News From Around The Blogosphere 12.27.10

December 27, 2010

1. Christianity loses majority in England – For the first time, an annual British Social Attitudes survey suggests Christianity does not represent the majority of British citizens, with only 42% self-identifying as Christians while 51% now saying they have no religion. America is making progress in that area as well bu still has ways to go, as 26% of Millennials saying they’re religiously unaffiliated compared with 20% of GenXers and 14% of Baby Boomers.

2. What’s the harm in voodoo? - a Haitian mob has taking to lynching voodoo priests over the belief that voodoo is the cause of the recent cholera outbreak. It should be noted that Germ Theory was being argued as early as at least 1700 by physician Nicolas Andry as an explanation for small pox and other diseases and that John Snow contributed to the formation of the germ theory when he traced the source of the 1854 cholera outbreak in Soho, London. And for those keeping track, the Haitian cholera outbreak being blamed on voodoo is happening in the year 2010, over a hundred and fifty years later. That’s like attributing the dishwasher (1850), sewing machine (1851), and pasteurisation (1856) to demons.

3. I usually don’t like seeing children get spanked but PZ does it so well – Occasionally, PZ Myers posts a particularly egregious creationist email he gets and has his fun dissecting and demolishing its points. This time, it was an email from a creationist claiming to be a 12-year-old boy. Now normally I would say leave the kid alone as it seems overly cruel to publicly ridicule someone so young. But to the kid’s credit (if we take his age at face value), it’s fairly well written for a 12-year-old (minus some glaring typos) and it’s actually precisely the same arguments we hear from adult creationists all the time, so I can’t really fault PZ for using this email as chance to educate.

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Christian Missionaries to Haitian survivors: convert or die

March 1, 2010

You may think I’m being overly dramatic in that headline but Pastor Frank Amedia of Touch Heaven Ministries pretty much said just that:

“We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refused to give up Voodoo, I’m not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn’t want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel.”

This is why no matter how much good is done by missionaries, it will never be a moral act and will never earn my respect. These assholes use food to bribe the less fortunate into converting and if given a choice, would rather people starve to death than live out long, healthy lives as non-Christians. Where’s this objective morality I hear so much about?

Is it any wonder that Haiti’s supreme Voodoo leader vows to wage war against the evangelicals?

Haiti’s supreme voodoo leader has vowed to wage “war” after Evangelicals attacked a ceremony organised by his religion honouring those killed in last month’s massive earthquake.

The attack on Tuesday in the capital’s sprawling Cite Soleil slum came amid rising religious tensions, as Protestant Evangelicals and other denominations recruit followers in the wake of the earthquake that killed more than 200,000.

Some of the fresh converts have said they did so because they believed God caused the earthquake.

“It will be war – open war,” Max Beauvoir, supreme head of Haitian voodoo, said in an interview at his home and temple outside the capital.

Yup, another problem made infinitely worse by religion.


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.1.10

February 2, 2010

1. $7000 talking sex robot - I’ve blogged before about Roxxxy, the world’s most sophisticated talking female sex robot. Now CNN’s talking about it (her?):

Powered by a computer under her soft silicone “skin,” she employs voice-recognition and speech-synthesis software to answer questions and carry on conversations. She even comes loaded with five distinct “personalities,” from Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy, that can be programmed to suit customers’ preferences.

We knew this day was coming and now that time seems to have arrived when we can build robotic women who can converse and fake orgasms.

2. Homeopaths admit their products have no active ingredients – The 10:23 homeopathic overdose campaign has driven the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit that their products do not contain any “material substances”:

Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that “there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining” in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.

Outstanding!

3. Medical researchers working on a pill to treat Fragile X -

Chances are you’ve never heard of the target — Fragile X syndrome — even though it’s the most common inherited form of intellectual impairment, estimated to affect almost 100,000 Americans. It’s also the most common cause of autism yet identified, as about a third of Fragile X-affected boys have autism.

Now a handful of drug makers are working to develop the first treatment for Fragile X, spurred by brain research that is making specialists rethink how they approach developmental disorders.

. . .

“We are moving into a new age of reversing intellectual disabilities,” predicts Dr. Randi Hagerman, who directs the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, a study site.

This is exactly the kind of research that will one day defeat autism but from which ideologues like J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue have publicly called a waste of money because they’re obsessed with fruitless vaccine research. Autism is a genetic disorder and our be hope of treating it besides behavior therapies is manipulating the genes.

4. Henrietta Lack’s immortal cells -

In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line’s impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.

. . .

Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

5. Christians literally claim monopoly on aid in Haiti – Now while that might sound like a good thing, according to a voodoo priest, believers are being discriminated against in their efforts to help and deliberately prevented from getting much-needed aid to followers of their religion:

“The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves,” he claimed. “They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that’s a shame.

6. Point of Inquiry podcast gets new hosts – Now that D.J. Grothe is leaving the Center For Inquiry (CFI) to take on his new role as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, he will no longer be hosting the CFI’s weekly podcast series Point of Inquiry. And now his replacement hosts have been announced:  Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow and Robert Price. For the most part, these are all strong picks. Of course, regular readers may guess that the one person I’m iffy on is Chris Mooney. While I do continue to read and enjoy his blog, The Intersection, one issue that I strongly disagree with him on is his condemnation of so-called “New Atheism” or “militant atheism” as well as his insistence that science and religion can peacefully coexist.  And for this reason, he seems like an unlikely choice to represent the Center For Inquiry, whose secular goals often coincide with that of the more aggressive atheists. Though maybe I’m wrong and his perspective will ultimately just foster more challenging discussions. I hope all three the best of luck.

7. American Atheists trying to buy naming rights to Superbowl stadium for 1 hour? - I think this sounds like a really dumb idea and a total waste of money that could be spent better elsewhere. It would be one thing if they were to buy naming rights to the stadium during the Superbowl or hours before it, but–no, come to think of it, it would still be a dumb idea.


The crazy in Haiti

January 17, 2010

In aftermath of this devastating act of god in Haiti, who are the Haitians praising? The hard-working people offering aid and relief to them in this time of need? No. The devil, as Pat Robertson says they turned to once before [true story]? No. If you said the very same god that they believe caused the earthquake in the first place, then congratulations cause you’re absolutely correct.

Prayers of thanksgiving and cries for help rose from Haiti’s huddled homeless Sunday, the sixth day of an epic humanitarian crisis that was straining the world’s ability to respond and igniting flare-ups of violence amid the rubble of Port-au-Prince.

Yeah, thanks god for giving us this earthquake. We would have preferred you’d given us a stable government and economy, but this is good too. Does the phrase Battered Wife Syndrome mean anything to anybody?

Beside the ruins of the Port-Au-Prince cathedral, where the sun streamed through the shattered stained glass, the priest told his flock at their first Sunday Mass since Tuesday’s earthquake, “We are in the hands of God now.”

That’s funny, cause I thought you were in “God’s” hands six days ago.

Sadly though, that’s not the only crazy going on in Haiti. There’s also voodoo. But as silly as voodoo is, even sillier is the fact that in the wake of this disaster, mainstream religious leaders in Haiti fear “the fatalism inspired by the voodoo religion would militate against recovery.” Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like Brit Hume’s fear that Buddhism doesn’t offer the kind of forgiveness necessary for Tiger Woods.

The death of the Catholic archbishop along with the destruction of the cathedrals will be seen as potent symbols of the failure of those religions to withstand an act of God, he warned.

Ever think that maybe “God” is trying to tell you something?

Fortunately, not everyone in Haiti is crazy as Richard Dawkins announced Unbelievers Giving Aid, a site devoted to raising money for charitable causes like Doctors without Borders and the Red Cross.


News From Around The Blogosphere 10.9.08

October 10, 2008

A collection of analyzes of many studies proving Vitamin C doesn’t cure cancer

Mark Crislip rains on ParadeA little over a week ago, I blogged about my intention to write Parade Magazine for a particularly credulous story they ran that recommended acupuncture among other crap-based medicine. Well, I never got around to it. Fortunately Mark Crislip tore them a new one. Great job, Mark!

NY Times endorses dowsing – I hope they got a good price for that journalist integrity. Maybe the subject of this article would care to take the Randi Million Dollar Challenge.

Speaking of Randi, I’m going to get to see the amazing one in person tomorrow in NYC.

And Randi’s annual skeptic’s convention is also the focus of the latest Captain Disillusion video:

Voodoo! – George Ann Mills, a South Carolina voodoo high priestess, is alleging that Annette Kesting, an Atlanta, Georgia county commissioner, tried to pay her to cast curses on a political rival and bounced checks in the process.

WHAT’S THE HARM?

Attempted Witch Burning – Darin Najor, a 20-year-old adult education student in Michigan, has been charged with assault and battery after dousing his teacher with holy water and trying to burn her with a lighter because he thought she was a witch. Amateur Scientist points out:

Nor does he understand how to properly burn a witch. If someone’s wet, you’re going to have a hard time burning him or her. Yes, even if the water is holy.

For more info. on this story, click here.

The Amateur Scientist blog is now banned in China

Campus Crusade For Christ is raising money to buy supplies for the soldiers - So what are they buying? Armor? No. Guns? No. Bullets? Food? No. Medical equipment? Anything even remotely useful? No. Just useless Bibles.

Sydney Atheists doing charity work in the name of reason

ATHEIST DISCRIMINATION:

Those Evil Humanists – The Humanists and Freethinkers of Cape Fear in North Carolina set up a booth about Humanism and Freethinking at an annual street festival. Someone noticed a sign directed right at them at a local church nearby (and God’s a terrible spell checker):

Richard Dawkins named one of the 50 people who wrecked Britain! WOOO!!! – This critical document was produce by some random guy named Quentin Letts, who clearly has been granted special authority on these matters. And to think I didn’t even know Britain was wrecked? Funny, in all my exchanges with friends living in Britain, not one of them has ever mentioned that Britain is wrecked.

Review of The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville

Christian reality dating show – I can’t beat the comment on Skepchick: “Get advice from a twice-divorced Pentecostal minister who plead guilty to assaulting one of his ex-wives! What better source could there be? “

Browse the artifacts of Geek History in Jay Walker’s library – Coolest library ever!

MONKEY NEWS:

Monkey waiters – In America we only have to compete with Indians and Mexicans for jobs. The Japanese are losing their jobs to monkeys! It’s a mad house. A MAD HOUSE! Damn, dirty primates!

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Circadian Clock May Be Critical For Learning – “The circadian rhythm that quietly pulses inside us all, guiding our daily cycle from sleep to wakefulness and back to sleep again, may be doing much more than just that simple metronomic task, according to Stanford researchers.

Working with Siberian hamsters, biologist Norman Ruby has shown that having a functioning circadian system is critical to the hamsters’ ability to remember what they have learned. Without it, he said, ‘They can’t remember anything.’ “

Computers ‘Taught’ To Search For Photos – “A pair of Penn State researchers has developed a statistical approach, called Automatic Linguistic Indexing of Pictures in Real-Time (ALIPR), that one day could make it easier to search the Internet for photographs.”

Genome Of Relapsing Malaria Parasite Decoded – “In research aimed at addressing a global epidemic, a team of scientists from around the world has cracked the genetic code for the parasite that is responsible for up to 40 percent of the 515 million annual malaria infections worldwide, Nature reveals in its October 9 cover story.”


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