Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Billy Graham answers his email

Posted in Pharyngula by Rodibidably on March 9, 2009

I would not bother to post something from Pharyngula because I assume that anybody who comes here is also reading PZ’s blog, but this one line is just TOO priceless to pass up.

(bolding is mine)

[Originally posted at: Pharyngula]

Billy Graham has a column in which he answers letters — he’s a kind of evangelical agony aunt, I guess. A recent letter will make you laugh.

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Why do people get involved in cults? My cousin has gotten involved in one, and no matter what we say to him, he refuses to listen. He says we are the ones who are in the dark, and he alone in our family has found the truth. — S. McM.

That’s a real problem, and I’m sure we all know someone who has gone off the deep end with some weird belief. That’s not the funny part; the good bit is Graham’s oblivious reply.

DEAR S. McM: One characteristic of cults is that they strongly believe they alone are right in their beliefs and everyone else is wrong. Thus they reject the central truths of the Bible that Christians have held in common for almost 2,000 years and substitute their own beliefs for the clear teaching of Scripture.

Shorter Billy Graham: The difference between their cult and mine is that they think they have the absolute truth, when I know that I do.

[Originally posted at: Pharyngula]

Signing of Stem Cell Executive Order and Scientific Integrity Presidential Memorandum

Posted in White House by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

I agree with my co-conspirator, Rodibidably, that generally we don’t comment on linked items, but thank God (hehe), it’s about time.

Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.

At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.

But that potential will not reveal itself on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research – from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit – and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome – that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.

But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.

It is a difficult and delicate balance. Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view.

But after much discussion, debate and reflection, the proper course has become clear. The majority of Americans – from across the political spectrum, and of all backgrounds and beliefs – have come to a consensus that we should pursue this research. That the potential it offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “WHITEHOUSE.GOV”

Lose Weight – With Lasers

Posted in The Rogues Gallery by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

Listener, Nick,  sent in the following e-mail:

For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to lose weight the old fashioned way. Eat less, move more. Today my personal trainer suggested this weight loss clinic that uses some foam wrapping and infrared lasers. My trainer said she’d tried it and it works and gave me the web site. I’m looking over the website and I’m not buying it. But I’m not that good of a skeptic and don’t know why I’m not buying it. I just know, I’m not buying it. Would the skeptics be so kind as to tell me why this doesn’t work? Thanks, and I love the show.

http://www.achievelaser.com/weight-loss.html

Wow. This is one of those websites that just overwhelms you with pseudoscientific technobabble. There is far too much nonsense here to tackle in a single blog, so I am going to focus on two claims – the low level laser therapy (LLLT) and the infrared body wrap.

But first, for a little background, it’s interesting to note that spas have had a tradition for literally hundreds of years of promoting wellness (that is, there own financial wellnes) through pure BS. The basic marketing strategy is to convince people with disposable income and too sedentary a lifestyle to come in, relax, and passively receive exotic treatments that will cure whatever ails them. Spas have often been on the cutting edge of health pseudoscience. Today they incorporate the latest fads in CAM – from aromatherapy to reflexology.

The infrared bodywrap is in the sweet-spot of the spa tradition – and now you can enjoy the same exploitation at home. The basic claim here is that the wrap system contains infrared radiation, which penetrates the skins and (you know the drill) – removes toxins, increases blood flow and oxygen delivery, and melts away fat and cellulite. Right.It promises you will lose weight and inches.

Of course, all such wraps do make you lose weight and inches – by dehydration via sweating. That’s the core trick here. Of course, water loss is not fat loss and in fact is counterproductive. But it is highly profitable.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE ROGUES GALLERY”

More Americans say they have no religion

Posted in News by Rodibidably on March 9, 2009

I know we generally don’t commment on the posts themselves, but:

*sings* Oh happy day!!!!

[Originally posted at: MSN]

Study finds percentage of Christians in the nation has declined

A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population has been shifting out of the Northeast to the Southwest, the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

Northern New England surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious region, with Vermont reporting the highest share of those claiming no religion, at 34 percent. Still, the study found that the numbers of Americans with no religion rose in every state.

[Originally posted at: MSN]

Rep. Conyers wants science to be secret… or you will pay

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Rodibidably on March 9, 2009

[Originally posted at: Bad Astronomy]

There are some things science needs to survive, and to thrive: eager, hardworking scientists; a grasp of reality and a desire to understand it; and an open and clear atmosphere to communicate and discuss results.

That last bit there seems to be having a problem. Communication is key to science; without it you are some nerd tinkering in your basement. With it, the world can learn about your work and build on it.

Recently, government-sponsored agencies like NIH have moved toward open access of scientific findings. That is, the results are published where anyone can see them, and in fact (for the NIH) after 12 months the papers must be publicly accessible. This is, in my opinion (and that of a lot of others, including a pile of Nobel laureates) a good thing. Astronomers, for example, almost always post their papers on Astro-ph, a place where journal-accepted papers can be accessed before they are published.

John Conyers (D-MI) apparently has a problem with this. He is pushing a bill through Congress that will literally ban the open access of these papers, forcing scientists to only publish in journals. This may not sound like a big deal, but journals are very expensive. They can cost a fortune: The Astrophysical Journal costs over $2000/year, and they charge scientists to publish in them! So this bill would force scientists to spend money to publish, and force you to spend money to read them.

[Originally posted at: Bad Astronomy]

Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.

Eric Hoffer

Tagged with:

Thank Xenu I’m not in the UK

Posted in Evolved and Rational by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE ORIGINAL ENTRY AT “EVOLVED AND RATIONAL”

Scientology is a dangerous cult.

Now, saying this in the UK could result in an IRL V&:

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that anyone who attacks Scientology can be prosecuted under faith hate laws.The move will for the first time provide the controversial Church of Scientology – described by some as a cult – the same protection as other mainstream religions.

Apparently the sensibilities of a dangerous cult (with the big $$$) is more important than freedom of speech. Big surprise there.

It means that any alleged offenders who ‘abuse’ or ‘threaten’ the Church of Scientology can be charged under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
It is understood the decision was made this month after the Police Diversity Directorate asked the CPS to clarify its position on the organisation.

It follows the arrest last summer of a 15-year-old boy for calling Scientology a ‘dangerous cult’ during a demonstration outside the Church’s £23million headquarters in London.

Just…RRRAAAGGGEEEE!!!

I don’t like protestfags, but I would never want them arrested for protesting against a dangerous cult. Freedom of speech is a fucking human right, and it speaks volumes for the lunacy and misguided political correctness of a society when criticism of a mere belief is made illegal.

What is so different about faith/religion/adacadabra that makes it so different from anything else that is open to criticism? How have people been made to unquestioningly accept that religious faith should be immune to criticism is open to debate, but if this trend is left unchecked, we are headed into dangerous waters.

Ian Harris, founder of the Cult Information Centre, said last night: ‘Scientology has always wanted to be recognised as a religion but it doesn’t even have a God. This decision is news to me and it is frankly quite upsetting and shocking.

No, stupid! The reason the cult of $cientology should not be offered the benefits of religion is not because they don’t have a god (by certain definitions, Xenu could be considered a god, but let’s not get into semantics here). The real reason should be because they are – as over 9000 people have pointed out – a dangerous cult. They actively endanger their own members. They separate families, destroy lives, abandon their sheep when they have sucked every drop of $$$ they can out of them, and the worst thing is that they have been complicit in the deaths of their own followers. They should be classified as a criminal organization, but as in various other cases, the $$$ and blatant corruption makes a huge difference.

Graeme Wilson, public affairs director for The Church of Scientology in the UK, said last night: ‘Scientology is the chosen religion of millions of people around the world, a point which has been recognised by numerous governmental bodies.’

Lying about your numbers again? Awww…just what I expected from a Scilon.

Yes, Scilons have every right to believe in Xenu and thetans as Christards have to believe in their zombie god. However, when a so-called ‘religion’ actively endangers (and kills) its own followers, this does not call for legitimization. It calls for a fucking investigation

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE ORIGINAL ENTRY AT “EVOLVED AND RATIONAL”

More Americans say they have no religion

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population has been shifting out of the Northeast to the Southwest, the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

Northern New England surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious region, with Vermont reporting the highest share of those claiming no religion, at 34 percent. Still, the study found that the numbers of Americans with no religion rose in every state

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “MSNBC.COM”