Podcast “THE FAQ”

11 Responses to Podcast “THE FAQ”

  1. Rick says:

    Hey Podcasters,

    As a secular parent, I’m thrilled that you guys are doing what you’re doing. I’m a big fan of podcasts in general, and have had yours on my iTunes list alongside SGU, POI, Skepticality, Skeptoid, and the lot.

    I do have a bit of concern though, and I hope this criticism comes across as intended — that is to say, constructive.

    Perhaps I’m spoiled by the high bar set by the other skeptical podcasts, but it seems to me that your conversations drift too often into anecdote and conjecture, rather than informed, rational discussion. The kind of chat that anyone has when talking among peers who already agree with each other.

    Here’s a standout example of an ongoing anecdote, presented as a norm, that continues to bug me:

    It seems clear that Elyse is having a very difficult pregnancy. I’m sympathetic, and wish her an early, speedy delivery… but to hear her tell it, ALL pregnancies are horrible.

    By contrast, my wife has gone through pregnancy and “natural” childbirth twice, and loved the experience. Really, she even enjoyed (in a weird way) the pains of labor. And yes, she did a lot of exercise (swimming, primarily) while pregnant.

    Now personally I find that a little strange, but whatever — it’s her experience, and she’s welcome to it. I also have several friends who have gone through childbirth, anywhere from “natural” to primi c-section, and each has had a different pregnancy experience to talk about. But Elyse’s case seems to be the most painful of the bunch (at least from what I’ve heard here and on Skepchick).

    Again, I don’t doubt Elyse’s experience, and I am sorry it’s been so difficult. It sounds terrible (though in the end, kids are worth it!). But please remember that her case is just a sample-of-one and not representative of a common experience (any more than my wife’s unusually sunny experience should be considered normal). I can imagine a poor listener considering pregnancy and being scared out of her wits by Elyse’s frightening descriptions.

    Now I don’t mean to call out Elyse personally — she’s a great contributor to the Skepchick movement, and going through a rough time. Rather, I hope it illustrates a larger issue that I’m finding with your show. The way your show is treating the subject, she comes across as speaking with authority on pregnancy in general, rather than just representing her own experience.

    Perhaps it’s by design, but SBP comes across as a bunch of supportive friends having a nice chat, nodding heads in agreement with whatever is said. That’s fine, but not what I’d call “Science-Based.” Listeners who do not come from the skeptical scene may too easily lean on your show’s inherent authority, and interpret anecdote as science.

    What I’m hoping to hear instead is more of a continuation of what I read in “Parenting Beyond Belief” and especially, “Raising Freethinkers.” I’m hoping to find more in the way of scientific medical information, parenting myths challenged, solid activities for teaching critical thinking, thoughts on integrating secular kids with religious relatives, etc.

    Obviously I’m also a sample-of-one and maybe I’m looking for something that you’re not trying to provide. That’s ok. But with the “Science-Based Parenting” title, please be sure to challenge yourselves and each other along the way — especially when the subject is very personal (when rationality is most challenging).

    Sorry to go on so long. I really want to love this podcast! All my best to Elyse and the new baby (any day now?). And thanks for your time and efforts — I look forward to seeing this show evolve and grow.

    - Rick

    • Ticktock says:

      I think that’s a fair comment, and one that we’ve heard from other listeners. Adhering to your request is problematic because none of us are scientists. We can’t possibly isolate our thoughts solely to the science. Compounding that problem is that most of us are busy working and parenting, so we barely have time for the podcast. So, doing a thorough analysis of the studies just isn’t possible. The premise of the This Week In Parenting Science round table discussions is that we call attention to a news item and use it to stimulate conversation.

      Steven Novella responded to a similar letter by saying that part of what makes SGU special are the individual personalities and witty remarks of the hosts. I’ll use the same defense to say that Elyse’s complaints are part of her personality, and that it would be unhelpful to the podcast dynamic for us to censor her. One of the methods that SBP and PBB use is insular peer review. If I say something that doesn’t seem right to John Paul, he calls me out (believe me, he does), and I try to do the same to him. If that line of defense doesn’t work, we ask that the audience and readers be our safety net and call us out when we’re wrong. One of the reasons that I think you shouldn’t be too bothered by Elyse’s subjective obsession with her horrible pregnancy, or Heidi’s subjective interest in sex, or John Paul’s subjective interest in depression, or Rob and Laurie’s subjective interest in education is that we’ve come to those views and opinions from a scientific perspective. And we hope that the diversity of the panel balances out the fact that we are merely science advocates and not scientists.

      Anyway, I hope that doesn’t come across too much like an excuse. Certainly, the criticism will inspire us to call each other out a bit more. And that’s a good thing. I just don’t know whether it’s entirely possible for us to have a conversation without bringing our own experiences into the discussion. Maybe we’ll read part of your letter on the podcast, and I’ll let Elyse or someone answer it. Let me know if I’m misrepresenting anything you said.

      Thanks for the feedback,

      • Dave Uhlman says:

        Hi, I listened to your podcast about bats and wondered if you would be interested in doing a spot on Hear and there Audio Magazine? http://hearandthere.net/default.aspx

        H&T is an adventure program that is centered on detailed descriptions. Many of the places we go are accessible for people with disabilities. We visit places all over the world. This site contains programs you can download and listen. The program is hosted by Dave Uhlman, a visually impaired Accessibility Consultant, who gives his unique perspective on museums, nature walks, art shows or just about anyplace he can visit. Dave can put words to the visual so the listener can see and enjoy the experience.

        “Hear & There” is a program that promotes involvement in the community. We visit venues with accessible features, provide detailed descriptions, and encourage listeners to attend and participate in the events. This show is one of the few places were venues can publicize their accessibility features to the public.

        The show recently visited the Cincinnati Zoo to pet Cheetah cubs. We attended the King Tut Exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago. One winter day we went for a walk on ancient Hopewell Indian earthworks. We also interviewed the Chicago Art Institute about their innovative “Tac Tiles’ tour for the blind.

        We invite you to listen to our adventures and possibly find someplace you might like to visit.

        Dave Uhlman

    • Elyse Anders says:

      Hey Rick,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      I’m happy to hear that your wife, like many women, had a wonderful pregnancy.

      Over the last few months, I’ve made it a point to highlight the parts of my pregnancy that are less pleasant. Women bearing children are generally pressured into discussing their pregnancies in only the most positive light. While I was expecting my son, I did not have any public outlets to discuss this, and my personal “support system” of friends and family seemed to pooh-pooh my experiences. This ranged from flat out telling me that I had no business complaining to head-patting and telling me it would all pass.

      And even as a woman who considered herself medically savvy and well-informed, I found myself overwhelmed by the things going on with my body that I never expected.

      This pregnancy is not “difficult”. It’s pretty normal. I’m 9 months along. I’m sick of sharing my body with another person. I’m uncomfortable. And I have yet to bond with my daughter. I don’t claim to represent every woman who has ever been pregnant, but I have made it my mission to discuss my experience as honestly and candidly as possible.

      Sadly, I’ve been hearing from far too many women who think that I am doing an incredible service because they’ve never heard anyone talk so honestly about it. My Skepchick articles are being distributed at OB offices and I’m being pressured by mothers and medical professionals to write a book. One of my articles has even gone viral on pregnancy message boards.

      The sad fact is that women need to be talking about their real experiences, publicly and openly, until doing so is no longer thought of as a service.

      Women don’t need to hear any more stories about how other women LOVE being pregnant. It’s all we hear. And it’s all we’re supposed to talk about, with a handful of acceptable complaints thrown in (you are allowed to modestly complain about morning sickness, having to pee, feeling fat and self-deprecate about your waddle and being “in the way”.)

      The fact that people think that my pregnancy is some horrible worst-case-scenario only supports my position that this needs to be discussed more.

      But don’t worry, I’ll be delivering on May 26. Only a few more weeks until I stop complaining about being pregnant and start complaining about delivery and the special hells of parenting a newborn. :)

      Sorry if this seems a bit incoherent and rambling… but, I’m pregnant you know. ;)

  2. Rick says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. Quick note — I realize now that this might have been the wrong place for feedback (I was thinking it was an email form rather than a comment on the FAQ) so feel free to delete or move this thread if you’d like to.

    I also wanted to be clear that my comment is within the context that overall, I love what you’re doing. I totally appreciate the volunteer time and effort you’re putting into this and thank your for your hard work.

    The content of your response gives me some things to think about too. It could be partly that I’m still getting to “know” your voices. The SGU crowd wouldn’t know me from atoms, but they’ve come to be like friends that I check in with regularly — so I know what to expect and am forgiving of (delighted by) their subjective quirks.

    I listened to your newest episode (re: Play) after writing my note and was feeling a bit chagrined. It was a fine discussion all around and a great interview. So whatever, take my comments with a grain of salt.

    Thanks again,
    - Rick

  3. Rick says:


    Thanks — I don’t personally have that extended context that frames your comments. So to the extent you are speaking within/against a larger body of “pregnancy is wonderful” literature, I can certainly see the value of your alternative and honest perspective.

    I generally avoid parenting books and sites because they’re so often full of hooey. So when I found the “Parenting Beyond Belief” books and then this podcast, I was thrilled to find something helpful and science-based. Perhaps my avoidance of those other sources spared me, but then they put your comments without context and seemingly very negative.

    The context that I *do* see too often is the Hollywood/TV myth that childbirth is hell on earth, full of blood and screaming and doctors shouting “push!” like you’re gonna die. That doesn’t touch on pregnancy so much, but I felt, because of this context, that your comments could be exacerbating that myth. Maybe that’s one to be careful of.

    In any case, I’m clearly not your audience for this particular subject. Thanks for giving me the bigger picture, and hang in there — these last few weeks will soon be over and (mostly) forgotten.

    - Rick

    • Elyse Anders says:

      I don’t know what it means, but it’s interesting that almost 100% of the people who I’ve received or read criticism from are men and natural birth proponents (mostly home birthers.)

      The natural birth criticism I expect. These are people who are very emotionally invested in the beauty and the loving experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I certainly disagree with them, but I understand their POV.

      The men who disagree with me, though, almost all explain that this is not how their wives’ pregnancies went and many of their complaints are that my statements are a gross misrepresentation of pregnancy. It’s a bit baffling to me, especially considering how many women agree with what I’m saying.

      I’m just kind of thinking out loud here. Men seem especially sensitive to how pregnancy information is relayed. I don’t know why.

      As for labor and delivery in TV/movies, pretty much EVERYTHING about L&D there is completely wrong. But the entire pregnancy experience doesn’t begin and end in the delivery room. It is, however, something that needs to be addressed… perhaps in my book!

      Anyway, I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. And while I can’t speak for the rest of the group, I definitely appreciate the feedback. We’re still growing and figuring out what works and what doesn’t… and we can’t figure that out on our own!

  4. Rick says:

    Interesting that you don’t get any similar feedback from women. I know several who would jump in, but none are of the skeptical/science-minded/podcast-listening type.

    As for men, I guess you’re hearing from a self-selected sample who have seen their wives go through a (surprisingly) positive experience. Men are also less likely to be exposed to the standard literature that you’re reacting against.

    Btw, I wouldn’t consider myself a natural birth proponent as such. I’m more a proponent of letting my wife decide such things (while ensuring that appropriate medical facilities and personnel are at hand if needed). I did agree (begrudgingly) to attend Bradley classes, and despite the overtones of woo, I can get behind the general notion that, barring complications, bodies are evolved to handle reproduction.

  5. [...] congregations and was inspired to help humanists do the same, minus the religion. FBB also sponsors Podcast Beyond Belief, which features our very own Laurie [...]

  6. Chris says:

    I listened to your latest podcast while taming a climbing rose that was rambling too much… You have my email address. I did make the first round for Rational Moms, and I am opinionated… and I am pretty sure at least one kid in this house can teach me Skype. I’ll make like Tony Bateson and wait if you want me. :-)

    By the way, loved the latest podcast. Not that I have ever been angel in corporal punishment (Aaack!)… but I did learn to never promise a consequence that you could not deliver. After my first child endured a face full of sand at the playground, I made sand throwing a “going home offense.” I only had to do that once for oldest child, it took more than once for second child (but he did learn!).

  7. Ticktock says:

    I’m going to add you as a contributor here. Let me know if that’s OK.

    We’re doing guest spots for co-hosting the podcast. We’ll definitely have you on for that in the near future.

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