News From Around The Blogosphere 4.21.11

April 22, 2011
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

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1. Andrew Wakefield, the new Jesus? – I’ve often argued that the anti-vaccine movement worships Andrew Wakefield like a religious prophet, but now J.B. Handley has said as much to the NY Times:

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” says J. B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, a group that disputes vaccine safety. “He’s a symbol of how all of us feel.”

2. Studies suggest atheist OUT Campaign works -

Although prejudice is typically positively related to relative outgroup size, four studies found converging evidence that perceived atheist prevalence reduces anti-atheist prejudice. Study 1 demonstrated that anti-atheist prejudice among religious believers is reduced in countries in which atheists are especially prevalent. Study 2 demonstrated that perceived atheist prevalence is negatively associated with anti-atheist prejudice. Study 3 demonstrated a causal relationship: Reminders of atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists. These results appeared distinct from intergroup contact effects. Study 4 demonstrated that prevalence information decreased implicit atheist distrust. The latter two experiments provide the first evidence that mere prevalence information can reduce prejudice against any outgroup. These findings offer insights about anti-atheist prejudice, a poorly understood phenomenon. Furthermore, they suggest both novel directions for future prejudice research and potential interventions that could reduce a variety of prejudices.

3. GM mosquitoes to fight malaria - Scientists believe they’re getting close to being able to modify wild mosquito DNA as a weapon against malaria…using evolution:

In the laboratory, they made a gene spread from a handful of mosquitoes to most of the population in just a few generations, according to a report in Nature.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 12.26.08

December 26, 2008

Hysteria in 4 Acts – Did Sybil really have multiple personalities? Was the Salem Witch Hunts a case of mass hysteria? Did Mesmer actually believe his wacky theories? Do repressed memories exist? All of these questions are explored here.

WHAT’S THE HARM?

vaccine1The price of anti-vaccine fanaticism – Kent Heckenlively, the parent of an autistic child, is now a proud member of the Mercury Militia. Believing his daughter’s autism is the result of vaccine injury has caused him to subject her to lots and lots of pseudo-scientific “treatments” like chelation therapy, which while a legitimate treatment for heavy metal poisoning, has no effect on autism. Sadly, after all of this chelation therapy his daughter has not improved and he’s still convinced it’s not a useless treatment. And for the record, chelation is a very dangerous treatment. Orac responds:

The mercury militia (and, indeed, the antivaccine movement of which the mercury militia is a subgroup) to which Mr. Heckenlively proudly proclaims membership has indeed become like a religion–more like a cult, in fact. It attracts parents desperate to need to believe that there is a cure for autism and willing to pursue it at almost any cost and, worse, it seems every bit as capable of coopting intelligence in pursuit of doctrine and of convincing parents that pseudoscience and even outright magical thinking (the Magical Mystery Virus, for instance) are science.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyModified Plants May Yield More Biofuel – “Plants, genetically modified to ease the breaking down of their woody material, could be the key to a cheaper and greener way of making ethanol, according to researchers who add that the approach could also help turn agricultural waste into food for livestock.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.17.08

November 18, 2008

Australian internet being censored – Of course, as is often the case the excuse is to block child porn. Yeah, sure it is.

Age of Ignorance is born – Since the infamous antivaccinationist blog Age of Autism censors all critical comments (and most important, all of my comments), someone has put together a blog where skeptics can actually comment about posts on AoA without knowing that those comments will never see the light of day.

Only 2% of the scientists in Texas accept or even respect creationism – Wow, didn’t see that one coming.

New Evidence For Martian Oceans? - Well, maybe.

Hawaii County Council to ban genetically modified coffee and taro? – Ugh!

The Sad Box -

People who claim to be generally unhappy watch more TV than those who claim to be generally happy. That’s according to a survey of 30,000 American adults conducted between 1975 and 2006.

Of course, like so many other studies, it’s inconclusive. Even if we can accept there’s a legitimate correlation, that does not prove causation or even which direction that causation would go.

Did Allah give this guy the strength of Superman? -

Let’s look at the claims:

  1. Egyptian guy claims that the doctors (never named them or the hospital or anything) told him he has strength equal to 300,000 men, approximately 260 horsepower.
  2. He has 4 wives, needing 4 to satisfy his sexual appetite without wearing one out over the course of the 15 times per day he needs booty.
  3. He eats a lot of meat and drinks melted butter.
  4. He can’t work because he is afraid his boss might provoke him into going crazy and killing him.
  5. He refused to demonstrate his strength by picking up a car by saying that there is a risk for an energy surge that might make him destroy the car and everything around him.
  6. He refused to shake the host’s hand because he was afraid he would crush his hand.
  7. He demonstrated his “incredible strength” by bending an Egyptian coin with his thumb and eye socket, and it didn’t hurt him.
  8. He throws “Praise Allah” and other completely irrelevant things into the discussion (I went to the store today to pick up ice cream. Praise Muhammad, Prophet of Allah).

Well I don’t know about you but I’m convinced.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyCould Stem Cells Regenerate Injured Liver? - “A novel protein marker has been found that identifies rare adult liver stem cells, whose ability to regenerate injured liver tissue has the potential for cell-replacement therapy. For the first time, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine led by Linda Greenbaum, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, have demonstrated that cells expressing the marker can differentiate into both liver cells and cells that line the bile duct.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.14.08

November 15, 2008

Even Better Than The Real Thing – Placebo acupuncture (if ever there were a more redundant phrase) more effective at getting you knocked up than real acupuncture:

A study comparing the effects of real and placebo acupuncture on pregnancy rates during assisted reproduction has found that, surprisingly, placebo acupuncture was associated with a significantly higher overall pregnancy rate than real acupuncture.

GM food hysteria is back in the news – A recent study found that a long-term diet of genetically modified corn decreases fertility in lab mice. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything for humans and therefore further research will have to be done. But of course the usual GM-phobic suspects are trying to tout this study as proof that their delusional rants have been justified for all these years. Um, no. You see pretty everything we eat in the 21st Century is genetically modified and without which millions of people around the world would starve.

Obama endorsing chiropractic? – Please just be paying lip service. I really don’t want my tax dollars to be squandered on this crap.

Damned for voting Obama? -

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman, a South Carolina Roman Catholic priest, has warned his parishioners that they will be committing a deadly sin if they voted for Barack Obama and accept Holy Communion before doing penance. His rationale? That supporting the pro-choice Obama “constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil”. He goes on to describe Obama as “the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate”.

Um, can’t we take away this lunatic’s tax exempt status for preaching from the pulpit?

creationism-cartoon-i-will-not-teach-horse-shitAlternate title suggestion: “The Road To Ignorance Contest”or Shameless Discovery Institute Attempt to Exploit Child Labor & Promote Religious Ideas Deemed Unworthy by the Scientific Peer Review Process.

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergency

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

77-million-year-old Dinosaur ‘Whodunit’ Solved – “It has all the hallmarks of a Cretaceous melodrama. A dinosaur sits on her nest of a dozen eggs on a sandy river beach. Water levels rise, and the mother is faced with a dilemma: Stay or abandon her unhatched offspring to the flood and scramble to safety?

Seventy-seven million years later, scientific detective work conducted by University of Calgary and Royal Tyrrell Museum researchers used this unique fossil nest and eggs to learn more about how nest building, brooding and eggs evolved. But there is a big unresolved question: Who was the egg-layer?” Keep in mind that this would have been 76,994,000 years before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists. But who’s counting?

Prehistoric Pelvis: Clues To Human Development – “Discovery of the most intact female pelvis of Homo erectus may cause scientists to reevaluate how early humans evolved to successfully birth larger-brained babies.”

Ultimate Recycling: Turning Urine Into Water – “Two hundred and fifty miles above the Earth puts you a long way from the nearest kitchen tap. And at $15,000 a pint, the cost of shipping fresh water aboard the space shuttle is, well, astronomical.

So astronauts on the International Space Station have to recapture every possible drop. That includes water evaporated from showers, shaving, tooth brushing and hand washing, plus perspiration and water vapor that collects within the astronauts’ space suits. They even transfer water from the fuel cells that provide electric power to the space shuttle.

Until now, however, NASA has not attempted to tap one major potential source of water: urine. That will soon change with the deployment of the new Water Recovery System. It departs Friday, Nov. 14, from the Kennedy Space Center on the Space Shuttle Endeavor.”

Mineral Kingdom Has Co-evolved With Life – “Evolution isn’t just for living organisms. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution have found that the mineral kingdom co-evolved with life, and that up to two thirds of the more than 4,000 known types of minerals on Earth can be directly or indirectly linked to biological activity.”

Fish Choose Their Leaders By Consensus – “Just after Americans have headed to the polls to elect their next president, a new report in the November 13th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, reveals how one species of fish picks its leaders: Most of the time they reach a consensus to go for the more attractive of two candidates.” Wow, so it’s just like our democracy then.

Marine Plankton Found In Amber – “Marine microorganisms have been found in amber dating from the middle of the Cretaceous period. The fossils were collected in Charente, in France. This completely unexpected discovery will deepen our understanding of these lost marine species as well as providing precious data about the coastal environment of Western France during the Cretaceous.”

Light Triggers New Code For Brain Cells – “Brain cells can adopt a new chemical code in response to cues from the outside world, scientists working with tadpoles at the University of California, San Diego report in the journal Nature.

. . . Dark tadpoles don pale camouflage when exposed to bright light. The researchers have now identified cells in the tadpole brain that respond to illumination by making dopamine, a chemical message, or neurotransmitter, recognized by the system that controls pigmentation.”

A glimpse at some possible future atheist ads – Admittedly, I’m not a fan of most of them. The only one I like from the bunch is this one:

But I still love last year’s billboards much, much more:

atheist-billboard1atheistbillboard2

None of these weak phrases like “There is probably no God.” These are much stronger and less likely to viewed as offensive or be written off as atheists just looking for friends because they’re desperate and lonely.


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