Archive for March, 2010

Update to Podcast Guide

Just a quick note, I’ve updated my podcast guide

Podcasts that I’ve already reviewed are:

  • The Atheist Experience
  • Irreligiosophy
  • Little Atoms
  • Point of Inquiry
  • The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe
  • The Skeptic Zone
  • Skeptoid

Podcasts that I added today are:

  • Are We Alone
  • Monster Talk
  • The Non-Prophets

I also removed my favourite episodes from each podcast, since that’ll be changing all of the time.

Please let me know if there are any science- or skepticism-related podcasts you think I should review.

Bonsai Kittens – #82 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In 2000, a website was started up claiming to sell a special kind of kitten:

A bonsai plant, along with its more widely encountered counterpart the topiary garden, achieves its miniature yet mature form through a long and delicate process of trimming during the formative years of the tree. It is not possible to trim a kitten! However, fortunately the Oriental artists of yore were also expert in the modification of animal forms. Both foot-binding and head-binding were practiced in the Far East, for the purpose of miniaturizing the feet and shaping the head into attractive shapes. This technique is also the principle behind the well-known corset, which is regaining popularity in recent years. By physically constraining the growth of a developing living thing, it can be directed to take the shape of the vessel that constrains it. Just as a topiary gardener produces bushes that take the forms of animals or any other thing, you no longer need be satisfied with a housepet having the same mundane shape as all other members of its species. With Bonsai Kitten, a world of variation awaits you, limited only by your own imagination.

The website goes into detail on how the kittens are shaped, and even gives instructions on how you can make your own Bonsai Kitten.

It’s so obvious that this is a hoax. The premise is ridiculous, and no information on how to actually get the cats was offered on the website. But some people actually took this seriously! Here is an email forward that went around about Bonsai Kittens from snopes.com:

To anyone with love and respect for life: In New York there is a Japanese who sells bonsai-kittens”. Sounds like fun huh? NOT! These animals are squeezed into a bottle. Their urine and feces are removed through probes. They feed them with a kind of tube. They feed them chemicals to keep their bones soft and flexible so the kittens grow into the shape of the bottle. The animals will stay their as long as they live. They can’t walk or move or wash themselves. Bonsai-kittens are becoming a fashion in New York and Asia.

See this horror at: http://www.bonsaikitten.com

Please sign this email in protest against these tortures. If you receive an email with over 500 names, please send a copy to: anacheca@hotmail.com. From there this protest will be sent to USA and Mexican animal protection organizations.

Bonsaikitten.com was a silly hoax revealed to have been started by a group of MIT grad students, but it sparked a lot of outrage amongst animal rights groups, has been shut down by a long list of hosts, and was even investigated by the FBI. The protests and news coverage and a list of former hosts of the site are listed here.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jumpContinue reading ‘Bonsai Kittens – #82 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Star Trek Cologne

I’ve been slacking with my posting lately, but this is too good not to pass on…

Now the Star Trek enthusiast can complete his or her look with a scent to match:

Tiberius:


Product Features

  • Boldy go.
  • Explorer. Soldier. Time-Traveler. Diplomat. Legend.
  • Citron, black pepper, and cedar create refreshingly clear top notes, layered over warm vanilla, white musk and sandalwood base notes
  • casual yet commanding cologne spiked with freshness and sensuality

Red Shirt


Product Features

  • Bright, clean and Direct with Top notes of green mandarin, bergamot and a hint of lavender
  • RED SHIRT Finish Strong with base notes of leather and grey musk.
  • A daring mens fragrance for those brave enough to place no trust in tomorrow.

And for the ladies…Pon Farr:


Product Features

  • Straight from the planet Vulcan, this 50 ml container of Star Trek Pon Farr Perfume is all you need to drive your man (or men) wild.
  • With base notes from sandalwood, peach, and mulberry, Pon Farr is perfect for those bright sunny days and warm summer nights spent together at the beach, around the fire, or simply watching your favorite affaire d’honneur. Sharp and aggressive, simple yet exotic, use it with care!
  • Pon Farr: In the Star Trek universe, Vulcan males and females go into heat every seven years, going into a blood fever, becoming violent, and finally dying if they don’t mate with someone with whom they’re empathically bonded.

Amazing!

Taking the Onion Seriously – #83 of 100 Top Hoaxes

I’m re-starting the 100 Hoax Countdown! I’ve recovered from the devastation of losing all of my computer files, and re-compiled the list. I won’t be posting a new hoax every day like I was before, but I’ll try to post a new hoax at least once a week. On with the show…

Number 83 on the countdown is two accidental hoaxes, caused by the satirical news printed in the Onion being taken as true.

In 2002, the Beijing Evening News printed a surprising story, that the United States Congress were threatening to move out of Washington unless a new Capitol Building was built:

“Don’t get us wrong. We actually love the dilapidated [old] building,” House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was quoted as saying. “But the cruel reality is, it’s no longer suitable for use by a world-class legislature. Its contours are ugly, there’s no room to maneuver, there aren’t enough bathrooms, and let’s not even talk about the parking.”

The reporter for the Beijing paper apparently lifted the story from the Onion, reworked it a little, and submitted it without realizing that it was satirical. Even after the editor of the Beijing

The New Capitol Building Design

The New Capitol Building Design

Evening News was told about the error, he defended the story and did not retract it:

Yu Bin, the editor in charge of international news, acknowledged Thursday that he had no idea where the writer, Huang Ke, originally got the story. Yu said he would tell Huang to “be more careful next time.”

But he adamantly ruled out a correction and grew slightly obstreperous when pressed to comment on the article’s total lack of truth.

“How do you know whether or not we checked the source before we published the story?” Yu demanded in a phone interview. “How can you prove it’s not correct? Is it incorrect just because you say it is?”

I think Yu Bin has something to learn about burden of proof.

While it might be conceivable that congress would demand a new building, the next accidental Onion hoax is pretty inexcusable…

In August 2009, the Onion published a satire making fun of people who believe that the moon landing was a hoax, with the headline “Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked.” How anyone could possibly believe that is beyond me, but two Bangladeshi newspapers ran the story not realizing it was a joke!

The Daily Manab Zamin reported that Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, had admitted at a news conference that the historic landing was part of an “elaborate hoax”.

Neither they, nor The New Nation, which also ran the story, realised that The Onion, which also prints a parody newspaper, was not a genuine news site.

It’s crazy that any newspaper would print a story without even checking for one corroborating source.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Taking the Onion Seriously – #83 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Christian Philosopher Fails at Exploring Causes of Atheism

I came across this article, which purports to be an exploration by a Christian philosopher into the root causes of atheism, but in the end is just a laundry list of ignorant statements about how the philosopher, James S. Spiegel, sees atheists.

I think it’s a great idea for Christians, and people of all religions, to look at the reasons behind why others reject their beliefs. If Christians listened to why atheists are atheists, it could help them to see the problems with their faith that need to be fixed, but it could also force them to challenge their own beliefs and see how strong their faith really is.

Spiegel has written a book called The Making of an Atheist, but based on the sampling that this article takes of his ideas, it amounts to a waste of time, as he hasn’t made any attempt to honestly represent atheists’ rejection of religious beliefs. This becomes obvious in the second paragraph:

“While atheists insist that their foundational reason for rejecting God is the problem of evil or the scientific irrelevance of the supernatural, the Christian philosopher says the argument is “only a ruse” or “a conceptual smoke screen to mask the real issue – personal rebellion.”

So rather than thinking about the problems with belief in God that atheists bring up, Spiegel conveniently dismisses these as a cover for what is really just rebellion. It’s an easy way for him to go on and make unfounded assertions about what atheists think, but it’s also insulting. My atheism has not arisen out of some desire to rebel against the beliefs I was brought up in, it’s simply a result of questioning whether my beliefs had any basis in reality.

God has made His existence plain from creation – from the unimaginable vastness of the universe to the complex micro-universe of individual cells, Spiegel notes. Human consciousness, moral truths, miraculous occurrences and fulfilled biblical prophecies are also evidence of the reality of God.

But atheists reject that, or as Spiegel put it, “miss the divine import of any one of these aspects of God’s creation” and to do so is “to flout reason itself.”

If “look around you, there are lots of complex things! Therefore, God” is reason enough to state that God’s existence is obvious, then fine. But that’s not good enough for an atheist. His evidence for “the reality of God” is pitiful.

Human consciousness? Doesn’t outlive the brain. Moral truths? They’re subjective, they change over time, and we certainly don’t gain any insight into moral truth from reading holy books. Miraculous occurences? Either explained by natural phenomena, or unexplained – which is not a synonym for “god did it”. Biblical Prophesies? If Spiegel spent a couple of hours reading criticisms of the prophesies made in the Bible, he would see how unconvincing they are.

This suggests that other factors give rise to the denial of God, he notes. In other words, something other than the quest for truth drives the atheist.

No, the quest for truth is good enough for me.

The explanation behind Spiegel’s ignorance of why atheists are actually atheists is that he is taking his reasoning from the Bible, rather than asking atheists. Seriously! Yeah that’s a good start, just ignore what atheists have to say and use a bronze-age book to support your pre-formed conclusion.

Here’s a face-palmer:

“There is a phenomenon that I call ‘paradigm-induced blindness,’ where a person’s false worldview prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious.

Fixed:

“There is a phenomenon that I call ‘paradigm-induced blindness,’ where a person’s faith or religion prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious.

That’s better.

What really bothers me about Spiegel’s characterization of atheists, and it’s a view held by a lot of religious people, is that he repeatedly insists that people become atheists when they want to sin:

Religious skepticism is, at bottom, a moral problem…”Atheism is the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality. In short, it is sin that is the mother or unbelief.”…Spiegel, who converted to Christianity in 1980, has witnessed the pattern among several of his friends. Their path from Christianity to atheism involved: moral slippage (such as infidelity, resentment or unforgiveness); followed by withdrawal from contact with fellow believers; followed by growing doubts about their faith, accompanied by continued indulgence in the respective sin; and culminating in a conscious rejection of God.

It’s really upsetting to me that people like Spiegel see atheists as just the dregs of society. He thinks that we’re all addicted to sinning and that our brains are so corrupted by it that we can’t believe in God. This prejudice against atheists is completely unfounded, and it’s a pathetic argument to make. I’m curious to see if he included any studies or statistics to back up his claims that atheists are immoral, but somehow I doubt that he has any.

This article also talks about how Spiegel thinks that having a defective father leads to atheism. To support this idea, he cites a paper called the Psychology of Atheism by Paul C. Vitz. The article says that Vitz has “revealed a link between atheism and fatherlessness.” What? I read the paper (here), and he hasn’t revealed anything! To briefly summarize, Vitz sees atheists as people who hate their fathers, and therefore want to rebel against their heavenly father.

There is no research, just examples of some atheists with daddy issues. It’s a straightforward question: “do atheists have worse relationships with their fathers than believers?” Why hasn’t Vitz done this study to back up his paper?

This is getting long so I’m going to wrap this up. Spiegel (and Vitz) have failed to demonstrate that atheism is a result of rebellion or immorality. They have made many claims but don’t support these claims with evidence. Evidence is what atheists require, and the lack of evidence for the Christian God or any other God is the real reason why the majority of atheists are atheists.

Spiegel’s claims about atheists are shallow, patronizing, insulting, and just plain wrong.

Is It Wrong that Death is so Accessible to the Public?

I sent this link to Sociological Images, but just in case it doesn’t get posted there I’m copying my email here to hopefully get some of your opinions on the topic:

Good Afternoon,
I thought this related to your recent post about the LAPD exhibit:

I didn’t watch this video and won’t, but I read the post (Perez Hilton) and it sounds like a really disturbing video where a man is killed when he is tased and chokes on something. It makes me sick how easy it is to watch someone die on YouTube. I’m curious to hear what your take is on videos like this one being posted (don’t worry, this video doesn’t start playing when you open the link):

I don’t really know what to think about these types of videos being so accessible. On the one hand, it’s sad to think that people are being entertained by videos of tragic deaths. But I’ve heard it argued that we no longer face death, we separate ourselves from death and use euphemisms to describe it (passed away, no longer with us), so maybe it’s healthy to be exposed to death. I’m not convinced that that’s a good argument for videos like this one being out there for anyone to see.
Curious to hear your thoughts, big fan of your blog!
-Lindsay

What do you think of these types of videos?

Sociological Images (My New Favourite Blog)

I recently discovered this awesome blog, and since I’m really bad at describing things I’ll just copy and paste their description:

Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing is designed to encourage all kinds of people to exercise and develop their sociological imagination by presenting brief sociological discussions of compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of sociological inquiry.

I’m in love with Sociological Images, and it has made me think about the subtext when faced with certain images. Here are a few posts that I’ve enjoyed since I’ve started following this blog:

The Difference Between Male and Female Vegetarians: Self-Sufficiency!

1920 Proposal to Ban Female Drivers

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Social Control of Mothers (this one interested me because there has recently been a bit of debate going on in the Winnipeg Free Press letters to the editor about sterilizing FAS mothers)

Guest Post: An Indigenous Olympics?

I’ve even been sending them things…here’s one I sent in that they posted:

Gender Non-Conformity is a Drag
What struck me as odd was that the comments thread on that post quickly turned to speculations that Shiloh might be transgendered. As if a biological girl would only choose to wear girl’s clothes.

Transgendered or not, Shiloh’s lucky to have parents that are open-minded enough to let her wear what she wants, in spite of the pressures of being in the spotlight.

I sent them another link maybe an hour ago and haven’t heard back yet as to whether it will be posted, but I’m going to copy and paste my email into another post, as I’m curious to hear your opinions on the topic.

I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I do!

Genesis in 3D

This is something I actually think could be pretty cool. According to this blog, Paramount is planning to tell the Genesis story in 3D. I think a depiction of the creation of the Earth and the story of Adam and Eve could make for a visually stimulating movie experience.

I also think that putting the Genesis story on the big screen would make it blatant that it’s a fairy tale, but I don’t even care if it does that. I would love to see what today’s movie technology could do to bring the Garden of Eden to life.

The relationship between God, Adam, Eve and the Serpent could make for an interesting script, too. It sounds like they’re making this movie to appeal to religious audiences, but if they don’t restrict themselves to sticking to scripture they could take the story of Genesis in a lot of interesting directions.

Enlightning Bolts – 03.08.2010

There’s a new podcast and it’s for skeptical parents! I’m not a skeptical parent (yet) but it’s still an interesting podcast: The Podcast Beyond Belief.

One of many sad examples of where failure to immunize kills. On the positive side of things, 85 million African kids will be getting the polio vaccine.

Ouch! The psychic Oscar predictions I posted the other night only guessed 2 correct out of 10 picks. This non-psychic did much better.

This New York Times article highlights some of the abuses of the Church of Scientology, as described by people who escaped the cult.

One of my favourite shows, Community, and one of the few shows that I can think of featuring a positive atheist character (and a female one to boot!) has been picked up for a second season. Watch their reaction to the news here.

Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about how lame hollywood aliens are. Except for the Blob. That one is A-O-K.

A Chart Explaining Intelligent Design

Cracked.com has a funny article about intelligent design logic, I especially love this chart:


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