News From Around The Blogosphere 7.27.09

July 27, 2009

An Oregon couple acquitted of manslaughter for causing the death of their 15-month-old daughter by turning to prayer instead of real medicine. In the immortal words of U2, “How long must we sing this song?” Repeat after me: PRAYER. DOESN’T. WORK.

Humans just salty meat for robot – When a wine-tasting robot’s infrared spectrometer scanned the skin of a human, it identified it as prosciutto. And they wonder why Sci-fi writers depict robots so often as destroyers of mankind?

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyMore critics take swings at Chris Mooney and Francis Collins – First, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Sam Harris criticizes Francis Collins’ new appointment as director of the National Institutes of Health because of his irrational religious belief. Then Jerry Coyne takes a shot at Collins. And of course this whole issue of whether science should actively discourage religious faith leads us straight to Chris Mooney, whose book is now criticized by blogger Jason Rosenhouse, who despite our unrelated disagreement mentioned 2 blog entries ago, I applaud here in the first part of his 3-part review.

Indiana atheists can have a bus ad without god – Indiana atheists won their lawsuit against Bloomington Transit who originally refused to accept their completely inoffensive bus ad:


Skepacabra cited on Respectful Insolence

July 27, 2009

chupacabra.gifBeing cited by Orac is a badge of honor for us skeptical bloggers with smaller readerships, so thanks Orac!

Last week, I expressed my surprise and dismay that the Atheist Alliance International chose Bill Maher for the Richard Dawkins Award. I was dismayed because Maher has championed pseudoscience, including dangerous antivaccine nonsense, germ theory denialism complete with repeating myths about Louis Pasteur supposedly recanting on his deathbed, a hostility towards “Western medicine” and an affinity for “alternative medicine,” a history of sympathy to HIV/AIDS denialists, and the activities of PETA through his position on its board of directors, all facts that led me to liken his receiving the Richard Dawkins Award to giving an award for public health to Jenny McCarthy. I was not alone, either. Larry Moran, Matt D., and Skepacabra agreed with me.

This was the beginning of Orac’s response to fellow atheist/science blogger Jason Rosenhouse’s defense of Bill Maher’s receiving of the Richard Dawkins Award:

Jason also virtually concedes that Maher is not really an atheist, waving it away by saying:

“The fact that he has some vague belief in a higher force in the universe hardly negates all of the good work that he is done in areas of relevance to the award. He has defintely raised awareness of the nontheist life stance through the media and the arts, and certainly helps teach acceptance of the nontheist lifestyle, just as the award describes.”

Well, yes, but that’s only one criterion out of four, and fortunately Skeptico has already addressed this argument. In any case, Jason appears to be conceding that, at best, Maher meets only 2/4 criteria, with 1/4 (science) an EPIC FAIL and the other 1/4 questionable at best. If Jason thinks that’s the only criterion that matters and is willing to ignore the rest, I guess there isn’t much more to say other than that, personally, when an award is given, I prefer that the recipient actually meet all of the listed criteria. (I’m funny that way.) The recipient doesn’t have to meet all of them equally and could even be a little shaky on one or two of them. But miss any one of them by so much that he might as well be on another planet? I don’t think so. As I’ve pointed out before, Maher’s views on medicine and science would have made him a perfect “victim” of one of Richard Dawkins’ deconstructions in part 2 of his BBC documentary Enemies of Reason, right there with the homeopaths, crystal users, and various other woo believers.

Rational person that Rosenhouse is, he did concede at least some points to Orac in the comments section:

You are also right that I really, really like Bill Maher and do not like to see him criticized so harshly for what I take to be an annoying side note to an otherwise solid body of work. Perhaps this biases me in his favor. On the other hand, perhaps the fact that the issues on which he is bad are precisely the ones you care most about biases you against him.

Now he concedes that he’s probably defending Maher more because of personal bias. Fair enough. Before a week ago, I too was in denial of how anti-medicine Maher was. Of course, I changed my mind when presented with more evidence. Also, while he concedes to being a bit biased, it’s bullshit to accuse Orac of being biased against Maher’s anti-medical position, something Orac himself calls Rosenhouse on in a later comment. To downplay this by suggesting an anti-medical position is just Orac’s pet issue because he’s a doctor is absurd.