From the creator of Video Skepdude

SkepNews-Week ending 6/20/08

  • One dead donkey, 15 child brides-In Pakistan a dead donkey has sparked a feud between clans, which has resulted in 13 deaths over 8 years. It was finally settled …by 15 child brides between the ages of 3 and 10 ! – 15 human beings to settle an argument over a dead ass! Unbelievable!
  • American school teaches that it is ok to kill – Text books at a private Islamic school in northern Virginia teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed “polytheists.” – They have a poll on the website asking if this school should be shut down. What do you think?
  • Smart people less likely to believe in God Professor Lynn, who has provoked controversy in the past with research linking intelligence to race and sex, said university academics were less likely to believe in God than almost anyone else. Professor Lynn said most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence – and their intelligence increased – many started to have doubts. – Ok, ok besides the fact that we’d like the results to be true, let’s be fair and point out a couple of things. First of all this was just a survey, not an actual study of any sort. Second, he did not measure IQs, he simply deduced that piece of information. So, while most atheists I’ve met tend to be smart, I do know quite a few that are dumb as bricks, so I’m not sure there is a direct correlation there.
  • Unlicensed Chiropractor kills man – A 76-year-old man operating an unlicensed chiropractic clinic out of his Oak Park, Calif., garage is suspected of killing one of his patients with a neck manipulation, according to Sacramento police. – Now I don’t want to pick on chiropractors, but when I read the word “unlicensed” it made me laugh, until I read the rest of the story. But seriously, does the word “licensed” even make any sense before words such as chiropractor, homeopath, accupuncturer?
  • Licensed chiropractor paralyzes womanA woman who says she became paralyzed after having her upper spine manipulated is suing the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors and the provincial government for half a billion dollars. “[I want] chiropractors to stop neck manipulation,” she says in the video posted on YouTube by “Look what you did to me.”- I told you the word “licensed” is meaningless when it comes to quacks!
  • Gay brains similar to oposite sex brains The scans reveal that in gay people, key structures of the brain governing emotion, mood, anxiety and aggressiveness resemble those in straight people of the opposite sex. – Oh shit, you’re telling me they’re not immoral? Now how are they supposed to burn in hell for eternity, if it’s not even their choice? It has got to be wrong!
  • Norway law legalizes gay marriageGay couples in Norway will be granted the same rights as heterosexuals to marry, adopt and undergo artificial insemination under a new equality law passed Tuesday. – I always said that the Nordic countries are way up there when it comes to being civilized societies. They enjoy a level of open-mindedness and democracy, we can only dream off in the USA, or so I’ve been told, and this bit of news reinforces that belief.
  • Careful what you wear in IranPolice closed dozens of clothing stores and hairdressers and stopped cars and pedestrians in a crackdown on women who do not abide by Iran’s strict Islamic dress code and men wearing fashions seen as too Western, Iranian media reported Monday. – Closing down shops, even arresting people for their clothes? Hmm, and we are supposed to believe that their uranium enrichment is for generating electricity?
  • Saudi woman arrested for driving to pick up her husbandShe was stopped by a police patrol after driving six miles to collect her husband near their home in the town of Buraida. As her ‘legal guardian’ he had to sign a declaration that he would not let his wife drive again. – Wow, crime must really be at a low in that part of the word, since policy got nothing better to do than arresting women for driving and wearing regular clothes.
  • The Pope Cologne is here We believe that we have succeeded in capturing the same fragrance that he and those around him enjoyed so long ago. This is a truly extraordinary cologne with surprising freshness and notes of violet and citrus. – Who the hell would want to smell like anyone from 150 years ago? Well it turns out these these people would. Weird, weird shit!
  • Teacher who burned cross sign on student arms firedThe school board of a small central Ohio community voted unanimously today to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs despite staff complaints and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students’ arms. Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students’ arms in December, the report said. Freshwater told investigators he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an “X,” not a cross. But pictures show a cross, the report said. – I say they should use the same device to burn “666” right on his forehead, but I think I’m being too harsh….nah I’m not, he deserves it. There’s more to the story. Apparently that’s not it. A lawsuit has been filed. The allegations assert that during the 2007-08 school year Freshwater violated the United States Constitution as well as the policy of the Mount Vernon School district, and has not been disciplined for those violations. According to the complaint, previous to April 2008 Freshwater displayed the Ten Commandments, religious posters and Bible passages within his classroom and kept several Bibles in his classroom which were not for his personal use. The suit further states that Freshwater taught intelligent design as early as 2003 and told students that information in the textbooks is wrong or not proven according to the Bible.

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Atheism, Crimes against Humanity, Morality, Pseudo-science, Religion, Science, Thinking Out Loud | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Louisiana Science (Mis)Education Act

The (Un)Discovery Institute has been very actively reporting here, here and here and countless other articles, on the so-called “Louisiana Science Education Act” which has already passed the Louisiana House of Representatives. Here’s a sample of their postings:

“The bill is a bold statement protecting the freedom of teachers to discuss both the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian evolution and other controversial scientific theories,” said Casey Luskin, an attorney and program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute. “The bill does exactly what it says, which is to allow teachers and school districts to ‘use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.'”

Except that Evolution is not a controversial scientific theory. This is a blatant lie, because it carries the implication that the scientific world is unsure about Evolution, and that is not the case. It is the anti-scientific world that is unsure about it. They are the ones who are up in arms screaming against it. The lawyers, politicians are the ones complaining not the scientists. And just exactly what does “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials” mean? This definition is so broad as to include anything a teacher may fancy as “instructional” such as ….oh I don’t know “Of Pandas and People” maybe?

Another implication of the language is that the Scientific community does not seriously “analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.” which is a slap in the face to the many men and women who are tirelessly toiling away to advance science at such personal expense, that the IDiots passing such laws wouldn’t even be able to begin to understand.

It is true that the bill has the following embedded in it:

“shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”

Just stop for a second and think. Why would an “academic freedom” bill which is supposed to be solely about science even need to say that? Could it be, because it is clear that it can be interpreted in any way one wants to, in order to advance any ideology one may hold? Of course that’s the case. It’s a smoke screen! It’s not about religion, they will say, in fact it specifically forbids any religious connotations. But of course that sort of language is completely useless, because the creationist are hiding under the ID banner now. So effectively, such bill opens the door to Intelligent Design as long as the IDer is not referred to as God. How may of us really think that pro ID teachers will not refer to the IDer as the “Creator” which in itself carries strong religious connotations?

Let’s be clear about one thing here. This bill is not about academic freedom. It is specifically about denying science. It is about replacing science with belief. It is not about academic freedom, it is about academic slavery to Religion.This bill is about granting teachers with strong ideological beliefs, which run contrary to mainstream science, the right to preach them to our children. These are not scientific ideas, these are purely speculative philosophical ideas at best, which now, at least in Louisiana, will be presented under the setting of a science class. Thus the kids will walk out of there thinking that there are in fact two scientifically equal theories of life, evolution and creation. That is very very bad news indeed for mankind in general, and Louisiana in particular.

Effectively, this bill is about introducing religious, creationist beliefs in the classroom. Science is not granted such special treatment during Sunday Mass. Therefore religion will be allowed to continue poisoning young children’s minds at the church and now in the classroom as well. Freedom all right, unlimited freedom to bigoted, stone age, childish beliefs to impose themselves where they don’t belong. Freedom to present scientifically unsubstantiated personal religious beliefs as science. What is Academic about that?

Anyone who is interested in reading the actual bill itself can head to this website.

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Evolution, Intelligent Design, Pseudo-science, Religion, Science | , , | 1 Comment

Creationism and Logic-Part 2

In Part 1 we went over a portion of the painful to read creationist bullshit titled ““Logical Proof of the Existence of a Divine Creator, Why Atheism in Not Logically Sound”. We saw the author commit the following fallacies: argument from ignornance, straw man and non sequitur. Today I continue dissecting this article to point out other areas where this guy’s brain fails him. I do not pretend to be able to capture them all.

Even if all the planets somehow formed themselves, all somehow staying in perfect orbit and possessing gravity, even take for granted that all the chemicals needed for life were so how there as well, by sheer happenstance, would it then be possible for billions of species to spontaneously come about, each with a male and female of each kind so that they could exist in the long run?

Ok first of all who told him that billions of species “spontaneously” came about? What part of evolving over millions and millions of years does this guy not understand? What’s spontaneous about that? Furthermore, is it true that all species “have a male and a female so they could exist in the long run”? Has he never heard of asexual reproduction? And if by “billions of species” he didn’t really mean all species, then what the hell is his argument? God created most species a certain way, but some others a different way? Why the hell would he do that? Let me explain it to you, you little confused pal, having evolved from a common ancestor all species have inherited certain traits that they share. Sexual reproduction has proven to be the most successful way of passing genetic information along, and that is why most species you’re referring to have a male and a female. Oh, and I assume he’s simply talking about animals when he says “species” because I don’t know if he really wants to extend his “argument” to plants and such, because then he would really be in trouble!

Even if this were possible, would the simplest of animals have been able to survive were it missing even one essential organ? Would human beings survive if one organ or cavity was missing or displaced, even after somehow being otherwise perfectly formed with no designer?

Where do you start here? The misconceptions are simply overwhelming. Evolution does not predict the instantaneous appearance of whole organs. Who ever said that the parent would have no eyes and the child would be born with two perfectly developed eyes? This is an embarrassing misunderstanding of the thing he’s trying to argue against. Organs don’t show up in young animals out of nowhere, ready to be used for the new purpose. This is another straw man attack. He’s twisting the theory of evolution into something he can easily ridicule. And then he falls under the old “what good is a half an eye/wing/heart” argument which has been made countless times and debunked countless times, so I won’t even dignify it with an answer. He himself is a prime example of what good a half a brain is!

The contention of atheists, that life simply adapted to the conditions it found itself in is also irrational, as were this to be the case we’d have animals that could solely subsist on snow and ice in some regions.

This is just stupid, pure and simple! First of all plenty of religious evolutionary biologists agree that life forms adapt to their environment. This is not an atheist thing, it’s a biology thing. I guess in this guy’s mind every evolutionary biologist must be an atheist, which just goes to prove my half a brain comment above. Evolution does not say that animals will adapt to EVERY condition of nature. They do die out when it is impossible for them to adapt, that’s why you don’t find animals that solely exist on snow or ice. I guess the caloric intake from snow and ice cannot support a large animal, but I don’t want to get technical because it is not my place to get technical. I am not a biologist!

Of the many philosophic and scientific arguments brought forth for the existence of the Divine, three stand out. The anthropic argument contends that the universe is too complex to have no Creator. This is in effect the central point of this column, although explained in a more common manner. The cosmological argument maintains that finite matter (original matter, which was clearly finite) cannot create a universe that is greater than itself. Especially compelling is the teleological argument, that the existence of a Creator can be seen from the fact that the universe works in perfect harmony, as would a giant machine. Gravity, orbits, chemical atmospheres and all other ingredients needed for life to exist come together in unison to allow such existence to happen. An enormous machine that works like clockwork needs to have a Creator.

The first argument is a clear argument from ignorance. It says “The universe is too complex. I am not smart enough to understand it. I cannot answer why or how it works. However, I must have an answer, because I am not mature enough to accept that I don’t know. Open the door for the Sky Daddy”. Of course this is complete and utter bullshit. It is not an explanation, it is a childish attempt to deal with one’s lack of knowledge and security by making up a big guy in the sky. For little kids this big guy is called Santa Claus. For this guy it is god! The second one makes no sense to me, I don’t know what he means by original matter, those words are completely foreign to me so I cannot give an opinion. The third one is just an argument from incredulity, it’s too beautiful, to preciese. I cannot believe it evolved. What all these arguments show is simply that this person is arbitrarily choosing the answer that makes him feel better, more comfortable. He’s not looking for the truth, he’s looking for a nice answer. Well pal, reality is not always nice.

The atheist would also do well to read Anthony Flew’s latest book, “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” For decades, Flew was one of the leading proponents of atheism. But he eventually decided to give everything a second look and found that all he’d believed and so vociferously advocated for so long was wrong. Upon real analysis, he found that there is, in fact, proof of the Divine.

I don’t know the real story regarding Anthony Flew, but even if it had happened the way this cretin says, what does that mean? Why should we accept that he was wrong the first time around, when he was an atheist, and right the second time around? What if it was the other way around? What if he’d been right all along and made a mistake at the very end? What if he’d been wrong both times? Here this guy commits yet another fallacy, the argument from authority. At best the above, if true, shows that one guy got dupped latter in life, or that he simply changed his mind, nothing else. What about all the christians who gave up religion and became atheists? It is exactly the same thing in reverse.

Just because someone recants does not mean that they made the right choice, regardless who that someone is.

Unfortunately, there is more nonsense coming from this fool. It seems there may be need for a Part 3 to cover all his stupidity. Please bear with me.

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Atheism, Critical Thinking, Evolution, Intelligent Design, Religion, Science, Thinking Out Loud | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Study says accupuncture works-except it can’t say it!

Acupuncture works for head and neck pain after cancer surgery, according to a clinical study released at the annual meeting here of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

A traditional Chinese medical technique, acupuncture was also found to improve shoulder mobility that is often restricted after surgical cancer procedures involving the mouth, nose, upper throat, sinuses and other throat and nose passages, researchers said Saturday.

Seventy patients took part in a random study by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) researchers, in New York, at least three months after they underwent cancer surgery and radiation treatment.

One half received acupuncture, the rest the usual care, which includes physical therapy exercises and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Of the patients who received four acupuncture sessions over four weeks, 39 percent reported less pain and greater mobility, compared to only seven percent of the group that received usual care.

“Like any other treatment, acupuncture does not work for everyone, but it can be extraordinarily helpful for many,” said study co-author Dr Barrie Cassileth, Chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at MSKCC.

Ok, I don’t buy this. There are too many problems with this study, that even I as a non-scientist can point some of them out.

First, small sample size, only 70 patients. That is nowhere near enough to warrant making any kind of conclusion.

Second, study was not double blind, as any respected study must be. People knew when they were getting acupuncture. They didn’t even bother using fake acupuncture to try to control for the placebo effect. On the other hand the sample size was so small that such a thing would probably be impractical, which in my eyes makes this whole study impractical.

Like any other treatment, acupuncture does not work for everyone, but it can be extraordinarily helpful for many,” said study co-author Dr Barrie Cassileth, Chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at MSKCC.

“It does not treat illness, but acupuncture can control a number of distressing symptoms, such as shortness of breath, anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, pain, neuropathy, and osteoarthritis,” she added.

I don’t quite know what they mean when they say “like any other treatment it doesn’t work for everyone”. Generally, if you are in pain a morphine treatment works, unless there is something seriously wrong with your body. I can understand that there will be exceptions, that it won’t work 100% of the time, but does 39% really warrant such a conclusion? Something in my skeptical brain is screaming foul right about now.

Thirdly, there is always a problem with subjective reporting of “less” versus “no less” pain. Is it significantly less pain, or probably less pain. How much less are we talking about? Unfortunately, pain can’t be measured and it’s hard to quantify properly for this kind of study. Unless there was a significant reduction in pain I don’t see how that can be used to support the conclusion.

What I mean is that if someone says “My pain has almost completely gone away, I can barely feel it now, whereas it was hurting like hell before” is very different from saying “on a scale from 1 to 10 my pain went from a 9 to an 8 or 7”. The second one is not reliable, especially given the placebo effect which this study failed to control for miserably.


June 4, 2008 Posted by | Critical Thinking, Science, Thinking Out Loud | , | Leave a comment

We can all see the future-just not too far ahead!

Psychics beware, humans can see into the future, well at least according to one scientist.

Humans can see into the future, says a cognitive scientist. It’s nothing like the alleged predictive powers of Nostradamus, but we do get a glimpse of events one-tenth of a second before they occur.

Researcher Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York says it starts with a neural lag that most everyone experiences while awake. When light hits your retina, about one-tenth of a second goes by before the brain translates the signal into a visual perception of the world.

Scientists already knew about the lag, yet they have debated over exactly how we compensate, with one school of thought proposing our motor system somehow modifies our movements to offset the delay.

Changizi now says it’s our visual system that has evolved to compensate for neural delays, generating images of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future. That foresight keeps our view of the world in the present. It gives you enough heads up to catch a fly ball (instead of getting socked in the face) and maneuver smoothly through a crowd. His research on this topic is detailed in the May/June issue of the journal Cognitive Science,

Hmm, we see what will happen before it happens? I don’t know if I buy this one. Even if it does happen it must only be limited to certain circumstances. I can understand the baseball example. Just like a computer that can calculate a trajectory, so the brain could in fact do the same for a 1/10 of a second if enough information is available. In other words if you’re already looking at the baseball being thrown you’ll be able to make such projection. You still won’t be able to avoid the baseball smacking you in your head if you have no idea one was thrown towards you. So I guess it is plausible, but I would like to see more consensus in the scientific community before I embrace this idea.

Very interesting stuff indeed. Of course, this is just a hypothesis, not a theory as the article says, not in the scientific meaning of the word theory anyway. But quite intriguing indeed.

I can’t wait to see how the “psychics” and the “clairvoyants” will jump on this news, if at all, to claim that they somehow have a much evolved capacity which lets them see well beyond the 1/10th of a second.

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Evolution, Science | , , | Leave a comment