Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

U.S. State Department rejects “defamation of religions”

Posted in Secular Conscience by Skepdude on September 30, 2008

On the occasion of the release of its 2008 International Religious Freedom Report on 19 September, the U.S. State Department rejected the concept of “defamation of religions,” and affirmed the right of individuals to criticize religions. From Ambassador John Hanford’s statement:


News Alert: LHC lawsuit collides with pavement

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on September 30, 2008

Good news, everyone! The antiscience cranks who filed an injunction to stop the Large Hadron Collider from being turned on have had their case dismissed. The ruling?

The United States Defendants move for dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or for summary judgment on other grounds. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14) is GRANTED.

In other words, amazingly enough, a U.S. District Court doesn’t have jurisdiction over a machine that is in Europe.

Let’s all give that one a big mental duh.


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Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on September 30, 2008

Beating up on PETA is like beating up on a helpless puppy dog, except that puppy dogs are cute and lovable, and PETA is anything but either of the two. It’s also too damned easy, leaving me feeling vaguely guilty when I’m done for not going after a more challenging target. I do it anyway because the level of sheer irrationality demonstrated by PETA with each and every one of its campaigns just irritates the hell out of me. I hate having my intelligence insulted in such a manner. Also, the sheer publicity whoring for which PETA is so well known irritates me. It’s painfully obvious that PETA doesn’t give a rodent’s posterior about helping autistic children. It just knows that autism has been in the news a lot lately and decided a good way to get publicity would be to latch onto autism somehow, no matter how tenuous the link they come up with to justify their billboard. Not that it will matter to most PETA supporters or to the “biomedical:” (translation: antivaccinationist) movement. Indeed, this latest campaign is so idiotic that I almost expect to see it touted on autism quackery websites soon.


Terror attack on US soil

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on September 30, 2008

Only, of course, it won’t be called an act of terrorism because the victims were Muslim, and the perpetrators were conservative white Americans. They sprayed gas into a mosque filled with kids.


Brunswick school board may be OK…for now

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on September 30, 2008

the Brunswick school district in North Carolina was hurtling towards a lot of pain…and it’s all thanks to the intransigent arrogance of the ignorant. There are some signs that they’re going to see the light of reason, but there are holdouts, and as is usual in these cases, it’s a few uninformed individuals possessing only a furious conviction and the certitude of religion who are causing the problems. Joel Fanti seems to be one of the instigators of this stupidity, and he’s surprised that so many have been opposing him.

“It just amazes me some of those responses, how venomous they have been,” said Fanti, who sparked the debate by proposing at the board’s Sept. 16 meeting that the teaching of creationism share classroom time with evolution. “I don’t even know what their definition of religion is. I can argue their views on evolution are a religion, too, because it can’t be proven.”

The Rev. Brad Ferguson, Fanti’s pastor at New Beginnings Community Church in Shallotte, said he supports Fanti’s views.

“There is some scientific evidence supporting creationism,” the Southern Baptist minister said. “Kids should be presented both sides. … You can’t isolate disciplines. Science and faith – they go together.”

Fanti is clueless. Then everything is a religion: I can’t prove right this instant that my cats are at my house, but because I saw them there this morning and closed the door so they can’t get out, they almost certainly are…and if I saw one prowling around outside my office window, I’d quickly revise my opinion. But to Fanti’s mind, my expert, empirical, well-supported ideas about my cats ought to be considered a religion, obviously. Similarly, I’ve got some expert, empirical, well-supported ideas about evolution that I can back up with evidence — it is not a view held in the same way as a religion.


Scientific Consensus

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on September 30, 2008

I often refer to the “consensus of scientific opinion” and was asked to elaborate on exactly what that is and, more importantly, how it is determined. From a practical point of view, how can the average citizen get a handle on what the scientific consensus is on any given topic? For some burning questions, like whether or not there is significant anthropogenic global warming, much of the debate centers around whether or not there is a consensus and what it means. For others, like should we invest in biofuel from corn, a consensus seems elusive.

The Role of Consensus

For anyone trying to take a scientific approach to knowledge about the world, we must rely heavily upon experts, or those who are more knowledgable than we are. There is no choice – there is simply too much specialized scientific knowledge for anyone to be an expert in everything, or even a significant portion of scientific disciplines.

Further, being an educated layperson is usually not enough to form your own opinions on specific scientific questions. Forming a reliable opinion often requires a level of detailed knowledge that only an expert in the field can obtain. Even experts can be wrong, of course, and since lay opinions are likely to span all possibilities, some are bound to be correct. Experts, however, are far more likely to have an opinion that accurately reflects the evidence and to understand how to incorporate new evidence as it comes in.


The SGU: Mouthpiece of Satan

Posted in Skepchick by Skepdude on September 30, 2008


Alexander Cornswalled is a Midwestern Conservative Christian who is not particularly fond of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. Cornswalled says that he helpfully reviews podcasts that the kids in his church are listening to, and the other day he chose the SGU. I know, I was pleased, too! Let’s see what he has to say!

The hosts pretty much accept global warming as gospel truth . . .

If by “accept . . . as gospel truth” he means “engaged in serious inquiry followed by a healthy discussion of the facts and a careful examination of both sides of the issue before tentatively erring on the side of the scientific consensus,” then yes, yes we do.

. . . and they’re all unapologetic atheists.

That’s not true. Evan once apologized for not believing a god.

Just kidding . . . in fact, we rarely discuss our beliefs (or lack thereof), and depending upon your definition, the word “atheist” may not apply to all of us.

The podcast is as anti-Christian as they come.

Considering that we rarely if ever address purely religious matters, that’s certainly hyperbole. When a certain Christian belief can be tested scientifically, such as faith healing, we’ll address it. However, it’s not like we have an official SGU Jesus pinata, and every week we take a good whack at it hoping to finally release the delicious candy contained within.

The pinata is actually shaped like a festive donkey.*

Even if you set aside the wholesale endorsement of vaccination, their wholesale rejection of homeopathy . . .

Ah, now we’re reaching the meat of it. Not so fast there! Let’s not set aside those things, because they’re quite important.

Honestly, this bit surprised me — Corny certainly makes himself out to be the voice of everyday Christians. In my experience, though, every Christian I know (and I know a lot) separates belief in god from medical matters like vaccines and homeopathy. I’m glad they do, because otherwise they might fall for Corny’s brand of ignorance. See, Corny believes this:

If you don’t trust God to protect your family then don’t be surprised when God removes his protection and lets Satan strike your family down.

which is probably the greatest argument in favor of carefully examining religious faith. People who accept this uncritically are putting themselves at great risk, which is why we often hear of measles outbreaks among followers of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, who believe that very thing.

Luckily, I suspect most Christians believe that God blessed man with a very clever brain, and He expects that brain to be put to good use — like, by developing drugs and procedures that extend and enhance our quality of life. There’s the old joke of the man waiting in his home as his town floods, and when he is told to evacuate he says that God will save him. Eventually his ground floor floods, and when the lifeboats come to his window he turns them away, sure that God will save him. Eventually he must retreat to his roof, and a helicopter descends with rescuers reaching out to him. He waves them away, because surely God will help. When the flood finally washes him away and drowns him, he arrives at the Pearly Gates and finally meets God face to face. “God,” he cries, “why didn’t you save me?” God shakes his head and says, “You moron, I sent you a frigging helicopter.” The God kicks him in the nads and tells him to go to hell.

Corny calls vaccines “liquid blasphemy,” which I always thought was reserved for booze. He believes that children who die from treatable illnesses deserved it, and are the natural result of God’s wrath.

Corny backs up his hatred of vaccines by suggesting they are part of a dangerous plot to kill millions of people. This conspiracy theory is not well-fleshed out, but he does back it up with a random anti-vaccination web page’s interview with an anonymous person who claims he was once in the “inner circle” of vaccine developers. I don’t think I have to go in-depth to explain why that’s not a reliable source of information.

Sorry, back to his review of the SGU:

. . . their complete lack of regard for anything supernatural and their unthinking acceptance of all things humanist . . .

True that we have a lack of regard, and not true that we accept anything in an unthinking manner. Regard has to be earned, and to borrow a common phrase around these parts, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Once we see that evidence, we will regard a claim as highly as we regard any other newly supported scientific claim.

. . . there’s still their constant ridicule of Christ and his followers.

“Constant” is not the word. That would just get boring.

Though we’re only human and do occasionally kid around about a particular fraud or peddler of crap, we do our best to focus on the wacky beliefs, as opposed to the wacky believers. It’s a subtle distinction I imagine Corny (who I am, admittedly, ridiculing with the nickname) is unable to grasp or uninterested in grasping, because for him, exposing a belief as false is out of bounds. His faith is unshakable, because he won’t allow anything close enough to shake it. His mind is made up, and no amount of evidence for, say, the efficacy of vaccines will ever convince him.

There is nothing redeemable in this podcast. It’s a propaganda mouthpiece for Satan and his followers.

There’s nothing I can argue with here. That’s just pure hilarity and would go on our movie posters if we had such things.

The content is a lock step repetition of the same humanist lies that have plagued the United States since the invention of the “separation of Church and State” fiction.

This is the last thing I’ll really address in Corny’s “review.” He seems to be very interested in politics (and I get the feeling he’s a tad bit conservative), so I’m not sure why he would have such hatred for the founding fathers, who came up with the “invention” of separation of church and state. I’m also not sure why it’s deemed to be fictional — does that make everything else in the US Constitution fictional? You may have heard people like Corny claim that the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution, which is correct. The exact wording is the following:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .

We could go on for days about all the misconceptions people have about the separation of church and state, as well as the idea that the country was founded by or for Christians, but I really can’t stand to spend much more time on Corny today.

He finishes his review by talking about how he feels sad for us, since as nonbelievers we struggle with the idea of death. He listened to our great but rather sad interview with George Hrab at TAM6, in which we have a deep conversation about the nature of death in a world without an afterlife. Corny would prefer the safe comfort of concrete knowledge attained with no inquiry and backed up with no evidence, rather than the more challenging real world, where we don’t know, and will probably never know, what happens to us once we stop living. Life is a grand adventure, and at some point we’re all going to have to close our eyes and step into the unknown. Man, that’s scary, and I don’t blame people for retreating to a safer fantasy, where they are guaranteed a place to live forever with all the pets they’ve ever lost. I may not blame them, but I don’t envy them, as Corny may think I should. John Stuart Mill suggested that it was better to be a “Socrates unsatisfied than a fool satisfied, and better a fool unsatisfied than a pig satisfied.” I’ll settle for being a fool, and while the metaphor is fresh and ready to be mixed, I’ll stop casting these pearls all over Corny’s front lawn.

As a bonus round, I dug into his site a bit to find out what he had to say about some other podcasts. Here are a few choice quotes for your amusement:

On This American Life:

From American Public Radio, it’s a blatantly liberal highly political “Stories about Liberals in distress” program. Think of it as the Lifetime Channel for Liberals.

Delete it if you see it.

Actually, it’s from American Public Media and Public Radio International, presented by Chicago Public Radio. And technically, it’s more like the Oxygen Network for Liberals.

On The Prairie Home Companion:

Delete it if you see it, but don’t panic. It just means your kid likes drivel or dislikes Lutherans.

I actually agree with that one.

On Polyamory Weekly:

This is easily the most dangerous and socially destructive podcast I’ve ever heard.

I thought the same, until I heard the podcast version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

On Open Source Sex with Violet Blue:

My computer started showing a slideshow of naked people with whips when I hit “play” and things went downhill from there.

He’s probably right — when you start with pictures of naked people holding whips, the only place to go is down. He also mentions that “if you find it on your child’s computer delete it and bring your child to your pastor or a Christian counselor immediately,” presumably for reprogramming or to get a refund.

Thanks to Gordon for sending us the link, and for all the listeners who left hilarious and thought-provoking responses on Corny’s site after I Twittered this yesterday!

*With a pregnant Mary on its back.


The things we do for love (and skepticism)

Posted in Skepbitch by Skepdude on September 30, 2008


On a recent visit, my brother Kalvin asked me, “What did we eat when we were growing up?”

I stared at him in disbelief. “You must have repressed memory syndrome,” I teased. “How could you forget the tofu? The wheatgerm? The lecithin?”

Five years older than me, he admitted coolly, “I probably drove out for a hamburger afterwards.”

Long before it was cool in California to add soymilk to your latte… before hummus was fashionable… when most families would come home to ”meat and three veg”, I’d be coming home to a wholewheat vegetarian lasagne with spinach, ricotta and brown rice.

I was the gastronomic outcast in school; the wretched, miserable kid with the Nutmeat and tahini wholewheat sandwich. I was the kid with the carob ‘chocolate’ easter eggs…

It all began when my mother developed a series of nasty non-specific symptoms. She had heart palpitations. She lost weight. Her hair fell out. She was up cleaning the bathroom at 2am.  It was like she was on speed. She was suffering from a thyroid condition. She was sick, scared, vulnerable, and the symptoms never completely disappeared…

Thus began her life-long alternative medicine quest…

She has visited naturopaths, homeopaths, trichologists, herbal medicine ’specialists’, reflexologists, diet gurus, reiki masters, acupunturists, bowen therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, iridologists, and other peculiar practitioners that don’t even have names…

Yeah. That’s my Mom.

She takes garlic and horseradish tablets, spirulina, echinacea, Vitamin C, Vitamin B complex, multi-vitamins, “Pluton” homeopathic pills and a long list of unidentifiable, unnecessary tablets that make for expensive urine. You’d think she has heart disease or cancer…when she sits down to a meal, out comes a plastic tray of pills. As my step-father says, “She eats more pills than food.” She’s dabbled in most fad diets, but worst of all, she used to make her own collodial silver…

She’s been visiting with me for the past few weeks, so let me tell you about my most recent tiff with her…and you’ve heard these arguments before…

Years ago she saw a chiropractor who ‘massaged her chest’ (yep…I’m a Dr., let me massage your goddamn bollocks). He caused extensive bruising and she suffered breathing difficulties for weeks. Fortunately, an x-ray revealed no internal damage.

I confronted her about this touchy topic…

“So, you’re still seeing that nutjob chiropractor, Mom?” In her ashamed admission of betrayal, like a cheating spouse or a naughty boy found with porn under the bed, she nodded, and looked away, ”I didn’t want to tell you that I’m still seeing him.”

“I’d just assumed you still were,” I replied honestly.

“Well, I just see him for my general well-being, for colds, headaches. It helps with everything really.”

“But there’s no evidence that this works. In fact, there’s a substantial amount of evidence to the contrary!”

Then she became defensive with urgent appeals. I was attacking her intelligence, and her sincere hope that it works. “They don’t have the funding that big pharmaceutical companies have! There’s a lot we don’t understand, Karen. There’s got to be something to it. So many people use it! It helps relieve my shoulder pain. I have to try everything.”

“But you’re also seeing a doctor, a physiotherapist, and a masseuse. You use creams. With all that you wouldn’t know what’s actually working. In the end it doesn’t work because the pain’s still there!”

“He does it to his two toddlers too. He wouldn’t do it to them if he thought he could injure them. He treated his daughter when she was one day old.” Now this really pissed me off…

“Mom, you could’ve had your ribs cracked or your lungs punctured by that fucking ignorant prick!”


Now I’d done it! I’d upset my tiny, gentle, sensitive, ever-smiling yet now teary-eyed mom. What a skepbitch I am.

I calmed down, put my arm around her, and said earnestly, “I need to make you aware of the risks. I don’t want you to be hurt. Because I love you.”

And now she’s gone home. And here I sit with reminders of her… a box of Zen Therapeutics Ki Immune Defence & Vitality Formula, a jar of Ascorbate C with lemon bioflavonoids, rosehips, and hesperidin, and a vial of homeopathic pills.

Because she loves me…


225 women killed for honour in six months

Posted in News by Skepdude on September 30, 2008

LAHORE: Two hundred and twenty-five women have been killed in incidents of Karo Kari (honour killing) in the past six months across Pakistan, according to a survey conducted by the Aurat Foundation, BBC Urdu reported on Friday. The organisation said that though honour killing has different names in different areas of Pakistan, the traditions remain the same across the country. Malik Asghar of the Aurat Foundation said that the survey covered details of women killed for honour between January and June 2008. According to the survey, the number of women murdered during the six months for reasons other than honour was 722. The survey revealed that only two accused in Karo Kari cases registered during the last six months had been sentenced while the rest were pending in courts. daily times monitor


Why, Christards? Why?

Posted in Evolved and Rational by Skepdude on September 30, 2008


Fundie Christarded morons can never agree on what supposedly happens to people who never knew about the ‘fact’ that they had to worship some zombie Jewish carpenter or burn in hell for eternity before they died. Some are honest enough to say that they believe that their god actually roasts those people in hell anyway; while other Christians try to fudge and claim that god forgives people that have not heard of the zombie cult leader. A Christian that I was talking to claimed that god forgives those who have not heard the ‘good news’, and that Christians should go around spreading the ‘good news’ so that more people would be ‘saved’ by knowing and ‘accepting Jesus’.

This brings me to the question: Why, Christards?

If Christians think that people who don’t know about Jesus go to heaven anyway, why do they bother evangelizing? Why spend all that time and money to save someone when someone is considered ‘saved’ already by not knowing about Jesus? If you are truly interested in saving someone from hell, why run the risk of telling someone about your cult and have them reject it, only to burn in hell later? Wouldn’t it be simple common sense to shut the fuck up about your zombie god so that more people would be ignorant of your great holy truth and thus nicely go to heaven instead of burning forever and ever? (Wait…Christianity…common sense?! Who was I kidding?)

Seriously, this doesn’t make any fucking sense. It is exactly what we mean when we say ‘OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN….’. It is stupid, fucktarded, illogical, insane, and simply theistarded. Only a theistard could believe in this shit without noticing the glaring problem with the crapped-up piece of dumbfuck theology.

If you instead choose the hardcore fundie way and say that everyone who did not hear about Jesus automatically goes to hell, why? How is it their fault that they were born into the circumstances that did not allow them to hear about Jesus? How about some kid who died by being blown to pieces in some distant war-torn country without being ‘saved’ by the zombie carpenter? Hellfire for eternity? Wouldn’t god know that those people would not have had a chance to be ‘saved’ before throwing them into hell? Did god plan that out on purpose for some sick reason – like making sure that Christards can nicely whine and BAWWWWW about how people should donate to their cultish institution in order to spread the ‘good word’? Did god simply do all this for his own sadistic pleasure? If so, what type of god are you worshipping? How could you claim that non-Christards are morally deficient with any credibility after admitting that your worship a god like that?

What the flying fuck?

Intelligent Christians who would like to provide us evil godless hell-bound heathens with a coherent answer are welcome to do so in the comments. If you sound like yet another typical theistarded moron, don’t get all butthurt when people have lulz at your expense. You fully deserve the mockery for believing in such stupid shit…unless you can intelligently defend your views, of course.

Therefore, GOGOGO! Comment away.