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.

Natural Selection Not The Only Process That Drives Evolution?

January 29, 2009

Is Technology Harming Critical Thinking?

Why have some of our genes evolved rapidly? It is widely believed that Darwinian natural selection is responsible, but research led by a group at Uppsala University, suggests that a separate neutral (nonadaptive) process has made a significant contribution to human evolution.

Researchers found fast evolving human genes by comparing our genome with those of other primates and found patterns that suggested processes other than natural selection.

Instead, their evidence suggests that a separate process known as BGC (biased gene conversion) has speeded up the rate of evolution in certain genes. This process increases the rate at which certain mutations spread through a population, regardless of whether they are beneficial or harmful.

“The research not only increases our understanding of human evolution, but also suggests that many techniques used by evolutionary biologists to detect selection may be flawed,” says Matthew Webster of the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology at Uppsala University.

BGC is thought to be strongest in regions of high recombination, and can cause harmful mutations can spread through populations.

The results lead to the provocative hypothesis that, rather than being the result of Darwinian selection for new adaptations, many of the genetic changes leading to human-specific characters may be the result of the fixation of harmful mutations. This contrasts the traditional Darwinistic view that they are the result of natural selection in favour of adaptive mutations.

Of course creationists are no doubt already spinning this story to suggest this in some way vindicates their evolution denial when clearly it doesn’t.

Is Technology Harming Critical Thinking?

January 29, 2009

Is Technology Harming Critical Thinking?

As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved, according to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles.

My thinking is that it would be the opposite for obvious reasons. With more technology, people have more access to information than they used to, and I’d expect that that would translate into stronger critical thinking skills for many. I definitely found that the internet made me more of a critical thinker, but I guess that might just be me. Still, I’m skeptical of this study.

Christian Bookstore Puts Warning Labels on Certain Christian Books

January 29, 2009

LifeWay Christian Stores sells Christian books among their many products. Those books range from liberal Christian to batshit insane Christian books. So to clear up any confusion, LifeWay now has a label on certain books stating “Read With Discernment“:

While we recognize that almost every title requires some measure of discernment, certain titles should clearly be read with extra discernment.

We want you to know that the authors of books marked Read with Discernment may have espoused thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology.

Apparently some of the books that have been flagged are books by Christian authors that don’t seem to care about the whole gay thing.

Unfortunately there’s no “Read with Discernment” label on The Bible. No, no, the last thing any Christian authority wants is for people to apply critical thinking to that book.

At the risk of barrowing too much content from Friendly Atheist’s blog where I got this story from, here’s what 2 Christian bloggers had to say about this bizarre blacklisting of books:

Julie Clawson, a Christian, says it well:

… I’m disturbed by the unspoken implication that the other books sold at their website don’t need as much discernment while reading. Apparently, if something agrees with historical evangelical theology then it gets a pass on reading with a critical eye. We only need to be discerning about those that are discerning about historical evangelical theology since such opinions are only valuable to those those who engage them “strictly for critical study and research.”…

Another Christian blogger also points out:

The irony is that [LifeWay] will take your money while they sell you — what they consider to be — theological trash.

Athvertising in South Carolina but still not in Australia

January 29, 2009

Another piece of athvertising is going up in South Carolina – It’s my favorite of the atheist billboard campaigns, this one:

It says all the right things.

Also, the local NBC affiliate in Charleston, South Carolina interviewed Secular Coalition for America president Herb Silverman yesterday (though not about SCA). Here’s the clip.

And in related news, the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA–not to be confused with our AFA, the Christian hate group, the American Family Association) is on the lookout for religious adverts; particularly on buses, billboards, or other media managed by APN because the AFA was planning on conducting an Atheist Bus Campaign similar to the ones in the UK, USA and Spain until APN refused to carry the adverts.

If the AFA find any evidence of APN carrying religious advertising then this can be used as evidence in the case.