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502 Conversations - Science, Skepticism, Pseudoscience, Philosophy, and more.

502 Conversations - Science, Skepticism, Pseudoscience, Philosophy, and more.

By Brian Kerby
Conversations with experts in their fields about science; skepticism; medicine; quackery; pseudoscience; philosophy; belief, why and how we believe; knowledge; and more. Guests have included Dr. Paul Offit; microbiologist Natalia Pasternak; Julia Sweeney; Sheldon Helms; JAMA Editor in Chief Dr. Howard Bauchner; Massimo Pigliucci; James Randi; Ray Hyman; James Alcock; Dr. Harriet Hall; and others. Full interviews also available on youtube.
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Conspiracy theory expert and political scientist ~ Joe Uscinski
Joe Uscinski, PhD, is a Political Scientist at the University of Miami. He studies public opinion and mass media, with a focus on conspiracy theories and related misinformation.  He received his bachelor's degree from Plymouth State University, his Master's from University of New Hampshire, and his Doctorate from University of Arizona. His research has appeared in Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, and Critical Review among other scholarly outlets. He has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, The  Guardian, Newsweek, Politico, VOX, The New York Times and more. He is the author of Conspiracy Theories: A Primer; The Peoples News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism; is coauthor of American Conspiracy Theories; and editor of Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them. © 2021 502 Conversations and Dedham TV. Unauthorized duplication, for any reason, without permission is prohibited. This episode is also available as a video here
June 15, 2022
Skeptical Activist Rob Palmer on 502 Conversations ~ Belief in Psychics and What's The Harm?
Rob Palmer, aka The Well Known Skeptic.  Rob is a former spacecraft designer, aerospace project engineer, programmer, and software engineer. An erstwhile believer in biorhythms, ancient aliens, ESP and all kinds of pseudoscientific nonsense, he is now the eponymous author of the Skeptical Inquirer column "The Well Known Skeptic", in which he writes book reviews, conducts interviews with skeptics and public figures, and investigates such topics as psychics and psychic fraud, and the purported sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats. This conversation may be viewed here as well. Rob's Skeptical Inquirer column: Rob Palmer Facebook page: Psychic Fraud presentation by Rob Palmer to NYC Skeptics: Palmer's article: Belief In Psychics: What's The Harm And Who's To Blame?: Bob Nygaard Wikipedia page: Susan Gerbic's column with articles on Mediums:
June 08, 2022
Medical Sociologist Robert Bartholomew ~ Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria
This episode may also be viewed as a video here: 502 Conversations with Medical Sociologist Robert Bartholomew Robert Bartholomew is co-author of Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria. In this conversation, he speaks about Havana Syndrome and its symptoms; mass psychogenic illness (MPI) and its symptoms; historical examples and documentation of MPI; causes; the purported weaponry suggested for Havana Syndrome; the FBI and CIA investigations; the journalistic embarrassment of Scott Pelley and 60 Minutes; and more. Robert Bartholomew is medical sociologist, writer, journalist, and human rights advocate. Well-known for his books on social panics and outbreaks of mass hysteria throughout history, he has examined cases ranging from demonically possessed nuns during the Middle Ages to the Salem witch-hunts of 1692, to contemporary episodes involving twitching schoolgirls in LeRoy, New York, to the students at a Massachusetts school who hiccupped for a year.  An Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, he has has written 17 books including: Hoaxes, Myths & Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking; Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior (with Hilary Evans), and Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria (with Professor Robert Baloh). He is the author of more than sixty scholarly publications; has been featured in a National Geographic series on modern myths; and has appeared on The History and Discovery Channels.  A Fellow with the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from James Cook University in Australia, a Masters in American Sociology from the State University of New York at Albany, and a Masters in Australian Sociology from The Flinders University of South Australia. 
May 01, 2022
The Harms of Gay Conversion Therapy (otherwise known as physical and mental abuse).
CAUTION: This episode contains descriptions of gay conversion therapy that are equivalent to mental and physical abuse.   A discussion with psychology professor Sheldon W. Helms regarding Gay Conversation Therapy, its various iterations,  the fallacy of the concept, the brutality of its implementation, and the failure of the government to intervene in a meaningful way. This episode may also be viewed here. Sheldon W. Helms is professor of psychology at Ohlone College in Fremont, CA. Sheldon is also an activist and advocate for science and critical thinking, and gives public science talks on a variety of topics related to those interests.  "As a psychology professor, I have a vested interest in encouraging people to think more critically about the world around them. This is particularly true in regard to human interaction. Many of us spend our lives floundering about, trying to figure out what makes people tick (and what makes us tick), doing only a mediocre job at it. Only by studying the social sciences do we have even the slightest chance of acquiring such knowledge."
February 16, 2022
Science Communicator Jonathan Jarry
Topics discussed include intuition vs. critical thinking; how he chooses a topic; science journalism vs science communication; what constitutes a legitimate disagreement between scientists; and much more. Jonathan Jarry is a science communicator with the McGill Office for Science and Society, dedicated to separating sense from nonsense on the scientific stage. He is a biological scientist, with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology, and he brings his experience in cancer research, human genetics, rehabilitation research, and forensic biology to the work he does for the public.   From January 2021.  This episode may also be viewed here.
February 10, 2022
Investigative Journalist and Author ~ Brian Deer
Brian Deer's 2020 book "The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines" chronicles Deer's exposition of the MMR/autism fraud that Andrew Wakefield perpetrated.  In this comprehensive Q&A,  Brian Deer talks about red flags he noticed right away;  exposing the multiple layers of the fraud; how the case series passed review and was published in the Lancet; the media falling for the hoax; the vulnerability of parents with severely challenged children; and much more.  This episode may be view on youtube here. "The Doctor Who Fooled the World" was an Amazon best seller and received the Gold Award in the 2021 Independent Book Publisher Awards and the 2021 Eric Hoffer award for nonfiction.   Brian Deer is a veteran British investigative journalist for the Sunday Times of London, best known for his investigations into the drug industry, medicine, and social issues. He has twice been named the UK’s specialist reporter of the year, has received the annual Healthwatch Award; was the 2009 Susan B Meister lecturer in child health policy at the University of Michigan; the 2012 Distinguished Lecturer in Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse; was made Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) by York St. John University in 2016; has written six articles for the BMJ; and produced a documentary for British PBS Channel 4.
February 01, 2022
Dr. Paul Offit ~ Covid Update and more...January 28, 2022
Where are we now? Boosters; Omicron; Sars-Cov2 drift; science communication; possibilities of a Covid-19 supervax; pig hearts; and more. This episode may be viewed on youtube here. Paul A. Offit, M.D., is a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He is an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology. Dr. Offit is co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine RotoTeq, and is a member of VRPAC, the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Committee.
January 30, 2022
Natalia Pasternak - founder and President of Brazil's "A Question of Science Institute"
Recorded at CSICON 2019. Dr. Natalia Pasternak earned a bachelor degree in Biology from Institute of Biosciences of the University of São Paulo and a PhD and two postdoctoral fellowships in Microbiology, in the field of Bacterial Genetics at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences.   She is a founding partner and president of “A Question of Science” Institute, the first Brazilian nonprofit for the promotion of skepticism and rational thinking, and publisher of the magazine Question of Science. Natalia Pasternak is co-author of the book "Neuro-Mythbusters, Vol II" and author of the book Everyday Science. She is also the founder of the initiative "Scientists Explain", which offers lectures, classes, and workshops for schools, universities, museums and research institutes; and she ran the Brazilian chapter of the international science communication festival Pint of Science from 2016-19. In this conversation we discuss so called alternative medicine in Brazil; Dr.s and Homeopathy (WHAT!?); irrational use of public funds to pay for ineffective treatments; the limits of regulatory agencies; Quack cancer cure folly in Brazil; the success of the Brazilian genetically edited Brown bean; the importance of good science communication; and more. This episode may also be viewed here.
January 27, 2022
Dr. Paul Offit "Pandora's Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong" and more...from CSICON 2018
Paul A. Offit M.D. is a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases; Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Professor of Vaccinology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, is a Board Member of Every Child by Two and is a founding member of the Autism Science Foundation.  He is an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology. The co-inventor of RotoTeq, a rotavirus vaccine, Dr. Offit is credited with saving hundreds of lives every day. He has appeared on The Colbert Report, CBS This Morning, The Daily Show with John Stewart, 60 Minutes, Inside Edition, the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and Democracy Now, among others.  He is the author of hundreds of publications, and 10 books, including:  Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine;  Do You Believe in Magic: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine; Pandora’sLab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong; several books on vaccines; and Bad Advice: or, Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information. This episode may also be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022
A conversation with Massimo Pigliucci
A discussion about belief and knowledge; "knowledge of" versus "knowledge debt"; expertise and authority; deduction vs. induction vs. intuition vs. revelation; and more. I should point out that when relating my previous conversation about knowledge with Dr. James Alcock, in addition to the comment about content and the degree of conviction, Dr. Alcock did speak of Plato's justified, true, belief rubric.   Massimo Pigliucci PhD., ( has a doctorate in Genetics from the University of Ferrara, a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from UConn, and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee.  He is currently the K. D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of NY.   He has published in the New York Times, Philosophy Now, and The Philosopher’s Magazine, among others. He has 142 technical papers in science and philosophy, and is the author or editor of 10 technical and public outreach books including:  Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk; and How to be a Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for a Modern Life. He has several free downloads available on such topics as philosophy, science, and skepticism at  This episode may also be viewed at
January 25, 2022
Comedian, writer, producer, and actor ~ Julia Sweeney
Comedian, writer, producer, actor, monologist, voracious reader, atheist, and Center for Inquiry board of director Julia Sweeney. Some of Julia’s TV credits include Brooklyn Nine- Nine, Fraiser, Family Guy, Mad About You, and of course her multi-season stint as a cast member on SNL. She has appeared in films such as Pulp Fiction, Vegas Vacation, and Stuart Little. Julia is also a playwright and has created several one person shows, among them God Said Ha;  Letting Go of God, which chronicles her personal journey from Catholicism to atheism;  and Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider. This episode may also be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022
Mentalist and Magician ~ Banachek!
Described as “the cream of the crop” of entertainers, Banachek is the world’s leading Mentalist. His talents are so incredible that he is the only mentalist ever to fool scientists into believing he possessed “Psychic powers”, only to later reveal he was fooling them. He’s astounded audiences around the world, and has been featured on CNN Live, NBC’s Today Show, Inside Edition, ABC’s Nightline, the BBC, and numerous network TV specials, as well as in print in the New York Times, USA Today, Scientific American, and countless other publications. Banachek is also a professional skeptic, is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and has overseen several James Randi Educational Foundation challenges. This episode may be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022
Mark Edward - "Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium"
Brian Kerby Q&A's with Consulting Occultist and author Mark Edward. Mark discusses his book "Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium", his work on the Psychic Friends Network, being named a "Psychic Superstar", and the "World's Greatest Psychic" and more...much more. Mark Edward has been involved in skeptic activism since circa 1989, and was on the editorial board of Skeptic Magazine. He spent almost 10 years embedded with psychics of all types, all the while collecting information and doing research for his book "Psychic Blues."  This episode may also be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022
Dr. James Alcock on his book "Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling"
Dr. James Alcock has a PhD in psychology and teaches at York University in Toronto. His research interests are focused on belief and in particular, on why people believe in things that have no scientific basis. A noted critic of parapsychology, he is a fellow of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and also on the editorial board. He has received CSI’s highest award, the In Praise of Reason award. He is also a fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association. This episode may also be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022
Dr. Harriet Hall, the Skepdoc, at CSICON 2016
A Q&A with Dr. Harriet Hall of regarding acupuncture, statistics, quackery, chiropractors, homeopathy, naturopathy and more.  Dr. Hall is a retired family physician and former Air Force flight surgeon. She writes about medicine, so-called complementary and alternative medicine, science, quackery, and critical thinking.  She is an editor and one of the five MD founders of the Science-Based Medicine blog. She writes the SkepDoc column in Skeptic magazine, is a contributing editor to Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer,  and a medical advisor and author of articles on the Quackwatch website. Dr. Hall is the author of Women Aren't Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook Consumer Health: a Guide to Intelligent Decisions. This episode may also be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, and The Amazing Randi at CSICON 2016
A conversation about how we are fooled, belief, why and how we believe; shut eyes and cold readers; cognitive psychology; making sense of the world; magic, mentalism, and trickery; and more, with: Ray Hyman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Oregon; James Alcock, Professor Of Psychology, Glendon College, York University; and James The Amazing Randi, Magician and Escape Artist, Demystifier of the Pseudoscientific. This episode may also be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022
Dr. Paul Offit from CSICON 2016
Recorded at CSICON 2016, Brian Kerby Q&A's with Dr. Paul Offit about vaccines, measles outbreaks, the false link between MMR and autism, how much damage the Lancet publication of the Wakefield paper did, the history of the anti-vaccination movement, vaccine religious exemptions and child neglect, and more. Dr. Offit is a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology. He is the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine that has been credited with saving hundreds of lives every day. This episode may also be viewed on youtube.
January 25, 2022