Monday, December 31, 2012

Some good news out of New Orleans.

I've written about several of Louisiana's weird attempts to push creationism in the last year so I suppose it's nice that I can write something positive about the state in what will probably be my last post of the year.

In a unanimous vote the Orleans Parish school board voted to give creationism the boot.  It even went as far as to specifically name books written to fit the atrocious Texas science and history standards.
No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the state of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories.
I was also particularly impressed with this part of the ruling.
No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.
With all of the nonsense currently going on in that state it is nice to know some people there still care about education.

Fox news has "balanced" discussion of religious demographics study

So here is something that happened on fox news recently.

They are speaking about this study.

So the first thing I notice is the total lack of balance here.  They are talking about a study showing that non-religious people are the third largest group in the world and then proceed invite two devoutly religious people to discuss it, a Baptist Pastor and an Orthodox Rabbi, and not an atheist or agnostic in sight.  Surprise, surprise both of them agree that this is horrible and proceed to dump an abusive pile of nonsense about the irreligious on their viewers. 

Apparently both buy into the typical prepositional nonsense that morality requires god.  Claiming at one point that "morality is always best when it is based on god's word,"  I suppose it didn't occur to them that a Baptist and a Jew have somewhat different perceptions of what qualifies as god's word.

I also particularly loved how the baptist pastor bragged about his mufti-million dollar church and how it attracted people from "all" religious backgrounds, he then lists of several Christian denominations like "Catholics" and Episcopalians." Oh yes, pastor Jeffers, you are clearly attracting a wide variety of people there.  Of course from there he un-ironically refers to Christianity as a "relationship with god." 

At no point did they really engage with the data in the study, not the slightest analysis of it's accuracy or the methods employed in the study.  Both of them just used their time as an opportunity to proselytize.  To be honest I'm not even certain this counts as journalism at this point.  Fox took a study and then, rather than actually report about it, used it as a jumping point to give air time to a couple of hacks who wanted to promote their books and new church buildings.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The end is nigh, run for your lives...or just have a party.

Every time some group or another predicts the end of the world skeptics groups have a party. 

We did it last year with that ridiculous Harold Camping fiasco. And we are doing it again tomorrow night for the Mayan Calendar thing.  End of the world party. Hosted by the Phoenix Area Skeptics which I am a member of.  The end of the world will likely be a non event but the party should be great.  The Minibosses and The Amazing Coconauts will be playing.

The only question is remaining is who is going to predict the end of the world next year so we can have another party.  Come on conspiracy nuts and crazy people, don't let us down.  Your willingness to make a fool of yourselves gives us the excuse to throw cool parties.  Don't be lazy, do your part.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Music Pt. 5

This is a song by Tim Minchin.  Not funny like most of his stuff, but good none the less.

Stupid people on Twitter.

So I've been posting on twitter more often lately since it allows me to network and it has netted me more followers. (Thanks for following me) In general I've had some good conversations, even the religious people I've debated have mostly been cordial and reasonable.  Though debate may be a strong word with a 140 character limit.  That changed this evening when I ran into the two douchyist douches who ever douched.

Thought I'd post some snippets of the conversation.  I posted the names of the jackasses so readers will know to avoid these horrible excuses for human beings. You can see the whole debacle on twitter.  I couldn't get the embed feature to work so I just copied pasted. It started when I noticed this post.
any speech that attacks Christians is hate speech stop it 
 I posted back what I thought was a reasonable question.
If we criticize beliefs we think are wrong we are bigots? 
From here I ended up in two different conversations.  I first got a message from a different user that quickly devolved to this.

I'll have more respect for you evangleatheists when u start pounding the religion that still exists in the dark ages.Islam
So I responded.
If you think we never criticize Islam you are just willfully ignorant. I also don't care if you respect me. 
He turned to insults almost immediately with this.
I mean seriously, how candy assed do you have to be if Christians scare you?
So,  wrote a few tweets as a response. 
OK first off, I have spoke to you quite cordially and you have returned to me with insults.
Secondly I am not scared of Christians, some of them want to subvert the legal system and I stand up against that 
All of them have beliefs which they cannot support with evidence and I criticize that. 
I also criticize psychics and homeopaths and 9/11 truthers and a host of other people with crazy beliefs too. 
Quite frankly for someone to claim I am a bigot and then engage in can kiss my "candy" ass. 
The last one was the only one he bothered to reply too, in which he said.
I didn't call u one, Must have been the voices in ur head. But I agree with them. U are a bigot 
So apparently I'm a bigot because I don't agree with this guy, and he unleashes a litany of insults.  This is the first time I've spoken to him so he can't possibly know all the things he thinks he knows. At that point I realized that this guy was so far off his rocker there was no point in continuing so he got this one final tweet.
You started the name calling you fucking twit...oh looky here, there is a ban hammer right here. 
The other conversation was even more strange.  The original person I wrote to who said that it is automatically hate speech to criticize Christians replied by telling me that it was the sort of thing that civil rights people do.  I found that an odd thing to say so I responded.
I don't know any civil rights people who would say that.
She popped back
they are right now. Go look at Dana Loeschs tl 
I pointed out something I thought was fairly obvious.
Civil rights people say we can't criticize others beliefs? 
Since that is exactly what civil rights people are doing. 
I think you may be wrong
I thought it was a fairly easy to understand point, the civil rights movement is all about criticizing the beliefs of people they see as wrong, if you think that civil rights leaders are claiming you can never criticize beliefs you clearly do not understand the civil rights movement.   I hoped this conversation would go better than the other, but I was clearly wrong because I got this.
uh no im not u ignorant ass. Do a google search ur a vile bigot and as bad as an anti semite hating on jews for blood libel
So at this point I could smell crazy on this person, and was pretty much had my fill of speaking with nut job conspiracy theorists for the night, and anyone who goes to calling someone a bigot after speaking to them online for two minutes isn't worth the DNA that spawned them, so they got the ban hammer too.
Wow, name calling? Not my fault you are an idiot with poor logic skills. Ban Hammer for you.
Apparently they reported me for spam or something and got me banned from twitter for a few minutes and I had to unlock my account and promise not to spam anymore, which I didn't do in the first place, so go ahead and let them know how insane they are if you like, personally I recommend you stay away, they aren't worth the trouble.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bobby Jindal's statement about birth control not friendly to women's rights.

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana who is famous for his support of creationist nonsense in the Louisiana school system says something that on the surface seems reasonable.  He suggests that birth control should be made an over the counter drug.

I wanted to give this guy some credit, believe me I would like to be able to say he isn't a complete loss, but lets look at the reasons he gives for suggesting that birth control should be sold without a prescription.
Republican objections to mandatory birth control coverage in health insurance coverage were a major part of Democratic messaging toward women in the 2012 election cycle. Republicans wanted an exemption to the mandate for religious organizations. Jindal argues over-the-counter sales to those over 18 years of age would make this debate irrelevant.
See, Jindal doesn't care about women's health he only cares about winning elections, whether or not this is good for women or not is irrelevant as long as it shuts down a political argument.  What should be important is a science based assessment of the risk verses the benefits of changing the law.

Every form of birth control, just like any medial treatment, have possible side effects, the risks of those side effects vary depending on other life style practices and family history of certain illnesses.  The pill, for instance, caries a small risk of blood clots.  Not a major concern for most people, but for someone with a family history of heart problems, or someone who smokes a lot it is a concern.  Traditionally doctors have been the ones to determine which form of birth control is safest for a particular woman.  There are arguments to be made for changing this, but "it will help my political party win elections" is not one of them.

It is also worth noting that this is not really going to fix his parties issues with birth control, since the mandate in the affordable health care act includes other forms of birth control than the "pill" like IUD, which is considerably more expensive, but is also more effective than the pill.  Even if the laws are changed it won't end this debate.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do whats right by the American people and create Voltron.

We need to get the word out about this.  There is a petition on that really needs to be considered by our government.  We all need to sign this petition to make the people's will known to our president.

The petition spells out it's goals. 
Create a 5 piece fleet of robotic lions that can combine to form Voltron. A crack team of pilots will need to be hired and trained. It can have any weapons you want. Remember we don't want vehicle Voltron just lion Voltron. 
I know I can count on all of you to do the right thing.

Christmas Music Pt. 4 - Sweater Weather

Got a random song here.

Sweater Weather - A Winter Anthem

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Matt Barber claims half of homosexuals were sexually abused.

So this video was posted up on 

They are discussing the new law that prevents minors from being forced into "gay reparative therapy." Now, he does more than simply make the claim that half of gay men were assaulted, he claims that the CDC published the study that says this.  As far as I can tell this is an outright lie since I can find no such study posted on the CDC's website.  I can't even imagine why the CDC would be interested in these numbers, since it's an issue of psychology not disease.  So either he is very confused or lying, but since he doesn't provide any references to this study he quotes we cannot judge for ourselves. 

Further there is ample evidence that reparative therapy does not work.  The APA has an article about reparative therapy here. The law in California will prevent parents who from forcing children who are gay into a program that does not work and will likely cause real psychological harm.  It seems a wise move for the government to pass laws preventing parents from forcing their children into "treatments" that have no known efficacy and even have been shown to cause harm. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The reason people buy into the "War on Christmas" myth.

I ran into an opinion article today titled:

The writer starts by quoting the first amendment and then says this:
By denying free speech and public display to religious individuals and organizations, our government is in fact enforcing a state religion of atheism.
The problem here is that the writer, like most of the "war on Christmas" crowd, fails to see the distinction between a public display of religious beliefs done on private land, like a church or ones own house, and public displays done on government land.  Organizations like FFRF and American Atheists are not trying to prevent people from speaking about Christmas, from celebrating Christmas, or from putting up as many displays as they want provided they are not put up on government land.

This has nothing to do with enforcing "state atheism" in our country.  I am an atheist, but I would roundly oppose such a thing for a variety of reasons.
The First Amendment does not give individuals the right to not encounter religion in public; it just states that any religion they encounter is not backed by the weight of governmental authority.
I don't think I've ever seen a person get it so completely and yet still manage not to get it.  This is exactly the argument we use against allowing displays to be put up on state owned property.  Of course the first amendment does not give individuals the right not to encounter religion, it also promises the government will not censor speech along with it's promise to stay out of religion.  The rub is that this also means you don't have a right to not encounter atheism in public either.  It is for every one's benefit that the state takes no stance on which position is true.
Unfortunately, our government uses its judicial and police authorities to prohibit the free exercise of any religion other than atheism. The result has been a diminishment of our society and the loss of cultural diversity.
OK, first, atheism does not count as a religion as it is most commonly defined, but exactly when has the government stopped the free exercise of any religion?  Last I checked, nearly everyone in the federal government (state as well) profess to believe in some religion, usually Christianity.  I can drive down any road in my town and pass half a dozen churches and individuals who have put up various displays without the slightest hint of government involvement.  There is no reason to think the government is persecuting Christians, and there is doubly no reason to assume such persecution comes at the behest of atheists, since the group is a minority who hold almost no public offices.
Christmas has been changed from manger and savior to mall and savings. Perhaps it's time to start taking schools and mall owners to court to prevent their public displays of religion - atheism.
I agree that Christmas has become very commercialized, but I don't see how atheism has anything to do with this.  The reason Christmas is commercialized is because people want stuff and companies, based upon capitalistic drive, provide them that stuff in exchange for money.  How exactly are atheists more responsible for it's commercialization than anyone else who buys things? 

Business owners are permitted to put up whatever display they want, and if their displays have become less religious it is because they want to appeal to more people and thus make more money, not because of some sinister plot to make atheism the state religion. So yeah, ahead and try to take a mall owner to court because their Christmas display lacks a manger, if you can find a lawyer crazy enough to think he will win that case.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Music Pt. 3

Next up is a few songs from Jonathan Coulton.

Podsafe Christmas Song

Chiron Beta Prime

Christmas is Interesting

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Music Pt. 2

Continuing my trend with posts of cool Christmas music.  I've got some stuff from M.C. Chris.


Fuckin up my Christmas 
(technically not about Christmas, but has the word in the title)

The "evils" of porn

I occasionally read articles on, If you have never read it, it's pretty much a mill for conspiracy theories and rants against "liberal plots" like science and measurable data. 

I don't often write criticism of things I find there, but this series of articles caught my attention.

He is writing about the "evils" of porn, but his argument ends up sounding strange, creepy and anti-sex.  Now before I get into the criticisms let me say a few things about my own view so there is no confusion.  I do, in fact, watch porn on occasion.  I say this without the slightest bit of shame, sexuality is an important part of our nature and I think it is unrealistic to expect people to simply turn this part of themselves off until they get married.  Even most Fundamentalists admit this, since they are well aware of how many people watch porn and have premarital sex despite the general injunctions against both.  Think about it for a second, the church forbids both murder and premarital sex.  However, few people have a problem resisting the urge to murder but almost everyone has a problem resisting the urge to have sex.  This should tell us right away that these are very different things.

Now, to be clear I am not saying that the use of porn is a totally great thing without any potential negative consequences.  STD risks, and abuse are both potential risk for people who work in porn.  And there are studies that connect high amounts of porn use to erectile dysfunction, which, from what I've read seems to be caused by an over stimulation of the dopamine receptors, causing them to loose sensitivity.  However, risk is in everything we do.  Many people join the military even though that job carries with the potential risk of being dead or permanently maimed yet people do it proudly.

This brings me to the articles in question.  I'm going to be criticizing parts 2 and 3 primarily.   In the second part of his article he seems to want to discuss the topic reasonably, and shows that he has at least a passing familiarity the way pornography is dealt with in modern psychology.  However, like most apologists his reasonableness does not last, he quickly descends into pseudo-science and preachy claims, even ones that are a detriment to his article.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Music.

So I don't really like most Christmas music.  It's not an atheist thing either, I disliked most of it even when I was a believer.  Of course I, in no way, want to tell others what they should like so if you like traditional Christmas music whether you are religious or not have fun with it.

I just tend not to like any of it; I don't really care for all of the sappy Christmas T.V. specials from this time of year either.  Anyway there are some Christmas songs  I can get behind so I thought I'd share some of them over a few posts this month.  Let's start with a couple from Weird Al.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Christmas At Ground Zero 

The Night Santa Went Crazy 
(not recommended for kids who still believe in Santa Claus)