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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

AIDS in Uganda, the Rick Warren Connection

Posted by dystressed on January 7, 2009

This is an amazing story from The Daily Beast.

Rick Warren has been working closely with the Martin Ssempe, the charismatic leader of a booming born-again minister promoting abstinence only AIDS eductaion in Uganda, more or less scrapping all the success of the previous, hugely successful ABC program of the Ugandan government.

Ssempe enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House.

Ssempe is a close ally of Warren and even gave the keynote speech at Warren’s 2005 AIDS conference at the Saddleback Church.

Another amazing insight is that Ssempe believes in witches and arresting homosexuals.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who authored the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing The Fight Against AIDS In Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria. “Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women,” Epstein said. “He seemed very personally terrified by their presence.”

It’s interesting to see the parallel between witch paranoia and born-again Christians. Now compared to Ssempe, Warren is a dream choice to pray at the inauguration. I just hope that people realize his record on AIDS has an ugly, evil side.

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

If You’re Going to Seattle…

Posted by dystressed on January 6, 2009

…visit the Discovery Institute!  (if you can)

Skepticality had a fantastic interview with Kate Holden and Tiana Dietz, the skeptic activists who conned their way into the Discovery Institute.  You can download the MP3 of the podcast here.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the visit was the fact that the two have engaged in a lengthy blog discourse with the Discovery Institute, which claims to welcome all people with open arms.

While lying is hardly ever called for, Holden and Dietz maintain that they only did what the producers of Expelled did when they conned their own ways into interviews with Michael Shermer and PZ Myers. They kind of have a point.

The question of morality aside, the chutzpah of Kate and Tiana is admirable. They also urge fellow skeptic activists to go to the Discovery Institute and take the tour… that is, if the Discovery people will let you in.

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

Yellowstone Earthquakes and the Importance of Science

Posted by dystressed on December 30, 2008

Earthquakes have been swarming in Yellowstone. The significance? Possible future volcanic activity. Though not an immediate threat, this is a good illustration of why we need good, rational science.

…[T]he Yellowstone Caldera, formed in a giant volcanic eruption 640,000 years ago that blasted 240 cubic miles (1,000 km3) of molten rock (magma) into the atmosphere-more than 1,000 times the volume erupted at Mount St. Helens in 1980. Later eruptions largely filled the caldera and pushed up two resurgent domes within it—the Sour Creek and Mallard Lake Domes. No actual volcanic eruption has occurred in the Yellowstone region for about 70,000 years. [USGS Fact Sheet 100-03]

Get that picture? 240 CUBIC MILES of molten rock. That’s 5,280 feet by 5,280 feet by 5,280 feet. Of molten rock. Honey, this ain’t a barbecue, it’s the apocalypse.

According to a section on the PBS NOVA website “Mystery of the Mega Volcano,” that would mean as much as a third of the U.S. would be uninhabitable (and no one would probably want to live in the rest). More than that, other mega volcanoes in history are believed to have brought on Ice Age(s). Well that’s comforting. At least we wouldn’t totally screw up the planet all by ourselves, we can blame the mega volcano that will kill millions of people and make life on earth a literal hell.

Now I’m not out to preach for reckless hedonism in the face of possible disaster. I would rather you take away a desire to learn more about what science can and should do to prepare us for this. In fact, earthquakes are not new to Yellowstone, but they are scary when they happen in a “swarm.” Theories abound as to whether the next Yellowstone eruption would be as big as the formative eruption 640,000 years ago, but an eruption of some magnitude could be coming around the corner.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory collects tremendous amounts of data to help monitor the caldera and keep watch for major eruption dangers. Though their jobs must be very uneventful most days, these people have to properly analyze the data and come up with risk reports which tell us what’s next.

Intelligent Designers take note: Humans aren’t designed to survive volcanoes. If the human race is to survive, we must teach good science. If you believe in an intelligent designer, that’s fine, but you cannot ignore the threat of destruction and wait for divine intervention. Please don’t stand in the way of real science.

This photograph shows a horizontal view of the 2 May 2000 eruption of Steamboat Geyser. Photograph courtesy of Tom Cawley, NPS.
This photograph shows a horizontal view of the 2 May 2000 eruption of Steamboat Geyser. Photograph courtesy of Tom Cawley, NPS.

Posted in Events, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Facts, Values and a Place for the Profound: A conversation with Sam Harris

Posted by Andy D. on December 16, 2008

This is from The Science Network (TSN) and was a prelude before the Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark conference.  I am glad they added economics and  psychology sections to the usual science and religion topics.  Bookmark the site and take your time with the lectures.  Enjoy.

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ten Most Wanted Promoters of Pseudoscience

Posted by dystressed on November 16, 2008

I am a skeptoid fanboy. I will admit it. The podcast is a great resource for the beginner skeptics out there.

The recent October 28th podcast covered his list of the 10 most wanted celebrities who endorse harmful pseudoscience. Now I must specify that he does not want these people to be hurt or harmed, he simply wants people to be aware of how dangerous following these people can be.

There are figures on both the right and the left politically, but all are taken to task for the harmful ideas they promote. Guess who is number 1: Oprah Winfrey. A magazine I read about a year ago called Oprah the closest thing America has to a living Deity. All the more reason to take whatever she says with a truckload of salt.

The rest of the list:

  1. Oprah Winfrey – Jumping on every Alternative Bandwagon that comes along
  2. Jenny McCarthy – Anti-Vaccination
  3. Prince Charles – Alternative Medicine
  4. Bill Maher – Alternative Medicine
  5. Larry King – Bad Journalism
  6. Pamela Anderson – PETA
  7. Ben Stein – Comparing Science to Nazism, Creationism
  8. Joe Rogan – 9/11 Truther, et al.
  9. Chuck Norris – Christianity
  10. Montel Williams – psychics

I urge you to check this podcast out. It’s only about 10 minutes long to listen to and even faster to read.

Posted in Politics, Science, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Origins of Life

Posted by Andy D. on November 11, 2008

picture-1The Museum of Science at Boston has built a helpful interactive website exploring Abiogenesis.  Explore the current hypothesis of RNA beginnings to build information and reproductive systems from nucleic acids. There are viruses that use only RNA to reproduce today.  For us, RNA is an intermediate step from DNA-to messenger RNA to transfer RNA to then build proteins.

Abiogenesis is not included in the theory of evolution by natural selection because it already assumes life.  Evolution is undeniable from many forms of scientific evidence and reasoning.

In the larger “cosmic evolution” and overall scientific worldview,  Abiogenesis is certainly an important question and we may never know how it actually happened.  SETI and origin scientists may find answers on another planet someday or in models. Enjoy.

I found this website through Panda’s Thumb website.

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

Truth v. Facts: The Reality-Based Community

Posted by dystressed on November 9, 2008

Sharon Begley at Newsweek has another article on what she hopes for the new Obama Administration: Reality-based Science.

We have lost so much due to misinterpretation (or perhaps dis-interpretation) of the facts. We have lost ground in the fight against global warming, stem cell research and other life sciences.

The truly poisonous legacy of the past eight years is one that spread to much of society and will therefore be much harder to undo: the utter contempt with which those in power viewed inconvenient facts, empiricism and science in general.

I would also contend that the ugly stepchild of this practice is the crass anti-intellectualism that has pervaded society in recent years. We need intelligence to lead our nation. Just because we would rather have a beer with John McCain or Sarah Palin, that doesn’t really qualify them for the White House more than a lawyer from Harvard.

Without a drastic change, we will continue to be mired down by anti-achievers and naysayers. We must embrace science and progress in order to overcome the ever mounting problems facing society.

Posted in Politics, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Newsweek Science Article Discusses the Biology of Belief

Posted by dystressed on November 2, 2008

There’s something to be said for the workhorse journalistic methods of print media. This in-depth article fascinated me because it really puts the science in very accessible terms, which is something that the masses need. I try to read Pharyngula and other science blogs, but there is only so much I can take before I just sort of give up.

The Newsweek story had me wanting more, which I think is really good for readers on the cusp of skepticism and rationality. It’s not perfect, of course and there are some things I don’t understand, particularly why a doctor would believe in reincarnation.

Posted in Science | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

At least we don’t live in Texas

Posted by Andy Welfle on October 21, 2008

Our “atheist prophet”, PZ Myers, posted a really great video about the Texas State School Board, and where many of the candidates stand on teaching evolution and creationism to children in schools. Needless to say, it’s not looking good. Republican Gail Lowe, running for re-election to the board, says she will never support the adoption of an environmental science book that attributes global warming to human activity.

This is a really succinct rundown of those on the school board and those running for seats. It just all sounds like a political nightmare.

I have to admit that I have a hard time listening to the man in the video. He’s kinda crazy looking, in a conspiracy-theory-the-government-is-putting-flouride-in-the-water-to-control-our-minds type of way. But he has a lot of great points, and this makes me glad I don’t live in Texas.

At least our local school board election isn’t fighting over whether or not we should be teaching evolution or creationism intelligent design.  We stick to actual isues like the Code Yellow vs. Code Blue remonstrance debates. is this a concern we might face in the future, though? I’d love to hear your ideas on the topic in the comments.

Posted in Politics, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Get the point?

Posted by Eye4Cards on October 16, 2008

This is an interesting video I ran across that helps give perspective on string theory.  It is not representative of the current dominant theories, but I still found it interesting to think about nonetheless.  I wondered what everyone thought of it.

Posted in Science | 1 Comment »