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Category Archives: Politics

Obama wins. Yay. That is all I have to say…oh and,

Yes we can!

Recently the speaker of the house of representatives in our humble country of Australia has called for public debate in relation to the lord’s prayer in Australian parliament. My thought on this is, good! We do need to start to separate church and state more in Australia as currently god is mentioned in our constitution and apparently in our taxation systems (I am going to look this up, but it was mentioned in a few articles. I would assume it is in reference to Church tax exemptions).

Here is the first couple of sentences in the Preamble of the Australian constitution:

Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to blah blah blah blah Et caetera, et caetera.

Not only does this set a religious climate in the government and country at large, but it also alienates anyone who isn’t christian! Oh, and it obviously references the Queen, that decrepit old tradition that is based on the king/queen being appointed by GOD himself…anyway where was I? Oh yeah… I would have to say thank the flying fairy in the sky that someone in government is actually speaking out about this and not guiding us with a little nudge on the slippery slope towards a retarded “secular” government such as the USA’s today. I would like to think that a large amount of Australians hold secular values, whether or not they are religious or otherwise, and I am glad that we are starting to be represented. Let’s hope that this leads us to a truly secular nation that we can all be proud of.

Check out this article on Sarah Palin. Speculative, anecdotal and ridiculous but I wouldn’t put it past her saying something like this.

Huffington Post

“Palin said “she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks,” recalled Munger”

Really? No…really? What pictures? Did she draw them with her crayons in grade 2? WHERE?! WHEN!? WHAT!? I’m hungry.

An orchestra of car horns blew as my brother slid across the bonnet of a Mercedes. He landed, cat like, on the other side and sprinted onto the side walk towards the Asia centre. I stumbled behind him followed closely by his good friend Kat, cars screeching to a halt as we failed to get out of the way of them. I saw my bro in the distance standing at the door of the Asia centre casually leaning against the wall. I felt obligated to get to the auditorium on time so I sucked in a large breath of air and bolted up to the building.

Took your time didn’t ya? We are going to miss the start of the talk.

Chuckled Josh.

We barrelled down the stairs and found a seat in the auditorium, luckily there were some fantastic seats right in front of the stage. We sunk into our seats gasping for breath.
Normally I don’t think we would have been this eager to get somewhere, but this was something special. It is National Science Week and we were off to see Michael Shermer and Lynne Kelly.

We were not disappointed. First was the Shermernator with his talk, Why Darwin Matters. Needless to say Shermer was fantastic. He lashed the key note with humourous asides and the core focus of the talk was highly persuasive. Well, persuasive to someone with an open mind. There was one old chap who stood up and disagreed with everything Shermer said. This on its own is fine, but when every argument he put forth was the same old creationist/religious apologist pre-debunked crap it kind of felt like he was trying to have a pissing contest. He brought out Shannon’s law (obviously completely misunderstanding how we measure information) and also reused the old Letters in a box analogy. It was a veritable shotgun blast of challenges that he most likely knew Shermer wouldn’t be able to address in full.

All in all it was a great talk and was very funny.

Next up was Lynne Kelly of the Victorian Skeptics. Her talk on Taromancy didn’t disappoint. She focused on cold reading and her personally made “Ancient Chinese” Tarot cardesque form of cold reading which used “masks”. She showed us how she works with a client and how even the most skeptical mind can be fooled if the cold reader is clever enough. The talk took a sombre note when she explained how psychics and pseudo-science can harm people with a truly sad story about a Melbourne couple who chose to forgo science based medicine at the advice of a psychic, ending in the death of a child.

This was definitely one of those talks that you wish you could take a non-skeptical friend or family member to. I hope in the future that we can have many more events like this and keep spreading scepticism and the scientific method. To continue the Science Week trend, later this week I’m going to the Melbourne museum to try and get into the fossil archives to take some photos for YAS.

Oh, I almost forgot, make sure you get your Young Australian Skeptic submissions in soon! The first articles are coming in now from people such as:- The Skepbitch, Podblack and Naotiotami! Your article can be about anything you want (as long as its science based or attempts critical thought) it can even be a video if you wish, or a sound bite. So hurry up!

Welcome to the world of tomorrow! Blogs are old news, the age of the podcast has begun and in honor of the dawning of this new age I thought I would do a skeptical podcast run down of the casts that I currently (or have in the past) listen too!

Geologic Podcast
http://www.geologicpodcast.com/

Do you want to laugh? Well, if you do, then listen to George Hrab on his podcast. The show consists of sketches, his mother rapping, religious morons and many of his absolutely side splitting characters (all played by him). He even has cameos by famous pod caster Soccer Girl! (A podcast I have not yet listened to by the way.) I am not kidding when I say Mr Hrab is funny, all I can say is go check it out for yourself and then send me (or George, preferably me) money for finding it for you. It is recommended that you listen to episode 31.1 if you want to catch up and get in on the “in” jokes.

Skeptics Guide to the Universe
http://www.theskepticsguide.org/

No self respecting skeptic skips this weekly podcast. Hosted by Steven Novella, an academic neurologist and full time skeptic, and the skeptical rogues, Robert Novella, Jay Novella, Rebecca Watson (the Skepchick) and Evan Bernstein. The SGU is a must listen for any skeptic, or non-skeptic for that mater, in their weekly rounds of the podcast scene. In the show they discuss current topics in the news and skeptical community as well as devastating break downs of pseudo-science and woo. Their regular interviews are truly entertaining. The Amazing Guru of skepticism James Randi also has a regular section called Randi Speaks where he attacks certain issues head on. If you love knowledge, and who doesn’t, tune into the SGU and join its already huge (35,000 last time I heard?) listener base!

Skepticality
http://www.skepticality.com/index.php

Again, a must listen for any self respecting skeptic. Join Derek and Swoopy as they delve into a specific issue each week. Generally their show consists of an interview with a prominent personality in skepticism or science but their older shows were more like SGU in structure. My favourite recent episode was the No Intelligence Allowed! interview with Professor Richard Dawkins and Dr. Michael Shermer about the new ID movie Expelled.

Are we alone? – SETI Podcast
http://radio.seti.org/

Are we alone? Who knows! But damn it’s fun to speculate. That’s what the SETI podcast is all about… well, not really, they explore deep into different scientific issues as well as the astrobiology topics it is based on. Each podcast focus’ on one or two topics and consists of interviews and fantastic banter between the two hosts. Seth Shostak is the senior astronomer at the SETI institute.

Scientific American
http://www.sciam.com/podcast/

This is a podcast that I don’t listen to regularly, but when I do listen I enjoy it thoroughly. The podcasts are usually fairly short and consist of mainly scientific topics (duh). My recent favourite episode was their interview with Mark Mathis who they proceeded to basically rip apart. It was hilarious to listen to him back peddle when met with a difficult question.

Cj’s Skeptical World
http://tcradiolive.com/cjskeptical.php

Unfortunately CJ’s no longer makes his podcast, but what he has made so far are highly entertaining. Listen to CJ as he spews mind bending rants about Woo and science in the American and world media. He even gives this blog a fleeting mention.

I hope this quick run down has helped you to decide on what you want to listen to. With each packet of knowledge I receive I come closer to world domination, please help me in that goal by commenting and posting your favourite Podcasts.

Human culture holds many old traditions that we have entertained for thousands of years. While some of these cause no harm at all, others have become out dated and some are just dangerous to begin with.

Lets just say that everyday for thousands of years my ancestors went hunting in the forest to catch a deer, boar or some other tasty looking critter or to forage for some vegetation. Back then this practice would have been considered necessary to survive and prosper. Many of these traditions still stand today as something that we continue, and with good reason. For example, agriculture is a tradition that advanced the human race a huge amount. Hunting is another skill and tradition that benefited our ancestors. While it is important that we remember tradition and record it we shouldn’t always keep practicing a tradition.

Some traditions are so outdated they actually do harm. I could point out religion for this quite easily but instead I wanted to bring up the topic of “Scientific research”.

I’m not talking about legitimate research. I’m talking about the slaughter of innocent creatures under the guise of tradition and an outright lie distorting the scientific method. I am talking about the Japanese whalers.

Today the whalers returned back to port in Japan after continued harassment by the activists that lurk around their hunting grounds in the Antarctic. While they slaughtered many innocent animals (551 Minke Whales) their efforts were severely hampered by the men and women who braved the freezing oceans to stop the massacre.

These magnificent creatures are like humans, victims of tradition. Only they aren’t the ones who practice it. They are just on the receiving end. Just because Japanese culture has been killing whales for a few hundred years they think they can just continue it due to tradition even with no real necessity?

Tradition can be a dangerous thing when left unchecked. Maybe it’s time we started re-evaluating our ancient ways.

RIP to all the whales killed in the name of tradition.

Skelliot.

Computers are cool

It’s Friday afternoon 6:30pm, and on a piss stained seat on a bustling locamotive sits a young boy. His feet swing slowly back and forth as he peruses a newspaper. His innocent and youthful eyes flit over the articles of the paper until he finds something that catches his interest. His vibrant blue saucers widen with horror as he locks onto a frightening article. It reads -

“Gaming’s autism link.”

Shocked, the boy reads on.

“Obsessive computer game playing has been linked to a rare form of autism.”

The young boy snaps out of his shock and puts on his skeptical hat and examines the article more closely.

Ok, so as you have guessed the young boy is me. I wasn’t really shocked and awed when I saw the article but I was angry. As I read on it was apparent that the news paper had obviously either blown a study out of proportion or reported on a scientific study that is flawed. The article goes on -

“Doctors say hours spent on your console could give you the same negative character traits associated with Asperger’s syndrome.”

Right, so first the article says that gaming is linked to a rare form of autism now its referencing “doctors” who say that it can cause character traits similar to Asperger’s syndrome. Firstly, just because something is like something doesn’t mean it is that same thing. A cold is caused by a virus, but when you get a cold you don’t say, “Hory shit mang! I got a minor case of the AIDs!”. No, you don’t. That would be silly.

The kicker of the article was that it stated that -

“according to Dr John Charlton…In total, 3 per cent of those questioned (out of 400 gamers) during the study had signs of being addicted to game playing.”

3 per cent. Wow. So basically this study detected noise and if it did detect anything it detected that video game playing is very very mildly addictive to some people…like pretty much everything else. (Smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex etc.).

It is obvious that it was a slow news day in the MX news room on Friday so they had to fabricate a story that would seem scary in order to shock the mindless masses coming home from work at the end of the week.

This is exactly what we need (SARCASM DETECTOR ACTIVATED!). Not only do vaccinations seem to cause autism, now our beloved video games cause it to! RUN FOR THE HILLS! Heres hoping that this little gem flies under the radar and isn’t picked up by the autism/vaccination proponents who seem to latch onto any little thing that comes their way.

So basically what I want to say is, Go die in a fire MX news paper. They know their target market and they continue to push brain dead anti-science at them.

Blam

We humans are almost incapable of visualizing big numbers. When we think of big numbers we think of a thousand, a million, but when we get to numbers in the high millions it starts to get hazy. Think about the number 100 ^100. Thats one hundred multiplied by itself 100 times. It is impossible to visualize a number of this immense size. This number is called a googolplex and it is theorized there is only about 10 to the power of 80 atoms in the whole universe, so now you can see how large this number actually is without actually comprehending it. ITS FREAKING LARGE.

Anyway, I am actually getting to something here. Lets think of a number that is much much smaller than a googol or a googolplex. That number is 1 trillion. OK, A trillion is still not a small number, in fact, its a very large number. A trillion is one thousand billion. ONE THOUSAND…BILLION. A billion… times… ONE THOUSAND. Yes, I know, so what? you ask. Well let me give you an idea of how big a trillion is. You haven’t lived for one trillion seconds, neither has your family, or western civilization. A trillion seconds ago, 31,688 years ago, humans were accompanied on Earth by Neanderthals. I hope this puts that number into perspective for you because America ALONE has spent 3 trillion dollars on the war in Iraq so far. Ummmmmmmm, WHAT!? The rest of the world, Britain included, have spent about the same all up. So thats a cool 6 thousand billion dollars spent on the war.

Now, I want you to sit back, and think about this much money.

Go read this and also read about this guy.

coffee

Most charities, religious or not, do a fair amount of good work on the planet Earth. But sometimes the inner workings of charities and organisations go awry or completely barking mad. You see, Mercy Ministries, an evangelical christian group, have been doing their “best” to help poor women who suffer from mental health problems. The ministry works in conjunction with another well known christian group called Hillsong Church as well as coffee chain Gloria Jean’s. On the Mercy Ministry website they claim to be

“providing homes and care for young women suffering the effects of eating disorders, self harm, abuse, depression, unplanned pregnancies and other life controlling issues.”

A noble pursuit one would say, that is until you remember that these people believe in a literal heaven and hell, demons and angels and are probably the last people you should go to to help with mental health issues, let alone unplanned pregnancies. You see, three young women who broke away from the group have claimed that Mercy Ministries have been blaming their problems on “demonic possession” and even performed exorcisms that allegedly left the young women suicidal. Of course, Mercy Ministries have been quick to combat these claims in a letter that can be found on their website, here. Notice that none of the claims have actually been addressed in the letter which is written in a very loose manner and seems to dodge the main issue, that the organisation performs exorcisms.

This is another great example of religious-based “healing” having an ill effect rather than a positive one. What is the point of going to a form of “healing” that is considered alternative when you can take advantage of a science-based treatment that is demonstrably effective? Remember that there is medicine and then there is the rest, the alternative really isn’t an alternative. So next time a person walks towards you in a time of hardship with a Gloria Jean’s coffee in one hand and a cross in the other, punch them in the face*.

For further reading check out these links:-

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/03/17/2191256.htm

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/03/16/1205602228832.html

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/they-prayed-to-cast-satan-from-my-body/2008/03/16/1205602228826.html

http://www.mercyministries.com.au

http://www2.hillsong.com/pages/default.asp?pid=170

P.s. Now for something completely different (kind of). Check out this site (link sent in by Leopold). It’s by a guy named TED! who claims he is the second coming of Jesus or some crap. Anyway, I got over it in the first couple of sentences and you will see why when you check it out. Give it a read and see if you can get further than me!

* (Disclaimer: Do not punch people in the face. It hurts them and you might go to gaol where worse things will happen to parts of you that you don’t want them to happen to. :) )

America

Just last year, after a long and deserved wait, we ousted our long time government and it’s leader, Johnny boy. But that isn’t the end of our political woes. Soon we must endure another grueling election, the only thing is, we don’t get to vote in this one. The USA Presidential Election is as important as our own federal election was, if not more! Not only does USA and its president effect us, it greatly effects the rest of the world, as we all know very well. They are one of the permanent nations in the UN board and currently they can (and do) do basically anything they want!

The presidential race is broken down into two major groups. The Democrats and The Republicans. Currently they are choosing their candidates for president in the primary elections. Generally the Republicans consist of people of religious belief of varying extremes. The most extreme being notably, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

Thankfully, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, recently dropped out of the runnings. This guy is basically bananas but as we all know there is no lack of “bananas” in the presidential race and no lack of crazies who will vote for them. Romney says awesomely fallacious statements such as,

“I am concerned that, unless America changes its course, we could become the France of the 21st century,”

What does this mean!? France is the France of the 21st Century. I cannot fathom what he means by this. Is he concerned that America will become cultured and have public health care? It sounds like this is something the American people should want! But again this is a man who thinks his god lives on a planet called Kolob and will give him his own planet to rule when he dies.

Mike Huckabee is a huge danger to America’s future and to the world. We have seen how an openly evangelical American President can effect everyone by just looking at George Bush’s track record. G Dub cut funding to government science programs and did away with the Presidential Science Adviser as well as banning stem cell research. Huckabee could be even more dangerous than Bush because he wants to change the American constitution so that it more accurately supports the Bible. I’ll let this quote do the talking.

“… I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

What a bloody nut job. While I highly doubt that Huckabee will win the election, it is still worrying to think that people will vote for him, I know some Australians that would given the chance.

The democrats seem to be the safer choice for both Americans and the world. In my opinion, Clinton is the favourable option. This is because she openly supports a scientific future for America and in turn the rest of us, and she is the only presidential candidate to vocally support evolution as the fact it truly is. It’s going to be a tight race between Obama and Clinton though, so we can only sit and hold tight while we wait for the American people to decide the fate of the western world. It is a sad thought, but we are so heavily influenced by the USA that this might be one of the most important elections for Australia! If only we could vote in their elections then maybe it would be fair.

Skelliot.

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