Instruction Manual for Life

December 31, 2008

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.30.08

December 31, 2008

Skepchick names The Top 10 Skeptics Who Kicked Ass in 2008 – Find out who made the list. I’m also quoted in this blog making it EXTRA special. Also, I was the first to suggest one of the winners to Rebecca, Sanal Edamaruku.

After his colossal error this year involving not understanding the meaning of the word “eponymous”, Casey Luskin of the creationist “think” tank Discovery Institute botches up again.

creationism-cartoon-a-miracle-occursIndiana Congressman Mark Souder on Intelligent Design

I personally believe that there is no issue more important to our society than intelligent design. I believe that if there wasn’t a purpose in designing you — regardless of who you view the designer as being — then, from my perspective, you can’t be fallen from that design. If you can’t be fallen from that design, there’s no point to evangelism.

vaccine1Harriet Hall explains why the $150,000 Vaccine Challenge is absurd

HIV Denialist Christine Maggiore is dead – I never heard of her but Orac explains her story here.

How to profit from the coming Rapture – This is a satirical how-to book by Steve and Evie Levy.

atheists-support-gaysHow atheists can be good allies

8 albums about atheism you never heard of

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.29.08

December 30, 2008

Andrew Brown spouting trash about “New Atheists”

“So, who are they? The ideas I claim are distinctive of the new atheists have been collected from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Coyne, the American physicist Robert L. Park, and a couple of blogging biologists, P Z Myers and Larry Moran. They have two things in common. They are none of them philosophers and, though most are scientists, none study psychology, history, the sociology of religion, or any other discipline which might cast light on the objects of their execration.”

Yeah, funny how you forgot to mention Philosopher Daniel Dennett, whose existence  single-handedly defeats your argument. Also, while not a psychologist, I believe Sam Harris is getting his Doctorate in Neuroscience, so I think it’s fair to say he knows a bit about the brain. Likewise, Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers are evolutionary biologists, so I fail to see the problem here. Oh that’s right, only people who agree with you have satisfactory credentials.

darwinstatueMadeleine Bunting can’t wait to celebrate Darwin’s big bicentennial, just as long as the atheists stay away – Here’s what she said followed by PZ Myers’ comment:

“The fear is that the anniversary will be hijacked by the New Atheism as the perfect battleground for another round of jousting over the absurdity of belief (a position that Darwin pointedly never took up). Many of the prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution; Richard Dawkins and the US philosopher Daniel Dennett are among those due to appear in Darwin200 events. It’s a position that infuriates many scientists, not to mention philosophers and theologians.”

Well? Should Dawkins and Dennett stay home this year? Should only professing Christians who are scientists be allowed to speak in praise of Darwin in public? She seems upset that atheists will actually be given a voice in the Darwin bicentennial!

thestupiditburnsCreationists and HIV Deniers use the same tactics – This is not remotely surprising as all deniers/grand conspiracy theorists apply the same basic tactics to keep rejecting inconvenient evidence and create the illusion of a cover-up. Here it’s the HIV Deniers are trying to do the same thing that Andy Schlafly of Conservapedia did when challenging Richard Lenski’s e coli research. In this case 40 HIV Deniers are demanding that a 24-year-old paper get a retraction. One of those 40 is infamous anti-vaccinationist and friend to Jenny McCarthy, Gary Null.

The fallacy of “balance” and “fairness” about unscientific claims in the media – This is of particular interest to me as it concerns my field, media.

Was Jesus Real? Ask the Jesus Project scholars – I know there’s been a Jesus Project in the past to determine if Jesus really lived but this one is run by the Center of Inquiry comprised of 20 scholars of various disciplines.

God and Politics – The Secular Coalition for America put together a video showing how marginalized the atheist viewpoint has been in the U.S. this year. Check it out by clicking the link above.

Michael Newdow leading other atheists in suing over inauguration – This has nothing to do with Rick Warren but rather the use of the phrase, “so help me God” and the government sponsored use of any clergy. Sure, we’ll probably lose this one but it’s a symbolic lawsuit if nothing else.


Wanna bet?

Wanna bet?

Virginity Pledges don’t work – This comes as a surprise to no one who isn’t a devout member of the Religious Right. Ironically, in the video that can be found in the link above, the anchor remarks that this is the opposite of what you’d expect. Really?

Benjamin Radford, Managing Editor of Skeptical Inquirer Magazine explains why police often bungle missing child cases – Okay, the article is more about cases of police incompetence but I do love this quote, which truly is an EPIC fail:

Dozens of self-professed “psychic detectives” offered tips, ideas and information to police about where the missing girl was. Unfortunately, as with previous missing persons cases, all the psychics failed: not a single one gave information that led police to recover Caylee Anthony’s body. Despite claims to the contrary, the number of missing persons recovered by psychic detectives remains exactly zero.


Nanotechnology May Be Used For Food Safety – “A microscopic biological sensor that detects Salmonella bacteria in lab tests has been developed by an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist and university colleagues. The sensor could be adapted to detect other foodborne pathogens as well.”

What is Godbar?

December 28, 2008

GODbar is simply a toolbar but with a twist. We took online atheist community and made it available to you in one place. Thought you were alone? Guess again. It will help you connect with atheists around the world, you don’t even have to navigate anywhere. We gave you ease of communication with your friends and you can make bunch more. The best part about atheists is that we are all friendly, we love meeting other atheists.

So far it’s pretty awesome. I can’t wait to see what they do next with it. You can download it here.

Skeptical song: Tim Minchin – “Storm”

December 28, 2008

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.27.08

December 27, 2008

And here are 7 (Stupid) People Who Sued the Scientific Method – Some that make the list involve suing to stop the Large Hadron Collider from destroying the world, suing to officialy change Pi to 3.2, a homeopath suing nobel prize winning scientists, a voting machine company suing computer scientists to try to stop them from evaluating the machine, infamous vitamin salesman and professional murderer Matthias Rath suing journalist Ben Goldacre for attacking Rath’s ads claiming his vitamins cure AIDS, and suing about polar bears being endangered. I’m not going to reveal the number 1. And PhilPlait adds 1 more, the current Simon Singh case.

SkepticDad over at Science-Based Parenting discusses the recent This American Life – This is the one I blogged about the other day (maybe yesterday?) that discusses the kid that died because they weren’t vaccinated.

Obama doesn’t attend church; this is headline news? – Not only did this not have much to do with the actual article it went with but why am I supposed to care how Obama spends his personal holiday? Okay, correction. I care and I’m very happy he didn’t go to church. But this sets a dangerous precedent that he will be held to a strong religious test all through his presidency when our focus should be on his policies.

Upcoming film about the most dangerous woman in the world – Her death arguably began The Dark Ages. Her murderer is now a saint and considered one of the greatest theologeans in church history. Now Alejandro Amenbarábar is going to tell her story in a film starring Rachel Weisz and Max Minghella.

Buy “Remembering Hypatia”

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia, ask that you read her story here.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria


scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyHumans, Chimps Register Faces In Similar Way – “Chimpanzees recognize their pals by using some of the same brain regions that switch on when humans register a familiar face, according to a report published online on December 18th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. The study—the first to examine brain activity in chimpanzees after they attempt to match fellow chimps’ faces—offers new insight into the origin of face recognition in humans, the researchers said.”

Real-time Gene Monitoring Developed – “Imagine having GeneVision: the uncanny ability to view the activity of any chosen gene in real time through a specially modified camera.

With GeneVision, military commanders could compare gene expression in victorious and defeated troops. Retailers could track genes related to craving as shoppers moved about a store. “The Bachelor” would enjoy yet one more secret advantage over his love-struck dates.

Frightening? Perhaps. Ethically suspect? Certainly. Preposterous? Not quite.” Kinda Gattaca-like.

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.


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.


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 12.25.08

December 25, 2008

The Secular Coalition for America’s Lori Lipman Brown appeared on NPR’s Day to Day today to discuss “the role secular values will play in the next administration.” Click here to listen.

vaccine1This American Life story on antivaccinationists – Act one of the aptly-named “Ruining it for the rest of us” show.

psychic-crystal-ball_1114702cThe Skepbitch’s Letter to a Psychic – She responds to a “psychic’s” response to a past article she wrote discussing how she infiltrated psychic telephone service, “Absolutely Psychic” and after passing their application process was offered a contract and a job with them. . .despite the little fact that she isn’t psychic.

Sharia Insanity – Muslim Pedophile (47) tries to marry 8-year-old girls:

Speak out against Muslim Child Abuse. Saudi-Arabian Perverts exposed.

الشريعة الجنون) ومسلم (المنحرف (47) ويحاول الزواج من فتاة تبلغ من العمر 8 سنوات.

Hypnotherapist jailed for sexual assaults

“A 75-year-old hypnotherapist was jailed for eight-and-a-half years today for committing a string of sex attacks on young girls during massage sessions.”

Darwin’s wife’s cookbook published

Sales of the book, which is being published by the university, will help fund research into, and the publication of, Mr Darwin’s letters.


scientist-use-in-case-of-emergency‘Nano’ Drugs Kill Skin, Breast Cancer Cells – “Researchers in Pennsylvania are reporting for the first time that nanoparticles 1/5,000 the diameter of a human hair encapsulating an experimental anticancer agent, kill human melanoma and drug-resistant breast cancer cells growing in laboratory cultures.”

Honey Bees On Cocaine Dance More – “In a study that challenges current ideas about the insect brain, researchers have found that honey bees on cocaine tend to exaggerate.”

To my fellow Godless Americans:  YES WE CAN!

War on Christmas 2008 comes to a close

December 25, 2008

Muslim family’s complaint over Christian toy giveaway provokes Conservative backlash – Ironically, this has led a lot of Christians who constantly complain when their faith is perceived as being undermined anywhere in public, be it a chocolate Jesus sculpture or a store sign reading “Happy Holidays” to proclaim that these Muslims are being “over-sensitive.”  Pot. Kettle. Black.

. . .which brings us to The Psychology of Christmas Wars

“As a former Evangelical and Campus Crusade for Christ worker I remember when I too saw anything that was even remotely not pro-jesus as an attack. This included all the Santa stuff and secular carols, as well as the blatant commercialism, and the obvious stuff like the displays by ffrf.”

Happy birthday to Horus, Osiris, Attis of Phrygia, Krishna, Zoroaster, Mithra, Buddha, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, Hermes, Bacchus, and Prometheus.

And with that, can we officially bring this preposterous “War on Christmas” to a close for a least another year?

Florida woman blackmailed by former church

December 25, 2008

Florida woman says former church plans to make her sins public:

A 49-year-old Florida woman says her former church is threatening to reveal her sins to its congregation after learning that she is in a “sexually immoral relationship.

Rebecca Hancock told that Grace Community Church, a non-denominational church in Jacksonville, Fla., was against her relationship with boyfriend Frank Young because the two were sexually active but not married.

The church gave her a choice: either end her relationship or they will on January 4th, they will reveal her “sins” to the entire congregation including her children, causing her to face public humiliation and having her privacy destroyed.

Here’s a link to the church’s website

Feel free to tell them how you feel.