Posts Tagged 'PZ Myers'

Enlightning Bolts – 01.28.2010

Dr. Rachael Dunlop of the Skeptic Zone podcast is up for a Shorty Award (a Twitter contest), in the category of health. She’s up against some alternative medicine pushers, so if you have a Twitter account vote!

If you’re in favour of English Libel Law reform (keeping libel laws out of science), check out this website and sign the petition if you agree:

Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.

Here‘s an account of PZ’s recent visit to Winnipeg by another local blogger who took notes. Smart!

Canada AM once again provides a platform to a kook: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spouts nonsense, including the ridiculous idea that “even a molecule of mercury could destroy brain cells and cause deformities in children.” What the what? Fail! It’s a morning show, so I don’t expect any hard-hitting journalism, but he was saying some horrible and blatantly wrong things, and there was almost no voice of skepticism. This piece even seemed to be propping him up as some kind of hero. Awful.

Steve over at Skeptic North has kindly responded to this, check it out here. Thanks Steve!

And last, but definitely not least, Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who started the whole vaccines cause autism myth, was investigated by the General Medical Council. They found that he “acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in his research and with ‘callous disregard’ for the children that were the subject of his research.”

I predicted on Twitter that the anti-vax response to this would be something like: “Wakefield being found guilty will prove that the courts are IN TEH POCKET of Big Pharma!!!111″ It turns out I wasn’t even that far off.

PZ Myers Braved Winnipeg…in January!

Yeah okay, he is from Minnesota, but still!

On Saturday night I was pleased to be able to see one of my favourite bloggers, PZ Myers of Pharyngula, speak on “the war between science and religion”, thanks to the Humanist Association of Manitoba.

Although I wasn’t sure how the topic related to Canada, American issues tend to spill over the border so it was relevant nonetheless. (The talk was recorded, but I’m not sure where or when that will be posted. I’ll post a link as soon as I find out.)

The main point that PZ was trying to get across was that atheists need to be “out”, and unafraid to talk about atheism, unafraid to criticize religion, and unafraid to criticize ideas that contradict science. I agree with him. I think that atheists are afraid to talk about their lack of beliefs for fear of offending somebody, this is certainly something I’m guilty of. I have the Out Campaign “A” on my blog, but I still have close friends and family members from whom I hide my atheism.

The conversation on beliefs really needs to be opened up. Even among atheists, there seems to be a tendency to think that we should just stay quiet and avoid causing a ruckus. But maybe it’s this tendency that makes it okay for religious people to deride atheists, and maybe it’s the fact that atheists are such a closeted group that makes them America’s least-trusted minority.

After PZ’s talk was over, I had a conversation with my mom about whether his cracker controversy was really necessary. If you don’t know the story, you can read his blog post about it here. The short version is that he desecrated a communion wafer…but really, read his version. I know that a lot of people think this whole thing was a silly exercise that accomplished nothing more than pissing off loads of Catholics. That was my first reaction. Think about it though, all he did was trash a cracker (as well as some pages from the Qur’an and the God Delusion). What he really did was demonstrate how ludicrous religious thinking can get. Some of the emails he received from angry Catholics illustrated how some people put the importance of the cracker above the importance of other human beings.

He has posted some of these emails on his blog, but one in particular that he showed at the talk really shocked me. It basically said that desecrating the wafer was worse then the holocaust or 9/11. Seriously. This is the kind of thinking that needs to be challenged publicly. PZ did something utterly harmless: he threw a few things that he didn’t hold sacred into the trash, and by doing this he was showing that not everyone was bound by superstitious beliefs. That’s something I can support.

What was your reaction to “The Great Desecration”?

Moving along…

My favourite part of lectures is pretty much always the question period, and there were a couple of questions in particular that stood out.

First, there was a local blogger (if you end up here let me know because I’d like to read your blog!) who mentioned that Canada doesn’t have any official separation of Church and state. I actually didn’t know this…I had made some lazy attempts to find out whether we had something similar to the US’s establishment clause, but came up empty. His question was did PZ think that we would benefit from making the separation of Church and state official. PZ’s answer, briefly, was no, and I agree. It might come in handy on occasion, but Canada has done great without it, compared to the US with its White House Faith-based initiatives, its national prayer breakfast, and its presidents (both the current and the previous) that can’t seem to make it through a speech without mentioning god or Jesus.

What do you think? Should Canada have an official separation of Church and state?

Second, a brave creationist showed up! His question: What do you have to say about molecules to morals? It was a weird question, but pretty much just a different wording of “can you be good without god?” PZ handled this well, and you can read the discussion on this in the comments on his blog, but how would you answer?

I’m always puzzled by this idea that we need someone (a god) to tell us what to do in order to be good. It just makes sense: if I don’t want to be harmed, I won’t do harm to other people.

Time to wrap this up…I’ll conclude by saying that I think atheists in general are moral and thoughtful people, and we should be loud and proud of our ability to think for ourselves. Cheers!

Moose Mania

So the other night my husband was checking his email and saw something he thought was really cool. He said “you have to see this!” and, us being a modern family, he forwarded it to me (sitting 10 feet away) on my laptop.

The contents of the email were these two pictures:

big moose 1

big moose 2

Along with this text:

Look at this Moose! By the length of his beard and the grey legs, I figure he must be over 10 years old. He looks to be well over 8 feet at the top of the shoulder hump,and with his head up the height to the top of his antler must be about 12 feet .This guy is king of the forest, no bear or pack of wolves would dare come after him when he has this rack……Considering that a dirt road can fit 1 1/2 cars across … this fellow is HUGE …THIS IS ONE BIG BOY!

Now I’ve never seen a male moose before, but my dad’s work has taken him to all sorts of small towns in Northern Canada where moose are common, and he’s told me about moose whose legs were as long as he is tall (and he’s a big guy), so I had no reason to be skeptical.

Every Monday, PZ Myers posts an animal picture for his “Monday Metazoan” on Pharyngula, and I thought this was a cool enough picture for that spot, so I forwarded it on to  him. I was happy on Monday morning to see that he had used it. But my happiness was short-lived when I saw the comments claiming that the picture was photoshopped!

The whole thread turned into a big debate over whether the picture was real, but I think Pharyngula commenter Steven Mading did a good job of summarizing:

Sigh: The obvious rebuttals to the arguments being used here claiming this is done with an image editor:

1 – Complaint: “But on other sites they’re claiming it’s from other locations – the location keeps changing! It’s an urban (or rural) legend and therefore the image is faked!” Obvious Rebuttal: Just because the claim of the location the photo was taken is incorrect doesn’t imply the image itself is edited. Editing the image and telling the truth about where it is from are two entirely different issues. I could take a very real photograph of Lake Mendota where I live, and simply put a caption on it saying “This is in Saudi Arabia – amazing that there’s a lake here!” and that still doesn’t mean I photoshopped the image.

2 – Complaint: “But you can’t see the moose’s shadow on the ground!” Obvious Rebuttal: It’s already standing in a shadow! The woods are already casting a shadow on the road, as you can plainly see. Putting an additional object into the umbra of another object doesn’t make the shadow any darker than it already was.

3 – Complaint: “The second image is clearly just a rotated copy of the first!” Obvious Rebuttal: No, it’s not clearly rotated since if it was then one picture would look like a flat cardboard cutout since it would be rotating a 2-D image.

4 – Complaint: “Moose don’t get that big!” Obvious Rebuttal; Yes. They Do. Check your encyclopedia.
Now, none of that means the image can’t have been photoshopped – just that the reasons being quoted here for making that conclusion are pretty weak.

The whole thing is ridiculous. Most likely the location was wrong or inaccurate, but why would somebody photoshop an image that could possibly be real?

I got over my disappointment in the skepticism over the image, and took amusement in the controversy, especially when I saw that this online newspaper had done a story on the moose photo:

Is there really a moose this big? Or is it a hoax?

This picture, purportedly taken by someone named Lindsay of a rather ginormous moose “near Elliot Lake, near Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” was posted this morning on, which describes itself as “the largest online community dedicated to science.”

At time of writing (9:44 a.m. on Monday) 27 readers had posted comments on the picture, some rather skeptical.

“PhotoShop is one of my favorite software programs,” writes Neil B. “I wonder why Lindsay didn’t include a silly squirrel with that moose. :-)”

I didn’t say that I took the picture, nor did PZ’s post, so somebody wasn’t reading too carefully!

As for the title of the article, writer David Helwig only needed to check Wikipedia to find out that moose can get that big. If it is a hoax, then I’ve been had, but it’s the lamest hoax ever!

There was an editor’s note added after I made a comment on the post at Pharyngula:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Shortly after posted this article, Lindsay, the purported photographer, posted this comment on “I didn’t Photoshop it, but why would I need to when moose really get that big? I didn’t take the picture, it was passed to me in an e-mail. If I were there I would probably have been running as fast as I could in the opposite direction!)

I think we’re all just so jaded because of previous photoshop hoaxes that people are quick to call any surprising image a fake. For your amusement:

shark helicoptor

worlds largest dog hoax

moose harness hoax

Atheist (and Science) Expelled from Creation Museum

Ben Stein brought the word “expelled” into the Intelligent Design vs. real science debate in 2008 with his horrendous movie in which he sanctimoniously blamed evolution for the holocaust. The premise behind Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was that ID proponents were being expelled from academics for their beliefs.

The truth was that Stein and the filmmakers had to resort to deception and lies in order to make their case, and their dishonesty was exposed by the NCSE soon after the film came out. The ID movement is a reaction to science explaining more and more of what was previously attributed to god. They want to discredit science and to replace it with religion in the classroom, and Expelled is just one example of how they attempt to do so.

Because Intelligent Design is no more than religion dressed up as science, censorship is a key ingredient so that they can brainwash more people and keep criticism out. And this was demonstrated beautifully when an atheist was expelled from the Creation Museum yesterday.

Ken Ham’s Creation Museum is a shining example of religion dressed up as science. The $27 million monstronsity built in 2007 is 49 acres of Biblical literalism. Exhibits use quotes from the Bible and science-y sounding “facts” to convince visitors that the world is 6,000 years old.

Biologist and outspoken, godless science-blogger PZ Myers was in the area, and decided to make a trek to the museum along with about 300 other atheists in order to see for themselves what kind of information the Creation Museum were promoting.

Continue reading ‘Atheist (and Science) Expelled from Creation Museum’

“Orb” Over PZ’s Shoulder in Creation Museum

Jesus? Is that you?

CreoZerg Orb

CreoZerg! PZ Myers and 285 Atheists Visit Creation Museum

Today PZ Myers and a whole lot of godless folks made a trek to Ken Ham’s Creation “Museum” in Kentucky and provided my entertainment for the day.

By following te #CreoZerg tag on Twitter those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be there in person got live updates…and the results were both hilarious and disturbing.

Dank Finke over at Camels With Hammers did a nice job of summarizing the best tweets and twitpics throughout the day, so I’ll just point you there.

The best part of today by far, though, was when PZ himself got atop the famous saddle-wearing triceratops (wearing his crockoduck tie and with squid in hand). I’ve made my own version of a “motivational poster” with the picture, in honour of the day:

Atheist Motivational Poster Creozerg PZ Myers

ETA: I’ve also posted some more in-depth thoughts here, and here‘s PZ Myers’s blog post about the day

Creation or Evolution…the Logical Fallacies

Some interesting advertisements have been showing up on scienceblogs lately:

 Pharyngula Creation Evolution

Is evolution true? The mounds of evidence show that yes, it is. But The Good News Magazine (“A Magazine of Understanding”…claiming understanding and actual understanding are not the same thing) is taking advantage of the economic downturn:

 “There are a couple of things to know about this. One is that the economy sucks, and the media, in particular are struggling. Science media especially are suffering, so everyone is scrambling to scrape up whatever revenues they can. The other thing to notice is that in a down economy, faith-based lies and wishful thinking are cheap to produce and continue to sell, so that’s what’s happening.” – PZ Myers, Pharyngula

Rather than pouting about it, PZ Myers has called for bloggers everywhere to order their free creationist literature (they’ll ship to any country), and critically dissect them on their blogs. This way, when someone googles the organization, they’ll get a long list of reasons not to buy into the bullshit they’re peddling.

So like the good little minion that I am, I’ve put in an order for their “Creation or Evolution” booklet. While I’m waiting to get it in the mail, I’ve downloaded the free copy of that they have on their website and written up my own dissection (below the fold). I’m not an evolutionary biologist so I’ll leave it to people more educated than myself to deal with the nitty-gritty of the booklet. Rather, I’ll be picking out the logical fallacies to point out how intellectually dishonest these people have to be to get people to think they actually have a valid position.

Continue reading ‘Creation or Evolution…the Logical Fallacies’

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