A guide to skeptical podcasts

By Adam Cuerden

Altered from xkcd 609 by Randall MunroeThere are a lot of skeptical podcasts out there, but which are the best?

I love skeptical podcasts, and the best of them show everything that skepticism has to offer: Intelligent analysis, a broad range of viewpoints, a willingness to try the evidence and re-evaluate even strongly-held views, and a friendly community of talented, clever people from diverse backgrounds, with a wide variety of interests.

Of course, this is my own opinions, but having tried quite a number of podcasts, there’s a few that really get me excited when a new episode is out, and which are an indispensable part of my week. These are:

The Skeptic Zone: My first skeptical podcast, and still one of my favourites. With an excellent group of Australian skeptics behind it, this podcast is able to provide a first-hand look into skepticism in Australia by some of the most active people in the movement, who regularly appear on Australian TV and radio – and with good reason; these are some of the most engaging activists you’ll find out there. Magazine-format, with several segments by different hosts.

Righteous Indignation: Moving back to the UK, Righteous Indignation is notable for having mastered the interviewing of people from the other side: Psychics, peddlers of woo, and promoters of fringe theories. While always polite and respectful, they nonetheless know their subject matter well, and can ask the right probing questions to really elucidate the beliefs, and allow you to understand why people can believe what they do. No other podcast does this quite as well; indeed, the only person doing comparable reporting that I can think of is Jon Ronson. With an intelligent team of young skeptics with interesting and unusual focuses – Ghost hunting, crop circles, abuse of PR by mainstream news organisations – this podcast should not be missed.

Skeptics with a K: Skeptics with a K is insightful and clever, but it’s also hilariously funny. Produced by the incredibly active Merseyside Skeptics (QEDcon, the 10:23 campaign), it provides sweeping analysis of important events in British skepticism, mixed with banter, wit, and loads of charisma. This podcast shows that sometimes, the best recording material can be listening to three friends talking, provided they’re as clever and witty as these three are.

The Pod Delusion: Another podcast that fulfils a unique niche, and the only of these that you yourself can contribute to. A magazine-format podcast consisting of various skeptics and humanists presenting a random selection of news, reports, and other interesting things, all assembled under an open contributions model where anyone can submit a short piece discussing an interesting skeptical topic. Host James O’Malley has a rather bizarre ability to be hilarious while only telling the most awful jokes imaginable, which ties the show together. If you want to hear a broad selection of sketpical thought, while still hearing an excellent, well-produced podcast, this one is for you.

All of these are excellent podcasts, and I’ve listened to every single episode of them, so can vouch for their consistent quality, with the possible exception that the very early episodes of a couple of them aren’t ”as” good as they became later.

Honourable mention

The Token Skeptic What I’ve heard of this is excellent; Kylie Sturgess is a one-woman juggernaut who manages to do on her own what most podcasts need a team to do. It covers a wide variety of interesting topics, such as belief in Santa Claus and children’s skepticism. Unlike the other ones I recommended, however, I haven’t listened to every episode – but definitely intend to. It’s a fantastic, well-produced solo effort, but it’s hard for me to talk about since I’ve listened to mostly earlier episodes, and the format has changed a bit since then.

Of course, there’s a lot of skeptical podcasts out there, and if you tried to listen to every one of them, you’d almost certainly run out of hours in the week to do it in. And, of course, even if I did listen to one and didn’t like it, that doesn’t mean that quite a number of other people don’t like it, so feel free to suggest other podcasts in the comments! However, the five podcasts I listed each give a view into skepticism that is both unique and exceptionally well done. I highly recommend them all.

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0 Responses to A guide to skeptical podcasts

  1. Nathan says:

    I hear The Completely Unnecessary Skeptical Podcast is quite good. If you like that sort of thing… A NZ based podcast with a small fanbase, but we’re, err – I mean they’re, trying to expand that… 😛

  2. Hello! Thanks for the review (psst, it’s Sturgess?) – I’d suggest catching up from:

    Episode #60 – The Best Of

    Then perhaps:

    #70 – On Hoaxing The Hoaxers – Dr Karen Stollznow, Matthew Baxter And Bryan Bonner
    #81 – On These Are The Ways The World Will End – Dragon*Con Panel
    #88 – On Codes Of Conduct Part II – Sexism, Skepticism And Civility Online
    #91 – On Stanislaw Burszynski, Streisand Effects And Standing Up For Skeptical Bloggers – Andy Lewis of Quackometer.

    Thanks again!

  3. Cuerden says:

    Sorry, Kylie. I thought I knew how to spell it, so didn’t double check, which was foolish in retrospect. Its fixed now. =)

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