Something else on my plate

Tomorrow, I’m recording a discussion for British Christian radio (how do I get myself into these things?), on the show Unbelievable with Justin Brierley. I’m talking with Perry Marshall, who some of you may remember yapping around these parts a while back, and who has a book out called Evolution 2.0, which I had to read.


I read it.

Dear gob.

Just to help you picture this: he’s an electrical engineer and SEO guy with only the most superficial, and often wrong, knowledge of biology, and he has written a book in which he explains how all those biologists have got everything wrong. I was most entertained by the parts where he explains how there is all this amazing stuff in biology that we never tell anybody about, and one of his examples was something I lectured my cell biology class about last week, and a couple of the examples were things I talked about in my freshman biology course this morning.

In other words, his stunning revelations that will revolutionize evolutionary biology were all known mechanisms that are so well established that we teach them in basic college courses, and often simply take for granted. And he gets them wrong. Wrong wrong wrongity wrong.

But he’s frenetically glib about it all, which is apparently a useful attribute if you’re trying to sell car stereo speakers. It’s not at all impressive when you’re pushing pseudoscience.

Creationism fading in Minnesota?

The Twin Cities Creation Science Fair has been suspended due to low participation.

Considering that belief in creationism is waning, particularly among young people, I guess I’m not too surprised. The last time I attended, too, most of the exhibits were just plain student science, with a pro forma Bible verse attached as required by the organizers, and it may also be that the home schooling parents would rather not be associated with an event hosted by the Twin Cities Creation Science Association. There is an MHA Science Fair, held in February as well, and their guidelines (pdf) are entirely secular.

Maybe for a change science is outcompeting religion.

Atheists should not condemn any culture

We atheists don’t need better leaders; we need leaders who are willing to step back and stop dominating the conversation, and dominating badly. Once again, Richard Dawkins has bungled the big conversation we ought to be having. Once again, he seems obsessed with a 15 year old kid who made a clock.

Don’t call him “clock boy” since he never made a clock. Hoax Boy, having hoaxed his way into the White House, now wants $15M in addition!

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Colbert has still got it. He developed an instant Christianity test, just like the Republican presidential candidates want.

If you want to know if somebody is Christian, just ask them to complete this sentence: Jesus said ‘I was hungry,’ and you gave me something to eat, ‘I was thirsty,’ and you gave me something to drink, ‘I was a stranger,’ and you…

And the answer is…

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Burzynski might be in trouble, at last

Today is the day that Stanislaw Burzynski, the guy who treats cancer patients with snake oil made from a horse urine extract, is finally going on trial by the Texas Medical Board. He stands to lose his license to practice medicine at last, which is kind of an amazingly minimal consequence for a fraud who has been bilking dying patients for decades. Over 200 pages of specific and monstrous abuses were in the initial charges, which had to be pared down to a manageable number before the judges were willing to go forward, which tells you something: if you’re going to commit amoral acts, go big. Do so many crimes that just reading the list of charges intimidates the courts.

The most hopeful news, though, is that Burzynski’s former lawyer is saying that Burzynski is bankrupt, wants to put his clinic into involuntary bankruptcy proceedings, and is so miffed at Burzynski’s failure to pay his fees that he has left the service of the clinic and is suing Burzynski. It looks like the rats are deserting a sinking ship.

WTF is wrong with you?

First thing in the morning, every morning, I diligently check my multiple email accounts, the social media accumulation, the general chaos of inputs into my digital world, and every morning I am mostly saying “WTF?” and working my delete key hard. But this morning even I, hardened, thick-skinned, and cynical as I am, had to stop and wonder. Why would anyone think these contributions to the discourse are at all a credit to the sender?

Here, for instance, is an image some chortling fuckwit sent to me, apparently thinking it will teach me a lesson, or make me feel bad, or harm me somehow. Allow me to describe it. It’s a picture of me sitting at Skepticon with my iPad, and someone has put a thought balloon above me. What am I thinking of? Why, according to the ‘artist’, I am daydreaming about a prominent woman skeptic, who is naked and wrapped up in tentacles. Here it is, although I’ve edited it myself to cut out the face of the real woman that was pasted in there.

I don’t get as much sexual objectification and harassment as the women I’ve talked to, so this was weird: some asshole decided to sexually objectify and demean a woman for my benefit, and thought it would be an effective insult to pretend I was the one doing it. That’s just twisted and stupid. And the guy who sent it to me thought it was a marvelous zinger.

Then there’s this.

Why couldn’t #ISIS have attacked #Skepticon 8 instead? #justdesserts #madeforeachother

Ladies and gentlemen, our opposition, true skeptics and atheists all.

My plan is not working

Evil as I am, I had a wicked plan for #Skepticon. I am not speaking this year, so I was going to sit in the back of the room and roll my eyes at the weak lineup and regale everyone with tales of how it was so much better in the good old days, when they had the good taste to invite me. That’ll teach ’em.

And then, dammit, all of the talks so far have been different and awesome and interesting. It kicked off last night with Sikivu Hutchinson, who set the tone…but then, I’ve heard Sikivu speak before, so I knew what to expect. Then somebody I didn’t know, Nathanael Johnson, a journalist for Grist, talked about the science of feeding the world. It was good! I learned things! And lastly, Jamie DeWolf, another person with whom I was unfamiliar, did a spoken word and video set. He’s the great grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, used to be an evangelical Christian, and he was ferocious and eloquent.

My plan has failed. The Skepticon without me is shaping up to be the best Skepticon ever.

This morning, Muhammad Syed of the Ex-Muslims of North America is speaking, which is perfect timing. Later today we’re getting a Q&A with a videographer, Mark Shierbecker, about the Missouri protests. Relevance and matters of importance all over the place!

There’s also fun: last night was a gaming night for all of us nerds (I played some game called Slash…I will say no more), and tonight is Skeptiprom.

I am so impressed. A conference that doesn’t just line up the Usual Suspects and has a lot of new names and diverse topics works phenomenally well. Why aren’t you here? Are you coming next year?

“Food” does not “cleanse” “toxins”


Aaargh. In an article about an organic food store, I get lots of buttons pushed: food fads, weird notions about nutrition, Gwyneth-Paltrow-style airy BS about purging oneself of toxins, all that kind of crap:

As a downtown crowd of artists and models balanced long nights of extreme revelry with long days of extreme diet and fitness, Organic Avenue became more of a destination, opening its first street-level shop in 2006 on Stanton Street and offering, among à la carte items, juice cleanse programs that might entail forgoing solid food for anywhere from one to five days in favor of concoctions made from blue-green algae, beets and the like.

If you’re going in for a colonoscopy, you’ll be told to go on a low-fiber liquid diet for a day or two, to clear out your colon for inspection. But this nonsense about “juice cleanses” is absurd. In fact, just run away if anyone uses the word “cleanse” in reference to your diet.

But it saves the best for last. There’s a new fad going around among the excessively wealthy right now.

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