May 2008


Pray at the Pump activists link hands, pray for lower gas prices at stations. Since they’ve started, gas has gone up 43 cents a gallon.

Read the full article at WashingtonPost.com.  WARNING: The article contains some of the stupidest quotes you may ever read.

A good topic for discussion from The Information Paradox:

Here’s the premise of the story – two teenage girls see a nine year old Girl Scout selling cookies and they swipe her envelope of money. Afterwards they confess, no, they gloat, about their crime and are completely unapologetic about it.

‘Money is money’ says the one girl, ‘there was $150.00 in that envelope and I wanted it.’ Oh, and they were really pissed that they had to give the money back because they got charged for their crime.

The thing is, I see this behavior on the street all the time. Rather, I see this attitude all the time in people of this generation. I’m not saying ALL kids this age act like these two girls but from my observations a fair amount do. It’s a lack of empathy for those around them that’s appalling – it’s the absolute and complete utter selfishness that makes me shake my head in dismayed astonishment. The sense of entitlement that these girls display is outrageous. Frankly, they almost seem sociopathic.

It seems to me that these girls are part of a generation of selfish, socially stunted individuals.

I don’t know what generation these girls belong to since I don’t know exactly how old they are and I hesitate to label them with a particular generation name.

What is it with this generation? Why do they walk around as if they are entitled to everything and anything that the rest of us have had to work hard for. I see it at my job, I see it on the streets and in the malls. I watched as a group of teenage boys simply shoved through a gaggle of old ladies, nearly knocking one down without so much as an apology or backward glance. What happened to respect?

Read the full post here.

From Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sharon Stone’s “karma” comment is having an instant effect on her movie-star status in China.

The 50-year-old actress suggested last week that the devastating May 12 earthquake in China could have been the result of bad karma over the government’s treatment of Tibet. That prompted the founder of one of China’s biggest cinema chains to say his company would not show her films in his theaters, according to a story in The Hollywood Reporter.

Top 6 Incestuous Relationships In The Bible

Religious scholars say that God suspended the laws of incest in the early days of man in order to ensure that man spread on the earth. In the words of the commentators of the Douay Rheims Bible: “God [dispensed] with such marriages in the beginning of the world, as mankind could not otherwise be propagated.” Despite that, these tales are not all simply matters of procreation – particularly item 1. So, here is a list of 6 of the more questionable relationships in the Bible.

http://listverse.com/religion/top-6-incestuous-relationships-in-the-bible/

From Peter Singer at commentisfree.guardian.co.uk:

Good God?
Peter Singer

May 17, 2008 5:00 PM

Do we live in a world that was created by a god who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all good? Christians think we do. Yet a powerful reason for doubting this confronts us every day: the world contains a vast amount of pain and suffering. If God is all-knowing, he knows how much suffering there is. If he is all-powerful, he could have created a world without so much of it – and he would have done so if he were all good.

Christians usually respond that God bestowed on us the gift of free will, and hence is not responsible for the evil we do. But this reply fails to deal with the suffering of those who drown in floods, are burned alive in forest fires caused by lightning, or die of hunger or thirst during a drought.

Christians sometimes attempt to explain this suffering by saying that all humans are sinners, and so deserve their fate, even if it is a horrible one. But infants and small children are just as likely to suffer and die in natural disasters as adults, and it seems impossible that they could deserve to suffer and die.

Once again, some Christians say that we have all inherited the original sin committed by Eve, who defied God’s decree against eating from the tree of knowledge. This is a triply repellent idea, for it implies that knowledge is bad, disobeying God’s will is the greatest sin of all, and children inherit the sins of their ancestors, and may justly be punished for them.

Even if were to accept all this, the problem remains unresolved. For animals also suffer from floods, fires, and droughts, and, since they are not descended from Adam and Eve, they cannot have inherited original sin.

In earlier times, when original sin was taken more seriously than it generally is today, the suffering of animals posed a particularly difficult problem for thoughtful Christians. The 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes solved it by the drastic expedient of denying that animals can suffer. Animals, he maintained, are merely ingenious mechanisms, and we should not take their cries and struggles as a sign of pain, any more than we take the sound of an alarm clock as a sign that it has consciousness.

People who live with a dog or a cat are not likely to find that persuasive. Last month, at Biola University, a Christian college in southern California, I debated the existence of God with the conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza. In recent months, D’Souza has made a point of debating prominent atheists, but he, too, struggled to find a convincing answer to the problem I outlined above.

He first said that, because humans can live forever in heaven, the suffering of this world is less important than it would be if our life in this world were the only life we had. That still fails to explain why an all-powerful and all-good god would permit it. Relatively insignificant as this suffering may be from the perspective of eternity, the world would be better without it, or at least without most of it. (Some say that we need to have some suffering to appreciate what it is like to be happy. Maybe, but we surely don’t need as much as we have.)

Next, D’Souza argued that since God gave us life, we are not in a position to complain if our life is not perfect. He used the example of a child born with one limb missing. If life itself is a gift, he said, we are not wronged by being given less than we might want. In response I pointed out that we condemn mothers who cause harm to their babies by using alcohol or cocaine when pregnant. Yet since they have given life to their children, it seems that, on D’Souza’s view, there is nothing wrong with what they have done.

Finally, D’Souza fell back, as many Christians do when pressed, on the claim that we should not expect to understand God’s reasons for creating the world as it is. It is as if an ant should try to understand our decisions, so puny is our intelligence in comparison with the infinite wisdom of God. (This is the answer given, in more poetic form, in The Book of Job.) But once we abdicate our powers of reason in this way, we may as well believe anything at all.

Moreover, the assertion that our intelligence is puny in comparison with God’s presupposes just the point that is under debate – that there is a god who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all good. The evidence of our own eyes makes it more plausible to believe that the world was not created by any god at all. If, however, we insist on believing in divine creation, we are forced to admit that the God who made the world cannot be all-powerful and all good. He must be either evil or a bungler.

While commenting on Hillary’s RFK gaffe, Liz Trotta on Fox News Channel first referred to Barack Obama as “Osama” and then laughed that they should both be killed.

digg story

At the Huffington Post, Joe Vogel considers possible repercussions.

You simply DO NOT JOKE about the assassination of a United States Senator and probable Democratic presidential nominee. You also do not deliberately identify him with a terrorist who killed thousands of innocent Americans.

Liz Trotta MUST BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY and held accountable for her despicable remarks. Here is the contact information for Fox News:

Contact FOX:
Teri Everett, Senior Vice President
Corporate Affairs & Communications
Phone: 212-852-7070
E-Mail: teverett@newscorp.com

jhorner@newscorp.com

Or file an obscenity complaint here:

http://www.fcc.gov/eb/oip/Compl.html
Electronic Mail at fccinfo@fcc.gov
Toll Free: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY
Fax: 1-866-418-0232

And here is a link to a diary at Daily Kos where further action is being discussed.

From The Calladus Blog:

Ghost hunting and the (lack of a) Scientific Method

Since I’ve been talking about the “science” of ghost hunting, I thought that now would be a good time to have a brief interlude and discuss how to do good science.

The scientific method is about creating a model of examined evidence or data, then trying out different hypotheses in order to attempt to explain what is going on. A good hypothesis makes predictions about the model that are testable, and the successes or failures of those tests are used in order to modify or even discard the hypothesis.

The biggest weakness with the scientific method is human bias. Good scientists try to guard against bias by setting up each experiment in a very careful manner, through peer review, and by being scrupulously honest in reporting any possible reason why their experiment might be fallacious.

Read the rest here.

From Switched.com:

You may remember a poll a few years ago that showed 70 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 (as recently as June of 2007 40 percent still do), or the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry in 2004. Who believes these outlandish things? Stupid people who don’t seem to be able to pick up a newspaper.

This election cycle has its own crazed bits of propaganda similar to the Swift Boat campaign, or the push polling about McCain’s out-of-wedlock African-American child. The bizarre attacks, primarily being tossed around by Fox News, this time surround Barack Obama, and the only people who seem to be swallowing the Kool-Aid are some pretty uninformed voters, most recently in Indiana, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

Take a look at a couple of the responses the Daily News got on the ground in Indiana leading up to the primary earlier this week:

* “I’m kind of still up in the air between McCain and Hillary… I’ll be honest with you. Barack scares the hell out of me… He swore on the Koran.”
* “I can’t stand him… He’s a Muslim. He’s not even pro-American as far as I’m concerned.”

Hoax e-mails long ago debunked and — we thought — forgotten are still informing the decisions of some folks in the suburban and rural midwest, according to the Daily News. The e-mails that have been circulating claim alternately that he’s a Muslim, that he’s a radical racist Christian, that he’s unpatriotic, that he refuses to say the pledge of allegiance, or that he’s a communist. How can all of these things be true? They can’t, but that doesn’t stop some lazy people from believing anything they read in an e-mail.

So how does one stop oneself from becoming part of the problem? Double check “facts” from e-mails with reputable news sources like the Associated Press (AP) or Reuters. Or follow some basic guidelines for skepticism laid out by FactCheck.org. And the next time you get a poorly spelled e-mail from Kofi Annan claiming that Barack Obama ate a cheese burger with Osama Bin Laden in front of a village of starving children, listen to that little voice in the back of your head that says “that can’t be true.” [Source: NY Daily News, via: Wired]

Is there a slang word for those types that continue to forward hoax e-mails over and over again? Well, I can’t think of one so I will come up with my own. I like “e-creder” – short for “e-mail credophile“.

So will this country continue on the wrong path because e-creders are allowed to use the internet? When e-creders get forwarded e-mails claiming Obama is a Muslim they believe it without batting an eye, just like any other forwarded hoax, and then they forward this bunk to all their gullible friends. This presidential election could be won by the Republicans because of the ease at which false information can be spread. How ironic that with the rise of the internet, which can be such a great tool for learning and spreading good information, has turned out to be a much better tool for e-creders to disseminate false information. Will this problem only continue to get worse as a larger numbers of e-creders obtain access to internet? Unfortunately, I think so. Currently there are numerous tools to protect internet users from malicious programs, SPAM, and hackers. But until they come up with a tool that filters out the false information, propaganda, and hoax forwards, the e-creders may wield control over who gets elected for decades to come.

UPDATE: Obama launches Web site to fight rumors

While watching a program on the Science Channel I noticed an odd commercial for something called PowerPurify Foot Patches. The commercial claims the patches remove “toxins” from your body, improve sleep, and increase metabolism. It was obvious these claims were dubious and the product was basically a scam. I just couldn’t get over that the Science Channel would take money from these frauds to broadcast a commercial that was obviously completely non-scientific. I intend on contacting Science Channel to let them know my displeasure about this.

Here are some links about PowerPurify and similar products:

  • The Power Purify website – The main product where you can see the same commercial being shown on the Science Channel
  • The Wired Blog Network – Kinoki foot pads are mentioned as being a huge scam. These foot pads appear to be the same thing as the Power Purify foot patches. Their commercial contains even more bogus claims and they even cite research in a bogus scientific journal.
  • Detoxifying foot bath quackery – The foot pad scam isn’t that much different that the foot bath quackery.
  • ABC News 20/20: Can Foot Pads ‘Absorb Toxic Materials’ – 20/20 investigated these foot pads and reported what they found. (No surprise that they found they didn’t do what they claimed, but had an awful smell to them.)
    The broadcast version of the 20/20 segment can be seen here.

Stephen Barrett over at Device Watch (and affiliate of Quackwatch) sums up the detox foot pad scam nicely:

Various adhesive pads and patches are claimed to detoxify the body when applied to the feet. The best known is the Kinoki Detox Foot Pad, which is claimed to remove toxins, restore “balance” within the body, and boost energy. Various other products are claimed to strengthen the immune system, reduce stress, improve circulation, improve sleep, enhance mental focus, relieve headaches and arthritis pain. The alleged explanation for their working include reflexology, unblocking of lymphatic passages, and negative ions that release far infrared rays. All such products should be regarded as fakes, and the proposed mechanisms should be regarded as nonsensical.

Users are instructed to apply the products to the soles of the feet and leave them on overnight. In the morning, they claim, the pads will absorb toxins and turn muddy brown or black.

“Detox” product marketers have done no studies that identify what they claim to remove, measure its level in the body, and see whether such substances accumulate in the pads and have their level reduced in the body. It is unlikely they will ever try, because the basic idea that toxins will be excreted through the skin clashes with what is known about human anatomy and physiology. Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in the liver, which modifies their chemical structure so they can be excreted by the kidneys which filter them from the blood into the urine. Sweat glands in the feet can excrete water and some dissolved substances. However, its minor role in ridding the body of unwanted substances is not changed by applying foot pads.

In April 2008. ABC’s “20/20” investigated Kinoki ad Avon pads and reported:

* When used overnight, the pads darkened, but dropping distilled water on the pads produced the same dark color.
* Laboratory analysis of pads used by eight volunteers showed no significant evidence of heavy metals or commonly used solvents.
* When asked for tests that would show that their products really work the companies offered no valid scientific studies.

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe talked about the detox foot pads on their show back on 1/2/2008:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

You can listen to their whole show along with numerous other wonderful shows here.

UPDATE: NPR on detox foot pads (8/18/08)

Brian Cuban asked the question:

Is Alcoholics Anonymous A Cult

What comes to your mind when you hear the word cult? Jim Jones Kool Aid? David Koresh? Charles Manson? The Texas Polygamist Compound? Maybe even Scientology. Do the words Alcoholic’s Anonymous come to mind? I certainly have never thought of Alcoholics Anonymous as a cult and I am a member. As many people know from my recent blog post, I have been in AA for over a year.

Read the full post here.

I pretty much agree with Dr. Stanton Peele on this question:

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