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 Are Penn and Teller spreading bullsh*t?
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sack of kittens
New Member

12 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2006 :  15:49:20  Show Profile Send sack of kittens a Private Message
Well , I joined just because this one has been buzzing around my mind . Having recently watched a batch lately , I found myself getting generally disappointed . I agree with some points disagree on others. That's fine and healty , but I began to see a pattern . It became clear they were coming from a strong Libertarian perspective in the handling of many issues . A political position is not fact but opinion . Its not neutral . This , it seems affects there judgements on some issues where scientific evidence clearly weighs against them .Then to make it more farcical , the Cato Institute and the CEI are presented as the sane ones when there have been times to show them political flim flam peddlers , the CEI in the pay of big business and oil companies in global change for example.
I don't mind opinion , can't say I mind forceful opinion , but political positions and opinion presented as fact (they are up for a best factual emmy ) smacks of , well , bullsh*t . I could easily have a paper and call it "truth" giving communist propoganda and say others are wrong .There are other political positions , other ideologies .Ideology is not science. I doubt I will see soon a program attacking libertarians as pretending much of the movement does not fall under conservative umbrellas , one attacking ideas of a small state , one promoting taxes and welfare . Hell , why not go for the big one and say perhaps America isn't the best and that the constitution shouldn't be regarded in near holy awe .
You see if they get one thing wrong , it doesnt make the rest wrong , but to do so and follow a political line makes me think of comments in Shermer's excellent "Why People.....". It doesn't make me think they are trustworthy . I can no longer think of them as a reliable source and am slightly amazed at how they are being placed on a pedestal. Does anyone agree , or can they show me why I am wrong if I am?


[Topic moved to the General Skepticism folder - Dave W.]

Edited by - sack of kittens on 08/11/2006 16:30:20

H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2006 :  16:07:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by sack of kittens
It doesn't make me think they are trustworthy . I can no longer think of them as a reliable source and am slightly amazed at how they are being placed on a pedestal. Does anyone agree , or can they show me why I am wrong if I am?
No, I agree. Some of the stuff they debunk is really good. But other stuff is pure Libertarian propaganda. As you say, they often cite the Cato Institute as a neutral source. It certainly is a turn off.

I know awhile back the members of the show Mythbusters did an episode that focused entirely on viewer mail. They took a second look at some of the topics they had already covered based on the comments. I wish P&T do a similar episode where criticisms of their conclusions are presented and evaluated.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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sack of kittens
New Member

12 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2006 :  16:28:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send sack of kittens a Private Message
Thanks , it's nice that someone agrees , it has been driving me nuts all day . The more astute of you will notice a missing word or two in the libertarians and conservative umbrellas comment giving the impression of the opposite of what I meant to say . I'm tired . So shoot me . correcting with edit in a moment.

A follow up along mythbusters lines would seem a grand idea if they took constructive weighty opposing views seriously.
Edited by - sack of kittens on 08/11/2006 16:29:21
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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2006 :  22:06:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
I'm confused. Anyone have time to decipher the gist of the post for me?
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26009 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2006 :  23:21:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by beskeptigal

I'm confused. Anyone have time to decipher the gist of the post for me?
The gist is that Penn & Teller sometimes reference politicially motivated "skeptics" such as Steven Milloy from the staunchly Libertarian Cato Institute to make their arguments. Steven Milloy is a dedicated global-warming "critic," defending big business and poo-pooing the climate consensus at every turn. Penn himself is a Cato Institute fellow.

The point is that arguments which are obviously motivated more by their politics than the science lessen Penn & Teller's efficacy as champions of the skeptical "movement," and so putting them on a pedestal by celebrating their show Bullshit! too much doesn't really do much for the rest of us skeptics.

In other words, it's been my experience that when Penn & Teller stick to subjects like talking to the dead, or reflexology, or Feng Shui, they tend to do a pretty good job of dismantling the arguments. But when they've gone into politically "charged" subjects like second-hand smoke or even recycling, they tend to show off their biases instead of working towards eliminating them like a good skeptic should.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  01:13:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
Sometimes they don't even do that very well. They just swear a lot and try to be funny. Sometimes they're really funny. Sometimes it all falls flat. They're entertainers.

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The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  08:19:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
The value of Penn and Teller to the skeptical movement is that they are high profile skeptics. I agree that the show “Bullshit” is uneven especially on politically charged subjects. Oh well. Thing is they are bringing skepticism into the homes of many people extending the usual reach of skepticism in general. They have been successful at that by making the shows entertaining even if less than perfect.

No one should be put up on a pedestal. With regard to the skeptical movement, we do appreciate those high profile skeptics for getting the message out there and hopefully getting people to think about subjects they might otherwise dismiss as not important. But we, on this site, have been critical of some of our favorite skeptics too if our thinking is that they have gone down a wrong path. And a good skeptic should understand that their views are as subject to critical thinking as any ones.

On a side note, Penn and Tellers act is one of the few reasons I would ever go to Las Vegas. And in their show they present and demonstrate subjects that are of interest to skeptics, again to a wider audience. During the show I went to they did a thing on cold reading. Cool! Plus they left their politics at home probably understanding the difference between those views the wide range of things that can be addressed in a live review of fun and magic and sometimes debunking that which is really in the realm of trickery but being sold as the real thing by less than honest scammers.

If we have a bone to pick with Penn and Teller, or with Randi, or Shermer or Dawkins, we have not been too star struck to mention those things. On the day that we skeptics all agree on all things is the day that we should probably reevaluate what it means to be a skeptic.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  13:16:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
I'm always most upset when someone "on my side" screws things up. Posing as skeptics, but being ideologically selective with their skepticism, Penn & Teller are essentially acting as flacks for the Cato Institute, and libertarianism. I don't like to see skepticism hijacked to promote its opposite, fossilized ideology of any stripe. Frankly, if the public thinks these guys represent the skeptical movement, they are giving skepticism a false face, by promoting their extreme libertarian nonsense.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  13:40:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
From what I've seen, their purpose is not to enlighten, but to ridicule. Sometimes they throw in something that someone might learn, and sometimes they do some cool magic, and every once in a while they're funny.

They're wonderful entertainers, but lousy teachers of skepticism.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  13:49:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
And, I don't have Showtime, but when the DVD's come to the video store, I usually watch them.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  14:50:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
I agree with most of the comments here. I will also add:

kittens wrote:
quote:
I can no longer think of them as a reliable source...
No one should ever rely on a couple of professional magicians doing a television show classified primarily as "entertainment" as a source for facts. Penn and Teller are useful for entertainment and provoking thought. But the thought should never stop as the credits role. Penn and Teller's primary message is that people should think critically. I think they'd be the first to say that message extends to people watching their show.

Gorgo wrote:
quote:
From what I've seen, their purpose is not to enlighten, but to ridicule. Sometimes they throw in something that someone might learn, and sometimes they do some cool magic, and every once in a while they're funny.
I totally disagree. There are different methods for going about "enlightening" people, and not all include holding someone's hand. Penn and Teller's passion for what they believe is quite evident. Their compassion for the victims of scams is also clear from both the show and interviews. Their edgey approach in the show fits in line with their socially liberal messages as well as their primary role as entertainers. I see their approach to be similar to Hunter S. Thompson's. Was Thompson's intention to ridicule?

Just because something is offensive to mainstream tastes does not automatically mean it means to ridicule more than provoke constructive thought and action.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Edited by - marfknox on 08/12/2006 14:51:02
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  14:57:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
Mooner:
I'm always most upset when someone "on my side" screws things up. Posing as skeptics, but being ideologically selective with their skepticism, Penn & Teller are essentially acting as flacks for the Cato Institute, and libertarianism. I don't like to see skepticism hijacked to promote its opposite, fossilized ideology of any stripe. Frankly, if the public thinks these guys represent the skeptical movement, they are giving skepticism a false face, by promoting their extreme libertarian nonsense.

I don't think that is what they are doing. The show is called “Penn and Tellers Bullshit”. And what they are doing is presenting subjects that they care about, including their political views. Skeptics like it when the subject is feng shui. Libertarians like it when the subject is cigarettes or personal freedom issues. It's their show and they do not pretend to represent views other than their own. And they have not been shy in letting people know about their libertarianism.

They are not “posing” as skeptics. They are skeptics. And they are very good skeptics, indeed. That means lots of time and money spent on skeptical causes and their own demonstrations of “how it's done.” I don't happen to agree with their politics. But then, there are a lot of people I consider very good skeptics that have different politics than I do, even on these boards. And lets face it, we all do some cherry picking to make our points.

That some people have a problem with their show is understandable. I often have a problem with it too. That said, their contributions to the skeptical movement stand. Shoot, if I had their show, I might do a show on libertarianism as bullshit while espousing liberal views…

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  15:08:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
quote:
I see their approach to be similar to Hunter S. Thompson's. Was Thompson's intention to ridicule?

Just because something is offensive to mainstream tastes does not automatically mean it means to ridicule more than provoke constructive thought and action.



I never read much of Thompson. I don't remember why, but I know I tried, and didn't like it.

As I said, I would still watch it if I had Showtime, and I will rent the DVD's if i see them in the store, as I do like them, but for the most part it's about "Hey, we're cool guys and we can call people stupid fucks and laugh at them and that way you'll think we're cool and emulate us rather than learn to think for yourselves."

Here's another thread on it:

http://www.skepticfriends.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4578&SearchTerms=teller

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  15:41:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Gorgo wrote:
quote:
for the most part it's about "Hey, we're cool guys and we can call people stupid fucks and laugh at them and that way you'll think we're cool and emulate us rather than learn to think for yourselves."
I truly think you are blinded by oversensitivity.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  16:41:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
P&T's BS is a good show.

So what if you don't agree with their politics? I know I don't agree with all of their politics, but the show is fun to watch and most of the time they are on the mark.

Some of you hard-left liberals are probably just offended by their treatment of topics like gun ownership and the environment.

I don't agree with every conclusion they reach, but so what?

They use a skeptic methodology to approach the topics on their show, and alot of people watch them because they are freakin hilarious.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  17:41:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
quote:
I truly think you are blinded by oversensitivity.



I said I'd watch it. It's still too much bullshit.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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