The Paranormal Panel – Women and Woo

By skepticlawyer

I’ll be appearing on 4BC’s ‘Paranormal Panel’ discussing matters skeptical at some point in the next hour. I don’t think people from outside Brisbane will be able to get the live broadcast, but they do podcasts and downloads, so you can have a listen afterwards if you’re keen on that sort of thing.

[UPDATE: I’m reliably informed that it’s possible to listen via the 4BC website].

I’ll be discussing the widely reported phenomenon — often debated among skeptics and historians — that women seem to be more vulnerable to woo, including woo that’s downright dangerous (the anti-vaccine people) and woo that’s downright oppressive (Islam, Christianity).

Of course, I’m alert to the reality that data is not the plural of anecdote, and that history — until you hit the mid-19th century — is often wholly anecdotal, at least in aggregate. Of course I’m also hoping it’ll be reasonably interesting for readers of this blog and 4BC listeners, too.


  1. Posted August 25, 2009 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Can you post an alert when it’s up. I think I just loaded 25Mb from the last episode?

    Unless of course, you appear half-way through, in which case, let us know.

    Darn URLs without dates! And yes, I can listen live from here in Vic.

  2. Posted August 25, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m on for the last 10 minutes or so of the segment; I shall ask the producer when it will appear on the website.

  3. Anna Winter
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Did you read this post by Amanda Marcotte?

    I thought it made some really interesting points.

  4. skepticlawyer
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    I’d be interested to hear from people on this site who are (a) mothers and (b) have watched more than 5 mins of Oprah what they think of the piece Anna has linked to — I find it a fascinating theory but have literally no idea whether it’s all true, partly true or not true at all.

    For the record I do agree with the author (an Amanda Marcotte in the USA) that Jenny McCarthy (one of the loudest of the anti-vaxxers) is utterly pernicious and that medical woo of the type described is equally common regardless of the type of health care system.

    As Marcotte points out, there is a truckload of this kind of silliness in the UK, which has a fully socialised system and where no-one need fear being unable to afford at least adequate medical care, just as there is in the USA, where health coverage is spottier. The reasons for it are not, therefore, economic, but have their origins elsewhere.

    I’m also curious as to whether a similar phenomenon explains self-represented litigants (who are a more even spread of genders, as LE will no doubt testify), or whether that really is an economic phenomenon (lawyers are too expensive).


    [BTW interview is now up]

  5. Dave Bath
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Trying REAL hard to find the link, but it’s the same file?
    Got a direct link SL?
    And I say, a little (very little) in jest, that we and Dawkins should promote quakery rather than stifle it.

  6. Posted August 28, 2009 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Fark! It’s in there somewhere, Dave. I will bug them again and see what’s going on.

  7. Posted August 29, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    After reading Anna’s link methinks primary schools need to teach elementaary critical thinking with a lesson devoted to: There’s only one way to lose weight. There’s only ever been one way to lose weight. Eat less, exercise more. That’s it.

  8. Caz
    Posted August 29, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Adrien – yes, energy in / energy out. Pretty basic stuff, and you don’t even have to pay anyone.

    The exceptions to this simple rule, people with medical problems that effect their weight, amount to, maybe one percent of the population. Fewer, in other words, than people who suffer from, say, schizophrenia, for example. Funnily enough, about 90% of the population seem to be under the impression that they fall within the one percent.

    S.L – I posted about the Newsweek article about three months ago, when it first appeared, because, for the very first time, someone was almost writing an honest critique of Oprah and her devotion to voo-doo pseudo-beliefs and pseudo-science and junk-psychology.

    The article isn’t about any health system or even about medical care,it’s about the cult of Oprah, which is very much the cult of America. Oprah, more than anyone has championed “insufficient self esteem” as being the root of every problem. Apparently one doesn’t have to achieve anything to feel good, one should simply have oodles of self esteem and a draw full of positive affirmations.

    I guess that stuff works if your personal wealth is set at a few hundred billion dollars.

    I thought the article was a good start, but they still let her off lightly.

    Is Oprah dangerous? Yep, you bet.

    BTW – Jenny McCarthy has a site devoted to her endeavors – the Jenny McCarthy body count page.

    [Edited to give proper link – Jacques]

  9. Posted August 30, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    The exceptions to this simple rule, people with medical problems that effect their weight, amount to, maybe one percent of the population.

    Altho’ to hear it you’d think it was more like 60%. Interesting how many people think it’s okay to be dangerously obese because they’ve read something somewhere about thyroid problems. Yet food courts the world over are stuffed full of fat people stuffing full.

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