August’s Top 10 Podcast Episodes

This month’s top 10 list marks a full twelve months of creating them! Hurray! It’s sometimes a lot of work in the last few days as I try to remember what was so great about a particular episode, but overall I’m happy to be making these lists. They’ve always been a blend of my personal life and preferences with what are objectively big events or great episodes in the podcast world, but I’m pretty comfortable with that.

As always, I’m interested in hearing what other people listen to. What suits your fancy? I had a conversation with a new friend the other day where we shared what podcasts we loved. We only overlapped on one, even though we both loved storytelling and comedy. There’s so much out there worth hearing that I know my lists can’t fully capture.

Regardless, here’s what I enjoyed for this month of August, 2015:

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“Gated Communities”

This morning (afternoon over there!) I watched Kate Donovan’s presentation “Recruitment and Retention on Hard Mode” at Effective Altruism Global in Oxford. Her thesis was that diverse movements work better, and she shared many practical techniques to attract and keep people while avoiding common pitfalls that could do the opposite. It was great!

One anecdote she shared that really grabbed me was her reference to “Elevatorgate”. She doesn’t go into needless detail, and I won’t either, but this was an incident within the atheism, skepticism, and secular movements that became an ongoing albatross around their necks.

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Modern Romance: The Missing Polyamory

This is my second post on Aziz Ansari’s new book, Modern Romance. Check out my previous one on dating profile images.

I finished the book recently, and I enjoyed the experience of reading it. Ansari mixes surprising jokes with a fascinating investigation into the changing behaviors and technology of dating and relationships. It does only dive as deeply as you’d expect a book by a comedian would do, though. Erring on the side of “fun and light” was probably a wise choice.

In the second half of the book, Ansari starts building a case for the dilemma of modern romance: in the age of emerging adulthood, young people have a choice to either enjoy the single life and the highs of romantic love in dating, or to appreciate the slow build of companionate love that comes from settling down into a long-term relationship. He focuses significantly on the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) when marrying one person.

In one of the final chapters, Ansari begins a small discussion on open relationships, which could be one solution to this dilemma. Unfortunately, the scope of the section was small, and the attitude towards it not nearly as welcoming as other developments in modern romance. I found it pretty disappointing.

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Destin Podcast Playlist – 24-27 August

I don’t know exactly why I want to do this, but it feels simple enough to try and might be nice to look back on with time. Today I took a 5-hour drive from Atlanta to Destin, Florida for work. On the way down I-85 and various state and US roads, I was listening to a playlist of podcast episodes I put together before starting off. Here’s what it was, if you’d like to imagine my journey…

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Including Social Justice in Skepticism

Jamy Ian Swiss, a prominent member of the skeptical community and magician, was interviewed recently for premium content for The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast. The conversation moved to several topics in its fifty minutes. Much of it was focused on the skeptical movement as a whole and its past, present, and especially future. Some great, high-minded ideas on what the movement lacks and where it needs to focus its efforts were brought up and played with, like the need to form permanent resources, and organizations that are respected and known enough to be called upon by government or outside of skepticism.

One subject that bubbled underneath the conversation was whether the meaning of “skepticism” should be broadened or kept narrow. For example, should the definition of a “good skeptic” include the requirement of atheism? Swiss says no, in order to broaden the tent of people allied against the real enemies: pseudoscience, mysticism, conspiracy theory, misinformation, and all manner of bad thinking. To require nonbelief would exclude otherwise helpful individuals.

I’ll acknowledge that Swiss has been in this movement for quite some time, and so he likely has a long-term perspective on this that I don’t. It doesn’t make sense to me to embrace skeptics who don’t exercise their skepticism on all areas of their life, since that’s one of the core aspects of the promotion of critical thinking, but I won’t pursue that point right now. It’s not only not the point of this post, but it’s also me deferring to a person who might know a thing or two about what works and doesn’t in capital-S Skepticism.

Still, like me, he is someone who does not have mastery of all perspectives. And this is where I think he’s truly mistaken.

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