News From Around The Blogosphere 01.30.09

January 31, 2009

atheist-bus-battling-buses-picadilly2Atheist Bus Campaign spreads to Brazil

The Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics launched the first phase of the campaign in the country, with eight slogans that we want to display on buses in the city of São Paulo. The phrases explain what atheists think, and seek to launch a first step towards the recognition of skeptical people as full and worthy citizen, with its deserved place in society. One of the highlights is the phrase that calls for an effective secular state, which ATEA believes should be a priority for citizens of all beliefs and disbelief.

And you can check out what the 8 slogans are by clicking the link above.

And the bus ads in Italy are back as well – Atheists–we’re everywhere you want to be.The new ad reads:

The Good News Is There Are Millions of Atheists In Italy; The Excellent News Is They Believe In Freedom Of Expression.”

Most/Least religious states in the U.S. – No surprise I’m in one of the better ones.

Creationist Ben Stein to deliver commencement address at University of Vermont – This is the guy who said:

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. [PZ] Myers, talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed.”

ACLU suing public school because administrators harassed a woman they accused of being a witch – This is still the 21st century, right?

California court of appeals upheld the expulsion of two juniors from California Lutheran High School for “conducting themselves in a manner consistent with being lesbians” – No seriously, what century is this?

How to fail Metaphysics at UHawaii – Links to a PDF disclaimer written by the professor of the class.


scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyDinosaur Fossils Fit Well Into Tree Of Life – “A recent study by researchers at the University of Bath and London’s Natural History Museum has found that scientists’ knowledge of the evolution of dinosaurs is remarkably complete.

Evolutionary biologists use two ways to study the evolution of prehistoric plants and animals: firstly they use radioactive dating techniques to put fossils in chronological order according to the age of the rocks in which they are found (stratigraphy); secondly they observe and classify the characteristics of fossilised remains according to their relatedness (morphology).”

Robots To Clean Your Kitchen And Play Hockey? – A news story about robots–you know you can’t resist.

New Stem Cell-like Functions In Plants Found – “Ordinary cells have the ability to replace lost organs in plants—a function previously thought to be limited to stem cells—researchers at New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology and Utrecht University in the Netherlands have found. The findings, which suggest that some roles of stem cells in organ regeneration may be shared by other types of cells, are published in the latest issue of the journal Nature.”

More Allah-friendly toys

January 31, 2009

A few months ago, I think I blogged about a woman who complained that her 4-year-old’s baby doll toy spoke the hidden pro-Islamic message:  “Islam is the light.” Now that same woman claims her 8-year-old daughter’s Nintendo DS videogame has the same message.

So either Muslim fundamentalists have taken a personal interest in this one woman’s children and sabotaged her children’s toys. . .

. . .or she’s just plain nuts. I’m going with the latter.

Beware of ghosts

January 31, 2009

Haunted hospital calls in exorcist – Am I the only one frightened by the thought that a hospital, a place where people rely on the most modern science to save lives every day, could be full of staff members with such primitive superstitions as fear of ghosts and exorcisms? Okay, good. I’m not the only one.

Seriously, this is one hospital I will never, ever visit. Not because I’m afraid the scary ghosts will come out from under my bed and get me but because I’m terrified of being operated on by doctors who actually think an exorcist has magical powers to remove demons. I think Steve Novella says it best:

Consider the possibility that perhaps you are dealing with a psychological and not paranormal phenomenon. Chances are it is witless belief that is driving these sightings, not the sightings that are driving people witless.

Some plot questions for Gary Franchi

January 30, 2009

As a writer, I’m very good at spotting plot holes in fictional stories and I’ve noticed a few unanswered questions in the story Gary Franchi is trying to sell here:

Gary, can you give a date for when FEMA’s evil plan is supposed to be taking place? After all, nothing builds audience suspense better than a ticking clock. Like remember in Terminator 3 when Arnold said Skynet was going to launch the nukes and Judgment Day was only, like, 6 hours away. That was suspenseful. This whole FEMA camp/coffin plot stuff has been built up for years now. I’m starting to feel you’ve got JJ Abrams’ writing staff–great on building suspense but poor on the pay-off. You know, like you wait five years and you still don’t have a completely satisfying explanation for the giant smoke monster.

And what’s taking FEMA so long anyway? Bush isn’t even in power anymore. You can’t just recast the villain suddenly in the middle of the story without leaving clues to foreshadow the villain switch. Mainstream audiences just will never buy it. Can you imagine how pissed audiences would be if halfway through The Dark Knight the writers dumped The Joker and suddenly Lucius Fox became the villain without anything up to that point hinting at the changing allegiances?

And then doesn’t your villain need some kind of motivation? Even 2-dimensional Bond villains have motives. Obama’s already arguably the most powerful man in the entire world. And since he’s the legal commander and chief he’s already got the entire United States following him. And the overwhelming majority of the country really like him too. So what would he hope to gain by throwing people in these FEMA camps or killing them and dumping them in these FEMA plastic coffins? That seems like it would serve no benefit and would only create more enemies for him. And if he’s working for the same shadow government that Bush was, then why are their policies so opposite? I mean Obama just spent much of his first week in office undoing a bunch of things that Bush did.

And about these FEMA coffins, do you really expect mainstream audiences to believe that these plastic coffins designed to be employed in a secret plot would just be lying out in the open where anyone can see them?

And how sophisticated are these amazing NSA supercomputers your refer to anyway? Have you considered how many petaflops they’d require? This story is taking place in the present day, right? This isn’t a science fiction story, is it?

And how many guns do you think would actually be required for civilians to successfully overthrow the U.S. government in the 21st century? Seems like a lot. Do you have, like, some redeemable Darth Vader character who can bring this entire evil empire to an end in under two and a half by just throwing this evil Emperor Obama character down a big hole or something? Because otherwise, if audiences are going to believe the characters are going to actually overthrow the entire evil U.S. government and their evil FEMA goons with nothing but guns they purchased legally, this thing’s going to be, like, Lord of the Rings long, and I’m talking about the Extended Editions.

And how do the heroes in this story get their information? What’s their source? Do they have an inside man or something?

Why do you think mainstream audiences should believe that some nutty Rush Limbaugh-like radio host with no relevant background and some random dude like yourself who’s not even important enough to warrant his own Wikipedia page are among the only people in the entire world who can connect the correct dots and unravel the whole plot?  Audiences would only buy it if they had some specific quality that made them special. For instance, John Connor was trained his entire life to fight the machines. Luke Skywalker was the most powerful Jedi ever. What special knowledge and skills do Alex Jones and Gary Franchi bring that nobody else has?

These are just a few questions that came to mind.

Exposing the 9/11 Conspiracy spin machine

January 30, 2009

Here is the latest from the one news source that makes Fox News look objective, Infowars.

It includes a video of 9/11 conspiracy theorists doing what they always do, videotaping themselves while they harass some celebrity, in this case Former President Jimmy Carter, at a book signing and then framing their getting kicked out of the bookstore as further proof their beliefs that were allowed to stand or fall on their own merits in the public sphere (and in this case fell like a rock) is being silenced.

But now they’re no longer asking if particular celebrities think “9/11 was an inside job.” No, I suspect they’ve been burned too many times on that one.
So taking a page from the creationist Wedge Document, they’ve decided to spin it into something far more reasonable sounding:

“I was just wondering if you’d support the victims’ family members that want a new investigation into 9/11.”

Who doesn’t want to support the victims’ families?

And when Carter casually said, sure that he’d support “the victims’ family members that want a new investigation into 9/11”, Paul Joseph Watson decided to add him to the list of celebrities that support his cause.

There’s only one problem.

Former President Jimmy Carter doesn‘t support his cause:

“I think the basic reason is that our country suffered, in 9/11, a terrible and shocking attack … and George Bush has been adroit at exploiting that attack, and he has elevated himself, in the consciousness of many Americans, to a heroic commander-in-chief, fighting a global threat against America,” Carter says.

This isn’t the first time the often good-natured Jimmy Carter has had his words exploited and twisted by fringe movements promoting an agenda. For many years, UFO nuts have touted Carter as someone who’s admitted to seeing a UFO himself.
The implication was that Carter believed like they did that the unidentified flying object was from outer space, a misconception that Carter didn’t even know was being perpetuated and was very clear in correcting when he was a guest on The Skeptics Guide To The Universe podcast.

Reptile Fossil Reignites Debate Over New Zealand Submergence

January 29, 2009

Reptile Fossil Renews Debate Over New Zealand

The fossil of a lizard-like New Zealand reptile has been identified by a team of scientists from UCL (University College London), University of Adelaide, and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The fossil, dating back 18 million years, has triggered fresh arguments over whether the continent was fully submerged some 25 million years ago.

So for those who are counting that would be 17,994,000 and 24,994,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

Who Would Oppose an Anti-Bullying Event?

January 29, 2009

You’d think that nobody could possibly oppose an anti-bullying event like No Name-Calling Week for young children. You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Only a monster could be against it. . .or Conservative Christians.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has this to say of the event:

… it is a way of indoctrinating children so that they will support the homosexual agenda after they become adults…

“They’re promoting, all the way down to the first-grade level, children to read and be exposed to books and material that is pro-homosexual — and it’s all under the guise of opposing name-calling,” he contends.

Um no, you don’t seem to have understood correctly. It’s called “No Name-Calling Week” not “Fuck Your Own Sex Week.”



Seriously though, am I the only one whose curious what kind of “justice” the Pacific Justice Institute actually endorses? Is it all eye-for-an-eye with them or just the classic stoning to death for even the slightest indiscretion?

New word of the day

January 29, 2009

In honor of giant douches like Rick Warren, someone decided to coin a new word: saddlebacking.

Saddlebacking: sad•dle•back•ing \ˈsa-dəl-ˈba-kiŋ\ vb [fr. Saddleback Church] (2009): the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities

After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she’s saving herself for marriage. Unfortunately her parents found out because they got santorum all over the sheets.

UK campaign to promote public understanding of science

January 29, 2009

UK government touts science for all – A new campaign being launched in the UK is designed to change public attitudes towards science. They hope to end the perception of science as being too elitist after a recent study showed that that’s how most people think of science.

So far in this country Obama seems to be really actively supporting science but I would love to see him launch a similar campaign to demistify science and take steps towards improving the public understanding of science.

Recycling bad?

January 29, 2009

I grew up in the ’80’s surrounded by hysterical fears of ozone layer damage that would kill us all. The best thing that individuals could do to help fight problem was believed at the time to be recycling. And to this day most people are confident that recycling is beneficial to the environment.

But is it really?

Peter Jones suggested that an “urgent” review of Labour’s policy on recycling was needed to make sure the collection, transportation and processing of recyclable material was not causing a net increase in greenhouse gases.

Jones is a former director of the waste firm Biffa and now an adviser to environment ministers. And he thinks kerbside recycling collections is “stupid” in some areas because they mixed together different materials, rendering them useless for recycling.

He suggested that much of the country’s waste should simply be burnt to generate electricity.

“It might be that the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away,” he said.