Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

The Dick Delusion

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on July 20, 2010

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I’ve been getting slapped upside the head with this “dick” meme that’s roaring through the skeptic community lately, largely because it seems that any time someone makes a generic criticism of rude, abrasive, confrontational critics of foolishness, the audience all thinks of the life-size poster of PZ Myers they’ve got hanging on their bedroom door back home. It’s a little annoying. Everybody seems to imagine that if Granny says “Bless you!” after I sneeze, I punch her in the nose, and they’re all busy dichotomizing the skeptical community into the nice, helpful, sweet people who don’t rock the boat and the awful, horrible, bastards in hobnailed boots who stomp on small children in Sunday school. It’s just not right.

Of course, there’s a range of criticism, too. I think Rebecca Watson is hitting the problem about right: it’s about picking your battles, and making a scene over trivial customs practiced with charitable intent is not a good idea. So, really, I don’t have to punch Granny in the nose—I can just say “thank you!”, and that’s fine. But when Granny tells you to get down on your knees and praise Jesus right now or you’re going to burn for eternity in a lake of hellfire, then some dickishness is not only justified, it’s necessary.

The thing is, the dickishness practiced is not nose-punching, it’s not even howling four-letter words at Granny…it’s a flat statement of “That’s crazy, I’m not going to do that, and here’s why.” That, apparently, is the New Dickishness.

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Say it ain’t so, Randi!

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on December 16, 2009

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This is so disappointing: James Randi joins the ranks of the climate change denialists, and he does so on the basis of an extremely poor argument. I know, he’s a professional skeptic about everything, but skeptics must have some standard for evidence … a standard which the climatologists have reached, while the denialists have not. Here’s the core of Randi’s dissent from the scientific consensus.

I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid. I base this on my admittedly rudimentary knowledge of the facts about planet Earth. This ball of hot rock and salt water spins on its axis and rotates about the Sun with the expected regularity, though we’re aware that lunar tides, solar wind, galactic space dust and geomagnetic storms have cooled the planet by about one centigrade degree in the past 150 years. The myriad of influences that act upon Earth are so many and so variable — though not capricious — that I believe we simply cannot formulate an equation into which we enter variables and come up with an answer. A living planet will continually belch, vibrate, fracture, and crumble a bit, and thus defeat an accurate equation. Please note that this my amateur opinion, based on probably insufficient data.

At least he’s self-aware enoughto realize that he has come to this conclusion on the basis of his personal ignorance. He has two main reasons otherwise to disagree with the idea of anthropogenic global warming.

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Shame on Washington state

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on August 28, 2009

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My home state! In a region with some of the highest percentages of godless people in the country! And they have this awful law on the books.

Washington’s law specifies that a person treated through faith healing “by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner in lieu of medical care is not considered deprived of medically necessary health care or abandoned.” Other religions are not mentioned.

Christian Science is not science, and it is definitely not medicine. I presume some religious lobby got this evil exemption on the books years ago, but now it’s time to remove it—it’s killing people. The mention of the law comes from a story about a young man, Zachery Swezey, who died a slow, painful death from a ruptured appendix, with his parents looking on.

The day his son died, Greg Swezey told sheriff’s investigators he knew Zakk would die 10 or 15 minutes before the teenager passed away. His condition had gotten much worse about an hour and a half before Zakk died, he told the investigators, and he realized Zakk was exhibiting some of the symptoms of death he’d seen when older church members died.

He did not consider calling an ambulance, he told them.

Who did he call instead? Elders of his church, who showed up to splash oil on the poor kid and pray.

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Put Maher in the hot seat

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on July 23, 2009

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Some people are quite rightly appalled that Bill Maher won the Richard Dawkins Award from AAI, and is at the top of the list of speakers at the AAI conference. I sympathize; Maher certainly has some wacky ideas, and I even gave him a mixed review on his movie, Religulous. (I also must repeat a clarification: the Richard Dawkins Award is not given by Richard Dawkins or the Richard Dawkins Foundation: it is an award by Atheist Alliance International, named after Richard Dawkins.)

However, let’s be clear about the obvious. He is being given this award for making a movie this year that clearly promotes atheism and mocks religion, and that’s all that is being endorsed. Not many people have done that, and it’s especially unusual in that it was a movie entirely about ridiculing religion, and it was a mainstream movie with wide circulation. That’s it. It would be difficult to ignore, and it’s something AAI would like to promote.

Let’s be clear about something else. This is atheism: we have no dogma, we have no infallible leaders, everyone is naturally flawed, and we recognize that within our ranks there is a huge diversity of opinion. Our strategy for dealing with these ideas is the same as the scientific approach — constant, relentless criticism. There is no Atheist Supreme Leader. There is no Atheist Pope. There is no Godless Ruling Council, no Atheist Inquisition, no Freethought Dogma.

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Heaven for sale

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on June 10, 2009

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Now, for the low, low price of $12.79, you can reserve a spot in heaven for yourself. This is a real business selling tickets, certificates and ID cards that claims to give you a direct line to an afterlife in paradise, with a money-back guarantee. You might think it’s just a gag…but it’s the same thing as Catholic indulgences, so it’s a gag with a little bite.

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Modern day Isaacs

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on May 20, 2009

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Colleen Hauser has flown the coop. She has defied a court order to bring her sick son, Daniel Hauser, to a qualified doctor for essential medical care. The boy has Hodgkins lymphoma, a disease with a very good prognosis if treated soon, but is a painful death sentence within a few years if neglected. His mother, though, is fervently religious, and no doubt smug in her righteousness, has bundled her son into a car and is devoutly driving to Mt. Moriah. I hope she’s not expecting an angel of the lord to appear and spare her son.

What she has done has gone even deeper. Daniel is 13 years old; he has been tested for his competency, and has been found to be completely illiterate. He was homeschooled. Colleen Hauser has been wielding the sacrificial dagger of her faith on her son for years, crippling his brain and rendering him unable to evaluate the real-world consequences of their decisions. I wonder how many Daniel Hausers there are in this country, living lives of quiet ignorance, unexposed by the trauma of a physical disease?

And here’s the real tragedy: Colleen Hauser almost certainly loves her son and believes she is doing what is best for him, every step of the way. I can identify with her in that regard — I can understand that deep, gut-wrenching love a parent can have for her children, the kind that can put you to your knees with agony at every little hurt they suffer…and Daniel Hauser faces deeper pain and an imminent threat of death that my kids have never had. But Colleen Hauser is so afflicted with the poison of religion that she has lost sight of reality, and is going to kill her son with her ignorance.

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Moral DNA?

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on April 24, 2009

Please, someone, tell the priests to go tend to their rituals and quit pretending to ha have any understanding of reality. A new archbishop has tried to use biology to argue for his archaic moral position, and I just want to slap him.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan yesterday said advocates of gay marriage “are asking for trouble,” arguing that traditional, one-man/one-woman marriage is rooted in people’s moral DNA.

“There’s an in-built code of right and wrong that’s embedded in the human DNA,” Dolan told The Post in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview, a week after becoming the New York Archdiocese’s new leader.

“Hard-wired into us is a dictionary, and the dictionary defines marriage as between one man, one woman for life, please God, leading to the procreation of human life.

Every word an ignorant lie. There is no genetic basis for a moral code except, perhaps, in the broadest sense of intrinsic rewards for social behavior — Catholicism is not biologically heritable.

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A heartless faith

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on March 25, 2009

There was an appalling and tragic plane crash in Montana: 14 people were killed, 7 of them children.

Tom Hagler, a mechanic at the Oroville airport, told The Sacramento Bee that he allowed several children ages 6 to 10 to use the airport bathroom before they boarded the doomed plane.

“There were a lot of kids in the group,” he said, “a lot of really cute kids.”

Nine of them were members of one family. This was a horrifying and genuinely horrible accident; I can’t begin to imagine the grief felt by the survivors, who lost children and grandchildren.

I can feel great anger, though. Here is something that will make you furious and outraged, too. Irving Feldkamp is the father of two and grandfather of five who were killed in that accident; he lost a shocking great swath of his family in that one sad afternoon. Irving Feldkamp is also the owner of Family Planning Associates — a chain of clinics that also does abortions.

You can guess what segment of the Christian community I’m about to highlight.

Choke back your gag reflex and read this hideous, evil article on Christian Newswire. Some moral cretin named Gingi Edmonds wrote a wretched story on this tragedy that makes it sound like divine retribution on Mr Feldkamp.

It begins by telling us that the plane crashed in a cemetery — a Catholic cemetery that has a “memorial to the unborn”, dedicated to aborted fetuses. We are apparently supposed to feel some sense of irony at this.

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Suspected criminal Richard Dawkins under investigation

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on March 23, 2009

It’s been confirmed: members of the Oklahoma legislature are investigating the suspicious circumstances of Richard Dawkins’ lecture. After all, what possible excuse could UO have for inviting a known rabblerouser who doesn’t happen to believe in gods? Other than his reputation as a world-famous scientist, writer, and speaker, of course.

Sure enough, I just received confirmation today in a letter from the Open Records Office at the University of Oklahoma. The letter confirms that on the day of Dawkins’ speech, Oklahoma State Representative Rebecca Hamilton requested substantial information relating to the speech from Vice President for Governmental Relations Danny Hilliard. Representative Hamilton’s exhaustive request included demands for all e-mails and correspondence relating to the speech; a list of all money paid to Dawkins and the entities, public or private, responsible for this funding; and the total cost to the university, including, among other things, security fees, advertising, and even “faculty time spent promoting this event.”

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Preying upon the gullible

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on March 19, 2009

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Do you feel like you don’t pray enough? Are you too busy working, or playing golf, or fornicating to actually take the time out to get down on your knees and praise the invisible man in the sky? Well, there is a service for you: Information Age Prayer. For the low, low price of $3.95 a month, they will run your prayer of choice through a voice synthesizer every day, and allow the computer to speak to god for you. Is a loved one sick? For only $9.95 per month, the computer will beg god to help them 5 times a day! Throw enough money at this service, and you can just skip church altogether, not waste any time with the holy muttering, and get all the benefits of piety, every single one. Sign up today!

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