I never want to see another baby-eating joke about atheists

Yeah, sure, accuse atheists of eating babies. Do you know who actually consumes fetal tissue, though? Suburban new agers with a weird fetish for “natural” and “organic” BS.

I just learned about Minnesota Placenta, a place that does placenta encapsulation (pdf). It’s easy! After your baby is born, it comes with this hideous lump of fetal support tissue, the placenta, that looks like a lump of hamburger and a piece of raw liver got into a serious barroom brawl, and neither won. Scoop up that bloody sac slathered with slime and mail it off with about $250 and it will be steamed, chopped, ground, powdered, and packed into tidy pill capsules for you to consume at your leisure.

There are photographs of the process. The only thing that would make this more unappetizing would be if Guy Fieri were involved.*

Bonus! The company that charges $250 will also shape the umbilical cord into a short script message (“love”), and dry it down into a hard, leathery, mummified sign the color of old dried blood that you can hang on the wall and terrify your offspring with for years to come. I really missed out on this opportunity.

By the way, these outfits have lots of anecdotes about feeling more “energized” and “peppy” after consuming these discarded scraps of their baby (for a more entertaining version of this myth, see the movie Ravenous), but there is actually no evidence that it provides any benefit. No benefit. None at all. Lots of ick, though. Probably no worse than chowing down on calf’s liver, though.

*Would it perverse of me to say I really want to see what Fieri would do with placenta as an ingredient?

The Bible also says the Earth is flat and is orbited by the sun. Next?

I am so sad that Ken Ham blocked me on Twitter — I miss out on the most hilarious crapola from one of the more cracked brains on the internet, and must rely on the kindness of strangers to relay his tirades to me. The latest thing to pop his wig: The Pope. How dare the Catholic church dismiss his literalist interpretation of the Bible? NOT TRUE CHRISTIANS. SAD.

Of course, this is not news. Historically, American protestants have been hatefully anti-Catholic, in part prodded by the nativist bigotry that was stirred up by immigration from Ireland and those Mediterranean countries. It’s not surprising that an Australian protestant shares the same views.

However, I do appreciate that Ken Ham admits this:

If Pope said ‘Big Bang is real’–then Pope’s wrong. Bible states earth came before sun–not other way round

Remember that next time you get in an argument with a literalist. I don’t care much for either popery or the lutherite heresy, but at least one side isn’t demanding that we ignore physics and astronomy.

(h/t Caine)

No debate freebies!

I just had to mention to someone who is trying to arrange a Darwin Day debate for 2019 (I am favorably impressed that they’re planning way ahead), that I actually have specific requirements for creationist debates nowadays. Usually that scares them away, but we’ll see this time.

Much of that is negotiable, depending on who’s doing the asking. I was just getting a little tired of being the talking monkey dragged into church to face a hostile audience of bussed-in parishioners who were always unsatisfied when my opponent failed to draw blood.

It just goes round and round and round

I joined the Great Debate Community last night to talk about this chromosome 2 fusion thing again. One of the topics was about why we have to keep hammering away at the obvious beyond the point where any rational human being would have to accept the facts. Another question was why Jeffrey Tomkins is so committed to promoting a counterfactual that is neither supported by the evidence nor is required by the doctrines of his religion.

If you have an explanation, tell me. Or just watch the video.

I am so happy that Minnesota and Michigan start with the same letter

It provides some cover when Orac starts raging about quackery at the UM…that is, the University of Michigan. There are a heck of a lot of hospitals embracing “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, which is a way to sucker patients with feel-good bullshit that does nothing for them, but does dilute the credibility of real medicine.

So it’s nice to see Michigan get the full broadside, while the University of Minnesota, which would never make snake oil a prominent part of their image, gets to hide in the shadow of that big bold “M”.

Wait, what am I saying? I want this crap publicly exposed! We in Minnesota need to pay more attention to the lies the university blandly encourages.

Related question: has anybody else noticed how ‘spirituality’ sites are always splashing crepuscular rays all over their web pages? It’s weird. Sure, they’re pretty, but it’s almost as if a theme is the use of obscuring clouds to partially block the light in random patterns.


No ghosts, and no afterlife of any kind

Basic stuff: Brian Cox explains that there’s no physics to support the existence of ghosts, but I’ve also heard Sean Carroll explain the same idea.

Recent polls have found that 42 percent of Americans and 52 percent of people in the UK believe in ghosts – a huge percentage when you consider that no one has ever come up with irrefutable proof that they even exist.

But we might have had proof that they don’t exist all along, because as British theoretical physicist Brian Cox recently pointed out, there’s no room in the Standard Model of Physics for a substance or medium that can carry on our information after death, and yet go undetected in the Large Hadron Collider.

“If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist, then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern, and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made,” Cox, from the University of Manchester, explained in a recent episode of BBC’s The Infinite Monkey Cage.

“We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That’s almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies.”

I can almost hear the protests already: But that’s mere physics, the afterlife is metaphysical and supernatural and whatever other meaningless cliches they want to sputter. Read carefully. We, our bodies, are physical and bound by the laws of physics. If you want to claim there is a floofy physics-free metauniverse where your consciousness dwells, you still have to deal with the fact that there must be some kind of bridge or interface between our material forms and that etheric plane you believe must exist. There has to be an interaction, or there is no connection between my worldly identity and self and consciousness and the ghost/soul you claim is the actual me.

To put it in words the New Agers might understand, the vibrations have to resonate with my brain — and we’ve mapped all the frequencies that could do that, and we’re done, there are none left over to accommodate magic. Sorry.

There is also lots of other evidence against an afterlife, like the lack of empirical evidence, the inconsistencies of ghost stories, the necessity of mundane biology to maintain a mind, etc. The evidence for an afterlife consists entirely of wishful thinking.

It’s a mystery

I’m not surprised. Why should I be surprised? Religion does this all the time. I’m just mystified at how people let themselves be taken advantage of.

So, the Ark Park lobbied for all these tax breaks on the promise that it was going to be an economic boon to the region. They lied, of course. Right now they’re in the interesting position of claiming that attendance exceeds expectations (although the gigantic empty parking lot says otherwise) but none of the economic benefits have materialized, for anyone other than Answers in Genesis, that is.

“It’s been a great thing but it’s not brought us any money,” said Grant County Judge-Executive Steve Wood during a break from a budget meeting.

The county is teetering on bankruptcy and is trying to balance the budget. Wood said they were to the point where jobs may have to be cut. He will propose a 2% payroll tax at next week’s fiscal court meeting. He blames prior fiscal courts for the budget crisis, not the Ark. But he said the Ark had not lived up to its promise.

“I was one of those believers that once the Ark was here everything was going to come in. But it’s not done it. It’s not done it. I think the Ark’s done well and I’m glad for them on that. But it’s not done us good at all.”

It’s a “great thing” and it’s “done well”, but it had not lived up to its promise. I suspect that the Ark Park was the biggest development in the entire county, and it’s done nothing for prosperity. All that investment disappeared into a black hole of special exemptions and religious excuses, and now the county is on the edge of bankruptcy, but Wood is still making excuses for it.

If you think that’s bad, though, you should read about this church in North Carolina. Standard practice there was to beat people savagely for even minor transgressions. Smile at the wrong time, and wham, you were smashed to the ground. Teenagers were constantly howled at and abused for lustful thoughts and masturbation.

The ex-members said the violence was ever-present: Minors were taken from their parents and placed in ministers’ homes, where they were beaten and blasted and sometimes completely cut off from their families for up to a decade. Some male congregants were separated from their families and other followers for up to a year and subjected to the same brutal treatment.

Teachers in the church’s K-12 school encouraged students to beat their classmates for daydreaming, smiling and other behavior that leaders said proved they were possessed by devils.

“It wasn’t enough to yell and scream at the devils. You literally had to beat the devils out of people,” said Rick Cooper, 61, a US Navy veteran who spent more than 20 years as a congregant and raised nine children in the church.

Wait. You stayed in this vile ‘church’ for twenty years, and you sent nine children to be tortured in this hell hole?

“We were warned to keep the abuse to ourselves. If we didn’t, we knew we would be targeted. … You lived in total fear,” said Liam Guy, 29, an accountant who fled in 2015 after nearly 25 years in the church.

It took twenty-five years to figure this out? Religion is a hell of a drug.

You won’t be surprised to learn that, like the Catholic church, the place is a haven for sexual abuse cases, too.

There’s something flawed in human psychology that allows grifters to flourish in the guise of the godly. You’d think people would wake up at some point and realize that this stuff is dangerous.

Sorry, Australia: #DontCryWolfe

He’s leaping from our shores to yours: David Avocado Wolf is going to visit Australia! If you only read what he writes about himself, you might think this is a good idea.

David Wolfe, who refers to himself as the rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe and boasts the world’s top CEOs, ambassadors, celebrities, athletes, artists, and the real superheroes of this planet — mums — all look to David for expert advice in health, beauty, herbalism, nutrition, and chocolate. He incorrectly states on his website that a growing body of evidence indicates that vaccines are not safe and that they can injure, permanently maim, or even kill you or a family member. There is no such body of evidence.

Of course, if you ask anyone else, he’s a flaming nutbar.

His claims…include that chocolate is an octave of sun energy, mushrooms are extraterrestrial, and… gravity ain’t no thang.

Or a fraud.

David is a con artist. He preys on anti-sciencers by using pseudo-intelligent word salad. He is fantastic at combining a string of words together that sounds intelligible, however when you actually examine them, they’re nonsensical.

His only talent seems to be gaming facebook.

A purveyor of myths and miracle products, David “Avocado” Wolfe fuels the decline of critical thinking, convinces people they can prevent or cure real ailments with ineffective supplements, and demonizes life-saving vaccines and cancer treatments, all by growing his massive social media following with clever internet memes.

But there is a sucker born every minute, and a predator who preys on the stupid is going to thrive.

Owner of Jing Organics Adam Kingsley said he did not care about the concerns of people and hoped David Wolfe would spread the anti-vaccine message.

“I’m anti-vaccine, I’m publicly open about that, just because stuff is peer reviewed doesn’t mean it’s true. David Wolfe is a world health expert,” Mr Kingsley said.

David Wolfe calls himself a nutritionist, believes the world is flat and claims gravity is a hoax.

Mr Kingsley claimed vaccines cause autism because he is in the health industry, (he makes saukraut and fermented foods and sell organic products) and he speak to mothers whose children have autism.

World Health Expert, hah. He’s a phony. Australia is actually letting him into the country to lie to its citizens? Tsk.

We used to think the internet could be self-policing, too

Back in the old days, the internet was full of kooks: there was the timecube guy, and Archimedes Plutonium, and Robert McElwaine (UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT information is ENCOURAGED), and the Velikovskiites, and a host of other strange folk, and that was fine. The weirdos spiced things up, and besides, their followings consisted mostly of people laughing at them. The most troubling thing now is not that there are oddballs, but that there are huge mobs of people following and agreeing with them, and amplifying their message to an absurd degree. Alex Jones would have been a classic Usenet crank, for instance, ridiculed and mocked, but now? He’s raking in the dough and is advising the president.

A Buzzfeed article pins much of the blame for that on one outlet, YouTube.

The entire contemporary conspiracy-industrial complex of internet investigation and social media promulgation, which has become a defining feature of media and politics in the Trump era, would be a very small fraction of itself without YouTube. Yes, the site most people associate with “Gangnam Style,” pirated music, and compilations of dachshunds sneezing is also the central content engine of the unruliest segments of the ascendant right-wing internet, and sometimes its enabler.

To wit, the conspiracy-news internet’s biggest stars, some of whom now enjoy New Yorker profiles and presidential influence, largely live on YouTube — some of them on the site’s news channel. Infowars — whose founder and host, Alex Jones, claims Sandy Hook didn’t happen, Michelle Obama is a man, and 9/11 was an inside job — broadcasts to 2 million subscribers on YouTube. So does Michael “Gorilla Mindset” Cernovich. So too do a whole genre of lesser-known but still wildly popular YouTubers, people like Seaman and Stefan Molyneux (an Irishman closely associated with the popular “Truth About” format). As do a related breed of prolific political-correctness watchdogs like Paul Joseph Watson and Sargon of Akkad (real name: Carl Benjamin), whose videos focus on the supposed hypocrisies of modern liberal culture and the ways they leave Western democracy open to a hostile Islamic takeover. As do a related group of conspiratorial white-identity vloggers like Red Ice TV, which regularly hosts neo-Nazis in its videos.

We’ve long known how awful YouTube commenters are — in general, comment threads there are a nightmare of alt-right freaks, indignant misogynists, racists, and fanatical consumers of niche media. There is virtually no accountability in YouTube comments, and it has become another outpost of the 4chan mentality. And further, as mentioned above, flaming lunatics thrive as media personalities on it, because they gladly affirm prejudice and bigotry and often, bizarre Libertarian views. I’d heard of several of the people mentioned, but had never encountered one, Davd Seaman, who is featured in the article, so I had to look him up.

I watched one video by Seaman.


I could take no more. Here it is:

Seaman is a prominent #pizzagate conspiracy theorist — you know, the unbelievable, batshit stupid idea that there is a secret child molestation conspiracy ring run by major Democratic figures out of a basement lair in a specific pizza parlor that has no basement. These are the kinds of guys who wax wroth at the outrage of innocent, imaginary (they can never name any of the victims) children being sexually abused, while simultaneously insisting that the Sandy Hook murders were a false flag operation, and all the innocent, named children were actors.

In the above video, Seaman also goes on and on about Bitcoin and gold-based currencies. None of what he says is backed up by reason or evidence, but only by his stridently held opinions. He has a following, though: take a look at the comments on the Buzzfeed article. They are eye-opening. There are lots of angry people who are convinced that Alex Jones and David Seaman are telling the Truth.

In a world full of clowns, Bozo is king, and it looks like YouTube is the media of choice for gullible fools.

Oh, I forgot! One thing he claimed, bizarrely, was that the recent announcement about possible habitable planets was a distraction to keep people from hammering John Podesta about his imaginary pedophilia. It wasn’t just NASA conspiring to snow us all, he said there was also the recent discovery of an alien artifact in Antarctica.

Say what? Did you hear anything about an alien artifact. I hadn’t. The only thing I could find was an unbelievable crackpot story about Visit to Antarctica Confirms Discovery of Flash Frozen Alien Civilization. No, this wasn’t news. No, it isn’t distracting anyone. Apparently, we’re at the stage where cranks are complaining about other cranks stealing their thunder.