Tag Archives: Skepticism

“and that’s just dandy with the White House”

Thanks Bill. At least, when this thing passes, no one can say should be able to say they weren't told.

BILL MOYERS: "Welcome to the Journal. Something's not right here. One year after the great collapse of our financial system, Wall Street is back on top while our politicians dither. As for health care reform, you're about to be forced to buy insurance from companies whose stock is soaring, and that's just dandy with the White House."

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If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Shermer

Nah, probably you won’t.

Skepticblog » Gay Marriage: Stone Them to Death! : “Mark my words. Here is what is going to happen. Within a decade, maybe two, Christians will come around to treating gays no differently than they now treat members of other groups whom they previously persecuted — women, Jews, blacks — but not because of some new interpretation of a biblical passage, or because of a new revelation from God. These changes will come about the same way that they always do: by the oppressed minority fighting for the right to be treated equally, and by a few enlightened members of the oppressing majority supporting their cause.”

— Michael Shermer

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Hey, a lot of people believe a lot of things!

There’s this poll that something like a third of American’s believe 9/11 was a put-job involving the U.S. government. Ya know, because the government is so anti-business they wanted to put our economy into a tail-spin I guess. Also, somebody in the government must have decided the Pentagon needed a renovation. This is just like when Lincoln shot himself in the head to cement his legacy and when George the Third wrote the U.S. Declaration of Independence in order to rid himself of the onerous colonies.
Evidently were are, Stephen Colbert-like, meant to believe that facts are a matter of opinion. After all, if some many people believe something, there must be some truth in it. Well, a lot of people believe John Edward has special powers. This stupid poll begs the same question as that belief does, namely WHERE DO PEOPLE COME UP WITH THIS BULLSHIT !?!?!?!

Link to a news story with the focus completely wrong: Was 9/11 an ‘inside job’?.


Hitchens on Gibson

Is Mel Gibson an anti-Semite? By Christopher Hitchens.

[Gibson] has told interviewers that his wife, the mother of his children, is going to hell because she subscribes to the wrong Christian sect (a view that he justifies as "a pronouncement from the chair"). And it has been obvious for some time to the most meager intelligence that he is sick to his empty core with Jew-hatred.


Religious right Repubs rescuing vast amounts of embryos? Nah.

Slog: The Stranger’s Blog | Number of Embryos "Adopted" is Negligible:

So far, according to Newsweek, only 128 of 400,000 frozen embryos stored in medical facilities around the country have been “adopted,” resulting in pregnancies.


South Park

[Via TV Squad] found a Penn (of Penn and Teller) interview Trey Parker (of South Park), which got me thinking about the show, which I love. It made me think of the most obnoxious unfunny episode of the year — the one I found personally offensive — the hybrid car episode which portrayed all hybrid car owners as smug self-righteous weenies. I don’t have a hybrid car (I don’t have any car, but when/if the point comes that I need one, I definitely would buy one).  

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Meme Therapy: Brain Parade Magical Thinking part one

SF and Fantasy writers, Tim Pratt, Sean Williams, and Jason Stoddard, along with biologist Daniel Rhoads, philosopher Janet D. Stemwedel at the invitation of the blog Meme Therapy to discuss the dangers of Magical Thinking. As both longtime readers of my blog will know this keeping magical thinking out of the public discourse (not to mention psychology) and keeping it where it belongs — in fiction — is a longtime interest of mine, so I’m folling the discussion with interest.

[Via Tim’s Tropism]


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes …

Link: Global Pulse.

In case of extinction, a "doomsday vault" for three million seeds will be built on Svalbard, a very cold island about 966 kilometres (604 miles) south of the North Pole. The seed vault will be guarded by polar bears.


Spaceships and Scooters

Interesting article by Jeff Foust on some marketing  problems shared by NASA and the Segway scooter (remember that?), including the gem of a pull quote:

The Segway demonstrated a different kind of failure: the failure to meet overhyped expectations, the failure to compete effectively against cheaper alternatives; in short, a solution looking for a problem.

Exactly what our sedentary society needed: another motorized conveyance.


Does Our Desire for a Higher Power Lead Us to Overestimate the Chances for Finding Other Intelligent Life in the Universe?

From the editorial material:

"[The author] questions the common modern scientific reasoning that life converges
on intelligence, and intelligence converges on one science valid
everywhere. He ends the book by agreeing with Stephen Hawking (usually
a safe bet) that intelligence is overrated for survival in the
universe, and that we are most likely alone."


Could be worse …

Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

– H. L. Mencken


Hawking and the Vatican

Hawking follows universal riddle to Beijing hall:

At an hour-long lecture last week at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Dr Hawking said the late Pope John Paul II once told scientists they should not study the beginning of the universe because it was the work of God.

And the Vatican responds:

Said [spokesman] Donohue: "There is a monumental difference between saying that there are certain questions that science cannot answer” which is what the Pope said – and authoritarian pronouncements warning scientists to back off.

Catholic League: Hawking Wrong About Pope.


Some interesting commentary on Malcolm Gladwell and “Blink” for Johan Lehrer

Link: The Frontal Cortex : Malcolm Gladwell and Science:

In Blink, Gladwell describes our "adaptive unconscious" as a "giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings." Could he possibly get any vaguer? That sentence could easily have been written 50 years ago, back when Freud was still cool and computers were the size of refrigerators. What Gladwell never mentions is that the "big unconscious computer in our brain" is actually composed of many different brain regions, which are only loosely interconnected. Our "blink" decisions aren’t simply a by-product of some invisible mainframe in the head. Rather, they emerge from a continuous dialogue between our many different neural parts, some of which we are consciously aware of, and some which we aren’t.


Extra-Terrestrial Colonies

A lot of blogs have commented on Stephen Hawking’s statement that we need to move into space to better our chances for survival as a species. (Here’s one that also includes a famous – unused – and to me disappointing-sounding Star Trek treatment: Bryce Zabel: Spaced Out: Hawking Colonies & Re-Booting Star Trek).

How about let’s not? (At least let us consider not doing it for this reason.) I don’t see how a Mars colony would have any better chance of survival long term than any other scenario. To make a species viable, I suspect you’d have to have a few million inhabitants. These Utopian colonies are presumably always made up of the best and the brightest, and therefore insulated from the problems they are meant to move away from, namely war and environmental abuse, or runaway tech like an engineered virus. That seems to presume a very rosy view of the future of the race, as if transplanting a few humans to another planet will magically make them a better species. It may be easier to plant a few small groups of humans on Mars and the Moon in the next 40 years than it would be for us to collectively agree to solve the global economic crisis in the next 40 years but these colonies would likely fail.

We like to talk about how the Earth can become uninhabitable but that does not make Mars or the Moon more habitable by comparison. Nuclear winter or global warming could be sever enough to wipe out all major life forms on this planet, but not all life. Just as happened 65 Million years ago, when the dominant species were wiped out, life continued to evolve in other forms including primates. A few small colonies of humans could survive on the less-habit-able Earth in bunkers than they could on Mars in bunkers.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t colonize Mars. But we should do it for fun, or adventure, or hubris, or to make money, or for any of the other reasons human beings like to do things. Let’s just not kid ourselves that we have a better chance there than here. We will be bringing our sole predator with us. Wherever you go, there you are.