Miss California graduates from dumb to dumber at Liberty U

April 30, 2009

Miss California herself, Carrie Prejean was invited to speak at Liberty “University.” And beginning at the 3:10 mark of this following video, she discusses her “thoughts” about being persecuted by the evil Judge Perez Hilton.

What’s particularly funny is that her story lacks internal consistency from sentence to sentence. She says she suspects it was all a setup to get her (probably from that darned “gotcha media.” You betcha!) and then explains how Perez Hilton was randomly selected from having his name chosen from a hat and that he didn’t even know who his question was going to be directed.

And then at the end comes that great line:

“It’s all about tolerance.”

Yes Miss Prejean, it is about tolerance. But not just tolerance for bigots like yourself but also tolerance for those who aren’t you and who might wish to share the same rights and privileges you take for granted.

But as I’m sure Mr. Stein knows, the wise Ferris Bueller once said:

“It’s understanding that makes it possible for people like us to tolerate a person like yourself.”

And I guess if it weren’t for people like her who fought for Prop. 8, Maine wouldn’t be about to become the fifth state in the union to allow full same-sex marriage. So keep up the great work. Maybe try on some white robes and hoods. Just a thought.

Honk if you love torture

April 30, 2009

A new Pew poll suggests a correlation in church attendance and approval of torture. The research findings were based on a survey of 742 American adults, which to be fair isn’t a huge amount but a moderate number of subjects. And of those 742 people. . .

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Again, obviously there’s nothing conclusive here but I do get a slight bit of satisfaction over the finding that those least religious were less likely to support torture than those who belong to the cult of death known as Christianity.

Institute for Creation Research honoring scientists?

April 30, 2009

creationistsThe Institute for Creation Research is apparently responsible for a number of Facebook fan pages for numerous scientists including: Louis Pasteur, Robert Boyle, Charles Bell, William Kirby, James Clerk Maxwell, and George Washington Carver. But it’s not the science the ICR seems to be interested in but the scientists themselves, particularly their creationist beliefs. Take this excerpt from the George Washington Carver page:

George Washington Carver was one of the great scientists who honored God as the Creator. Carver revolutionized agricultural science, and his studies of nature convinced him of the existence and benevolence of the Creator.

Carver’s actual achievements are totally irrelevant to the ICR. All they care about is that they get to exploit his good name and the fact that he happened to have been a creationist (because he lived before Darwin) in order to make the standard creationist argument from authority. In other words, they get to say, see evolutionists, even brilliant scientists accepted creationism. Of course, this is no more a valid argument than justifying slavery by pointing out that many of the great Founding Fathers of the U.S.  owned slaves or justifying a heliocentric view of the universe because Archimedes might have held that view in his time. So what? That’s not a valid evidential argument for why we should still believe what people in less scientifically advanced times who happened to be brilliant in their own time believed.  Then of course there’s still Project Steve, the NCSE’s genius response to creationist arguments from authority.

If this is the kind of argument they find convincing, they should know that Carver also didn’t believe in computers, the internet, television sets, vaccines, antibiotics, or automobiles either.

Popoff Pops Up Again

April 30, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Popoff Pops Up Again“, posted with vodpod

I’m the new NY Atheist and Skeptic Examiner

April 30, 2009

I haven’t gotten around to mentioning it on this site yet but as of several days ago, in addition to my regular blog here at Skepacabra, I have become the official NY Atheist and Skeptic Examiner at the Examiner.com.
There I will be blogging mostly about atheist and skeptical news stories and the NYC atheist/skeptical scene.
Most if not all of the posts there will probably be crossovers from some of the material written here on Skepacabra. The benefit of blogging at Examiner is I get to build a bigger audience and I actually get a whopping one cent per page view. So far I’ve made a whole two dollars!! So obviously I can now afford that Bazooka Joe bubble gum I’ve been meaning to buy. So anyway, please check out both Skepacabra and my page at my writing at Examiner.

Ken Jennings vs. The Machine

April 30, 2009

A new artificial intelligence program by IBM named Watson (after IBM’s Thomas J. Watson, Sr.) running on a supercomputer will be tested to see if it can:

it’s capable of pulling contextually correct information from a set database of stored knowledge that it can then phrase into an appropriate response for Jeopardy!. . .

. . .

The potential breakthrough here isn’t in the program’s ability to think so much as its ability to understand the subtleties of human language. For example, when given the answer “Bordered by Syria and Israel, this small country is only 135 miles long and 35 miles wide”, the program is able to respond with the correct question, “What is Lebanon?”, by contextualizing the information it already has. The Jeopardy! Producers hope to lure back all-time champion Ken Jennings to compete with Watson.

If Jennings accepts the challenge, it’ll be interesting to see if he becomes this generation’s John Henry or this generation’s Garry Kasparov . Or maybe this whole thing will just turn out to be another Turk. Obviously, computers have a long history of playing chess quite well. And there are still lots of problems scientists must solve before achieving true artificial intelligence.

Astronomers see behind the rim of previously known space

April 29, 2009

Thanks to the Swift Satellite, astronomers have seen the gamma ray burst from an exploding star 13 billion light-years away. That’s the most distant object we’ve ever observed and it’s just 630 million years after the Big Bang. Also, for those keeping count, that’s 12,999,994,000 years before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

Into the black hole we go

April 29, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Into the black hole we go“, posted with vodpod

And here is Neil DeGrasse Tyson describing what it might feel like to be sucked into a black hole.

Faith Swap

April 28, 2009

This might make a great new reality show. It turns out that according to the most in-depth survey on religious faith, half of adults in the U.S. have switched religions at least once.

And that may still be “a conservative estimate,” says Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

. . .

Pew’s new survey is based on re-contacting 2,800 people from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 people, released last year. Pew estimated at the time that about 44% of Americans have changed religions. It now says between 47% and 59% have, if you count the millions who once switched but have returned to their childhood faith.

The reasons most cited for the switch are that people didn’t feel their spiritual needs were being met, liked another faith more or changed their religious or moral beliefs. So basically, if I got this right, people are getting sick of the organized religions they were brought up in telling them how to think.

Religion coming to schools in atheist Berlin?

April 28, 2009

Berlin has been called the “atheist capital of Europe” with only 36% of its population having a particular religious affiliation. But now the religious in Berlin are fighting for the right to invade the schools, arguing that religion should have the same status in the classroom as Ethics. Now religion already has been an elective class in Berlin schools ever since the end of WWII.

The “Pro Reli” campaigners, led by figures from the CDU of the chancellor, Angela Merkel, and church leaders, want to change the regulations so that pupils can choose between ethics and a religion class, with Muslims, Catholics and Protestants being taught separately. “Pupils now have the choice between religion and free time – basically between religion and the ice-cream salon,” said Berlin’s leading Protestant bishop, Wolfgang Huber. “It is not really fair to say that pupils have a choice … Religion needs a proper place in the school timetable.”

Yeah, who needs Ethics class when you can learn a bunch of nonsense instead.

The “Pro Ethik” campaign is being spearheaded by the Social Democrats and the Left party, who make up Berlin’s city government. They argue that ethics teaching is central to ensuring integration in Berlin, which is now home to Germany‘s biggest Muslim community.

“What’s so awful about an ethics lesson in which everyone takes part?” asked Michael Müller, regional head of the Social Democrats. “Isn’t it a good thing that I learn something about my neighbour’s religion, his family and cultural background?”

Makes sense to me. But of course the religious must play the old persecution card:

Jauch, who is most famous for hosting the German version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, said: “Religious education in Berlin is systematically pushed to the edge of the curriculum and discriminated against on the school agenda. Whoever votes ‘yes’ [in favour of religious lessons] on Sunday, will be voting for the free choice between ethics and religion.”

You had to know a dopey celebrity would show up somewhere in this story. Now it surprises a lot of people that I am in favor of teaching religion in schools. However, I take the same position as Mr. Müller. We should be teaching children about many religions and reading from the many holy books as literature, as I did in an elective course I took in my final year of high school. In that class we might have been reading The Epic of Gilgamesh one day, Genesis the next, Antigone the day after that, and The Bhagavad Gita and Rig Veda then next.