Conversations with dead people

March 28, 2011
William Shatner and Patricia Breslin in "...

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I just got a distressing comment on an old piece I did about bogus psychics claiming to be able to communicate with the ghost of Michael Jackson beyond the grave. The comment distressed me so much I decided to re-post it along with my reply in a separate piece here.

First the comment:

Hi..i am 15 and i am sort of sensitive. I have predicted things before they happen in my dreams before. I had a dream when i was younger that my mom had to go to the hospital becausse something happened with her leg. I told my dad about it the next morning and sure enough i got a call from her. My loved ones have also came to me in my dreams. I was just wondering if you could contact my oma (grandma) for me. She died when i was very young and i miss her so much. I dont understand why she had to die when i was that young. I just need to know if shes stilla round me. Also can you ask her if i will ever see spirits like you???

-shannon : )

This perhaps summarizes better than I could ever articulate the harm caused by these alleged psychics, these grief-rapists, who prey on people at their most vulnerable. I was reminded of that great Twilight Zone episode, Nick of Time, where William Shatner plays a man who becomes almost hopelessly obsessed with a penny fortune-telling machine that appears to really foretell the future. The obsession almost takes over his life:

Here was my responnse to Shannon:

Shannon, it is not my intent to sound harsh or mean but unfortunately everyone has had that dream. On a long enough time line, everyone eventually has an occasional dream that seems to correspond to an event that happens soon after. There’s nothing paranormal about.

Unfortunately, as difficult as it must be to accept, your grandmother is gone. No one…NO ONE can communicate with her and if someone tells you they can, they are either lying to you or are lying to themselves.

You don’t need some charlatan to tell you what you want to hear, that your grandmother is up in heaven somewhere looking down on you and loves you very much. Without any magical powers, I can say with strong confidence that your grandmother loved you. And much as we might want to believe that our loved ones are not really gone and are out there somewhere because we’re scared about the finality of death, there is a beauty in death. If existence lasted forever it would lack any real value. So while I cannot say for certain that death is the end, I think the best way to live is under the assumption that this is all we get and to live this life to the fullest and with a view towards helping to leave the world better than when we found it.

You don’t need your grandmother to live a happy, healthy, productive, and wonderful life. And you certainly don’t need some crook to charge you for the service of lying to you no matter how pleasant those lies are. My advice is that you move on and live the best life you can while taking the time to appreciate your loved ones in the here and now.

 

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Skeptoid – The History Of Knowledge

March 24, 2011

News From Around The Blogosphere 3.22.11

March 23, 2011

1. New BBC report shows further decline in religion – In the past few years, a number of polls have shown religion is declining as increasingly more people identify themselves as not belonging to any religion. And now yet another poll shows this trend based on the census data of nine countries.

2. 70-year-old Philadelphia man stoned to death for Jesus – The killer has directly stated that the act was inspired by the Bible:

According to this report, John Thomas, 28, of Upper Darby, a Philadelphia suburb, told police he killed Murray Seidman of nearby Lansdowne because the Bible refers to stoning homosexuals.

3. Piggyback virus could thwart HIV

Rather than destroying HIV, a proposed treatment would embrace its infectious abilities, sending the virus into competition with a harmless, stripped-down version of itself.

Dubbed therapeutic interfering particles, or TIPs, these engineered viral scraps would ride with HIV as it spreads from person to person. By out-competing HIV for cellular resources, the TIPs might slow its progression and lower infection rates.

4. Nine cases of measles in Minneapolis

The likely source is an infant who traveled to Kenya and returned in the beginning of February. Cases have ranged in age from 4 months to 4 years. Four of the cases were too young to receive vaccine, four were of age but were not vaccinated, and one has unknown vaccine status. There have been five hospitalizations and no deaths.

On a related note, if you happen to run into Andrew Wakefield or Jenny McCarthy, please punch them in the face for me.

5. 60 Minutes turns Catholic child rape scandal into a fluff piece – This week’s 60 Minutes featured an embarrassingly piece on New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose making it his mission to restore the Church’s reputation after that pesky mass child rape conspiracy thing. In the piece, Dolan expressed little interest in helping to bring child rapists and their accomplices to justice or declaring specific changes to ensure it never happens again, and showed that his primary purpose is spin control. And 60 Minutes, like all the mainstream media, found that entirely satisfactory. I wonder if Scott Pelley would still be satisfied if his own child were raped by priests and committed suicide because of the psychological scars while the perpetrators were given full immunity from justice because instead of working for Starbucks, the organization they happen to work for is named the Catholic Church. Though I am happy to see that the commenters on 60 Minutes webpage are really letting them have it. And here’s a great piece on how out of touch with reality the Catholic Church is.

6. Nantucket child killed in exorcism

The woman accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter earlier this week believed God had instructed her to stick a rose in the young girl’s throat to ward off the devil, according to documents filed in Nantucket District Court.

So next time someone suggests religion is harmless, remind them of 3-year-old Nicole Garcia Pleitez.

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Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis expelled from home-schooling conference

March 22, 2011

A few days ago, Ken Ham was Tweeting the upcoming home-schooling conference. It’s not a surprise to hear a religious nut is a big fan of home-schooling. Over 90% of home-schooled children come from batshit insane religious families. Home-schooling is the favorite education system of those who deny reality because they hate the idea of their kids being talks actual facts that disagree with their kooky beliefs.

Unfortunately for the religiously deluded, the feeling isn’t mutual and the home-schooling industry is slightly less fond of Ham and Answers in Genesis, whom they’ve disinvited from attending their conference. Now you might think it’s because they’re trying to garner some margin of respectability but no. The Advisory Board proudly admits to being “100% young earth” and to [chuckling] sharing “AIG’s perspective from a scientific standpoint.” The only reason they disinvited AiG is because Ham publicly criticized the aspects of the convention and its other scheduled speakers, so they decided to take their ball back and go home to cry to their mommies:

Our Board believes Ken’s comments to be unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst.

Ooh, ungodly! That Ken Ham is a big meany, he is.

Ken has obviously felt led to publicly attack our conventions and a number of our speakers. We believe that what Ken has said and done is unChristian and sinful. A number of attendees are demanding explanations from our board and we must respond to them.

So it’s not so much that Ham is being “unChristian” so much as it’s a political tactic to quell the anger of their other speakers whom Ham offended. It’s like all those people Obama fired from his administration because they said things that were taken out of context by the Republicans to drum up controversy. It’s not so much that what they said was so bad in context but that Obama just wanted to quickly resolve a controversy that was making him look bad.

Oddly, I almost feel like defending Ham for once because the home-schooling industry is actually indoctrinating students under the guise of a legitimate education program and because they seem to be acting so childishly about a little criticism. It’s almost comical the way they argue that one of the core values is that we believe that good people can disagree and still be good people (except presumably for those evil, godless evil-utionists) while in the process of dis-inviting a speaker over a little criticism. When Sam Harris ruffled some feathers at the American Atheist Convention a few years ago, nobody struck him off the speakers list at future conferences. That’s because we don’t just pay lip service to alternative opinions; we actually show the courage of our conviction to listen to opinions we might not agree with. Ken Ham is still an ass though.

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Victoria Jackson vs. Glee

March 22, 2011

I’ve never watched an episode of Glee, but its ability to constantly piss off the religious right makes me a fan. Now Victoria Jackson has come out condemning the show for reasons even she doesn’t seem to know:

This is Victoria Jackson at her most intelligible. I’m starting to think this is a Poe and she’ll one day come out and admit she’s just an AndyKaufman-like provocateur because nobody can be this stupid and delusional.

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More excellent atheist ads

March 21, 2011


Jake Crosby is a shill for Big Kevin Bacon

March 21, 2011

Yup, that’s right. It’s another piece on Jake Crosby, the Senator McCarthy of the 21st century. As you probably know, a person can’t be approved for official membership in the anti-vax crank club until they accuse someone who disagrees with them of being an agent of the grand conspiracy to get us all. And no one has earned more patches in that category than young Jake Crosby at Age of Autism. It isn’t hard to find examples of Crosby’s comically tortured logic and pathological need to fling the nastiest vitriol at anyone who dares tell him he’s wrong (here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

Sadly, no matter how far he crosses the line into libel and deliberate distortion of facts, remarkable he and the Age of Autism fan club continue to view him as a legitimate investigative reporter…even when he posts something as despicable and repulsive as this. In this article, Crosby not only accuses real investigative journalist Seth Mnookin of a conflict of interest through a maze of loose associations that would make even Kevin Bacon scratch his head but also has the audacity to say this:

Seth Mnookin – a former drug dealer and burglar who bit a police officer…

Geez oh Peet! Offit picks the lousiest spokespeople, doesn’t he? First Amanda “don’t listen to me” Peet and now this former heroin addict.

What the psychotic Crosby is referring to in Mnookin’s history with battling a psychiatric disorder, which drove him to heroin addiction. Of course Mnookin has been clean for twelve years (about half of Crosby’s entire life), has rebuilt his life, has an exemplary journalist record, and has proven he has the courage to talk about this dark period of his life candidly and very publicly.

As for what any of Mnookin’s or anyone else’s past indiscretions have to do with the overwhelming science that proves Crosby completely wrong about everything he believes about vaccines is a mystery. These anti-vaxxers are deeply disturbed individuals who wouldn’t hesitate to try and even cite an old parking ticket to try to poison the well. Anything to try and discredit their critics and distract the public from the science. They have no shame.

And as for the amazing conflict of interest Crosby states Mnookin has, one commenter on the Left Brain Right Brain blog summed it up perfectly:

Wow. Jake revealed that Seth Mnookin -> is the son of Seth Mnookin’s father -> who is the brother of Seth Mnookin’s uncle -> who is a colleague of Alison Singer’s mother-in-law -> who is the mother of Alison Singer’s husband->who is married to Alison Singer (a founder of the Autism Science Foundation) -> who is therefore a colleague of a Paul Offit, who makes his millions by directing the world-wide, pharma-backed conspiracy to promote the idea that Jake and his AoA colleagues are ignorant, wacky, anti-science conspiracy theorists who clearly can’t understand that the great weight of the scientific evidence is against them and so have to rely on ad hominem attacks.

Unusually strong work for Jake.

Jake Crosby, you are a coward and a fraud. I challenge you to address the science and nothing but the science that you feel supports your position. I double dog dare you.

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