News From Around The Blogosphere 8.31.11

September 1, 2011

The pale blue dot--that's home. That's us.

1. Earth:  home to 8.7 million species – At least that’s the latest estimate. Two of each of them fit on Noah’s Ark. And if you believe that one, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

2. Sam Harris corrects David Eagleman about atheism – I was unfamiliar with the term, “possibilianism,” but I certainly recognize the position. Eagleman thinks he’s found a position in between atheism and theism; he’s wrong. As Sam Harris says, what he describes is by any other name…atheism.

3. Bill Nye teaches climate science to Fox Business’ Charles Payne   – Bill demonstrates in this clip what a superb science communicator he is. He manages to hold court and deliver a fairly lengthy speech without even once being interrupted by a Fox pundit. It’s remarkable! Even better, when Payne tries to move the dialogue away from the science towards a personal attack on Al Gore, Bill brilliantly takes a moment to first repeat his key message, that global warming is an indisputable fact,  before giving a perfect political response that manages to neither “defend” Gore, who denialists like to pretend personally invented the “myth of global warming” nor falling into the trap of saying something that might be later taken out of context to portray Gore as some wacky alarmist. It’s a perfect performance and a solid win for science communication. That’s why we call him “The Science Guy.”

4. An atheist billboard rejected in Nashville – So what was so shocking that it was too hot for Nashville?

“You don’t need God — to hope, to care, to love, to live.”

How dare those mean, ol’ nasty Gnu Atheists!

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Church gets atheist billboard removed

July 20, 2011

News From Around The Blogosphere 5.2.11

May 2, 2011

T-Minus 19 days until The Rapture.

And T-Minus 20 days until Family Radio and Harold Camiping are mocked mercilessly.

1. Another actor turns against Scientology – Actor Michael Fairman has been expelled from the cult and was officially designated a “Suppressive Person”:

Fairman is not leaving the organization quietly. Posting his expulsion letter at Marty Rathbun’s blog, Fairman blasts Scientology for dismissing him after he had spent years promoting the church with work in its videos and television commercials. Despite all that work, the SP letter vaguely accuses Fairman of various deficiencies, such as “financial irregularities.”

“I have been debt free since early 2010, and am supporting two households.
I make car and insurance payments on my Mercedes…So what ‘financial irregularities and out-exchange’ are they fucking talking about?” Fairman writes.

They also amusingly charge him with being a “squirrel,” which in Scientology-speak means he continued to practice Hubbard’s methods outside of church control. It seems that Fairman, like Rathburn, still believes in some of the methods of Scientology, but has grown disgusted with its management.

2. Friendly Atheist jokingly stumbles onto the best billboard campaign idea yet – Actually, I came up with this idea as a serious proposal last year. It seems great minds think alike. My idea was what I called the “Isn’t it about time you read the whole thing?” Campaign, where an atheist organization put up billboards illustrating or quoting specific inconvenient and unpleasant Bible passages with a big headline reading, “Isn’t it about time you read the whole thing?” How much fun would it be defending such a billboard on Fox News? you could simply respond that you’re just trying to get more people to read the whole Bible, so what’s wrong with that? Of course you can also make your own billboard, advertising your own atheism.

3. Pastor caught molesting woman during demon-banishing service – This happened in South Africa, and it’s just one of those titles that says it all, doesn’t it? You can read the details in the link above. I’m suddenly reminded of the “put the devil back into hell” story from The Decameron.

4. Atheists in Spain double practicing Catholics

The number of young people practicing Catholicism has plummeted, from 29.2% in 2002 to 10.3% in 2010, according to the Youth Institute of Spain (Injuve). Also, the number of non-believers (19.1%) and atheists (9.6%) have increased nine points and three points, respectively. Non-practicing Catholics are the majority, making up 45% of the total.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is a battle we can win.

5. Comparing the necessary funding for SETI to other expenses – The other day I reported that Search for Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) is being defunded in the U.S. SETI’s funding equalled $2.5 million a year. Now Phil Plait has broken down the equivalent costs to demonstrate what it would mean to continue to fund possibly one of the most important science programs out there:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.21.11

April 22, 2011
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Andrew Wakefield, the new Jesus? – I’ve often argued that the anti-vaccine movement worships Andrew Wakefield like a religious prophet, but now J.B. Handley has said as much to the NY Times:

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” says J. B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, a group that disputes vaccine safety. “He’s a symbol of how all of us feel.”

2. Studies suggest atheist OUT Campaign works

Although prejudice is typically positively related to relative outgroup size, four studies found converging evidence that perceived atheist prevalence reduces anti-atheist prejudice. Study 1 demonstrated that anti-atheist prejudice among religious believers is reduced in countries in which atheists are especially prevalent. Study 2 demonstrated that perceived atheist prevalence is negatively associated with anti-atheist prejudice. Study 3 demonstrated a causal relationship: Reminders of atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists. These results appeared distinct from intergroup contact effects. Study 4 demonstrated that prevalence information decreased implicit atheist distrust. The latter two experiments provide the first evidence that mere prevalence information can reduce prejudice against any outgroup. These findings offer insights about anti-atheist prejudice, a poorly understood phenomenon. Furthermore, they suggest both novel directions for future prejudice research and potential interventions that could reduce a variety of prejudices.

3. GM mosquitoes to fight malaria – Scientists believe they’re getting close to being able to modify wild mosquito DNA as a weapon against malaria…using evolution:

In the laboratory, they made a gene spread from a handful of mosquitoes to most of the population in just a few generations, according to a report in Nature.

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More excellent atheist ads

March 21, 2011


Finally, an atheist ad I can get behind

March 2, 2011

No, this isn't it. Keep reading.

For the last few months, American Atheists have been rolling out a bunch of billboards across the country that, as I’ve made very clear in more than one article, I think completely suck. Eventually, other well-known atheists like PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson have jumped on the bandwagon and criticized those ads as well. And yet for some reason, the Raelians, France’s answer to Scientology, liked it enough to try to piggy-back off the “success” from the American Atheist campaign by ripping it off to draw attention to their kooky little atheistic, alien-worshiping religion.

But though I do love those crazy Raelian’s nudity policy, this piece isn’t about either of those “God is a Myth” campaigns. Rather, it’s about an advertising campaign that’s actually good, that actually sells atheism as as a positive thing rather than as a bunch of assholes whose sole purpose in life seems to be to piss people off and be miserable.

I can get behind this new commercial from the Center For Inquiry because, you see, they actually get it. They understand what the purpose of advertising is and they understand marketing. Great job, Center For Inquiry! That’s what I’m talking about!

Also, another great way to promote atheism and skepticism, Skepchick has just launched a sister site, Mad Art Lab, which “will include a diverse group of webcomic and fine artists, musicians, composers, and performance artists, with the occasional guest post by other well-known skeptical artists.”

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson is my god

January 7, 2011
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Thank you Lord Tyson for taking our minds off American Atheists’ horrible billboards, David Silverman’s poor TV performance, and Bill O’Reilly’s ICP-level stupidity.

Rebecca Watson has written a great response to the this failure of a billboard campaign by American Atheists as has Staks at Dangerous Talk. Of course I planted my flag first on criticizing this campaign a month ago here and here. The former earned me the title of “faithiest accommodater” by one commenter who apparently put on their crankypants that day.  Well, welcome fellow faithiest accommodaters who feel there’s a difference between blunt, unapologetic, but articulate intellectual criticisms of religion and just being an asshole who nobody’s going to want to hang out with.

As I said before, advertising isn’t about making arguments; it’s about selling a product. And if you want to sell a product like atheism in the month of December, you ought to be associating yourself with positive humanist values like good will towards your fellow human beings. That wins friends and influences people. Plus there’s that bonus of actually having helped people. Something I hear we atheists are all about and yet I see little of from the American Atheists.

And if you still REALLY want to get under the Religious Right’s skin, as one group of atheists learned this holiday season, you’re going about it all wrong.

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