Thursday, April 30, 2009

Believe it or not, I actually like some stuff.

Comedians in the UK are a skeptical lot. It seems that the average comedian here is atheistic and enjoy showing their science and rationality chops. Marcus Brigstocke, Eddie Izzard, Robin Ince, Ricky Gervais all do routines you might want to swot up for.
Below, Dara O'Brian gives it to homoeopathy and psychics. Look around for his "mixed marriage" routine.

Dara OBriain Talks Funny 2008 Part [3/9]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I know. It's old. It's still funny.

If Atheists Ruled the World

Thinking 101: Introductory Course

BBC NEWS | England | Berkshire | Programme teaches pupils to think
The headmaster of an independent school has employed a thinker-in-residence and a philosopher-in-residence to teach pupils "to think and reason".

Dr Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College in Crowthorne, Berkshire, believes the teaching of reasoning and philosophy is a "basic right".
Pupils will learn how to construct arguments, understand reasoning and also be taught the basics of the philosophy of knowledge, as part of the programme involving teachers, parents and governors.

It was prompted by Dr Seldon's concerns about the state of the national curriculum.

"We have allowed ourselves to believe it is all about exams and testing," he said.

"Education is about teaching the whole child and this involves being taught how to think and reason independently.

This may be the most favourable thing I've seen start up in education in a long time. Here in the UK the entire focus of education has become tests and pass rates. In a small way this may be the palate cleanser.

No Facials, Please. We're American.

House passes bill too gross to talk about -
The proposed new law nobody wants to talk about would make it a second degree sex abuse crime to propel "a dangerous substance at another person." That substance being semen or other bodily fluid flung out of sexual desire.

Via Reason
this is just another of those WTF moments I get when I read the InterToobz.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A note from the G20

Mercilessly scrapped from Jack of Kent.

The issue of the Tomlinson death at the G20 remains contentious here.
The problem is that there aren't a lot of facts to go on -- and they keep changing.
The basic outlines have more or less come out, with some extra facts floating around and some "facts" being endlessly hammered into you with dubious or no provenance.
There is a pretty well established pattern to these events, though.
  • Allegations emerge against the police.
  • The police say that nothing out of the ordinary happened and everything was by the book.
  • The police claim that there is no CCTV.
  • The police claim the victim was at fault.
  • A video emerges that that appears to incriminate the police
  • The police blame the videographer for taking video.
  • Public outcry leads to calls for a political inquiry.
  • The inquiry finds no need for prosecution and while there were discrepancies in the police statements and outright fabrications, there is no need for further action.
  • In the event of the charges being laid, the police are found not guilty.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ABC News Face Off: Does Satan Exist?

Now get on with your life.

Brain and Language come together.

Irrelevant minor victory for reason

It looks like Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" will now take advice and contributions from humanists. This has been a long standing chicken bone in the throat of UK humanists and atheists, but I just can't see the point.

I'm feeling a bit unclear on the concept

Would this come across as racist?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Americans Love Science

It’s a trope that I hear repeated a lot – Americans love science.

When this came up again and again during the panel discussions and presentations at TAM in Vegas back in June, it may have been Neil deGrasse-Tyson who held up his iPhone and declared it so. I commented to Friend DEG in a bit of a stage whisper, “They don’t love science; they love engineering.” And I think that this is crux of the problem plaguing skeptics in the States and all over the world. How do we reconcile the fact that people love science with the fact that they are reluctant to engage with it, to accept even its most well supported findings, avoid in droves learning anything about it, and reject without evidence any part of what makes them uncomfortable?

People love gadgets. There’s no way to dispute that. From the iPone, iPod, and Blackberry to the netbook, X-Box, and DVD player people love stuff. We get DVDs for our cars, we text friends to meet at the pub, and we nuke ready meals in our microwaves. Do people know how it works? Not really. Do they need to? No.

Let’s face it. Americans both idolize and despise the intelligent and intellectual. We saw that streak play itself out during the election cycle gone by as ‘elite' became the worst insult since liberal. To paraphrase Dennis Miller when he was still funny, is being smart in America a bad thing? Well, duh. This is a country where being called an Einstein is a bit of an insult.

Let’s face it, Americans don’t take to science too well, at least they’re selective about which aspects they will take. The results have been well repeated in the blogosphere and elsewhere about how poorly the US came out on surveys of the acceptance of evolution. Most people don’t know Quantum Mechanics from any more than a Deepak Chopra book, despite the fact that by some estimates over 40% of the American economy is based on it. The Big Bang Theory is on the Evangelical hit list as much as Evolutionary Theory. (I realize that internet polls are worthless but read through the comments.)

And their heads are filled with supposed scientific literates like:

What do they offer in return?

  • denial of an expert’s expertise on the basis of what feels right.
  • weak praise for science while gutting it
  • down right dismissal of the implications, conclusions and substance of science

And yet an enjoyment of the fruits of science. I suspect that those in science, and the interested laymen (like myself) will continue to be in the minority and will continue to have to speak out against pseudoscience, logical fallacy and religious intrusion in education for years to come. And with the Goodyear controversy in Canada and the increase in pseudoscience like the MMR vaccine hoax in the UK, those of us from or in other countries will have no reason to be smug.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Quote of the Week

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Good News and Bad News in Texas
And my favorite bit of stupidity from the whole thing:

12:41: McLeroy: "I disagree with all these experts. Somebody has to stand up to these experts. I don't know why they're doing it."

Wan-giri crosses to North America

The Japanese scam called Wan-giri (from One and Cut) has crossed the water according to the Ceeb. Basically you get a call that rings once then hangs up. You call back and get an outrageous charge on your phone bill for erotic call services.
'Missed call' scam could put erotic chat charges on your phone bill

Days I Hate My iPod

The other day the daily podcast was Dinesh D’Souza. I should have deleted it right away. I’ve seen him in debates a few times and he gives me aneurysms. He tends to think that louder is more logical and his over-reach in crediting Christianity with everything good that’s ever come along.

This particular eye crosser was a flagrant case of special pleading and conflations that left me wishing for a sprained nutsac to relieve the pain. The title was that D’Souza credited Christianity for India’s successes. Well listen to it for yourself.

Some part of me just keeps saying what the fuck?

One: How does this universal dignity of all men, white or brown, square up against the general pattern of history in India, or anywhere where the Portugese had a colony?

Two: Flock. Really? People flocked to Christianity? Currently 2.3% of the Indian population is Christian.The three states with a Christian majority (Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya) are all Northeastern, and were never colonized by the Portugese. Even in Goa, a Portugese colony, the Christian population is still only 25%, even with the forced conversions.

Three: The aforementioned universal dignity was also why people fled to Islam, because of its common Abrahamic root.  (13.4% of the population)

Four: When he says that India’s position in Western culture as an English speaking, technologically adept society…and that’s when I said fuck. Really, Dinesh? India is positioned at all in Western culture. A lot of Indian’s speak English, but seriously how the fuck can you count India as a Western nation.

Five: The point of four though was that D’Souza massively conflates Westernization and Western cultural influences with Christianity.

So I had a few extra questions.

  • Because of this influence of Christian respect and dignity for all, how’s India’s record of tolerance and and human rights?
  • Because it’s success is so dependent on Western (X-tian) what percentage of India’s leaders in business and politics are Christian?

Is this shit really worth writing about?