Thursday, December 31, 2009

Maybe "alternative" is the way to go

If you're not a visitor to http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/, you may not be familiar with Amy Tuteur. Her recent article on "Big Floss" (as opposed to "Big Pharma") is a scathing indictment of the "Big Floss" organization. If you want "all natural" and to not be "pushed" products by "Big Floss", alternative dentistry might be just your thing. Amy explains:

We survived almost all of human history without it. Yet in the last 100 years people have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by a huge corporate conspiracy into believing that we “need” their products. They cite studies and claim we don’t understand science; they ignore ancient folk wisdom and have no respect for our intuition. They peddle their products without regard to the dramatic increase in chronic diseases and weakened immune systems of recent decades. I’m speaking, of course, of “Big Floss.”
It’s time to take our mouths back from corporate domination. It’s time for alternative dentistry. Continue Reading @ ScienceBasedMedicine.org.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sorry Elsie, It's Not Freedom From Being Offended

A blog reader sent me a link to a recent Letter to the Editor from an "Elsie Morrison" in Sarnia.

Elsie, though probably pleasant and a shitload of fun at parties, decided to write a letter that made her look silly. Here it is:

CANADIANS MUST STAND UP FOR FREEDOM
Sir: As a Canadian who loves this country so much, a country based on freedom for all, my heart is heavy.
When our country was founded, it stated "In God We Trust" (No it didn't. The preamble says "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognized the supremacy of God and rule of law." It is the preamble and completely contrary to section 2 of the ACTUAL charter.). To hear that some other faiths, who we have so freely welcomed, now want to destroy that is heart-wrenching. (Imagine what the native population thinks of you, you ignorant fool.)
Canadians stand up for freedom. (Yes, freedom to believe whatever you want and also the freedom of speech - you are not free from being offended.) Christianity is the only religion that gives others the freedom to worship as they choose. (Is that so? I'm sure there are a few people (Galileo, "witches", etc
.) who would disagree with that statement. Oh.. and your letter to the editor doesn't quite suggest that.)
Government officials get some backbone, protect our freedoms. How horrible that we have welcomed all and you seek to destroy the very choice of freedom you came to Canada to find. (Do immigrants immigrate to be oppressed? Sorry, I must have missed that in their list of reasons for immigrating.) Everyone please help. (Help Elsie understand that she worships a middle-aged mythological god that was copied so heavily from other mythological gods that he/she's a worthless poser. Yes, Elsie, there is no god.)
--Elsie Morrison Sarnia


This reminds me of a line from Finnian's Rainbow: "My family has been having trouble with immigrants ever since we came to this country." Canada is a diverse nation - a secular nation at that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

God is not an idiot - No non-existing entity is (or can be)

We all know that whatever happens to our planet (ie. global warming) is in god's plan and we shouldn't do anything to stop it.

Keep that in mind the next time something bad happens - ie. a car accident. Do NOT stop to help someone, it is in god's plan. Stop screwing with god's actions!

I bring this up because a religidiot recently wrote in to the paper to encourage us to read our bible because it has so many truths in it. He also points out the environmentalists are pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia. Read the letter yourself: (note: for people who can't handle the idiocy of Harry's email, there is a response to him that follows)

WHY SAVE THE PLANET WITHOUT HUMANS?
Sir:A Toronto newspaper made an urgent appeal for public support for global governments regulating man-made gas emissions, in order to save the plant from destruction. Not necessarily true for the newspaper's editorial staff, but generally speaking, there are those, be it a minority, in this push for climate control (even if it means all nations will go bankrupt and lose their sovereignty to big-brother government(Competition for non-existent sky-daddy alert)) that are interested in saving the planet and all that it contains, except for its human inhabitants.
These pro warming or green globalist elites haven't any qualms for controlling or limiting the human population by mainly abortion and euthanasia. (Over population IS a problem but not solved by either abortion or euthanasia, it is best solved by encouraging priests to make more kool-aid.)
What good is it to save the planet without its human beings? (Ummm, we're not talking about saving the planet, you idiot. We're talking about enabling survival of humanity.)
The newspaper even had to admit reluctantly the unfortunate situation (for them) that there were scientists for global warming who were caught covering up by somehow distorting the scientific data. (Clearly Harry hasn't read his bible (see below) nor has he read past the headline for "climategate" is not what "climategaters" would like to think it is. They must figure that most people will, like themselves, not look it up.) Nevertheless, they stated the evidence was still there that the sky is about to fall unless we all do something quick about the climate.
That's an oxymoron. If anything, what this tampering and falsifying of scientific facts reveals is that the evidence must point in the other direction (False dichotomy - look it up. And I mean to suggest that even if his point were true about the falsification - which it isn't) -- that the universe is not about to implode upon our heads after all. (Nobody said anything about AGW causing the universe to implode. Okay, 'cept maybe idiots like Harry and his ilk.)
How insulting it must be to God (I've done my best to insult sky-daddy and his followers and thank you, Harry, for giving me such credit. Jesus loves you.) for us mere (you're mere, not I) mortals to think that we can upset the apple cart of God's finely precision-tuned, ever-expanding universe, but not so wonderfully created that man-made smoke, smog or whatever type of gas we spew into the atmosphere can knock the universe all out of kilter. (And not so finely precision-tuned that 99.9999% of the universe is not hospitable to his focus of creation. I'm not saying "God" is an idiot - you shouldn't be anthropomorphizing non-existent entities so I'm not going to!) Would that not mean that man is, in a sense, more powerful than God (Yep! I'm more powerful (really) than Santa Claus, unicorns, talking snakes, dragons, 600 year old boat builders, etc. Imagine it up and I'm more powerful than it.) or that man controls the climate and not God?
The Bible paints a scenario, especially in the Book of Revelation, of global warming of all sorts, all directed and controlled by Him alone. (If it is "Him" alone that controls all that, geez, what an assface! And I mean that in the "love your neighbour" kind of way. Damn it, I gave his imaginary friend human characteristics but Harry did it first.)
We would all do well to read the Bible -- for many reasons, of course (especially 'cause it has some pretty cool shit in it - Threesomes - two daughters with their father(and bible lovers wonder where porn studios come up with the ideas!), women bringing other women home for their husbands, murder, genocide, contradictions, absurdities and a whole bunch of other stuff common to mythology!!!!) -- but also to stay current with today's events. (Actually, "but also to keep your head shoved up your middle-age-worshipping ass")
-- Harry DeBoer Wyoming


And then, this weekend, someone with some sense actually gets a letter published in the same paper (Woohoo for another sane person in Sarnia)

WE NEED TO TAKE ACTION TO PRESERVE OUR SPECIES
Sir: I'm writing to rebut a dangerous opinion advocated by Mr. DeBoer in his letter to the editor, "Why save the planet without humans?" (The Observer, Dec. 15, 2009).
In his criticism of taking action against global warming, he says that "The Bible paints a scenario... of global warming... all directed and controlled by Him 1/8Christian God 3/8 alone." The implication is that we, humans, need not worry about issues like global warming because it is all God's will. This is a dangerous philosophy. This is the same line of thinking that allows sick children to die while devout parents delay travelling to the hospital waiting for God's healing. This is the line of thinking that advocates the suppression of birth control because God will feed the planet even at 10 billion. This is the line of thinking that promotes complacency in a world of 25,000 stockpiled nuclear weapons.
We need to take action to preserve our species. Acting against climate change isn't for the planet, it's for us and our current way of life.
Mr. DeBoer jokes that climate change advocates think that "whatever type of gas we spew into the atmosphere can knock the universe all out of kilter," but I assure him that is not the case. Our planet is only one of nine, orbiting a star that is one of 400 billion, in a galaxy that is one of billions. The universe, and the planet, will be fine, even without us.
Human history has been shaped by people taking action and, regardless of the deity fashionable at the time, will continue to be so shaped. It is irresponsible and dangerous to sit back and wait for God to save us. -- Brendan Wilson Sarnia


My only problem with Brendan's letter is his lack of ridicule. Otherwise, great work Brendan.

Video: Debunking the Detox Myth

A video from the SkepticZone Podcast:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If my prayers are answered, must there be a god?

Oral Roberts is dead so prayers must get answered - it is just a shame that it has taken god 11 years to answer them.

Maybe god will save a few more people from the 2004 tsunami, he just hasn't had a chance to get to it.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/12/15/oral.roberts/index.html

It is times like these that I truly wish there were an afterlife - Oral would be getting anal ;-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Trevor Hopwood: ENROLMENT PROCESS MAKES NO SENSE

Apparently I missed this letter to the editor in The Sarnia Observer.

http://theobserver.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2215125

ENROLMENT PROCESS MAKES NO SENSE
Sir:My wife and I read your articles about the Catholic school board having to close St. Patrick's High School for declining enrolment. These articles infuriated us.

We are non-Catholic. We tried to enrol our son into Junior Kindergarten at St. Anne's Elementary for September 2009. We were willing to transfer our portion of the school taxes to the Catholic system. We were denied due to "numbers."

We also have a daughter that would have started in September 2011.

There is another family on our block in the same situation. Their daughter started Junior Kindergarten this year as well and was denied to St. Anne's due to "numbers." So it is no wonder that they have a declining enrolment.

We only live a block away from the school and our son could have walked to school from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. I am sure there are a lot more people in our situation around the Rapids Parkway community. All the public school kids get bused out of this district and then all the buses line up every day bringing Catholic school kids into St. Anne's and St. Christopher's. This doesn't make sense.

Some rezoning needs to be reviewed which would allow more revenues to the Catholic school system. My son and many other public school kids would not need to use a bus for their entire elementary and high school years (which would save the system money).

I also read that the Catholic board wants $10 million of public funding to expand St. Christopher's School. Funny how they want public money but they won't let public kids enrol.

-- Trevor Hopwood Sarnia

Trevor is absolutely right - public money for public schooling, period. Ontario would not be the first province to ditch the two school board system and, believe it or not, kids in a single school system don't rob, kill or rape any more frequently than Catholic priests do (I would compare the statistics to kids raised in a Catholic school system but the priests are far worse).

And, Trevor, get your kids into the Catholic schools by doing what they do - LIE. Claim you're a Catholic - it's a far greater stretch to claim there is an all-knowing and all-powerful sky god who listens to billions of people praying. (I can promise you that there are many teachers who claim to be Catholics to increase their odds of getting job placements! And no sky pals for them!)

It's time for public education to be public education. Thanks for the letter to the editor Trevor.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Harriet Hall: The End of Chiropractic

A reader of my blog just forwarded me a link to Harriet Hall's article on Science Based Medicine.

I have some "posts in progress" that I haven't had a chance to finish - doing research is a lot more work than simply making stuff up - regarding Chiropractic but, until then, head over to The End of Chiropractic on the Science Based Medicine blog.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Inanity Continues

Another letter to the editor, in the Sarnia Observer, is published following Brian Edwards' "Christian Country" theme:
Sir: Regarding the letter by Brian Edwards published Dec. 3 ("Christ or Allah in our schools?")
Our country was founded by the Fathers of Confederation on Christian principles. The motto they chose is, "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea," from Psalm 72 in the Christian Bible, which these Founding Fathers habitually read.
Sir Isaac Newton is quoted, "There are more marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history."
Emmanuel Kant said, "The existence of the Bible as a book for the people is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity."
Let other people have their own beliefs, but let us understand that Canada was and is a Christian country.
M. H. Moir, Sarnia
M.H.: Whether or not Canada is a Christian Country (it isn't), your comments are a bit bewildering. What about comments/quotes from people like:

Mark Twain - Faith is believing what you know ain't so. / Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.
Robert Ingersoll - With soap, baptism is a good thing.
Albert Einstein - who also updated Newton's theories - I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own--a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.

Are we to forget about all the bad of the Christian religions because of something someone famous has said?

If Christianity is good for anything it is keeping our contractors employed during a depressed economy. Since there are no homeless and hungry people in Sarnia, local churches have been able to spend MILLIONS on renovations and upgrades - and they're doing it with reckless abandon apparently.

Thank you, Christian churches, for spending the money where it needs to be spent. Without your elaborate buildings and fixtures for the homeless to stare at in awe, they'd have nothing to live for.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brian Edwards' Letter to the Editor - The Observer (Sarnia)

In the Thursday, December 3rd edition of The Sarnia Observer, there is a letter to the editor from a "Brian Edwards". Rather than paraphrase it, here is the complete letter:
CHRIST OR ALLAH IN OUR SCHOOLS?
Sir:I was talking to a teacher from the Chatham-Kent school board and she told me about a program for building character in our school children. She signed up thinking it was a good idea. She went to the first meeting and was shocked to find that the program was about teaching our children that all gods are one god. This program wants to teach our children about other religions -- Muslim, Hindu, Buddhism, etc., but nothing about Christianity.


It just makes me wonder what our country is coming to, when our Christian heritage is pushed out the back door of our schools and governments. How can this be considered building character in our children by teaching them that what they see in the media about terrorism is okay to learn about in this religious program? I know that not all Muslims are terrorists, but if our children are allowed to learn about these religions and not our Christian heritage, they will end up thinking terrorism is okay if it is a religion.

I think it's time Canadians and Christians stand up for our heritage. This program should not be allowed in our schools if Christianity (Christmas, Easter, The Lord's Prayer, etc.) is not allowed in our schools. Has it come to the point where Christians and our government are too politically correct to put forward our heritage of Christianity that this country was built on?

As a Christian, I believe it is our duty as parents to teach our children about our heritage and stop worrying about other religions being insulted by Jesus Christ.

Come together Christians and stand up for Jesus. -- Brian Edwards
Sarnia



It would be one thing to argue "Religion should be kept out of schools altogether" but that is not what Brian is suggesting. Brian, "The Free Dictionary" online defines "bigot" as "One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ." To show that Brian is not a "bigot", I suspect he'll write a letter to the editor showing concern that Christianity is being taught in foreign nations that currently worship other gods or traditions. His letter will complain that Christianity should not be taught in third-world nations because of the horrible history that it has (or have Christians forgot about their even recent history?) and he'll actively support the continued instruction of their equally silly myths and traditions without interference from Christianity.

Many have suggested (and I would tend to agree with) the idea of teaching comparative religions. If the "program" that Brian is referring to is just that, it might be a great idea and could show teachers and students how silly all religions are. After all, all gods are the same - they fail to exist*.

And, Brian, does Jesus really need you to stand up for him? Couldn't your almighty, all-knowing and all-powerful (but imaginary) friend handle this battle himself? Couldn't he simply make the people instructing the course speak in tongues so no one could understand the course that is being taught? Would that not achieve your goal? And, even better, it'd be a bit of evidence to support your beliefs!

Happy Winter Solstice Brian!

*I say that in the "almost certainly do not exist" sense but until evidence is presented for the existence of a god, I would suggest that they do not exist.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Skeptic North: Fake Doctors With Real Drugs: The News From Canada

Sorry for the long delay in getting a post up. I've been busy becoming a nutritionist (It is hard work becoming something that anyone can claim to be!). Below is an important message about a law in Ontario that should concern you.

Reposted from "Swift"
(http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/786-fake-doctors-with-real-drugs-the-news-from-canada.html)

Dear Swift Friends:
My name is Steve Thoms and I'm the editor of the new pan-Canadian skeptic blog, Skeptic North. Thanks to some friendly promotional assistance from Phil Plait, Skepchick.org and many other sites to whom our team owes a debt of gratitude, you may have heard of us by now. If not, that's okay, because we've only launched on October 1st. We're a team of skeptical writers, professionals and activists from across Canada, brought together in one place for the first time. Our aim is to be the authority of all things related to skepticism in Canada, and it is with this last point in mind that I come to you all with an urgent call for action and assistance.

As Skeptic North's resident science-based pharmacist reported week, the Ontario legislature is poised to grant prescription rights to naturopaths. I think I hardly need explain to Swift readers how dangerous this is, but please indulge me in a little exposition.

Bill 179 was introduced in the spring of this year as a way of expanding scope-of-practice for health care professionals in Ontario, including (but not limited to) nurses, midwives, pharmacists and radiologists. Such an expansion was recommended by the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC), and this organization also recommended further that naturopaths be granted prescription rights. The Bill would have aimed to do this by amending a previous act of the Ontario Legislature, the Naturopathy Act, 2007. In this act, a "naturopath" is defined simply as someone who graduated from one of the two naturopathic colleges in Canada (neither of which are affiliated with any Canadian accredited university, and have extensive courses in homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and colonic hydrotherapy). After the first reading of the bill, the HPRAC's recommendation for naturopath prescribing rights were soundly rejected. Before the bill's second-reading, a coalition of naturopathic associations organized a write-in campaign to put the naturopathic amendment back into the bill, and they were successful on Oct 20.

The bill itself has gone through two readings so far, and the third and final reading has been ordered (but not yet scheduled). The current session of the Ontario legislature will likely be over in less than a month, so the bill will likely be presented for it's third reading, at which point it will be enshrined in law. Then naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, and Reiki practitioners will have the right to prescribe anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, and narcotic (just to name a few) medications.

Supporters of the naturopath expansion have framed this issue in two disingenuous and/or problematic narratives: one of freedom, and one of access. The former is being presented as allowing Ontario citizens the freedom to seek out alternative health modalities and freedom for naturopaths to prescribe medications that they need to; the latter as a way of dealing with the doctor shortage. Both of these arguments are deeply concerning, because a) there is no law in Canada that prohibits citizens from seeking alternative treatments, and b) if a person who requires legitimate medical attention and feels they are unable to see a doctor in a timely manner, they are far more likely to seek out alternative avenues, potentially finding a dangerously-untrained and under-qualified naturopath.

This is not a matter of freedom of choice, nor is it a matter of helping deal with the doctor shortage. This is about granting political legitimacy to a pseudo-science when it's practitioners are unable to gain legitimacy the way that conventional medicine does: through science, evidence, testing, and peer-review. Most people are not skeptics, and when they hear "Naturopathic Doctor," many are just as likely to see the holder of title as just another primary care provider. Think about that when your mother needs heart medication, or your nephew gets an ear infection.

Defeating a bill in its third reading is rare, but not impossible. I'm asking for all Swift readers (especially the Canadians and Ontarians) to email the Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, and (dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org), as well as the Minister of Long-Term Health and Care, Deb Mattews, (dmatthews.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org). It would also be wise to CC the same email to Andrea Horwath, leader of the New Democratic Party (ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca) and Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (tim.hudakco@pc.ola.org). The bill is under review by the Standing Committee on Social Policy (for a complete list of the members of the committee, click here), so Ontario residents would do well to email them as well. Remember to CC all correspondences, so that everyone knows who else is reading what.

For further information, visit the above links as well as my own follow-up posts here and here. These links will provide a helpful background and analysis of the practice of naturopathy, its academic standards, the bill itself, and how best to respond. British Columbia has already passed similar legislation, but it's generally the way of things in Canada that however Ontario goes, so-goes the rest of Canada. We really need everyone's help defeating this affront to health care standards and patient safety. If we beat them in Ontario, we just might stop them in their tracks.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me directly at skepticnorth@gmail.com.

Thanks a million
Steve Thoms
Editor-in-Chief,
Skeptic North
www.skepticnorth.com

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Simply repeating lies does not make them truths

Over the past many weeks, I've encountered a great number of people who are misinformed about vaccinations/immunizations and the concern of the novel Influenza A H1N1. Previous posts have addressed the science and statistics behind this but I am constantly bombarded with "it was rushed through" or countless "personal stories" (anecdotes).

I must first say that anecdotes would be more useful if they weren't regularly complete lies. I had a follower of my blog (who wishes to remain anonymous) send me an email about statements posted on Facebook relating to Gary Null and a response that he (the facebook user) had sent to someone about the video. Much of what he had sent (as a response) was spot-on. He provided many links and valid questions that people should be asking about Gary Null (not a real doctor, by the way - at best he paid the shipping and handling on a fake Ph.D.).

What followed, yesterday, was amazing. A response from someone (not known to my blog follower, he suggests) who called him "uneducated" (among other things) and then suggested that someone close to her received a shot and couldn't walk or talk after that.*

Other points that were made (and I see and hear them all the time) were:
"We stopped testing for H1N1 on September 30 so any numbers about deaths are just guesses"
"The flu shot causes GBS" (this girl even went as far as to say that IN SARNIA in a dentist office of only 4000 clients, they have 7 people with GBS)
"It is all hype"
"It is no worse than the common flu"

And, as expected, a link to "Dr Mercola"'s site. (Note "Dr" Mercola is not an MD, he's an osteopath)

First, let me say, that dealing with idiocy is an uphill battle. It takes a long time to dispel myths and falsities - longer than many people are willing to focus on a particular issue. The anti-vax movement wins because people don't understand the real issues at hand and they don't put much value on the protection of the lives of others.

The suggestion that we "stopped testing for H1N1" is possibly an accurate one as it relates to testing everyone who presents with symptoms. With an overwhelming percentage of the samples tested coming back as H1N1, the need to keep testing everyone who presents with flu like symptoms disappears. It is a confirmed FACT that the 2009 Pandemic H1N1 is present in all Canadian provinces. We don't need to keep testing to prove that.

We are, however, still "testing" for deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions attributed to the H1N1 flu. There's even a website that you can go to that is updated twice weekly with the deaths.
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/alert-alerte/h1n1/surveillance-eng.php
The "FluWatch" that is put out by the Public Health Agency of Canada reports the hospitalizations and ICU admissions - but on a slightly less frequent basis. The most recent at the time of writing is:
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fluwatch/09-10/w43_09/index-eng.php

Addressing the "flu shot causes GBS" claim is a little bit different. Scientific studies have shown that the prevalence of GBS in vaccinated populations is not statistically different from the baseline - about 1 in 1,000,000 (1 million). The risk of dying from GBS is less than 4 in 100,000,000 (100 million). As Dr. Novella (a REAL doctor) says: "If recognized early and treated properly, most patients with GBS have a short illness – days to weeks – and recover nearly fully. However, severe or untreated cases can result in permanent paralysis and there is a 3-4% death rate." Given that people who get flu shots over-report symptoms, it is likely that anyone receiving a flu shot would quickly present themselves for treatment if GBS symptoms occurred.

The risk, however, by simply looking at CURRENT numbers (up to November 10th, 2009) of DYING from the Pandemic H1N1 2009 flu is, well, let's do the math together:
Canadians as of 2008: 33,311,389
Deaths from H1N1 2009 to date: 135
Chance of dying from H1N1 = 1 in 246,751

When weighing the risk versus the benefit, the reward is substantial.

Heck, let's compare hospitalizations from GBS to Hospitalizations from H1N1:
Up until Oct 31, there have been 2440 CONFIRMED cases of H1N1 requiring hospitalization (661 during the week of Oct 25 - 31 alone - Stats for November are not listed on the site at the time of writing)
1 in 1,000,000 GBS cases = 33 GBS cases in Canada (I could not find any data that suggests ANY GBS cases in Canada in 2009 - if you come across any, please let me know at skeptic@sarnia.com)
That means that you are almost 74 times more likely to end up in the hospital with H1N1 being the cause than you will from GBS. (Keep in mind that the chance you will present with GBS does not change whether or not you get the H1N1 shot - so maybe you could be lucky and come down with both the flu and GBS.)

I could go on with statistics - heck, from August to October 31, over 14,000 people (of the limited numbers that were submitted for testing) presented themselves with H1N1 symptoms - with laboratory confirmations to boot! You do that math.

And 7 people with GBS going to a dentist's office with a patient base of only 4,000 - that's something that neither our "Health Unit" nor Bluewater Health could support. Considering any noticeable form of GBS would require hospitalization, we're left with calling this one bullsh!t.*

"It is all hype" is one that I don't fully disagree with. The panic over limited supply of the H1N1 shot was a mess. Personal interest stories like the 13 year old boy dying and the 2 month old dying (for cases close to Sarnia, anyway), drove demands for the immunization. Luckily Sarnia didn't face any real shortages (for the "at risk" population anyway) so the panic wasn't seen here.

Hype is all about perspective. I do agree that the risk of dying from H1N1 is not "high" compared to other things. What I don't agree with is that it is "just" hype - the threat is real, the deaths are real and the methods of prevention that we have are real. The risks of not being immunized FAR out-weigh any supposed risk of actually getting the shot. The risk of being hit by a car is not "high" but we still take the precautions of checking both ways before we cross the street.

"It's no worse than the seasonal/common flu" is a horrible, horrible, horrible argument to start with. The seasonal flu is terrible. On average, in Canada alone, 4,000 people died as a result of contracting the seasonal flu. Yeah, who cares about 4,000 people? We have a safe and effective means of reducing the transmission of the seasonal flu and, with greater numbers being immunized, we'd see a reduction in the number of deaths. Learn more. However, the links above (FluWatch) points to H1N1 being worse than the seasonal flu. Check the data, it speaks volumes.

As for "Dr." Mercola (not a real doctor(MD), he's an osteopath), consider some links I've posted before as well as some new ones.

http://genome.fieldofscience.com/2009/09/scare-mongering-about-flu-vaccine-and.html
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2116
http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/mercola.htm

*A final note about anecdotes: When medical stories that would be headline-making don't make even the local newspaper, it's not a conspiracy between the newspaper, everyone who works there, the medical industry, all scientists and every person who hears the story. It's probably just made up or has a much different explanation than they want you to believe.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If only facts spoke for themselves...

Before I get into my posting, let me apologize to religious people - but not all religious people, the ones that practice it privately and don't let it affect their logical thinking when it comes to other aspects of life. Having said that, people making decisions based on non-existent sky deities are silly, don't get me wrong. The decision to support an organization that preaches the existence of a sky fairy is mind-boggling.

Apparently that doesn't piss me off as much as people speaking (preaching) with authority on things which they are ill-informed. I don't have a problem with a person choosing to remain ignorant but when they speak to others and suggest others do insane things based on their malformed opinions, they're nothing short of loathsome.

"There is a sky fairy" is far less dangerous (it leads to other crazy, wild and dangerous things, sure) than someone saying "the H1N1 vaccine kills more people than the H1N1 flu does".

Scientists (yeah, I'm talking to you!) need to get their heads out of the sand - facts, alone, don't speak for themselves. The evidence shows the efficacy of the H1N1 vaccine and the risks of being vaccinated (immunized really, but I won't get into that) are absolutely INSIGNIFICANT compared to the REAL risk of contracting the H1N1 virus. Yet, with all that, people are still (wrongly) preaching against getting immunized.

The trouble with science is that the scientific method works - scientists do not speak with certainty on anything and it is the provisional status of "truth" that makes science work. The willingness to accept where the evidence leads is what brings about updated theories and, as it applies to medicine, improved procedures and medicine and a continual improvement in the reduction of human suffering.

The overwhelming consensus among scientists is that the H1N1 virus is PANDEMIC and is a serious threat to even healthy people (oddly, maybe more dangerous to them!). Scientists, however, are not media figures, they aren't interested in the publicity and often aren't the best people to popularize their fields. This is what needs to change.

If someone suggests to you that there are legitimate reasons to not get vaccinated, they are based on falsities, myths and/or blatant lies.

It is not only the right thing for you to do for yourself (protect yourself by being immunized - especially by a vaccine that is a near perfect match to the virus!), it is your obligation to your fellow human beings.

If the evidence (facts), alone, spoke for themselves, there would be a number of things that would be different.

For example, there would be:
- No anti-vax movement
- No homeopathy, reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture
- Fewer viral infections (immunizations work - small pox, polio, etc.)
- Less people taking antibiotics
- No Young Earth Creationists
- No anti-evolution movement
- No faith healers
- No need for me to get pissed off about such blatant ignoramuses

Having said all that, Amy Wallace got a LOT of response to her article about the war on science and the anti-vax movement - some of it might bring you to tears.
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/readers-respond-to-an-epidemic-of-fear-part-1/
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/readers-respond-to-an-epidemic-of-fear-part-2/

Please, educate yourself (at the very least before you find a soap box).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paul Morden Gets It Right: There is no God

Paul Morden is a reporter at our local paper, The Sarnia Observer. He recently posted a column about being too lazy to get the H1N1 vaccine. As much as I can understand the lack of desire for people to wait in line to get the flu shot, unlike the virus itself, the wait won't potentially kill you.

In Paul's column, he speaks about being able to get anywhere in our city in about 10 minutes. We don't have much traffic (though right now, we have lots of construction) and our pedestrian traffic hardly slows turns at intersections. He says "We treat having to wait for a pedestrian to clear an intersection, when we want to turn, like a supreme travesty of justice, or just one more piece of evidence that there is no God."

I agree with Paul that "God" almost certainly does not exist. And, if having to wait for a pedestrian is another piece of evidence, you'd need a helicopter to get that piece of evidence to the top of the pile.

Thank you, Paul, for being a skeptic when it comes to religion and thank you, again, for not making my wait for the vaccine another person longer. However, I hope laziness isn't what ends up killing you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Really Paul? That's the craziest part of the religion?

As, I'm sure, many of you have already heard, Paul Haggis has left the Church of Scientology after 35 years.
Paul Haggis was born in London, Ontario - about an hour from where I call home and is known for writing and directing films such as "Crash" and writing "Million Dollar Baby".

Having another member of the cult (Scientology is definitely a cult) leave is a good thing - having some of the darkest and deepest crazy ideas exposed is even better. Unfortunately, however, Paul sees "homophobia" as the craziest part.

Admittedly, being against Prop8 or against equal rights for all humans is nasty and despicable - something only the most bigoted organizations (churches/religions) could do. The idea, however, isn't so crazy - millions of people hold to that absurd religious dogma. It isn't the domain, simply, of Scientology.

The majority of Scientology (not the anti-gay position) makes the craziness of Mormonism seem believable. The story of Galactic Overlord Xenu, the use of Purification Rundowns and Introspection Rundowns and the claims about the E-Meter are purely unbelievable.
I know, I know, Scientology was also created by a Sci-Fi author (L.Ron Hubbard) but, seriously, the stories of every other religion are just made up too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bonnie Kearns' Letter to the Editor

As a primer, check out BBC News (UK) and their article on "Anglicans ponder Rome invitation".

Bonnie Kearns (the person who submitted the following letter to the editor of our local newspaper) points out the oddity of the Church being led by men (As Bill Maher says in Religulous (and I paraphrase) "and by men, I mean people with penises") - oh, and the obvious part about religion being oppressive.

A STEP FORWARD FOR MANKIND?

Sir: I've been following the news about the reconciliation between the Anglican and Catholic churches. Hallelujah, hallelujah, for now after many years they are coming together. And why? Is it because of love, joy and commitment to be serve humankind? No it's because the Catholic church is a tad shy of priests and rather than do the right thing -that being to allow women to be priests -they invite the Anglican church so they can continue their "good old boys club" values.
I'm getting really tired of the fact that being a spiritual leader in the Catholic Church requires a male appendage.
I've lived in Afghanistan and I've seen firsthand how women live lives of suppression and oppression. But you don't have to travel that far to see inequity and exclusion.
I always wondered why the benches in church are called pews but now I'm starting to get a whiff of why.
-- Bonnie Kearns Sarnia


Another excellent article written about this subject is by Paula Kirby - Business as usual for Vatican Enterprises, Inc.

Update: Richard Dawkins jumps in!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chatting With Mormons!

I just received an email from a blog regular and, I have to admit, chatting with Mormons (Mormons? What's the extra "m" for?) does look like fun!

He claims he was on the About.com "Atheism" site and saw an ad for Chatting with Mormons and was tempted (by the devil, obviously) to visit it.

Here's his chat transcript: (Though I suspect if time was spent on planning the direction of the conversation, one could have endless amounts of fun! Sure, take that as a challenge!)

(The top of the chat says: You are speaking with Kerry, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information provided in this session is to provide assistance only and is not an official statement of the Church.)

Kerry: hey , this is ashley and kerry, what brings you to the site today?
Visitor: questions (and an ad)
Visitor: I was raised Catholic but left the faith at about 17 or 18. What is different about moronism?
Kerry: ok great, we're here to help in any way we can
Visitor: I have a couple friends who are Mormons but some of the story seems a bit unbelievable.
Visitor: I am looking for a community of like-minded people so I thought I'd come check it out.
Kerry: what is it that seems unbelievable to you? we can start from there
Visitor: Joseph Smith, really. Much of that story seems a bit odd. Mind you I've only heard it from only semi-educated mormons (they wouldn't be theologians by any stretch of the imagination - just followers of the faith)
Visitor: The special undergarments, the story of the garden of eden being in the US, natives being the lost tribe of israel, are a bit strange, too, I must add.
Visitor: Aside from that, my two friends are awesome people and I don't think they'd be the type of people to be swayed by a bunch of made up stuff. They probably just don't articulate well.
Kerry: how old are you ?
Visitor: 23
Visitor: They are 23 and 27.
Kerry: that's a good age
Visitor: I'm enjoying it!
Kerry: especially to look into finding the truth
Visitor: Yeah, I think I need to give it an honest go.
Kerry: im sure your friends know what they are talking about and are strong in their beliefs too. we're glad you're willing to 'give it an honest go'
Kerry: we're missionaries from the church and we
Visitor: To mormons, how old is the earth?
Kerry: are here to help explain some of our beliefs and help you make that step yourself
Kerry: missionaries in your area can also come over and explain more to help you understand the gospel of jesus Christ which is faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost and then enduring to the end.
Kerry: i don't think the 'mormons' have a definite answer to how old the earth is.
Visitor: But evolution is accepted and the like?
Kerry: we have no stand on evolution either way
Visitor: good, because I'm studying biology and I'm having a hard time with the idea that the earth is only 10,000 years old
Kerry: i can imagine with your search that you're also finding a balance between school and religion
Visitor: that is important
Kerry: it seems that you are open minded and willing to learn though
Kerry: what do you know about Joseph Smith
Visitor: Yeah - just not so open minded the my brain falls out.
Kerry: haha you have personality too, that's good
Visitor: Well, from what I understand, he claims to have found some gold tablets and, with the help of a stone (?) was able to translate what was on the tables. (Did anyone else see the tablets?)
Kerry: we are wanting to meet with you more than just today to help you understand at a pace (so your braind DOESNT fall out)
Visitor: His wife got upset that he was cheating on her (taking another wife?) so she destroyed the translation and he started over.
Kerry: yes, actually 11 others were able to see them. in the front of the Book of Mormon there is the testimony of three witnesses and the Testimony of eight witnesses which you can read
Kerry: that part about Emma (his wife) isn't true.
Visitor: oh, that's good to know
Kerry: he didn't start over. after the first 116 pages had been translated, his scribe Oliver Cowdery wanted to show them to his family.
Kerry: he took them and then a mob came and stole them. they planned to change the wording, have Joseph Smith retranslate them and then try to prove he was a false prophet because it wouldnt have matched with the one they had possession of
Kerry: God told Joseph not to retranslate it for the safety of the truth.
Visitor: of course he would!
Visitor: two copies of the truth would be a bit much?
Kerry: tell us about it! we're slightly short on time at the moment but we'd like to set up a time tomorrow when we can tell you more about Joseph Smith and help you understand this story better.
Kerry: (especially if one was changed so that it could make out there was no truth in the first place)
Visitor: good point
Kerry: so is tomorrow good for you or maybe sunday?
Visitor: Tomorrow isn't going to be good. I am going to church with on Sunday (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) but what about Monday?
Kerry: monday sounds perfect! where abouts are you at? we have to make sure of time differences when we set up a time
Visitor: I do like the Mormon story better - the story about Jesus seems so absurd. At least Joseph Smith actually existed.
Kerry: i'm sorry, i don't understand
Visitor: I'm in the Eastern Time Zone
Kerry: what time is it there now?
Kerry: what is your email address so we can send you a link to the chat page for monday
Visitor: You don't understand about Jesus? In the Catholic church, they believe in a guy named "Jesus" who was born (well, they haven't decided when he was born, really - it could be a couple possible dates, years apart) of a virgin, died on the cross, etc. but there exists no evidence of him actually ever living. Are you not familiar with the Catholic story?
Visitor: It's 2:55PM here.
Kerry: yes, i am familiar with the catholic beliefs. there seems a lot we can talk about on Monday. When you go to church, you'll hear Jesus mentioned a lot. He is the son of God and did come to earth. he allowed us to return back to live with God.
Visitor: Oh.. so you believe that crazy Jesus story AND the odd stuff about Joseph Smith? That's not possible. (Please don't tell me you actually do have magic underwear too?)
Kerry: so on Monday, does morning, afternoon, or evening work best for you?

The conversation goes into them setting up another discussion for Monday. I hope we get to see the results of that!

I love the story about the translation going missing and that Joseph wouldn't retranslate it. I've heard a number of excuses on that.

Sadly, the Mormon story is batshit crazy. It is only crazier than the Christian story because they believe that one too!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Please stop believing woo-woo, we have better things to study

Recently the University of York released a study indicating that magnetic bracelets are inneffective at reducing arthritis pain.

In this scam alone, millions of dollars have been wasted by people hoping for a solution to their pain - swindled away from them by people falsely claiming the effectiveness of their woo-woo.

While the study's results are not surprising, it raises an interesting point regarding such studies and the need for them. When a study, like the University of York's, comes out that shows that there is no benefit (at least not greater than placebo) to a treatment, it reaffirms, for many of us, what we've already assumed. This particular study was the first done on these specific claims in about 30 years - so, until now, we've had little (as skeptics) to point to to confirm our suspicions.

However, for most other "alternative" therapies, there are already substantial and consistent studies showing the ineffectiveness (or dangers) yet people continue to subscribe to such irrationality. Countless studies have shown that reflexology, chiropractic, aromatherapy, homeopathy and most other alternative "medicines" or "therapies" are not effective and can be deadly/dangerous.

The problem is a difficult one to tackle but it is something that NEEDS to happen. I am not sure that doing the studies, however, solves much.

If a scientific study was all that was necessary to change the minds of people, chiropractic (at least as we know it), reflexology, homeopathy, ear candling, aromatherapy, acupuncture and many more services would be non-existent. Psychics, faith healers, preachers, dowsers, priests, sorcerers, witches and many others would be out of business.

Society needs to return to respecting and supporting science and change to a "prove it" attitude for positive assertions/claims. We are wasting (yes, WASTING) unimaginable amounts of money debunking woo-woo - these dollars could be better spent on solving the problems that cause the symptoms in the first place.

When someone makes a claim about something that just doesn't sound right - ask them for the evidence. You may just end up saving yourself some time and money - it could even save your life. (See the latest eSkeptic for information on How Chiropractic Kills)

Update: Since posting this, I visited www.sciencebasedmedicine.org and a recent article on Aggressive Quackery Marketing has some comments regarding people continuing to accept woo-woo even after science has shown it to be ineffective. View the comments - specifically by Dr. Benway (of Tufted Titmouse).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Let me begin by saying I'm a skeptic too...

Often when talking with people who believe in the paranormal, pseudoscience, gods and other forms of woo-woo, they will preface their "argument" with claiming to be a skeptic too. A statement like that says many things - it gives me reason for hope (I'll explain) and a clear indication that what they are about to say is going to disprove their claim.

I'm hopeful and reassured by people saying they're skeptics too as I think it is important that we 're-claim' the word/title. Too often skepticism and the word skeptic is a negative term when it shouldn't be. Holding off on making judgment until the evidence favours one is a GOOD thing, a positive thing and it is nice to see that people use the term in a positive sense. (As in, "I'm as good as any at being skeptical, but...").

The phrase, "I'm a skeptic, but" almost always leads to a statement of faith that is based on a lack of evidence or in spite of the evidence. Last night, I was speaking with one of my wife's friends who said "I'm a serious skeptic, but, I did have this psychic one time who was able to tell me... ". The lady went on to tell me how her husband was amazed at some of the things she said and that there was no way for the psychic to have known without truly having psychic powers.

Discussing a topic like a personal experience and the fallibility of the human mind is tough with someone who firmly believes the story the way they are telling it. Stories like this are often embellished and or mis-remembered and certainly only relate to the "hits" that the psychic had and does not include the "misses".

A true skeptic (speaking about the person experiencing/enduring a psychic reading), before asserting that a person has psychic abilities, would have required more evidence for any "hits" that were made and counted the "misses".

For the hits, is there any possible way that psychic could have known these things? Was it just a guess? For this lady, she said that the psychic knew that her husband's birthday was in December - and how could she have known that? Odds alone suggest that it wasn't too far fetched to suggest a simple guess. Did the psychic say "Oh, and I know your husband was born in December"? Or did she possibly say "I feel that someone in your family was born around the holiday season?" (Which could have been November, December or January) or something else vague? Is it more likely that she saw the sticker on your licence plate before she entered your home and noticed that it was set to expire in December (in Ontario, plates renew on your birthday)?

Along the lines of "what is more likely", Michael Shermer's talk on Why People Believe Weird Things at TED is well worth viewing.

Are You Risking the Lives of Others?

I have spent much time addressing claims that the MMR vaccine is associated with Autism (it isn't). Study after study after study have shown that there is no causal link between the MMR vaccine and the incidence of autism. That is a dead issue.

However, the anti-vaccination movement has spilled over (and has been brewing, obviously, for a number of years) into seasonal flu and, more importantly, H1N1 vaccination myths.

I won't go into what herd immunity is or even the thimerosal arguments - I addressed them in an old blog posting (Jenny McCarthy is my hero).

Wired Magazine has recently published an article, "An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All" that is well worth the read. It is a lengthy article but explains the war on science, a little history of the anti-vax movement and addresses a great number of the myths that still surround vaccinations.

In the end, the Anti-Vax movement's greatest weapon? Lies. The misinformation might kill or harm you or someone you love.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Tar Tar Pits: Rancho La Brea

On Sunday of the AAI conference, the American Atheists organized a half-day Los Angeles bus trip that included stops at the Page Museum and in Santa Monica. Somewhere around 100 people took advantage of the offer. With so many atheists in just a couple of buses, you would have thought that 'God' would have had some fun with us. The joke, really, was on her/him/it.

If you're not familiar with Rancho La Brea (they're often called The La Brea Tar pits, which means "Tar Tar pits"), you should work to change that. From what I understand, there is no Spanish word for "asphalt" and that is why they're called "Tar pits" - even though it isn't tar.


La Brea is home to some of the best preserved and most numerous fossils from a recent ice age. Inside the Page Museum, they have reconstructed a number of species using real fossils from those specific species - that, due to the true unlikelihood of fossilization and the usual destruction of animals prior to fossilization, is amazing. What is more amazing (to young earth creationists, anyway) is that the fossils range in age from twice the age of the earth to about 8 times as old as the earth. (11,000 years to 50,000 years old - they were between 5,000 and 44,000 years old before god even created the earth!)

If you're ever in the Los Angeles, California, area, make sure to include a trip the Page Museum - you'll be amazed at what is inside!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's no longer a 'secret'...

Believing absurd things can be deadly.

James Arthur Ray is featured in "The Secret"and has been seen on Oprah Winfrey (as well as others) but his latest accomplishment is proving that following him can be deadly.

This just goes to prove that thinking critically might just save your life.

As I've referenced before, http://www.whatstheharm.net/ - it's worth a visit.

Think.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wow, what a convention

As readers of my blog will know, a number of people from Sarnia traveled to Burbank, California for the Atheist Alliance International Conference "Darwin's Legacy".

The attendance at the conference was well over what they anticipated (PZ Myers' talk was so busy that people were sitting in the aisles, standing along the walls and listening (as much as the could) from just outside the doors of the room).

I have a number of interesting stories to tell and some pictures to show from the event. I haven't had a chance to copy the pictures from my cameras yet and, with having to go back to work tomorrow, I'm sure the next few days will be hectic too.

The AAI convention, this year, was co-sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. With such a sponsorship, a number of the talks were more reason and science focused which made for an educating and enligthening weekend. Carolyn Porco (an atheist*) was one of the speakers - Carolyn was the "real person" behind the character that Jodie Foster played in Carl Sagan's epic Contact.

From the world of podcasts, I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with Brother Richard (Atheist News)(also of Atheist Nexus) and David Driscoll (American Freethought). Both of these guys were, like most atheists, friendly, well-spoken, articulate, approachable and funny.

Contrary to other conventions I've been to (outside the freethinking/skeptic/atheist movement), the speakers are not put on a pedestal away from the conference attendees. After most speakers had a chance to present, attendees were given an opportunity to ask questions or point out areas where they disagree. Even more amazing is that most of the speakers were around for the full convention and, when they could, would engage in conversations with the rest of us.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll get some of my pictures posted and tell you, more in depth, about my experience at the event.

*An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in gods. Sorry Carolyn.

I don't believe that...

Religulous has been out for almost a year and, admittedly, it is a funny movie but with a really serious message (which, in hindsight, takes a lot of the fun out of it). I recently had a discussion with a "believer" about the film and, as it often does, apparently nobody believes what so many people believe. Odd statement, but let me explain.

In Religulous, Bill Maher lets people state their beliefs and, unfortunately, didn't confront much of the absurdity. He did, however, enable them to expand on their absurd statements which added to the hilarity. (I think he should have tackled some of the claims - many are easily countered but, I suspect, for the sake of comedy, they weren't.)

This particular gentleman and most "believers" that I've spoken with about the film will claim something along the lines of "Bill just taped the wackos or the fringe, most people don't believe that stuff". Unfortunately that is not at all true.

I like to then ask questions like "Do you believe in a talking snake?" or "Do you believe that a man (Jonah) lived in a giant fish (or a whale) for 3 days?" or "Do you believe that man lived to be hundreds of years old?"

If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, then hearing simply the question and that answer would elicit laughter by most thinking people. This is pretty much what Bill Maher did in some of the movie. These people aren't "odd" or on the fringe - these same answers would be given by many mainstream believers. (That doesn't and shouldn't make them any less absurd, though.)

Having said all that, there are many believers who don't believe in the literal interpretation of the flood story, the creation story or the talking snake. Often I'm told, when I point out absurdities, that "I don't believe that" or "Most christians don't believe that". It just goes to make my point in my "Not Your God" posting from last year.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thank you for your concern

Three months ago, I wrote a blog posting about Jack Black saying that the bible was written by an idiot (I disagreed).

I just had to approve a comment made on September 25, in response to that posting, and I just want to publicly thank the anonymous author who said:
We will see who the idiots are come judgement day. May GOD have mercy on your stupidity. I truly hope you see the error of your ways before it is too late. Just because you don't believe it does not mean that it does not exist.
And, conversely, Mr. Anonymous, simply because you believe it, does not make it true/real. I do completely agree that we will see who the idiots are - fortunately we are able to point out people like you on a daily basis - we don't have to wait for some event that will never happen. Your myths don't scare me.

Thank you, Mr. Anonymous, for reminding me that stupidity still thrives. It makes all this truly worth it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Unicorn Delusion

Despite claims in numerous books and the personal testimony of countless people, the reality is that unicorns almost certainly do not exist*.

Oddly, few people will "flame" me for making that statement - likely because most people also agree with that assertion.

There is evidence for the existence of unicorns - one of the most popular books of all times speak of them. Countless people have had dreams that have involved unicorns and others have reported that they've seen unicorn shaped clouds in the sky.

Despite all of that, logical people will say that unicorns do not exist and that simply dreaming about them, reading about them or seeing an imaginary image of one doesn't constitute proof of some thing's existence. I'm sure you would agree.

*Nobody can, honestly, claim that unicorns don't exist - so "almost certainly" is an accurate statement. There is no evidence to support the existence of unicorns, fairies, dragons, talking snakes, men living in huge fish (or whale) for three days or, for that matter, any personal gods - yours included.

I figured I had to write this blog because of people claiming that we spend a lot of time arguing about the non-existence of something we believe does not exist. Just as we tackle believers in ghosts, alien abductions, psychic powers and other non-existent things, if you argued about the existence of unicorns, I'd, to be consistent, say you were deluded about that too.

Oh.. and the book that talks about unicorns also talks about talking snakes (talking donkeys too!), dragons, men living in huge fish (or whale) for three days - the Bible. Outside of the Bible, there is support for many things that we know, today, to be non-existent but the Bible tops it by adding one more thing that has no other supporting evidence - Jesus. Chances are.. if you follow.. that Jesus may be just as mythical as the unicorn.

(Note: I say "giant fish (or whale)" because the King James Version of the bible says "whale" and the New International Version says "huge fish". It is important to make that distinction because a whale is not a fish. Surely "Mr. All Knowing" knew that?)

If you took offense to what I have said above, you might be interested in the Talking Snake Theory.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

What if evolution is disproved?

Though there is a greater chance that the earth will be proved flat than there is that evolution will be disproved, what would happen if it were to be disproven?

Though Intelligent Design proponents spend an awful lot of time trying (miserably) to poke holes in Evolution, their followers and other "teach the controversy" believers fail to realize one major thing - disproving Evolution does not make Intelligent Design true.

Theories are replaced with theories that explain everything the previous theory explained and explain additional evidence and processes. Ignoring any evidence makes it an invalid theory. One theory being falsified does not make another true by default. Each theory has to stand on its own - explain the evidence, be falsifiable and make predictions.

In that sense, Intelligent Design has failed to present even a single theory (by theory, I mean scientific theory - and YES, it has to be a SCIENTIFIC theory if they want it taught in SCIENCE class).

And, in case you think I doubt the theory and fact of evolution, evolution IS a FACT and it is a theory that has faced greater scrutiny than probably any major scientific theory presented to date - its predictions have been accurate and the evidence supports the theory.

If you believe in Intelligent Design, it is, as your belief in god, against all evidence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bananaman Strikes Again - And you wonder why we're pissed? (Updated)

Okay, so atheists aren't really pissed, we're generally not strident and we don't kill people because of their beliefs (or lack thereof).

There is good reason for non-believers and rational thinkers to get upset with the antics of people like this. Believers, too, should be standing up to the inanity that is the bananaman and his cohort Kirk Cameron.

Bananaman and Kirk Cameron, on November 19, 2009, are going to distribute copies of Origins of Species by Charles Darwin for free to university students - 50,000 copies! The problem is that the copies will be prefaced with a 50 page intro that claims Evolution has never been proven and even suggests that Darwin helped inspire the Holocaust! The second catch is that it is an abridged version - cut to about HALF of its original size by their ministry.

The 50 page intro can be found here:
http://c0122981.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/090917BananaManIntro.pdf

To understand how valid the arguments are in the 50 page intro, you'll need to first watch this video and then their introduction.





Well, I have read the 50 page "intro" that is going to be included in the copies of "Origin" that they're going to be handing out.

There is absolutely nothing surprising in it - it is exactly the same bullshit that Ray Comfort has spewed before (it is the exact same bullshit that has been completely torn to pieces by thousands of people already). Ray Comfort is great at quote mining, making shit up and lying with a straight face.

I suspect that much of what is said in there will come as a real surprise to most Christians (and definitely all who follow any other religion).

Some major points that have been made and, apparently, need to be made again:
  • Hitler was not an atheist.
  • There are transitional fossils (really, every fossil is transitional).
  • No thinking person claims that there is no god - there is no evidence to support a god but it is not intellectually sound to say "There is no god". However, the literal god of the bible does not exist.
  • Evolution of the eye is explainable and evidence supports the predictions. Humans do not have the "best" eyes - humans of today would design a better eye (what does that say about an all-knowing god?)
  • Atheists do not claim anything - but a non-belief
  • Who claims that everything came from nothing? (Ray claims that "atheists" believe that everything came from nothing - but isn't that what he's suggesting? God had to come from something and we know designers are exponentially more complex than the objects they design so everything plus some had to come from nothing.)
  • Was Darwin a racist?
  • Fossils are not the strongest form of evidence in support of Evolution but that evidence, alone, is enough for us to conclude that Evolution is a fact and natural selection is the most likely mechanism that drives it. Consider Why Evolution is True or Richard Dawkins' about-to-be-released The Greatest Show on Earth.

Homeopathy - The Poster

You may have already seen this but it was just brought to my attention by a visitor to this blog.
Homeopathy is just as the poster says.
As a follow-up to my last post.. here's an article from Bad Science that talks about "regression to the mean". Not to be confused with the above poster (a different usage of the word) but Ben Goldacre is the shit! (Here's another good article.)
Update: Ben even has one on "the end of homeopathy?" - see, I told you he was "the shit"!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If it's woo-woo, call it woo-woo!

If you've read some of my earlier blogs, you'll know how I feel about pushers of woo-woo and this posting is no different.

I find myself in some pretty interesting situations - torn between being "polite" and dealing with something that is potentially dangerous.

We often, falsely, assume that because an event happened after another event, that the first event caused the second one. The phrase "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" is Latin for "after this, therefore because of this" refers to this common fallacy. It is why many people assume Jenny McCarthy's claims about vaccines and autism ("My child didn't have autism until they were vaccinated, therefore the vaccine caused the autism."). The reality is that simply not exhibiting signs of autism does not mean that the child did not have autism prior to the vaccine (but that's a whole different issue).

I was sitting at a dinner table with my wife and a number of other people and one of the other dinner guests described how taking a particular herb cures her kids' colds. She said she gives the herb to her kids when they get sick and a few days later they're all better. Apparently it was "impolite" for me to ask whether the results of taking the herb would be any different than the results from simply letting a "cold" run its course.

I may never get invited back to a dinner party involving this lady but I can assure you that the dangers of letting woo-woo go unquestioned are far greater than being called "impolite".

As my post title says, "if it's woo-woo, call it woo-woo."

Friday, September 11, 2009

If you bring "god" into the arena, it's game on!

It is probably necessary for me to clarify a few other things about atheism, anti-theism and proselytizing.

I am atheist - that means that I don't believe in gods. It does not mean that I believe that gods do not exist, by definition. I am willing to suggest that I do not believe in gods as most people define them and if you want to know if I think your god is imaginary, simply define your god (Hint: I probably do.).

I am an anti-theist in the sense that I do not believe the "good" of religion outweighs the "bad" that comes from it. I am anti-theist because I think oppression in any form is wrong and anything that interferes with the quest to end human suffering (science based medicine, for one) needs to be discouraged.

I firmly believe that it is important to counter woo-woo wherever it presents itself and I feel that there are very few instances where that shouldn't be the case. I'm not suggesting that people go so far as to stand on street corners and push non-belief nor do I think one would be successful if they steered every conversation they had towards a discussion about non-belief.

Religion and god-belief have been given a free ride - an undue level of respect and I think myths and falsehoods will continue to be spread until we are all ready to accept that we should be ready to defend anything that we present as true.

It is necessary to be pretty clear about what I mean - if you bring "god" into the arena, it's game on.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Official - Richard Dawkins in Toronto - Sept 29

Our good friend Justin Trottier just sent out an email to CFI members (and potential members) about the upcoming visit by Richard Dawkins in Toronto.

September 29, 2009 - Richard Dawkins at the Isabel Bader Theatre - $10.00
http://www.ticketweb.ca/snl/Search.action?query=richard+dawkins&x=0&y=0

For those that don't know, Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Ancestor's Tale, The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion, etc.) has just released a new book, The Greatest Show on Earth (it is out in Europe but gets released on Sept 22nd in North America).

Just a little information on Justin and CFI - Justin Trottier is the Executive Director of Centre for Inquiry Canada. I am a "friend of the centre" and I encourage others to consider supporting CFI and their activities.

I won't, however, be at this event to see Richard Dawkins - and not for any other reason than I'll be on my way to the Atheist Alliance International convention in Burbank, California. My wife and I, with at least two other couples from Sarnia are going to see Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Daniel Dennett, Brian Dalton and more...

When 'ghost hunting' turns deadly

When the top headline of Canoe (www.canoe.ca) under news was "Woman falls to death 'ghost-hunting' in Toronto", I couldn't help but read it.

Apparently this woman was, early in the morning, "hunting for ghosts" in this building. Two things that are really sad are 1.) A person died and 2.) She was 29 and still thought that ghosts existed.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2009/09/10/10818851-sun.html

Here's an article that will make you think "Wow, god has one crazy sense of humour"

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/10/devout_catholic/

It reminds me of the bumper sticker I saw this morning "Smile, God Loves You" :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is so convincing?

The method that people come to believing in gods is intriguing to me - especially when these people were not brought up in a religious environment. I have great difficulty in understanding how it is possible for someone to believe in a god (especially the god of the Abrahamic religions) but, oddly, people actually do.

If you are a "believer", I'm curious to know what it is that brought you to the beliefs you now hold today. Were you brought up in the religion that you now adhere to? What is so convincing that you hold firmly to such beliefs?

As a "believer", what would you tell to a non-believer to convince them that your god exists and that he/she is the right one to believe in?

What answers would you have for questions that a non-believer might present?
- What do I have to gain by believing in your god?
- What do I stand to lose if I don't believe in your god?
- What evidence exists for your god?
- How do you explain suffering?

What answer would you have for questions that a believer of another faith might have?
- Are we not simply worshipping the same god?
- What is it about other gods that you don't believe in them?
- Why should I believe in your god? How is your god better than my god?
- Is Jesus not a false prophet? (Islam)
- What makes you believe that Jesus even existed? Why do you think he was divine? (Judaism)

I'm looking forward to your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do What Too Few People Do - Speak Up

Recently I overheard a discussion between a 'believer' and another person and the conversation compelled me to speak up.

The church going individual was explaining how their church struggles with how to accept "gays". Coming from the standpoint that their church is taking the moral high ground, he said that their church also allows alcoholics to attend and that they are looking at treating "gays" the same way that they treat alcoholics who attend their church.

Now they could do as the Catholic Church has been doing and instead of calling them "gay", they could call them "Priest", but this particular person (seemingly an elder of sorts at the church he attends) said they would allow "gays" in but they would not be allowed to promote their lifestyle as alcoholics are not allowed to.

"Great," I thought. They've come up with a great solution - if they want to be called BIGOTS.

I couldn't let it go - I'm sure you can think of many reasons to be upset with such statements and approaches - I had to say something.

I joined the conversation (if you could say that), with a point about tolerance and how ignorant his comments were. "Gay" isn't a choice and I've never heard of "gay" people trying to convert people or to encourage "straight" people to choose their lifestyle.

Sexual oppression and control is at the center of Abrahamic religions and the result of it controls how many people vote in US elections. Abortion, gay rights, the definition of marriage, planned parenthood, birth control, death with dignity and stem cell research are divisive not because they are moral/immoral or ethical/unethical but because people believe the bible (inerrant, yet full of errors, word of god) commands its followers to take a particular side of the issue.

I suggest that if more people spoke up against such acts of hate that we’d be headed in the right direction. With the churches and its members receiving undue respect, especially in situations as these, people are afraid to speak up for what is right. If the bible suggests that homosexuality should not be tolerated, it is the bible that is wrong. If the bible suggests that birth control should be forbidden, the bible, again, is wrong. If the bible suggests that women are servants of men, the bible is wrong.

(I am not "pro-woman", I'm not "pro-gay", I'm "pro-shut-the-fuck-up-about-shit-which-should-not-matter-to-you" with a side of "pro-reduction-of-suffering" and two tablespoons of "stop-oppressing-people".)

Monday, August 31, 2009

I have already explained it but you keep making uninformed comments

Comments on the last post have made it clear that not everyone reads through my old blog posts so I will mention it again - I was raised Catholic. I went through all the motions - baptism, first communion and confirmation but (luckily) was not subjected to the common sacrament of molestation.

(That reminds me of a video by Louis CK - my blog post continues after this but for your enjoyment, I've embedded the video. )



I did not leave the Catholic Church because of some single traumatic experience I encountered while attending (the whole experience is traumatic, really). I didn't leave because I was "wronged by a church member", etc. (When I say I was Catholic, people often suggest that some non "True Christian" did something to turn me away from the church.) I'm not sure I ever really believed what was told to me, I think I (wrongly) just went along with what I was told to do at my Catholic school.

Today I don't have a dislike for the church because of my experience in the church - I am most concerned with how religion interferes with our daily lives and the quest for the reduction of human suffering. The organization is oppressive, abusive and sexist but who am I to tell another person not to let someone abuse or oppress them if that is how they choose to live their life?

When it comes to science education, medical research and law making, religion is interfering where it does not belong. For a "group" to be so focused on "love" and "helping" (something they claim) to be against the very things that reduce (end?) human suffering is hypocritical.

The Catholic Church vehemently opposes the use of condoms - especially in countries where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is claiming millions of lives. Embryonic stem cell research, despite showing the possibility for truly promising therapies and cures, is a no-no to many believers.

I spent a number of hours with a Christian who claims a strong adherence to the Christian faith who told me that anyone who is against condoms or stem cell research (even embryonic) simply lacks the education or information to make an informed decision. (He applied the same statement to religious followers who oppose the teaching of evolution.) He may be right - and that is where I take issue with religious dogma and churches in general.

Why is it, then, that so many religious people "lack the education"? I would suggest that a good number of them aren't checking sources, aren't asking questions or aren't listening to the facts. It is easily done if you surround yourself with people who, too, don't ask questions, don't check sources and willingly ignore facts. A perfect example of this is the church.

Add in a "leader" who preaches misinformation or avoids talking about the facts and you now have a group of people who are not informed. As an uninformed (or misinformed) person, they often speak (and vote) with certainty against that which they have no knowledge. And that is where they affect public policy, science education and law making.

(As a side note, I admire that people have their own opinions and I, as my wife will tell, am open to stimulating discussions (disagreements) with informed individuals. I have a deep dislike for people who speak with authority on something in which they have no knowledge (I hope my blog makes that pretty clear). Simply, be ready to support the claims you make.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Darin James Gets Guestbook Posts

I was just browsing Darin James' (Scheiding?) website today as yesterday I noticed he had deleted my guestbook comment. Apparently the comment was negative (and nasty!) and, apparently, he came to my site to learn about me (or you other godless hope killers have been to his site too!). Awesome!

However, his comments deserve a response (he didn't post them on my site, they are on his site at www.darinjamesonline.com - under "Thoughts- by Darin James"). They are copied here below in case he updates/changes his page.

I recently received a few negative guestbook posts.... from Athiests as they call themselves. I have always been a believer in free speech and the beliefs of others .

If there were, truly, "a few", he deleted them. I did add another one yesterday that I don't feel is "nasty" but it might be to someone who lies to people for a living. (Or "thiests"??)

It amazes me how people of opposing beliefs will search you out and push their negative comments upon you or me as in recent events.

Sorry Darin, you fail. You actively are advertising your services on a public website. You "invited me" to your website and when I got there you clearly stated "Sign my Guestbook" - you had to have predicted I would have done such.

If you don't believe why look it up,look into it or even comment .

Because it is important to tackle lies, misinformation and woo-woo artists where ever and whenever possible. You aren't providing a noble service - you do not have psychic abilities and it is important that people remind others of that (apparently way more than we are!).

I am open to any and all comments and read them all but there is no reason to be nasty.

I don't think my comments were nasty - they may have attacked your core beliefs and I'm sorry - oh wait, no I'm not.

You have the same rights to believe what you do as I have to believe what I do. Be it the supernatural or religious freedoms.

That is something we both agree on. Awesome!

You have your reasons for not believing same as we have ours for believing what we do.

Crap, Darin, why'd you go and ruin it? We had some common ground! I would venture far from comparing my "beliefs" (based on evidence) with your "beliefs" (in spite to evidence). You are welcome to back your "beliefs" up since you are claiming something.

Wouldn't it be nice if we accepted people for who and what they are?

YES! Sort of. We accept your right to live a full life but I don't accept your desire to mislead people (and charge them for it)!

We are so blessed to live in a country that allows freedom of thought and speech .

Blessed isn't the word I'd use. Many, many people lost their lives to give us the right to free speech. I'm interested in giving them the credit for it - not some supernatural (non-existent) being or power. (A special thanks to all who defend our freedoms.) (The statement of being blessed to live in a country that allows freedom of speech is interesting considering he is suggesting the suppression of it.) The right to free speech does not include a right to have your feelings protected, though, Darin.

I thank everyone for coming to my site and leaving comments .

You're welcome! And I invite your comments on my site too, Darin!

If you have a story you would like to share with others e mail me and I may post it to share with everyone.

I shared my story and you deleted it. Honesty isn't a dominant character trait for you, is it Darin?

darinjames@darinjamesonline.com

Love and light ............. Darin James

Darin, I invite you to make me look like an idiot. Provide us some evidence to support your "abilities" and I'll post a full apology stating my complete adoration and respect for you. (Just remember, evidence isn't just shit you make up! Making shit up is called "psychic counselling".)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michael Shoesmith: Take 2

Michael's primary argument is from "personal experience". Kind of a "you'll know it is true if you believe it is true" statement or of the "if you felt what I felt, you wouldn't deny it" kind. It is an interesting argument to make as it really provides no reason for others to follow such. I don't doubt that people have had these "awesome" religious "experiences" but I wonder why someone would present such a self-centered argument. (If the "experience" wasn't a regular "christian" one, people would be institutionalized - like those claiming to be "god" or that voices were telling them to do things.)


I have had dreams in my life that seemed extremely real and could have been (mis)construed as religious experiences or experiences of an after-life. They, however, were neither. They were dreams or delusions. We all have them and there is good reason for it.


Richard Dawkins, almost 3 years ago, addressed, with great eloquence, the argument from personal experience and it is truly worth reading.