Welcome to STEMiverse Podcast episode 33!

In this episode, Peter and Marcus talk with Tim Mendham!

Tim is a Freelance journalist, editor, and executive officer for Australian Skeptics Inc.

In 2000, he was joint winner of the Australian Business Publishers “Bell” Award for Best Analytical Writing of the Year. In 2006 Fast Thinking was named Best B2B publication in the same awards.

He has written extensively on IT, technology, R&D, business finance, management and marketing issues. During his career he has edited a number of publications, including Lab News, a technical journal for the R&D community; CFO, the then premier professional magazine for senior finance executives; Fast Thinking, a quarterly publication devoted to innovation issues; and most recently CIO, Australia’s leading magazine for senior IT management.

In this interview, Tim talks about skepticism, critical thinking and how we can help our students and children develop life skills that will help them navigate their way through a confusing and often deceiving world.

This is STEMiverse Podcast episode 33.


This podcast is brought to you by Tech Explorations, a leading provider of educational resources for Makers, STEM students, and teachers. Go to txplore.com to see a complete list of our books and courses covering the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and electronics.

Show Notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Tim Mendham
[03:03] Tim talks about his background in journalism as Editor of Skeptics magazine and as an English & History teacher
[04:23] What is Critical Thinking?
[07:44] As a society do we do more or less critical thinking?
[09:34] Methods sceptics apply to everyday situations, especially high-stake situations and how to become like a Vulcan!
[13:46] Darwin Awards
[14:49] How to raise more sceptical people: Scientific investigation
[19:11] Is being a sceptic a core skill necessary to survive present and future situations?
[22:47] What is something that the society has investigated that Tim thought was quite improbable but turned out to be true?
[23:57] “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” ― Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science
[24:54] Extraordinary claims need to be tested
[30:21] Advice to a young person who wants to know how to effectively detect highly-unlikely-to-be-true claims
[35:37] The Santa Claus test and assessing improbable claims
[36:35] Is too much scepticism taking the fun out of life?
[37:03] Quantum mechanics and pseudoscience
[38:55] A sceptic is like a detective
[39:51] Should teachers try to apply sceptical principles in their day-to-day teaching and how to do that?
[41:59] What do you do when you can't test something in a school environment?
[42:40] The Skeptic's position regarding teaching creationism in science classes
[45:27] What is creationism?
[48:37] Regarding the anti-vaccination propaganda
[49:01] Does a deep understanding of science make us better people?
[50:34] Ethics as a way of distinguishing between what is right and what is wrong especially in a social environment
[52:07] Upcoming Skeptics magazine vol 38 no 1, March 2018: Philosophy
[54:28] Rapid Fire Questions
[54:36] Recommended Books: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Flim-Flam!, by James Randi, Science: Good Bad, and Bogus, by Martin Gardner, Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre, Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine, by Simon Singh, Edzard Ernst
[55:31] Advice to teachers that want to apply critical thinking in their class
[57:07] How can teachers be a part of Australian Skeptics/Skeptics in the Pub