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William Dembski talking dumbski

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 30, 2009

So William Dembski has a problem with Blasphemy Day, the holiest day of the year (that’s me being ironic in case a retarded person stumbles upon this entry. Sorry regular readers I have to make this idiot proof!) ! Wow. Now why an intelligent designer (it’s not creationism or religion remember?) would even get involved in this, in the official ID blog as well, beats me, but that’s not the only problem. The dumbness of the following statement is really mind boggling and, I think, at the very least refutes the argument of intelligent design in Dembski himself.

Since Darwin is their god, it would be interesting to submit to this contest true statements about Darwin’s less than divine attributes.

facepalm

So Dembski thinks that atheists worship Darwin! Oh boy! Either he is purposefully engaging in a straw man or he really is that confused. I honestly can’t tell. Can you?

Happy Blasphemy Day

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 30, 2009

Skepdude would like to wish all a happy and joyous International Blasphemy Day. May you all go around proudly proclaiming your atheism, and more importantly your right to free speech. I would like to remind all that blasphemy does not mean insulting people, but criticizing ideas. I’ll leave you with these two gems.

Via DJGrothe: Ideas don’t need rights, people do!

Via Skepdude: Are the popular gods of today, equally as real or equally as fictitious as the gods of yesterday?

Feel free to add your own on the comments.

Richard Dawkins’ problem: Bill Maher

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 29, 2009

Richard Dawkins is in hot water! The Atheist Alliance International has an award named after him which they award during their annual conference, and its description reads like this (according to Wikipedia, I can’t find a description of the award at the AAI website at all):

The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins.

I was able to find this short post on the AAI website about the upcoming 2009 convention though, and from there I get this quote which seems to validate the Wikipedia entry (emphasis mine):

We are also pleased to announce that Bill Maher, effervescent host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher and host and co-producer of the 2008 documentary movie Religulous, will be in attendance Friday evening to receive the 2009 AAI Richard Dawkins Award for his efforts to further the values science and reason in the world.

The case against this nomination has been made brilliantly by Orac, and I don’t need to repeat what he said except for the main point. One of the criteria for awarding the RDA is “advocates increased scientific knowledge”. Bill Maher does the exact opposite, and not only when medical issues are involved. To this day I remember listening in horror to the podcast version of the show when he and Ashton Kutcher, I think if my memory serves me correctly, were talking crap about the NASA orbiters sent to Mars!

Newsflash AAI: Bill Maher makes no effort to “further the values of science” in the world. He does make a great effort to further atheism, but he is as anti science as NaturalNews.com!

The AAI is whoring itself for the spotlight a celebrity like Bill Maher can shine on them, and I for one, and it appears Orac also, do not support this sort of behavior.

So why is this Richard Dawkins’ problem?  Well for one, even though he did not have anything to do with the selection process, the award bares his name. Secondly, he will be there at the convention, thus lending credence to the idea that he approves of Maher as a receipient. Thirdly one only needs to look at the convention website to see Maher’s and Dawkins’ pics front and center, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation Emblema right on the website banner, almost as big as the AAI portion of the banner.

For all intents and purposes it seems clear to me that RD is not an innocent bystander, whose name was “hijacked” by the AAI. If he did not support Maher as a recipient of an award bearing his name, he would say so openly not hide behind the “I did not choose him” excuse, because that is what in reality it is. It is clear that Richard Dawkins has no problem at all with this, even if Maher most clearly makes no effort whatsoever to advance the values of science; even though Maher takes every chance to trash science and push ridiculous “holistic” treatments whenever he cans; even when Maher ridicules the Mars probes as a waste of money. I guess having a celebrity on your side is more important than being intellectually honest. Here is a telling quote from an entry on the RichardDawkins.net website:

Whilst Richard was not involved in the decision, he is nevertheless happy to go along with it. Just as he worked with Bishop Harries to protest against creationist schools in the UK, and just as he regularly recommends Kenneth Miller’s books on evolution to religious people, he understands that it is not a prerequisite to agree with a person on all issues in order to unite in support of a common objective. Richard and Christopher Hitchens don’t see eye to eye on all political matters, but that doesn’t stop them from working together against the dangers of religion. Honoring the creation of ‘Religulous’ does not imply endorsement of all of Bill Maher’s other views, and does not preclude Richard’s arguing against them on future occasions. It is simply showing proper appreciation of his brilliant film.

This is a load of crap, and I call bullshit. I am disgusted to see this sort of straw man arguing on this reputable website. No one is implying that Dawkins has to agree with Maher on everything. Our argument is simple, Maher does not fulfill the criteria that the AAI itself has set up for its award recipients. Dawkins needs to acknowledge this, and not pretend he does not understand our point, or pretend that he was not aware of Maher’s anti scientific views, and, at this point when it has all been pointed out to him, ignore it completely. That is not what a man of reason does!

Also, the point about disagreeing with Hitchens on political issues is a false analogy that does not apply. We’re not saying that Dawkins needs to agree with Maher on political issues, or social issues. We’re saying that it is dishonest to endorse Maher as the recipient of an award which in part is meant to honor him for his advancement and support for science, which he most certainly lacks to the highest degree, and at the same time try to hide behind the “I did not know/ I didn’t have anything to do with this” excuse. If you knew or not, were involved or not,  is irrelevant so long as you think they did the right thing and you ignore the evidence to the contrary. If you endorse this recipient, you cannot put up this sort of defense. It is dishonest and pathetic, and we expect more from one of the most prominent public figures of our movement.

Bill Maher may be a great atheist, and may have done more than anyone alive today to advance the cause of atheism. However, either the AAI needs to change the criteria for the RD Award, or they need to retract the award from Maher. Somehow, knowing human nature, I suspect neither of these will happen. They will proudly use Maher’s name and face until they can squeeze no more publicity out of it, and keep the word “science” in their award description, because everybody knows that word is prestigious. In the mean time a dangerously misguided woo woo lover will keep on spouting anti scientific nonsense as much as he can, because hey he got an award for advancing scientific knowledge. How’s that for irony?

Mr. Deity and Da Man

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 29, 2009

Preliminary autopsy reveals underlying condition for british girl who died hours after receiving cancer vaccine

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 29, 2009

Natalie Morton, the 14-year-old british girl who collapsed and died a few hours after receiving the HPV vaccine, seems to have had a “serious underlying medical condition”, an NHS Trust has said. No more details were provided at this time as an in depth post mortem is to be performed.

In the mean time, the NHS maintains that the vaccine is “most unlikely” to have caused this unfortunate tragedy, and earlier today the British Government resumed the vaccination program which was temporarily halted when this happened. Also, the vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, is recalling the batch for further testing. The response of both the government and the vaccine maker seem appropriate at this time.

More than 1.4 million doses have been given out so far, of which there have been 4,657 suspected reactions reported (about 0.33% or 1 in 300), and the adverse effects were: headache, nausea, dizziness, sore arm and rash. Those numbers imply that the vaccine is very safe indeed, and trying to draw a causal connection between the vaccine itself and this girl’s death is flimsy at best, especially if we consider the new announcement about the underlying condition. I will report new developments as they become public.

Enemy Territory

Posted in JREF by Skepdude on September 29, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT RANDI.ORG

On a recent trip to Sedona, I decided to feign naiveté and enter a few shops in the guise of an open-minded seeker of knowledge. (Wait, I really do try to be that! Guise not needed!) I was prepared to have my worldview changed completely based on what I was told and what happened. I simply would keep my opinion to myself.

I have a friend who has a serious heart condition. It is as yet undiagnosed, and it causes considerable discomfort. Many of the shops in Sedona sell crystals which are supposed to solve health problems such as these, so I presented my case to the shop owners and asked for help. It went like this:

ME: Hello, can you help me? I have a friend who’s suffering from a heart condition, and I’d like to see if crystals could help.

CRYSTAL MERCHANT: Oh yes, they’re excellent for that. Crystals are very powerful, and don’t have the side effects of pharmaceuticals.

ME: What should I buy?

CRYSTAL MERCHANT: Let me consult a book.

She pulled out a large tome called The Crystal Bible. I could see that it was simply a matter of looking up the word “heart” in the index. She took out a notepad and wrote down the names of twelve different crystals.

CRYSTAL MERCHANT: This one is for heart problems… this one is for.. um.. problems of the heart, yes. This one is for issues with the heart chakra. (pause) There are different approaches, but they won’t interfere with each other so it’s safe.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT RANDI.ORG

Homework

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 28, 2009

Dear Skepfeeds readers. I am  very happy to announce that I have reached my goal of achieving 50 regular subscribers. I want to thank all of you that have signed up to my RSS and have made this happen.

Now my goal is to try and double my regular readership by 12/31/2009. Your homework is the following: plug Skepfeeds on Facebook, Twitter or other similar websites and urge your friends to subscribe to my RSS. Furthermore, if you have a blog of your own, write a two line entry telling your readers what, if anything, you like about Skepfeeds and why they should subscribe as well.

As an incentive to you, anyone that goes ahead and does this will be the lucky recipient of positive vibes which I will be sending your way telepathically.

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School girl dies shortly after receiving cervical cancer vaccine

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 28, 2009

BBC reports that a 14-year-old girl has died “shortly after the girl had received her HPV vaccine in the school.” An autopsy has not yet been performed to determine the exact cause of death, but expect the anti-vax woo woos to leap at this opportunity to trash vaccines in general. Obviously it is too early to know exactly what happened so a dismissal of a vaccine connection to this event, or a conclusion that the vaccine is responsible, are unwarranted and cannot be supported by the facts that have been made public. Both sides, us and the anti-vax woo woos should wait before proclaiming one way or another. But something tells me the woo woos do not play by this rule. We’ll see what happens.

Egypt anger over virginity faking

Posted in News by Skepdude on September 28, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT BBC

A leading Egyptian scholar has demanded that people caught importing a female virginity-faking device into the country should face the death penalty.

Abdul Mouti Bayoumi said supplying the item was akin to spreading vice in society, a crime punishable by death in Islamic Sharia law.

The device is said to release liquid imitating blood, allowing a female to feign virginity on her wedding night.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT BBC

Prison time for homeopath parents that let their daughter die of eczema

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 28, 2009

People love to use the “its a harmless belief” excuse whenever they find themselves in a corner defending some non-evidence based belief, such say….oh I don’t know, homeopathy? However, it is not true that these beliefs are harmless. It is not true that they have no side effects. Because when such beliefs are adhered to in matters of health, and are preferred over established, science based medicine, death occurs.

You may remember a while ago reading in this blog about the little girl who died of eczema at nine months of age, a non fatal disease if treated with real medicine, because her parents choose homeopathy instead, even as her conditions got worse and even as it became obvious that the homeopathic potions were not producing the desired results. The parents were found guilty and now news comes out that they have been sentenced to prison time, 6 years for the father, 4 for the mother.

I do not know how to feel about this story. I am a bit torn, because obviously these parents did what they thought was best for their daughter. I do not think there was an intention to hurt her in their part. But they were negligent when the choose to ignore many warnings and advice to seek real medical help which could have easily saved this little girl’s life. They were taken in by the woo woo, the father was himself a homeopath who really believed in his “craft” to the point of letting his little girl die instead of getting help. But they did make choices that resulted in a young life ending prematurely, so….

I am not happy that this is happening, I’d much rather prefer this sort of thing never happened.

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