News From Around The Blogosphere 8.30.08

August 31, 2008

Barack Obama answers Science Debate 2008 questions

More dirt on Sarah Palin – But if you’re Christian and insane, you’re going to love her!

A Northhampton museum is being accused of pandering to creationists by covering up a portion of text on a Darwin exhibit.

Crows can recognize faces.

Heavy metal monk

Reprogramming the pancreas – changing adult cells into other types of cells

Yesterday, Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition appeared on The Colbert Report during Stephen Colbert’s “Better Know a Lobby” segment. You can watch the segment here.

The Colbert Report segment humorously ended with Colbert singing “God Bless America,” which coincidentally happens to be at the center of this next story about a man considering legal action against the New York Yankees after he was ejected from Tuesday night’s contest against the Boston Red Sox for trying to use the restroom during the playing of “God Bless America.”

A skeptic takes on new job as “a major component of the face” of a still unknown and presumably Wall Street company – I for one am happy knowing an ethical skeptic is in such a high position.Congratulations to Jon Blumenfeld, who “has been on and around Wall Street since 1989, as a trader and researcher in interest rates and their associated financial products. Most recently he was an Interest Rate Strategist at Bear Stearns and Co., where he was named to Institutional Investor Magazine’s All-America Fixed Income Research team for Interest Rate Derivatives in 2007. He is looking forward to starting a new career, the details of which are in the final stages of negotiation.”

How astrology ruined Myanmar’s economy


The bank Jesus would have used . . . had he not been so down on usury.

Integrity’s employees regularly prayed before meetings or in branch lobbies with customers, while the bank gave 10 percent of its net income to charities.

“We felt if we prayed and obeyed God’s word and did what He asked, that He would help us be successful,” the bank’s founder, Steve Skow, told the Journal-Constitution in 2005.

What was god’s response? The bank failed.

No really interesting science news today.

News From Around The Blogosphere 8.29.08

August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin – creationist sympathizer – In the past she’s stated that science classes should “teach the controversy” between Evolution and Creationism. I wonder if she thinks we should also teach these equally valid controversies:

Winged Cat in China:

Abbie Smith determines that Young Earth Creationists & Old Earth Creationists, as stupid as they are, are still better than the “Intelligent Design” proponents

Reasons to be skeptical of Meta-analyses

“Patient-Centered Care” and the Society for Integrated Oncology

Get ready for flu season – If you’re Kim Stagliano from the “Age of Autism” blog, you probably think the flu is harmless because you never saw anyone die of the flu in Leave It To Beaver, but it’s actually responsible for 35,000 deaths a year.

Autism “Research” Institute (ARI) announces Autism TV – Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong. There’s a reason I put quotation marks around the word “Research.” Yup, this is a front group for propagating anti-vaccine misinformation. In fact, the Age of Autism blog says they’re sponsored by the ARI. What a depressing development. But I suppose Jenny McCarthy will probably have a job again.

Critical Thinking Test – Would you buy this product?

The Rick Warren Magazine – Could this be the future?


Arctic Ice On Verge Of Another All-time Low – “Following last summer’s record minimum ice cover in the Arctic, current observations from ESA’s Envisat satellite suggest that the extent of polar sea-ice may again shrink to a level very close to that of last year.”

Why Flies Are So Hard To Swat – “Over the past two decades, Michael Dickinson has been interviewed by reporters hundreds of times about his research on the biomechanics of insect flight. One question from the press has always dogged him: Why are flies so hard to swat? … Long before the fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat, comes up with an escape plan, and places its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way in the opposite direction. All of this action takes place within about 100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the swatter.”

Eyes Evolved For ‘X-Ray Vision’ – “The advantage of using two eyes to see the world around us has long been associated solely with our capacity to see in 3-D. Now, a new study from a scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has uncovered a truly eye-opening advantage to binocular vision: our ability to see through things.” The article also says:

“All animals have a binocular region — parts of the world that both eyes can see simultaneously — which allows for X-ray vision and grows as eyes become more forward facing.

Demonstrating our X-ray ability is fairly simple: hold a pen vertically and look at something far beyond it. If you first close one eye, and then the other, you’ll see that in each case the pen blocks your view. If you open both eyes, however, you can see through the pen to the world behind it.

To demonstrate how our eyes allow us to see through clutter, hold up all of your fingers in random directions, and note how much of the world you can see beyond them when only one eye is open compared to both. You miss out on a lot with only one eye open, but can see nearly everything behind the clutter with both.”

And in monkey news…

Unexpected Monkey Population Found In Cambodia – “A Wildlife Conservation Society report reveals surprisingly large populations of two globally threatened primates in a protected area in Cambodia. The report counted 42,000 black-shanked douc langurs along with 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons in Cambodia’s Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, an estimate that represents the largest known populations for both species in the world.”

This is Bob. He’s lost his smile, his confidence, and over $500 million

August 29, 2008

You know those annoying commercials for Enzyte, said to provide “male enhancement,” which means “more confidence” and stuff like that because it would be illegal for a bogus product to make specific claims it can’t back up? Well, Steve Warshak, 42, the founder of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, the company that makes Enzyte, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to repay more than $500 million to customers. A federal jury convicted the company, founder Warshak, and several others of fraud, money laundering and bogus claims about the effectiveness of Berkeley’s products.

Bob is no longer smiling.

News From Around The Blogosphere 8.28.08

August 29, 2008

The broadcast of Stephen Colbert’s “Better Know A Lobbyist” segment featuring Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition for America was unfortunately postponed until tomorrow in a first-ever Friday broadcast.

The Stroop Effect – New website where you can take the color test. From a skeptical point of view, I find this test interesting because it’s an effective way of illustrating how easily the brain can be deceived. I’m reminded of the cheap trick creationist Ray Comfort frequently takes advantage of this basic psychological effect when facing a scientifically educated opponent when out “witnessing” or preaching on the street. Comfort will ask you to spell the word, “Shop.” Then after you do it, he’ll ask you what you do when you come to a green light.” After being primed with the word, “Shop” a moment earlier, most people automatically say “stop.” Comfort then uses this to knock down his straw man that you claimed some sort of infallibility. It usually impresses a crowd and makes Comfort seem as though he’s beaten you in a battle of wits even though he’s just as susceptible to the phenomenon and it has nothing to do with the debate. So if ever you want to look intellectually superior to someone before a crowd, here’s how. And here’s Ray Comfort’s Book of Tricks for your enjoyment.

Where’s Jesus Now! – If you guessed on a moth, YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!

My favorite Christian, Fred Phelps of The Westboro Baptist Church, on the DNC:

This guy makes my job SOOO much easier.

List of the most influential science blogs – Of those that made the list that I check on a daily basis: Pharyngula (#3), Respectful Insolence (#7), and denialism blog (#15). Congrats guys!


This is why we don’t take pope Ratzinger seriously – These are his white whales::

Galileo gets a statue at Vatican – I guess this is a just a small token to show there are no hard feelings over that whole having kept him under house arrest for the remaining years of his life under false pretenses. One conservative Catholic writer, Atila Sinke Guimarães dismisses the church’s mistreatment of Galileo as a “black legend” and says the scientist got what he deserved for having the audacity of being right, adding:

“The Inquisition was very moderate with him. He wasn’t tortured.”















Lesbian rights pioneer Del Martin dies at 87


Lesbians – A threat to national security? – Oops. Correction, only lesbian t-shirts are a threat to national security. Oooohhh! That makes MUCH MORE SENSE! Wow. They didn’t even wait until the body was cold, did they?

Anti-vaxxers dirty tactic – Orac discusses their habit of “outing” the identities of their anonymous blogger critics presumably to shut them up through intimidation.









Attitudes and Public Health

Largest “randomized” acupuncture study ever done: why do they even bother?

And here’s another skeptic’s take on the study.







Subliminal Learning Demonstrated In Human Brain – “Although the idea that instrumental learning can occur subconsciously has been around for nearly a century, it had not been unequivocally demonstrated. Now, a new study published by Cell Press in the August 28 issue of the journal Neuron used sophisticated perceptual masking, computational modeling, and neuroimaging to show that instrumental learning can occur in the human brain without conscious processing of contextual cues.”

Jamaican Lizard Does Push-Ups To Stay Strong – “What does Jack LaLanne have in common with a Jamaican lizard? Like the ageless fitness guru, the lizards greet each new day with vigorous push-ups. That’s according to a new study showing that male Anolis lizards engage in impressive displays of reptilian strength — push-ups, head bobs, and threatening extension of a colorful neck flap called a dewlap — to defend their territory at dawn and dusk.”

One Form Of Adult Cell Transformed Into Another – “In a feat of biological prestidigitation likely to turn the field of regenerative medicine on its head, Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) co-director Doug Melton and post doctoral fellow Qiao “Joe” Zhou report having achieved what has long been a dream and ultimate goal of developmental biologists – directly turning one type of fully formed adult cell into another type of adult cell.”

The most insanely stupid thing I’ve heard all wee

August 28, 2008

It suddenly occurs to me that there’s no limit to how bat nuts these anti-vaxxers can be. This is a bulletin I received from someone on Myspace:

“Vaccines Suppress the Immune System

Vaccines and Immune Suppression~ Dr. Mercola. com

Vaccines, all vaccines, are immune suppressing; that is they depress our immune functions. The chemicals in the vaccines depress our immune system; the virus present depresses immune function, and the foreign DNA/RNA from animal tissues depresses immunity. Toraldo, et al found that the chemotaxis and metabolic function of PMNs (polymorphonuclear neutrophils) was significantly reduced after vaccinations were given and did not return to normal for months. Other indicators of immune system depression included reduced lymphocyte viability, neutrophil hyper-segmentation,

and a reduced white cell count. All vaccines are immune depressing to some extent and that is the trade-off we are risking. The medical thought is that we trade a small immune depression for an immunity to one disease. Now let me repeat, we are trading a total immune system depression (our only defense against all known disease – including millions of pathogens) for a temporary immunity against one disease, usually an innocuous childhood disease. Therefore, the trade is not at all fair. Mullins puts it this way, “Are we trading mumps and measles for cancer and AIDS.”

The trade-off is not worth the risk. We are risking getting many more diseases than we are “preventing” from getting. [Later we will see that there is literally no prevention.] Another good example is the ritual of the yearly flu shot. There may be only two or three varieties of flu viruses in each shot, hence the names “Asian-Flu”, “Japanese-Flu” “Indian-Flu” or “Swine-Flu”. But there are literally thousands, may be millions of flu-causing viruses. Taking one or two does not make sense and many people report getting the flu after taking a flu shot. We do not know which variety of flu will affect us each year and in each locale. Therefore, the best method to avoid the flu is to strengthen our immune system by eating properly and getting all the essential vitamins and minerals that our body needs. Only nutrition can build and support a strong immune system, while vaccines help to tear our immunity down. Vaccines have been linked to AIDS and other immuno-deficient disorders as well.

Vaccinations depress our body’s immune functions and that keeps us open to developing many other diseases. It is very childish to think that we are going to take one flu vaccine and never get sick from the many varieties of flu that exist, especially since viruses can mutate so fast when the conditions arise. Keeping up with these fast mutating viruses can only be done by priming our immune system with good nutrition and keeping the conditions/environment for their growth minimal. In other words, pathogenic viruses will not grow where the conditions will not allow it. It is the terrain which dictates our health and not the germs/viruses themselves. Germs are pleiomorphic, meaning that they can change with their environment; rods become cocci, and vice-versa. Thinking that germs cause disease means that we are not responsible for our own health and we place that responsibility in the hands of some one who has the means to kill these germs with toxic chemicals (drugs), even if those drugs/vaccines harm our body. Vaccines prevent health!”

What is it that has led people to the belief that measles and mumps are harmless diseases? Sure, if you’re fortunate enough to live in the West, it usually is NOW. This strikes me as silly as claiming that removing bullets from guns isn’t worth it because after the bullets are removed, the gun is pretty harmless. What kind of circular insane troll logic is that? Again, the fact that in the U.S. among other nations, these once feared fatal illnesses have been made so impotent by vaccines that people don’t even remember a time when measles, mumps, rubella, and polio were even serious threats, illustrates what many others have been saying, that vaccines are now suffering from having been too successful. But had we had people back then reaching such horribly poor reasoned conclusions humanity wouldn’t have conquered any of these diseases. 

The claim that “vaccines prevent health” is patently absurd as is the claim that the solution to disease is simply good nutrition combined with some abstract notion of ridding ourselves of environmental toxins. Germs and bacteria exist everywhere and are even to a large degree necessary for our own survival. And I’d very much like to know who is telling these people that one flu vaccine is all they’ll ever need to avoid the flu because no legitimate doctor I’ve ever heard of would make such an idiotic statement. 

Further, the poster says, “Thinking that germs cause disease means that we are not responsible for our own health and we place that responsibility in the hands of some one who has the means to kill these germs with toxic chemicals (drugs), even if those drugs/vaccines harm our body.”

This is a logical fallacy known as argument from final consequences. Thinking that germs cause disease (which they do) only means germs cause disease. This is like the creationist who says “If we came from a monkey, doesn’t that give us permission to act like a monkey?” 

News From Around The Blogosphere 8.27.08

August 28, 2008

Stem cell technology may make blood donations a thing of the past

Proof that prayer works? – Not quite. Remember when Focus on the Family asked people to pray for rain during the DNC and it didn’t happen but by then everyone forgot all about it? Well, apparently god missed and instead a sprinkler went off, flooding a skybox booth belonging to Fox News. I guess even god hates Fox News.

The standing of science in America – Interesting column from Science Progress. Here’s it’s conclusion:

“Americans might tune in to some science news, visit science museums, and even adjust their diets and prescriptions based upon the latest studies. But it’s not enough. Without anything beyond a surface-level appreciation of science, they stand far too blind when staring down something of paramount importance: The future.”

Where do you get your mercury? – Today’s issue of JAMA has an interesting study of Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicines. It turns out that many of them contain a significant amount of toxic heavy metals…including mercury, and much higher levels than the minute traces found in a flu vaccine. Here, we’re dealing with actual dangerous levels of the stuff.

Christians continue their long-honored tradition of crappy knock-offs of other people’s video games

SECULAR VALUE VOTERS! – The Secular Coalition for America is taking back the word “values” from the Religious Right.

Stephen Colbert better know an atheist tomorrow – My favorite secular lobbyist Lori Lipman Brown is to appear on The Colbert Report tomorrow night (Thursday) during the “Better Know A Lobbyist” segment.

A Christian Critique of $cientology – This is a funny piece in the way it compares the 2 remarkably similar belief systems, though to be clear, while Christianity has some cult-like behaviors, Scientology is a cult in the strictest sense of the word. And it’s important to clarify that as insanely dopey as their beliefs are, my principle criticism is of their cult behavior because otherwise they’ll just try to get away with claiming we’re just bigoted towards their “religion.”


Yet another Creationist EPIC FAIL! – This time they’re taken down by the publication Chemical and Engineering News.


First Prehistoric Pregnant Turtle Discovered – “A 75-million-year-old fossil of a pregnant turtle and a nest of fossilized eggs that were discovered in the badlands of southeastern Alberta by scientists and staff from the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology are yielding new ideas on the evolution of egg-laying and reproduction in turtles and tortoises.”

Hobbit-like Dwarfs: Bone Parts Don’t Add Up – “Misinterpreted fragments of leg bones, teeth and brow ridges found in Palau appear to be an archaeologist’s undoing, according to researchers at three institutions. They say that the so-called dwarfs of these Micronesian islands actually were modern, normal-sized hunters and gatherers.” Ugh, you just know the creationists are going to misrepresent this story and play it up as “proof” that evolution is wrong. Though kinda odd that the “evolutionists” discovered the error while The Discovery Institute still hasn’t spent one cent on actual research. Science is self-correcting.

Is Extinction Or Diversity On The Rise? – “It’s no secret that humans are having a huge impact on the life cycles of plants and animals. UC Santa Barbara’s Steven D. Gaines and fellow researcher Dov Sax decided to test that theory by studying the world’s far-flung islands.”

Recovering Mormon filmmaker changing his genre

August 27, 2008

Would you see this man’s R-rated Mormon movie? 

Richard Dutcher is the man in question. He used to make Mormon films. But now, Dutcher is releasing what’s being marketed as “the first R-rated Mormon movie,” which includes cursing, nudity and violence. CalledFalling, it stars Dutcher as an amoral videographer attempting to figure out his life after repudiating his faith. It’s a concept Dutcher knows well, because the father of Mormon cinema is now renouncing his religion:

“One day in prayer, all by myself, I asked myself the question: What if it’s all not true?” Dutcher recalled. “It was an earth-shaking moment of spiritual terror, such a profound experience. It was such a sense of loss. I felt my faith leaving me and never coming back.”

“At the beginning, I was proud to say, ‘Yeah, I’m a Mormon filmmaker’ because then, I was defining what a Mormon filmmaker was,” Dutcher said. “It quickly got completely out of my control. Now, no one wants to call themselves a Mormon filmmaker because you’re associating yourself with a genre that’s fallen into disrepute. It’s like having porn on your résumé.”

Wow, that’s quite a comparison.