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Recently I was discussing medical issues with a friend of mine and she mentioned that she was going to an Iridologist. I had never heard of this before and I asked what it was. She went on to explain that it is the practice of finding colours and patterns in the eye which are used to determine information about the patients health. My skeptical alarm sounded almost immediately as I noticed a similarity between this description and reflexology (the practice of massaging, squeezing, or pushing on parts of the feet to improve general health). My friend explained she had a lack of faith in Doctors and said that iridology works.

Generally when a practise is refered to as “Natural Medicine” or “Alternate Medicine” there seems to come with it a mechanism that cannot be explained scientifically, and in turn invokes magic. In regards to iridology all you need to think about is one thing, how does a pattern on the eye indicate a problem in another part of the body? Well sometimes a discolouration does indicate a certain disease or health issue. Take Jaundice (a yellow discolouration of the skin and whites of the eyes) for example, this can indicate a patient has Hepatitis A. This is observed science and well documented. But why would a pattern in the eye indicate a disease. Well it wouldn’t. Our brain notices patterns all the time, if you looked hard enough into someone’s iris maybe you could see a pattern that looked like your dead great grandmother! Does this mean that that person is possessed by your grandma? No.

After hoping on Google and doing a quick search I found a few sites that quickly debunked iridology and put my mind to rest on the matter. This article written by Dr Richard Gordon of the Australian Skeptics gave a great overview of the practise of iridology.

The reason I am writing this article is that this occurrence in conversation reinforced my trust in the ability to trust, to a certain extent, the skeptical radar and the bologna detection kit. The next time you are discussing something of this nature take the time to look into the subject and evaluate professional opinions on the matter. Face value is usually wrong and a little bit of critical analysis can help you immediately sort through a topic and determine if it is possibly bunk or not. Oh and if an Alternative Medicine worked wouldn’t it just be called Medicine?

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Good old Hillsong Evangelical Church never fails to disappoint with hilarious antics. Recently a pastor for Hillsong Evangelical Church claimed he was diagnosed with “a quite aggressive form of cancer” and that it inspired him (with the help of the G.O.D) to write a hit evangelical pop song. It has come to light that he is a filthy lying con artist when it was found he had fabricated the cancer story. Isn’t lying a sin or something? I thought that good christians were above this sort of act. Oh well, seems yet again we get to have a good chuckle at the expense of hypocrisy.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=618463

This isn’t a full post, I just found this interesting and humourous.

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!

When a Christian says that creation proves that there is a Creator,..[atheists].. dismiss such common sense by saying “That’s just the old watchmaker argument.”

– Ray Comfort

I thought I would start this post off with a sparkling gem of wisdom straight from Ray Comforts blog, the jarringly humourously named, Atheist Central. Oh we are soooo jived, we should slink away now while we have the chance! I like this quote. Yeah that’s right, I like it. The reason I like it so much is because it is just so god damn dishonest and as a result, funny.

Let’s take a look at this “common sense” and try and see it for what it obviously is, dishonesty. Firstly, let’s look at the glaringly obvious false dichotomy, usually when we see a creation there is a creator. I would think most rational people understand this. I see a building, there was obviously a builder. When I was a kid playing with my Lego and Meccano (I saved duplow for the kids who played in the corner, like Ray Comfort, with the soft skulls), I was the creator. What Ray said however, I will assume, was an attempt to rationalise that god is the creator of all life – you, me, your dog etc. I guess it’s fine to believe this if you believe Santa is real and still put teeth under your pillow at night, but we live in the real world here and we need evidence to support our claims. A building and a living breathing organism are two very different things. I guess in a round about way Ray is correct, we were created, just not by an almighty overlord who floats in the sky wearing a cape and sporting a beard (because this explains nothing!). Our creator was evolution by natural selection.

So yet again here is the unsinkable rubber duck, back with avengeance – shitting in our bath water. Why is it that these people see what they say as common sense? Common sense to whom? Any honest person can see the fallacious logic of what Ray (and others) says instantly! I wish I could, through divine intervention perhaps (?), kill this argument forever right here and now but we all know that it will be around for a long time to come.

Rays latest blog post has a great image (drawn in crayon and smeared with clag) which shows his unending logical dishonesty. Check out the link and have a giggle for yourself. Poison the well much? Oh and isn’t it blasphemy to suggest a mere construction worker is in some way equal to god in his power!?

So hopefully I helped sink the rubber duck, I won’t hold my breath but lets all “pray” to the great Spaghetti Monster in the sky that the little yellow bastard stays down this time. That being said, I will leave you with this quote from Rays latest post.

Actually, it’s not me that says that every building has a builder and that logically leads to the truth that creation therefore proves that there is a Creator. God’s Word makes the intellectual condescension to make the obvious comparison. It says, “For every house is built by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).

Oh…Right…God said it, great argument!

Today I was browsing Homologous Legs and found an interesting link.

Oooh, The Atheist Experience (blog link)

I said, clearly impressed.

I then clicked on the link kindly provided by Mr Naontiotami and waited while the site loaded. A few seconds went by and the anticipation of more logical content had my juices flowing wildly (gross).

Yes, here it comes!

I exclaimed (in my mind of course, as I was in the library and people would of thought it strange that I was so excited by a particular website).

I sat on my chair dismayed moments later when I was faced with this screen.

Double You Tee Eff!

I didn’t expect a site regarding atheism to be banned by the tafe but, alas, it was. I was about to close the window and move on when I looked towards the bottom of the page and noticed this!

The warning signs to the onset of unstoppable rage set in as my eyes scanned the screen time and again. Occult. What the flying FUCK. The first image that came to my mind was some barry bowl cut blonde haired bible basher (alliteration, awesome) sitting at his computer at head office sucking on his cross and stroking his tiny IQ/epeen thinking he has won another battle for jebus by blocking atheist content from students.

I quickly googled “Christian” and clicked on the first couple of sites that came up. They all loaded quickly and with no blocks. My favourite one was the site proclaiming “God makes sense!”. I want to go on a rant about how atheism is the complete opposite of occult but because you are reading this blog I will assume you already agree with me there.

The madness doesn’t stop there. The Skeptics Guide to the Universe and Geologic podcast sites are also blocked from view by the same asshat at head office. In closing, YAY FOR EDUCATION.

I got “told” by the lovely Podblack to do this questionaire…so here it is. Hopefully you learn a little bit more about me! That is assuming that people still read my blog. Sorry for the big gap between posts. Anyway, here we go!

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

I would define atheism as a lack of belief in any god. My style of atheism relates more to agnosticism than as a hard out denial of the possible existance of some sort of god. I call myself an atheist but only because I don’t like the fence sitting of the term agnostic. I would say I am a mixture leaning towards atheist rather than agnostic.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

My parents never really mentioned religion at all. I was brought up to think for myself.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?

IDiocracy … lawlz

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

Paleontology is very exciting to me. I love hearing about ancient creatures that no one knew about previously. A recent find that I found intriguing was the dinosaur mummy found in the Hell Creek Formation Badlands of North Dakota with soft tissue and skin intact.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

I would like to get more young people involved in thinking logically and questioning things humanity as a whole accepts without serious thought. Hence why I am making the Young Australian Skeptics website ! 😛

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first
response?

“Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm”

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

“What if you are wrong and there is a god? Don’t you think you should go to church to save yourself?”
“I know there is a material world so I would prefer to live my life in the world I know exists rather than waste time on something that probably doesn’t exist. If I am wrong and there is a god and I end up going to hell, well then I’ll have all eternity to ponder my “sins” but right now I’m going to focus on what actually exists.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

Eugenics….I’m kidding. I don’t really have any controversial views.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

I would have Dawkins babies. He enriched the way I think about religion, biology, evolutions and the scientific method.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

If I had a time machine it would probably be Jesus or Mohammed. Just because it would be fun to fuck with them.

Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:

The Darwin Report

Carried the Cross

Homologous Legs

So yeah, I will do my best to be posting in the next few weeks. I have been through some stuff that has made me feel less motivated, but I am feeling better so yeah! Please come and read my blog…I promise cucumber and nipple related madness!

I am still without an internet connection, but to tide this blog over I thought I would post an email conversation between my mum and my older brother.

My mum is a gorgeous person who always wants to believe the best about everyone she comes in contact with and is fascinated with the paranormal. My brother is similar but has learned the painful (for him) lesson that his eagerness to believe in the paranormal means that it is necessary to apply critical-thinking and the skeptical toolbox when confronted with extraordinary claims to avoid being sucked into anything and everything.

This is the email from our mum to my brother Josh (not his real name) edited to remove private details:

Hi Josh ,

I am just about to set off to go, but before I go I thought you would be interested in chasing up on the web these two guys: Bruce L. Cathie and Frank Scully, you may know of them already! Bruce Cathie is a fascinating guy and reminds me a bit of you (very generous). They write about Harmonics/natural reality, UFOs , Anti-gravity, electro-magnetic fields and the energy grid etc. Frank Scully’s forte is flying saucers.

Let me know what you think. Perhaps we could meet up for lunch next week to discuss. Love you.

Mum x

My brother’s reply:

Hello,

I tried to find stuff about what Bruce is saying – it’s not easy. The only thing that turns up is prompts to buy his books. The books look cool! Very much like many I’ve read before, although those are clearly labelled for what they are – science-fiction.

I found a forum thread where people were discussing his work but the comments were laughable. Stuff about the moon can only be explained by it being artificially created and the like. That’s how it’s obvious that those folks were scientifically illiterate. They will say “science doesn’t know *everything*” as if that means that “science doesn’t know *anything*”. We know all about moons!

This is the only thing I have to go on regarding the sorts of things Bruce is selling, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now and say that those forum comments are not indicative of his claims. However, it does say something about the type of people who are interested in purchasing his books.

Maybe Bruce is not such a good science-fiction writer so he needs to spread his potential demographic to the scientifically-ignorant in order to turn a profit. This seems quite likely from what I have seen. I’m sure there is a line of argument that I should read a book before I comment further – but then again, if he had any useful claims to make then they would be in the public domain by now.

I’d like to see what you found interesting about his claims – did you have a specific link you can send me please? All I could find was his revenue raising endeavours. What’s with the L. in the name – I guess he wants it to be memorable?

Regarding Frank Scully. Ooo, the Roswell myth – this is a fun one! It’s a fascinating story in myth-making. As you know, I’ve been interested in this since I was a kid. Very hard to get to the facts because they are well hidden amongst the multi-billion dollar industry of woo woo that has built up around it, but it’s not impossible once you know where to look. Joe Nickell (now there’s a truly fascinating person for you to look up) – an investigator of paranormal claims with CSI ( http://www.csicop.org ) – has thoroughly flushed out the facts on this one.

It didn’t take long to find out who Frank Scully was. He’s a guy who, in 1950, wrote a book about the government having “flying saucers” and aliens in their possession. The book was based on a story told to him by two men. It turned out later that the men were hoping to sell him a device which detected petroleum and was based on alien technology, so they fabricated the story using bits from a science-fiction movie “The Flying Saucer” that came out a year earlier, and which keyed into the confusion that snow-balled from the so-called “Roswell incident”.

Frank’s book was very successful. People were eager to be excited by his story, and those who were willing to accept such extraordinary claims at face-value took the story and ran with it – feeding the creation of what now is one of the most profitable franchises in the world.

Was there anything in particular about Frank’s books you found interesting? Any link you want to send me to look at? You are right – it’s all really interesting.

Josh. x

In our discussions, I told my brother that I worry that mum thinks we just shoot down whatever she says regarding the paranormal and that it seems like she maybe wanted to find common ground on this subject. Josh agreed but said he thinks it is great that she is willing to discuss these things with us despite knowing we are “evil skeptics”. Maybe some part of her is beginning to see that hearing the other side of an issue might not be such a bad thing?

My brother said this to me, which I think is a useful point to remember when talking to loved ones who you think would benefit from a little more knowledge about skepticism:

I want to show her that skepticism is all about being interested in paranormal stuff. That is the common ground.

My internet has been disconnected and I’m searching for a new provider so I won’t be writing until I get it back up or until I get a large chunk of time to post.

In the meantime please send in your Young Australian Skeptic submissions.
Cheers

Cloning is cool

Most people in Australia would know of the Thylacinus cynocephalus, more commonly known as the Thylacine or the Tasmanian Tiger. For those of you that don’t know what the creature is let me give you a quick run down.tazzy tiger

The Tasmanian Tiger is not a tiger at all, and despite its looks it isn’t a canine either. It was a marsupial predator that roamed Australia, and more recently, the small state in Australia, Tasmania. It bears a striking resemblance to a common dog and is defined by its tiger like stripes on its back towards its hind legs that continue down its long tail.

The last Tazzy Tiger died in 1936 in captivity.

Well, the ol’ taz tiger may be set to walk the forests of Australia once again with new advancements in cloning technology. Dr Andrew Pask and Professor Marilyn Renfree from the University of Melbourne have managed to insert a Thylacine gene into a mouse embryo. The gene used was the proα1(II) collagen (Col2a1) gene which controls the growth of bone and cartilage. The embryo continued to grow with the gene in place so that is definately good news for extinct species.Embryo

However, this doesn’t mean that the whole creature can be resurrected and there is still a lot more work to be done before that can be achieved. Even though it may never happen, damn its fun to think about. Dinosaur cloning is probably out of the question but if the technology is developed then you can be sure it will be possible to see Mammoths and other extinct mammals in reserves and parks (à la Jurassic Park). That would kick ass!

Check out these links.

The Research Article http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0002240

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thylacine

http://www.dailytech.com/Jurassic+Park+in+The+Real+World+Scientists+Partially+Clone+Extinct+Mammal/article11839.htm

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/05/20/2249769.htm?site=science&topic=latest

Baby

In the future we will have flying cars, pet aliens, erotic robots and REAL virtual reality video gaming, and you know who is going to make all this totally kick arse awesome stuff? The young people of today. Yes, soon all of you old people will die and anarchy will ensue in the shape of a kid nation (except the kids won’t be kids anymore they will be adults…that is confusing).

I think it’s about time society started thinking about, well, me. By me I mean, the youth. I say this because my generation is the immediate future. The people who are currently at university in a lecture while I’m at home wagging tafe, the people who are actually at tafe while I’m wagging tafe. These people will be one day running our country, our businesses and our education system, and that day is not that far away. In a few years, this will happen, we will literally rule the world and it is ours and societies responsibility to educate Generation Y.

Thats why I am doing my part by building The Young Australian Skeptics website. The Young Australian Skeptics is all about educating and entertaining young skeptical minds as well as spreading awareness of the scientific method to young people. Construction of the site starts soon, but to begin I need content. When I publish the site I plan to use my own content as well as articles written by you! So send me your skeptical, educational and motivational articles. They can be about anything, science, religion, pseudoscience, meetings…anything!

So don’t dilly dally. Head over to the Young Australian Skeptics submission page (found at the top of the site) and submit your articles today!

Oh, and while I’m at it, take a look through my blog roll for naontiotami’s blog, Homologous Legs. He is another young skeptic who writes mainly on creation science. Make sure to check out his youtube channel also which can be found on his site. Keep your eyes open for other young skeptics on the net and make sure you support our future!
Skelliot