This Week In God 8.10.11

August 10, 2011

1. Three great blogs moving – PZ Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, has moved from Scienceblogs to freethoughtblogs. Though he still posts some of his material at the old site, I’m not crazy about this move because because freethoughtblogs seems more atheist-focused whereas scienceblogs at least gives the impression of Pharyngula being more science-focused, regardless of whether the actual emphasis changes or not. Hermant Mehta has also moved his Friendly Atheist blog to Patheos, a site hosting blogs from many different religious and spiritual perspectives. I think this one was a good move because it gives Mehta’s atheist blog a great opportunity to gain readers among the religious, and this could possibly change some people’s views about atheism. And lastly, blogger Greta Christina will be soon moving her blog to freethoughtblogs. I’m fairly neutral about this because she’s already got a strong atheist readership, so I don’t expect much change one way or the other in terms of her readership.

2. Speaking of PZ Myers, he too has now publicly taken a position on the American Atheists’ lawsuit over the “9/11 Cross.” It seems that even that nasty militant atheist that Jeff Wagg today (I think quite unfairly) called the “FoxNews of atheism” in a tweet agrees with me that it’s just not worth the effort and that we’ve got bigger fish to fry:

I can understand that in principle it’s promoting religion, and I look at that random chunk of steel that forms a crude cross and can see that it is abysmally stupid to consider it a holy relic, but man, if atheists have to police every single act of stupidity committed by the human race, we’re going to get very, very tired. We need to pick our battles better, and this one is just plain pointless.

3. Stephen Hawking’s Curiosity refutes god on Discover Channel – You can watch the whole first installment at the link above…at least for now.

4. Jonathan T. Pararajasingham follows up his videos of 100 academics explaining their atheism with a 25-minute video of 20 academics and theologians explaining why they believe in god. The former is a wonderful collection of brilliant thinkers making intelligent arguments in favor of atheism while the latter is a depressing example of how motivated reasoning can poison the minds of otherwise intelligent people, causing them to make the most asinine and incoherent arguments to defend their indefensible faith.

5. Evolution wins out in Texas – Okay, I’m very late on this story. So sue me. The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution in a 14-0 vote, approving scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers, rejecting the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 6.9.11

June 10, 2011

I’ve been away for almost a week, so I’m going to have to play catch-up for the next few days.

1. New Pew Poll suggests atheists still unelectable – If the poll is accurate, atheists are less electable than a candidate who is Mormon, gay, divorced, or even an adulterer.

2. ‘Psychic’ leads Texas Rangers and FBI down dead end  – Police followed a tip by an alleged psychic who told them where to find a supposed mass grave containing dozens of dismembered bodies. Now Craig McNair, head of the county commissioners, is looking to hold her responsible for giving a false tip and creating havoc.

3. ‘Expelled’ production company expelled from existence – Premise Media Holdings LP has gone bankrupt and its shitty creationist propaganda film starring Ben Stein is going up for auction:

The high bidder will become the owner of the movie that The New York Times (2008 Apr 18) described as “[o]ne of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time … a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry … an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike” and that was denounced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for its “profound dishonesty” and condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for its “outrageous” misuse of the Holocaust to “tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution.” (NCSE’s Expelled Exposed provides a collection of reviews, commentary, and resources documenting the extensive problems with Expelled.)

4. Tennessee passes law banning images that “cause emotional distress” – Though it remains to be seen if anyone will actually try to enforce this new law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, it’s hard to imagine a greater offense to the First Amendment.

5. Hot nun fired over lap-dancing past – Wasn’t there something in Christian mythology about turning the other cheek? Which cheeks the passage was talking about is unclear.

And on a related note…

6. Pole dancing for Jesus causes controversy – There’s a pole dancing class that allegedly is intended to help women stay in shape while simultaneously bringing them closer to God:

Set to Christian music, church-going women spin and slither around poles. But the instructor and the students say it’s not about sex.

7. South Carolina prison insist lingerie ads lead to “deviant behavior”

But the organization says the jail has gone even further in its screening of mail to inmates by banning publications that contain any level of nudity, including beachwear and underwear.

Oh, and there’s a video in the link above.

 

And finally…

8. Congratulations to my friend Page Van Meter, who’s been named the new president of the NYC Skeptics!

 

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Richard Dawkins corrects a creationist

June 5, 2011

News From Around The Blogosphere 4.20.11

April 20, 2011

1. Siberian YouTube alien is a hoax – This week a YouTube video has been making the rounds that seems to show the discovery of a dead space alien in the ice. Of course, as it turns out, the tiny “dead alien” is just skin from chicken filled with bread that was painted in “alien colors,” whatever that is.

2. Dilbert’s evolution-denying creator caught using sock accounts – Many people don’t know this but Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoons, doesn’t believe in evolution. What you might also not know is that he often defends himself against critics online under the anonymous account, PlannedChaos in order to give the illusion of impartiality. And when his dishonesty was caught, his excuse was that since it hardly even registers when compared with the worst immoral behavior imaginable that that somehow makes his actions acceptable. PZ Myers offers this hilarious response:

Great. So if ever I’m caught kicking a puppy or lying on the internet, all I need to do is explain that I didn’t kill six million Jews, so you can all forgive me.

Myers perfectly demonstrates what a pathetic argument that is and how it can be used to justify literally anything.

Exhibit A:

3. Jesus loves Kit Kat viral video – Whenever I hear a pareidolia-themed news story about people seeing the face of Jesus in some random object, I love to post about it. Hell, I’m even making a short film mocking the phenomenon. And last year, when a video emerged showing people who allegedly found Jesus’ face in a Kit Kat bar, I probably reported it. But it turns out that it was a Poe, a deliberate hoax that was indistinguishable from a genuine news story. In actuality, it was an experiment to see if they could get the video to go viral.

On a related note…

4. Canadian-Israeli director Simcha Jacobovici claims to have found the nails that crucified Jesus – How does he know? Well, they’re really old. What more proof do you nned?

5. Mitchell and Webb bring us Holistic ER – The group that has given us Homeopathic A&E, also has another video mocking holistic medicine of all kinds.

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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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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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