Archive for December, 2009

Doubting ‘Doubting Dawkins’

God The Creator

God The Creator

Gosh. Wow.

It’s been a while. Sorry about that.

You see, dear reader, I lost faith in the ‘sceptical’ movement. I visited a talk at St Bride’s Church that was so effective in it’s message, ‘doubting Dawkins’, that I lost the will to carry on.

It’s a long story starting one Saturday night a couple of months ago, and it continues below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Secret Shopper Homeopathic Homework

We at ‘Skeptics With A K’ (currently the only podcast officially endorsed by the Merseyside Skeptics Society… watch this space) like to keep out listeners on their toes – issuing the odd homework assignment to get you ‘orrible lot involved a bit (we love you really). In the past, we’ve asked you to sign up as an organ donor, sign the Sense About Science libel reform campaign, and to tell everyone you know about the Skeptics With A K podcast. All worthy, noble causes, I’m sure you’ll agree.

In Episode 10, we set you our most challenging and ambitious homework yet. And I can tell it was particularly challenging, and particularly ambitious, through a very simple metric – next to no bugger did it. Or at least, if they did, they didn’t tell us about it. Well, just like at school, don’t think you can get away from homework quite so easily! No, no – we SwaK-kers (as we never, ever want to be called) are harsh taskmasters, and so we’ve left this particular homework open-ended.

For those of you who were talking amongst yourselves at the back of the class and missed the homework assignment, we asked you to heal Mike’s poorly poorly cough. You see, he’d had his irritating cough for a while, and normal medicine hadn’t seemed to shift it. Boo hoo. This is where you, our helpful readers/listeners/friends come in – you’ve all heard that homeopathy can be handy for such niggling coughs, but alas you’re no homeopathic experts, you wouldn’t know where to start when it came to finding an effective remedy! Which is why we urge you to visit your local pharmacy, and ask their sage advice on which homeopathic medicine will be best to fix Mike’s poorly poorly cough. Explain the symptoms, explain your inexpertise at all things homeopathic, and see what the pharmacists advise you. If they advise you:

‘Homeopathy? Nah, mate, that’s bollocks! It’s just water and sugar pills, you want some real medicine, or to see a real doctor’

that’s great! But if they advise you:

‘Ah, yes, good question – I recommend your friend takes two 30C arnica/sulphur/bullshit tablets four times a day until he is healed/dies of undiagnosed lung cancer’

then it’s not so great, and we’d like to know about it. And, most importantly, for reasons that will become apparent in the fullness of time, tell us what you find out!

Happy secret shopping, our homeopathic homeworkers!

10:23

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Ericka Tazi – Case Closed

At the end of September, you may remember reading of the Vogelenzangs. They were a pair of Christian hoteliers in Aintree who had been charged with ‘religiously-aggravated threatening behaviour’ towards a guest, Ericka Tazi. Ms Tazi claimed at the time ‘they all but called [her] a terrorist’, getting nasty and ‘yobbish’, though the publicised insults from the event seemed only to be that they had called Mohammed a warlord and said that the hijab kept women in bondage.

Anyway, the case has been dropped.

The judge threw it out, suggesting (from to the Times)

that Mrs Tazi’s account could not be relied upon and that she was not quite the religious person that she presented herself as in the witness box.

Ouch.

I wouldn’t put that on her character reference.

The couple’s counsel, Hugh Tomlinson, QC, expressed the super-important, not-to-be-missed point in a handy, sound-bite sized sentence – perfect for being remembered and repeated by generations of lawyers to come:

“The fact that someone is upset or offended is not a reason for criminalising the speech used by the other person,”

Remember that!

Anyway, at the time, I expressed hope that

the case will be quickly dropped and fogotten about.

And now that it’s dropped, I suppose we should try to forget it. Apart from that handy line from Hugh Tomlinson, there isn’t much more to say.

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Great Timing From Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has been in pretty hot water this week after criticising the appointment of a lesbian bishop in the United States – a move he claimed raised “very serious questions”.

As the Times reported, Dr Rowan Williams stated the choice of Canon Mary Glasspool to be a suffragan bishop in Los Angeles had “important implications”. Glasspool’s appointment is the second instance of an openly homosexual clergy member appointed to the position of bishop in the US Episcopal Church, after a vote at last summer’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church had in effect ended the moratorium on gay bishops.

Speaking of the election, Williams said:

“The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop-elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion but for the Communion as a whole. The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.” – Source: The Times Online

The timing of Williams’ homophobic comments could not be more ill thought out, coming just as the world stands appalled at the abhorrent bills being pushed through Ugandan courts, along with the other countless instances of intolerance and homophobia committed in the name of religion. It’s alarming then that Williams has chosen to take the stance he has – especially for someone with a reputation for relative liberalism within the religious world. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill – Religious Intolerance At It’s Most Violent

Religious intolerance of homosexuality is nothing new, but rarely has it been as prominent and as abhorrent as the current situation in Uganda, where a new bill put forward to the Ugandan Parliament proposes sickeningly extreme measures in dealing with homosexuals in the country.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, an expansion of a previous bill from April of this year, proposes the death penalty for what it describes as ‘aggravated homosexuality’ – one definition of which involves consensual sex between two partners, where one is HIV positive. On top of that, consensual homosexual relationships where HIV is not involved is punishable by lifetime imprisonment, and anyone who is aware of a gay or lesbian couple and fails to inform the authorities of their existence within 24 hours is subject to a fine and up to three years imprisonment. Not content with those horrendous violations of human rights, the bill then imposes further restrictions on free speech – banning the homosexual community from blogging and communicating under the accusation of their ‘promotion of homosexuality’.

Ugandan citizens looking to leave the country in order to escape the reaches of this hateful act aren’t beyond action, with provisions in the bill to extend punishments and death penalties to Uganda citizens abroad, to be served upon their return to the country. What’s more, the bill sets out extradition rights, to bring such ‘offenders’ to ‘justice’ back in their home countries. In other extraordinarily draconian measures set out by the bill, new charges of ‘aiding and abetting homosexuality’ and ‘conspiracy to engage in homosexuality’ carry prison sentences of seven years, while charges for operating a brothel are defined in terms so loose as to include any hotel owner – again with an associated prison sentence of seven years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Miscellaneous Carols For Skeptical People #1: Simon Singh

Everyone and anyone who’s anyone in the skeptical community seems to be going to Robin Ince’s upcoming Christmas spectacular ‘Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People’. I, however, am not. So, wallowing in my position outside of ‘everyone’ and ‘anyone’, I thought I’d put together a few of my own carols for skeptical people. What better and more topical a place to start, thought I (for I was preparing for writing by inverting my noun-verb structure to start feeling all cultured and that) than with skeptic of the year and upcoming speaker at Liverpool Skeptics in the Pub Simon Singh, and the libel ruckus kicked up by those charming chaps at the BCA.

So, without further ado and to the tune of ‘We Three Kings Of Orient Are’, I give you:

Simon Singh: Exposer of Quacks

Simon Singh, Exposer Of Quacks

Simon Singh, exposer of quacks:
“Stay away from chiropracts
Curing colic this way’s bollocks
Ditch this bogus crap!”

So chiropractors started a war
Hid behind the libel law
“Oh Carter-Ruck him, Throw the book at him
Show this journo what for”

We the lawyers for the BCA
Wish to stop you having your say
You ask for proof, well here’s the truth
We’ll sue you anyway Read the rest of this entry »

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