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Archive for April, 2008

Ben Stein and The Descent of Man = quote mining

Posted by Andy D. on April 28, 2008

I am preparing some slides for The Enlightenment Show which we are shooting next Sunday. Mark and I saw the movie on Sat. There were about ten folks in the theater, (noon showing). I will talk on the whole movie later but first everyone should see this. (Steve Mirskey and John Rennie at Scientific American first pointed this out) I think it is easier to see in the two pics below.

In the first slide, I am showing Ben Stein’s voiceover as he was walking to Holocaust sites. Ben states the quote and then reveals the vile author as CHARLES DARWIN before going into the horror areas. (He doesn’t reveal the source as The Descent of Man perhaps in hope that we won’t look it up?) The quote is surprisingly missing a lot of information. In a way, I think Ben is practicing in his own form of Holocaust denial. He won’t look at the racism for what it was and instead he turns on science. Ben is an economist and he went to Yale so surely his scholarship would be excellent? Either he is a complete fraud or he is incompetent by blindly relying on his ideological producers and not checking their sources. The very next sentence and paragraph says the exact opposite of what they are trying to imply! Darwin thought it would be overwhelmingly evil to unprotect the weak and it would be against our most noblest nature! Stein and fellows are fraudulent and are praticising propanda not that unlike the Nazis… Shame on you Stein. (This is available on http://darwin-online.org.uk/ Search for asylums) Click on the pictures to enlarge them. I added the formatting to show what Ben cut.

BTW: None of this says anything about science or gives any credibility to intelligent design. It does show what a great thinker Charles Darwin was….

This is from Jacob Bronowski – The Ascent of Man. Science is admitting we don’t know everything and is anti-dogmatic by being grounded in evidence. I saw this on PZ Meyer’s Blog.

Posted in Religion, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Nerd girls rock my world

Posted by neuralgourmet on April 27, 2008

OK, my girl is far from being stereotypically nerdish, but she is a Latin scholar and Classicist and smart girls are my type. Anyway, a little bit of fun on a beautiful sunny Sunday.

Posted in Humor, Video | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Friendly Atheist Contest

Posted by Skeptigator on April 25, 2008

The Friendly Atheist has another contest going. Our very own theodoersing placed in the top 3 on this one, I only got 10th, I’m pretty sure theo cheated 😉 These are fun to do, I created an atheist motivational poster on my personal blog, here. Here are the top 10 atheist motivational posters on FriendlyAtheist’s site to get your creative juices flowing.

I’d be curious to see what some of my fellow authors could come up with. Post them here if make something good. No cheating this time theo, I’m watching you.

Here’s the challenge

Create a poster/saying about atheism or faith that becomes humorous with a *slight* change in spelling

You can create posters here. Make sure you send the URL to your poster to friendlyatheist [at] friendlyatheist [dot] com

Here is my entry.

No Intelligance Allowed

Edit: Forgot to mention this is a reference to this facebook group, which is real group supporting the movie that really spelled the name wrong. The irony is overwhelming.

Posted in Events, FreeThought, Skepticism | 3 Comments »

Who says skeptics are cynical and don’t believe in anything…

Posted by Andy D. on April 23, 2008

Go Stephen Hawking and Mythbusters!  I saw this on TV and then googled it.  It is a hit.

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I don’t mean to brag (Ok, yeah I do!)

Posted by Eye4Cards on April 22, 2008

I just wanted to brag about placing 3rd in the Friendly Atheist’s simile contest. This is the post where I should be showered with praise. Ok, more likely laughed offstage! He’s got a new contest going on where you have to make up a poster on atheism. I think I’ll give that one a whirl as well…

There was only one entry (not including mine) in our last contest here at FFW. I think I’ll extend it through this next weekend just to not make it so easy for agnohumanist. If no one bites, I’ll duel him in a one on one haiku death match seen live via satellite pay-per-view around the world! Or we’ll post corny haiku at each other until one of us gives up. Whichever comes first. Remember:

Complete your Haiku

Before the NFL draft

Eats up your weekend!

Posted in Events, FreeThought, Humor | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

The Enlightenment Show Update

Posted by Skeptigator on April 21, 2008

A handful of our members are involved in producing a public access show, called The Enlightenment Show. It is played locally on Comcast and Verizon FiOS, check your local listings for channel and times.

If however you can’t seem to catch the show locally (or you are not local) we now offer it online on our Enlightenment Show page. Each show is about 1/2 hour long and covers brief news items as well as a general topic for discussion.

So far 4 episodes have been produced and episodes 3 & 4 are currently in rotation on public access. Past topics have been “The separation of church and state”, “The scientific method” and “cold reading”. Future episodes planned include a critique of Ben Stein’s sad movie propaganda piece “Expelled” and “The placebo effect” .

If you like what you see or would like to offer some constructive criticism drop a comment on The Enlightenment Show’s page and we’ll make sure the producers of the show get the information.

Posted in FreeThought, Local, Religion, Science, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“SHAM- How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless” by Steve Salerno. A review.

Posted by Andy D. on April 20, 2008

“SHAM- How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless” by Steve Salerno. A review

SHAM is an acronym for the self-help and actualization movement and it is the ultimate self-book for self-help books. This journey in skepticism shines a light on the 8.53 billion dollar (2003) direct revenue industry. Salerno estimates the true economic costs will be in the trillions when you factor in government spending, lawsuits, medical costs, opportunity costs, and growth trends. I fell victim to several of the authors below and I feel better already after reading SHAM. My skepticism skills from studying science versus faith-based reasoning now enlighten other topics and it is easy to see how anecdotal these self-help books really are.

If you have read from Zig Ziglar, Stephen Covey, Rick Warren, Tony Robbins, Suze Orman, Dr. Phil McGraw or other Men are from Mars/Chicken Soup for the Soul types of books, or any help book pushed by Oprah and Larry King, you need to read this book.

The theme of the book distinguishes between two main types of self-help. The first is the victimization movement. This shows up in the 12 step programs. (There are many different types of these groups and books). These surprisingly religious organizations involve a person saying they are powerless and they have to give themselves over to a “higher power.” Alcoholism is no longer a disorder but a full on “disease.” (Yes, there is a physical addiction but this is not cancer.) SHAM states one has a better chance of actually quitting drinking by going “cold turkey” than attending a single AA meeting. Those groups hide their numbers, too. The victimization movement has contributed to many frivolous lawsuits, unfounded rape allegations (think hypnosis fed mental memories), and people not willing to say they are responsible for their actions by blaming anyone else for their circumstances. America bought it up.

The other big theme of the book and the one more in our face today is the empowerment movement in self-help. Think Dr. Phil “Pick Yourself Up by Your Boot Straps” or today’s “The Secret’s” if you really believe it will happen law. This creates a situation where the thesis cannot be falsified. If a person achieves what they desire then the author was correct. If one fails they didn’t believe in it hard enough (like faith healing) and then they buy another self-help book after failing. It is worse if you flip the logic around by saying one cannot be healthy because they didn’t believe in themselves hard enough regardless of any genetic predisposition to their disease.

The victimization and empowerment movements feed off on another. The main results are more people keep buying more self-help books. Ever wonder why Oprah has self-help books all the time? What happened to the ones from a year ago? Didn’t they work? Salerno thinks the empowerment movement has help feed the divorce rate by having couples that are not always in a state of bliss empower and break-up.

A couple of celebrity highlights: Tony Robbins started giving $50 dollar sessions using coal walking to pump people up and overcome their fears. (This is just physics). Dr. Phil was failing as a psychologist and he helped “coach” Oprah in a court case about her statements about her distrust of beef during the Mad Cow disease scare. The two hit it off. Dr. Phil does have a degree in what he does unlike many pseudo-helpers. The main problem with Dr. Phil and others (like the hypocritical Dr. Laura Schlessinger) is their pop-psychiatry. One cannot dish out accurate advice in a ten-minute segment. It is just scary. Real therapy takes time. One has to think about long term and shot term decisions and repercussions. Suze Orman gives good money advice such as stay out of debt, know your credit score, and put people above money and things. She gets into woo-woo with her empowerment money laws for example, “if one is honest they will attract money.” We all know there are people who are not very ethical, who nonetheless make a lot of money.

The best part of the book for me was the chapter entitled “Ya Gotta Want It” about today’s Sportsthink in business. I had a gun-hoe sports-nut manager who loved the sports hero types such as Vince Lombardi, Tommy Lasorda and Tiger Woods quotes. I laughed all the way through this chapter! There is something weird happening when businesses are bringing locker room mentality to the boardroom. Americans like sports and business so why not combine them? The problem with this analogy is in sports; teams are usually playing one team at a time with well-defined rules. In business, there are many simultaneous competitors and the rules can be broken from any direction. The internal danger here is a witch-hunt on an employee who didn’t have the “religious locker room” mentality and the firm could miss new creative opportunities and talent. There is always an undercurrent to this type of thinking and firms have spent much money and time trying to pump up the “sales” team usually with poor results. One doesn’t hear about it because that would mean the manager who hired the motivational speaker or dished out the BS would have to admit to their boss they wasted time and money. There is a great chapter on the unregulated, unlicensed, and ridiculous “life coaches.”

There is a chapter on criminals who now write books and give speeches after finding Jesus. Schools hire them to scare kids straight but what Selerno argues there is a “glory” shown to the past gang banging activities. American loves a good come back story so many schools have wasted resources on this.

Selerno goes into great depth about how our school systems now focus on “self-esteem” rather than achievement and competition. I bet our teachers could comment a lot on this one. This is the scariest topic in the book. The public school classroom is focusing on feelings rather than focusing on academic subjects. It brings up the participations awards and how some schools are paying and passing kids just to show up!!! Some school sports do not have any losers anymore. Teachers have to focus on the bottom of the class in order to get them all to pass standardized tests. Schools administrators will fight holding someone back that needs to be because this might upset the child or their parent’s feelings.

There is a rather long section on health quackery and its relation to self-help. The usual suspects are here such as and therapeutic touch, distance healing, art therapy, feng shui, magnet therapy, detoxification therapy, and faith healing.

Salerno quotes many voices of reason throughout the book such as James Randi, George Carlin, and Stephen Barret of Quackwatch. This book should be required reading for all of us skeptics. It is scary what happens when we leave science for the anecdotal chicken soup way of thinking. Enjoy!

-Andy

PS: I found Steve’s blog SHAMBOOK.  It looks great.

Posted in Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Arguing Against Arguments Against Evolution

Posted by dystressed on April 19, 2008

PZ Myers has found another creationist who is spreading misinformation.

Posted in Religion, Science | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Four Horsemen are Online

Posted by dystressed on April 19, 2008

Richard Dawkins’ “The Four Horsemen” roundtable discussion video is online in two parts, hosted on Google. This is a very interesting video.

One note is that it’s also available on DVD. The DVD sale proceeds go to the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust.

Via Richard Dawkins.

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On The Media: The Convenient Untruths

Posted by neuralgourmet on April 19, 2008

WNYC’s On The Media has a short interview with Farhad Manjoo, author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. Manjoo asserts that “truthiness has run amok in the modern media age” and examines how false facts percolate through the partisan echo chambers on both the left and the right.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: How do we have an informed society if you can disbelieve anything you aren’t likely to approve of?

FARHAD MANJOO: Well, in a number of areas I argue that we don’t have an informed society; that one of the problems of this age is that we have people disagreeing over things that in the past I don’t think they would have disagreed about – over the basic science behind global warming, for example, where you have huge numbers of Americans who simply dismiss the science.

And one of the difficulties about this situation is that the whole system sort of operates unconsciously. You can’t really tell people that your truth is not true. They’re not going to believe you.

It’s possible with the Internet to go out and search for the well-researched documented truth of the situation. It’s more possible now than it was ever before. I suppose I can suggest that people try to do that, but I don’t know how well that’s going to work.

Read the transcript (and listen online) or download the MP3.

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