Friday, September 21, 2012

How to say something about your product without saying anything.

There is a commercial 5 hour energy has been playing on my Hulu account quite a bit lately and I found it pretty funny. They asked 3,000 doctors (though didn't say how many actually answered) and the response?
Over 73% of doctors would recommend a low calorie energy supplement to their healthy patients who use energy supplements.
The way this is worded they basically said nothing of value.  The doctors say they would recommend a low calorie supplement to people who are already using one to begin with, so there is no way to determine if these doctors would recommend it to people using nothing at all.  Perhaps they only recommend it because it is better than using high calorie supplements that also do nothing, if the patient is going to use energy supplements anyway might as well turn them onto something low calorie right?

In addition they don't mention the 27% (a still pretty significant number) who didn't recommend it even within the very limited confines of the statements phrasing.  What were their reasons?

Unfortunately shady advertising techniques like this one are used precisely because they work on enough people enough of the time to make it profitable.  Laws can be useful to limit what advertisers claim to a certain extent, but as with this example it is often easy to come up with ways to say things that, while not outright lies, are intentionally misleading, thus circumventing the laws.  This is one of the reasons that education in skeptical thinking is so important.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Egyptian atheist arrested for posting ‘Innocence of Muslims’ on Facebook

So this happened:

The video in question that he posted, kinda silly, but has caused riots all over the Middle East.
 According to the article:
Alber Saber was arrested on Friday after his mother called the police out of fear of the crowd outside their home. Saber was arrested under the rarely used law that prohibits insulting religion
 Free speech doesn't fly in Egypt either apparently.

A Facebook page has been created in support of freeing him, I don't know how much good it will do but go click the "like" button if you have time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sandra Fluke is the real misogynist according to

So Sandra Fluke made a speech at the Democratic National Convention.  I didn't really watch much of the DNC myself because I generally have better things to do, but when I ran across this article on LifeSiteNews, a super pro life site.  I decided to check out her speech, since according to them the speech was full of "venom" and Fluke was "disgruntled and disillusioned." So I decided to look up the video and see for myself.

You can see it here:

It didn't really strike me as that bad. 

Of course they choose to quote Kirstin Powers statement about how women should "visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and then see how she feels about how the US treats women"  A statement I find ridiculous.  Treating women better than Saudi Arabia is a pretty low standard.  I would like to think our country would aim a bit higher than that.  Also, Fluke's statements were pointedly directed at the senates failure to include women on a panel discussing contraception issues, so it is not as if she was simply tilting at windmills, she had a concrete example to point to.

However the article gets even more bizarre.  The writer of the article (most likely a man given the name Peter) seems to have decided that a woman cannot truly be a women unless they are having children, and somehow allowing them to decide when and if they reproduce makes them sexual servants of men.  Does he really think that atheists and feminists are just having one non stop orgy? 

A couple of quotes:
Women like Fluke who accept this detestable lie, have thereby rejected the glorious beauty and radiant splendor of what is really at the core of a woman’s being, namely her profound ability to procreate
This is downright creepy, and are not even necessarily accurate.  Did this guy actually ask if Fluke ever intends to have children?  I don't personally know, but I do know the choice should be up to her and perhaps the man she has sex with.  Not some random person on the internet who has decided that not reproducing is some black mark on a woman's reputation.
Women like Fluke are not fighting against the alleged “War on Women”; they are in fact its biggest perpetrators. Contraception and abortion have separated women from their true selves. Depraved men, capitalizing on this unnatural separation, have used and abused women’s bodies like never before. Women are commonly degraded as objects for recreation, pleasure, and profit.
This quote is dripping with weird sex negativity, he seems to think that any sex that is not purposed to be procreative is dirty.  It seems to bother him that women might have sex for any other reason.

He seems to fail to understand that each woman is an individual, if one wants to have children that is fine, but it is also fine to not have children. No matter how he tries to spin it, he is ultimately saying that he will let women choose as long as they make the choices he has already predetermined are right for all women. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Atheism+ and in-group/out-group dynamics.

I honestly wasn't really planing on writing anything about atheism+.  Not that I didn't generally agree with  most of the ideas there, but I didn't really think I had anything brilliant to say on the topic, but then I thought of something, so here I am.

I've been told in several conversations in the last couple of months that the movement I am part of is some isolationist sub culture.  There are critics out there of both atheism and skepticism as movements who suggest that we are nothing but a bunch of sycophants patting each other on the back for being more brilliant than everyone else.

I'd like to tell those people they have no idea what they are talking about, but while I think they are not entirely correct I can't deny that the criticism does have some merit.  Those self congratulatory tendencies are a part of human behavior that all of us, including myself, have indulged in from time to time.  In my defense I think I do it a lot less now that I did when I was a fundamentalist Christian, but whether that difference stems from my lack of religion or just generally being more mature than I was at 21 years old, I can't say. However, any movement of a significant size is going to have a certain number of people who seem to spend more time congratulating each other for being in the "know" than doing anything of significance.

When Jen McCreight posted about atheism+ on BlagHag last month I quickly noticed that there were some people on both sides who devolved into name calling, which was bad, but I also noticed that a lot of the people against atheism+ were going off into conspiracy theory territory, which was really bad.  I read way to many  blog comments of people saying that atheism+ was some secret conspiracy of leftist feminists and communists who are trying to steal the movement.  It seems to me the goal of most of the people promoting atheism+ is to promote more diversity in the movement, but the people who don't like the idea are claiming that it is promoting divisiveness.   Truthfully I would full well admit that it no doubt will cause a certain amount of divisiveness, but to some extent that is OK.  The guy who asked if it was moral to rape a SkepChick, for instance.  I don't mind making him feel unwelcome in my circle of friends.  In fact, if you don't make those sorts of people feel unwelcome, you may end up with no one but those people. Just look at what happened to Chat Roulette for an example of how this happens.

So this brings me back to something I thought of while I was trying to answer some of these accusations.  I remembered the moment in time when I began to consider being activist about my atheism.  I had been an atheist for several years by this point, but I wasn't really concerned with what anyone else thought of me or my beliefs.  I certainly didn't care one whit about feminism or other issues back then.  One day I was on YouTube and happened across a video taken from CNN.

A video of this to be exact:

The discussion was one of study that had been done showing atheists were the most disliked minority.  The three people who were asked to speak on this (all Christian) explain that no such discrimination exists, and then rant for about 4 minutes about how any atheist who thinks differently was whiny and should shut-up.  By the end of the video I was angry, and for a bit I wasn't even sure why other than the absurdity of what they said.  Then it hit me that this was what it felt like to be marginalized, to be discriminated against.  The people with the power and authority had just said that my opinions and my feelings didn't count.  I should just shut up and let them have their way.  This video convinced me that things needed to change.

There is the reason that I think atheists should be concerned with social justice for all people, One, because otherwise we run the risk of running roughshod over other peoples civil rights in the defense of our own, and two, because we need to recognize that we are not the only ones to have problems.  Why do we fight?  Why do we advocate for skeptical thinking? Is it so we can pat each other on the back and feel superior to others, or is it to make the world we live in a little better?  If it is the former then we really are just another smug sub-culture and our movement is meaningless.  If is the later then I see no reason not to apply skeptical thought to the problems of social justice we face.  This is what Atheism+ means to me.