Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

The media’s MMR hoax

Posted in Bad Science by Skepdude on September 2, 2008

Before we begin, it’s worth taking a moment to look at vaccine scares around the world, because I’m always struck by how circumscribed these panics are. The MMR and autism scare, for example, is practically non-existent outside Britain. But throughout the 1990s France was in the grip of a scare that hepatitis B vaccine caused multiple sclerosis.

In the US, the major vaccine fear has been around the use of a preservative called thiomersal, although somehow this hasn’t caught on here, even though that same preservative was used in Britain. In the 1970s there was a widespread concern in the UK, driven again by a single doctor, that whooping-cough vaccine was causing neurological damage.

What the diversity of these anti-vaccination panics helps to illustrate is the way in which they reflect local political and social concerns more than a genuine appraisal of the risk data, because if the vaccine for hepatitis B, or MMR, is dangerous in one country, it should be equally dangerous everywhere; and if those concerns were genuinely grounded in the evidence, especially in an age of the rapid propagation of information, you would expect the concerns to be expressed by journalists everywhere. They’re not.


Muslim radiographer loses job after refusing to bare her arms

Posted in Religion News by Skepdude on September 2, 2008

A Muslim woman was forced out of her job at a hospital after refusing to bare her arms in order to comply with new hygiene rules.

The radiographer was told by managers at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading that she must either follow the national dress code designed to combat superbugs and roll her sleeves up, or leave.

She refused to abide by the rules and left her job, claiming she was discriminated against and forced to choose between her religious beliefs and her livelihood. Islam teaches that women should dress modestly and cover their bodies while in public.

Our view:

By attempting to force hospital administrators to value her religious views over the safety of patients, the Muslim radiographer discriminates against non-Muslims.

Muslims who live in non-Islamic countries must accept the fact that Islam is not the law of the land.


Afternoon Delight With The Discovery Institute – #2

Posted in Enemy Combatant by Skepdude on September 2, 2008

**When we last left our heroes, they were half in the bag and thrilled to find that there was in fact a device to communicate with the life forms inside the Discovery Institute. **

Having discovered that there was an intercom, we did the logical thing and used it to page whoever might be listening in the building. A rather suspicious sounding young man answered, and Kate explained to him, in an awful parody of her usual soft southern accent, that she was here for a tour. She kept explaining, as the voice in the box didn’t seem inclined to let us in. Sensing that we might be turned away at the door without even a glimpse inside, I jumped in, and explained that my friend was a science teacher from Mississippi, who was passionate about intelligent design, and really had a lot of respect for the work the fine folks there at the Discovery Institute do every day.

The man in the box said he’d be right down.


Afternoon Delight With The Discovery Institute

Posted in Enemy Combatant by Skepdude on September 2, 2008


**Note: This really ought to have been posted weeks ago, when I was fortunate enough to in fact, have a little bit of afternoon delight at the Discovery Institute.. But I’m lazy as hell. So. Here we are. **

I don’t know how many of you know what the Discovery Institute is. And I do mean what it is as opposed to what it purports to be. A quick refresher course can be found here.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume, for the sake of brevity, that you’ve got a decent idea of how it is I might feel about an organization such as that. So, when my good friend, Cuddly Atheist ,
suggested that during her visit to Seattle, it might be fun to pay them a visit and see about a little tour, I, when done giggling madly, got right to scheduling the visit. Or attempting to. I emailed them to see about a tour, but never received a response. I’m not sure if that’s because they are as incompetent at clerical duties as they are at debate, rational thought, and the interpretation of law, or if it’s because my email address fairly well identifies me as a godless liberal. Either way, no response was forthcoming.


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Looking forward to 28 September

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on September 2, 2008

Why? Because that is the day of the Pulpit Initiative, when brave and idiotic right wing preachers will defy the IRS and lose their tax exemptions.


In the Bible, women sing songs about godly murder

Posted in Evolved and Rational by Skepdude on September 2, 2008


Theistarded Christians often blabber about how reading the Bible makes them feel good about humanity and things they pull out of their asses. Christians also froth about how reading the Bible keeps them close to their invisible sky-god, helps them know the mind of their imaginary friend, and somehow helps them through their daily lives.

Leaving aside the fact that feeling good about believing in something does not make it true by default; let’s take a look at some of the things in this great book that makes millions of people feel better about their lives.

In the Bible, women sing joyful songs about god-endorsed murder. Not only does god endorse, encourage, and participate in murder, people were expected to greet the slaughter of thousands with laughter, joy, and music. All that was apparently standard stuff in the Bible, and Christians don’t seem to be having any trouble with reconciling any of this with the bullshit they spew about a ‘loving god that sent his son to die on a cross, yada, yada…’.

1 Samuel 18:6-7 (KJV) And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Saul was displeased as the crowd only ascribed thousands of murders to him, not tens of thousands. This was apparently too much for poor Saul to bear.

1 Samuel 18:8-9 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.

If you want to feel good about humanity, the Bible is not the first place to look.

Christians, do you actually realize what your Bible actually says? Are you aware of the parts of the Bible that are not cherry-picked by your pastors while preaching to you theistarded flock of sheep? Do you know about the vile things are in the book you so proudly thump? Who are you to rant about the erosion of ‘morality’ when your own holy book clearly states that god endorses the slaughter of thousands, including innocent children? How dare you even claim that we should base our morality on the Bible?

A lot could be said about the indefensible cruelty, violence, and psychopathic mentality we see in the Bible, but all that is obvious to people who have not been brainwashed or deluded into believing in the Christian cult’s pack of lies.

Anyone who believes in this shit is either deluded, ignorant,…or sick.


Sometimes there is justice for alties

Posted in Denialism by Skepdude on September 2, 2008

Yes, there is. This time for maker of an “all natural” penis enhancer Steve Warshak (and some family members as well) who was sentenced for 25 years!

Steve Warshak, 42, founder of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, also was ordered to pay $93,000 in fines. He was convicted in February on 93 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.Federal prosecutors accused the company of bilking customers out of $100 million through a series of deceptive ads, manipulated credit card transactions and refusal to accept returns or cancel orders.

U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ordered the company, along with other defendants, to forfeit more than $500 million. He said it was impossible to calculate exactly how much money was lost by customers, so he accepted a figure based on how much Warshak and the company took in.

Berkeley distributes various products alleged to boost energy, manage weight, reduce memory loss and aid sleep. The company’s main product, Enzyte, which promises sexual enhancement, has ads featuring “Smiling Bob,” a happy man with an exaggerated smile.

“This is a case about greed,” Spiegel said as he reviewed the case. “Steven Warshak preyed on perceived sexual inadequacies of customers.”

With any luck I’ll never have to see another one of those goddamn ads again. But really, 500 million? It’s sad to think of how many people are (1) feel so inadequate they would feel the need to buy the product (2) be so foolish as to think that magic penis pills work, (3) think the ad featuring “Enzyte Bob” was anything but an outrageous scam. It is sad to see the power wishful thinking has over basic rationality, and sadder still that there is scum like Warshak who will exploit such feelings to steal money from people.

Thanks Ed


Ask God: August

Posted in Stuff God Hates by Skepdude on September 2, 2008


In this monthly feature, The Almighty first answers a few of the many questions He has recently received. Afterwards, mortals will be given the opportunity to ask God one (and only one) question. And if The Lord is feeling generous, He may actually answer.


Nun: A question for you, God… do you ever worry that some Jesus-freak is going to come after you for the blog?

Will never find Me.

Will never find Me.

GOD: No. I don’t worry about that. Unlike you human cowards, I have no fear of death. Besides, even if I was a mortal, offers total anonymity. I am switching to Mine Own Heavenly Server soon anyway, and the website is registered by proxy, just to make sure none of you fanatics ever discover My Earthly mailing address. And even if one of you freaks did ever manage to ‘find’ Me I would utterly destroy you.

Nun – you are paranoid. I blame the massive amounts of My Green Leaf you smoke. I’m afraid I’m going to have to confiscate your stash till you get your head clear.


Christian: God, why does Satan get most of the cool people?

GOD: He doesn’t, you asshole. You have absolutely no idea who I send to hell and who I let adore Me for all eternity. Only the coolest people get into Heaven. You actually think that I, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, would surround Myself with a bunch of dorky numnut nitwits for all time?! I don’t care what you do with your time while on Earth. Just please don’t bore Me.


IAmBetterThanYou: Dear Your Holy God: What are Your thoughts on that fraud preacher who faked having cancer just to hide his porn addiction and made a killing in the Christian Music industry, and how are You going to smite this bastard?

GOD: I’m going to give him cancer.


Uppity Cracka: It’s weird when people’s heads get fatter exponentially faster than their bodies do. Why does this happen God? Why?

GOD: Ah yes. You are referring to My Gigantisize Smite, one of My favorite vanity-crushing smites. This is when I expand the size of a human’s body part to grotesquely large proportions. I also do the opposite, but either way this type of smite yields extremely amusing results.

Specifically in this case you are talking about what I did to Alfonso Robiero, AKA Carlton. I hate that smug prick. I’m glad to see his smite is coming along nicely. Wait another 5 years. His head will be twice as large by then.

QUESTION #5: (In reference to Deuteronomy 23:1)

Josh: What about the eunuchs that are in Your service? The ones mentioned in the Bible? Did they cut off their junk for Your honor and now You tottally screwed them? And please can I be your favorite again?

GOD: Eunuchs are the biggest chumps in the history of man. And in the history of penis, for that matter. They do not honor Me. Nowhere in My Book do I authorize what they do, in fact quite the opposite!

As to the last part of your question: No. You will never be anyone’s favorite again.

QUESTION #6: (In reference to Genesis 38:6-10)

McSchmahl: Obviously it is a sin to spill my seed on the ground. But is it okay to store my seed in a sterile jar, for future use with my (or my deceased brother’s) wife?

GOD: Excellent question; you are asking about one of the many specific sexual situations I neglected to cover in My Book. The answer is yes, it makes Me very glad to see sperm saved in sterile jars, so long as you correctly sign and date them, and only if you insert said sperm in your dead brother’s wife.


Yo Yo Ma Ma: God; I just got back from the bathroom. I think I left an image of the Virgin Mary in the toilet. My questions: Flush, or not? Tell anyone else? And what kind of miracles can I expect from toilet water?

GOD: Yo Yo, I realize you asked this question 15 days ago, and that is why I am so pleased you have not flushed, nor let anyone else flush, the 4th office men’s bathroom stall. I especially appreciate you camping there with your laptop, faithfully awaiting My reply. I shall award you with any one of the hot girls in your office you want to have sex with, and make sure your wife never finds out or that you ever feel any guilt. The sex will be wonderful, you will have enough to get your fill, and then the girl will move three thousand miles away – never to be heard from again.

As to your question, by all means, do not flush it. Take pictures and call every news outlet in existence until they show up to cover this. I will bless your endeavor and bring people to this Holy Site. You can expect no miracles from the toilet water, I just want humans to see the Slut Mary for the colossal piece of shit she is.


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Is Palin a creationist?

Posted in Rationally Speaking by Skepdude on September 2, 2008


Sarah Palin, John McCain’s choice for Vice President should he win the November elections, is a worrisome character from the point of view of science education. It is hard to tell whether Palin herself is a creationist or not and, frankly, that’s far less important than the policy positions she holds in the matter. (Though, of course, having a Vice President who is deluded about basic aspects of reality would not be exactly reassuring. Oh, right, we already have had something along those lines for the past eight years, though Dick Cheney’s most dangerous delusions were not about who created the world.)

An article in the Anchorage Daily News dating back to when Palin was running for governor of that state (hmm, a mere two years ago, talk about experience and being fit to be commander in chief), reports her response to a question during a debate about teaching creationism. Here is the full quote:

“Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject — creationism and evolution. It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.”

Now this is disingenuous at best. Education is not about having “kids debate both sides,” since most kids would probably conclude that the earth is flat and at the center of the universe (after all, the sensorial evidence is overwhelming in favor of the flat-earth, Ptolemaic system). Education is, at its core, about two things: a) We want our students to have access to the best of what humanity has produced, be that in science, philosophy, literature, economics or what have you. b) We want to provide students with the necessary tools to engage in critical thinking and serious analysis of whatever claim comes under their scrutiny.

According to criterion (a), “teaching both” isn’t going to cut it, because creationism is simply not even in the ballpark of the best ideas ever produced by humanity. On the contrary, it is superstitious nonsense that harks back to an earlier era of ignorance about how the world works. But things aren’t much rosier for creationists under criterion (b) either, despite all the talk about “teaching the controversy.” Learning critical thinking is not a matter of being exposed to a “fair and balanced” view of everything and be told “you decide.” Rather, it proceeds through learning about logic, about assessing evidence, and about the many ways in which human senses and reasoning abilities can fail us if we are not on guard. If students really do assimilate all of that, just one look at creationist claims would make it painfully clear that they don’t need to be further entertained.
Unlike Mike Huckabee (who is also now campaigning for McCain), Palin was at least smart enough not to outright claim that she does not accept evolution. The former governor of Arkansas plainly stated that “I believe god created the heavens and the earth,” and that he “wasn’t there when he did it, so how he did it, I don’t know.” These are lines straight out of the Institute for Creation Research talk book, which explains why “Left Behind” author Tim LaHaye said during the Republican primaries that Huckabee was “the most electable candidate who shares our commitment.”

And therein lies the problem: exactly what are Republicans committed to when it comes to science and education? To raise a nation of ignorant bigots whose understanding of the world is no better than that of a tribe of ancient middle eastern people wandering around the desert thousands of years ago? To allow individual states to decide just how misinformed about science their citizens can be? That way if you are from Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi or a variety of other places along the Ignorance Belt you can keep falling behind in quality of life and ability to compete in a world where science plays an increasingly central role in our lives. Now, there’s a platform worthy of LaHaye and his readers.

These are questions that Mrs. Palin and Mr. McCain have to answer to voters before the November election. But considering that they disagree about some of those answers, perhaps the two should first get better acquainted and straighten things out a bit. They’ve got two months to do it.


Barack Obama Answers Science Debate 2008

Posted in The Intersection by Skepdude on September 2, 2008


In November, 2007, a small group of six citizens – two screenwriters, a physicist, a philosopher, and Chris and I – began working to restore science and innovation to America’s political dialogue in an initiative called ScienceDebate2008. Within weeks, more than 38,000 scientists, engineers, and other concerned Americans signed on, including nearly every major American science organization, dozens of Nobel laureates, elected officials and business leaders, and the presidents of over 100 major American universities. Signers submitted over 3,400 questions and we worked with the leading organizations involved to craft the top 14 questions the candidates should answer.

Barack Obama is the first to step up to our challenge and John McCain has said he will answer as well.

obamasenate.pngThe Senator from Illinois has responded comprehensively providing a glimpse into what an Obama-Biden administration would look like. Read his first answer below and all fourteen here.

1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?