical thinking of their own.



0:00 Introduction by

0:38 Dave and John introduce the show

Interview: Brian Dunning of Skeptoid

Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid podcast01:13 About Brian Dunning and the Skeptoid podcast

02:20 Interview begins

02:35 About Brian - the journey from comp-sci to podcasting

04:50 Becoming a skeptic, and being a skeptic alone

07:31 Researching the unknown

09:10 2012! We’re all going to die! Or not.

11:21 Crystal skulls

12:49 The Amityville Horror

15:25 On finding the seed of truth

16:25 The Reptoids that rule you

20:04 The dire threat your iPod poses to an aircraft

20:43 The Pulp Fiction scene that haunts us all

21:30 Nostradamus deserves your respect, just not for the reasons you may think

23:58 Brian lets us in on The Secret

25:18 On teaching critical thinking

26:55 Brian’s educational video, Here Be Dragons

27:43 The current state of Brian’s upcoming television series The Skeptologists

30:09 How to support The Skeptologists

31:39 End of interview

Dave and John talk about credulity, Big Foot, and really stupid aliens

31:47 Dave talks about being naturally credulous and the value of skeptical podcasts

33:41 Baby’s First Skeptical Experience: the pros and cons of Santa Claus

36:35 Dave’s experience of being ‘taught’ about the Loch Ness Monster, and John talks about the sense of wonder that encourages credulity

39:57 Alien abduction and the X-Files

42:53 Why Scooby Doo may be the best example of skepticism in fiction

44:43 The growing popularity of science-based shows like Mythbusters

45:35 Collanders as a defense against... well, anything

47:37 Christopher Buckley’s Little Green Men

48:47 The great schism in the world of Bigfootology

51:13 More on the Amityville house

52:28 The proud tradition of really stupid aliens and other myths in media

58:00 as a skeptical resource, and the impact of the internet on critical thinking

01:04:00 Show wrap-up

Next week: Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker

Thanks for listening!

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

J Peterson
1. J Peterson
I really enjoyed the _early_ x-files shows. There was always some doubt about whether it really was something paranormal or if it was a case of an unreliable narrator. Towards the end, it was clear that there were aliens, etc. I kind of lost interest then.
David Barr Kirtley
2. davidbarrkirtley
I gave up on X-Files after an episode that was supposedly written by David Duchovny where Mulder and Scully have to coach actors who are playing Mulder and Scully on a TV show (Duchovny's wife Tea Leoni played the actress playing Scully). The whole thing was very jokey and basically just screamed, "We have jumped the shark and totally run out of ideas."
John Joseph Adams
3. johnjosephadams
I stuck with X-Files until Duchovny left. I tried to like Robert Patrick, but the show just couldn't survive the loss of Mulder. The character was just integral to making it work. Of course, back when I was younger I had a higher tolerance for such things; I'm not sure I would have stuck with it that long these days. I haven't tried rewatching it, so I wonder if it holds up even that much.

I always enjoyed the monster of the week episodes more than the conspiracy episodes, even if the conspiracy episodes were the skeleton the plot of the series was hung on. The one that sticks foremost in my mind is one of the humorous ones called "Jose Chung's From Outer Space."
David Barr Kirtley
4. davidbarrkirtley
My favorite X-Files episode was called "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man." The Cigarette Smoking Man was a sinister government agent. In this episode we see flashbacks from his life. Basically he was involved in every famous conspiracy moment from Roswell to the JFK assassination (CSM was the real assassin). But he really dreams of being a science fiction writer. Finally he sells a story to a magazine and is overjoyed, and decides to quit smoking and quit his job of being an evil conspiracy goon so he can pursue his dream of being a novelist. But then his story comes out and the editor has changed the ending and totally ruined it. CSM is so despondent that he immediately lights up a cigarette and goes back to his day job.
John Joseph Adams
5. johnjosephadams
Oh, that IS a great episode!

Of course, that reminds me of a great episode of Deep Space Nine, in which Sisko mysteriously finds himself living the life of a science fiction writer in the pulp era, writing stories about a black captain of a space station called Deep Space Nine...
Eugene Myers
6. ecmyers
This is the most entertaining episode yet, but I wish you hadn't spoiled me on Santa Clause.

I used to love watching reruns of "In Search Of..." and I'll definitely have to check out Brian's podcast. I found his comment interesting on giving something to the audience instead of just debunking a story. This is one of the reasons I like the show Mythbusters so much.

Also, I liked a lot of the "jokey" episodes of X-Files. Like John, I stuck with it until Duchovny left, and then watched the awful series finale. The discussion on skeptics vs. believers reminded me of how in the first season, Mulder would see something amazing, incontrovertible proof of the supernatural, and Scully would run into the room one second after it was gone. The show would have been even more fascinating if they'd stuck to the 50/50 rule.

Have you seen Invader Zim? One of the characters, Dib, is a believer who keeps trying to convince everyone in his school that their classmate is an alien. No one listens, like those old "Chicken Boo" skits on Animaniacs. My favorite moment of the series has Dib climbing a tree after a baby sasquatch, who cries out in anguish, "Leave me aloooone!"

So anyway, good job guys. Keem 'em coming. I'm looking forward to Cherie's interview next week.
Joshua Evans
7. JoshuaEvans
Finally getting caught up on podcasts... My wife's parents gave her a lump of coal one year as a joke, and then gave her the presents later. She was really upset by it.

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