October 2008


From Seedmagazine.com:

Barack Obama for President
An endorsement from the editors of Seed.

Our world is more complex, dynamic, and interdependent than at any time in recent history. Financial markets are in turmoil, geopolitical conflicts abound, and our pale blue dot is in serious peril. Yet these are also times for great optimism — about what can be known and what can be accomplished, about our potential to discover and innovate. To navigate this new reality, to realize opportunity within this massive change, we need a new approach to governance and problem solving; we need a new way of looking at the world and a new set of values founded on the conviction that knowledge is good; and we need leaders who have the courage and wisdom to change their mind in the face of new evidence. Today we stand at an inflection point in modern history, and America, still inarguably and essentially the world’s beacon, will chart the way forward next Tuesday. At this critical moment, we offer an endorsement and a perspective that we hope informs the decision of our American readers.

Full article

From Slate.com:

Sarah Palin’s War on Science
The GOP ticket’s appalling contempt for knowledge and learning.
By Christopher Hitchens

In an election that has been fought on an astoundingly low cultural and intellectual level, with both candidates pretending that tax cuts can go like peaches and cream with the staggering new levels of federal deficit, and paltry charges being traded in petty ways, and with Joe the Plumber becoming the emblematic stupidity of the campaign, it didn’t seem possible that things could go any lower or get any dumber. But they did last Friday, when, at a speech in Pittsburgh, Gov. Sarah Palin denounced wasteful expenditure on fruit-fly research, adding for good xenophobic and anti-elitist measure that some of this research took place “in Paris, France” and winding up with a folksy “I kid you not.”

Full article

From The New Yorker:

Red Sex, Blue Sex
Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?
by Margaret Talbot

In early September, when Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for Vice-President, announced that her unwed seventeen-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant, many liberals were shocked, not by the revelation but by the reaction to it. They expected the news to dismay the evangelical voters that John McCain was courting with his choice of Palin. Yet reports from the floor of the Republican Convention, in St. Paul, quoted dozens of delegates who seemed unfazed, or even buoyed, by the news. A delegate from Louisiana told CBS News, “Like so many other American families who are in the same situation, I think it’s great that she instilled in her daughter the values to have the child and not to sneak off someplace and have an abortion.” A Mississippi delegate claimed that “even though young children are making that decision to become pregnant, they’ve also decided to take responsibility for their actions and decided to follow up with that and get married and raise this child.” Palin’s family drama, delegates said, was similar to the experience of many socially conservative Christian families. As Marlys Popma, the head of evangelical outreach for the McCain campaign, told National Review, “There hasn’t been one evangelical family that hasn’t gone through some sort of situation.” In fact, it was Popma’s own “crisis pregnancy” that had brought her into the movement in the first place.

Full Article

From Herald-Tribune:

Obama in Sarasota Thursday at 9 a.m.

Barack Obama will host a rally at Ed Smith baseball stadium Thursday morning. Gates open at 9 a.m. Obama will likely take the stage and hour or two later.

The event is free and open to everyone. Tickets are not required but anyone planning to attend is asked to RSVP online at www.fl.barackobama.com so the campaign has an idea of how many people to expect.

Parking will cost $3 per car, said park facilities manager Pat Calhoun.

The stadium, located at 12th and Tuttle, will accomodate between 8,000 and 10,000 people for the event. Obama’s recent rallies have drawn tens of thousands of supporters — so we’re guessing the line will form early.

For more information, visit the Sarasota campaign office above Sarasota News and Books on Main Street.

The Information Paradox has more.

Battle of the Gods

Stephen gets God psyched up for his four-way cage match against Buddha, Hindu and Allah. (04:09)

Michael Farris

Chancellor Michael Farris explains the importance of teaching the Bible at Patrick Henry College. (05:08)


The Sarasota-Manatee Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State invites you to a free showing of the above-titled DVD that we will project onto the large screen in the SELBY PUBLIC LIBRARY auditorium, 1331 First Street in downtown SARASOTA at 5:30 PM, MONDAY, OCTOBER 27.

This entertaining and informative 1 hour and 45 minute DVD is hosted by celebrated Hollywood actor and filmmaker Peter Coyote and co-hosted by Americans United’s Executive Director, Rev. Barry Lynn and Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s President, Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy.  It is interspersed by guest appearances of musical performers, including the Bacon Brothers, Caty Curtis, Roy Zimmerman and others, along with comedians and celebrities such as Michael J. Fox.

The DVD was made with a live audience and was simulcast earlier this year.  It is intended to give you background for questions to ask candidates running for election this November (or later). We will follow the DVD by a brief discussion, and we will be out of the auditorium by 7:45, in plenty of time for dinner downtown or elsewhere.

For additional information contact:

Wade Matthews, Sarasota-Manatee Chapter President
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

From the Skeptic Dictionary Newsletter – Volume 7 No. 10 – October 21, 2008:

Priming, pareidolia, apophenia, and The German New Medicine
I’m often asked “what’s the difference between priming, pareidolia, and apophenia?” (Actually, nobody’s ever asked me this, but it seemed like a nice hook.)

A good example of priming comes from backmasking. What at first sounds like gibberish becomes a clear message after somebody tells you what to listen for. You’ve been primed to hear the message. Another example of priming comes from allegedly outraged parents and a talking doll: “Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle and Coo” doll from Fisher-Price. Some folks swear the doll mumbles “Satan is king” and “Islam is the light.” Some might even hear “Palin is a terrorist who is perpetrating voter fraud.”

An example of apophenia came to us from the Bible wingnuts who interpreted the Dow Jones dropping 777.68 points in a single day on the eve of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) as a message from YHWH. The nutters round this number down to 777 instead of up to 778, as any normal person or journalist would. They (the nutters) think 777 is “God’s number” and the message was “repent” or something equally profound.

Finally, pareidolia, like hearing clear messages in gibberish, can occur with priming, but it isn’t necessary. In pareidolia, some vague or ambiguous stimulus, like a stain on a wall or reflection from a light, is seen as a clear image, such as the Virgin Mary or Elvis. If the vague stimulus is then imbued with significance or meaning, as when it is seen as a sign from another dimension, pareidolia slips into apophenia. Some investigators might divide pareidolia into types: visual and auditory. One might even speak of tactile pareidolia, as when a man misinterprets a woman’s accidental touch to mean she wants to know him in a Biblical way. This might also be called wishful thinking.

When one nutter leads another to interpret a vague stimulus as a clear image sent from another dimension to convey an important message, all three phenomena occur in what might be called the unholy wingnut trinity.

The above message has been brought to you for no particular reason and should not be taken too seriously except by those who have no sense of humor. On the other hand, it might be noted that the aberrations we mention here are clearly related to the very important human trait of detecting patterns. The examples we’ve given are small-scale wrong turns on the path of life. There are numerous examples of grand-scale wrong turns described in The Skeptic’s Dictionary. There are many more wrong turns that neither I nor any other skeptic will ever have the time to completely catalogue, but one that deserves to be mentioned is The German New Medicine.

Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer went from suspecting a causal link between his wife’s death and his own cancer with the shooting and eventual death of their son, Dirk, to a full-blown practice of medical quackery that claims all diseases are due to conflict and shock. From there he went on to invent a treatment for cancer and other diseases called conflictolysis. It is reported by critics that over 140 cancer patients have died despite this treatment and nobody has been cured. Also, you won’t find anything in the scientific literature in the way of controlled studies or other scientific methods of testing and evaluating Hamer’s claims. Scientific tests evolved in the evidence-based world and are a way of avoiding self-deception and of determining whether apparent patterns are illusory.

Read the full newsletter here.

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