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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News From Around The Blogosphere 1.30.10

January 31, 2010

1. Dinosaur Find Helps Solve Evolutionary Puzzle

A George Washington University expedition to the Gobi Desert of China has enabled researchers to solve the puzzle of how one group of dinosaurs came to look like birds independent of birds. The discovery extends the fossil record of the family Alvarezsauridae — a bizarre group of bird-like dinosaurs with a large claw on the hand and very short, powerful arms — back 63 million years, further distancing the group from birds on the evolutionary tree.

Until now, there was no direct evidence that dinosaurs of this type lived during the Late Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago. George Washington University doctoral candidate Jonah Choiniere named the newly discovered species of dinosaur, Haplocheirus sollers (meaning simple, skillful hand).

Again, that’s 63 million years ago, which for those keeping count is 62,994,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

2. Elmhurst, Illinois Mayor Pete DiCianni calls to waste tax dollars on prayer – DiCianni is calling from each City Council meeting to over with a prayer. Now besides the fact that this obviously tramples on the wall separating church and state, even rational Christians should be able to admit that we’re not paying these people to sit around and pray, but rather to run the local government. If these people wish to pray, let them do so on their own time and not on the taxpayers’ time.

3. Christian police force in UK who believe in power of prayer  receives £10,000 grant – If all it takes to catch criminals is prayer, why do they need any money? And for that matter, why do they need a police force?

4. Mennonites kidnap 14-year-old girl – The daughter of Doug Ramsey may have been brainwashed. Three church members were arrested for allegedly concealing the girl from her parents and police after she ran away from home. They intended to take her out of the state to Kentucky. Church members encouraged her to disconnect from her parents and helped facilitate her departure.

5. Midlife crises are a myth – Here’s a great article debunking the myths surrounding the so-called midlife crisis.

6. Virginia School district bans Diary of Anne Frank – That’s right. I’ll repeat that. They banned Anne Frank’s book. Why you might ask? Because of a passage about her adolescent curiosity concerning sexuality. The offending passage reads:

There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!

The horror! The horror!

But that’s not even the worst part, according to the article linked to above:

Amazon.com lists Anne Frank’s diary as one of the most banned children’s books, “for being too depressing for students.”

Anne Frank’s diary is among the most banned children’s books? Anne Frank? Are we talking about the same Anne Frank? The young girl in hiding from the Nazis? Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most banned children’s books? WTF!!!!!!!

7. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines – Suck it, Jenny McCarthy!

8. Do children need both a mother and a father? – Yup, once again science proves the bigots wrong:

The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

. . .

The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that “fatherless” children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.

. . .

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the “partial exception of lactation,” noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.

9. Pope calls for crackdowns on marriage annulments “at all costs” – But still nothing about cracking down on the thousands of child rapists whose salaries he pays. That’s fine.