News From Around The Blogosphere 4.26.11

April 27, 2011

1. God is dead – Okay, not really because there is not such entity. But Sri Satya Sai Baba, a man who millions worship like a god because he fools them into believing he can perform miracles with simple parlor tricks is dead. I must say that if not for Sam Harris, I might not have even been familiar with this shamless con artist. Good fuckin’ riddance. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving individual.

2. Scientists anoint new fly queen – If your as sick of hearing about that bloody royal wedding in limey-land as I am, you’ll probably enjoy this news item:

Masaki Kamakura, a biotechnology researcher in Japan, has identified the protein in royal jelly that turns female worker bees into queen bees, which are larger in size, more fertile, and live longer. So, like anyone else would do upon making this discovery, he tried to turn a regular fly into a queen fly. And it totally worked. It’s a huge discovery in the study of insects:

I guess that makes it the lord of the flies. Now if only we can figure out how to turn Anne Hathoway into the Queen of England. Don’t just sit there. Get on it, scientists!

3.  Measles outbreak linked to one unvaccinated person

Nine cases in the state have been linked to exposure to one unvaccinated person who contracted the disease in Poland, according to the Salt Lake Valley health department. Epidemiologists have determined that the person exposed as many as 1,000 people this month.

Measles are so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of those near that individual will become infected if they are not immune.

There’s also  a major measles outbreak in Europe:

The World Health Organization said Thursday that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March – compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations.

Another wonderful vision of a what the world will look like if ruled by anti-vaccine nuts.

4. “New” Atheist open letter strikes a nerve – The other day, Dr. Jerry Coyne wrote an open letter to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and British Centre for Science Education (BCSE), criticizing them for going out of their way to criticize more confrontational atheists. This led a number of such prominent atheists to responding in favor of Coyne’s position such as PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins. And now Roger Stanyard of the BCSE is firing back with a complete straw man position that just demonstrate how irrational the critics of confrontational atheists are when it comes to this one issue. His claim is that we want these organizations to embrace atheism when I don’t know anyone making that claim. I, like Myers and Dawkins, just want to see these organizations to leave religion out of the discussion entirely and remain entirely neutral on the subject. That’s all.

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Mysteries, Magic, and Miricles 11.3.09

November 3, 2009


Is Keanu Reeves immortal?

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



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.

Mysteries, Magic & Miracles 6.30.09

July 1, 2009

MAGIC – A new poll by watchdog group, Telefono Antiplagio, found that almost 18% of Italians trust the advice of sorcerers:

To be fair, the definition of “sorcerer” in this case includes your meat-and-potatoes atrologers and soothsayers in addition to people with beards and pointy hats and comprehensive knowledge of ancient elven languages. But really, that just makes this statistic even more depressing. So what are eleven million Italians paying sorcerers to help them with? Surprisingly, magic broom-related housework is nowhere on the list. 46% seek the advice of charlatans to mend their broken hearts. 25% want to know about health problems, 22% of consultations have to do with violence (not clear if this means paying to attack people with lightning spells, which would be amazing), and 7% are having trouble at work.

This reminds me of the school in Iceland that teaches about elves because 54% of Icelanders believe in elves. It’s just another example of how foreign religions seem particularly goofy to us even when there is nothing that is any more nutty about their beliefs than the ones that permeate our own culture.

MIRACLES – A woman in Annapolis had malignant tumors in her lungs, liver, stomach, and chest. Fortunately, she got treated with the best modern medicine has to offer at Johns Hopkins Hospital and no longer has the tumors. Unfortunately, however, it’s a dead 19th century priest who’s getting all the credit:

In addition to seeking medical attention from trained professionals on the cutting edge of their field, Heibel also prayed to the disembodied spirit of 19th century Maryland priest Francis X. Seelos, whose bone fragment she wears in a pendant around her neck. Yes, this is pretty creepy. And it’s also a bit of a tragedy, since the ghost of Seelos is now taking the credit for all the hard work of Heibel’s doctors.

Apparently, despite being dead, Seelos still has one more “miracle” to perform to be officially canonized as a Catholic saint. So of course this means the Catholic investigators are on the case to determine if this is a fake miracle or, you know, one of those “real” miracles we hear so much about. Ugh!

But what about the amputees?

June 24, 2009

The seems the Vatican is investigating yet another supposed “miracle.” The alleged miracle involves the survival of an athlete who received a serious head injury last year:

“Chase survived in part because hundreds of people prayed to Father Emil Kapaun to intercede on his behalf. It was absolutely a miracle.” — Paula Kear, Chase’s motherPeople in Colwich like to touch Chase Kear’s arm or his shoulder with their fingers. Or they hug him. “Miracle Man,” they say. “Let me touch the miracle.” With anybody else in Colwich, this would be just talk. But it’s not just talk to the Vatican.

. . .

Among people that Ambrosi will consult on Friday will be Chase’s neurosurgeon, Raymond Grundmeyer, who said in a brief e-mail last week that he considers Chase’s survival a miracle.

Psst, Chase’s family. Here’s your chance to ask then for your money back, since the neurosurgeon says he didn’t do anything. Hell, with such miraculous healings, who needs neurosurgeons at all? Maybe we should all just declare:  God is my neurosurgeon! Of course this is absurd. I don’t know the details of the case, but a person surviving a terrible accident after being treated medically makes for a pretty low-grade miracle to me. Wake me up when god does something unambiguous like healing an amputee.

God SAVES a life…and lets 272 others die

April 12, 2009

Here’s another 1 of those classic news stories where tons of people die in a horrible tragedy but because someone survived, god musta saved ’em! This time it concerns the recent earthquake in Italy. There are 272 confirmed deaths but Giulio Colangeli’s son happened to survive. Thanks Jesus!!

The Times found Dr Colangeli, a lung specialist at San Salvatore hospital, itself badly damaged by the earthquake, at his son’s bedside in Rome. “I am a doctor. I am a rational man. But I can only say that all those signs, all those coincidences, that led me to my son, must have been sent from God,” he said.

These types of news stories make me sick, sadly more because of the sheer arrogance and narcissism of someone claiming that such a catastrophic  event was all about them than because of the actual numbers of casualties.

It’s not about you, stupid! Get over yourself!

If you’re going to credit your Yahweh for saving your son, then you must also blame him for killing all those other people.

Miracle off the coast of Sicily?

March 25, 2009

A few months ago, an extraordinary pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, safely crashed his plane on the Hudson River. And despite the fact that Sullenberger was quite clear in stating he did not pray and that every passenger on that plane owed their life to the Sullenberger’s training and experience, the story became universally known as “Miracle on the Hudson!” With all that talk of miracles, one might have thought mighty Zeus himself reached out his hand to catch the plane and gently set it down on the water. But he didn’t and no in fact no magical beings from Olympus, Heaven, or Narnia had a hand in the rescue.

But what happens when a pilot really does rely on a miracle instead of their training? They crash hard, get people killed, and end up in jail:

An Italian court has jailed a Tunisian pilot who paused to pray instead of taking emergency measures before ditching his plane, killing 16 people.

Thanks god.

Note to self: never get on a plane with a religious pilot. I think I’ll call this story “Miracle off the coast of Sicily.”

Proof that religion is idiotic

March 16, 2009

This might be the greatest example of religious pareidolia I’ve ever seen: Jesus in a couch butt print.

Thousands of people have flocked to a Roman Catholic church on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion after believers said they saw the “face of Christ” in the pleats of a church cushion.

. . .

Antoinette, an 82-year-old parishioner, said the face was a “divine phenomenon” as tears welled up her eyes.

“This church is a holy site,” added Lise-May, another worshipper.

Wow! That is phenomenally delusional. I mean, come on! It’s obviously the divine image of John Lennon.


Was the movie Spiderman a documentary?

March 15, 2009

No. As any rational person can tell you, Spiderman is an entirely fictionous story that bares almost no resemblence to reality whatsoever. Well one local news station would like you to believe otherwise.

This is absurd. The news took an extraordinary story of a man who after 20 years found himself capable of walking again because of perfectly unremarkable reasons, and spun it into a fantastic tale of a man who miraculously recovered because of a spider bite. This is just shameless sensationalism.

Okay, what’s wrong with this headline?

March 8, 2009
Not miraculously saved

Not miraculously saved

I just saw a news headline that read, “Police:  Ill. pastor deflected gunshot with Bible.” I would love to hear the pastor, Fred Winters’ account of the proceedings except for 1 small problem. He’s dead.

A pastor shot and killed during his Sunday sermon deflected the first of the gunman’s four rounds with a Bible. . .

So if the pastor was killed by the second shot, why is bullet-deflecting Bible given a headline? If the implication is meant to suggest a miracle occurred, let me be the first to say that that’s the worst miracle I’ve ever heard!

What, is god Two Face from Batman? He flipped the coin and it landed on good heads, so he let the pastor deflect the bullet but  then flipped the coin again for the second bullet and it landed on bad heads?

And once again, doesn’t a murder in church pretty much definitely debunk the notion that prayer works? There were 150 congregants. I mean really, doncha think there were plenty of people praying in the church?

Was god distracted? Certainly he intervened eventually, right? Nope. The shooter was tackled to the ground by mere mortals who apparently proved more capable of thwarting this monster than god.

No miracle on the Hudson after all

February 9, 2009

Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed US Airways Flight 1549 safely into the Hudson River was asked by 60 minutes on 60 Minutes tonight if he prayed during the crisis. His answer couldn’t have been better:

Asked if he at any point prayed, he told Couric, “I would imagine somebody in back was taking care of that for me while I was flying the airplane.”

“My focus at that point was so intensely on the landing,” he said. “I thought of nothing else.”

I’m reminded of the old saying, “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”

Now I don’t know what Sullenberger’s beliefs are but that’s besides the point. The men and women who survived that crash were saved by a human being, not some mystical god. So I’d appreciate it if they kept this “miracle” rhetoric out in respect for the man who saved these people with nothing but his wits, his training, and his ingenuity.

Slapping on the word miracle reminds me of the ending to Slumdog Millionare.


Ultimately, what should have been the story of an underdog overcoming incredible odds and circumstances to achieve success was more or less ruined by the final moment of the film where the writer essentially pulls a Patrick-Duffy-in-the-shower move and writes off the hero of the story as having simply been fated to succeed. And while critics seem impressed by this, I feel it completely undercuts the hero’s journey.

It seems to further illustrate how our culture has completely devalued the meaning of the word “miracle” to simply mean anything serendipidous.