I just suffered through a few hours of Terry Mortenson, Answers in Genesis stooge, babbling and lying on stage here in Morris. I'm going to recuperate for a while with a nice cup of tea and a little light reading, so don't expect me to post on it now. You can browse my twitter feed for the short choppy reactions I put up during that horror, and I'll try to summarize it tomorrow.
Although…he's also speaking tomorrow night. I suppose I'll have to suffer again, Christlike, for you.
Oh, by the way: the most annoying part of the event is that they announced at the beginning that there would be no Q&A, because Mortenson's voice was giving out. Then cancel the crappy lecture part, and turn it over to questions! The guy is giving 7 lectures in two days — I think we've have our fill of this loon just standing up there and lying at us.Read the comments on this post...
Charles Herbert Best was born on February 27, 1899 in West Pembroke, Maine. He was the only son of Luella Fisher and Dr. Herbert Best, who were Canadians from Nova Scotia. His father was a country doctor and restless with his country practice moved twice[...]
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It is known that education decreases the incidence of cardiovascular disease. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health demonstrates that education is also correlated with lower blood pressure and a decrease in other factors which influence health such as alcohol, smoking and weight gain.
Recently Northwestern University scientists published findings that axons in the brain can operate in reverse: they can send signals to the cell body, too. Could this lend support to the theory that consciousness resides in the brain?s electromagnetic field?
Imagine that someone has discovered alien creatures on a nearby planet and is planning to import them to Earth to sell as pets. Would you want to buy one?
A new project by Steve Grand.
PSA screening is still worse than useless - it not only doesn't predict cancer, but because someone at some point thought that it did, needless painful biopsies happen every day.
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This month's Challenge Question: Given a bare planet without an atmosphere – could a satellite be launched (at an appropriate initial speed) that would orbit close to the planet's surface but not touch it? The Answer will be posted right here on CR4 on April 5th.
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Oh, dear…today is the day the clown from Answers in Genesis is speaking at the elementary school in Morris. I guess I'll be going, even though Terry Mortenson is a goats-on-fire flaming moron. Here he is in all of his pursed-lipped pretentious glory.
Anyway, I'll be attending his 6:00 lecture — "Dinosaurs: Have You Been Brainwashed?" — and the 7:30 exercise in idiocy — "Noah`s Flood: Washing Away Millions of Years". The schedule is online; I may get more than my fill today, so I don't know that I'll go to any of the Monday events. It's a disgrace that such a fool was invited here.
I will have my iPad with me and will be live-twittering the event (look for the hashtag #creoass). I'll also post a summary here. Don't expect much — this guy is classic old-school dead-brainless creationism: 6000 year old earth, Flintstones was a documentary, all of geology is explained by the flood, unbelievable stupidity.
One possible saving grace is that the Morris Freethinkers will be meeting next Saturday at the Morris Public Library from 3-5pm to have a panel discussion about the event. Everyone is welcome. We'll be tearing his inanity apart.Read the comments on this post...
One of the sad facts about growing older is that, more and more, I encounter people who seem to have serious issues with the manner in which people enjoy themselves, or how they do things which they enjoy doing.
I'm guilty of this myself, admittedly. I've never seen the appeal of night clubs, for example. If I wanted to spend the early hours of the morning in a converted warehouse with eye-wateringly poor lighting, inhaling the sweat of strangers while my ear drums are almost shattered by monotonous music played at volumes that could drown out a nuclear assault by a preening dickhead in shades, all while cradling a horrifically overpriced drink, then yeah, I'd probably go to a nightclub
But I have no problem with people who do go to nightclubs and have a good time. It's not for me, but I'm one non-nightclub-going person. But I've had several arguments with people who do go to nightclubs and insist that I should go too, as 'I'll enjoy it once I'm in there'. My patient explanation that I have been 'in there' several times and never even slightly enjoyed it seems irrelevant. I'm apparently wrong, they know what I like better than I do, and by not agreeing I'm being 'no fun'.
Football is the same. I can't see the appeal in watching 22 wealthy dickheads running around sporadically on a green rectangle, trying to place a sphere in a specific place without using their hands. For nearly 2 hours. But millions of people love it, so it's obviously enjoyable to many. Some of these people can be, admittedly, a bit overenthusiastic (read 'violent thugs' for that last bit if you like), but for the vast majority it's an enjoyable pastime.
But if I were to go into nightclubs, turn the lights on, unplug the amps and insist that everyone put some clothes on, I wouldn't be thanked for my efforts. Similarly, if I wandered onto a football pitch during a big game and told the assembled crowd to go home and do something more worthwhile like put up some shelves, I wouldn't be praised for this. I might be prised apart, but not praised.
As some of you probably know if you've read this before, I do stand-up comedy. I'm also co-organiser/host of Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub, and do a lot of talks for the skeptic community and beyond. These are things I do for my own enjoyment, and for the potential enjoyment of others. But apparently, these things I do voluntarily and for little or no reward beyond the actions themselves, I'm doing wrong.
Alom Shaha, lovely guy, excellent writer, gutsy bloke, has written another Guardian piece about how Skeptics in the Pub is preaching to the choir. What's the point, he argues, in talking to people about what they already know? Why don't we spend our time trying to get other communities and groups (e.g. children, ethnic minorities) interested, rather than catering to those who are already onside.
As well meant as the article is, this is just the latest example of this I've encountered, and it's getting to piss me off. It's a bugbear of mine. Here are the reasons why (and if you don't want to know, or care, then feel free to stop reading and do something more useful, like make a sandwich).
It's probably something to do with my comedy background. One of the ways I've noticed in which a comedian will try and exert dominance over another is to criticise their performance, and offer unsolicited advice on how to improve. The advice itself is invariably completely subjective and, often, utterly useless, but the group dynamics of these interactions are startlingly clear, as is the thought process involved, for all that it might be completely subconscious.
I've lost count of the number of inexperienced (or just plain shit) acts giving unasked for advice to more experienced and much better comedians (based on audience response, not just my subjective views). By giving advice and 'helpful' criticism, they are (unjustifiably) asserting their superiority over the better acts in order to reinforce their sense of self worth, but to the detriment of the better acts. The fact that this is presented under the guise of 'being helpful' means that social convention often lets them get away with it.
It's teeth-grindingly infuriating to see this happen as soon as a great but fragile ego'd comic (and there are loads of those, the criticisers can pretty much smell them) walks off stage after a storming performance, only to be rewarded with a volley of 'helpful' advice and criticisms. It happens to me more often than not, I think it's because I'm not particularly confident seeming or arrogant (says the guy on his own long winded blog, but please trust me on this). Also, I have a PhD in neuroscience. A lot of comics pride themselves on their superior wit and intellect, me telling them my qualifications (after they've asked, usually about half way thorough the night) tends to be very unsettling for them. Sometimes they even accuse me of being arrogant. The implication being that I've spent over a decade following a difficult, complex and financially unrewarding career purely to upset them. This makes ME arrogant. Logical.
I'm not saying Alom and the others who have expressed concern with the skeptic ethos are doing this, I'm just explaining why it pisses me off so much. I can only speak from my experience, but I don't really agree with much, or any, of the criticisms aimed at the skeptic 'movement', whatever the hell that is. It's true that there may be differences between SITP events in different towns and cities (it being a grassroots voluntary movement with no central coordination, this is inevitable), but seeing as the criticisms are pretty much always generalised to the whole, then I'll do the same with my response.
The main criticisms seem to be that there isn't enough inclusion of ethnic minorities, there should be more attempts to educate children and those who don't hear about skeptical stuff etc. And of course, we're just preaching to the converted, which is arrogant and pointless (like the Pope).
I can only speak for Cardiff, but we get a few ethnic minorities there. We don't actively try to get them along, but we certainly don't actively exclude them. This is because I (and most people I know) don't see any reason to differentiate between ethnic minorities and everyone else.
It may be true that they don't feel as if they'd be welcome at events like SITP, but (at the risk of sounding controversial) how is that our fault exactly? I promise that any publicity we do does not carry a 70's-style 'No Blacks - No Asians etc.' exclusion clause. On the other hand, nor do we include an 'ethnic minorities welcome!' notice. Why not? Because that would be incredibly patronising and, in my opinion, just as racist (albeit in a more well-intended way).
There is obviously much that could be done to encourage more ethnic minorities into these sorts of events. But how much of this should be done? I shy away from any attempt to actively try and change people's minds. And if I start thinking I have the right to decide what people from ethnic minorities should be doing, please don't vote for me when I inevitably ask you to do so.
Obviously there are many factors (social, cultural, religious, political etc.) that might prevent ethnic minorities from coming to an SITP night. Again, none of these are the fault of the rational community, and criticising them for not challenging or changing them seems unduly harsh. If there is a way in which I and my fellow organisers can encourage more ethnic community members to come to these events without being patronising, divisive or just outright racist, I'd love to hear it.
As for the active spreading of our viewpoint for people's benefits, that's the same goal of people who scream about Jesus in the High Street. These people aren't appreciated, nor are they widely respected. By and large, they're ignored, or mocked. They are by me, at least, so I certainly wouldn't want to become one of them.
I've also butted heads with many in the Science Communication business about this whole 'Think of the Children!!' attitude. I'm glad there is an ever-increasing number of people who choose to try and educate and communicate with the younger members of society. I've even done it myself several times, having spoken at quite a number of events aimed at school pupils of various ages.
But for many people involved in these activities, there seems to be some bizarre view that as soon as someone leaves the school system they become a lost cause. I prefer to try and communicate to adults, because looking like I do means it's always a bit weird when I offer children sweets. And also I like to communicate in high-brow sounding gibberish, which most children would struggle with. Most adults do too, but social etiquette prevents them from calling me on it, which would upset me and my fragile non-arrogant ego.
In seriousness, I think adults deserve as much attention as children when it comes to communicating scientific matters. Possibly more so, as they may have children of their own, so it could be a 2-for-1 deal.
And finally, there's the whole 'preaching to the choir' thing. I guessed I missed the memo, but I wasn't aware that having an interest in things scientific and rational meant you weren't allowed to socialise with like-minded people. A group of people getting together with other people who have similar interests, to hear about and discuss the things they're interested in? Such a thing is unheard of! And any people who do this sort of thing are clearly a collection of arrogant smug bastards of the highest order.
That's how I see SITP first and foremost; a social event where people with an interest in scientific things can go and have a chilled out evening with similar folk and hear about something interesting (usually something they DIDN'T already know, despite assertions to the contrary). Any lobbying/campaigning/outreach that comes from it is all well and good, but it's an 'event' first and foremost. This means; People choose to attend, the organisers don't choose who attends
That's what I think anyway, I could be completely wrong in this. It's my blog though, so only got my own views to go on.
It generally boils down to a lot of people saying 'You could do more to [insert preferred thing to do]'. But where does that end? I do comedy in comedy clubs. where people are there to see comedy. Is this arrogant? Should I just start wandering into Mosques and nursery schools and bellowing my material at anyone I find? If I don't, am I just arrogantly preaching to the choir?
We spent a lot on the catering for our wedding, why didn't I just get a black bag full of sausage rolls from Gregg's and give the rest to charity? (It was mostly because many of my in-laws are vegetarian, and Gregg's also don't take £50 notes).
I just find it ironic that anyone interested in science and rationality is seemingly doing something wrong if they have the audacity to enjoying themselves and not spend every waking moment trying to educate others. That would make us the obsessed emotionless robots we're stereotypically believed to be. And as someone with a rural Welsh background, I'm not a big fan of stereotypes.
Website: http://sciencedigestivewebnoise.moonfruit.comEmail: Humourology (at) live.co.ukTwitter: @garwboy
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As we've learned watching the Rethuglicans lately, the assault on abortion rights is only the first step — they also want to shut down the wickedness that is contraception. But they're not going to stop there, oh no! If you want a peek at our theocratic future, read this incredibly long-winded disquisition on exactly what you are allowed to do even in the marriage bed. Everything is forbidden, except vaginal penetration and the ol' in-out. You aren't allowed to even do these things as foreplay, culminating in procreative intercourse.
The expression 'that use which is against nature' refers to unnatural sexual acts, such as oral sex, anal sex, or manual sex. Saint Augustine condemns such acts unequivocally. He even states that such unnatural sexual acts are even more damnable (i.e. even more serious mortal sins) when these take place within marriage. For God is even more offended by a sexual mortal sin that takes place within the Sacrament of Marriage, since this offense is not only against nature, but also against a Holy Sacrament.
Dang. Well, at least Augustine didn't explicitly forbid rubber wetsuits, fuzzy handcuffs, vibrating crucifixes, octopus, ceiling-mounted swings, clamps, chocolate pudding, flavored lubricants, Wonder Woman costumes, rubber chickens, exotic headware, whipped cream, video cameras, Silly String, roller skates, trampolines, nitrous oxide, balloon animals, feather boas, ball gags, or bungee cords, or I might be going to hell.
It's amazing how much detail Catholics will go into documenting why people shouldn't do the things that they all do anyway. You might even call it loving detail.Read the comments on this post...