February 2008


From Scientific American:

The Ultimatum Game and Non-Human Primates
Sarah Brosnan
Georgia State University

Since its invention 25 years ago, the “Ultimatum Game” has become a workhorse of behavioral economics. The game (abbreviated UG) is designed to examine peoples’ decisions about resource allocation in a very simple bargaining situation. The first person, labeled the proposer, receives a sum of money to divide between herself and a partner (typically anonymous). The second person, or responder, can either accept the division, in which case both will be rewarded as the proposer indicated, or refuse the division, in which case neither player receives any money.

Read the full article.

From AFP:

US military accused of harboring fundamentalism

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Since his last combat deployment in Iraq, Jeremy Hall has had a rough time, getting shoved and threatened by his fellow soldiers. The trouble started there when he would not pray in the mess hall.

“A senior ranking staff sergeant told me to leave and sit somewhere else because I refused to pray,” Hall, a 23-year-old US army specialist, told AFP.

Later, Hall was confronted by a major for holding an authorized meeting of “atheists and freethinkers” on his base. The officer threatened to discipline him and block his re-enlistment.

“He said: ‘You guys are being a problem and problems can be removed,'” Hall said. “He was yelling at us and stuff and at the very end he says, ‘I really love you guys, I want you to see the light.'”

Now Hall is suing the major and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, accusing them of breaching his constitutional rights. A campaign group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is waiting for the Pentagon to respond to a lawsuit filed in a Kansas federal court on Hall’s behalf.

It alleges a “pernicious pattern and practice” of infringement of religious liberties in the military.

The group’s founder, former Air Force lawyer Mikey Weinstein, said he has documented 6,800 testimonies by military personnel — nearly all of them Christians — of sometimes punitive or humiliating attempts to make them accept a fundamentalist evangelical interpretation of Christianity.

“I am at war with those people who would create a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the technologically most lethal organization ever created by our species, which is the United States armed forces,” he said.

He plans to add extra charges and possibly other lawsuits this month.

“It violates title seven of the US code for an employer to push their Biblical world view on an employee,” he said. “But it’s a trillion times worse when that is not just your shift manager at Starbucks but that is your military superior.”

He singles out one of the major Christian groups in the military, the Officers Christian Fellowship (OCF).

The group represents 15,000 US military personnel around the world, according to its director, retired Air Force general Bruce Fister.

“It is not the position of OCF to try and coerce people to believe what we believe,” Fister told AFP.

OCF’s aim, as stated on its website, is to achieve “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

It professes belief in “the eternal blessedness of the saved; and the everlasting, conscious punishment of the lost.”

Fister emphasized the group’s work to support families of soldiers deployed in the “global war on terror.”

“People make mistakes. There’s probably been some instances where people have wrongly spoken,” he added. “We’d like them not to, but that’s life.”

“Our checks within our equal opportunity channels identified fewer than 100 formal complaints over a two-year period,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce told AFP: “The Army places a high value on the rights of its soldiers to observe tenets of their respective religious faiths.”

The MRFF’s constitutional complaint “is a matter of the courts system to address and resolve,” he added.

“The joint standards of conduct for the Armed Forces and military equal opportunity policies address the freedom of religion, avoiding discrimination because of religion.”

But Weinstein argued that most personnel are “too terrified” to speak out.

“When you actually fight against them, they make your life hell,” said Hall, adding he has been passed over for promotion since launching his lawsuit. “I can’t get a leg up no matter what I do.”

A former military chaplain of a prestigious US military college reported being prevented from leading worship after disagreeing with the fundamentalist stance of other officials.

“I am not ready to say that if someone does not profess Christ as their savior that they are going to hell … That got a lot of people angered,” the minister told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation against a spouse who is a senior officer.

“The leader of the youth group that ministered to the teens (at the academy) said that Catholics were not Christians and that Muslims hated Christians, and that created a lot of tension,” the ex-chaplain added.

“As a soldier, many times you want to believe you’re fighting on the right side. It’s easy to kill someone if you believe that they’re going to hell and that they are religiously opposed to you.”

Darwin Day

Anonymous Reflects on Feb. 10:

As we reflect upon the tenth of February, we are pleased to announce that our day of action has been crowned with great success. A wave of demonstrations spearheaded by Anonymous has swept the world. These spanned four continents, occurring in over 90 cities and involving over 7000 individuals in total.

Our campaign against the Church of Scientology has only just begun. Today has marked our first decisive move. The next event of our campaign is scheduled for March 15. This is the Saturday directly following March 13, a day known to Scientologists as the birthday of L. Ron Hubbard.

As usual, Bill Maher goes after religion on Larry King:

KING: Do you suspect when “Religulous” comes out to get a lot of flak?

MAHER: Yes, but I get a lot of flak anyway. That’s been their trick for hundreds of years. They say the word faith and somehow we all have to back off and pretend that what they believe is not destructive, and I won’t do that. And there are millions of people who won’t do that. The minority that is what I would call rationalists, that is people who don’t believe in something supernatural, something that was obviously fables that were written by men before men knew what a germ or an atom was. OK?

Yes, we’re rationalists. That’s like 20 percent of people under 30. That’s a bigger minority than lots of minorities. They just don’t speak up. I’m hoping this movie and this movement will encourage people to speak up about this. They accuse me of being a Catholic bigot. First of all, I don’t have it out especially for the Catholics. I think all religions are coo-coo. OK? It’s not just the Catholics.

I’m not a bigot. Just because I wish for the demise of an organization that I think is entirely destructive to the human race, that doesn’t make me a bigot. I also wish for demise of Hamas and the KKK. Not that on every score the Catholic Church is the same as those two organizations. But to me they are destructive organizations. I’m not a bigot because I root for their downfall.

KING: But you can offend them?

MAHER: I have been doing it for 15 years. They’re perfectly within their rights to be offended. But they’re not going to shut me up. They’re not going to do it by saying the magic word, faith. This is what I believe. Yes, you believe it. I’m going to say why it’s dumb.

Video Clip

Full Transcript

You might be a redneck if you use a utility knife to perform circumcisions on your sons.

From USA Today:

N.C. cops accuse father of homemade circumcisions

A North Carolina man faces charges that he used a utility knife to circumcise two of his 11 children, police say.

Investigators tell the Charlotte Observer that Johnny Marlowe’s wife and another women gave birth to boys in 2005 and 2006. “He took it upon himself to circumcise both of those kids,” Caldwell County Sheriff’s Detective Shelly Hartley tells the Gaston Gazette. “I do have reports that one was injured and bled extensively. He would not allow the women to take the baby to the doctor. In the reports I have he used his utility knife to do it.”

The paper says Marlowe told a reporter he follows a “polygamist lifestyle” and has performed circumcisions on three of his sons. “Everybody has their own opinion,” Marlowe is quoted as saying during a jailhouse interview in November. “If I felt I was doing something wrong to my children, I wouldn’t do it.”

But WBTV-TV reports the 32-year-old is serving time in the Gaston County Jail for assaulting his wife and neglecting his children. When he’s released, the detective says she will serve him with felony warrants related to two of the homemade circumcisions.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” Hartley tells the Observer. “Everyone I work with, we were talking this morning — they say, ‘I think about this case every day.’ And I’m the mother of two boys, so I think about it every day, too.”

Reposted from Herald-Tribune:

MANATEE COUNTY — A business in Oneco advertising palm-reading services is under investigation for fraud and theft after 15 people say they were bilked out of nearly $25,000, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said.

Authorities on Thursday raided “Botanica Mexico” at Oneco Plaza, 5000 block 15th St. E., looking for evidence, according to a search warrant released today.

On Jan. 25, authorities say, 15 people went to have their palms read by “Senora Sara” — the “alleged palm reader,” according to court papers. The palm reader charged $10 and told the victims they had an ailment or or were in imminent danger.

The bogus psychic, detectives say, urged the clients to hand over thousands in cash. She reportedly said she would take the money to a church to have it blessed and coated in spiritual oil. The clients were told to come back in three days.

Authorities say the victims never got their money back, and now investigators are trying to find the scam artists. A house in Sarasota where the suspects lived had been recently vacated, authorities said.

Topic suggestion for this Week:
Watch the movie Zeitgeist and be prepared to discuss how much is true or false.
http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/

My Comments:

I have seen parts of it and I wasn’t impressed. I like my conspiracy theory propaganda to have a little less of a MTV music video feel to it. Actually the film has a mix of truth and bunk in it. The cumbersome part is trying to dredge through this mess of a film and separate the facts from the fiction. Here are some places where viewers have already taken on that task:

http://www.boingboing.net/2007/08/06/jay-kinney-reviews-z.html
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=85264
http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/2642/

Add your own comment below.

Funny music video… Huckabee Girl:

 http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/02/huck_you.php

Reposted from: http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug/2008/02/02/

god-man human-man

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