News From Around The Blogosphere 2.2.10

February 3, 2010

Where's the eye of newt?

1. Herbal remedies may cause cardiac problems – First, homeopathy takes a beating. Then the anti-vaccine movement. And now herbal remedies. The trifecta!  This is shaping up to be a great year for science-based medicine:

Herbal medications can affect the activity of prescription drugs, dampening or enhancing their effects, Jahangir said. For example, St. John’s wort, which is used for a number of conditions, including depression and sleep disturbances, has its major effect on the liver, which is involved in the metabolism of many drugs, especially those for heart disease, he said.

2. Pope Palpatine rips fights for the right to discriminate -

Pope Benedict XVI marked the announcement of his first papal visit to Britain with an unprecedented attack on the ­government’s equality legislation yesterday, claiming it threatened religious freedom and ran contrary to “natural law”.

. . .

The pope’s broadside appeared to be aimed squarely at recent legislation that prevents Catholic adoption agencies from discriminating against gay couples, and the proposed equality bill, which would make it harder for churches to exclude job applications from homosexuals or people who have changed their gender.

And The Guardian did such a great job with the photo that I’m not even going to bother grabbing the Palpatine-comparison pic I’d normally use for a story like this.

3. Apologies more effective when made in the right ear -

Scientists found that when we are angry, the right ear becomes more receptive to sound than the left.

The discovery has led to the theory that by targeting the right ear, the penitent are more likely to succeed in talking someone round.

. . .

Previous research has shown that if you want to persuade someone to do something, you should also speak in their right ear.

They make a cute couple

4. Lesbian albatrosses become proud parents – You can’t go wrong with that headline. Suck it, fundies!

It began with a love triangle between two female royal albatrosses and a wannabe male suitor. But girl power prevailed and the ladies dumped their man and set up a same-sex family together at the world’s only mainland albatross breeding colony in New Zealand.

5. Tell Focus on the Family about your loving gay spouse -

Focus on the Family is holding a Valentine’s Day Contest! All you have to is write a love letter to your spouse (under 300 words) explaining why you want to grow old with them.

As far as I can tell (and I read through the entire set of rules), gay couples are totally allowed to enter. Sure, they say right up front that “marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred commitment,” but at no point do they forbid gay couples from entering.


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.30.10

January 31, 2010

1. Dinosaur Find Helps Solve Evolutionary Puzzle -

A George Washington University expedition to the Gobi Desert of China has enabled researchers to solve the puzzle of how one group of dinosaurs came to look like birds independent of birds. The discovery extends the fossil record of the family Alvarezsauridae — a bizarre group of bird-like dinosaurs with a large claw on the hand and very short, powerful arms — back 63 million years, further distancing the group from birds on the evolutionary tree.

Until now, there was no direct evidence that dinosaurs of this type lived during the Late Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago. George Washington University doctoral candidate Jonah Choiniere named the newly discovered species of dinosaur, Haplocheirus sollers (meaning simple, skillful hand).

Again, that’s 63 million years ago, which for those keeping count is 62,994,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

2. Elmhurst, Illinois Mayor Pete DiCianni calls to waste tax dollars on prayer – DiCianni is calling from each City Council meeting to over with a prayer. Now besides the fact that this obviously tramples on the wall separating church and state, even rational Christians should be able to admit that we’re not paying these people to sit around and pray, but rather to run the local government. If these people wish to pray, let them do so on their own time and not on the taxpayers’ time.

3. Christian police force in UK who believe in power of prayer  receives £10,000 grant – If all it takes to catch criminals is prayer, why do they need any money? And for that matter, why do they need a police force?

4. Mennonites kidnap 14-year-old girl – The daughter of Doug Ramsey may have been brainwashed. Three church members were arrested for allegedly concealing the girl from her parents and police after she ran away from home. They intended to take her out of the state to Kentucky. Church members encouraged her to disconnect from her parents and helped facilitate her departure.

5. Midlife crises are a myth – Here’s a great article debunking the myths surrounding the so-called midlife crisis.

6. Virginia School district bans Diary of Anne Frank - That’s right. I’ll repeat that. They banned Anne Frank’s book. Why you might ask? Because of a passage about her adolescent curiosity concerning sexuality. The offending passage reads:

There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!

The horror! The horror!

But that’s not even the worst part, according to the article linked to above:

Amazon.com lists Anne Frank’s diary as one of the most banned children’s books, “for being too depressing for students.”

Anne Frank’s diary is among the most banned children’s books? Anne Frank? Are we talking about the same Anne Frank? The young girl in hiding from the Nazis? Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most banned children’s books? WTF!!!!!!!

7. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines – Suck it, Jenny McCarthy!

8. Do children need both a mother and a father? – Yup, once again science proves the bigots wrong:

The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

. . .

The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that “fatherless” children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.

. . .

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the “partial exception of lactation,” noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.

9. Pope calls for crackdowns on marriage annulments “at all costs” - But still nothing about cracking down on the thousands of child rapists whose salaries he pays. That’s fine.


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.4.09

January 5, 2010

1. Researchers conclude that G-spot is a myth -

The scientists at King’s College London who carried out the study claim there is no evidence for the existence of the G-spot — supposedly a cluster of internal nerve endings — outside the imagination of women influenced by magazines and sex therapists. They reached their conclusions after a survey of more than 1,800 British women.

2. Egyptian med students not the sharpest tools in the shed – Apparently Egyptian med students have it in their heads that masturbation causes blindness. Yes, I said that these were the Med students!

Baher Ibrahim writes that young women, expected by the conservative Egyptian society to be white virginal emblems of chastity, often wouldn’t know a penis from a bratwurst (I’m talking the literal food here). Meanwhile, many of the guys get their sexual knowledge from watching porn, which doesn’t do women any favors, no matter what country you’re in.

Bad or non-existent sex ed also fails to teach people to protect themselves against STDs. One student interviewed recalls a professor pinning the failure rate of condom usage in protecting against HIV/AIDS at 15-20% (it’s actually close to zero). Unsurprisingly, women are at particular risk for the disease, which spreads primarily through unprotected heterosexual sex, due to a severe lack of information on the subject. And, oh abstinence-until-m

3. Creationists given potentially unparalleled power over children’s textbooks – Texas and California are the two states that largely determine public school textbooks for the rest of the country. But now that liberal California can’t afford to buy new textbooks until 2014, Don McLeroy and his ultraconservative gang may have all the power. We’re going to need Eugenie Scott and the National Center for Science Education more than ever now.

4. British skeptics launch ’10:23 Campaign’ against homeopathy – The name comes from the Avogadro Constant, the scientific principle in which homeopathy would violate…if it were true. I also love their slogan:  “Homeopathy: There’s Nothing In It.”

5. Black Atheist is cast member on MTV’s ‘Real World’ – Apparently, one of the cast members of the latest season of the Real World, Ty Ruff, is a black atheist. I only mention his skin color because there doesn’t tend to be many black atheists.

According to  his bio:

… Despite growing up in the church, he is anti-religion and thinks believing in God is a crutch…

6. Atheist Foundation of Australia put up bus ad in Tasmania – The slogan is, “Atheism: Celebrate Reason!” I like it.

7. New study finds chimpanzees have culture too -

A new study of chimpanzees living in the wild adds to evidence that our closest primate relatives have cultural differences, too. The study, reported online on October 22nd in Current Biology, shows that neighboring chimpanzee populations in Uganda use different tools to solve a novel problem: extracting honey trapped within a fallen log.

Kibale Forest chimpanzees use sticks to get at the honey, whereas Budongo Forest chimpanzees rely on leaf sponges — absorbent wedges that they make out of chewed leaves.

“The most reasonable explanation for this difference in tool use was that chimpanzees resorted to preexisting cultural knowledge in trying to solve the novel task,” said Klaus Zuberbühler of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. “Culture, in other words, helped them in dealing with a novel problem.”

8. Lifeless prions evolve or another bad day to be a creationist -

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have determined for the first time that prions, bits of infectious protein devoid of DNA or RNA that can cause fatal neurodegenerative disease, are capable of Darwinian evolution.

The study from Scripps Florida in Jupiter shows that prions can develop large numbers of mutations at the protein level and, through natural selection, these mutations can eventually bring about such evolutionary adaptations as drug resistance, a phenomenon previously known to occur only in bacteria and viruses. These breakthrough findings also suggest that the normal prion protein — which occurs naturally in human cells — may prove to be a more effective therapeutic target than its abnormal toxic relation.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.29.09

December 29, 2009

1. Some of the biggest science stories of the year – Steve Novella briefly discusses Ardipithecus, Darwinius masillae, the Large Hadron Collider, water on the moon, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and methane on Mars.

2. Scientists working on making Star Trek’s synthehol a reality - According to controversial neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, soon people may be drinking a non-addictive alcohol substitute that allows drinkers to experience the effects of alcohol while having the means to “switch off” those effects by taking a pill.

3. What the Illinois gobernatorial candidates think of Evolution – Wow, this is depressing. Despite no mention of religion in the question, all but one found it necessary to reference their religious views. What the hell does that have to do with accepting basic scientific facts? And Dan Hynes, the one that didn’t mention religion and answered with a clear, concise, unambiguous ““I accept the theory of evolution,” is also the only candidate who supports marriage equality. Unless Hynes wins it, it looks like Illinois is doomed with either an idiot religious wackjob or a chickenshit religious panderer for the next couple of years.

4. Molars further elaborate on ape-to-human evolution -

The timing of molar emergence and its relation to growth and reproduction in apes is being reported by two scientists at Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins in the Dec. 28 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

5. Cockroaches inspire future robot design -

The sight of a cockroach scurrying for cover may be nauseating, but the insect is also a biological and engineering marvel, and is providing researchers at Oregon State University with what they call “bioinspiration” in a quest to build the world’s first legged robot that is capable of running effortlessly over rough terrain.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.23.09

December 24, 2009

1. Mississippi named most religious state – The latest Pew Forum study showing the religious demographics of each state found Mississippi to be the most religous with 82% of the population. Apparently, it placed number one in worship attendence, frequency of prayer, and belief in god. My own home state of New Jersey was fortunately way down the list at #30, though I wish it were dead last at #46 (because of several ties), an honor that was reserved for both Vermont and New Hampshire. So congratulations to Vermont and New Hampshire for being the most godless states in the union! You guys rock!

Yes, I know these aren't chimps

2. Chimps have near-human understanding of fire -

The use and control of fire are behavioral characteristics that distinguish humans from other animals. Now, a new study by Iowa State University anthropologist Jill Pruetz reports that savanna chimpanzees in Senegal have a near human understanding of wildfires and change their behavior in anticipation of the fire’s movement.

3. Top 10 scams of 2009 - All I can say is that this should be required viewing for everyone. Click the link.

4. Illinois comptroller candidate vandalizes atheist sign – Now granted, I don’t much care for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) sign either. I believe it’s the same message verbatim that they used in Olympia, Washington last year that I thought was way too divisive for its public venue. But conservative candidate William J. Kelly has now violated the law and arguably has committed a hate crime by diliberately trying to turn the atheist sign in the Illinois Capitol building in Springfield upside down in protest. He was quite public about his desire to have it taken down prior to this, which makes it a premeditated action. Upon seeing him in the process of trying to pull off his stunt, police escorted him away.

Dan Parker of the FFRF knocked it out of the park with his response:

“We atheists believe that the nativity scene is mocking humanity,” by suggesting that those who do not believe in Jesus will go to hell, Barker said. “But notice that we are not defacing or stealing nativity scenes because we disagree with their speech.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.13.09

December 13, 2009

1. Ray Comfort caught plagiarizing Origin of Species intro – I was reluctant to even bother reporting this story because it was about as irrelevant as that unauthorized use of Imagine in Expelled. I mean there are just so many better things to focus our criticisms on than the fact that the only part Comfort actually contributed his own original content too was not even original. But once PZ Myers decided to report it, I figured I might as well too. It turns out that Comfort stole the first three pages from an essay by University of Tennessee professor Stan Guffey. Also note that those were only part of the Comfort introduction that wasn’t idiotic, tired, and long-refuted creationist nonsense. Guffey is considering legal action.

2. Study finds monkeys have syntax -

A study carried out in Ivory Coast has shown that monkeys of a certain forest-dwelling species called Campbell’s monkeys emit six types of alert calls. The primates combine these calls into long vocal sequences which allow them to convey messages about social cohesion or various dangers, including predation.

3. Christopher Hitchens tells the real story of Christmas

4.  Engineered Bacteria Turn CO2 Into Fuel -

In a new approach, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have genetically modified a cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide and produce the liquid fuel isobutanol, which holds great potential as a gasoline alternative. The reaction is powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.

5. French justice minister tells Muslim men who force their wives to wear burqas that they’re not welcome in France – That is freakin’ awesome. Why can’t we have people like this running our country. Thatwoman, Michele Alliot-Marie, deserves some kind of metal.

‘The wearing of the niqab or burkha is a problem that affects our ability to live together, the values of the republic and in particular human dignity.

‘For instance, someone who would be seeking French citizenship and whose wife wears the full veil is someone who would not appear to be sharing the values of our country.

‘Therefore in a case like that one, we would reject his request.’

You oppress women and you’re not welcome in our country. Sounds like the height of rationality to me.

6. Atheists save the world against the virus of religion in Marvel comic books -

In an issue of The List: Wolverine, the heroes Fantomex (a genetically engineered supersoldier) and Captain Marvel are faced with an army of zombie-like creatures, people who have been infected with an evil virus that can only take over your mind if you believe in some sort of god. So they swing into action, safe from the infection, because neither one believes in gods.


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.16.09

November 17, 2009

1. Mutant genes ‘key to long life’ -

There is a clear link between living to 100 and inheriting a hyperactive version of an enzyme that prevents cells from ageing, researchers say.

Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US say centenarian Ashkenazi Jews have this mutant gene.

They found that 86 very old people and their children had higher levels of telomerase which protects the DNA.

They say it may be possible to produce drugs that stimulate the enzyme.

2. Atheist billboard goes up in San Diego – It’s gotten some great publicity here and in this CNN video. As always, there’s someone in the video claiming that the billboard is attacking people, which perfectly illustrates the level of delusion we’re dealing with here as the ad simply says, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

3. Right-Handed Chimps: Clues to Language Origin -

Most of the linguistic functions in humans are controlled by the left cerebral hemisphere. A study of captive chimpanzees at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Atlanta, Georgia), reported in the January 2010 issue of Elsevier’s Cortex, suggests that this “hemispheric lateralization” for language may have its evolutionary roots in the gestural communication of our common ancestors. A large majority of the chimpanzees in the study showed a significant bias towards right-handed gestures when communicating, which may reflect a similar dominance of the left hemisphere for communication in chimpanzees as that seen for language functions in humans.

4. Westboro Baptist Church shifts focus from gay-bashing to Jew-bashing – Why do I continue to report the antics of these media whores when I know all they care about is getting attention? Because they are my favorite religion ever. They illustrate what is wrong with religion perfectly and get called lunatics by mainstream religious folks despite the fact that they share nearly identical positions. The only difference between Pat Robertson and the WBC is that says gays are evil on TV before an audience of millions while the WBC has to get creative in order to get their audiences.

The shirts read, "I'm not with stupid."

 


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