News From Around The Blogosphere 9.29.08

September 30, 2008

The Economist explains why the research regarding possible dangers of cell phones remains inconclusive

David Gorski explains how he became a major critic of the antivaccine crowd & reviews Paul Offit’s book

American purity balls and brainwashing young children – I’ve heard about these before and I find the whole thing extraordinarily creepy and disturbing.

POLITICAL NEWS:

Democrat Kay Hagan pulls ahead of Republican Elizabeth Dole – As you may recall, Dole criticized Hagan almost exactly 1 month ago for having the audacity to meet with secular organizations. . .you know, atheists. So I hope Hagan kicks Dole’s ass.

Hell No, We Won’t Coal – Al Gore is calling on the nation’s youthful, unemployed, and unwashed to commit civil disobedience to stop construction of new coal plants that don’t install carbon capturing technologies. Coal is one of the most plentiful, non-renewable energy resources on the planet and 40% of our electricity comes from coal-burning power plants, but it’s terrible on the environment.

CREATIONIST NEWS:

Another absurd creationist rip-off of the Randi Million Dollar Challenge w/ an impossible to reach goalpost – Now it’s the creationist who got Richard Dawkins’ website banned in Turkey has offered:

“10 trillion Turkish lira to anyone who produces a single intermediate-form fossil demonstrating evolution” – a sum roughly equal to £4.4trn.

PZ Myers calculates that to be $8,010,890,000,000. Eight trillion, ten billion, eight hundred and ninety million dollars. Of course creationists have tried this gambit before. The trick is that they’re asking for a single fossil that will prove evolution because they believe (or profess to believe) despite being corrected many, many times that evolution means that individual fossils should resemble some sort of hybrid or chimera like Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort’s classic straw man, The Crocoduck. Evolution can’t be proven with a single fossil because the very nature of evolution requires the comparative analysis of many fossils:

Did Kirk Cameron’s obscure and undoubtedly crappy Christian movie only in limited release do better than the mainstream blockbuster “Eagle Eye?” – Depends on who you ask. If you ask Kirk’s partner in crime, Ray “The Banana Guy” Comfort, then the answer is yes. If you ask any other rational person, the answer is not even close. ON his blog, Ray cites advanced ticket sales:

“In terms of advance sales, Cameron’s Fireproof, an ultra-low-budget marriage-minded family drama opening on about 800 screens, has smoked LaBeouf’s $105 million, opening-everywhere thriller Eagle Eye.

Fireproof accounted for a whopping 40 percent of all advance sales this week on Fandango, the ticket service said today. Eagle Eye was a distant second, representing 17 percent of sales. Through Wednesday, Fireproof was leading the week with 23 percent of all advance sales. No other movie, “Eagle Eye” included, was even in double digits.”

Of course many of the commenters on Ray’s blog pointed out the problems with this so-called victory. Kirk’s little movie got terrible reviews. One commenter reported that “Eagle Eye still made $29.2 million in its opening weekend, compared to Fireproof’s $6.5 million, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations.” Another commenter wrote: “Just what are “advance sales” for films? I’m picturing an organization (an evangelical church perhaps) buying up reams of tickets and telling members to go.” Another wrote, “Why exactly should advance ticket sales through Fandango mean anything? . . . That puts Eagle Eye at $8,305 per theater, and Fireproof at $7,764 per theater. Without even taking into consideration whether Fireproof opened only in areas where it was more likely to do well (and not in those in which the opposite was true), Eagle Eye still did better on a per-theater basis. All you’ve really said is that more people chose to buy advance tickets through Fandango for Fireproof than for Eagle Eye. I assure you, this holds significance for no one except Fandango”

Charlie’s Playhouse – A website that sells Evolution-friendly toys to children.

Mercury Retrograde – a term hijacked by the astrologers

WHAT’S THE HARM?

Can tithing hurt you during a financial crisis? – Some Christians are continuing to tithe (give 10% of their income to church) despite not being able to pay their mortgage, once again proving that belief in religion and superstition does great harm.

And another example of what’s the harm:

Here’s Age of Autism’s latest blog:

“If you don’t like the way your tax dollars are being spent, or not spent, on autism research, this is your chance to speak up and take action. The strategic plan (SP) for autism research will guide federal spending on autism research for the next five years, subject to annual updates.”

Everyone who is even the slightest bit concerned about autism, the hosts of virtually extinct diseases that could return if enough people stop vaccinating, and the idea of medical science being directed by scientifically illiterate quacks should find this proposal absolutely frightening.

THE MORE YOU KNOW: POPULAR MYTHS

The healthy human body is exactly 98.6 degrees F – This medical myth is FALSE

EPIC FAIL!

Crackergate launches a revolution on TouTube – Once again Catholic outrage over something has drawn far more attention to it than existed prior to their outrage. Now YouTubers are making their own videos “desecrating” the Eucharist. Good job. Way to fail, Catholics:

“His videos began two months ago with the user saying into a webcam that he denied the Holy Spirit, then splitting a host in half and eating it with disrespect.”

Please somebody tell me how one eats a cracker with disrespect, because I’ve got a Nabisco cracker that has pissed me off the last time. Then I got to get me a communion wafer of my own to defile. If anyone can get me a communion wafer, please let me know. I will defile it worse than any god made of crackers has ever been defiled before. Here is one YouTuber cited in the article who’s really going to town on these wafers. I particularly like this one where the body of Christ gets nailed:

AND NOW A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Solar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record – “Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.”

Brain Disorder Leaves Patient Always ‘Lost’ -“Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute recently documented the first case of a patient who, without apparent brain damage or cognitive impairment, is unable to orient within any environment. Researchers also believe that there are many others in the general population who may be affected by this developmental topographical disorder.”

Dark Energy: Is It Merely An Illusion? – “Dark energy is at the heart of one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics, but it may be nothing more than an illusion, according physicists at Oxford University.”

NASA’s Dirty Secret: Moon Dust – “The Apollo Moon missions of 1969-1972 all share a dirty secret. “The major issue the Apollo astronauts pointed out was dust, dust, dust,” says Professor Larry Taylor, Director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee. Fine as flour and rough as sandpaper, Moon dust caused ‘lunar hay fever,’ problems with space suits, and dust storms in the crew cabin upon returning to space.”

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News From Around The Blogosphere 9.28.08

September 29, 2008

It’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday! Yea! – As you might recall, I previously blogged about a group of religious organizations that planned this to be the day they preached from the pulpit to tell their parishioners who to vote for, deliberately violating the rules that afford them tax exempt status. I don’t know whether they went through with it or not but I hope a whole lot of them did. We sure could use the tax money about now.

Oops, this photo is actually of the Hitler Youth. My mistake.

Congress takes time to support discriminatory organization – Yeah, apparently in the mists of one of the greatest financial crises in U.S. history, Congress deciding to pass a bill to spend money on the mostly Mormon-controlled, anti-atheist and anti-gay Boy Scouts of America, approving The Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act:

“The bill mandates that the U.S. Mint create and sell as many as 350,000 one dollar coins commemorating the Scouts’ centennial in the year 2010. A ten dollar surcharge on each coin goes directly to the Boy Scouts of America, who will net as much as $3.5 million in the deal.”

Who had the courage to vote against the bill?

Lynn Woolsey [D – CA]
Barbara Lee [D – CA]
Pete Stark [D – CA]
Luis Gutierrez [D – IL]
Barney Frank [D – MA]
Dennis Kucinich [D – OH]
James McDermott [D – WA]
Tammy Baldwin [D – WI]

I wonder when the The Ku Klux Klan of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act will pass.

When anti-vaccinationists resemble creationists in their level of delusion – Here, Age of Autism flat-out denies and ridicules a legitimate scientific study concerning autism without knowing anything about it beyond a single news article simply because while it doesn’t directly state that autism is genetic, it indirectly springs from that premise (because autism beyond any reasonable doubt is caused by genetic factors). Politically, AoA can’t embrace this study because of its foundational premise and so what else can they do but just mock it and once again callously accuse those in involved of being evil paid-off conspirators without the slightest bit of evidence to back up the accusation or the slightest hesitation or remorse for their despicable, repulsive behavior? Apparently they did not learn their lesson from the incident where they had to eat their words after falsely accusing CBS of being in the evil conspiracy against them.

The Harm In Astrology

I just read this credulous article in Parade Magazine that endorsed Acupuncture. I’m planning on writing to Parade to demand a correction be made.

The Mentalist (Update) – I have finally watched the pilot episode of The Mentalist. My thoughts are as follows: I love, love, LOVE the skeptical stuff in the show and it was even more prominent than I expected, even going as far as to show the audience how a popular “telekinetic” trick is done and the writers clearly establishing the main character as an atheist too right away. I believe it took it took a number of episodes before that happened on House and seasons before the writers outed Dr. Cox on Scrubs as an atheist. So big points for that. BUT, that being said, much of the rest of show has the misfortune of being a procedural cop show, which I happen to be in the minority in thinking is the most boring genre on television next to the medical dramas, legal dramas, and unscripted programs. The skepticism will keep me tuned in for awhile but if that ever takes a significant back seat to other aspects my interest in the show would fade fast.

Sarah Palin humor:
http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1831461

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Rock Fracture ‘Plumbing’ Found On Mars – “NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed hundreds of small fractures exposed on the Martian surface that billions of years ago directed flows of water through underground Martian sandstone.”

I just discovered a huge spike in visitor traffic to my 9.14.08 blog simply because the word “porn” was used in it, so let’s try that again and see what happens: PORN !


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.27.08

September 28, 2008

61 Nobel Laureattes endorse Barack Obama – This is the greatest number of Nobel Laureates to ever endorse a candidate for office.

Defend Science – “The Defend Science Statement aims to rally broad opposition and resistance to the mounting attacks on science and scientific thinking which are unfolding in the United States. Our basic aim now is to run the Defend Science Statement, signed by scientists, as an ad in major newspapers, reaching millions. (At this point the Statement is signed by over 2600 scientists and members of the scientific community.”

Cultists and their false “cures” – Actually, usually they avoid words like “cure” and opt for more ambiguous terms like “boost your immune system” or “recovered” or as Jenny McCarthy has recently stated in a video, autism is “reversible” even though presently it is not. This blog also talks about the many flat-out falsehoods stated by the infamous alternative medicine cultist Joe Mercola.

False equality and creationists’ lack of faith – I don’t think I’ve ever seen PalMD address religion on the Denialism blog but here he goes to town on the cdesign proponentsists and the obvious lack of faith they must have in their beliefs to fight so hard for equal time to present “the evidence”(?) for creation.

“Powers of 10″ – This is a brilliant classic short film I first saw in grad school that puts the universe in proper perspective”

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Learning From Mistakes Only Works After Age 12 – “Eight-year-old children have a radically different learning strategy from twelve-year-olds and adults. Eight-year-olds learn primarily from positive feedback (‘Well done!’), whereas negative feedback (‘Got it wrong this time’) scarcely causes any alarm bells to ring.  Twelve-year-olds are better able to process negative feedback, and use it to learn from their mistakes.  Adults do the same, but more efficiently.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.26.08

September 27, 2008

It’s banned books week! And here’s a list of the most challenged books for 2007.

4.28 billion-year-old rock! – I can’t wait to tell my friends. They don’t have a rock this old. IT’S THE OLDEST ROCK EVER! It’s like John McCain old! Picture the length of time it takes to watch the theatrical version of just one of the Lord of the Ring movies, and that’s how friggin’ old this thing is! PZ Myers calculates that means Ken Ham is wrong by a factor of over 713,000. This is also covered on Science Daily.

Reports of John McCain’s illness have been greatly exaggerated – Orac debunks the recent myths regarding McCain’s health here and here.

Dr. Rahul Parikh pwns anti-vaccinationist David Kirby once again this week – I posted about the earlier exchanges between them 2 days ago here. This time it comes after Kirby gave a talk to Congressional staffers and a few Congressmen. Parikh particularly nails him by pointing out how Kirby is more interested in using “social proof” rather than scientific proof for his claims.

But in related news, scientists’ objections to how chelation therapy is being used are being viewed as “of a political nature.”

Questions you should ask your doctor

Leslie Zucker’s Freethought Books To Prisoners Project is going well

Japan plans to build the first space elevator – Just hope the bratty kid in there before you doesn’t push the buttons so you have to make all the stops.

Way of the Master Radio has been removed from 2 stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area – Apparently I’m a lot less distressed by this news than Ray Comfort’s disciple, Trish. I see fast food in Todd Friel’s future.

Jesus Christ: Wrong For Your Family And Wrong For America:

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Simple Device Boosts Gas Efficiency By 20% – “According to Rongjia Tao, Chair of Temple’s Physics Department, the small device consists of an electrically charged tube that can be attached to the fuel line of a car’s engine near the fuel injector. With the use of a power supply from the vehicle’s battery, the device creates an electric field that thins fuel, or reduces its viscosity, so that smaller droplets are injected into the engine. That leads to more efficient and cleaner combustion than a standard fuel injector, he says.”

Scientists Go Nano For Fast Computers – “Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have made a major contribution to this field by designing a new nanotechnology that will ultimately help make computers smaller, faster, and more efficient.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.25.08

September 26, 2008

A review of The Discovery Institute’s latest creationist propaganda textbook of choice – The new book is called “Explore Evolution.” One would think they got a better proofreader this time after that embarrassing defeat at The Dover Trial. Fortunately, it shouldn’t matter since the Judge Jones’ decision at Dover can’t simply be forgotten. The Intelligent Design movement’s hidden agenda has been exposed and it can’t be unexposed.

The Telegraph named Satan the #1 greatest villain in literature – And to put that in perspective, Cruella de Vil made #3, Iago made #4, Voldemort made #5, The Joker made #23, and Sauron made #25.

South Park + Free Speech = A Bad Day For Religion:

Part 1 – Scientology
Part 2 – Christianity

Part 3 – Islam

Fingerprints for Children – The Atheist Version:

Klingons For Jesus – You don’t know The Bible until you’ve read it in the original Klingon. Kuplah!

Anti-aging research and life extension

When anecdotal evidence is and isn’t helpful

I knew they looked familiar:


AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Martian Meteorites Could Carry Traces Of Life – “An artificial meteorite designed by the European Space Agency has shown that traces of life in a martian meteorite could survive the violent heat and shock of entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The experiment’s results also suggest that meteorite hunters should widen their search to include white rocks if we are to find traces of life in martian meteorites.”

America’s Smallest Dinosaur Uncovered – “An unusual breed of dinosaur that was the size of a chicken, ran on two legs and scoured the ancient forest floor for termites is the smallest dinosaur species found in North America, according to a University of Calgary researcher who analyzed bones found during the excavation of an ancient bone bed near Red Deer, Alberta.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.24.08

September 25, 2008

The creationists over at Uncommon Descent aren’t too fond of Barack Obama right now . . . but I’m darned proud of him. The kid grows up so fast:

Do you believe that evolution by means of natural selection is a sufficient explanation for the variety and complexity of life on Earth? Should intelligent design, or some derivative thereof, be taught in science class in public schools?

Obama: I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.

A McCain candidacy may mean not a penny for science research & education

I feel embarrassed for anti-vaccinationist David Kirby – A few days ago, I posted about a review in Salon Magazine of Dr. Paul Offit’s book about the anti-vaccinationists. Well over at Age of Autism David Kirby wrote a childish and insulting rebuttal to the review. This only led to an even greater bitch-slapping at the hands of the original reviewer.

I haven’t seen the pilot episode of the new show, The Mentalist, but it’s got the Dr. Phil Plait seal of approval, so it’s worth checking out. Though Phil’s not the best entertainment critic in the world. The guy didn’t like Revenge of the Sith or the recent War of the Worlds. But it sounds like this show is super pro-skepticism. So I can’t wait to watch it on the internet.

OTHER CREATIONIST NEWS:

Answers in Genesis endorses ironically named “Kids4Truth” and apparently Lego for putting humans and dinosaurs together. Though to give them a little credit, at least AiG aren’t delusional enough to think Lego intends any deliberate endorsement of the ridiculous notion that humans and dinosaurs actually lived together:

“I’m sure the Lego people are not intentionally promoting a biblical worldview—but I had to smile when I saw this Lego set with people and dinosaurs together. The evolutionists must grind their teeth when they see this.”

And I had to smile that a company from famously secular Denmark meets with Ken Ham’s approval. And while I still am not entirely sure what an “evolutionist” is, if it means people who accept the reality of evolution then I have no objective to Lego’s years of service contributing to children’s imaginary play and encouraging creativity at an early age. You see, some of us who played with Legos as children learned how to distinguish reality from fantasy. I think The Bible says something about that:

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

EPIC FAIL!

In case you need more proof that PETA is insane – The executive vice president of PETA wrote an open letter to the ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s suggesting they consider replacing the cow’s milk used in their ice cream with . . .

Can you guess? Yeah, human breast milk . . . seriously! Somehow I think if the people at PETA had gotten their breast milk as children in the first place maybe they wouldn’t be such total freaks. If implemented Orac thinks it’ll require human farms to produce that much milk. If so, I’ll volunteer some of my time to do the milking.

And here’s an EPIC FAIL on the part of the media:

That whole recent acupuncture study suggesting acupuncture helped women with hot flashes – Yeah, that was bullshit. Big surprise. And Steve Novella takes on this study here. I’ve also included a link to both responses on my original blog about this study here.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Formula Discovered For Longer Plant Life – “Molecular biologists from Tuebingen, Germany, have discovered how the growth of leaves and the aging process of plants are coordinated.”

Dark Chocolate Helps Check Heart Attack Risk – “Though the news is still good for them: 6.7 grams of chocolate per day represent the ideal amount for a protective effect against inflammation and subsequent cardiovascular disease.


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.23.08

September 24, 2008

Call Jenny 867-5309 – No, not that Jenny. I mean Jenny McCarthy, The Witless Witch of the West. She’ll be on the Oprah Woo Woo Show and is going to be available live for a web chat tomorrow evening at 7 PM CDT. If you intend to call think very carefully about the question. Commenters on Orac’s much more popular blog linked to above are posting question suggestions. Here are 3 super uncritical clips from that show airing tomorrow available at anti-vaccinationist Kim Stagliano’s blog. Jim Carey’s final line in the 3 clip couldn’t be more apt to his situation: “Love can kill you if you make the wrong choices.”

Sam Harris rips Sarah Palin a new one in Newsweek

Islamic assault on human rights

Jewish ‘ultras’ defend morals with menace

Gianna Jessen survived an abortion attempt and is now a pro-life advocate shamelessly attacking Barack Obama – As to why this constitutes as news on Faux News is even more shameless:

Sometimes the harm done because of magical thinking is done to the pseudoscientists themselves – “Biologist-turned- nutty-parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake was stabbed in the leg earlier this year by Kazuki Hirano, a Japanese day laborer who had been stalking Sheldrake after believing he was the victim of mind control experiments.”

CREATIONIST NEWS:

A review of Christopher Hitchens’ most recent theist-crushing – Hitchens debated against Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a physicist, theologian, and author of God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity. And it seems that unsurprisingly he kicked his Albacete’s ass. I expect the debate will probably make it to YouTube soon enough.

Last week, I mentioned that creationist Bill Lucas was going to be speaking at Virginia Tech. Well he gave his talk and guess what? It turns out he’s at best totally full of it and at worst, crazy.

New excavation reveals Stonehenge was once a miracle healing destination – Not surprisingly, no real healing actually seems to have taken place there.

UK Cathedral seminar to equip clerics to deal with Dawkins

Atheists reading holy tests out loud for charity

Cleanliness is far from godliness – A little dirt is a good thing

Did Neanderthals Pray? part 2

Will anyone buy Expelled on DVD? Anyone? Anyone? – That’s right, the little creationist propaganda film that proved that Ben Stein doesn’t use “Clear Eyes” that nobody saw is coming to DVD. Jimmy cracked corn and I don’t care. But I figured I use this as yet another opportunity to plug the website that totally debunks the claims in the film, ExpelledExposed.com

EPIC FAIL:

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway’s logical fallacy in The Wall Street Journal – Hemingway’s idea of a logical argument is to cite a Baylor University study that vaguely suggests religious people are less likely to believe in other pseudosciences or paranormal claims to make her case that skeptics and atheists do more harm than good by trying to teach people how to think critically. Of course it doesn’t seem to occur to her that the reason the religious tend not to believe in other forms of pseudoscience or paranormal claims is because often the specific beliefs of the religion demand mutually exclusivity. For instance, fundamental Christians must reject psychics as at best charlatans and at worst devil worshipers. Religions are very good at keeping their parishioners away from the competition.

NEWS I SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED BEFORE NOW:

James “The Amazing” Randi is giving a talk in NYC – I will definitely be there with bells on (I haven’t decided whether these are to be literal or figurative bells yet). If you can come, this is not to be missed. There’s a reason they call him “The Amazing.” Oh, and it’s FREE.

New skeptical-friendly show, The Mentalist, coming to CBS – The main character is a guy who uses his keen observational skills to solve crimes. He used to make money pretending to be a psychic but then went straight. Sounds a little like the show Psych. Though it’s also received lots of comparisons to House.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

New Optics Technology To Study Alien Worlds – “NASA Goddard scientist Rick Lyon has been working on potential missions and technologies to find planets around other stars (called exoplanets or extrasolar planets) since the late 1980s. Only recently has he begun to believe that NASA may actually fly a planet-finding mission in his lifetime.”

Why Chemo Works For Some People And Not Others – “MIT researchers have shown that cells from different people don’t all react the same way when exposed to the same DNA-damaging agent — a finding that could help clinicians predict how patients will respond to chemotherapy.”

Primordial Fish Had Rudimentary Fingers – “Tetrapods, the first four-legged land animals, are regarded as the first organisms that had fingers and toes. Now researchers at Uppsala University can show that this is wrong. Using medical x-rays, they found rudiments of fingers in the fins in fossil Panderichthys, the “transitional animal,” which indicates that rudimentary fingers developed considerably earlier than was previously thought.”