J.B. Handley surprisingly adheres to letter of promise, though not really the spirit of it

April 29, 2011

As I reported two days ago, the blogger previously known only as Sullivan has revealed himself to be none other than Matt Carey, an industrial researcher in computer hardware who himself has an autistic child. And this bit of news was very unfortunate for professional reality denier J.B. Handley, who vowed several months ago that if Sullivan was revealed to be someone other than Bonnie Offit, he would–well, here’s how he put it [emphasis mine]:

Bonnie Offit, or Sullivan for that matter, I have a simple offer: If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan, a man who has an inordinate grasp of the details of your husband’s patents, lawsuits, published studies, and web habits, I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good.

In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.

I’m waiting, Bonnie, and I have a funny feeling I will be waiting a very long time.

That very long time was five months and indeed, now that father has been produced. Now two days ago, I joined my fellow skeptical bloggers in speculating that Handley would backpedal and make excuses why he would not carry out his end of his “offer.” But to our collective surprise, Handley actually seems willing to follow through. . .to a point:

In a previous post, I speculated that Sullivan was actually Bonnie Offit, wife of a not-to-be-mentioned vaccine millionaire. Mr. Carey’s personal outing of himself renders my speculation incorrect. As many ravenous members of the dark side I’m sure have mentioned, I also made a simple promise that if Sullivan was NOT Bonnie Offit, I would not utter said name of said leader of the Dark Side. I also offered to give up the website http://www.pauloffit.com Apparently, Mr. Carey is a parent of a child with autism. Matt, if you’re reading this, note that I really have no interest in writing about or attacking other parents, and you can expect similar treatment. My enemies are the AAP, CDC, and the vaccine makers themselves, as well as their well-paid minions. Since you don’t appear to be in any of those camps and have a kid just like me, I don’t have the heart.

So he has agreed to give up the domain http://www.pauloffit.com and is no longer referring to Offit by name. But that wasn’t really the deal now was it. Handley said:  “I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.” Not using his name was only the second condition; the first was to no longer write about him. Now it remains to be seen whether he’ll carry out that first condition from here on out, but if his childish concession is just going to be referring to Offit by thinly veiled hateful epithets to further vilify him, then I’d say that not only is he not carrying out his promise but he’s behaving even more despicably than before.

Now Handley is perfectly free to go on living in his delusional, black and white fantasy world where every reputable health organization on planet Earth is an agent of the “Dark Side” that’s out to get us but this sort of dehumanizing rhetoric has serious consequences.

I always like to put to conspiracy theorists the challenge to actually kill or capture the specific people they claim to be absolutely certain are really secretly ruling the world and destroying lives because I’m confident that they lack the courage of their convictions. But all it takes is just one crazed fanatic Age of Autism reader to take Handley’s hyperbolic rhetoric deadly seriously, and we could potentially have another Timothy McVeigh or Jared Lee Loughner on our hands. Now I’m not trying to suggest that a hyperbolic rhetoric can turn a perfectly sane individual into a psychotic killer or that the person who unintentionally sets off such a maniac is to blame for their actions. But nevertheless there are people out there who are already wound up and just need a trigger to set them off like a powder keg, and because we know those people are out there, it’s prudent to show a little integrity and self restraint by easing back on the dehumanizing rhetoric.

I’ll even admit to going too far in my own rhetoric from time to time, but I try to avoid it. Listen, whatever Handley thinks about me and the rest of his critics, I don’t believe he or any other anti-vaccinationists are agents of the “Dark Side” or are deliberately endangering the lives of children. I do, however, think that they’ve been misled into embracing an ideology and have formed an unhealthy emotional attachment to certain belief that runs contrary to the scientific facts and which has led them down a path that is unintentionally killing kids. I do not think Handley is Darth Vader or Voldemort or any other name associated with the epitome of evil.

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The Value of Vaccines | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

April 29, 2011

Derren Brown exposes the faith healers by inventing his own

April 28, 2011

The fall of SETI

April 28, 2011

It is the end of an era. The U.S. government is retiring its space shuttle program and now due to a lack of funds, SETI, the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is being forced to mothball their Allen Telescope Array, a group of 42 radio dishes in northern California. This is a great loss as SETI remains arguably the most likely means of us making contact with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe

If you wish to donate to this important organization, visit their donation page.

Perhaps no one is better at conveying the importance of this endeavor better than Carl Sagan, the author who gave us the SETI-centered novel Contact:

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Chris Mooney disucsses conspiracy theories that won’t die

April 28, 2011

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Chris Mooney disucsses conspiracy theories that…, posted with vodpod

News From Around The Blogosphere 4.27.11

April 28, 2011

1. Borg-like eye-tracking mini display gives wearer Terminator vision – The really geeky-looking monocle overlays digital information on top of what you normally see in front of you. The downside is that it also gives wearers a unceasing compulsion to track down and kill anyone named Sarah Connor and that the article makes not a single reference to the Geordi LaForge visor.

2. Bogus colic relief treatment sold to children – The company Brauer is selling homeopathic “medicine” as a treatment against colic in children. This is repulsive and shows that, as PZ Myers says in the link above, “Brauer profits off the pain of children, and offers nothing in return.”

3. NJ maintains low vaccination levels -Last year it was reported that  my home state of New Jersey had the sixth lowest vaccination rate in the country. Incidentally, New Jersey was also number one in autism (you do the math). While I don’t know where the state falls on the national scale now, a new report shows that Jersey’s vaccination rates remain embarrassingly and shamefully low:

67 percent of New Jersey children ages 19 to 35 months have received the recommended vaccine doses compared to the national average of approximately 70 percent, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

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Jake Crosby once again unintentionally convicts himself of having a conflict of interest

April 28, 2011

Jake Crosby is at it again with more 6000-degrees of separation conspiracies – If I were as childish as the folks over at Age of Autism, I might dub this kid Joke Crosby…but I’m classy and stuff. Crosby reiterates his last alleged conflict of interest:

The saga of Seth Mnookin and his uncle, Robert Mnookin just gets weirder and weirder. First it has been revealed that Robert Mnookin is close colleagues with Linda Singer – the mother-in-law of pharma-funded wife, Alison Singer – and Michael Lewis, who sits on the board of her fake autism charity/pharma front group, “Autism Science Foundation.”

Got that straight? Seth Mnookin’s uncle works with the mother-in-law of Alison Singer (who I get a funny feeling young Jake is not a fan off – what he has against warrior moms with autistic children, I have no idea). This to him constitutes a conflict of interest. On what grounds? Beats the fuck out of me!

I recently learned that I’m distantly related on my uncle’s side to Jonathan Ames, the writer and producer of the HBO series Bored To Death. And while I met his parents once now, I’ve never so much as been in the same room as Mr. Ames. And yet young Jake, who apparently isn’t aware that everyone in the world is connected by a few degrees, is convinced such a tenuous connection is “weird” and “bizarre”, as well as significant enough to completely ignore Mnookin’s actual facts and arguments.

His latest amazingly “bizarre” connection is that the author of the recent NY Times article that positively quoted Mnookin also “gushed” about his uncle in a news story from a whopping six years ago.  Come to think of it, I’ve noticed a lot of writers consistently write negatively of Charles Manson. Weird! Bizarre! It must be an evil plot. What other possibility could there be? Also Jake Crosby has in dozens of articles “gushed” over Andrew Wakefield. Bizarre. I think Jake would agree that that proves overwhelmingly that he is part of a conspiracy. Seriously though, this level of deluded McCarthyism is getting truly pathetic. Here is an article that lays out the grounds for what is considered an unhealthy relationship in the real world.

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Sullivan reveals he’s not Bonnie Offit and J.B. Handley must never mention Paul Offit again

April 27, 2011

Sullivan is a writer for the Left Brain Right Brain blog where he debunks a great deal of anti-vaccine lies. A few months ago, J.B. Handley tried to “investigate” to determine the true identity of Sullivan and because Handley is a complete idiot, he falsely concluded that Sullivan is none other than Bonnie Offit, wife of Dr. Paul Offit. This is because Handley’s “investigation” led him to the conclusion that Sullivan fits the following criteria:

  1. Female
  2. American
  3. A doctor or scientist
  4. Not the parent of an autistic child.

How convinced was Handley that Sullivan was Bonnie Offit? So much so that he publicly promised that if Sullivan’s identity was revealed and turned out not to be Bonnie Offit, Handley would never write about or mention Paul Offit again.

But now Sullivan has outed himself, revealing he is none other than Matt Carey…who I’ve never even heard of. He’s an industrial researcher in computer hardware and has an autistic child. So Handley failed on almost every possible level.

So will Handley honor his promise and never talk about Offit again? Or, liar and coward that he is, will he move the goalpost and backpedal? I’m betting real money it’ll be the latter.

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Dialogue with a madman

April 27, 2011

As the countdown to Harold Camping and Family Radio’s excuses for incorrectly predicting The Rapture gets closer to the zero hour, one of my earlier posts about it has gotten a lot of traffic. And with a lot of traffic inevitably comes a flood of comments from people who represent a segment of the population that is so deluded that it’s a wonder they’re able to dress themselves.

Such is the case with BJ, a commenter who in a pre-internet age would no doubt be standing on street corners wearing a sandwich board. The following is an exchange I’ve been having in the comments section of the article linked to above:

BJ: Concerning the rapture:The Bible says in Matthew 24 that the coming of the Lord will be as in the days of Noah, they were eating, drinking,marrying until the day that Noah entered the ark.The flood came and took the unbelievers away.It wasn’t we believers that were taken, it was the sinners.Yes, Noah was protected in the ark but he was still around when everyone else was gone.Do you still want to be raptured? I may be wrong,but I just want to be with JESUS!!!!!!!

Me: You left out the part about the angels fucking people and creating a race of giants (Gen. 6:1-6).

BJ: I didn’t forget about the FALLEN angels. They were the reason for the flood.They were disobedient.God destroyed them.

Me: And yet the inclusion of a literal race of giants doesn’t seem to affect the plausibility of the story in your eyes…which speaks volumes. On a related note, I’ve got some magic beans to sell you.

BJ: Hey,It doesn’t matter whether the giants are literal or catagorical.If they are catagorical,it means they stand for something larger than we are,but if they are literal,it sure explains a lot of things such as who built the Pyramids?I believe in God,and I believe his word,and if you don’t then I don’t see any use in this discussion.As for the magic beans,keep them you need them more than me.

Me: It matters for the story to actually make any kind of sense. Then again, even a literal race of giants doesn’t in any way justify genocide to anyone other than a sociopath. Further, giants don’t explain the pyramids, which were built by ordinary-sized humans.

BJ: First of all,to argue about giants,literal or not is in itself senseless.It just causes arguments and derision.furthermore,I have no idea what the Nephilim of Genesis and genocide have to do with anything.and as far as the pyramids are concerned,there’so way an ordidary person could have made anything that big with stones that size with the knowledge and tools that they had.These giants were the offspring of fallen angels and humans,but once again,if you don’t believe the bible,this will mean nothing to you.

Me: Well, yes, until someone can actually present a literal giant (which is the sole reason the Bible gives for the flood), it’s a pointless discussion. Though the fact that the Bible makes repeated references to literal giants, literal dragons, literal witches, and literal unicorns speaks volumes about the level of reliability one ought to ascribe to it given that all of these are entirely mythical creatures. Of course all of this avoids the real issue addressed in this article, which is the claim that the biblical Rapture is at hand. And if it is, then whether we argue or not makes no difference anyway.

Now with regards to the pyramids, there’s no mystery. We know precisely how the pyramids were almost certainly built and many have sufficiently demonstrated that it can be done using the same simple tools that were available to the Egyptians at the time: levers, pulleys, and raw man power. Your personal incredulity does not define the possible or the impossible. The fact is that they had both the means and inclination to build the pyramids, they did so, and they did not suffer the same failure of imagination as you. Though I do find it curious that you regard human beings simply collaborating on a building project hard to believe and yet the notions of a race of giants constructing a building with doorways too small for them to enter and a magical deity with infinite power sound perfectly plausible to you…especially when Genesis itself describes a far more ambitious human building project during the same era.

And lastly, if your criteria for persuasion requires the person to already believe the very thing you’re trying to persuade them to believe, your time would be better spent chasing your own tail because that’s circular reasoning.

BJ: once again, all this stuff does’t matter.I’m not trying to to persuade anyone to believe me.I don’t care if you believe me or not.I belive in God and his son Jesus and his word[the Bible]and that’s all there is to it.It’s been very enlightening talking to you,I will be praying for you,but I don’t see any point in continuing to converse.I stand on everything that I previously said.I pray that God will forgive you, for you know not what you do.Oh, before I forget,try reading the New Testament for a change,it just might be enlightening to you.

Me: Thanks but I know exactly what I do. Though if you insist on praying for me, I’ll masturbate for you and we’ll call it even. And while I appreciate the condescension, I’ve read the Christian Bible several times, which is a large factor in why I’m an atheist. Now isn’t it about time you read the whole thing from beginning to end too?

BJ: Atheists always make me smile.All you are doing is fullfilling prophesy.You don’t believe in God because it’s easier not to.God will always make a way for you and other sceptics to scientifically explain everything.why? Because he gave us free will,and he wants us to come to him willingly.It all centers around FAITH.You’re taking the easy way out and fullfilling prophesy at the same time.I don’t know when the end is coming,but I do know that it is.God is taking his time because he doesn’t want anyone to perish.He’s doing it for you dude.It’s easy not to believe in God.If there is no God,then I’ve lost nothing,BUT,if there is a God and I chose not to believe in him,then I’ve lost eternal life in paradise.Not worth the risk to me.I’m a believer.You think I’m weak? It’s when you are weak,that he makes you strong.You think I’m using him because I need a crutch and only weak people need a crutch right?You are probably right,but by leaning on him,I WILL NOT FALL!!!!!! Go ahead, make fun of me if you must,but I’m a believer and that’s all there is to it.Go ahead keep being an atheist,keep fullfilling prophesy, and I’ll just continue to smile.God is merciful,and he’ll never turn anyone away.

Me: “All you are doing is fullfilling prophesy.”
Then we must be doing a really bad job because 1900 years later, prophecy has yet to be fulfilled.

“You don’t believe in God because it’s easier not to.”
No, I don’t believe in your tribal god for the same reason you don’t believe in anyone else’s tribal gods, lack of evidence.

“God will always make a way for you and other sceptics to scientifically explain everything.why?”
Such a god who would deliberately fool people to lure them into a trap where they’ll be tormented for all eternity seems like a pretty sadistic deity.

“Because he gave us free will,and he wants us to come to him willingly.”
I don’t think you know what the phrase “free will” means. If I tell you to obey me or else I’ll fucking blow your brains out, that is not “free will.” That is called a threat. Fortunately I’m unimpressed by threats from non-existent entities with no ability to follow through.

“It all centers around FAITH.”
In that case, I have something to tell you. I am Jesus. SURPRISE! Now before you object, remember now. It all centers around FAITH.

“You’re taking the easy way out and fullfilling prophesy at the same time.”
According to you, my actions lead to an eternity of suffering regardless of whether or not I’m a good person simply because I didn’t suck up to god the mob boss. Some “easy way out.”

“I don’t know when the end is coming,but I do know that it is.”
The word “know” is utterly meaningless if such alleged knowledge cannot be demonstrated. You, like the millions before you, BELIEVE it will happen; you don’t KNOW it.

“God is taking his time because he doesn’t want anyone to perish.”
Too late. OOPS. If that’s his goal, according to your religion, he’s already failed. So why follow a failure of a god when you can follow Zeus instead? Now that’s a god who knows how to get things done.

“He’s doing it for you dude.”
No, according to you, your tribal god literally designed a system meant to fool me into an eternity of punishment with that evil science, which would in turn lead to my eternity of suffering, another condition that your tribal god set up. These are not the actions of a loving deity who’s “doing it for me.” These are the actions of a cruel sadist who wants to maximize suffering and get brain dead lackeys who will actually try to rationalize it as a just system. In which case, I reject any god who would inflict pain and suffering for its own pleasure.

“It’s easy not to believe in God.”
That’s the first honest thing you’ve said. It’s every bit as easy as not believing in Santa Claus.

“If there is no God,then I’ve lost nothing,”
Except that you’ve wasted your one and only existence on terrorizing others and making their one and only lives miserable. You must be very proud.

“BUT,if there is a God and I chose not to believe in him,then I’ve lost eternal life in paradise.”
Belief isn’t a choice. You either do or you don’t. You must not think very highly of your god if you think you can fool it into thinking you believe in it even when your every instinct tells you it doesn’t, requiring you to have to go out of your way to “choose” to believe in it. The amazing thing is that no such conscious effort is required for believing things that exist. Nobody “chooses” to believe in hammers. If you don’t, you can just go to a hardware store and see one for yourself. When things exist, they leave copious amounts of evidence demonstrating their existence. It’s usually only ever the non-existent things that leave no evidence of existence.

As for this paradise thing, if you really believe in it, why do you work so hard to avoid it? Why lock your doors at night or look both ways when crossing the street? Why see a doctor when your sick or injured? Why grieve when loved ones die if they just went to paradise? Why live your life like someone who doesn’t believe you go to paradise when you die?

“You think I’m weak?”
No, I think you’re delusional.

“You think I’m using him because I need a crutch and only weak people need a crutch right?”
Nope. You really are a fountain of invented knowledge, aren’t you.

“But by leaning on him,I WILL NOT FALL!”
But you’ve already fallen…for the oldest trick in the book.

“Go ahead keep being an atheist,”
I’m more than willing to change my mind if presented with sufficient evidence. Are you?

“Keep fullfilling prophesy”
Or you know, not fulfilling prophesy as the case seems to be. A world that hasn’t ended hardly seems like a fulfilling of a prophesy that says the world will end. Kinda jumpin’ the gun there, chief.

“and I’ll just continue to smile.”
So when faced with the belief that billions and billions of people will suffer for all eternity because they were tricked by your god into not believing because your god deliberately created a world that made it, according to you, easy to doubt said god’s existence, your response is to smile?? So you think the perfect moral system punishes otherwise good people simply because they were deceived into not kissing your god’s ass and rewards psychotic lunatics who enjoy endless human suffering. Sounds lovely. If that’s your heaven, I prefer the hell. Better company.

BJ: Well I’m so glad that you prefer hell,because the rate you’re going, you’ll be there before long.You can’t get to heaven on good works.Being a good person won’t do it.You’ve got to believe that JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD.This is where faith comes in.If you need proof,you’ll never have faith,because proof is the opposite of faith.Every negative word that comes out of your mouth is fullfilling prophesy,and it is only by the grace of God that you are not consumed.As far as billions of good people going to hell.Salvation is a free gift.It’s available to everyone,but if you reject it,then you have rejected your only hope.Don’t blame God,it’s your own fault,yet,he is patiently waiting for you to give him a chance.Always ready to forgive you,and always offering salvation to anyone who believes in him. FOR THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH;BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.ROMANS 6:23 Too bad you don’t believe.

Me: Well, no. As I’ve already told you, I am Jesus. I’m sorry you lack the necessary faith to accept that. But don’t worry. I’m not as sadistic as you’d falsely claim me to be, so I won’t send you to hell. Of course, you better hope I, Jesus, am the one true god and that you happened to grow up in the right part of the world at the right time. If you’d grown up in Afghanistan, you’d be just as certain that the Koran was the true word of god. But if Islam does turn out to be the real true religion, we’ll both be roasting for all eternity.

What a crazy system you’ve invented though, where morality is worthless and the only the most sycophantic robots are rewarded, regardless of their behavior, where Hitler goes to heaven but his Jewish victims must suffer a whole other Holocaust involving an eternity of suffering, where the mere absence of torture by a celestial tyrannical mob boss is seen as a gift and where the thought of good people needlessly suffering makes you giddy. And that you would have the audacity to claim that anyone who doesn’t applies the critical thinking skills they were born with and doesn’t believe, or who even dares to object to this celestial dictatorship actually deserves being tortured for all eternity disgusts me. You are like an abused child who is determined to believe that you deserved it for misbehaving.

But let’s just say for the sake of argument that your bullshit view is accurate. If as you yourself say, god is “always ready to forgive,” why not just wait until after I’m dead and then turn into the mindless drone you’ve become after seeing hell for myself? Remember now. God is “always ready to forgive.”

Now I’ve about run out of patience with you so I will no longer allow comments from you and politely tell you to go fuck yourself!

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.26.11

April 27, 2011

1. God is dead – Okay, not really because there is not such entity. But Sri Satya Sai Baba, a man who millions worship like a god because he fools them into believing he can perform miracles with simple parlor tricks is dead. I must say that if not for Sam Harris, I might not have even been familiar with this shamless con artist. Good fuckin’ riddance. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving individual.

2. Scientists anoint new fly queen – If your as sick of hearing about that bloody royal wedding in limey-land as I am, you’ll probably enjoy this news item:

Masaki Kamakura, a biotechnology researcher in Japan, has identified the protein in royal jelly that turns female worker bees into queen bees, which are larger in size, more fertile, and live longer. So, like anyone else would do upon making this discovery, he tried to turn a regular fly into a queen fly. And it totally worked. It’s a huge discovery in the study of insects:

I guess that makes it the lord of the flies. Now if only we can figure out how to turn Anne Hathoway into the Queen of England. Don’t just sit there. Get on it, scientists!

3.  Measles outbreak linked to one unvaccinated person

Nine cases in the state have been linked to exposure to one unvaccinated person who contracted the disease in Poland, according to the Salt Lake Valley health department. Epidemiologists have determined that the person exposed as many as 1,000 people this month.

Measles are so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of those near that individual will become infected if they are not immune.

There’s also  a major measles outbreak in Europe:

The World Health Organization said Thursday that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March – compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations.

Another wonderful vision of a what the world will look like if ruled by anti-vaccine nuts.

4. “New” Atheist open letter strikes a nerve – The other day, Dr. Jerry Coyne wrote an open letter to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and British Centre for Science Education (BCSE), criticizing them for going out of their way to criticize more confrontational atheists. This led a number of such prominent atheists to responding in favor of Coyne’s position such as PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins. And now Roger Stanyard of the BCSE is firing back with a complete straw man position that just demonstrate how irrational the critics of confrontational atheists are when it comes to this one issue. His claim is that we want these organizations to embrace atheism when I don’t know anyone making that claim. I, like Myers and Dawkins, just want to see these organizations to leave religion out of the discussion entirely and remain entirely neutral on the subject. That’s all.

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