Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Keeping an Eye on Florida.

If you haven't been paying attention to Florida, you should be. Antievolution bills are being pushed through the legislature. Apparently the teaching of evolution in SCIENCE classes is "dogmatic." The bills being floated around the house and senate are supposedly aimed at allowing a critique of evolution with no religious connotations that are based on sound science. There's just one little problem. No such critique exists.

This is what happens when politicians are allowed to make decisions that require a bit of scientific background. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, "Proponents said the bill is needed to protect teachers and students from academic reprisal for challenging Charles Darwin's theories, while opponents said it was a veiled attempt at sneaking religion into the public schools." Shall we also protect teachers that would like to challenge the Copernican theory of heliocentrism? How about Newton's theory of gravity and Einstein's relativity? The only real difference is that the church hasn't quite given up on creationism yet. Well, not in Florida anyway. Read the rest on the NCSE website. While your there think about making a little donation.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

1,000 Viewers!

OK, so maybe I owe it all to a combination of KBSU's poor choice of programming and PZ's willingness to link to me but hey, I'll take 'em however I can get 'em. Thanks for reading. Now, to celebrate...a little Star Wars Kid.

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May the force be with you...

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

KBSU Responds.

KBSU has responded to our complaint. Competently? You be the judge.



After seeing the above response on KBSU we immediately sent the following and began to lament the fact that we had no digital version to post. Luckily, someone took the time to post it on Youtube. Somehow I doubt that it was KBSU. Our letter:

Dear KBSU Representative:

As we are sure you are aware, over the past few days complaints have been submitted to KBSU, The Northern Student, The Bemidji Pioneer, and MPR regarding the program, “Does God Exist?” In case you are not aware, these complaints have been posted on the blog, “Seeking Aponia,” and the top-ranked science blog, “Pharyngula.” Pharyngula has a very large and extremely active readership in the science and education community. We feel an appropriate and immediate response would be prudent.

During your programming you responded to the complaints in question by claiming that the purpose of the program was to make amends for being too liberal. This is no excuse for proselytizing on a station run with public funding. You also pointed out that we, as viewers, have the right to change the channel. We are well aware of the fact that the programs that we watch are a personal choice. This does not, however, change the fact that this programming, in our opinion, is a direct violation of the 1st amendment and a poor reflection on the image of BSU as a place of higher learning. “Does God Exist” is a program laden with religious bigotry and distorted science that attempts to prove the existence of the Christian god. Whether or not we are correct in our assumption that the airing of this program is illegal, there is no doubt that it is irresponsible. The program does injustice to the caliber of education available at BSU, and is entirely inappropriate for a secular institution of higher education.

It is our opinion that KBSU should, at a minimum, respond to the online and/or printed discussions taking place. We will happily host and or link to, any KBSU response on the Seeking Aponia blog.

Sincerely,

Shane Bowe

John Kamman

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Getting Naked for a Cause.

It may actually work if enough people that look like I do get naked. I know I'd make changes in my life to avoid seeing that. Courtesy of Nena.

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MN Atheist Talk

In case you don't know, MN Atheist Talk is on Air America (AM 950) Sundays at 9. It's not always the most exciting radio show. The hosts can be a little stuffy but it's what we've got and their intentions and overall messages are good. If you are inclined to check them out, you can listen here. Today the discussion included the National Day of Prayer, Faith-Based Initiatives, and Intercessory Prayer.

The National Day of Reason is a direct response to the National Day of Prayer. Which, it could reasonably be argued, is in violation of the 1st amendment (this is not going to be the centroid of my blog). It is a call to the secular community to make themselves visible and celebrate reason, a far more useful tool than prayer. Check it out, maybe even endorse the idea. I just did. Faith-Based Initiatives were discussed a bit but I missed too much to recap here.

Inevitably discussion of prayer will lead to the question of efficacy. Most folks will simply take it for granted that prayer works, whether this is due to placebo effects or something more. If you take the time to do your homework, you'll find out that this simply is not the case. A commonly cited story is that prayer was able to increase fertility in women during a Columbia University study. Alas, the results were fraudulent. Check it out yourself it like: here.

The most comprehensive and rigorous study on intercessory prayer was discussed a bit. The actual article isn't available unless you'd like to either pay for it or take a trip to the library, but Scientific American sums it up pretty well here. One very interesting aspect of the study is the fact that it was conducted by a team of clergy and at least one doctor that has been sympathetic to the idea of the power of prayer in the past. So, what's the verdict?

"The only statistically significant blip appeared in a subgroup of patients who were prayed for and knew it. They experienced a higher rate of postsurgical heart arrhythmias (59 versus 52 percent of unaware subjects)."

So, go ahead and continue praying. It will continue not working. I'll continue not believing.


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

KBSU update.

I just watched my first episode of "Does God Exist?" produced by John Clayton. He is an incredible fuckwit. Although I'm bothered by the fact that he makes these videos in the first place, I'm far more upset that the program is being shown on KBSU, our local STATE University station. I've posted a small sample of his idiocy below the fold.



My friend John Kamman has taken the first step here. His letter has also been published in the campus newspaper here (it's the second letter). I couldn't find a youtube video of the episode I watched today. I'm also not sure I could sit through another minute of it. It had me absolutely seething. Today's entire episode was based on his amazement that life happens to exist in a universe suitable for life. I'm sure he's also amazed that his arms are long enough to reach his hands. If you have any interest in helping us get this program removed, please contact someone in the Mass Comm department here. Unfortunately KBSU doesn't have a current contact person available. How convenient.

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eSkeptic

If you're not familiar with the magazine "Skeptic" or its online counterpart "eSkeptic" now is a great time to go check it out here. Be sure to check last week and this week both for a great set of articles entitled "Expelled Exposed."

Michael Shermer and crew do an excellent job thoroughly dissecting Ben Stein's pile of shit propaganda film, "Expelled." Ben is making a real effort to convince folks that Darwin was a major influence of Hitler's and making a real jackass of himself in the process. The open letter by Richard Dawkins to a mislead viewer is, as always, eloquently written and packed with excellent information. If you've heard the argument that Darwin caused the holocaust, you need to read this letter. In case you don't want to dig through the links to find it, you can check it out here.

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KBSU: Church Sponsored Station?

KBSU is a television station run by Bemidji State University. This, of course means that state tax dollars are used to provide funding for programming. I haven't seen the program "Does god Exist?" but a trustworthy source (John Kamman) has assured me that it is a blatant violation of the requirement of a separation of church and state. The program amounts to state sponsored Christian proselytism. John has sent a letter to KBSU and agreed to allow me to post it, so here it is:

To the editor:

Over the past several weeks, I have been extremely disappointed to see a program entitled "Does God Exist" regularly aired on KBSU's television station, often up to four episodes per day. The program itself is a misguided series of "educational" videos supporting the Christian message under the erroneous guise of science. The constant airing of this program is a blatant misuse of a public funding, a direct and illegal violation of the first amendment and an insult to scientists, atheists and those of other faiths.

I have attempted to contact KBSU via email and telephone but have not yet received a response. I would like to use this opportunity to publicly request that KBSU cease the broadcast of such deliberate –and illicit- proselytizing. In one "lesson" entitled "Why I left Atheism", John Clayton, the host, refers to atheism as a "poor judgment and foolish mistake…[taking] really rather idiotic positions." As a graduate student of biology at BSU and a devout atheist/agnostic, I find it entirely inappropriate for a publicly-funded student organization to partake in the pseudo-scientific and disturbingly overzealous preaching that the program "Does God Exist" embodies. I would ask those in the position of managing KBSU to make better broadcasting decisions in the future.


Sincerely,

John Kamman.

I'll post any follow-up that should occur.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Sexpelled

I would like to celebrate the release and tremendous failure of Expelled this weekend with a free showing of "Sexpelled," a far more entertaining and equally intellectual film.



As far as the failure mentioned above, Expelled made about $3.1 million over the weekend. I would expect that to be recovered through the ensuing lawsuit regarding the copyright infringement in the film. Did I mention that Ben Stein blows goats? Read more!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Smarter than my doctor?

No, I don't necessarily think I'm smarter than my doctor. I do, however, know that I understand the processes involved in evolution more fully than he does. I went in for an annual physical on Friday. It was all the usual physical stuff for the most part, "How are you feeling? Taking any meds? Drop your pants, turn your head and cough. Blah, blah, blah." The notable part happened when he noticed that I was reading book on evolution (The Ancestor's Tale, Richard Dawkins). After hearing that it was an evolution book, he sat there for a few seconds quietly and then pointed to his watch. He said, "You see this watch? I just found it. It washed up on shore after just randomly assembling itself in the ocean and then I found it." This particular argument against evolution is the "Irreducible Complexity" argument and it has been well refuted by the scientific community.

I was speechless. What was I supposed to say to this guy who has so obviously ignored the fundamentals of evolutionary theory? I mean, he's my family doctor and was minutes away from checking me for testicular cancer? This is not the most comfortable time to start an argument. It's difficult to maintain that feeling of dominance when you know he's about to tell you to drop your pants and you're going to listen. More importantly, why doesn't he know? He's a well respected MD who consistently prescribes the most scientifically sound treatments appropriate to his patients' ailments. How is there such a disconnect between his professional life and his acceptance of evolution?

I think there are really two things going on here. The first is the obvious one. His religious beliefs were established long before any other thought processes were able to take hold in his brain. He's an intelligent guy but instead of looking at life through the eyes of a skeptic as he does medicine, he uses his intelligence to win his side of the argument (his side being the intelligent design side). In reality he's not winning an argument with anyone but himself, but that's all it takes.

The second thing occurring is that evolution and development is not his specialty, medicine is. What scares me is that these two disciplines are not far apart and still he is unable to make the connection. How then, can we expect politicians, teachers, school board members and the like to make the appropriate decisions regarding the teaching of intelligent design? Why should anyone other than scientists be able to determine what should be taught in science classrooms? If you think I'm beating a dead horse, take a look at what's going on with Florida's science standards. The world is laughing at us, especially at well educated yet still ignorant people like my doctor. Read more!

Sunday mourning.

That's it, the hockey season is over for the Minnesota Wild. On the bright side, I won't feel like I'm married to "Rainman" when I hear my wife rattling off pointless hockey statistics in the background of an otherwise normal conversation. Still, I am a little sad. We'll see you next year boys. Read more!

Friday, April 18, 2008

In the blue corner: Jenny McCarthy, in the red corner: people with brains.

CNN dedicated a significant proportion of their coverage to autism a while back. Unfortunately, that coverage included Jenny McCarthy and her amazing cure for autism. Which includes the sometimes dangerous practice of chelation. She, like many parents with autistic children, has attributed her son's autism to vaccinations, based largely on her degree from Google University.

Much of the hype surrounding the autism-vaccine connection is related to an apparent increase in autism diagnoses in the past couple of decades. This increase does correlate well with the increased number of vaccinations that children are receiving. Perhaps Jenny could Google "correlation does not imply causation." Better yet, here's the Wiki link. Here is a more fact based analysis of increased diagnosis rates by Steve Novella, a neurologist at Yale. Here is some more information about vaccine myths.

I don't know what causes autism, but I do know that Jenny McCarthy is not the first person I'd ask. Please take the time to talk to people that really know. If you don't trust your doctor, get a new one. Don't put your child's life in danger because some quack tells you to chelate. The point is, ask doctors about medicine, climatologists about climate change, and playboy centerfolds about who to sleep with to make you famous. Read more!

We mourn for the Wild.

After an intense and well played first two periods, the Minnesota Wild had a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Avs. I'm wondering if I should have done something a little more productive than watch hockey last night. Perhaps I'll take up knitting. Read more!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

God loves Minnesotans, hates Africans.

Apparently god still has work for some 7th day adventist missionaries from Minnesota to do. He must have been done with the 36 locals that were crushed and burned by the crash. What was it that I didn't like about religion again? I forget, I'll think of it later. Read more!

Ben Stein blows goats.

This is old news on the blogosphere, but I just saw a preview on the History channel and it made me a little nauseous, so I've got to do my part. If you haven't heard of the movie "Expelled," please go here. If you want to see what the movie producers have to say about it, you'll have to find their site on your own. I'm not linking to that pile of crap. Scientific American and Time both reviewed the film and weren't impressed.

P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula has been keeping tabs on the movie and its progress and has been extremely critical. Which is fitting, since he was interviewed for the film under false pretenses and then kicked out of a screening. I am continually amazed by the dishonesty of the ID movement. If you need a refresher regarding the nastiness they've been up to, check out the PBS "Judgement Day" web page on Kitzmiller v. Dover. Will these people never stop?

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What's this blog about?

To be honest, I haven't really decided yet. I'm hoping that I'll be able to bring together some of my interests, namely science and religion/spirituality, have some discussions, and maybe gain a clearer understanding of other people's views as well as my own. Feel free to comment, debate, and question anything that's posted. Read more!