2. T-Minus ten shopping days till the Rapture! – Richard Dawkins has perhaps given the best public response in the news media yet to the completely idiotic Harold Camping prediction that the Rapture will occur on May 21, chastising the Washington Post within its own pages for even having the audacity to report on it as if it were real news. And perhaps on a related note, May is Zombie Awareness Month!
Fairman is not leaving the organization quietly. Posting his expulsion letter at Marty Rathbun’s blog, Fairman blasts Scientology for dismissing him after he had spent years promoting the church with work in its videos and television commercials. Despite all that work, the SP letter vaguely accuses Fairman of various deficiencies, such as “financial irregularities.”
“I have been debt free since early 2010, and am supporting two households.
I make car and insurance payments on my Mercedes…So what ‘financial irregularities and out-exchange’ are they fucking talking about?” Fairman writes.
They also amusingly charge him with being a “squirrel,” which in Scientology-speak means he continued to practice Hubbard’s methods outside of church control. It seems that Fairman, like Rathburn, still believes in some of the methods of Scientology, but has grown disgusted with its management.
2. Friendly Atheist jokingly stumbles onto the best billboard campaign idea yet – Actually, I came up with this idea as a serious proposal last year. It seems great minds think alike. My idea was what I called the “Isn’t it about time you read the whole thing?” Campaign, where an atheist organization put up billboards illustrating or quoting specific inconvenient and unpleasant Bible passages with a big headline reading, “Isn’t it about time you read the whole thing?” How much fun would it be defending such a billboard on Fox News? you could simply respond that you’re just trying to get more people to read the whole Bible, so what’s wrong with that? Of course you can also make your own billboard, advertising your own atheism.
The number of young people practicing Catholicism has plummeted, from 29.2% in 2002 to 10.3% in 2010, according to the Youth Institute of Spain (Injuve). Also, the number of non-believers (19.1%) and atheists (9.6%) have increased nine points and three points, respectively. Non-practicing Catholics are the majority, making up 45% of the total.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is a battle we can win.
5. Comparing the necessary funding for SETI to other expenses – The other day I reported that Search for Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) is being defunded in the U.S. SETI’s funding equalled $2.5 million a year. Now Phil Plait has broken down the equivalent costs to demonstrate what it would mean to continue to fund possibly one of the most important science programs out there:
The following is Scientology’s very slick commercial titled, “An Invitation to Freedom,” that apparently aired during the most recent episode of American Idol:
Just think. You too can look this happy and free.
Thanks for the invite, Scientology, but I must respectfully decline.
Of course a more accurate commercial might go something like this: “Tired of thinking for yourself and doing what you want? Want to perform back-breaking work for $50 a week? Can’t find holier than thou assholes to publicly beat the shit out of you and humiliate you on a regular basis? What to detail Tom Cruise’s various motorcycles for free? Want to cut off all communication with your family and friends? Want to lie to yourself and others every second of every day? THEN JOIN SCIENTOLOGY!”
Fortunately, now that the internet exists and Scientology’s cult nature has become common knowledge, even the slickest commercial is likely to bring about many new converts…especially after the recent New Yorker expose.
I will say this though. Atheist organizations can learn a lot from Scientology’s marketing department. I would love to see an atheist commercial that captures a similar kind of feel as this Scientology ad.
1. 40-million-year-old mites caught fucking – It’s not uncommon to find ancient animals preserved in amber. What’s far less common is finding ancient animals preserved in middle of doing it as in a recent find where two mites were found mating. Another interesting fact about these mites are that the traditional sex roles were reversed:
“In this species, it is the female who has partial or complete control of mating,” explained Klimov, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. “This is in contrast to the present-day reproductive behavior of many mite species where almost all aspects of copulation are controlled by males.”
I think that settles it for me. When I die, I insist that I’m preserved forever in amber during sex.
MIT engineers have designed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for diseases such as HIV and malaria.
Once again, science delivers the goods.
3. Lawsuit claims Scientology violated child labor and wage laws – If you haven’t yet read the recent 30-page New Yorker expose on Scientology, you owe it to yourself to take the time to do so. It is almost certainly the single most damning piece of literature compiled on the cult and every word of it is backed by a copious amount of evidence. I truly believe that nobody can read that article and still choose to join Scientology. According to that article, there is a federal investigation into possible human trafficking charges, relating to accusations of child labor and nearly non-existent wages for adult labor.
Now two lawsuits have been filed by former Scientologist Daniel Montalvo, who “contends his parents, who remain in the Sea Org, neglected him and breached their duty to protect him from harm by ceding his care to the church.” And like with every former member/critic, church Spokesmen Tommy Davis is retaliating with sudden criminal accusations against Montalvo that the church remarkably never mentioned to anyone until just now when he sued them first. What a coinkidink! Given all the former members that Davis and past spokesmen (who incidentally are now also harsh critics of the cult) have accused of serious and often violent crimes, I’m left to wonder if everyone in Scientology is a violent thug.
1. Jerusalem UFO video exposed as fake – Okay, so the video looked pretty poor to begin with, giving us nothing but a tiny moving ball of light but it’s still fun to apply more analysis to it anyway. Steven Novella had already done a great critical analysis of the video here where he observed that the video largely consists of a still image with added effects to create the illusion of shaky-cam video footage, but now Phil Plait has found a video posted on YouTube that actually exposes the specific digital editing tricks used to create the illusion of a shaky camera. Unlike other alleged UFO videos, there’s no ambiguity here. This video is a deliberate fake and its been busted cold.
2. Creepy head-mask to punish ‘rude, clamorous” women – Okay, I just thought this story was really cool. This mask was used between 1550 and 1800 to punish women considered to be spending too much time gossiping or quarrelling. When wearing the mask, it’s impossible to speak. Some of these masks, like the one pictured, even had a bell on them to add to the wearer’s humiliation.
3. Robots to get their own internet – European scientists are working on a network that would allow robots to share and store what they discover about the world:
Called RoboEarth it will be a place that robots can upload data to when they master a task, and ask for help in carrying out new ones.
Researchers behind it hope it will allow robots to come into service more quickly, armed with a growing library of knowledge about their human masters.
4. Scientology continues to have a terrible week – I already briefly wrote about the incredible, super-long New Yorker piece by Lawrence Wright on Scientology apostate Paul Haggis, which mentioned that the cult is currently under an FBI investigation for human trafficking. But there are so many highlights to the piece. After finally managing to read the whole article, I got to where Wright talks about fact-checking L. Ron Hubbard’s claim that he was injured during military service and was miraculously healed by the methods now practiced as part of Scientology. After Scientology Spokesman Tommy Davis gave the New Yorker thousands of pages of documents and allegedly admitted that if this Hubbard story didn’t check out, it’d mean all of Scientology was a fraud, Wright and his New Yorker fact-checkers went through the pain-staking process of getting military archivists who are experts in such documents. Those experts concluded that the documents were false, that there was no record of Hubbard’s injuries or of the officer who allegedly signed some of the documents, and that the documents lied about his education and the metals he’d received. Now the New Yorker has even put up a copy of at least one of the documents to show readers precisely how we know it’s a forgery. Wright has also been turning up on various radio shows to discuss his findings (here and here). It just keeps getting worse for Scientology and they can’t seem to catch a break.
1. FBI investigating Scientology for human trafficking – A recent profile on ex-Scientologist and Oscar-winner Paul Haggis in the New Yorker also discussed an ongoing FBI investigation into the allegations of abuse by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and the enslavement of members of the Sea Org:
The laws regarding traﬃcking were built largely around forced prostitution, but they also pertain to slave labor. Under federal law, slavery is deﬁned, in part, by the use of coercion, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, and psychological abuse. The California penal code lists several indicators that someone may be a victim of human traﬃcking: signs of trauma or fatigue; being afraid or unable to talk, because of censorship by others or security measures that prevent communication with others; working in one place without the freedom to move about; owing a debt to one’s employer; and not having control over identification documents. Those conditions echo the testimony of many former Sea Org members…
3. One flu vaccine to rule them all? – Researchers may have found a universal flu vaccine to end all flu vaccines. Though it’s worth noting that the trial had only 22 subjects, but bigger studies are in progress.
5. 1 in 8 U.S. biology teachers are creationists– This is a shocking statistic. Roger Ebert had an appropriate response to this on Twitter, analogizing this to the hypothetical statistic of 1 in 8 math teachers believing 2+2=5.
1. ‘ESP’ study utterly ridiculous – Just hearing ABC World News talking about this ‘ESP’ study made it clear to me that this study is a complete joke. The researcher literally gave people repeated 50/50 chance scenarios, found a ritual that he claimed increased the likelihood of correct answers to a whopping 53 percent, and is calling that proof of ESP. Considering I know how to predict coin tosses better than random guesswork by others almost every time through trickery alone, consider me unimpressed. But Ben Radford and Ray Hyman go far deeper by pointing out major flaws in the methodology.
2. New expose on $cientology coming – In 2009, director and writer Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) very publicly left $cientology, citing the cult’s homophobia and Spokesman Tommy Davis’ lies about the disconnection policies. Now, “Lawrence Wright is writing what his agent calls “the most profound reckoning to date” with Scientology, told through the eyes of director and apostate Paul Haggis.” Something tells me Tom Cruise will not be featured in any Paul Haggis movies any time soon.
3. Californial memorial cross deemed unconstitutional – This should have been a no-brainer, but now the legendary 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court decision that threw out a legal challenge to the hilltop cross brought on behalf of Jewish war veterans.
As I posted last week, Jeff Hawkin’s, the the ex-$cientologist responsible for $cientology’s marketing in the 80s and their volcano commercial from the 90’s, has just published a book criticizing the cult. But while Hawkins was actually quite good at his job, it seems the latest crop of in-house $cientology marketers seem to suck at it.
The challenge of trying to market Dianetics and Scientology is probably one of the most difficult assignments in the world. They are not thought of well. There’s a lot of suspicion and controversy. Most of that is generated from within because of the way the leader of the church has dealt with people, such as issues to do with internet copyright. They do a lot of lawsuits. They run full-page ads in USA Today attacking Eli Lilly (LLY) [which makes antidepressants, which Scientology opposes]. It makes people stand back. Time magazine wrote them up as a “mafia-like” organization. How do you create a want for that? It’s an almost impossible challenge.
And when the cult’s secrecy was mentioned as an obstacle, Hall responded:
It’s not deliberate. It’s just inept marketing. I think they don’t have a clue what they are doing. I’ve worked at the top ranks of management, shoulder to shoulder. They all worry constantly about the big problem that nobody understands them. But for other reasons they have not been effective at all at communicating what they do, what their beliefs are and so forth. They’re not deliberately keeping it a secret. It’s a more simple problem than that. A lot of organizations that do their own in-house marketing, they eat the product, breathe the product, 24/7, and they lose their objectivity and they don’t know how to connect with people outside. Compounding that, [founder L. Ron] Hubbard wrote in the 1970s and ’80s a few policies on how the church was to do their marketing. There’s nothing wrong with what he wrote, but that marketing know-how is circa 1975. As any creative person knows, marketing has grown by light years since 1975. By today’s standards those methods are terrible.
So thanks for the invitation, $cientology, but no thanks.
Jefferson Hawkins joined $cientology in 1967. And he defected in 2003. And as you can imagine, that 40 years has given him quite a story to tell. And now he’s telling it in his new book, Counterfeit Dreams. And Hawkins wasn’t just anyone. He was the one who came up with the idea for the Dianetics “volcano” commercial among others, and ironically played a major role in a resurgence of the book’s popularity in the 1980s.
And now, like so many high-ranking $cientologists who actively played a major role in the cult’s PR, he’s coming forward and exposing the deception he himself was a part of. He also says that despite the cult’s insistence that they’ve got millions of followers around the world, the number of active members is probably closer to 50,000.
Let’s help make Counterfeit Dreams more successful than Dianetics ever was.