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Blasphemy Day 2009

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 4, 2009

September 30 folks. Don’t you just love Facebook? Expect a few blasphemous entries on this blog on that day, you satan-loving devils!

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Michael Egnor pounds his shoe

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on March 4, 2009

E WILL BURY YOU!” seems to be his message in his latest complaint. He is very upset that The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology is boycotting Louisiana, and he informs us all in a long argumentum ad populum that the ignorant outnumber us, addressed to the president and members of SICB.

Most Americans are creationists, in the sense that they believe that God played an important role in creating human beings and they don’t accept a strictly Darwinian explanation for life. And they think that they ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in their own public schools. They don’t share your passion for ideological purity in science classes. They have a quaint notion that science depends on the freedom to ask questions, and their insistence on academic freedom is catching on. They don’t want religion taught in the science classroom, but they know that students are not learning about all of the science surrounding evolution. Seventy-eight percent of Americans support academic freedom in the teaching of evolution in schools, and that number is rising fast — it’s up 9% in the past 3 years. People clearly resent your demand for censorship. After all, it’s their children in their schools, and they aren’t happy with a bunch of supercilious Darwinists telling them that they can’t even question Darwinism in their own classrooms. So if you’re going to boycott all the creationists who despise you, you’ll eventually have to hold all of your conventions in Madison or Ann Arbor. Keep up the arrogance and eventually you won’t have to boycott people at all. People will boycott you.

Whoa. I’m impressed.

Note the open admission that the Discovery Institute’s audience are the god-fearin’ creationists, and that the people they regard as “on their side” are plain-and-simple, unmodified creationists, not just the usual Intelligent Design creationists. That’s useful to see.

There’s also the usual distortions. People ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in the public schools — that’s what science is all about, and I would encourage kids to raise their hands and speak out in class. However, none of this argument is about squelching inquiry: it’s about whether weak and discredited ideas, like ID, ought to be given special privilege and elevated to the standard curriculum. They shouldn’t.

We’re also seeing the usual deprecation of expertise. SICB is an organization of thousands of scientists who have invested years of their life in the study of biology. They are experts. Against that, we have millions of people in Louisiana who, while competent in their own areas of work, have very little knowledge of biology. According to Michael Egnor, the people we should listen to on this relatively rarefied subject are the majority who know nothing about it. Would he be quite so sanguine if we dismissed his specialization, neurosurgery, and suggested that he needed to follow the suggestions of a roofer from Baton Rouge? Is it “censorship” that he doesn’t allow his patients’ families into the operating room to give him a hand?


Tom Harkin Tips His Hand

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on March 4, 2009

My primary blog post today (as every Wednesday) is over at Science-Based Medicine. But I wanted to reinforce a very important point we have been discussing over there regarding Senator Tom Harkin.

Harkin, along with Orrin Hatch, was the force behind DSHEA – the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 that removed herbs and supplements, essentially, out from under FDA regulation. This resulted in the explosion of the supplement industry, happily jumping through this giant loop hole manufactured for them.

DSHEA is bad law and has significantly weakened health protection for Americans. Harkin is clearly a true-believer when it comes to supplements and cultish medical practices. However, the top contributor to his campaign in 2007-2008 was from employees of Herbalife, a multi-level marketing company selling supplements and herbs with dubious health claims. Hatch’s home state is Utah, which is considered to be the epicenter of the supplement industry.

Recently Harkin hosted a senate hearing and invited some of the luminaries of the CAM movement to speak. The clear purpose of this hearing was to push a specific agenda – to hijack Obama’s healthcare reform initiative to further infiltrate pseudoscience and sectarian medical beliefs into the healthcare system. David Gorksi and Peter Lipson both discuss this issue at SBM.

But here is the money-quote from Harkin.

One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short. It think quite frankly that in this center and in the office previously before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things rather than seeking out and approving.

How transparent.


The New Snake Oil

Posted in Center for inquiry by Skepdude on March 4, 2009

An article in the Chicago Tribune (January 14, 2009) heralded “Doctors going alternative.” Written by Julie Deardorff, it affirmed that mainstream physicians are increasingly employing treatments like acupuncture—collectively what is called “holistic,” “complementary,” “alternative,” or “integrative” medicine.

The article quotes New Age physician Andrew Weil, whose gullibility once led him to believe Uri Geller could bend metal with “psychic” power. (See James Randi, The Truth About Uri Geller, 1975, pp. 61–86.) Weil told the Tribune, “The public has been on board for some time,” regarding integrative medicine. “The professionals are harder to win over.”


Gay Marriage: Individual Rights vs. Public Will

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 4, 2009

[Originally posted at: Wall Street Journal Blogs: Capital Journal]

The California Supreme Court hears arguments Thursday in a challenge to the state’s voter-approved constitutional ban on gay marriage — a case that will lead to a landmark decision between minority rights and the public will.

The decision, expected in several months, will have profound consequences, not just on the lives of gay men and women in California and beyond but also on the political system nationally.

The same court decided less than a year ago that homosexuals can marry in the Golden State, and California voters responded in November by approving a referendum that reversed that opinion.

In essence, gay rights supporters say their rights supersede the public’s ability to regulate conduct. This was the argument often used by the courts during the civil rights movement to overturn discriminatory laws. Without a doubt, the use of the courts by civil rights proponents in this way created a political backlash.

This backlash spurred strong resentment among some voters groups with widespread implications for American elections over the past 40 years.

[Read the rest of this post at: Wall Street Journal Blogs: Capital Journal]