Podcast recommendations: debunky, chatty, science-y edition
June 10, 2023 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I love Maintenance Phase and If Books Could Kill and would like more podcasts like this.

I guess I'm interested in the MHPU (Michael Hobbs Podcast Universe?) What I'm finding really scratches my podcast itch is the following:
- Two hosts, both well informed but not necessarily both experts in the topic at hand; I like the trade-off formula where one partner goes deep and informs the other partner via conversation
- Debunking garbage that's made it into the mainstream conversation
- Critical thinking where the core of the criticism is bad science and bad logic
- People-positive, 2SLGBTQ+ positive, diversity positive as a baseline attitude
- Fun! Serious ideas and serious science, but good conversation and clearly people who enjoy each other's company co-hosting
- I'm okay with guests, but prefer the MP / IBCK formula where they bring people into the conversation via research and quote from their work

Things I don't enjoy:
- Narrative-driven, NPR-style "investigative reporter, you won't believe what happened next, I went back to my hometown and here are some trenchant observations from the aisles of the Dollar General" structure and approach - "The Dream" is the latest podcast I've bounced off of in this format. Jamie Loftus' podcasts like AackCast and Ghost Church are another example -- they're great, she's great, but not what I'm looking for.
- Similarly, probably doesn't need to be said, but true crime / Lore style stuff isn't my cup of tea
- Ads, particularly the ones where they suss out my IP and drop local ads in, that creeps me out hard. I can live with ads but appreciate how MP and IBCK just drop mention of their Patreons etc. and move on.

I'm well sorted for both "host(s) interview different guests" and "banter is the point, without a lot of evidence-based conversation" podcasts already.
posted by Shepherd to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
Forgive me if you're already aware but you didn't mention You're Wrong About which has Michael Hobbes himself with Sarah Marshall, started before the other two you noted, and is in the same style. That was my gateway to exactly the kind of podcast I didn't know I wanted, and pre-hooked me on the next two he's been doing.

He moved on at some point in the last year or so to start the others, but if you listen in reverse chronological order it'll include him.
posted by mireille at 2:35 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]

You might enjoy QAnon Anonymous. It’s debunking QAnon stuff that has made it into mainstream media. It usually has between two and four hosts, including a trans woman who I find delightful. It might be a little more “bro-y” in tone although not content, and they have an offshoot podcast tearing down a lot of the nonsense bro stuff.
posted by Bottlecap at 2:36 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]

Sarah Taber's Farm to Taber! Smart, funny, one of the best podcast voices ever, and lots of deep dives into agriculture, the food system, and money. She doesn't have the same person in the second chair each time, but otherwise she pretty much fits the bill. Recommended first listen: Whaling and Agribusiness. (You will never look at margarine the same way again.)

The Body of Evidence: "When it comes to health and medicine, there are so many decisions to make and so much misinformation out there. Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry look at the body of evidence on these topics to tell you what’s solid, what’s iffy… and what’s crapola. The jingles, comedy, and bickering help the medicine go down." Bonus: it's CanCon.
posted by maudlin at 2:40 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Only this morning I listened to Ep 27 of All In A Day's (Sex) Work where host Blair Hopkins talks for an hour with Michael Hobbes about sex trafficking, and the way it's (mis)reported in the media.

Like you, I am a huge Michael Hobbes fan and am following this thread with great interest.
posted by essexjan at 2:54 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

Let's Learn Everything is not really about debunking or critical thinking, but it is a very good chatty podcast where each of the three hosts learns about some interesting science topic (for example: how eyes evolved, should we get rid of mosquitoes, why do [some] Canadians have bagged milk) and then talks about it with the other hosts. I found it via one of my favorite ever TikToks, which should give you a taste for the mix of scientific rigor and INTENSE ENTHUSIASM.
posted by Jeanne at 3:08 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

No longer making new episodes and mired in mild controversy, but definitely try Reply All.

Maybe Ologies? It's one host and a guest expert, though.
posted by ambulanceambiance at 3:54 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Let’s Learn Everything is way more fun than those MH podcasts, and it’s less about trash, but it does have one host who learns and then educates other hosts, and it’s exceedingly enjoyable.
posted by Night_owl at 5:43 PM on June 10

Michael’s cohost on If Books Could Kill, Peter Shamshiri, is one of three hosts on the Supreme Court podcast, 5-4, which has a similar vibe.
posted by alicat at 6:40 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

My favorite podcast is This Podcast Will Kill You, which features two disease ecologists named Erin talking about things that can kill you and related topics, from the flu and the Black Plague to asbestos and electricity. They take turns talking about different aspects of each topic, with extensive references and the occasional expert. Lots of critical thinking and occasional debunking (their 2 parter on vaccines was excellent.)
posted by gingerbeer at 7:06 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]

Well, There’s Your Problem; A podcast about engineering disasters

Odd Lots; the odd corners of the economy

The Black Athlete; about sports, higher ed, and history from two great professors.

Wide Atlantic Weird; history of pseudoscience / cryptids
posted by nickggully at 7:22 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]

Sawbones is a podcast with a doctor and her goofy husband talking about medical stuff. A lot of the earlier episodes focused on weird medical practices from the olden days, but they also have episodes about modern pseudoscientific health fads. There's a mix of more serious episodes about things like mifepristone and gender affirming care, and then there's lighter episodes about head lice and why hair turns gray and something called "the great stink of 1858."
posted by cubeb at 7:43 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Skeptic's Guide to the Universe? SGU is a group of skeptics that discuss the news events and often about debunkings but also scientific discoveries.
posted by kschang at 9:59 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Cancel Me, Daddy is more about internet culture/The Discourse than about science, but you might like it. Michael Hobbes is a frequent guest. Definitely covers the "bad logic" angle.
posted by Comet Bug at 12:33 AM on June 11

BBC Radio 4/World Service show More Or Less is all about debunking bad statistics from the news.
posted by lrose at 2:53 AM on June 11

American Hysteria is hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith (who I think is a friend of Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes) is really good but not what you're looking for, since it only has one host. But like Jaime Loftus's work, it's informative and smart. You Must Remember Manson is the same: informative but it's one person talking.
posted by AlSweigart at 4:22 AM on June 11

Not the logic of science but still about exploring the logic of a thing: What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law is a 2-person, intelligent, chatty, 'let's dive into understanding what this Supreme Court decision actually means' half-hour that comes out intermittently (esp. shortly after a ruling emerges from the Supreme Court). It's hosted by Roman Mars (99% Invisible, Radiotopia passim) and Prof Elizabeth Joh (University of California, Davis, School of Law). It was originally called 'What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law', but since 45 became 46 it's more generally about the state of constitutional law.
posted by Joeruckus at 5:32 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]

Oh! Also, be sure to check if you get bonus episodes of podcasts you already know about by signing up for their Patreon, etc.
posted by AlSweigart at 9:17 AM on June 11

They haven’t put out new episodes in years (sadly) but Liar City is totally in this vein.
posted by lovableiago at 12:32 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Oh No Ross & Carrie is a podcast by two friends in the Los Angeles area who attend local pseudoscience, occult, and supernatural events or classes and tell you all about it in detail.

They have lately skewed towards detailed investigations over multiple shows-- like 10 hours of talking about the Ark Encounter-- but they also have some one-show investigations. Both are ex-Evangelical Christian, Carrie is a professional journalist, and both are pleasant and interesting to listen to in conversation. They aren't sneering or mean about the stuff they try-- skeptical, but willing to have their minds changed. They do ad reads, sometimes for like 2 minutes at a stretch, but they don't do drop-in localized creepy ads.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:09 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Do Go On is less about scientific debunking but is a very entertaining podcast where one of the hosts does a deep dive and educates the other two. It is strong on the banter but they cover some really interesting topics. I don’t love the bit they always do at the end for their Patreon subscribers, but I just act like the podcast ends when that starts.
posted by scrute at 9:33 AM on June 12

Serious Inquiries Only hits most of your checklist. The current format is mostly "one regular host interviews one guest expert" with jokes and chat throughout. (The host Thomas Smith is one of the duo that hosted the law/politics-debunking podcast Opening Arguments until its recent downfall, so he seems to be resurrecting SIO with a new focus on science debunking and social issues.)

I haven't listened to all the episodes and the recent ones I tried did seem to have more ads, but signing up for Patreon would make it ad-free.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 3:03 PM on June 12

I used to really enjoy The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, but I stopped following it a while back as the Skeptics movement had its schism around social justice and cultural criticism. I think Steve Novella, the main host, tried too much to play down the middle, and ended up at least tolerating if not exactly siding with some people who turned out to be pretty unpleasant humans and not actually very good skeptics. They also started doing ads around the same time, which both sucked to listen to and in my opinion compromises the integrity of a show devoted to skeptical criticism of topics which can include corporate interests.

Still, I was a big fan of the show for a long time, and I think its back episodes might hit nearly what you're looking for. (More than two hosts, though, but the dynamic is still similar to what you describe; there are also interviews but generally only part of the episode). The very early episodes are a bit rough, and some of the hosts were still clearly over-influenced by a Libertarian bent on "skepticism" of climate science, among other things. If you dip in some time after Rebecca Watson joins as a co-host, and stop listening about the same time she leaves, there's still hundreds of hours of nerdy friends chatting about science and critical thinking, with Rebecca holding the line beautifully for humanism and critical analysis culture. I'd still recommend it.
posted by biogeo at 5:38 PM on June 12

The Dirt Pod is a conversational team of two archeologists who punch all those boxes - they mostly give very approachable summaries of academic anthropology/archeology topics, but inevitably ( and hilariously ) have to address alien architects, Bigfoot, etc on occasion.
posted by bendybendy at 10:25 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]

When Science Vs is snarky, it's very snarky, if that's your thing.
posted by signal at 7:16 AM on June 14

Late to this but The Irish Passport sounds like it works. Very good research as the hosts share their half of the assignment. The topics do center on Ireland but if you like history some eps will float your boat. The latest on forests is great.
posted by drowsy at 1:11 AM on July 11

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