Highschoolers stand up to homophobic bullies

September 15, 2007

As I argued in my article about the new Texas public school regulations that basically mandate administration-controlled student-led prayers at all school functions, there are always going to be brave kids who will risk being ostracized and attacked if it means standing up to injustice.

Here’s a great example: a freshman student came to the first day of school and was threatened and ridiculed just because he wore a pink shirt, a supposed symbol of homosexuality.

Two senior students decided to take a stand against the attacks, and now the school is awash in pink.

According to the Herald, “[Shepard] said one of the bullies angrily asked him whether he knew pink on a male was a symbol of homosexuality. He told the bully that didn’t matter to him and shouldn’t to anyone. ‘Something like the colour of your shirt or pants, that’s ridiculous,’ he said. ‘Our intention was to stand up for this kid so he doesn’t get picked on…It’s my last year. I’ve stood around too long and I wanted to do something.'”


How people are getting here…

September 14, 2007

The most recent Skeptic’s Circle, hosted over at Unscrewing the Inscrutable, has been sending lots of people my way recently. Unfortunately, since they are all fellow skeptics, this does not lead to much in the way of interesting debate or interfacing with the sorts of people who might actually believe in things like DNA perfume, self-charging phones, or homicidal homeopathy. And, frankly, that’s sort of my hoped-for target audience. Skepticism does no good cooped up inside its own little bubble: I need to think of more ways to engage folks who don’t know what pareodalia means. We’ll see…

That said, I’m still pulling in ridiculous amounts of traffic from folks searching for information about the Virgin Mary’s apparently ongoing engagement on a PA Minersville garage door.

There’s also been a recent unexplained spike in searches about “Sam Chen,” intelligent design flack and awarder of hilariously pretentious booby-prize awards. But the best search of all that brought someone to my blog was “clip art of anti-Christian culture war.” Now that, I want to see.

Bad Things to Come…

September 13, 2007

I’ve been pretty busy with work lately, but I’ve got a couple of upcoming articles I might as well promise and plug before anyone thinks I’ve been slacking.

First off, since we’re all quite sick of the framing vs. “f%@k framing” slapfest, we’ll look at better ways to sell science and skepticism without simply sucking up. Next, we’ll be definitively dumping theological “fine tuning” arguments into the dustbin of the disastrously dumb. Plus, Kevin Trudeau wanna-be Mike Adams is bound to say something stupid that Doc-blogger Orac won’t have already debunked only seconds after it’s posted.

Think I’m bluffing? That I’ll never deliver any of that stuff?

People, you don’t know who you are dealing with!


The Execrable Ex-Chaplain: Hath Gordon Klingenschmitt No Shame?

September 10, 2007

While I’m new to the blogging scene, my chosen subject matter is limitless, and hopes for the future are high.

Other blogs aren’t so lucky. Their subject matter is narrow: so narrow that it can be boiled down to a single question, like this:

Does Gordon Klingenschmitt Have No Shame?

Answer: No, he still doesn’t. And just like that, poof, the blogosphere dream is over.

Church Sign From anti-Klingy Blog

Thankless Theology: More on the Alleged God Delusions of Dawkins

September 10, 2007

Over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers links a Godwinizing but still bitingly satirical take on the many reviews of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” that whine about Dawkins’ shocking failure to address theological esoterica. Now, I’ve hinted before that I have my own complaints about “The God Delusion,” and I’ll touch on them a bit at the end of this post, but the sheer awfulness of these sorts of critical reviewers keeps crowding out my own quibbles. So, them first.

The most pretentious and annoying of these critical reviews often fail to even acknowledge that Dawkins legitimately dismisses most of their complaints right upfront: he’s not talking about the reserved God concepts of scientific deism. Nor is he going to address every obscure “sophisticated” theology under the sun. But doesn’t he have to?

Well, no. There are two reasons why Dawkins can legitimately discount the sort of rarefied theology his horrified critics think is indispensable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Personalized perfume based on your DNA?

September 9, 2007

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s lifelong business dreams here, but don’t you think that this perfume company (warning: site plays music), which claims to produce a personalized smell for you “based on your DNA,” could be a little more forthcoming as to what the heck that actually entails?

All I can really glean from the website is that you swab your inner cheek to collect some DNA (with a kit that costs 99$), mail it off to a laboratory, and two weeks later you get back a bottle of cologne supposedly “tailored” to your genome.

Now, I’m no geneticist with a magical perfume lab, but I’m pretty skeptical that our current knowledge of genes and human biology is good enough to figure out, from just my DNA, what sort of scent would best compliment my B.O.

Heck, they could probably get better matched results more cheaply if people just swabbed their sweaty underarms and sent that in instead.

Adding to the sketchiness is the F.A.Q., which reveals that there are no refunds for those unhappy with “their” smell, and all smells come in the exact same “clinically approved” (uh, what? this is perfume) 4oz bottle with a mister.

So, er… exactly what is preventing them from charging you 100$ for a Q-tip that they promptly chuck into the garbage, and then sending out mass produced bottles of the exact same scent? How would anyone know the difference?

(HT: Mark7300 at the Skeptic’s Guide Forums)

Sitter-Cam Catches Ghost on Tape?

September 8, 2007

A hidden video camera appears to catch faint evidence of ghostly presence.

Personally, I’m still skeptical.

(Hat Tip: Jonah Goldberg)

Is Microwaving an unhealthy way to cook your Compact Discs?

September 8, 2007

microhead1.pngIf you’re not already familiar with News Target.com, it’s basically one-stop shopping for alternative medicine and woo, brought to you by musclebound “Health Ranger” Mike Adams. There’s everything from “your fillings will kill you” to “suntan lotion will kill you” along with a dash of Scientology-like hate for all medications and assurances that the FDA is conspiring with Merck to keep you sick.

This Thursday, News Target “Citizen Journalist” John Andrews published an article claiming that microwaving your food is unhealthy. He starts off on the wrong foot by defensively assuring his readers that he doesn’t “walk around with aluminum foil wrapped around my head in an effort to shield my thoughts from the aliens.” (Oh? That’s uh… that’s good.) By the end of it, he’s nuking his CDs in a microwave.

I figure that a collection of bad ideas this concentrated deserves a little loving attention.

Read the rest of this entry »

Osama Bin Chomsky?

September 7, 2007

Better to just admit it outright and get it over with: Osama Bin Laden’s latest rambling diatribe against America sounds more than ever like he’s been reading too much Noam Chomsky and even getting uncomfortably close to your average liberal anti-war bloggers litany of complaints about the world today. Big evil corporations running the world, No Blood For Oil!, arresting Donald Rumsfeld for treason, castigating Democrats for not stopping the war immediately: he even manages to work in a little plug for Global Warming!

But lest it be forgotten, the Big O does throw in a little carrot for conservatives to join in on his jihad too: apparently, under the worldwide caliphate, no taxes dudes!

Well, and also no liberal democracy, no free exercise, no homosexuals, and no Paris Hilton in a bikini writhing on the hood of car. So on second thought, maybe Dinesh D’Souza, Phyllis Schlafly, and crew ultimately have more to cheer on here.

Update: Turns out that Islamic economic policies may not be all they’re cracked up to be.

Antony Flew: Atheist Apostate to tell all in new book?

September 7, 2007

Did Antony Flew really leave his long-time atheist position and become a deist? And if so, why? After years of cryptic rambling and then a near media blackout, we’ll soon have some answers: Antony Flew’s latest book, documenting his conversion to theism, is set to arrive this November.

While some have tried to play down his importance, Flew is a significant figure in the history of atheism and philosophy, though very far from the “most notorious” as the book’s title claims (in fact, outside of some rather esoteric debates within academic philosophy ages ago, Flew is just not very well known). For most atheists, Flew’s conversion has been controversial less because of its ultimate significance and more because the whole matter has been downright confusing.

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Moments of Silliness: Students Need Skepticism, Not Silence

September 6, 2007

This week marks the latest narrow defeat of nationwide efforts to force a “moment of silence” into the public school day. Moments of silence are already an optional element in the Illinois schools in question: teachers can currently require students to be quiet as they deem necessary. Other states, like Texas and Virginia, already have full blown mandatory moments of silence.

I essentially agree with The Friendly Atheist’s Hemant on this issue.  Constitutionally, many of the more moderate “moment of silence” policies seem reasonable enough, and when they are ultimately instituted, it’s often far from disasterous or even notable. Even the ACLU doesn’t seem particularly interested in this new round of mostly secularized laws.

But it is worth briefly considering how strange the idea of an enforced moment of silence ultimately is, at least for its purported purpose of accommodating the needs of religious students.

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Deepak Chopra reviews Dawkins’ God Delusion. Quantum Physics spotted fleeing the scene!

September 5, 2007

Deepak Chopra, master of pseudoscientific woo, is getting his rather belated licks in on Richard Dawkins at the unlikely venue of Skeptic Magazine. There’s not much to say about the bulk of Chopra’s book review. Like many reviewers, Chopra insists that Dawkins’ God Delusion is attacking straw man versions of God. And like many reviewers, making this accusation involves glibly ignoring Dawkins’ repeated caveats about how and why he’s narrowed his focus away from things like Einstein’s “God,” discounted rarefied theologies that few believers believe in or have even heard of, and picked the particular targets of undeniable unreason that he has.

But Deepak being Deepak, you know where this discussion will end up: trying to rope his half-baked understanding of Quantum Physics into theories of universal consciousness that supposedly explain things that mere science will never be able to. There is a heck of a lot to criticize here, and I hope others will give it the ribbing it deserves from all angles.

For now though, I just want to point out how colossally crummy and unsatisfying Chopra’s supposed “alternative” model of consciousness is, even on its own terms.

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