Intactivists overstate the case

I am absolutely against circumcision of males, except where medically necessary or where it has a net-positive effect in curtailing sexually transmitted diseases in high-risk populations. But when I see some “intactivists” — activists protesting circumcision of males — making the case in such a hyperbolic and emotive manner, I can’t help but shake my head.

In a “colorful protest” by Brother K and his “bloodstained men”, men in white jumpsuits protest with large red spots on their crotches.

“The destruction to the male genitals is absolute,” says Brother K. “Total. You’re left with a fraction of what God and nature intended. It’s appalling.”

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Skepticon 6 video: Sex and Violence in the Bible

The first video by Hambone Productions of Skepticon is up, of David Fitzgerald’s comedic analysis of the Bible’s naughtier bits.

Trigger warning: the Bible is very, very rapey.

I mostly enjoyed this talk, though there were a few bits that were problematic.

Many of the jokes are visual or are punctuated with visual aids, with people in the audience who are vision-impaired (Rebecca Watson made a point of narrating her slides for the benefit of these folks), and so they’re not going to get these jokes in this video either. Apologies to my readers. Also, I haven’t rewatched this, so I can’t remember exactly what was said, but I have a recollection of wincing a few times at some problematic language, too. “Bitch”, most likely.

“Smokey Joe” Barton’s long history of antiscience propaganda

Remember how Joe Barton apologized to British Petroleum for the government’s mild reproach and slap on the wrist after their oil spill destroyed the Gulf of Mexico and created a dead zone that will last for decades? Turns out he was one of the bigger names involved in the disinformation campaign waged by the tobacco industry.

Those of us who weren’t old enough or politically aware enough might not have known this fact about Barton, or might have let that information slip into the memory hole; we might otherwise think that this antiscience campaign waged by the oil industry against climate scientists is a unique phenomenon. Spreading this information about Barton’s and others’ tactics is therefore vital.

Normally, ad hominem is a fallacy. However, establishing a pattern of behaviour and modifying one’s treatment of or trust in another person based on such patterns of behaviour is entirely reasonable and rational. Seeing this man (and others, like Boehner) repeat the same tactics that worked so well in forestalling public acceptance of the truth behind tobacco’s deleterious health effects, used in a fight with vast and far-reaching consequences about the deleterious effects we as a species are having on our environment, is rather galling, but definitely useful information. It means we are forearmed against these tactics and can counter them. It means we are aware in advance of the fact that the people with their hands on the levers of political power in this country are not principled actors, and that they are more than willing to lie about reality for a quick buck to everyone else’s detriment.

Skepticon: Not my Canadian pride!

Debbie Goddard fired a shot across Canada’s bow, viciously savaging us during her talk at Skepticon where she related her deconversion. She said — I am horrified to even have to type this; someone fetch my couch! — that we’re “not really foreign.”

More specifically, she related her experience visiting Oslo, where she was in “for the first time in a really foreign country, not like Canada”.

The GALL. The unmitigated NERVE!!! What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a Canadian! I cannot stand for this. No Canadian could. Now, on behalf of all of Canada, I am forced to apologize!

Wait, no, not apologize. Explain. Prepare yourselves, I’m about to Cansplain all over this.
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GoldieBlox commercial wins the internet over

This commercial’s taking the internet by storm, because who doesn’t love Beastie Boys, girl engineers, and Rube Goldberg devices.

Some time ago, I wrote about the kickstarter for this project, and how I could live with the pinkification it took to sell these engineering projects for girls to parents already steeped in rigid gender roles. Looking at this commercial, though I love the commercial itself, I sort of feel like it’s overselling the product.

See, the actual product introduces a specific goal and a narrative in the form of a story book, drastically limiting the engineering potential of any one set. There’s only so much you can do with the ribbon and sticks and crank, so letting your imagination run wild doesn’t seem really, truly all that possible.

As a gateway into the wider world of toys, though, if GoldieBlox leads any girl to ask her parents for LEGO or K’Nex or some other engineering toy, I feel like it’s worth it — even if it requires not only retraining girls that it’s okay to like “doing things” instead of “being pretty”, but also getting in under parents’ gender policing radars.

And everyone loves a Rube Goldberg device. Hopefully inventive girls with enough toys can invent all sorts of crazy devices, if unfettered by the prescribed play mode.

On not being completely free to curate

I just attended Skepticon 6, and had a number of excellent and thought-provoking conversations with some people I’ve admired, some people I’ve long since befriended, and some people I’d never met before but am glad to have met now. It was a great experience, a few issues aside which I’ll, naturally, have to talk more about soon.

On Wednesday night, immediately after work, Stephanie, Brianne and I piled into the car and undertook a ten-hour car ride south. We arrived at 5 am, and promptly hit our beds and crashed. The first night we were in Springfield, Missouri, folks were still filtering into town, and as we skeptics are wont to do, we sought one another out for the first of what promised to be many of those thought-provoking conversations. This conversation became the genesis for this post, which will hopefully serve as a follow-up to my recent post about curating your internet experience.
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Craig Cobb’s got a little black in him

If you’ve never heard of him, this guy’s a real piece of work.

White supremacist and leader of the so-called “Creative Movement”, Craig Cobb was born and raised in Boston. He grew disenchanted with Christianity when his racism was too much even for the more intolerant churches, inherited some money, and moved to Estonia to build a white supremacist movement. There, he founded a white supremacist media sharing website called Podblanc. Then he was deported to Canada after the Estonian government decided he was a hateful asshat; he landed in Vancouver where he was issued a summons to appear in court over Canada’s hate speech laws with respect to his site. He skipped across the border and is wanted in Canada to this day. Cobb is currently trying to remake Leith, North Dakota in his lily-white image.

Only, hilariously, turns out he’s not so lily-white after all. He appeared on The Trisha Goddard show, a UK daytime talk show, agreeing to take a DNA test to prove his white purity. That this was for a daytime talk show should have been a red flag for him, but he plowed ahead anyway.

He has, naturally, since claimed that the DNA test was a sham to build phony controversy.

The interesting thing about science is that it’s replicable. I would pay good money for him to send more DNA samples to other companies, blinded wherever possible. It’s extraordinarily likely that he’s going to have “sub-Saharan African” ancestry in every test, given how humanity has generally evolved, and I’d love for him to have that particular fact so unequivocally proven as to undermine his philosophy for the rest of his days.

You’ve got a little black in you, man. You hate yourself — and every other human being on the planet, ultimately.

Mock The Movie: Terror in the Haunted House transcript

Both Stephanie and I missed out on this one for various reasons. Looks like participation was exceptionally thin — only three stalwarts mocked this movie. We’re moving our mockery to a once-a-month schedule to help mitigate some of the burn-out we may be experiencing, and it’s looking like presently it will be first Wednesday of every month unless people would like to suggest a better time.

I’m also adding Slugs: The Movie, and Road House, to the mocking list. And I’m going to upload, finally, the last several Subtitle files to the archive page, provided, as always, by CA7746.
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Mock The Movie: The Cloth transcript

Imagine Castlevania in movie form, combined with The Exorcist and a smattering of Blade. Then take away all the awesome bits, waste your CG budget on the least-interesting and least-useful bits of the movie, and make sure your action scenes are nigh unfollowable. Dip it repeatedly in Jesus until well saturated. Ensure all the bad guys are easily killed, even — and especially — the Big Bad. Cast the one guy with acting chops in a supporting character role, and make him do ridiculous quasi-Anime things like building in having to make an X sign when using special weapons. And there you have it — The Cloth.
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