2010 This Year In Skepticism – February

January 5, 2011

Here is the second part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I just reviewed last January here. And here’s February. Hopefully, I’ll cover more than one month of the year in the next installment.

Homeopaths admit their products have no active ingredients – The 10:23 homeopathic overdose campaign has driven the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit that their products do not contain any “material substances”:

Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that “there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining” in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.

Lancet retracts1998 Wakefield study

Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, guru of The Secret was officially charged with manslaughter – This earns him a nomination for biggest douchebag of the year.

Kevin Trudeau pissed off the wrong judge – This earns him a nomination for biggest douchebag of the year.

The Desiree Jennings case may have been exposed as a fraud, though the damage was already done

Andrew Wakefield booted out of Thoughtful House

The Secular Coalition met with the White House

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News From Around The Blogosphere 7.1.10

July 1, 2010

1. Happy Blasphemy Month! – I didn’t realize July was Blasphemy Month until i was informed by my newest Facebook friend, Greta Valenti, aka Masturbating Catholic, aka Fuji Minx. Greta (who I may vow to make my future wife) has gotten Blasphemy Month off early with a certain music video that has been banned from YouTube. Fortunately, the internet not only never forgets but attempts to censor YouTube videos is the best publicity. In fact, I may have never heard of Greta if her video hadn’t pissed off the Catholics who constantly need other things to be outraged against to keep them from being outraged at their own child abuse scandals. For those who wish to watch the video, it can be found in the link above.

2. Car crash blamed on vampire – You know, it’s these sorts of negative stigmas perpetuated by Hollywood that are keeping vampire Americans down. Not every bad thing that happens is because of vampires. Sometimes its just a chupacabra or the creature from the black lagoon.

3. Supreme Court rejects Vatican immunity – The Vatican can no longer escape prosecution using the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. Now all we have to do is invoke RICO.

4. New Zealand gets several atheist billboards – I just wish they could have added a few bananas in honor of Ray Comfort.

Scientology vs. everybody

March 28, 2010

Not since Eminem have I seen one party with so many enemies. After decades of pissing off almost everyone now they’ll incur the wrath of Anderson Cooper. CNN has announced Thursday that it will debut the first of Cooper’s four part series – “Scientology:  A History of Violence” on Monday. This series will primarily focus on the recent string of accusations from former members of physical abuse that took place during their time in the Sea Org.

Cooper says he’s already fielded e-mails from church members “complaining about the series, and accusing me of attacking the church, its beliefs, its membership, and its activities.” (He added: “Given that the emails are all very similar in content, I assume this is some sort of organized email campaign.”)

No shock there. A source at CNN tells me: “We have heard from their lawyers.”

And $cientology isn’t the only one who can file lawsuits. Former members Marc and Claire Headley of the Sea Org are suing the cult on charges of slave labor. And these aren’t lower ranking members but people who literally devoted their life for decades to “the church.”

And another high-ranking former Sea Org member in New Zealand, Aaron Saxton, is continuing to speak out and reveal the truth about this mysterious paramilitary force known as the Sea Org.

It seems that $cientology is it’s own worst enemy. It’s an ouroboros swallowing its own tail.

News From Around The Blogosphere 2.24.10

February 25, 2010

Janet Stemwedel

1. Animal Rights Terrorists endanger lives – PZ Myers, Orac, PalMD , and Orac again have all blogged about this story. After participating in a panel discussion on the ethics of animal research, Janet Stemwedel’s home address and phone number were leaked on an animal rights terrorist site, aptly named “Negotiation is over!” That should give you a hint of how rational these folks are, especially considering that her efforts were intended to reach out to those concerned about animal testing. And another participant, Dr. Ringach, had his children threatened by these cowards. You can find much more detail on this on Orac’s first post linked to above.

2. Atheist bus ad rejected in New Zealand – NZ Bus suddenly canceled plans to put up the ad because it they say it was too controversial. What did it say? “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life.” Wow, that’s real controversial.

3. Illinois Family Institute complaining again – They’re protesting The Day of Silence, a a student-run initiative where school students remain silence on behalf of the members of the GLBT community who have been forced to be silent about their sexual orientation. So what’s their brilliant response to this initiative?

Parents should call their middle and high school administrators and ask one question: Are students permitted to refuse to speak in class on the DOS? If the answer is yes, or if it is evasive or unclear, call your child or children out of school on April 16.

Yes, take the kids out of school so they won’t be heard in class. Good thinking! Down with tolerance!

4. Actor Mark Ruffalo tells how as a child he pretended to get “knocked out by the spirit of the Lord” just to appease his family:

5. Christian charity stealing money from the children? – There’s a civil war going on within the Christian charity, Feed the Children between Rev. Larry Jones, the charity’s founder and spokesman, and the Board of Directors, led by Jones’ daughter Larri Sue.

Jones claims Larri Sue used charity money to pay for her lavish Los Angeles home and tried to cover up her own tax evasion. The Board and Larri Sue claim Jones and his wife are the real thieving liars, skimming money off the top of donations for themselves and bugging executive offices. Jones fired his daughter from the charity and all Board members who opposed him. A court ruling reinstated all of them, then Larri Sue fired her father. Then the Board claimed to find incest porn in Jones’ office. Then Jones’ claimed Board members sent around racist and sexually charged emails! And while all this is going down, there are serious questions as to whether or not Feed the Children is doing any charity work at all in Haiti, which it has claimed to be doing since the recent earthquake.

6. Does this robot freak you out as much as it does me? – Engineers at UC San Diego’s Machine Perception Laboratory made a robot baby to simulate the motor skills and development of a human one-year-old. It can hold a bottle, stand up in a chair, and scare the shit out of you by just looking at it.

News From Around The Blogosphere 2.1.10

February 2, 2010

1. $7000 talking sex robot – I’ve blogged before about Roxxxy, the world’s most sophisticated talking female sex robot. Now CNN’s talking about it (her?):

Powered by a computer under her soft silicone “skin,” she employs voice-recognition and speech-synthesis software to answer questions and carry on conversations. She even comes loaded with five distinct “personalities,” from Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy, that can be programmed to suit customers’ preferences.

We knew this day was coming and now that time seems to have arrived when we can build robotic women who can converse and fake orgasms.

2. Homeopaths admit their products have no active ingredients – The 10:23 homeopathic overdose campaign has driven the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit that their products do not contain any “material substances”:

Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that “there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining” in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.


3. Medical researchers working on a pill to treat Fragile X

Chances are you’ve never heard of the target — Fragile X syndrome — even though it’s the most common inherited form of intellectual impairment, estimated to affect almost 100,000 Americans. It’s also the most common cause of autism yet identified, as about a third of Fragile X-affected boys have autism.

Now a handful of drug makers are working to develop the first treatment for Fragile X, spurred by brain research that is making specialists rethink how they approach developmental disorders.

. . .

“We are moving into a new age of reversing intellectual disabilities,” predicts Dr. Randi Hagerman, who directs the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, a study site.

This is exactly the kind of research that will one day defeat autism but from which ideologues like J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue have publicly called a waste of money because they’re obsessed with fruitless vaccine research. Autism is a genetic disorder and our be hope of treating it besides behavior therapies is manipulating the genes.

4. Henrietta Lack’s immortal cells

In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line’s impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.

. . .

Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

5. Christians literally claim monopoly on aid in Haiti – Now while that might sound like a good thing, according to a voodoo priest, believers are being discriminated against in their efforts to help and deliberately prevented from getting much-needed aid to followers of their religion:

“The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves,” he claimed. “They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that’s a shame.

6. Point of Inquiry podcast gets new hosts – Now that D.J. Grothe is leaving the Center For Inquiry (CFI) to take on his new role as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, he will no longer be hosting the CFI’s weekly podcast series Point of Inquiry. And now his replacement hosts have been announced:  Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow and Robert Price. For the most part, these are all strong picks. Of course, regular readers may guess that the one person I’m iffy on is Chris Mooney. While I do continue to read and enjoy his blog, The Intersection, one issue that I strongly disagree with him on is his condemnation of so-called “New Atheism” or “militant atheism” as well as his insistence that science and religion can peacefully coexist.  And for this reason, he seems like an unlikely choice to represent the Center For Inquiry, whose secular goals often coincide with that of the more aggressive atheists. Though maybe I’m wrong and his perspective will ultimately just foster more challenging discussions. I hope all three the best of luck.

7. American Atheists trying to buy naming rights to Superbowl stadium for 1 hour? – I think this sounds like a really dumb idea and a total waste of money that could be spent better elsewhere. It would be one thing if they were to buy naming rights to the stadium during the Superbowl or hours before it, but–no, come to think of it, it would still be a dumb idea.

Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow.

December 18, 2009

If you’re wondering what’s making baby Jesus cry now, the answer is a new billboard put up by a New Zealand church to foster conversation over the absurdity of literalism:

Yes, a church put this up. Of course the Catholic Church went ballistic, not about all the child buggery within their walls. . .but over the billboard. The local Catholic diocese responded thusly:

“Our Christian tradition of 2,000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph,” she told the New Zealand Herald. “Such a poster is inappropriate and disrespectful.”

You know they mean business because this is far more outrage than they’ve ever expressed over all that child buggery they’re responsible for.

Of course it wasn’t more than a few hours before those moral Christians decided to take the law into their own hands:

Catholic justice. Of course, I find it amusing that it’s brown. That Mary sure is into some kinky stuff. That’s the grossest money shot I’ve ever seen.

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.11.09

December 11, 2009

1. Chiropractic debunked…again – The vast majority of chiropractors believe that most disease is caused by spinal misalignments and that manipulation of the spine to correct a “subluxation” is capable of treating most disease. This is the basis of all of chiropractic, though some have evolved to view chiropractic as just beneficial for back problems. But a new study failed to show any causation associating chiropractic subluxation with disease. None. Chiropractors have onlya few options:  throw out the subluxation model entirely (which again is the basis of their whole practice) or reject the study. My money’s on door number two.

2. The SkepDoc to write for O, the Oprah Magazine? – The chiropractic article linked to above was written by Harriet Hall aka The SkepDoc. She has just been offered a column in Oprah’s magazine. It seems that the new health and environment editor at O reads Skeptic. According to Hall,

I had never actually seen Oprah’s magazine, but I suspected it was not a reliable source of science-based medical information. I asked for a copy and my prejudice was confirmed by finding an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz that included recommendations for homeopathy and aromatherapy. The magazine has a circulation of 2.4 million – only slightly lower than Playboy and TV Guide and over three times that of Scientific American.

My column will begin with the January issue. It won’t amount to much. It is limited to 250 words, under tight editorial control, and restricted to debunking common health myths like the idea that you lose most of your body heat from the head. But at least there will now be a small corner of Oprah-land that will be guaranteed entirely free of woo-woo.

Hopefully this will work out better than when Angel took that job at Wolfram & Hart.

3. It’s the end of the world…again – The same website that so successfully predicted The Rapture on September 21, September 23October 21, Fall 2009, and November 11 has predicted The Rapture again. This time it’s going to happen before Monday, December 14. I know what you’re thinking. Talk about having a case of the Mondays! But at least we get to enjoy the weekend before the apocalypse. So remember, folks. The apocalypse may happen on Monday, so dress accordingly.

4. No more atheist ads in Barcelona – Promedios, the company in charge of the advertising, has now banned all ads causing “social controversy.” The first to suffer from this rule is an ultra-Catholic religious group.

5. But an atheist ad is going up in New Zealand – They raised more than the necessary $10,000 in two days.

6. Clergy ratings on honesty and ethics hit 32-year low – Half of the people polled do not trust the clergy.

Uh oh! I don't like the sound of that.

Demon Waterboarded, Woman Killed

May 7, 2009

Here’s yet another tragic example of the harm caused by those who believe in demons and exorcisms. Maori tribal elders killed a 22-yea-old New Zealand woman because they were convinced she was possessed by a demon a concrete lion was stolen from in front of a hotel. So they decided to cleanse the demon from her body by pouring water into her mouth and eyes, which the Bush Administration assures us is absolutely not torture. Well, apparently these guys did it wrong and the woman drowned.

Three men and six women have been charged with manslaughter in the incident, and some of them were also charged with child cruelty for similarly attacking a 14-year-old girl, who thankfully survived.

Moral of the story:  Say no to religion and DON’T BE SO FUCKIN’ GULLIBLE!

Gay Ducks Kill Species

March 12, 2009

What if all that remained of the entire human population was 2 guys and a girl? You might find a lot of competition but ultimately you’d have the means of starting repopulation. Now what if the 2 guys were gay?

Well that seems to be the issue with Ben and Jerry, 2 of the last 3 New Zealand Blue Ducks in the world. They’ve got a female, Cherry, but they’re far too into each other to touch her. Anyone else think that if there was a third male it the group, he’d be named “Garcia?” Come on, guys! Take one for the team and get it on with this chick. She’s available and desperate, and you’re the only game in town. Haven’t you guys ever fantasized about a threesome?

The only real loser here is Cherry, who has expressed sexual interest in Jerry, though she’s been ignored. If anyone’s looking to score with a desperate female blue duck, you know where to go.

Reptile Fossil Reignites Debate Over New Zealand Submergence

January 29, 2009

Reptile Fossil Renews Debate Over New Zealand

The fossil of a lizard-like New Zealand reptile has been identified by a team of scientists from UCL (University College London), University of Adelaide, and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The fossil, dating back 18 million years, has triggered fresh arguments over whether the continent was fully submerged some 25 million years ago.

So for those who are counting that would be 17,994,000 and 24,994,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.