News From Around The Blogosphere 12.20.09

December 20, 2009

1. Australian Catholic leader says cancer can be cured with prayer – According to the head of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal Pell:

“Yes obviously (cancer can be cured by prayer),” Cardinal Pell told ABC Television on Monday.

“And there are quite a number of examples in the books.”

Cardinal Pell says that won’t give sick people a false sense of security because they realise cure by prayer is a “very long shot”.

So is “God” not all powerful or just usually a prick? Which is it? How about amputees? What’s “God’s” success rate at curing them?

2. Flying Spaghetti Monster or Cthulhu revealed in dining room table

3. The Onion lists the top 10 stories of the last 4.5 billion years – The Onion proves to be the ultimate cure for end of the ubiquitous year/end of the decade lists. My favorite on the list is “Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World”:

Members of the earth’s earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

“I do not understand,” reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. “A booming voice is saying, ‘Let there be light,’ but there is already light. It is saying, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass,’ but I am already standing on grass.”

I’m also quite partial to these other two items on the list: “Woman Domesticated” and “Industrial Revolution Provides Millions Of Out-Of-Work-Children With Jobs.”

4. Solstice display goes up in Raleigh, North Carolina – The Triangle Freethought Society put up the display in Moore Square near a nativity scene. The display tells the real reason for the season.

Happy Solstice everyone!

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Mysteries, Magic, and Miricles 11.3.09

November 3, 2009

MYSTERIES

Is Keanu Reeves immortal?

I don’t know about you but I’m convinced.

MAGIC

MIRACLES

1. Koran verses “appear” on baby in Russia – I have to agree with Phil Plait on this one. It’s not simply pareidolia but seems like a clear case of someone simply writing on the child.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2. Faith healing and other medical quackery in health care reform bill – Senate Bill 1679 currently contains language that would require support for faith healing practices:

The essential benefits provided for in subparagraph (A) shall include a requirement that there be non-discrimination in health care in a manner that, with respect to an individual who is eligible for medical or surgical care under a qualified health plan offered through a Gateway, prohibits the Administrator of the Gateway, or a qualified health plan offered through the Gateway, from denying such individual benefits for religious or spiritual health care, except that such religious or spiritual health care shall be an expense eligible for deduction as a medical care expense as determined by Internal Revenue Service Rulings interpreting section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as of January 1, 2009.

Here’s another article on it.

3. ‘Miracle’ communion wafer transubstantiates into heart tissue? – In Poland, the Catholic Church is investigating an alleged miracle involving a Eucharist turning into heart tissue. It turns out the secret is to just add water. We’re told this has “dumbfounded sceptics” but I say the heart tissue was there in the water all along, waiting to be picked up after the glorified Ritz cracker was dropped into the water. Case closed.


Skeptical magicians try to contact Houdini

November 1, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Glad to see Randi up on his feet and looking pretty healthy.


Mysteries, Magic & Miracles 9.21.09

September 21, 2009

MYSTERIES

Did I Fall Asleep? Neural Reductionism and Dollhouse – I now occasionally write for The Gotham Skeptic, the official blog of the New York City Skeptics. And today I found a blog from one of my fellow Gotham Skeptics that I found interesting because it explores scientific questions within science fiction and particularly because the TV series Dollhouse is returning this week and Dr. Horrible’s recent interrupting of the Emmy’s reminded me of how much I enjoy the work of Joss Whedon.

A new study finds large penis size raises self-esteem – And in a related study, researchers found that water causes wetness.

MAGIC

Vancouver quacks selling homeopathy remedies for H1N1 – I like how Some Canadian Skeptic put it:

Placebo water-pills using magic and sorcery to vaccinate against one of the deadliest flu-strains to hit Canada in generations.

Dowsing for WiFi – A pre-scientific stick using magic and sorcery to locate high tech 21st century technology, Yeah, good luck with that.

MIRACLES

California hospital now allows Hmong shamans to perform healing rituals – Shamans? The most advanced medical science the 21st century has to offer. . .and they’ve got shamans?! Just remember. You can’t spell shaman without the “SHAM!”


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.17.09

September 18, 2009

1. Flu season’s here. Get vaccinatedMassachusetts is considering mandating them, which will absolutely drive the anti-vaccinationists nuts. And though I usually come down on the side of individual rights, when it comes to vaccines, I have no serious objection to mandating them when deemed medically necessary. That’s because, like with drinking and driving, the decision affects more than just you but everyone around you.

2. Finland deems atheist ads not inappropriate & Idaho gets 3rd atheist ad – After first getting complaints for offensiveness, Finland’s Council of Ethics in Advertising said the ad with the slogan, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life,” was not inappropriate. Meanwhile Idaho’s putting up its third atheist ad, which will contain the slogan,  “Millions are good without God.”

3. Abstinence proves ineffective again – A new study found that the more religious a state is, the higher the rate of teen pregnancy. Shocker. Of course this study only shows correlation, and not necessarily causation, given everything we know about faith-based, abstinence-only sex education, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they find that religiosity does cause greater teen pregnancy.

4. Recently, I blogged about an alleged magic broom in Alabama that turned out not to be magic at all. Apparently, no one told these newscasters:

This is why I get so frustrated with the news media. When there isn’t a story, they just make one up. There’s no mystery here at all. Even the local paranormal investigators, after investigating for many, many hours ultimately concluded that the broom is just weighted funny as to stand up on its own. And aside from the store owners, the paranormal investigators have the most to gain from claiming a supernatural explanation.


Mysteries, Magic, and Miracles 6.10.09

June 9, 2009

I’ve decided to slap a date on the headline of this one because I think this might make a good reoccuring title for blog entries where I can briefly post about numerous dopey stories together under the similar theme of magic/New Age/miracles/etc.

I borrowed the title from an old television series that ran on the Sci-Fi Channel (or is it now the “Syfy Channel?) in 90’s. It was one of those woo-promoting shows like “Sightings” or “In Search Of” or “Unsolved Mysteries” that used documentary style filmmaking techniques to create the illusion that they were legitimately investigating paranormal claims when they were really just designed to promote the hell out of every kooky paranormal, supernatural, and pseudo-scientific nonsense they could find. Kinda the anti-Bill Nye The Science Guy.They used dramatizations, cheap visual and sound effects to create a spooky atmosphere. I remember they also made great use of fog machines for the host to emerge from frequently when setting up the next story. That particular show was hosted by Patrick Macnee and later by Franklin Ruehl.

I remember it all looked kinda like this. Without the music and contrived spooky effects, no one in their right mind would find this story interesting.

Having always been drawn to the paranormal, I used to eat these shows up in my pre-skeptical child days. Now I look back at them andcan’t believe I was so easily manipulated by that crap.

Anyway, here are 2 rather silly stories I came across today:

Magic charms wreck Swazi stadium

Players have wrecked artificial turf at Swaziland’s main football stadium by putting magic charms, or “muti” underneath it, say furious officials.

. . .

“Maybe we have to consider banning one big team because whenever that team would be playing at the stadium, something strange would happen,” government sports officer Sipho Magagula told AFP news agency.

. . .

He says many rituals involve burning something.

Burning something? Anything but something?! Wow, it suddenly becomes clear why the average life expectancy in Swaziland is only 41.99 years.

Next up, 17th century urine-filled ‘witch bottle’ found –

During the 17th century in England, someone urinated in a jar, added nail clippings, hair and pins, and buried it upside-down in Greenwich, where it was recently unearthed and identified by scientists as being the world’s most complete known “witch bottle.”This spell device, often meant to attract and trap negative energy, was particularly common from the 16th to the 17th centuries, so the discovery provides a unique insight into witchcraft beliefs of that period, according to a report published in the latest British Archaeology.

To the guy who found it, I guess this means urine luck!