This Week In God 8.10.11

August 10, 2011

1. Three great blogs moving – PZ Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, has moved from Scienceblogs to freethoughtblogs. Though he still posts some of his material at the old site, I’m not crazy about this move because because freethoughtblogs seems more atheist-focused whereas scienceblogs at least gives the impression of Pharyngula being more science-focused, regardless of whether the actual emphasis changes or not. Hermant Mehta has also moved his Friendly Atheist blog to Patheos, a site hosting blogs from many different religious and spiritual perspectives. I think this one was a good move because it gives Mehta’s atheist blog a great opportunity to gain readers among the religious, and this could possibly change some people’s views about atheism. And lastly, blogger Greta Christina will be soon moving her blog to freethoughtblogs. I’m fairly neutral about this because she’s already got a strong atheist readership, so I don’t expect much change one way or the other in terms of her readership.

2. Speaking of PZ Myers, he too has now publicly taken a position on the American Atheists’ lawsuit over the “9/11 Cross.” It seems that even that nasty militant atheist that Jeff Wagg today (I think quite unfairly) called the “FoxNews of atheism” in a tweet agrees with me that it’s just not worth the effort and that we’ve got bigger fish to fry:

I can understand that in principle it’s promoting religion, and I look at that random chunk of steel that forms a crude cross and can see that it is abysmally stupid to consider it a holy relic, but man, if atheists have to police every single act of stupidity committed by the human race, we’re going to get very, very tired. We need to pick our battles better, and this one is just plain pointless.

3. Stephen Hawking’s Curiosity refutes god on Discover Channel – You can watch the whole first installment at the link above…at least for now.

4. Jonathan T. Pararajasingham follows up his videos of 100 academics explaining their atheism with a 25-minute video of 20 academics and theologians explaining why they believe in god. The former is a wonderful collection of brilliant thinkers making intelligent arguments in favor of atheism while the latter is a depressing example of how motivated reasoning can poison the minds of otherwise intelligent people, causing them to make the most asinine and incoherent arguments to defend their indefensible faith.

5. Evolution wins out in Texas – Okay, I’m very late on this story. So sue me. The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution in a 14-0 vote, approving scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers, rejecting the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC.

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Miss USA contestants on teaching evolution

June 23, 2011

The Miss USA pageant was held this past weekend, and one of the questions put to the contestants was whether they thought evolution should be taught in schools:

Actually, there’s at least a fifty percent chance that that was a clip from a GOP presidential candidate Q&A. Regardless however, it demonstrates a mind-boggling poor education on the part of the young contestants as well as the pageant committee themselves, considering there’s no debate over whether scientific facts should be taught in science classrooms.

Now some bloggers have been overjoyed that one of the few contestants who could be said to have actually supported the teaching of evolution in her answer, Miss California Alyssa Campanella ended up winning the pageant. I find this position overly optimistic given how poor even her answer was:

Well, I was taught evolution in my high school growing up, and I do believe in it. I mean, I’m a huge science geek, so I like to believe in, like, the Big Bang Theory and, you know, the evolution of humans, you know, throughout, you know, time.

While certainly one of the better answers, that doesn’t say much. Even this answer is asinine. Evolution and the Big Bang aren’t ideas one just decides to believe; they’re facts. I don’t “like to believe” in gravity; I simply recognize that gravity is an undeniable fact.

And while nobody really takes the idea seriously that the women who win these pageants are “role models,” I resent any organization that would attempt to present such woefully uneducated as role models for anyone. Not a single woman in this pageant is intellectually qualified to be a role model for anyone. The one legitimately positive thing I’ll say about the winner, Alyssa Campanella , is that she endorses the No on Prop 8 campaign, a welcome change from two years ago when former Miss California Carrie Prejean made headlines when she expressed her disapproval of marriage equality:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 5.4.11

May 4, 2011

1. Mark Geier is stripped of his medical license – For those who don’t know, Mark Geier and his son David have been “treating” autistic children with chemical castration for several years now. As far as I’m concerned, that puts them pretty much write behind Osama bin Laden on the list of worst human beings alive. Oh, that’s right. Osama’s dead. That might possibly bump father and son Geier up to worst people on Earth. So I’m delighted to hear that the Maryland medical board decided to strip Mark Geier of his medical license. You can see the official 48-page decision in .pdf format here. Also, Orac chimes in on the news here.

2. Robots learn to share -This article is deceptively more about the evolution of altruism than robots, but still pretty interesting and worth the read:

Using simple robots to simulate genetic evolution over hundreds of generations, Swiss scientists provide quantitative proof of kin selection and shed light on one of the most enduring puzzles in biology: Why do most social animals, including humans, go out of their way to help each other? In the online, open access journal PLoS Biology, EPFL robotics professor Dario Floreano teams up with University of Lausanne biologist Laurent Keller to weigh in on the oft-debated question of the evolution of altruism genes.

3. Acupuncture needle found in former South Korean president’s lung -

Former South Korean president Roh Tae-woo was admitted to hospital with a bad cough and ended up on the operating table to remove an acupuncture needle from his right lung.

So let’s look at the cost/benefit ratio. Acupuncture has no benefit, and it can possibly kill you.

“I can’t figure out how the needle got into there,” Dr Sung Myung-whun was quoted as telling reporters at the hospital after the operation. “It is a mystery for me, too.”

Call me crazy, but I suspect the needle “got into there” while you were callously jabbing them into the man’s body. Just a thought. How appropriate that “woo” is in the ex-president’s name. I think comedian Dmitri Martin had the best response to acupuncture.

4. The illusion of being watched can make you a better person – We’re already well past the final nail in the coffin of the Christian view of morality, but here’s just another interesting incite into human behavior. Not only do we tend to act more morally when being watched, but we even do so when we see posters of staring eyes.

5. Facebook finally answers age-old question of who’d win in a fight: Jesus or Batman?

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Rep. Jack Kingston campaigning for dumbing man on Earth

January 29, 2011

There’s so much stupid in this clip, it makes my head hurt.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.22.10

December 22, 2010

1. Catholic Church tells hospital they should have let patient die – A pregnant woman who was almost certainly going to die came into St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. The doctors knew that in order to save the woman’s life, they’d have to abort the fetus. And it worked. But the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix didn’t like that decision and so they essentially excommunicated the hospital from any Catholic affiliation. They actually punished a hospital for putting patient life first. Though I guess it’s not really a punishment since now the hospital administration can continue to act ethically without having to give the misguided and ignorant opinions of Catholic officials another thought.

And speaking of the Catholic Church…

2. WikiLeaks uncovers another possible Vatican scandal – The Vatican originally agreed in writing to take up observer status with the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, referred to as the ITF. Then, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable from WikiLeaks, they reneged on the agreement amid controversy over the role of the war-time pope.

She added that the deal “had fallen apart completely … due to Vatican back-pedaling,” according to the cable, which was published by the newspaper.

The message says this decision “may have been taken by the Vatican’s relatively inexperienced new deputy foreign minister (Ettore Balestrero), and if so, would not be the first time he has complicated Vatican foreign relations.”

However, it added: “The Vatican may also be pulling back due to concerns about ITF pressure to declassify records from the WWII-era pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

Yup, you can always count on the Vatican…for a good scandal.

3. Gallop poll suggests America is gradually moving towards accepting evolution – When it comes to accepting evolution, America is somewhat of an embarrassment to the rest of the world. In recent years, polls have shown that up to 47% of Americans are Young Earth Creationists. But a new poll suggests that number is now only 40%. Still not anything remotely to be proud of but it suggests that maybe our efforts to take on the creationists may be yielding positive results.

4. Sanjay Gupta embarrassingly uncritical of John of God – Unfortunately, CNN hasn’t put up the video yet of this segment, but I’ve linked to their blog about it. For those who don’t know, John of God is a Brazilian con artist posing as a faith healer. He does nothing we haven’t seen other “faith healers” who have been exposed as frauds have done, and yet Sanjay Gupta and his guests still found him to be “mysterious.” In fact, given how many times they reminded the audience during this segment that the universe is mysterious and there are still things we don’t know, Gupta made it clear that journalistic and scientific integrity was not very high on his list of priorities. I intend to write to CNN to express my outrage over the segment and demand that they fire Sanjay Gupta for his anti-intellectual nonsense. I hope others will join me in this campaign.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 11.12.10

November 12, 2010

1. Modeling autism in a lab dish -

A collaborative effort between researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the University of California, San Diego, successfully used human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells derived from patients with Rett syndrome to replicate autism in the lab and study the molecular pathogenesis of the disease.

Their findings, published in the Nov. 12, 2010, issue of Cell, revealed disease-specific cellular defects, such as fewer functional connections between Rett neurons, and demonstrated that these symptoms are reversible, raising the hope that, one day, autism maybe turn into a treatable condition.

2. Louisiana at war with textbooks over evolution – High school biology textbooks are being accused of putting “too much credibility in the theory of evolution.” And in related news, math text books are being accused of putting too much credibility in subtraction.

3. All life on Earth could originate from alien zombies -An interesting twist on the speculation of panspermia is that life on Earth could have emerged from alien viruses that were already dead but still carried enough information to spawn new life.

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John May Lives

September 20, 2010

For a number of years now, the Catholic Church (as primitive as they are) have actually accepted the scientific fact of evolution. But not all Catholic officials do. Conor Lenihan, an Irish a Minister of State with special responsibility for Science, is not a fan. In fact, he expressed his support for a creationist book unoriginally titled “The Origin of Specious Nonsense” written by John J. May.

I know what you’re thinking? How could an authority on science oppose evolution? Don’t worry. He doesn’t actually have any scientific credentials. Apparently science authorities in the Catholic Church don’t require any scientific expertise.

As for May, he calls Lucy a hoax, “saying that it was made from a pig’s jawbone and that this was a well-known fact.”

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2 billion year old fossil discovered

July 1, 2010

1. 2 billion year old fossil found -

A newly discovered group of 2.1-billion-year-old fossil organisms may be the earliest known example of complex life on Earth. They could help scientists understand not just when higher life forms evolved, but why.

Single-celled organisms emerged from the primordial soup about 3.4 billion years ago. Almost immediately, some gathered in mats. But it was another 1.4 billion years before the first truly multicellular organism, called Grypania spiralis, appears in the fossil record.

The newly described fossils, which have yet to be given a species name, make Grypania less solitary. They lived at roughly the same time — Grypania in what is now the northern United States, the new fossils in Gabon. By raising the possiblity that multicellularity was a trend rather than an aberration, they also hint at an answer to the question of why complex life evolved, not just when.

2.1 BILLION! That’s with a “B”. For those keeping track, that’s 2,099,994,000 before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.


News From Around The Blogosphere 4.15.10

April 16, 2010

1. Teacher to retire over controversy over his teaching of evil-ution - Mark Tangarone teaches third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program at Weston Intermediate School. Unfortunately, the administration isn’t very gifted:

Mr. Tangarone, a 17-year veteran of the Weston school system, claims that a program he wanted to teach about Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln was rejected by the school administration because it involved teaching evolution — the scientific theory that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor.

2. American professor says UFO Studies should be ‘legitimate university subject’ – Philip Haseley thinks this is a legitimate university subject? Well you know who I think would disagree with him? James Carrion, who until just a few weeks ago was the International Director for the Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network (MUFON), who just a week ago called the entire field of UFOlogy “humans deceiving humans.” And this guy had more access to the “evidence” than virtually every other person in the UFO community.

3. Polio finally being stamped out in Nigeria and India – Polio has been eradicated from virtually every corner of the Earth. There’s only about five countries left that still have polio, all of which have dreadful vaccination rates. But now finally two of those remaining nations are winning that battle. Rising vaccination rates and sudden decrease in polio? To the vaccine denial community I ask, coincidence?

That's one lonely cross

4. Editor of leading Catholic publication joins critics – Thomas Fox, the editor of the National Catholic Reporter has defected:

In a column fronting the newspaper’s website, Fox on Wednesday wrote that the remarks in Chile this week by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as the Vatican’s secretary of state is Pope Benedict XVI’s top aide, “sounds more like scapegoating than anything else.”

“What we have here is a huge gulf between the thinking of some top church officials — in this case a very important one — and that of most ordinary Catholics and others. This is a very revealing and equally troubling moment,” Fox wrote.

“Those of us who have followed the wider church story for years have seen this gulf growing. Where we go from here, how the Catholic faithful respond, remains to me a perplexing mystery,” he said.

5. Former $cientologist Amy Scobee to expose more Tom Cruise ‘secrets’ in new book – Not surprisingly…

His powerhouse attorney Bert Fields has already sent a letter denying Scobee’s claims and threatening legal action against her.

6. Oregon jury gives Boy Scouts of America merit badge for negligence in sexual abuse - As a result, Kerry Lewis has been awarded 1.4 million in damages over being sexually abused by an assistant Scoutmaster in the early 1980′s.

Now where's that negligence merit badge?


News From Around The Blogosphere 3.10.10

March 11, 2010

1. I’ll have water on the rocks – Turns out we didn’t need to blow up the moon to find water because there was water in the rock samples we got decades ago the whole time:

The water levels detected in Apollo moon rocks and volcanic glasses are in the thousands of parts per million, at most—which explains why analyses of the samples in the late 1960s and early 1970s concluded that the moon was absolutely arid.

Oops!

2. Debunking creationists? Yeah, there’s an App for that – I blogged before about the The Counter-Creationism Handbook App but this one, Creationist Claims, is specifically for the iPhone.

3. Song For James Randi - Randi has now been immortalized in song, thanks to Tense Kids.

4. Human culture may have a powerful effect on evolution -

Although it does shield people from other forces, culture itself seems to be a powerful force of natural selection. People adapt genetically to sustained cultural changes, like new diets. And this interaction works more quickly than other selective forces, “leading some practitioners to argue that gene-culture co-evolution could be the dominant mode of human evolution,” Kevin N. Laland and colleagues wrote in the February issue of Nature Reviews Genetics. Dr. Laland is an evolutionary biologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

5. New study furthers evidence of flu shot benefits -

An unusual study done in 49 remote Hutterite farming colonies in western Canada has provided the surest proof yet that giving flu shots to schoolchildren protects a whole community from the disease.

Although previous studies have demonstrated what scientists call “herd immunity,” none have been so incontrovertible, because they were done in less isolated places with more sources of flu passing through. Also, only one other study, done 42 years ago, immunized over 80 percent of a community’s children, as this one did. Success repeated in many separate communities with very high vaccination rates implies that the shots themselves — rather than luck, viral mutations, hand-washing or any other factor — were the crucial protective element.

So will the anti-vaxxers come around? Of course not. They’ll be throwing every excuse possible to reject this study and slander those who conducted it, the journalist who wrote the article, and the NY Times itself.

And speaking of the flu. . .

6. Stephen Novella gives an update on the H1N1 flu - Just because the media stopped talking about it, it doesn’t mean H1N1 didn’t have serious consequences. Fortunately, despite the massive anti-vaccine campaign against the vaccine, many Americans actually did get the vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine, leading to a solid victory for medicine. While the numbers of those infected and who died of H1N1 were a bit high, the seasonal flu ended up doing far less damage than usual. Of course once again the success of vaccines will be exploited by the deniers who regarded the hype surrounding H1N1 as nothing but fear-mongering to get people to get the poisonous vaccines. But at least they can’t point to many cases of vaccine injury either, so it kinda evens out in the end anyway with fewer deaths than we feared, making it a cause to celebrate.

7. Another pharmacist refuses to do her job for her religion -

Janine Deeley, 38, thought the woman was joking when she took her on one side and said : “I don’t give out contraceptive pills because of my religion.”

The mother of two teenage daughters, from Wybourn , Sheffield, said : “I couldn’t believe the arrogance of the woman . Who is she to refuse to give me properly prescribed legal drugs?

“The irony is that one reason why I am prescribed the pill is because I suffer from endometriosis which causes painful periods.

I don’t know if that counts as irony but misappropriates of words aside, this is ridiculous. If your religion prevents you from doing your job, get another job. It’s that fucking simple!


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