A South African Skeptic Podcast – A First of its Kind

Primordial Soop - Skeptic South Africa podcast

A friend of mine recently turned me on to this incredible site, Primordial Soop. Its hosts, Deon Barnard, Suzanne Patterson, Basil Polydorou, and Brian Coughlan are all intelligent, well-spoken, and well-read South Africans or former South Africans who hold biweekly debates around South African religious issues, from Evolution to the lack of separation of church and state in South Africa.

Their podcasts are relatively new, with about one podcast being recorded every second week. They recently recorded their seventh podcast and they are slowly but surely getting more structured, more organised content, and audibly more confident in their program.

For every podcast they discuss a hero of the week, a retard of the week, and offer some interesting statistics on the state of religion in South Africa and, more broadly, the world. They openly confess to structuring their podcasts on Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, a podcast many atheists view as the benchmark for all skeptic podcasts to aspire to.

Even Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe (SGU) started slowly, with a lot of rambling in the beginnings of podcasts leading up to the nitty-gritty content as the speakers became more confident with their medium. Judging by the most recent podcast by Primordial Soop they are quickly heading in the same direction as SGU, gaining momentum quickly and hopefully moving towards becoming a powerful and influential force in South Africa.

If this is the first you are hearing about them, retweet/tweet about their webpage, whether you’re in South Africa or not. Let your local skeptic groups know about them, send emails to relevant listserves, play sound clips of the podcasts on local radio stations, drop a mention everywhere you know how, be it forums, blogs, or word-of-mouth.

South Africa is saturated with religion and to hear this whisper of skepticism amidst the roar of religions is really rare and exciting. Their are several growing skeptic and free-thought organisations in South Africa, such as the Free Society Institute, but this is the first South African skeptic podcast I have ever heard of.

They encourage email respondents, be it good or bad criticism. Drop them a line to let them know what you would like to hear discussed on the show or simply comment on aspects of their discussions. Join the discussion on their webpage, or email Deon at deonb@learningstrat.com.


Since I made this post I have discovered an up and coming African science podcast called Consilience. They have not yet uploaded any recorded podcasts but judging by the cast; renowned SA skeptics Michael Meadon, Angela Meadon, and Owen Swart; I think we can all look forward to some stiff competition between Consilience and Primordial Soup, although I think we can also all agree that the point is not to compete but rather to contribute to the pool of knowledge and free-thought in SA and Africa as a whole. The more podcasts and sites generating discussion the better.

20 thoughts on “A South African Skeptic Podcast – A First of its Kind

    1. It didn’t put me off, but that’s just because they do accents for most things. It’s entertaining… in context. I’m not generally a fan of satirically mimicked black english accents, agreed.

      1. It’s ASKING to be accused of racism IMO. Given that skeptics face an uphill battle on race anyway, it’s really not the kind of thing they should be doing.

      2. Seconded, but there’s a lot that they do which I don’t agree with.
        They shouldn’t put everything that they discuss up on their blog prior to the podcast being posted. It defeats part of the point of listening to the podcast.
        They need to focus more on facts and debate and less on being outraged and mocking towards theists.
        They need to swear less so that their podcasts could be used as an educational tool.


        They’re slowly gaining momentum and feeling their way around. I do think they should change some of their approaches, but they’ve made a good start.

  1. Hi…

    Thanks for the comment Mike, it’s been filed away for future reference.

    In my defense, the accent was to mimick and make fun of Jacob Zuma, not his colour aspect. I’m sorry that you missed that maybe I should have been more informative as to myintentions.

    When a comedian does it (i.e. Nick Rabinowits, Leon Schuster, Trevor Noah) it seems to be ok, I admit I am not in their league in terms of comedy but I believe that I have the right to poke fun at anyone I choose and Mr Zuma took honors this time around.

    Thanks for listening, please send us more info on how we can improve to our audience and thanks for being part of this movement that is sorely needed.

    Trust me, I spent a weekend in Ventersdorp, being very vocal of racism myself It was hard going being around very racist mentalities that seem to hide in all the nooks and crannies of our country, some even in political plain sight.



    1. Hi Baz

      The criticism from both Michael and myself is meant with the very best intentions. I’m very supportive of the Primordial Soup initiative and I wish it only the best. The criticisms are inevitable, however, considering how young the program still is.

      Apparently there’s a school in Polokwane which stipulates in its written constitution that only white Afrikaans children are accepted at the school. It’s shocking that these types of places still exist.

      One of my favourite podcasts is Are We Alone. Check it out when you have a moment. Very organised and well-spoken.

      1. Yeah, I second what Prof. Kentrill said. I really enjoy PS, and hope it’ll do well.

        It’s not that I thought you were being racist, it’s that it’s so easy to come across that way despite your intentions. For my money (and you’re of course entitled to disagree), the line is so fine it’s not worth trying to tread.

        Just my opinions. :p

  2. Thanks for the chatter – it mean’s a lot.

    I think we are bound to get better as we go along. We are certainly taking it more seriously, as the weeks go by. The last couple of days have been a wake up call for me (several emails from none.. what the hell? we aren’t actually talking to ourselves?), and I have done my best to realise off the cuff in the pub, and off the cuff recorded on a podcast, are two different things. If you say something on the soup, you need to mean it, or you are better off shutting up, or sucking it up when someone points out “that was stupid/ill-informed”.

    A couple of podcasts ago I participated under the influence of one two many glasses of wine, and I wasn’t prepared. I also had the overwhelming urge to appear clever :) Not a good combination. Maybe I got away with it, but when I listen to that bit (I won’t say what it was!) I cringe.

    I think we are high on enthusiasm, and we can get carried away, because we just feel so damn strongly about all of it! All of us got involved sincerely motivated to talk about the sticky issues, even if we do look like bozo’s occasionally.

    1. I agree that you will definitely get better. You have already improved noticeably since the first few podcasts, which weren’t that bad to begin with ^_^
      The enthusiasm is obvious, exciting, and contagious, so please don’t try to reign it in. I think it goes a long way to benefit to an individual vibe Primordial Soup has to establish for itself.

  3. I think this is an excellent initiative. I guess the critiques reflect what various people expect from a podcast. Some would think it should be highly structured to get a point across, while others may appreciate a more rambling style and jocular atmosphere.
    For me the important thing is to give a voice to atheism and scepticism in the face of the thunderous and oppressive voice of organised religion, superstition and social fascism!
    Keep it up!

    1. Hi Norm, thanks for your post. I fixed up the duplicate for you, no worries.

      I actually never thought about it from the perspective of different people wanting different things from a podcast. I guess I’m so used to listening to podcasts, primarily with science themes, with a very set, sometimes even rehearsed structure that the conversational tone of Primordial Soup, and even Skeptics Guide, is strange to me.

      Agreed, so long as it keeps going. This is a very necessary initiative and they have some excellent voices to lend weight to it.

  4. Hi folk, I’m amused by all the opinions and gratified that at least three people listen to us. Here’s the bottom line on PS… We will improve our editing and sound quality. We will improve on getting the facts right, rather than wrong. We will not however attempt to be anything but ourselves. That means we’re going to be the podcast that may be offensive and out of line in someones opinion. We will swear and do accents and throw in crazy personal humour. Other podcasts do what they do. We do what we do. People can listen, or not. We’ll have fun either way.

  5. Agreed Kelly – there is no competition. If anything we need to be encouraging a lot more skeptics and atheists to get busy in SA. Everyone brings their own flavour and angle.

    1. Indeed. And the two podcasts have such different styles that I think they complement each other quite nicely. I look forward to seeing how this relationship will evolve.

    2. Not to sound like a tree-hugging hippie, but, yeah, totally. I listen to and enjoy PS and I don’t see it as CC’s “competition” in any way. Our focus is squarely on science, so we’re going to avoid purely religious topics. (When religion trespasses on science’s domain, of course, it’s fair game. We already have a “religious” item planned for next week’s show).

  6. Well Done Michael, I heard the first podcast and liked the discussion. It was also nice to hear the familiar voice of Dr Novella from SGU…

    All the best and I look forward to giving and receiving positive feedback on ‘our’ route to opening up the minds of people in South Africa and all over the world.

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