Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

U.S. court rules again against vaccine-autism claims

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 15, 2010


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vaccines that contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal cannot cause autism on their own, a special U.S. court ruled on Friday, dealing one more blow to parents seeking to blame vaccines for their children’s illness.

The special U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that vaccines could not have caused the autism of an Oregon boy, William Mead, ending his family’s quest for reimbursement.

“The Meads believe that thimerosal-containing vaccines caused William’s regressive autism. As explained below, the undersigned finds that the Meads have not presented a scientifically sound theory,” Special Master George Hastings, a former tax claims expert at the Department of Justice, wrote in his ruling.

In February 2009, the court ruled against three families who claimed vaccines caused their children’s autism, saying they had been “misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment”.

The families sought payment under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a no-fault system that has a $2.5 billion fund built up from a 75-cent-per-dose tax on vaccines.


O’Reilly makes sense!!!!!!!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 14, 2010

I cannot believe I’m actually applauding O’Reilly! Is this the same universe I lived in yesterday?

Valedictorian Sues School Over Graduation Prayer

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 14, 2010

The christians really have a hard time understanding what minority rights mean, don’t they?

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Why secular ethics is superior to religious ethics

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 12, 2010

As an atheist I usually have to face an iteration of the without-god-there’d-be-no-morals argument. My usual tactic in handling such arguments has been based on Hitchens famous challenge: show me one moral action that an atheist cannot engage in. Now, I’m taking a bit of a different approach. While sticking to the challenge, I take it a step further, by not only asserting that secular ethics is in fact attainable, but by stating that it is superior to its religious counterpart.

There are some schools of thought in moral philosophy that judge moral actions by their consequences only. I partially endorse this thinking, by merging it with the other schools of thought that judge the morality of an action also by the intentions behind it. Consequences and intentions, in my opinion, are both necessary to determine the moral standing of an action or principle.

Based on this I assert that secular morals, derived from our adherence to a set of principles are superior to religious ones, derived out of fear of punishment or promises of rewards in the afterlife. Why? Instead of writing out the theory, let me illustrate through a simple example.

Imagine, if you will, two persons which are presented with an opportunity to steal something in a store. Neither chooses to steal. The first does so because he’s afraid he’ll get caught and punished. The second does so because she believes that stealing someone else’s property is wrong. Both people engaged, or more precisely failed to engage, in the same exact act with the same exact result. They did not steal. However,  we’d all intuitively say that the second person’s act is more moral than the first person’s act, who did not steal only because he was afraid of punishment, if caught. It is a conclusion that requires no discussion; I’d say almost all of us would instinctively deem the second person as more moral than the first. I mean, given a choice of having either one of them as a roommate, who would you choose? I for one would go with the second, and not only because she happens to be female in this example.

The point of this little exercise is that intentions matter in morality. They can add, or take away, from the total moral “score” of an action. Good intentions add to it; bad ones take away points. As such, a set of morals based on principles, will always be superior to a set of morals based on fear of punishment/promise of reward, even if both moral sets are exactly the same and result in identical actions. The former is descriptive of secular ethics; the former is descriptive of religious ethics. As such secular ethics is superior to religious ethics.


Court ruling unfortunate but not unexpected

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 11, 2010

A San Francisco federal appeals court has ruled against Michael Newdow in his law suit challenging the constitutionality of the words “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected arguments by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the phrase violates the separation between church and state.

In a separate ruling Thursday, the appeals court also upheld the use of the phrase “In God We Trust” on coins and currency.

I haven’t seen any details on the reasoning behind the ruling, but it has to be similar to the discredited ” these phrases are secular and historical as opposed to religious” argument usually employed in such situations. Sure because there’s no other word as secular as god, now is there?

That’s what I’ve been saying all along!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 11, 2010

The Vatican’s chief exorcist has said the devil resides in the Vatican, which is what people like me have been saying for a while. He also claims to have done 70,000 exorcisms. There’s a bit of a problem with the math there as Evan of the SGU Rogues points out. My only comment is this: if after 70,000 exorcisms the devil is residing in Vatican City, wouldn’t that make them 70,000 failed attempts at exorcism?

‘No evidence’ acupuncture boosts chances of IVF baby

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 11, 2010


There is no evidence acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine increase the chance of getting pregnant through IVF, fertility experts say in new guidance.

The methods are increasingly offered as a way of boosting the chances of a baby, but the British Fertility Society suggests couples may be wasting money.

They analysed 14 trials involving 2,670 people before issuing the new guidance.

But a leading practitioner said that better designed trials would show that the methods could help some couples.

All the trials involved acupuncture, in which needles were inserted into different areas of the body at different stages in the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycle.

No matter at what stage of the process acupuncture was used, it had no impact on the pregnancy or live birth rate, the BFS researchers found.


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SEC says ‘psychic’ scammed investors

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 10, 2010


Too bad he couldn’t foresee getting caught.

Federal regulators filed suit today against a self-proclaimed psychic who allegedly scammed $6 million by conning suckers into believing that his extrasensory abilities would make them “piles of money” by trading foreign currencies.

Sean David Morton — who bills himself as “America’s Prophet” — “falsely touted his historical success in psychically predicting the various rises and falls of the market,” according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The California-based huckster — whose Web site shows him posing with celebs including Sting, Robin Williams and the late Farrah Fawcett — solicited investors on late-night radio shows and at the 2006 “New Life Expo” in New York City, the Manhattan federal court filing says.


Pathetic medium performance

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 6, 2010

This is horrible, really, really horrible! I’d ask for my money back.

A completely demented ruling on religious proselytization in a high school classroom

Posted in Preliator pro Causa by Skepdude on March 2, 2010


First, take a look at these photos:

Faith banner in public school math classroom: “In God We Trust / One Nation Under God / God Bless America / God Shed His Grace On Thee”
Faith banner in public school math classroom: “All Men Are Created Equal / They Are Endowed By Their CREATOR”

Okay, standard preachy Christian rubbish. Nothing exactly new or interesting, by itself.

But … guess where these banners are located? As hinted by the geometric pie (or whatever that blue divided thingy is called), the posters about calculus and the overall “educative”-like feel of the surroundings, this is actually in … a public mathematics classroom, hung by Bradley Johnson, a math teacher at Westview High School in the Poway Unified School District in California. Because, obviously, what students want to see as they enter a supposedly secular public math class is their very Christian teacher’s public declaration of faith, as opposed to, say, anything that’s actually useful.

As you can imagine, anyone who’s aware of this little thing called the Establishment Clause – ie. Separation of Church and State – can tell you in just how many ways this violates the law. So, naturally, the Poway school district came down on Johnson and forced him to remove the banners. (Note the irony of the term “forced”, seeing as those banners should never have been present in the classroom in the first place.)

Naturally, lawsuits were filed. Because, you know, forcing a teacher at a secular institution of education to remove his proselytizing rubbish from his public classroom surely fits so well with “oppressing his religious freedom!” and all that. But, here’s the true punch to the story: the verdict.