Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dawkins and Ben Stein

I just had the misfortune of watching this interview, taken from the movie "Expelled". Ben Stein appears to be borderline retarded...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Congratulations Rosa Parks

You wasted your time if this is anything to go by:

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Dear America

Dear America,

I've admired you from afar for some time now. Something about your repeated assertions that you are "the land of the free" have made me feel a sort of jealousy.

Like many Europeans, I watched the presidential elections in 2004 with a kind of unrealistic hope that George Bush wouldn't retain his presidency. Having been so disappointed back then, I couldn't bring myself to think that Barack Obama would become president in 2009, even though Sarah Palin's part in the opposition made the Republican choice suicidally stupid.

On the day Obama became President I felt there was real hope for America and the rest of the world. Even though many things that were promised have not come to pass, I still believe that the effort of fighting against the Republican inertia is the cause, not a lack of integrity on Obama's part.

Basically, America, this is your chance. If you can't stop acting like a bunch of petulant children and get along, we're going to turn the world around and go home. Mostly it's you, Republicans. Somehow you've been polarised against your president even more than usual, but it's got to stop. You've assassinated enough good presidents in the past - please don't encourage more killing just because you don't like the way things are going.


ArsTechnica writes an awesome summary of evolution misconceptions

This list of misconceptions about evolution is actually very good for semi-mainstream press. It seems to address a very wide range of arguments that you might hear from illiterate idiots:

"A million years is a lot longer than we think it is"

Of course it is, but this article starts to put into perspective just how long a million years is compared with a single generation

"We wouldn't recognize a key transition while it was happening"

Fantastic to see someone recognise this simple fact: Species are a fairly human-defined thing. Seeing "macro-evolution" is obviously just "micro-evolution" on a grander scale. I.E., EVOLUTION.

I thought Australia was laid-back

I'd always considered that a good argument against "pro-lifers" was to ask what we should do with women who break the law by having abortions. If abortion is murder then surely they should go to jail.

Normally this works quite well as most people consider it a rather harsh reaction. Not in Australia though!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Glenn Beck's fans don't know what they're talking about SHOCK

I subscribe to the theory that the less knowledge somebody has on a subject, the more passionate they are about it - although only when they're told how to think.

This amazing video is very supportive of that theory:

Glenn Fucking Beck's ridiculous supporters

Monday, 2 March 2009

Ha ha ha ha

Dear Amber,

For a long time I have been following your advice with great interest. However, this week I have been talking with some of my less-believing friends and they were surprised to see statistics being so misrepresented on your last column,

They seemed to think that you had chosen your statistics in the following paragraph very carefully:

"Studies show that 87% of the women who become prostitutes did so because of unbridled masturbation as a teenager, and over 90% of girls who become pregnant as teenagers did so because of masturbation loosened their morals and made them more apt to engage in unprotected fornication."

I don't believe you'd misrepresent your position as blatantly as they seem to think you have, but when I think more carefully about the facts you present I do worry slightly.

You claim that 87% of prostitutes masturbated, but do not explain how many teenage masturbators became prostitutes.
You do the same with pregnant girls; this does not show any correlation, let alone causation.
Your conclusions from these statements are also on rather shaky ground.

What a shame that such an excellent resource for Christians should be spoilt by such intellectual dishonesty.

Best regards


Why you should read the Bible

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

An amusing comment on Pharyngula

Re: scientific "fact" vs religion "fact":

Posted by: Sastra Author Profile Page | February 17, 2009 7:01 PM

heddle #157 wrote:

Of course you can call it apologetics, but that’s because you don’t know jack shit. A little investigation and you would discover that a lot of scientists have the same criticism about the various multiverse theories and about String Theory in general—that it makes no contact with experiment.

Yes -- and my understanding is that String Theory proponents agree that this is a serious problem, and if they want to get their theory accepted they're going to have to figure out a way to test it through experiment, and not just through elegant math.

What String Theory proponents do not do:

1.) Describe the dimensions as interactions of Love and Harmony, knit together through balanced vibrations of Consciousness.

2.) Claim that String Theory is not simply a matter of science and reason, but of a mature wisdom which seeks beyond the self, in wonder and mystery, recognizing that there are things we cannot understand. The universe is stranger than we can imagine.

3.) Scorn critics as guilty of "scientism," and ask if they have any way to measure things like their mother's love through their telescopes? Not all things that are real, need to be empirically demonstrated to others.

4.) Explain that String Theory is untestable by necessity, not simply due to its physical limitations, but by its requirement that one approach it with humility. If String Theory could be demonstrated through experiment, scientists would be forced to accept it, and put it in their models of reality, and then think they understood it all. But love cannot be forced, nor can the appreciation of beauty. It has to come from an act of acceptance, as one pulls on the Strings, and comes home.

Okay, I admit it. I'm talking out of my area here, so I guess I don't really know for sure that String Theorists don't claim this stuff.

But I don 't think they do. If they did, I think you'd see a lot more hostility towards String Theory, and String Theorists. They would probably be considered overzealous in protecting -- and advancing -- their theory.

Anatomy of a crash

This article is really interesting, and is something I've thought about quite a lot. In the list of events during a 50km/h crash, the really cool bits are:

70 ms - Airbag continues to deflate. Occupant moves back towards middle of car.
Engineers classify crash as “complete”.
150-300 ms - Occupant becomes aware of collision.

If correct, this seems to mean that at best you detect a crash nearly 0.1s after the whole thing finishes. In the event of a fatal collision, then, it seems like you are almost certain not to experience it. Excellent.

Sweet zombie Jesus

I'm considering taking the day off work to go and watch this picket happening:

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Salon comments on Evolution/Creationism

I think this was quite interesting:

but I'm not sure about some of the language. As someone "preaching to the converted" it's fine, but I don't think it'll change many people's minds.

The end of the world as we know it. Nearly.

If this is true, I am extremely scared! Amazing that everyone I know seems to think "it'll be OK, no need to panic"... nobody is considering that it might not be.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Needlessly controversial kitten-based post

I just read this article about a kitten killer being given one year in prison.

I don't understand.

Why is killing a kitten so much more serious than killing a cow in a slaughterhouse? Is it because we need to kill animals to eat? Why? Vegetarians manage just fine. How big is the need of non-vegetarians? How can we justify killing some animals and not others?

I'm not a vegetarian, but I hate the idea of killing animals. Yes, this means I am a hypocrite. Being hypocritical does not make your opinions any less valid. I am weak.

I've read that needlessly killing animals can be a sign of sociopathy. Surely, then, the man in the article has been properly analysed and diagnosed...

I believe that we need to have some coherent rules as to what animals are and are not killable. Should I wish to murder my cats, I may spend a year in jail. Should I wish to murder my cats and eat them then presumably I won't. How can we tell what my justification was at the time of the cat murder?

Or maybe I can murder my cows, whether I wish to eat them or not. Is there actually a rule?

Superstition has no place in medicine

Andrew Wakefield is not a scientist

According to the Times, Andrew Wakefield manipulated records of children with Autism who had been given the MMR vaccine to support his theory.

Presumably he should be paying part of the medical cost of the increasing number of measles and mumps cases...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Advertising Standards Authority

There must be something we can do about these adverts:

If the articles about the atheist campaign are true, the "probably" part was very definitely inserted to avoid any legal issues. Presumably those same legal issues apply when claiming that there is a God...?

Why bother being warm-blooded?

This article goes through several iterations of reasoning as to why warm-bloodedness might be useful. It's so interesting, I can't believe that people might just say "don't bother asking - God did it". Even if God did do it, why split cold- and warm-blooded animals? Invoking God doesn't answer anything.

How to be popular

This is absolutely true - I have friends who talk about themselves the time and it's incredibly frustrating. But at the same time, I often catch myself doing it too!

Obama is actually quite good, isn't he?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Crashing polls shouldn't be this entertaining

but it is!

When PZ linked to this page, it was 90% no. When I looked, it was 68% yes. Brilliant! Particularly good because it's the Daily Mail...

Followup post to "Half of all Britons are basically retarded"

Thanks to the comments of AnthonyK I went to check out

It's a fairly long document but is very well-written. So far I have read around half of it, and so perhaps I am commenting without all the available information, but here are some notes I made as I was reading the first 3 chapters.

My initial impression of the document was that it appeared to be a way of "scientifically" portraying some apologetic reasons for Darwin's "Faith". However, so far it has been a very good representation of the thoughts and behaviour of people when discussing Darwin's theories. I worried perhaps that there was too much emphasis on Darwin's religion, and (without time to check the references, at the moment) that there could be some quote mining, possibly.

For some reason this document was the first time I'd noticed how often people talk about the struggles they have when discussing ideas conflicting with Christianity. Surely it should be the other way around - after all, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and nothing could be more extraordinary than the god hypothesis (hypotheses?). Logically I'd expect the default belief to be that of "I'll believe it when I see it", but it seems that society somehow manouevres that stance to be the "alternative" to religion.

Of course, it was good to see Darwin's appreciation of charitable work done by his church. I'd like to make the point that the common belief that atheists are much less charitable is based on very flawed information!

I disagree with the point that there is no struggle between religion and science. I tried for a long time to resolve all of the contradictions between the two; scientific evidence is overwhelming, but could the Bible perhaps be moulded to fit it? Maybe Genesis could be talking about "days" as "a period of time", for example. The general order in which things happen in Genesis could just be a metaphor for evolution...

I'm not sure when I realised that clinging to the Bible with the very ends of my fingernails was pretty much pointless; if you don't try and make science and religion co-exist then life becomes infinitely easier (and not (just) because I can sin without fear of recrimination!).
  • The Bible says we are made in God's image. Evolution is firmly opposed to that.
  • The Bible says that prayers can make a difference to the world. The scientific method relies on this not being the case.
  • The Bible says that miracles can happen. No reliable evidence gives any example of this.
Those are just three of the most obvious reasons why religion just doesn't work. There are many more, and yet religious people are happy to criticise the theory of evolution by natural selection because of the "lack of evidence" in the fossil record. It almost seems like it must be a joke!

The article also briefly discusses the concept of Deism - that god created the world and then sat back to watch it happen, using evolution as the method of advancement. If this is the case, Deism is basically atheism to all practical intents and purposes. Why perform complex rituals if god is just sitting back and watching? How do you explain all of god's appearances to people in the Bible? Really, Deism is just Atheism but with a more Christianity-friendly approach.
"Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind?" (Edward Aveling, The Religious Views of Charles Darwin (Freethought Publishing Company, 1883), p. 5)
I haven't been able to read the full book being quoted. However, I believe that the aggressiveness of many "militant" atheists (perhaps including Aveling) is ridiculously overstated. In fact, almost any questioning of religious beliefs seems to cause offence - a far cry from the aggression of, for example, the crusades. But even so, I believe such verbal (and peaceful) aggression is absolutely required to stop people and their children dying from their religiousness and scientific ignorance.
"There are not, and cannot be, any Divine interpositions in nature, for God cannot
interfere with Himself. His creative activity is present everywhere. There is no
division of labour between God and nature, or God and law…For the Christian
theologian the facts of nature are the acts of God.".
This quotation from Aubrey Moore is essentially a form of Deism invoked when the quoter would like to appear more reasonable and less religious. However, this refutes the concept of prayer and worship; the natural laws as we know them do not cover god's interference and actually all available evidence shows that no matter how hard you pray, god cannot break natural laws. To say that god is natural laws seems to move the goalposts to make the statement, and religion, essentially meaningless.

Various comments are made in the article about scientists being religious. Of course, being committed to a religion was socially necessary in the 19th- and early-20th-centuries. It is still socially necessary now, to some extent - looking at American politics for example.
"In January 1961, a bill to repeal Tennessee’s so-called “monkey laws”, still in force 30 years after the Scopes trial, was passionately opposed by people who argued
that evolution “drives God out of the universe” and “leads to communism”. 6"
On a side note, I've recently been reading the original Iron Man comics, and found some entertaining references to communism. It's amazing how an uncontroversial political ideal can become a symbol of fear and hatred to so many, when its underlying principles are quite reasonable. People don't seem so scared of those principles when the media and government help out by making the language more palatable.
"Respondents were told that “Darwinian evolution is the idea that life today, including human life, developed over millions of years from earlier species, by a process of natural selection,” and were asked what they thought of this. About a tenth (9%) of respondents said, ”it is a theory which has been disproved by the evidence”, with a further tenth (10%) saying “it is a theory with very little evidence to support it.”"
People do have very funny ideas about evidence, don't they?!

Anyway, enough for now... I'm bored of typing.

Warning: Graphic image of seal clubbing

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Focus on Bishop Williamson

More evidence that Bishop Williamson is an utter idiot with no idea about the world outside Catholicism:

Canadians strike me as a gentle people; but "strike" is the word! Ten yeas ago I was innocently asked in Canada whether women should wear trousers. Some ten weeks ago, also in Canada, I was asked whether a girl should go to a conservative Novus Ordo university. The answer now to the second question may be as stormy as the answer to the first:- because of all kinds of natural reasons, almost no girl should go to any university!

Sir David Attenborough on Genesis

I'm not sure I agree with Sir David completely, but I utterly disagree with Catherine Pepinster's condescendingly ridiculous response.

A brief explanation of what it's like being a programmer


Bishop Williamson apologises for the wrong thing to the wrong people

This has got to be some sort of very subtle joke of an apology. He seems to have completely missed the point, and is pretty much apologising on behalf of the people who he thinks have been stirring up trouble over nothing!

At least someone (in some way related to the Pope) has apologised on his behalf.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The "gay agenda"

Iceland's people sound awesome.

A religion chart

Things that people believe:

1.1 billion atheists worldwide! Wonderful.

Your family tree

This is absolutely the most amazing thing I've seen today:

You are on that tree. Congratulations.

Aw, look, he thinks he's human

Anthropomorphising animals is almost completely impossible not to do. The problem is that it's such a pleasant feeling to think that we have something in common with other living beings, you want to see their behaviour as similar to that of a human. Perhaps it's part of the brain's powerful, yet over-sensitive, pattern-detection algorithms.

Amazingly, people prefer to see these "human" behaviours (which are more likely due to coincidence than not) than the actual attributes humans have in common with animals; pretty much everything. We are so used to living socially, where small differences seem very important, that we don't notice that the similarity between all living beings in much greater than the difference between a living being and a rock, or a grain of salt.

What a shame.

[edited for typo and stupidity]

Re-instated bishop Richard Williamson denies the holocaust on video


Holy. Fuck. Literally.

Can anyone really believe this shit?

Particularly frustrating having just finished reading the wonderful "Graphic Novel" (comic book?) Maus - these comments are not even amusingly ignorant.