Archive for March, 2010

Atheism: Those Who Know Do Not Say, Those Who Say Do Not Know

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With the coming of a very low-key, very gentle pro-atheism awareness campaign on facebook in ‘A’ week (http://www.aweekonfacebook.com/, Facebook event, #aweek Twittertag ), I’ve been reminded of the hesitation that many atheists feel towards the promotion of atheism in any way. Talking about any type of promotion or advocacy in favour of atheism as annoying because “this is the sort of thing that X-, Y- or Z-ians/-ists/ers do” may not be exactly how the majority of atheists feel, but I’d say, and only from my own feeling (not very skeptical, but still), that a large majority of atheists either couldn’t care less in trying to spread ideas and grow our mostly merry, but sometimes quite grumpy band of disbelievers, or are very uncomfortable with the thought of trying to actively or passively win people over to the idea that, maybe, they should give up the idea of an invisible Daddy In The Sky who grants wishes a little less frequently than you see the evil evidence of His Divine, or more humanly – if not humanely – divined, Will

But when you see the damage that religion does, and the toxic effect that a supreme, unquestionable authority and unquestioned afterlife can bring – from the banality and stupidity of the penny candle, crap wine and drain-filtering devices (pieces of The Christ’s Holy, suspiciously bread-like, Flesh must be saved from the insult of the sewers) of Catholicism (though after 2000 years on a bread and wine diet, I’m certain Jesus could make excellent use of modern facilities) to the horrendous tradition of wife-burning in Hindu ‘Sati’, thankfully both illegal and much reduced in modern India, or the unholy union of extreme Christianity in demonising a contraceptive layer of latex that could do so much to help the AIDS crisis – doesn’t this, shouldn’t this drive anyone with a rational bent and compassion for humanity towards doing what we can to reduce the influence of The Beast, even to simply kick the giant’s toe? Read the rest of this entry »

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Godfrey Bloom MEP: Anti-Immigration, Anti-Climate Change and Pro-Homeopathy

Godfrey Bloom MEP - pro-homeopathy, anti-immigration, anti-climate change, anti-science, and rude to boot

Godfrey Bloom MEP - pro-homeopathy, anti-immigration, anti-climate change, anti-science, and rude to boot

One of our main aims with the 10:23 campaign was to get people involved. For a long time, people have railed against the sheer nonsense of homeopathy, but have done so in their own homes, the pub, their workplaces, the pub again, and then bed. Instead, we tried to get people to take that energy and passion and turn it to more productive action… which is why I was delighted to hear from an old friend (and long time MSS supporter) who, inspired by our campaign, has emailed MEPs in order to get their thoughts on EU Homeopathy Day – the entirely-self-elected-and-utterly-unofficial-Europe-wide-quackery-awareness-day. Marc (for that is his name, and you’ll see him comment on this blog from time to time) forwarded me his email, and I was happy to read it over and see some of the fruits of our campaigning.

I’d love to tell you our MEPs he contacted were scientifically-literate and met Marc’s concerns and appeals with a rational response. I’d even be OK with telling you that they were reluctant to get too involved, but were polite and diplomatic in their answers. However, as the below response from Godfrey Bloom of UKIP (I know, I know) will show, I can’t. FYI, Godfrey Bloom also has a blog outlining his opinions on climate change, as well as some very misogynistic views towards women:

“No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age”.

That’s not poisoning the well by the way – that’s context. Anyway, Marc’s email read:

From: Marc Callinan
Sent: 23 March 2010 10:46

Dear Edward McMillan-Scott, Linda McAvan, Godfrey Bloom, Timothy Kirkhope, Andrew Brons and Diana Wallis,

I am writing to you all as my MEP’s with regards to the 3rd EU Homoeopathy Day. I sincerely hope that you all will reject its call for ”politicians and decision makers in Brussels to take action in favour of homeopathy for the benefit of European patients and citizens, as part of a more integrated and holistic approach to health care in Europe.” (Quote taken from the website: http://www.euhomeopathyday.eu/more) Read the rest of this entry »

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Question of The Week: What Slogan Should Be On Our T-Shirts?

As you may know, we now have an online shop where you can buy all sorts of 10:23 campaign goodies, such as t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and ties. It’s all wonderfully designed and will no doubt be the best purchase you have ever made, so please visit…

What we don’t have is a Skeptics With a K t-shirt. Our esteemed podcast is woefully under-represented in the world of merchandise and shameless cashing in, so we thought we’d open up to our wonderful listeners out there (that’s you!) and ask for suggestions.

Our Question of The Week is this: What Slogan Should Be On Our T-Shirts?

Is there a particular line from the show that you think should be adorning the torsos of Skeptics? Maybe you have another idea for what should be on the shirts. As long as it’s funny and appropriate, and gives a feel of what the show is about, we don’t mind.

So please leave your suggestions in the comments below, or email us if you’re feeling secretive. Winners will receive our undying love…

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Another Psychic, Another Dead Celebrity: Deb Webber ‘Meets’ Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, taken from http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.webwombat.com.au/spotlight/images/steve-irwin-dead.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.webwombat.com.au/spotlight/steve-irwin-dead.htm&h=400&w=300&sz=24&tbnid=R1MbS6VVuGNALM:&tbnh=124&tbnw=93&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dsteve%2Birwin&usg=__vjtdDv3HNg75OiPhFElyNRFNQEI=&ei=-mWrS9TvB5v40wTKosiPDg&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=1&ct=image&ved=0CAkQ9QEwAAIn recent weeks and months we’ve seen many celebrities contacted from beyond the grave – including Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, Kurt Cobain and Jade Goody. Or rather, we’ve seen psychics claiming to contact these people, as there’s never been anything to suggest for a moment that they were actually in contact with the dead.

Well we’ve a new name to add to the list – crocodile hunter and all-round Aussie legend Steve Irwin. Irwin died in 2007 after being struck by a stingray, and has been sorely missed since then, not least of course by his family. Which makes it all the more terrible that psychic Deb Webber is claiming to have made connection with the Steve whilst doing a reading for his father Bob.

In an article featured on the Sunshine Coast Daily site, and picked up by our very own – you guessed it – The Sun newspaper, the so-called psychic’s amazing insight was explained:

“We talked about so many things, some too personal to talk about,” Mr Irwin said. “He told me everything is OK, not to be sad and to keep up the fight, to continue looking after the animals.”

Obviously Deb’s powers are pretty accurate there, because I remember Steve Irwin being on TV and he definitely seemed like the kind of person who’d advise you to look after animals, so her reading definitely sounds like him. Therefore it’s true. Yeah. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #018

Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Susan Miller, Patricia Martin, Peter Fisher, Edzard Ernst, Robert Mathie and Barabbas.  All these people, plus Mike, Marsh, Colin and the British Hirsute Andrews – it’s Skeptics with a K!

Play

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Political Astrology: Star Guff In The Huff-Po

As our educated, smart and – I’ll say it! – downright sexy readers are doubtlessly aware, the Huffington Post is a great source of… well… crap. For one thing, there’s Dana Ullman making wild statements about homeopathy, Jenny and Jim trying to kill babies… it’s rarely a tome worthy of a great deal of respect.

However, even I was surprised to see the angle taken by the Huff-Po this week, when I spotted Patricia Martin’s column ‘The Politics of Astrology and the Secret Lives of CEOs‘. In an interview with Astrologer Susan Miller, the article explores the ways in which astrology can play a part in politics and business… and, bizarrely, doesn’t come to the conclusion ‘none’. Quoting the article:

Over slabs of glazed salmon at the Drake Hotel dining room, Ms. Miller and I discussed the astrological year ahead for American politics. Cheerful even when delivering hard news, Ms. Miller offered up the following outlook:

So, lets take a look at what the stars predict for the political year ahead in America -

Healthcare reform will pass, but undergo tweaks and revisions for several months to come.

I think that’s fair to call it a hit. I think it’s also fair to say it’s a hit I could have come up with – the political weight behind the healthcare reform definitely had it in the ‘plausible’ pile, and the opposition to it most certainly had it in the ‘undergo tweaks and revisions’ pile. What’s more, what controversial bill doesn’t get tweaked and revised? Poor hit.

President Obama should not stop with health care reform, she twinkled. “He’s going to be very powerful these next few months and he should use it to his advantage”

Excellent, this is interesting – for one, she’s saying the President of the USA will be powerful. Which is obvious. What’s more, she’s not actually making a prediction there at all – his level of power isn’t quantifiable, for one thing, so nobody can dispute it. On top of that, she’s said he should use it to his advantage, not that he will, or can, or anything definite. So if he doesn’t make the most of it, she can claim that she told him he should have! These kind of predictions of potential (rather than actuality) are classic examples of cold reading, and something to look out for – a good psychic (ie someone who’s good at faking magical powers) will never tell you anything for certain, instead they’ll give you statements about your potential, leaving themselves the exit strategy of the ‘untapped potential’. Add to that the fact that Obama’s potential is to use his power to ‘his advantage’ – an entirely vague outcome – and we can see how lame this ‘prediction’ really is. Read the rest of this entry »

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