News From Around The Blogosphere 1.7.10

January 8, 2010

1. The awesome Ben Radford talks vampires

That a significant community of people believe that human vampires (psychic or otherwise) actually exist is not unusual; after all, many people also believe in the existence of angels, ghosts, Bigfoot, aliens, and other entities never proven real. Vampires, thankfully, remain safely between the covers of books.

And speaking of Ben Radford. . .

2. Ben Radford reviews The Education of Shelby Knox – This is a film about a Texas high school student trying to get a real sex education taught in Lubbock’s public schools instead of the ineffectual abstinence-only sex ed that was being taught there. There’s a lot more about the film in his review. It’s a great read.

3. Tetrapods are older than we thought – We’ve found fossil trackways in Poland that suggest tetrapods are older than we thought. Ironically, the first time I heard this story it was from a Young Earth Creationist touting this as more proof that evolution is wrong. Clearly, they didn’t bother to read a single fact about this story other than this new finding overturns previous ideas in evolution. They certainly must have missed the part where the tracks are 395 million years old. And for those keeping track, that’s 394,400,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists. The creationist was claiming that this somehow debunked Tiktaalik as a transitional species even though creationists prior to this found already rejected Tiktaalik and every other transitional species. Of course, however, this does no such thing. Tiktaalik is still a legitimate transitional species from 375 million years. But now we’ve simply got evidence of older tetrapods. Sorry Young Earth Creationists, but this only makes your case infinitely worse, not better.

4.  From you, alright! I learned it from watching you! – Parents who do religion have children who do religion. A class was going on a school trip to study geology and sent home a permission slip. The creationist parents’ response is just epic.

Note: Just to let you it is not that we don't believe in things like that, it is just misleading when you talk about it being billions of years old, when we all know that the world is only about 6,000 years old. So why would I pay so that you can misslead my children, your world is just a revolving(?), ours has a start and an end. God created the world. He created animals and man all in the same week. It was also Adam who named all the animals, they will do the essay 'Rock and Minerals' but it might not be 5 pages long, and about billions of years, it will be according to the Bible.

5. Golden ration in the quantum world too?

Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB), in cooperation with colleagues from Oxford and Bristol Universities, as well as the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, have for the first time observed a nanoscale symmetry hidden in solid state matter. They have measured the signatures of a symmetry showing the same attributes as the golden ratio famous from art and architecture.

Wow! I hope this story turns out to be accurate because that is just freakin’ awesome!

6. Eight percent of human genetic material comes from a virus –

The research showed that the genomes of humans and other mammals contain DNA derived from the insertion of bornaviruses, RNA viruses whose replication and transcription takes place in the nucleus. Feschotte wrote on recent research led by Professor Keizo Tomonaga at Osaka University in Japan. Feschotte said this virally transmitted DNA may be a cause of mutation and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and mood disorders.

Same response. I love the thought of being part virus.

News From Around The Blogosphere 1.4.09

January 5, 2010

1. Researchers conclude that G-spot is a myth

The scientists at King’s College London who carried out the study claim there is no evidence for the existence of the G-spot — supposedly a cluster of internal nerve endings — outside the imagination of women influenced by magazines and sex therapists. They reached their conclusions after a survey of more than 1,800 British women.

2. Egyptian med students not the sharpest tools in the shed – Apparently Egyptian med students have it in their heads that masturbation causes blindness. Yes, I said that these were the Med students!

Baher Ibrahim writes that young women, expected by the conservative Egyptian society to be white virginal emblems of chastity, often wouldn’t know a penis from a bratwurst (I’m talking the literal food here). Meanwhile, many of the guys get their sexual knowledge from watching porn, which doesn’t do women any favors, no matter what country you’re in.

Bad or non-existent sex ed also fails to teach people to protect themselves against STDs. One student interviewed recalls a professor pinning the failure rate of condom usage in protecting against HIV/AIDS at 15-20% (it’s actually close to zero). Unsurprisingly, women are at particular risk for the disease, which spreads primarily through unprotected heterosexual sex, due to a severe lack of information on the subject. And, oh abstinence-until-m

3. Creationists given potentially unparalleled power over children’s textbooks – Texas and California are the two states that largely determine public school textbooks for the rest of the country. But now that liberal California can’t afford to buy new textbooks until 2014, Don McLeroy and his ultraconservative gang may have all the power. We’re going to need Eugenie Scott and the National Center for Science Education more than ever now.

4. British skeptics launch ’10:23 Campaign’ against homeopathy – The name comes from the Avogadro Constant, the scientific principle in which homeopathy would violate…if it were true. I also love their slogan:  “Homeopathy: There’s Nothing In It.”

5. Black Atheist is cast member on MTV’s ‘Real World’ – Apparently, one of the cast members of the latest season of the Real World, Ty Ruff, is a black atheist. I only mention his skin color because there doesn’t tend to be many black atheists.

According to  his bio:

… Despite growing up in the church, he is anti-religion and thinks believing in God is a crutch…

6. Atheist Foundation of Australia put up bus ad in Tasmania – The slogan is, “Atheism: Celebrate Reason!” I like it.

7. New study finds chimpanzees have culture too

A new study of chimpanzees living in the wild adds to evidence that our closest primate relatives have cultural differences, too. The study, reported online on October 22nd in Current Biology, shows that neighboring chimpanzee populations in Uganda use different tools to solve a novel problem: extracting honey trapped within a fallen log.

Kibale Forest chimpanzees use sticks to get at the honey, whereas Budongo Forest chimpanzees rely on leaf sponges — absorbent wedges that they make out of chewed leaves.

“The most reasonable explanation for this difference in tool use was that chimpanzees resorted to preexisting cultural knowledge in trying to solve the novel task,” said Klaus Zuberbühler of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. “Culture, in other words, helped them in dealing with a novel problem.”

8. Lifeless prions evolve or another bad day to be a creationist

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have determined for the first time that prions, bits of infectious protein devoid of DNA or RNA that can cause fatal neurodegenerative disease, are capable of Darwinian evolution.

The study from Scripps Florida in Jupiter shows that prions can develop large numbers of mutations at the protein level and, through natural selection, these mutations can eventually bring about such evolutionary adaptations as drug resistance, a phenomenon previously known to occur only in bacteria and viruses. These breakthrough findings also suggest that the normal prion protein — which occurs naturally in human cells — may prove to be a more effective therapeutic target than its abnormal toxic relation.

An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away

July 15, 2009

When it comes to sex education, we yankees could learn a lot from the limey bastards across the Atlantic. The National Health Service office in Sheffield, England has taken a very interesting approach to sex education. They’ve begun distributing a leaflet entitled “Pleasure” in school sex education classes that talks about the health benefits of a happy sex life:

The leaflet carries the slogan “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away”. It also says: “Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes’ physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week?”

Steve Slack, the director of the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS Sheffield, who is one of the leaflet’s authors, says that instead of promoting teenage sex, it could encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are certain they will enjoy the experience.

Mr Slack believes that if teenagers are fully informed about sex and are making their decisions of their own will in a loving relationship, they have an equal right as an adult to an enjoyable sex life.

Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington College, which recently introduced classes in emotional wellbeing, said the leaflets were “deplorable”.

Blame Canada’s…adults

June 5, 2009

A new report found that the state of Canadian sex education is not good. And further, Canada is seeing a rise in the number of Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Though as the article linked to above quickly points out, despite the growing number of Canadian teens with poor sex education, they’re still not nearly as screwed as those in that “Puritan” nation to the south:

The good news — compared to the Puritans down south and their teen sex state of emergency, we’re still looking pretty good. The bad news — almost everyone looks good compared to them.

And as much as I’d love to defend my nation and hurl return fire at our useless neighbors to the north, in this case they’re not wrong. American teens have it far worse than probably every other Western democracy when it comes to sexual education because of the puritanical views of many Americans.

The Canadian report further suggests that it’s the attitudes of adults that are the root of the problem:

There are some systemic problems preventing teens from accessing enough information (more on those in a minute), but underlying all of those is a bigger problem: many adults don’t think teens should be sexually active. That leads to denial that kids are active and therefore need information. And while the head-in-the-sand approach might work for ostriches, apparently it doesn’t work so well in mitigating high-risk teen sexual behavior.

In addition to the mix of denial and ignorance, there’s stigma. As one service provider in the report said, “parents want to know where [teens] go all the time. If they find out they went [somewhere to find out about] sexual health, the family finds out, honour is broken.”

Those kinds of attitudes make teens themselves shy away from going to clinics, talking to their doctor, school nurse and so on, partly because they fear the disapproval of their parents, and partly because they fear that the service providers will also judge them. Or worse — not keep their information confidential. That’s one hot aphrodisiac.

Yup, couldn’t agree more. The report also, I think, nails it when it comes to offering potential solutions:  “information, access, trust.” Many of the specific solutions are quite good as well with only one exception. See if you can find the one that I think is overkill and is more than a little absurd:

The report offers a few dozen recommendations about how to improve the level of information in Canada, each of which have been proven to greatly reduce teen high-risk behavior: offer mandatory sex ed from kindergarten to Grade 12, put health centres in all neighbourhoods (teen centres are often clumped right now, leaving large unserviced areas), tailor programs to meet the needs of diverse populations (clinics and information aren’t culturally diverse enough right now), provide free or low-cost condoms and birth-control pills, ensure stable funding (centres are often funded only for two to five years at a time), communicate more about confidentiality and privacy rights, and build sex ed into ESL curriculum.

Mandatory sex ed be taught from kindergarten to 12th grade. Kindergarten? Really?

Obama kicks abstinence-only sex ed. to the curb

May 17, 2009

The day the clown made the children cry

March 17, 2009

christian-condomIf you thought clowns were meant to entertain and make children laugh, then obviously you’re not Christian. Clowns are here for only one purpose to convince children not to have sex.

Take Derek Dye, the Abstinence Clown. Derek is a holdover from the Bush Administration. So if you were wondering where all your money went:

Derek Dye is supported by Elizabeth’s New Life Center, a Christian-orientated organisation that received a federal grant of $800,000 in 2007

Flying Spaghetti Monster bless faith-based initiatives for taking our money and blowing it on shit that we knew already didn’t work in the first place. But maybe I’m being too hasty here. I’m sure Derek will at least be honest with the kids and not lie to them or resort to fear-based terrorism:

“You know what? I can’t do it… …Because if I juggle these machetes over him, there’s risk. Something could happen. I could make a mistake… …I tried to reduce the risk a little bit, by practising. But it doesn’t matter how much I practice, an accident could happen. The only way I can completely eliminate risk of something happening to him, is if I put the machetes [away] and practice abstinence.”


Give me back my money, you fuckin’ ass clown!!

For a person whose success depends upon popularity, it was strange then that Dye ordered YouTube to remove a video of him in action, spreading the message of abstinence to a group of middle school children.

Oh, but don’t worry you can still see it and see how your money was wasted:

To their eternal credit, Amplify Your Voice have decided to host the offending video in the face of repeated legal threats from Dye and the New Life Center. What are these people so ashamed of? Aren’t they proud of their covert religious piecemeal sexual education project?

But then agian, maybe this guy is walking proof of the negative consequences of not practicing abstinence. Though it all would have been fine if his parents had just worn a condom.

I guess this was Bush’s last laugh:

Why so serious?

Why so serious?

News From Around The Blogosphere 9.6.08

September 7, 2008

Church pissed at musician Katy Perry for kissing a girl and liking it – You know the song. Well a church responded to those sinful lyrics they hated so much with the sign posted to your left. The reverend responsible illustrated the intelligence of his parish by stating he has heard from people who either were not familiar with the song and didn’t understand the cultural reference, or didn’t understand the message.

What was his defense then for the sign?

“We meant that as a loving warning to teens.”

Sure ya did.

Orgins Conference at CalTech Oct. 4 to feature scientists and creationists – Yeah, I figured the easiest way to avoid the silly creationist term “evolutionists” is to just call them scientists. Being a scientist isn’t just what you do but who you are. Some creationists might do science but that doesn’t make them scientists.

Another look at abstinence-only sex education vs. actual sex education

Anti-vaxxers try to sell Barack Obama and NJ Governor Corzine on their pseudoscience – It’s unclear at this time whether they made an impression. But considering NJ is now mandating flu vaccines for pre-schoolers it’d be hard for Corzine to change the law now.


Pyrenees Glaciers: Gone In Less Than 50 Years? – “Much has been said about the situation of the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, but little is known about those in the high mountain areas of the Iberian Peninsular. A Spanish research study has revealed, for the first time, that now only the Pyrenees has active glaciers.”