News From Around The Blogosphere 12.31.09

January 1, 2010

1. Russian space agency to the rescue – The Russian space agency may be sending out a spacecraft to intercept an asteroid and knock it off course to reduce its likelihood of impacting Earth. Though it’s unlikely to hit Earth anyway, there’s little risk in this precautionary measure (unless they accidentally set it on course for Earth) and it may make a good test to see how much we can alter an asteroid’s course so we can better prepare for future space debris heading towards us.

2. California Science Center being sued for backing out on screening of creationist propaganda film – They never should have agreed to show the film in the first place but after they did, they received a lot of criticism that led to them ultimately violating their agreement to show it. I’d argue that because the film is about promoting a manufactured controversy and not a real one, that the California Science Center okayed it under false pretenses. Also, the filmmakers seem to be deliberately choosing locations to create the illusion that these films are endorsed by legitimate scientific institutions when really they’re just agreeing to provide space for an event. But the center had a clause in their agreement requiring promotional materials to be screened before release to to prevent these kinds of deceptions.

3. Eighth grade science teacher fired for promoting Christianity – John Freshwater, an eighth grade science teacher from Mount Vernon, Ohio reportedly committed numerous abuses by promoting his faith including preaching Christianity in class, denouncing evolution, not teaching the proper scientific curriculum, burning crosses onto the arms of some students, “causing swelling and blistering”,  calling gays sinners, keeping the Bible and Ten Commandments on display in class, and encouraged students to see “Expelled” for extra credit. Fortunately, this guy has been officially canned.

4. This decade in Skepticism – And finally as the Naughties come to a close, Steven Novella takes a look at how well skeptics have done in bringing down woo this decade. There were some things I feel he left out though.

Another win you can add to the list is Scientology, which has suffered so much damage in the last few years that it may be on the verge of collapsing completely in the next few years.

Also, atheist/agnosticism/whatever you want to call it has reached America’s living rooms and has perhaps never been this popular. Numerous so-called “New Atheist” have been major bestsellers and like-minded individuals have used the internet to come together like never before.

And similarly, the skeptical movement has grown and become more organized like never before. There was no TAM, no NECSS, no skeptical DragonCon track, no SkeptiCamp, no skeptical podcasts, or even really skeptical blogs until the Naughties. And now younger people are getting involved like never before. That in itself is a major win for us.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 8.5.08

August 6, 2008

The greatest skeptical TV show ever is becoming another feature-length film -Before I knew what skepticism even was, as a kid, these guys inspired me to investigate the paranormal more than any other. In my opinion, they’re the best television role models for kids in the media. Suck it Scully!

More sad news in the skeptical world -Skeptic Robert Lancaster was hospitalized after suffering from a stroke that has left him partially paralyzed. Lancaster is perhaps best known for being arguably “psychic” Sylvia Browne’s arch enemy (other than Randi) and for his website exposing her fraud, Stop Sylvia Browne. And recently, he met Browne face to face, a hilarious account chronicled here. Here’s the thread on the JREF forum where his wife Susan has posted the news. My best wishes go out to Robert. Get well soon.

For the record, yes, there are still people who believe the Earth is flat -This is how far off the deep end belief in grand conspiracy theories can take you…or rather how far off the edge of the Earth it can take you. Flat-Earthers after all, are only challenging “the conspiracy” that the Earth is round. A quote from 25-year-old flat-Earther John Davis: “Many use the term ‘flat-earther’ as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism.” Hmm, can’t imagine why. Davis believes “the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite – it stretches horizontally forever”. Of course! It all makes sense now! Take that, Magellan!

Here’s another hilarious conspiracy theorist. For the record, Chemtrail people, this is what you look like to the rest of us.

Acupuncture for veterans -Acupucture now being marketed for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans. Is there anything it can’t do? Oh yeah! treat PTSD, treat medical conditions, treat addictions, act as a pain reliever, and do anything other than shrink the size of your wallet.

Knights Templar sue Pope-“They claim that when the order was dissolved by his predecessor Pope Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties as well as countless pastures, mills and other commercial ventures belonging to the knights were appropriated by the church.”

More Pareidolia with Jesus– Some of my favorites:

Is that Jesus or a Cheeto?

This one I think looks the best:

I’ve been ripping into this cdesign proponentsist several times over the past few days but here’s PZ Myers is going to be go up against Ray “The Banana Guy” Comfort. Ray appeared on a radio show today to make his case. PZ’s going on the same show tomorrow to give a rebuttal. But here’s PZ’s blog commentary on Ray’s performance on the show.

John Freshwater, the Ohio science teacher who uses his classroom to proselytize and promote creationism, is following a familiar tactic: Lie.

Even sterile water injections work better than acupuncture -More on the power of placebos.

New “Vaccinate Your Baby” campaign angers Jenny McCarthy and other anti-vacciners – New “Vaccine Your Baby” campaign being promoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Every Child By Two, Amanda Peet, and others has unleashed the wrath of the “Green Vaccine” Movement including Jenny McCarthy. But if as they claim, they’re not anti-vaccine, what seems to be the problem? Update: Here’s another blog on this that includes a link to a clip of Amanda Peet being interviewed on Good Morning America about this.

Suzanne Somers’ latest foray into quackery – Apparently, she’s now into something called”bioidentical” hormones, which are ascribed with mystical properties, none of which they actually have.

State Senator Ernie Chambers resumes lawsuit against God -I thought Pete Stark was the only openly atheist member of our government, though Lori Lipman Brown says that she knows of at least 20 other alleged atheists in our government who admitted to being non-believers but asked her not to disclose their identities out of fear of it damaging their career in politics. So I’m glad to hear about Ernie Chambers. I hope that when God doesn’t show for court that he’s held in contempt.

Ashley Paramore holds up a banner for the Omnipresent Atheists group in Columbus, Ohio:

Paris Hilton gets the last laugh – As much as I detest Paris Hilton, I have to admit that whoever wrote her lines for this satiric response to McCain’s attack ad did an awesome job. It actually made me forget how much I despise Hilton for 2 whole minutes.

And now a moment of science:

Breakthrough In Quantum Mechanics -“Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have recently reached what they are calling a milestone in experimental quantum mechanics.”

Schizophrenia: Price Of Human Brain Evolution? -“Metabolic changes responsible for the evolution of our unique cognitive abilities indicate that the brain may have been pushed to the limit of its capabilities. Research published today in BioMed Central’s open access journal Genome Biology adds weight to the theory that schizophrenia is a costly by-product of human brain evolution.”