Monday, April 16, 2012

My Greatest Skeptical Hits ("Hits" Being a Relative Term)

I want to thank Richard Saunders for featuring my new song Mighty Mystic Power Bracelets on his week’s Skeptic Zone podcast. It was quite a thrill to hear my music on such a respected podcast!

And, just in case you are finding their way to my blog for the first time as a result of the Skeptic Zone podcast, I thought I’d put links to some of my more popular songs from my skeptic’s songbook (not that the “Skeptic's songbook” actually exists…yet!).

So, if you’re a skeptic, and interested in some music that playfully espouses the rational and scientific point of view, here are a few of my videos you might enjoy:

The Skeptic in the Room

I have been writing all kinds of songs for a long time, but a little over a year ago I decided to start trying to write specifically about my skeptical worldview. The first song I posted is The Skeptic in the Room.  This nine-minute ditty describes the experiences a skeptic often has when confronting a friend or acquaintance about their pseudoscientific beliefs.

Shortly after I posted this song in January of 2011, the video was featured on a host of skeptical websites and achieved something like viral success. This surprised and thrilled me, and I am very grateful to all those members of the skeptical community who featured, liked and helped promote it.

There is Nothing Like Science

This song is the ideological flipside to The Skeptic in the Room.  Where that song focuses on things I find unreasonable or pseudoscientific, this one happily expresses my belief that the world is made comprehensible and infinitely better through science, reason and logic.

This video was featured on the Richard Dawkins Foundation website, which is kind of a thrill in and of itself, as having my work affiliated in any way, however tangential, with the name Richard Dawkins is pretty awesome!

The Conspiracy Song

As with all varieties of pseudoscience, I find myself skeptical of virtually all conspiracy theories - especially the “big” ones like elaborate Kennedy assassination theories and one world governments and trutherism and…well, you get the idea.  These are conspiracies so vast that logic dictates they would be virtually impossible in reality, given the large number of people who would be required to keep secrets in a world where almost nobody (and certainly no government body) can keep a secret at all!  So, a song…

Thank You God

I have always been annoyed by athletes who wear their religiosity on their sleeves, crediting their or their team’s success to the influence of the Almighty.  In this song I try to posit a few questions that I find very reasonable – in a nutshell, I’m saying “Hey, God, all that infinite power and knowledge and you’re messing around fixing football games?! Really?!!”

Turtle Science

This song actually predates all of the others listed here. It came to me while listening to several science and skepticism podcasts a few years ago (and I’ve incorporated bits of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe crew in the video).  The discussions were about a new fossil discovered in China and the light it shed (or maybe not) on turtle evolution.  The consensus of opinion was that turtle science will never be the same again.  This song is silly, but I quite like it.

Mighty Mystic Power Bracelets

And that brings us, once again, to my latest effort, a little song about those magical, mystical energy bracelets that are supposed to improve one’s balance, flexibility and well-being.  Um, they don’t, actually.

I have other songs posted, which you can find at my YouTube channel (  But these are the ones of which I am proudest.  And keep checking back, as more music of a skeptical nature will be forthcoming.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Song: Mighty Mystic Power Bracelets

Few things get a skeptic's heart pounding the way some pervasive bit of pseudoscience worms its way into public acceptance.  And, along with homeopathy and other forms of alternative medicine, one of the most pervasively accepted pseudoscientific success stories is the widespread use of "energy bands" by athletes, coaches and even my dentist.

Here in California's Capitol city of Sacramento, our little basketball arena last year sold its naming rights to one of the companies promoting this nonsense, and is now known as Power Balance Pavilion, to the great shame of our city (in my humble opinion).

So, while I can't really do anything about that situation, I can write a song about these miraculous bits of rubber, which is what I've done.  And here it is:

You can find more of my songs at my YouTube Channel:

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Reason Rally in Ten Minutes

So, while we were sitting in the rain at the Reason Rally in Washington with 20,000 or so of our closest friends, the boys and I also did a bit of filming and took a bunch of photos. I've put some of it together in this short video - its an attempt to give a feel of the event in less than ten minutes.

We didn't get footage of everyone, and we ducked out just before Bad Religion took the stage, but these snippets from Dawkins, Randi, Minchin, Izzard, Savage and several others should give you a feel for what it was like to be there. And you don't even have to sit in the rain to do it.

More Thoughts on the Reason Rally - What Was it All About?

I’ve been thinking a lot about last week’s Reason Rally in Washington DC – an event I thoroughly enjoyed. It was well worth the cross-country jaunt and the soggy hours in the rain to be entertained and inspired by the illustrious presenters.

But I’m also plagued a bit by some nagging concerns – what was it really all about and just how much did it help us move towards our common objectives? Some somewhat random thoughts follow:

·      What does the lack of media coverage mean?  On my way home last Sunday, I bought and read three major newspapers – the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Sacramento Bee (OK, one can certainly quarrel with my inclusion of the Sac Bee as a “major” newspaper, but just go with me here).  I was shocked to see that not one of those papers had any coverage of the Rally. No articles, no photos, not even a blurb in their National Digest sections!

After getting home I did some Internet searching, which confirmed that my random newspaper impressions were no fluke. Overall the Rally just didn’t pop as a newsworthy event.  Certainly if there had been more “drama” – some kind of physical clash between angry atheists and protesting Christians, perhaps – there would have been all kinds of (mostly negative) coverage. But as it was, this largest gathering of atheists and secularists in the history of the country just wasn’t deemed newsworthy by our media gatekeepers.

·      The Rally as Advocacy.  This is touchy ground, but I question how much the Reason Rally accomplished as an act of advocacy for secular causes. For one thing, I don’t think, as a movement, we’ve really figured out how to win friends and influence people in Washington. I got a sense of this last year at TAM, when Sean Faircloth was presenting the ten-point secular manifesto. I remember thinking that we’d have a lot more luck pushing maybe a three-point plan that includes issues that believers and unbelievers alike could support, rather than presenting a laundry list of statements that no elected official in this country could publicly endorse!

Elected officials are essentially hardwired to their polling data, and their constituents are largely religious (and certainly many of their most vocal constituents are very religious). Asking politicians to support things like teaching science in schools and honoring the separation of church and state leaves lots of room for common ground. Insisting on the elimination of every religious reference from the public sphere really doesn’t.

·      Red Meat for the Critics.  I mentioned this the other day, and I don’t want to come across as one of those damned accommodations or something, but we are unlikely to achieve much progress for secular causes if we insist on going out of our way to piss off the rest of society. This is dicey, because we love hearing Richard Dawkins tell us its sometimes necessary to ridicule other people’s beliefs, or PZ Myers telling us to be “bad without God” or Greta Christina giving us a laundry list of things about which she is justifiably angry. I enjoyed it and I clapped as loudly as anyone. It’s a great message for a group of skeptics and atheists. But if our goal is to forge coalitions and make progress for our causes on the National stage, it’s not really very helpful. We can’t make progress without coalitions, because we do not control enough votes as a movement to influence politicians.

Ultimately, where the Rally excelled was in giving the audience what it came for. And that’s not nothing.  Preaching to the choir, when the choir members have been so ignored and isolated, undoubtedly gave us a sense of unity and community. It’s a foundation and it’s a great start.

I would just like to see the powers that be organizing a more coherent and possibly successful advocacy effort around the next Reason Rally!

One more thought - it is perhaps a reminder of just how far we have to go that, one day after the Reason Rally brought maybe 20,000 non-believers to the national Mall in Washington DC, some 300,000 believers attended a Catholic Mass with the Pope in Cuba.