Keith Olbermann disgraces himself again

June 30, 2009

I used to like Keith Olbermann. I really did. What the hell happened? The guy really has become the Bill O’Reilly of the radical Left. Okay, he’s a little bit more interested in actual facts and fair, objective reporting than Bill-O, but as this clip shows (as well as his poorly conceived attack of British journalist Brian Deer earlier this year), he’s not interested in fair, objective reporting. In the clip linked above, Keith-O declares that the anonymous donor largely responsible for getting the Atheist Bus Campaign ads in NYC is the third worst person in the world. And why does Keith-O think they’re so terrible, presumably more terrible than Osama bin Laden, who didn’t make the list? Because of  the Keith-O’s perceived irony over the fact that they’re remaining anonymous while financially supporting an ad campaign that encourages atheists to come out of the closet:

Tonight’s worst persons in the world. The bronze: To the person who donated the scratch for ten thousand dollars worth of ads on the sides of buses in New York City, promoting atheism. They read, “You don’t have to believe in God to be a moral or ethical person.” The hope, from president Ken Bronstein of the group NYC Atheists, is to get people to stop hiding their non- belief — to stop hiding it. No complaint about the message — however, while Bronstein says, “We want to get atheists to come join us, to get out of the closet,” unfortunately the donor who made the ads possible is keeping his identity anonymous. (Contemptuous eye-roll.)

So an atheist promoting a campaign to encourage other atheists to come out while choosing to remain anonymous yourself makes you a bad person? According to Keith-O, the answer apparently is not only YES, but it makes you the third worst person in the world.

I think Greta Christina sums up the flaw in Keith-O’s logic quite well:

If you were doing a segment about an ad campaign designed to let gay people know that they weren’t alone and to encourage them to come out of the closet — and one of the major donors to the campaign wanted to remain anonymous — would you decry them as one of the worst persons in the world?

Or would you understand that coming out as gay can — yes, still, even this day and age — be a hazardous enterprise? Would you understand that coming out can mean alienating family and friends, losing your job or your kids, getting beaten up or even killed? Would you understand that people have to come out on their own timetable, and that a person who wants to take action to support gay rights and gay visibility still might not be completely out of the closet? Would you understand that even gay people who are out to their families and friends and colleagues still might not want their name, and their gayness, splashed all over the national news?And if so, then why don’t you understand it about atheists?

There are some realities about living as an atheist that you may not know about, Mr. Olbermann. Coming out as an atheist can have serious real-world consequences. Parents get denied custody of their children for being atheists. People get harassed and vandalized by their neighbors for being atheists. Teachers get suspended for being atheists. Teenagers get harassed and suspended from school for being atheists. Politicians whip up anti-atheist fear to try to get elected. (And that’s just in the US. I’m not even talking about parts of the world where atheism is a crime, punishable by imprisonment or death.)

And that’s coming from someone who is both gay and an atheist. Sorry Keith-O, but I’m calling this one an EPIC FAIL!

Oklahoma state officials are idiots

June 30, 2009

An Oklahoma State Representative is blaming the financial crisis on those who don’t accept her religious values. Take a guess which political party she belongs to. I know you can. And who is this idiotic state representative? Why it’s none other than Sally Kern, the same Sally Kern that famously called gays a bigger threat to America than terrorists.

Apparently, Kern doesn’t understand little things like the law of cause and effect. When the financial system collapses, it’s not the fault of those who operate that system. No,that would be too simple. It’s really Obama’s fault for not being religious enough and the fault of the gays as well as everyone that doesn’t fit her personal vision of morality. If history is any indication, I’m sure we’ll be learning about her extra-marital affair soon enough.

This kind of scapegoating is just plain disgusting. But perhaps the ACLU said it best:

“I think it’s very unfortunate, frankly, I haven’t seen scapegoating like this since pre-World War II Germany”, said C.S. Thornton, the Deputy Director of the ACLU Chapter of Oklahoma. “She blames all these things upon a great moral crisis that has in fact caused our national economic downtown, but nowhere in this parade of horribles does mention greedy Wall Street executives or government regulators who were asleep at the switch.”

My advice for Ms. Kern is that if she’s that certain this is all the fault of the godless heathens, then maybe should she get right on putting together a bill to raise funds for a massive animal sacrificing initiative. Well, maybe we can even sacrifice virginal women to the volcano gods too.

But of course she’s not the only idiotic public official from Oklahoma. Senator James Inhofe is claiming to have exposed what he calls “probably the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”. What is that hoax he’s speaking of? Why it’s Global Warming. Yup. Guess which political party this anti-scientific crank belongs to. I know you can.

He says the Environmental Protection Agency has been “cooking the science” on global warming since 1998, and that they purposefully falsified a report to eliminate research showing carbon dioxide has no harmful effect on the environment. Their motive? To further the Obama administration’s climate change initiatives. See, according to global warming conspiracy theorists, evil socialist fascists in the government want to declare your guns a federally protected wetland so that they might steal them from you and throw you into an internment camp. Or at least, I think that’s what they believe.

Seriously, what is wrong with these Oklahoma state officials? Is there something in the water?

Billy Graham calls atheism a fad

June 30, 2009

This just in. It seems that there is actually a segment of the population that is so hopelessly lost that they actually turn to Billy Graham for advice. This news comes after Graham responded to the question, why does atheism appear to be on the rise and why it’s getting more attention these days. As I read Graham’s response, I like to picture him crying over the downfall of his once  great cult:

DEAR M.M.: Yes, atheism has been in the public eye more in recent years, largely because of a few atheists who’ve captured the public’s attention through their books. They aren’t large in number, but they do tend to be aggressive in promoting their ideas.

Why have they drawn so much attention? One reason, I believe, is because they know how to use the media very effectively. They also appeal to people who want to be free from God or any moral restraints. Like the philosophers of Paul’s day who were constantly looking for new ideas to debate, many people today eagerly latch on to the latest fad (see Acts 17:21). Atheism attracts their attention, at least for a while.

In reality, however, modern atheists have very little new to say. In fact, atheism has been around for thousands of years; even the Psalmist, writing hundreds of years before Christ, referred to them: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Psalm 14:1).

Don’t be misled by those who claim God doesn’t exist, because he does. And the ultimate reason we know it is because he came down from heaven and walked on this earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ was God in human flesh, and he proved it by rising from the dead.

I love when he invokes the classic “atheists just want to be free to be bad” gambit. No matter how many times I hear it, it never makes any sense at all. If Yahweh really did exist, how would pretending he didn’t prevent Yahweh’s punishment? And isn’t the lack of any empirical evidence for Yahweh a far easier reason to be an atheist. And isn’t the whole thesis of Christianity that unlike those dirty, evil, Christ-killing Jews who have to work for salvation, Christians get the free pass out of hell and thus are “free of moral restraints?”And if atheism means freedom from moral restraints then damn, I must be doing it wrong. I haven’t even raped, murdered, or enslaved a single person yet. But then again, neither have any of the prominent atheist activists.

And it’s not like there’s anything really new about atheism. There are new public representatives of atheism but most of the arguments are hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years old. You could just as easily call guys like William Lane Craig, Dinesh D’Sousa, and Lee Strobel the “New Theists.” So if this is just a fad, then it’s at least a 2400-year-old fad if we include Socrates and Epicurus.

Don’t cry, Billy. 2000 years is a hell of a good run.

Skepacabra included in ‘Silence Is The Enemy’ campaign

June 30, 2009

Last month, I blogged about the Silence Is The Enemy campaign started by science blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum over at The Intersection to help fight sexual abuse. I was among many bloggers to draw attention to this important campaign. Well now Silence Is The Enemy has a website of its own, and Skepacabra is listed on the site among the many other bloggers who have helped promote the campaign.

I’m proud to be counted among some of the best blogs on the web. Keep up the great work everyone!

Has Obama chosen a church?

June 29, 2009

Apparently, there’s a whole group of people who have been on the edge of their seats waiting for Obama to pick a church in which to attend on a regular basis. Well, if you read Amy Sullivan’s article at Time, you might be under the impression that Barack Obama has indeed chosen a church:

Now, in an unexpected move, Obama has told White House aides that instead of joining a congregation in Washington, D.C., he will follow in George W. Bush‘s footsteps and make his primary place of worship Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational church at Camp David.

However, The Christian Science Monitor, Politico as well as several other sources disagree:

The White House said Monday that President Barack Obama continues “to look for a church home,” and said a magazine report that he has stopped is erroneous.

White House deputy press secretary Jen Psaki said by e-mail: “The president and first family continue to look for a church home. They have enjoyed worshiping at Camp David and several other congregations over the months, and will choose a church at the time that is best for their family.”

Of course, one thing that nobody in the media seems to be saying is, who cares? We’re supposed to be a secular nation with a wall separating church and state. There’s also not supposed to be any religious tests. So why is this decision to pick a church regarded as if it’s some legitimate rite of passage for any president.

What if Obama chose no church at all, or simply chose to only worship in the privacy of his own home, opting out of the pagentry of gaudiness that comes with putting his religious observances on public display for all to see? Of course, we all know what would happen. The Religious Right would condemn Obama even more (if that’s even possible) and proclaim this yet another sign that the nation has lost its values and that we’re approaching certain doom. And many on the Left looking to score some easy brownie points would join in on the outrage.

Of course Obama wouldn’t do that. Even if he were the closeted atheists some would like to believe, Obama’s always been a bit of a panderer to religious interests. Rick Warren anybody? So I guess that if he is going to choose a church, I’d actually prefer that Sullivan was right and that it was the nondenominational church at Camp David. Of all the choices, that’s the least offensive.

But because I don’t want to just use this platform to bitch, I’ll propose the best of both worlds. Obama has already publicly embraced the message of multi-culturalism in numerous speeches, even including atheists. Obama should pull a Ben Franklin and instead of picking one church, he should join them all. And I don’t mean just the Christian churchs but also the Jewish temples, etc. The president of the United States doesn’t just represent Christians, but every American. So why should he choose? If attending a religious ceremony instead of doing something actually useful is so important to the religious, Obama should declare that he’ll make time to visit every place of worship in Washington D.C.

And with his charisma and elequance, he could potentially even pull it off with only minimal criticism from the Right. I imagine that criticism would mainly come from the same people who were outraged when Obama had the audacity to defend the Founding Fathers’ values and declared that America is not a Christian nation. But he has the likability to get through it without ruining his reputation. I think there are far more people who are receptive to such multi-cultural messages now than ever before (Thank you legal immigration). I really think that this is a brilliant compromise that will please the most amount of people. And it also says all the right things. Our nation was founded on diversity, and considering I’m left with the impression that Obama isn’t really very religious at all anyway, this is a spectacular way to honor the spirit of diversity.

The less obvious dangers of astrology

June 29, 2009

astrology - the foolA Sri Lanka astrologer was arrested for publicly predicting the death of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. And okay, I know I should be devoting this blog to condemning this kind of censorship but that goes without saying and I do find this particular story kind of amusing.

Yes, it’s wrong for a government to arrest a citizen for saying something they don’t like. I don’t know exactly what the astrologer said, so it is possible that it was reasonably viewed as a threat on the life of the president…though I doubt it.

Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera confirmed Friday that Chandrasiri Bandara has been arrested so police could investigate the source of his prediction.

Yes, I would like to know the source of this prediction too. I suspect it originated from the suspect, Chandrasiri Bandara’s ass.

Flying Spaghetti Monster blesses Seattle Gay Pride

June 29, 2009

$64 million question

June 29, 2009

There’s a new reality/game  show that will soon be airing in Turkey called “Penitents Compete” (when translated). The premise of the show is that every week a group of different group of atheists will be brought before religious leaders of the various major religions as those religious leaders try to convert them.

No, I’m serious. That’s actually the premise of the show. At first when I heard about it, I was appalled. But in retrospect, I think I might kinda like it. Not only does it bring the religious debate into people’s living rooms but I surmise that it will implicitly also bring an atheist perspective into people’s living rooms. I only wish there were an American version.

Of course it’s very possible that the atheists chosen to appear on the show won’t be very well informed atheists and will be highly susceptible to convertion. In which case, this could give atheists even more bad press.

So the $64 million question is, will the atheists be converted or will they bring about the apostacy of others in the process…or more likely, will nobody change their views?

Either way, religion will likely continue to bare remarkable resemblance to the Wheel of Morality:

Expelled 2: Electric Boogaloo

June 28, 2009

creationistsApparently, Expelled wasn’t bad enough. Creationists are putting out yet another pseudo-documentary about evolution, The Voyage That Shook the World. But this time it looks like they’re being subtler. Althought the trailer for the film comments Darwin’s ideas still being controversial, there’s not much there that would give one the impression that the film was anti-evolution. However, with very little effort, you can find out that the film was produced by Creation Ministries International. And according to PZ Myers, they’re also using the same old tricks employed in Expelled:

They got several Darwin experts (Peter Bowler, Sandra Herbert, and Janet Browne) to appear in the “documentary” by concealing their motives. And then they admit to cherry-picking the interviews to put together their story.

This is of course one of the many reasons why no one should take creationists seriously. THEY LIE. They lie whenever it is convenient to manipulate the audience. And they’ll even admit to deceptions while at the same time downplay the seriousness of their being dishonest.

And in related news, six dozen paleontologists visited the Creation “Museum” recently. Their reaction was not surprising:

“It’s like a theme park, but the problem is it masquerades as truth,” said Derek Briggs, a Yale University paleontologist.

The critique of scientists even extends to the gift shop, where among the DVDs for sale is one entitled, “The Cure for a Culture in Crisis: It doesn’t take a Ph.D.”

It all had Wednesday’s visitors shaking their heads.

“Faith is one thing,” said Mark Terry, a high school science teacher from Seattle, “but when it comes to their science statements, they’re completely off the wall.”

Animals save the day

June 27, 2009

1. Stem Cells From Pigs’ Connective Tissue Cells

For years, proponents have touted the benefits of embryonic stem cell research, but the potential therapies still face hurdles. Side effects such as tumor development, a lack of an effective and long-term animal model to test new therapies, and genetic incompatibility between the host and donor cells are some of the problems faced by researchers.

Now, scientists at the University of Missouri have developed the ability to take regular cells from a pig’s connective tissues, known as fibroblasts, and transform them into stem cells, eliminating several of these hurdles.

2. Platypus Helps Illuminate Ovarian Cancer

University of Adelaide geneticist, Dr Frank Grutzner says DNA mapping of the platypus has uncovered an interesting relationship between their sex chromosomes and DNA sequences found in human ovarian cancer.

“We’ve identified DNA on the sex chromosomes of the platypus that is similar to the DNA that is affected in ovarian cancer and other diseases of reproduction like male infertility,” Dr Grutzner says.

. . .

“We are excited by the fact that the analysis of the platypus genome gives us new directions in investigating the molecular basis of ovarian cancer.”