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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Expelled 2: Electric Boogaloo

June 28, 2009

creationistsApparently, Expelled wasn’t bad enough. Creationists are putting out yet another pseudo-documentary about evolution, The Voyage That Shook the World. But this time it looks like they’re being subtler. Althought the trailer for the film comments Darwin’s ideas still being controversial, there’s not much there that would give one the impression that the film was anti-evolution. However, with very little effort, you can find out that the film was produced by Creation Ministries International. And according to PZ Myers, they’re also using the same old tricks employed in Expelled:

They got several Darwin experts (Peter Bowler, Sandra Herbert, and Janet Browne) to appear in the “documentary” by concealing their motives. And then they admit to cherry-picking the interviews to put together their story.

This is of course one of the many reasons why no one should take creationists seriously. THEY LIE. They lie whenever it is convenient to manipulate the audience. And they’ll even admit to deceptions while at the same time downplay the seriousness of their being dishonest.

And in related news, six dozen paleontologists visited the Creation “Museum” recently. Their reaction was not surprising:

“It’s like a theme park, but the problem is it masquerades as truth,” said Derek Briggs, a Yale University paleontologist.

The critique of scientists even extends to the gift shop, where among the DVDs for sale is one entitled, “The Cure for a Culture in Crisis: It doesn’t take a Ph.D.”

It all had Wednesday’s visitors shaking their heads.

“Faith is one thing,” said Mark Terry, a high school science teacher from Seattle, “but when it comes to their science statements, they’re completely off the wall.”


Expelled’s little book of quotes

February 5, 2009

Apparently now the Expelled DVD comes with a “book of quotes.” That book is reviewed here along with a detailed description of what it means to quote mine something. The classic example of quote mining, when creationists try to alter the intent by taking it out of context is Darwin’s discussion of the evolution of the eye. The quote mine is this:

“To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.”

Creationists like to point to this quote and say, see Evolutionists, even Darwin admits that the eye couldn’t have evolved by chance. The other of the review linked to above explains the error here:

This quote is from the sixth chapter of The Origin of Species. Immediately after this quote, Darwin goes into great detail describing just how the eye could in fact have formed by natural selection. This is thus an excellent example of a quote mine; it is both out of context and relies on an argument from authority. Like many quote mines, the authority in question is poor; in this case, Darwin died over a century ago. Given the nature of scientific progress, it is laughable that this 100 year old quote is persuasive evidence.

So onto the Expelled “book of quotes.” First of all, it seems like it’s not much of a book:

The book, entitled, “The Wonder of the Universe,” is more of a small pamphlet than an actual book. Each page has a single quote in the middle of the page with the rest of the page blank. The entire content could fit on a single sheet of 8 ½ by 11 paper if both sides are used. The quotes are poorly formatted with occasional errors of punctuation and no details of citation other than the author’s name.

What is really interesting is the authors of the quotes and their content. Slightly under half of the quotes in the book come from the Founding Fathers of the United States or from other respected US politicians such as Abraham Lincoln. There is a dearth of quotes from scientists. The most modern scientist quoted, Steinmetz, died in 1923. He is in fact the most recent author cited.

The quotes themselves fall primarily into two broad categories, quotes trumpeting the importance of free exchange and quotes arguing for the existence of God using the standard argument that “X is complicated so X must have been designed by God.”

Yeah, it seems this is as profound as creationism gets, quoting non-scientists about science. Good thinking! Or rather should I say, “god thinking.” That at least explains the lack of even internal consistency:

I’m forced to conclude that Stein or whichever of Stein’s colleagues compiled this book thinks that the Founders of the United States were so intelligent and saintly that ideas held by them must be given special weight. This is a bit odd since the book also includes the standard quote from Galileo that “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”

Ben: Please make up your mind. Do authorities matter or does reasoning?

There’s a lot more in the review. It’s definitely worth a read since if you’re a creationist you’ll have something new to piss you off and if you’re sane to get a good laugh at the transparency of the poorly designed propaganda.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.3.08

December 4, 2008

jesus-crackerHere is the true story of how the flesh of Christ is made – And here’s a hint. It isn’t the Keebler Elves as I originally thought. Don’t worry. Christ’s flesh also comes in whole wheat and various other varieties.


CNN shutting down its science/space/tech division – That pretty much means there will be less science news or at least less well reported science news being covered on CNN. This also means that science journalist Miles O’Brien will be leaving CNN. But one piece of good news to balance out the bad is that CNN’s answer to Bill O’Reilly aka Glenn Beck is also no longer going to be on CNN. Unfortunately however, he won’t be joining Miles O’Brian on the unemployment line as Beck’s been hired by Faux News. . .where he’ll fit right in with the other intellectually impaired anchors.

And apparently any movie that every self-respecting movie critic including Roger Ebert considered idiotic trash is right up Beck’s alley.

    Antivaccinationist Jay Gordon’s claims utterly demolished – This is Jenny McCarthy’s pediatrician. And apparently doesn’t know very much about medical or, you know, thinking in general. . .or he just doesn’t care. This is the kind of nonsense this guy is spouting:

    Now, when you discuss this topic with your pediatrician, he or she will clobber my ideas and me. So be it. I have watched children getting or not getting vaccines for thirty years. I won’t publish my data because I have none suitable for “peer review.” I can tell you that my very strong impression is that children with the fewest vaccines, or no vaccines at all, get sick less frequently and are healthier in general. I truly believe they also develop less autism and other “persistent developmental delays.”

    Yeah, because apparently no other doctors but him have monitored their patients after vaccination treatments. Riiiight! Yeah, and my personal opinion based on nothing at all is that more people without gunshot wounds die these days than those with gunshot wounds. . .ergo, we should shoot people. Ugh!

    christian-condomChristian Right Opposes Pap Smears and Breast Exams – But the best part about this story is that Planned Parenthood of Indiana is now selling gift certificates in $25 increments. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m doing my Chrisromadonikkah shopping early!

    Way to go Michael Nugent for launching Atheist Ireland – If ever there was a country in more need of an atheist organization it’s Ireland.

    WHY WE FIGHT:

    Here‘s an awesome story of one life who’s been positively effected by the latest atheist advertising or “athvertising” if you will.

    Terms of Service – You might remember the recent Myspace suicide case where a teenage girl took her own life after a repulsive woman posing as a boy romantically interested in the teen using a bogus Myspace account insulted and cut communications with her. Well now she’s being prosecuted under anti-hacking laws for violating Myspace’s terms of service. While the woman is indeed repulsive and deserving of terrible things, this is an unprecedented use of anti-hacking laws as people constantly violate websites’ terms of service policies. Technically you have to be 18 to use Google. So once again I got to agree with Amateur Scientist:

    But under the precedent set by the conviction of Lori Drew, any minor who uses Google or Gmail is committing a criminal act subject to up to a year in jail or $100,000 in fines. This is absurd and a clear case of twisting the law to punish someone for being a complete douchebag. And it’s another instance where defending freedom unfortunately means sometimes defending the rights of said douchebags.

    AND NOW A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

    scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyMice Made To Regrow Damaged Retina Nerve Cells – “Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have reported for the first time that mammals can be stimulated to regrow inner nerve cells in their damaged retinas. Located in the back of the eye, the retina’s role in vision is to convert light into nerve impulses to the brain.”

    Flexibility May Trump Fitness In Reproduction – “The utility of sex, according to an intriguing new theory of evolutionary biology, may be its ability to promote genes that play well with many other partners rather than those that shine with just one specific set of genes.”


    Roger Ebert doesn’t give Ben Stein his thumb, but rather the finger

    December 3, 2008

    Apparently people (who am I kidding, it’s the creationists) have been accusing Roger Ebert of not reviewing Ben Stein’s mockumentary Expelled because Ebert’s in leaque the evil dark lords of Evolution.

    So Ebert decided to finally review the film. And well, he didn’t quite care for it, to put it mildly. This is a truly awesome demolishing of Stein’s silly, little propaganda film and well worth the read.

    The mighty Ebert has spoken.


    News From Around The Blogosphere 10.24.08

    October 25, 2008

    Skeptologist Dr. Kirsten Stanford asks you to vote for science.

    And Princeton’s How-To Guide to hacking E-Voting Machines.

    51 “facts” about Homeopathy – Feel free to play Name That Logical Fallacy at home.

    More deceptive marketing of the Expelled DVD – Though 1 of the 2 least deceptive claims, that it was the #1 documentary of 2008, this is deceptive only in that most of the tickets were bought in bulk by churches and other religious organizations simply to artificially inflate the ticket sales and exploit their religious authority over parishioners to organize group gatherings around showings of the film. Though to be fair, the non-religious community struck back with at least using this tactic of organizing group gatherings around seeing Religious (I myself saw the film with New York Skeptics). Only we did it better, which is why the other reason why this claim as the #1 documentary of 2008 is wrong on a technicality. In just the past week, Religious has taken Expelled‘s spot as the true #1 documentary of 2008.

    Oh, and the other 1 of the 2 least deceptive claims appears on the box:

    “I Love This Film!” – Ben Stein

    While I’m sure that’s true, one could argue that Ben Stein, the on-screen host of the film, may not be the most objective source when looking for a review of the film. Though I’m eager to see what Bill Maher thought of the film Religulous.

    Other amusing news about Expelled comes from the comments section on a recent creationist blog: that apparently Yoko Ono managed to have at least some success with getting Imagine removed from what seems to be at least Region 1 DVDs of the film, that the true believers have sunk so low that they’re now beginning to insist that those who have debunked the film have actually somehow helped the “success” of the film (Keep telling yourselves that), and that apparently the makers of the film have been forced to accept the film as just a financial lost and have simply given Netflix users the option to watch the film (presumably) for free as “Instant Viewing” as a means of just trying to get the message out. Since I don’t have a Netflix account, I cannot confirm this though.

    And here is another example of that silly gambit of critical denial by insisting criticism further promotes the thing you criticize (although some studies have shown this to be true in some cases).

    Are you saving yourself for marriage? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? – Because if you are, you can enter the “Marriage for a Lifetime” contest and maybe win $10,000. And the best part is that so far, no one has applied. It’s so bad that the organizer was forced to bend the rules a bit:

    “Someone asked me, ‘Is anyone going to respond?’ ” said contest organizer Phillippia Faust, director of an abstinence education program for Rockdale, DeKalb and Newton counties. “In our society, it is going to be hard to find [a couple who has not had premarital sex]. … But the standard is the standard.”

    Yet in a recent interview, Faust seemed inclined to relax the rules, saying couples engaging in sex can still qualify but they must acknowledge, “The right choice is probably not to have had done it.”

    She will, however, draw the line at couples living together.

    Phew! That’s a relief!

    Is that Ganesh or is that flower just planning on reincarnating me?

    SPOOKY!

    Yesterday, I posted the video about the computer-activated Quija Board. And in continuing in the spooky and vaguely Halloween-themed items, here’s a great blog discussing ghosts.

    And here is how everything you need to know to conduct a seance:

    AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

    Female Plant ‘Communicates’ Mating Preference – “Without eyes or ears, plants must rely on the interaction of molecules to determine appropriate mating partners and avoid inbreeding. In a new study, University of Missouri researchers have identified pollen proteins that may contribute to the signaling processes that determine if a plant accepts or rejects individual pollen grains for reproduction.”

    Tiny Juvenile Dinosaur Fossil Identified – “One of the smallest dinosaur skulls ever discovered has been identified and described by a team of scientists from London, Cambridge and Chicago. The skull would have been only 45 millimeters (less than two inches) in length. It belonged to a very young Heterodontosaurus, an early dinosaur. This juvenile weighed about 200 grams, less than two sticks of butter.” And in case you’re a Young Earth Creationist who believes the Earth is 6000 years old, this dinosaur fossil is about 190 million years old.

    Happy Birthday Eugenie Scott! – She also just won an award.


    News From Around The Blogosphere 10.20.08

    October 21, 2008

    CREATIONIST NEWS:

    Something rotten in the state of Kentucky? – Northern Kentucky University is going to have a mock trial on the creation/evolution debate. But is this just an exercise to study the issue or just another misguided attempt to suggest science and faith are on equal footing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: any debate where one side is expected to provide evidence for its ever claim while the other side simply gets to use the faith card is a farce.

    And here’s 1 creationist’s response to the creationist debate in Kentucky, led by Dr. Ben Scripture – It’s your standard argument from authority combined with a straw man.

    And here’s a great video that summarizes the creationist clusterfuck in the Texas Board of Education along with detailed information about who these Evolution deniers are:

    Either Abbie Smith’s psychic or Expelled is guilty of a fraudulent poll – Further proof that Ben Stein is not using Clear Eyes.

    ABORTION NEWS:

    Poor turn out at atheist rally in Colorado – The rally was meant to protest an upcoming amendment that would legally define life as beginning at conception and effectively define abortion as murder. Over 100,000 Conservative Christians had signed off to get the amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot and yet only dozens of opponents of this insane amendment bothered to show up to protest it. I am deeply disappointed.

    The 40 Days for Life campaign against abortion

    The 40 Days for Life campaign, a period of fasting and prayer to save babies from abortion, is in its final two weeks.

    Unfortunately, they’re also harassing and intimidating women who visit health clinics as well as protesting and proselytizing. Aurora Jewell had a wonderful line about what Planned Parenthood does on a regular basis:

    “We’re doing more in one day to prevent unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion than these people are doing in 40 days.”

    WHAT’S THE HARM?

    Joe Lastinger interviewed about the tragic loss of his 3 and-a-half year-old daughter to influenza – You can listen to the interview here. Yeah, we have tragic stories and emotional appeals on our side too.

    Evan Bernstein explains what’s the harm in believing that space aliens are visiting our planet in UFOs – Just one example is you accept that something unreal is real, and before you know it, you wind up believing in all sorts of things that are untrue. In some cases, people have lost their entire fortunes sinking them in to irrational beliefs. And in some cases, like with the Heaven’s Gate cultists, it has cost people their lives.

    STOP JENNY NEWS:

    Dr. Phil Plait

    Dr. Phil Plait

    Dr. Phil Plait has plugged the site – Thanks Phil. You remain on my awesome list.

    Also, we have been contacted by a MAJOR organization in the popular news media who is interested in interviewing us. I don’t want to mention the name yet but if anything comes of this, I’ll certainly keep you all updated.

    Dr. Jay Gordon

    Dr. Jay Gordon

    An excellent overview of antivaccinationist Dr. Jay Gordon’s logical fallacies – It’s all here. And here’s more debunking of Gordon’s claims. For those who don’t know, Dr. Jay Gordon wrote the forward for Jenny McCarthy’s book.

    Carbon nanotubes: the material of the future!

    These little cylinders of carbon molecules can be used to make materials that are lighter, stronger, and sexier than just about anything else we have.

    Summary of studies showing sex is good for you – Take that abstinence-only sex education!

    Yes, these kinds of people still exist in the United States in the 21st Century:

    AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

    Scientists Create ‘World’s Most Relaxing Room’ – “Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman has designed and constructed a large-scale multi-media space that aims to calm even the most stressed out of minds.” Gotta love Wiseman. His book Quirkology is included on my booklist on the right side of the screen.

    Bird Flu Vaccine Protects People And Pets – “A single vaccine could be used to protect chickens, cats and humans against deadly flu pandemics, according to an article published in the November issue of the Journal of General Virology. The vaccine protects birds and mammals against different flu strains and can even be given to birds while they are still in their eggs, allowing the mass vaccination of wild birds.”

    Dinosaur Dance Floor: Tracks At Jurassic Oasis – “University of Utah geologists identified an amazing concentration of dinosaur footprints that they call “a dinosaur dance floor,” located in a wilderness on the Arizona-Utah border where there was a sandy desert oasis 190 million years ago.”

    Finding Hidden Tomb Of Genghis Khan – “According to legend, Genghis Khan lies buried somewhere beneath the dusty steppe of Northeastern Mongolia, entombed in a spot so secretive that anyone who made the mistake of encountering his funeral procession was executed on the spot.

    Once he was below ground, his men brought in horses to trample evidence of his grave, and just to be absolutely sure he would never be found, they diverted a river to flow over their leader’s final resting place.

    What Khan and his followers couldn’t have envisioned was that nearly 800 years after his death, scientists at UC San Diego’s Center for Interdisciplinary Science in Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) would be able to locate his tomb using advanced visualization technologies whose origins can be traced back to the time of the Mongolian emperor himself.”