News From Around The Blogosphere 2.23.11

February 24, 2011

1. Creationists defeated in Oklahoma – Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern tried to pass a bill that would bar teachers from grading students down on science tests because of that student’s particular belief. This was the latest attempt by creationists to force their way into science classrooms. Fortunately, it didn’t work and the bill was defeated. Sadly though, it was only defeated by a 7-9 vote.

2. Watson moving to Columbia Medical Center – The computer that brutally defeated Jeopardy‘s two greatest champs is being taken to the Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan where it will be used to help doctors evaluate patients.

“Watson has the potential to help doctors reduce the time needed to evaluate and determine the correct diagnosis for a patient,” said Dr. Herbert Chase, professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a public statement.

Chase also said that the super genius would lend doctors a hand when it comes to developing more “personalized treatment options” for patients’ needs through use of the Watson software.

3. Bible Fail – When a gay man was attacked, a news crew interviewed one of the attackers’ friends, a wrestler who proudly brandished a tattoo featuring the entire Leviticus 18:22 verse in the Bible, which infamously condemns homosexuality as an abomination. Sadly, this wrestler didn’t keep reading as in the very next chapter, Leviticus 19:28, the Bible condemns tattoos.

4. There’s no such thing as a lie detector

A new report in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, discusses some of the common misconceptions about those proficient in the art of deception, reviews the shortcomings of commonly used lie-detection techniques, and presents new empirically supported methods for telling liars from truth-tellers with greater accuracy.

Lie detectors routinely make the common mistakes of overemphasizing nonverbal cues, neglecting intrapersonal variations (i.e., how a person acts when they are telling the truth versus when they are lying), and being overly confident in their lie-detection skills


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.7.11

February 8, 2011

1. FBI investigating Scientology for human trafficking – A recent profile on ex-Scientologist and Oscar-winner Paul Haggis in the New Yorker also discussed an ongoing FBI investigation into the allegations of abuse by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and the enslavement of members of  the Sea Org:

The laws regarding trafficking were built largely around forced prostitution, but they also pertain to slave labor. Under federal law, slavery is defined, in part, by the use of coercion, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, and psychological abuse. The California penal code lists several indicators that someone may be a victim of human trafficking: signs of trauma or fatigue; being afraid or unable to talk, because of censorship by others or security measures that prevent communication with others; working in one place without the freedom to move about; owing a debt to one’s employer; and not having control over identification documents. Those conditions echo the testimony of many former Sea Org members…

And speaking of Scientology…

Tom Cruise

2. Is fictional Unitology in ‘Dead Space 2’ related to Scientology? – The videogame’s creative director says the similarities are just a coincidence, saying the inspiration came from Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World”, but his dismissal seems less than convincing given the similarities.

3. One flu vaccine to rule them all? – Researchers may have found a universal flu vaccine to end all flu vaccines. Though it’s worth noting that the trial had only 22 subjects, but bigger studies are in progress.

4. That time of year again for another ‘invisibility cloak’ story – Every year there’s another story about an invisibility cloak on the way with the requisite reference to Harry Potter. Here’s the latest one about a cloak that hides objects, rather than people, and without the use of metamaterials.

5. 1 in 8 U.S. biology teachers are creationists– This is a shocking statistic. Roger Ebert had an appropriate response to this on Twitter, analogizing this to the hypothetical statistic of 1 in 8 math teachers believing 2+2=5.

6. Florida court sides against anti-vax mom in custody battle – This is great news to hear a court rule so decisively against a parent specifically because their anti-vaccine beliefs directly endanger that child’s life. Hopefully, this will help set a precedent in all U.S. courts.

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A publisher to release ‘nigger’-less edition of Huck Finn

January 4, 2011

NOTICE

PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narra- tive will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

A new edition of Mark Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is to soon be released that will not include any instances of the word ”nigger” in the text.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s about time. When you read Huck Finn in school, it transformed you into a intolerant racist and convinced you to join the Klan.

Oh, right. That probably didn’t happen because you’re not a fucking moron and understood the book was a condemnation of racism and slavery. Apparently, NewSouth Books thinks they can write better than one of the most celebrated authors in American literature. And you got to love that name of the company, “NewSouth” Books.

Well, I’ve got a message for NewSouth Books:

GO FUCK YOURSELVES, you sanctimonious pricks and your disrespectful vandalism of one of the greatest novels of all time! The word “nigger” is a very ugly word, which is all the more reason why Twain chose to use it to further his point. I’m sorry if you failed to understand that point and foolishly think you can erase a particularly ugly period in American history but you can’t. We won’t let you, because the atrocities of our ancestors must never be forgotten, lest we repeat them.

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2010 This Year In Skepticism – January

January 2, 2011

Here is the first part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I’m just covering last January in this piece but I’ll try to cover more than one month in the next installment.

Yet another well-designed study hit another nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine is linked with autism. Then researchers concluded that there was a lack of evidence supporting special diets for autism.

New smart phone apps emerge that debunk creationism

California said no to creationist curriculum

Pat Robertson blamed the Haitian earthquake on a mythical pact the nation never made with the devil–true story–thus earning him a nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

Vatican Bank accused of laundering $200 million.

Stephen Baldwin said he’d rather see his daughter die than lie about Jesus, earning him a solid nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

The arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.

UK’s General Medical Council concluded that anti-vaccine prophet Andrew Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines and Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – both were big victories for public health around the world.

Skeptics fail in homeopathy-based suicide attempt – The 1023 campaign sparked a great deal of attention on this little publicity stunt and made homeopathy look incredibly stupid.

Star of Scientology orientation film gives farewell performance – Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of $cientology who starred in their orientation film left the cult.

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Federal authorities finally investigating Texas Board of Ed changes

December 25, 2010

Creationism loses in Louisiana

December 9, 2010

 

Suck it, bitches!

Not long ago, the Louisiana school board bought into the “teach the controversy” campaign being sold by the cdesign proponentsists. Fortunately, cooler heads have now finally prevailed.

In a preliminary vote a few days ago, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted 6-1 to  accept a proper treatment of Evolution free from insane disclaimers like that it’s “only a theory” or that Intelligent Design is to be taken seriously.

Today, the final vote that included the entire board found 8-2 in favor of Evolution and a quality science education. Yet again, creationism has been defeated. Of course, sadly, as I must say whenever we score such victories, the battle continues. Ideologues never give in no matter how many times they’re shown to be dead wrong and no matter how many times their attempts to change public policy are defeated.

They just continue to move the goalpost and change strategies. First, it was “Creation Science.” Then when the Supreme Court ruled against it, they created Intelligent Design (w/ a brief unfortunate stop over in “cdesign proponentsists”). Then when that was defeated in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, they branched off into “teach the controversy”, “academic freedom”, and “teach the strengths and weaknesses of Evolution.” Now that all those tactics are starting to fail, they’ll just come up with something else, whatever it takes to chip away at the legitimacy of Evolution.

Fortunately, we have the National Center for Science Education and guys like Ken Miller keeping up with the latest tactics and tirelessly fighting the good fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 9.24.10

September 25, 2010

1. Bra designed to double as two emergency respiratory devices

Caught in a disaster? You’d better hope you’re wearing the Emergency Bra. Simply unsnap the bright red bra, separate the cups, and slip it over your head — one cup for you, and one for your friend.

Dr. Elena Bodnar won an Ignoble Award for the invention last year, an annual tribute to scientific research that on the surface seems goofy but is often surprisingly practical. And now Bodnar has brought the eBra to the public; purchase one online for just $29.95.

“The goal of any emergency respiratory device is to achieve tight fixation and full coverage. Luckily, the wonderful design of the bra is already in the shape of a face mask and so with the addition of a few design features, the Emergency Bra enhances the efficiency of minimizing contaminated bypass air flow,” explains the eBra website.

What troubles me however is that they claim to be working on a counterpart device for men and I’m not sure I want to put something that’s been sitting on my junk on my face that isn’t a part of the female anatomy.

2. Saint candidate was once temporarily banished from Catholic Church – Mary MacKillop was a 19th century Australian who was being considered for sainthood. But it it seems that in 1871, she was temporarily banished by the Church and thrown out into the street. The reason why was that tried to report priests for–you guessed it–raping children! Everyone by now knows the Catholic Church hates tattletales. So they transferred the pedophile priests to a new diocese (like they always do) and kicked Ms. MacKillop out as punishment for squealing. Some things never change.

3. Texas Board of Education or Ministry of Truth? – The latest Orwellian plot being by the infamous Texas Board of Ed., who largely determine which textbooks are acceptable for use by the rest of the country, is to weed out all those textbooks promoting “pro-Islamic, anti-Christian half-truths and selective disinformation.” Ugh! Fortunately, the Texas Freedom Network has documented the falsehoods in their claims, and is closely monitoring the hearings. Hopefully, they’ll stop them before students are forced to learn that 2+2=5.

4. Six people arrested for burning their own Korans – From 1984 references straight to Fahrenheit 451:

In a joint statement, Northumbria Police and Gateshead Council said: “The kind of behaviour displayed in this video is not representative of our community as a whole.

“Our community is one of mutual respect and we continue to work together with community leaders, residents and people of all faiths and beliefs to maintain good community relations.”

Mutual respect…except when people make demonstrations they don’t like apparently. Regardless of how people might feel about book burning, it’s not a crime. I’ve been forced to defend more assholes this year than probably any other year in my life and I’m getting sick of it. Free Speech is not open to debate. It’s non-negotiable!

5. Canadian university student one-ups Leonardo Da Vinci – Da Vinci once designed a wing-flapping vehicle intended to make man airborne called an omithopter but he never actually built one, let alone flew one.

Todd Reichert, an engineering student at the University of Toronto, made history by sustaining flight in his ornithopter — named Snowbird — for 19.3 seconds and covering 475.72 feet. Snowbird is made from carbon fiber, balsa wood, and foam. The 92.59 pound vehicle maintained an average speed of 15.91 miles per hour.

Suck on that, Da Vinci!

6. 70 Zimbabwe children die within two weeks because of anti-vax religion – The children died of measles. Most the children who died belonged to this particular anti-vaccine sect. This story manages to demonstrate the dangers of possibly the two most destructive ideological forces on the planet, religion and anti-vaxxinationism. Individually, they can be quite destructive but combine the two and you end up with 70 kids dying in two weeks from completely preventable diseases.

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