Boobquake t-shirts to benefit charities

Multiple people have been calling for boobquake t-shirts, so I decided to make some really simple ones. 100% of the profit goes to charity, half to the Red Cross (because of their earthquake relief) and half to JREF (for supporting critical thinking and fighting supernatural claims). Go check them out:

Who says science has to be boring?
Did the Earth move for you?
Modestly dressed women seldom make earthquakes
I survived boobquake
Hm, that last one may be a bit premature. We still may all perish in tank-top induced apocalypse.

Head of Iran’s Guardian Council supports Sedighi’s earthquake hypothesis

When I first conceived my boobquake experiment, I thought I was testing the claims of a single man who had failed to think scientifically. But now someone higher up in the Iranian government is supporting Sedighi’s hypothesis – Ahmad Jannati, “longtime head of the ultra-conservative Guardian Council, which vets all laws and political candidates for office.” The LA Times reports:

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati might have thought he was clarifying remarks by his colleague, the cleric Kazem Sedighi, who suggested in a Friday prayer sermon a week ago that women who dress immodestly cause earthquakes by angering God.

Instead Jannati, who delivered the nation’s keynote sermon in the Iranian capital this Friday, reiterated the claim that human behavior causes — and can also prevent — earthquakes.

He told worshipers on Friday that while science cannot yet predict earthquakes, they can be spiritually prevented by repentance and prayer.

“We can avoid earthquakes if the faithful and devoted people pray to God,” Jannati said during the Friday sermon.

Ah, good thing I wasn’t grossly misinterpreting anything! Though for the sake of science, I hope people who believe this keep their repentance and prayers at normal levels on Monday. I don’t want any confounding variables ruining my study. And they shouldn’t either – wouldn’t they like to know if they’re right about women’s immodesty causing earthquakes?

On a more serious note, I love how since earthquakes are unpredictable, we must therefore conclude that they’re controlled by God. We understand how they occur, but it’s difficult to predict a location. Why? Because so many variables are constantly interacting with each other, and that sheer amount of complexity is incredibly difficult to model. Maybe one day we’ll have even more scientific knowledge and computing power to do so. But just because something is complex doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and yell “God did it!”

Of course, maybe God is making the earth rumble because he hates immodestly dressed women. That’s what makes Sedighi’s claim so wonderful – it actually is scientifically verifiable. And when someone makes ludicrous claims that can be tested, we should do so. Monday night I’ll do some statistics, and then we will have a better idea. Though it seems even Jannati has his doubts:

While Jannati called for prayer as a way of preventing earthquakes, he didn’t rule out using less celestial methods. “Officials precautionary moves to make homes quake-proof are appreciated,” he said.

Does he doubt the power of modesty to prevent earthquakes? Or does he doubt that women can easily be forced against their will to dress modestly?

Obligatory disclaimer: I in no way think that all Muslims or Iranians or theists agree with these two men. For all the rational thinkers out there who happen to fall into those groups, my mockery is not directed toward you.

Live interview in an hour!

This is incredibly late notice, but I will be talking live with Barry Lynn from Americans United for Separation of Church and State at 4pm EST at his radio show Culture Shocks. I’ll be on for about 20 minutes making a fool out of myself discussing boobquake and anti-women fundamentalists. Tune in!

EDIT: Sorry about that bit of miscommunication. My interview with Barry Lynn will air on Friday the 23rd at 4:30 PM! You can still catch it by going here then.

A quick clarification about Boobquake

Holy crap.

So what started as a joke and somewhat sarcastic reply to the ludicrous notion that women’s immodesty causes earthquakes has now exploded. Seriously, internet, you scare and amaze me sometimes. The Facebook event already has almost 14,000 attendees (and 60,000 invited) in just over 24 hours. The wall is getting comments so quickly that I had to disable Facebook email notifications because my inbox was getting flooded. The twitter stream for #boobquake is updating so quickly that I can’t keep up. To top that off, I just got interviewed by the largest newspaper in Canada and some radio station in Ireland wants to interview me.

Because I made a boob joke.

Since this is probably only going to get crazier in the next couple of days, I want to make a quick clarification. This post is going to be far shorter than it should be since I am a student and I’m trying to finish homework and such, but I wanted to at least acknowledge what people are saying.

I just want to apologize if this comes off as demeaning toward women. To be honest, it started as silly joke that I hurriedly fired off since I was about to miss the beginning of House. I never thought it would get the attention it did. If I would have known, I would have spent more time being careful about my wording.

That being said, I don’t think the event is completely contrary to feminist ideals. I’m asking women to wear their most “immodest” outfit that they already would wear, but to coordinate it all on the same day for the sake of the experiment. Heck, just showing an ankle would be considered immodest by some people. I don’t want to force people out of their comfort zones, because I believe women have the right to choose how they want to dress. Please don’t pressure women to participate if they don’t want to. If men ogle, that’s the fault of the men, not me for dressing how I like. If I want to a show a little cleavage or joke about my boobs, that’s my prerogative.

I also hate the ideal of “big boobs are always better!” The cleavage joke was just a result of me personally having cleavage, and that being my choice of immodesty. And I thought “boobquake” just sounded funny. Really, it’s not supposed to be serious activism that is going to revolutionize women’s rights, but just a bit of fun juvenile humor. I’m a firm believer that when someone says something so stupid and hateful, serious discourse isn’t going to accomplish anything – sometimes light-hearted mockery is worthwhile.

Anyway, I’m not forcing anyone to agree with me. Maybe I am failing at Feminism 101, or maybe I’m just taking a different approach.

And to the scientists who are concerned with my methods – don’t worry, I fully plan on doing some statistics after the event. I know many earthquakes happen on a daily basis, so we’re looking to see if Boobquake significantly increases the number or severity of earthquakes. Or if an earthquake strikes West Lafayette, IN and only kills me, that may be good evidence of God’s wrath as well (I’m not too concerned). And yes, I know I need a larger sample size to make this good science. Maybe I’ll include Mardi gras in my calculations.

And thus begins the letter to the editor wars

Remember the wishy washy religious reply I got to my column on atheism yesterday? Well, after much persuasion from a friend, I decided to play Good Cop. I had a horrendously hard time writing that letter, since…well, I’m not good at being the diplomat. Like my friend said, I’m a firebrand who wrote a diplomatic column and is stuck playing diplomat for a while.

Him: All I’m saying is that you need to use judo instead of boxing
Me: But I like using flamethrowers!

But since I’m temporarily representing all atheists at Purdue, I probably shouldn’t come off as a jackass. Here’s the short reply sent in, with the goal of getting across “O hai thare, you’re kind of a pompous jerk, and you’re not worth my time for a longer letter. kthxbai

Great science comes from theists and non-theists

Josiah Maas (“Claims already have extraordinary proof,” Monday), I agree, the universe is full of extraordinary evidence – evidence that natural processes shape everything from the formation of stars to the diversity of life on earth. Religious people can certainly be great scientists. Don’t insinuate that atheists can’t.

Jennifer McCreight
Senior in the College of Science

But needless to worry. Many other students decided not to play defense:

Don’t assume the weird stuff is God’s work

This letter is in response to Josiah Mass’ letter printed on Monday, “Claims already have extraordinary proof.”

As a fellow science major, I applaud your awe of the universe, but deride your methods. You say there is extraordinary evidence all around us, but if you insist that these claims are proven, you are failing in your task as a scientist. The purpose of science is to discover and learn about the unknown. To take a phenomenon that is presently unexplainable and throw your hands up in defeat and invoke “God” as the answer, you have simply admitted defeat.

Mark Webster
Senior in the College of Science

How is the universe proof of God but not others?

Josiah Maas (letter to the editor, “Claims already have extraordinary proof,” Monday), could you be a little bit more specific about exactly what the evidence for God is? Also, could you explain how it is evidence for God, but not for Zeus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn?

Alex Strinka
Senior in the College of Science

Subjectivity is the essence of understanding

In response to Josiah Maas’s letter, I would, at the outset, like to point out that proof and evidence are not the same thing. Furthermore, the qualifier “extraordinary” is subjective. What evidence you find compelling, someone else might not.

That it makes for an entertaining debate, that much I will agree. But alas! Your letter does in no way contribute to it. The only specific fact you give is what your opinion is regarding certain unmentioned evidence. In a place where ideas are exchanged (like this “Letters” section) specific facts an enriching discussion make, just stating your opinion belongs to opinion polls. And “look around the world” can never be substitute specific facts – it is too vague from the start. Try using that sentence for the next term paper in your science class, and sit back to enjoy the grades.

I read Ms. McCreight’s column. She was not debating whether any religion serves any purpose, or whether God of any kind exists. Her position is certainly implied in the article, but it was not about that. The article was talking about the motivation for a particular society, the kinds of programs they do, etc., a list of specific facts of some sort. The article also gave facts that were not related to the Society of Non-Theists in particular, but were relevant to the topic in general.

Now whether you found these facts interesting or not is subjective, but they certainly brought to the table much to discuss about.

What is there to discuss about your opinion? And what purpose will it serve to exclaim: OMG! You are a sophomore in the College of Science, Josiah.

Pinaki Bhattacharya
Graduate student

Ah, fulfilling to know that my last couple weeks at Purdue will likely be filled with an atheism flame war in the Exponent. Hey, the theist started it!

In the name of science, I offer my boobs

This little bit of supernatural thinking has been floating around the blogosphere today:

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

I have a modest proposal.

Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically. You all remember the homeopathy overdose?

Time for a Boobquake.

On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I’m sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn’t rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it’ll be one involving plate tectonics.

So, who’s with me? I may be a D cup, but that will probably only produce a slight tremor on its own. If you’ll be joining me on twitter, use the tag #boobquake! Or join the facebook event!

(Confused? Angry? Think my science is crap? Read a serious explanation of boobquake here)

My honors thesis is done, woo!

My honors thesis was completed, signed, and turned in with a couple of hours to spare! Yaaaaaaaaay! Fifteen pages, nine of which were figures/tables/citations (wah wah, liberal arts people). Unfortunately I can’t tell you guys about it yet, but I will once it’s accepted to a scientific journal. All I can say is that it’s about copulatory plugs. Yeah, you’re just dying to know now, right?

Now all I have to do is grade some papers and finish a take home exam, and I’m good for the end of the semester. In fact, this week will suddenly change from The Week From Hell to The Week of Constant Drunken Happiness:

Tuesday: Labmate’s thesis defense – assuming that goes well, night at the pub in celebration!
Wednesday: Final meeting of the Non-theists! Pizza party, and hopefully not too much tearful nostalgia
Thursday: Free block party featuring concert by Asobi Seksu (omg yay!), then probably going clubbing afterwards
Friday: Party at my place
Saturday: Final Breakfast Club of the year (getting up early in costumes and going to bars… …it’s a Purdue thing)

Fuck yeah, college.

A not so good reply to my letter on atheism

Today’s Exponent contains a response to my column about being an atheist at Purdue. I think it’s attempting to refute what I said, but…uh, yeah:

Claims already have extraordinary proof

Jennifer McCreight (Guest commentary, “Non-theists, you are not alone on this campus,” Wednesday), You quoted Carl Sagan in the last line of your article about the Society of Non-Theists, stating that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” You’re a science major, Jennifer. Take a look at the universe you live in. I’d say there’s some pretty extraordinary evidence all around you.

Josiah Maas
Sophomore in the College of Science

I really wish I could write in a reply without seeming like a total jackass, but I probably can’t. I’ll let some other non-theist defend me. But since this is my blog and I have the right to be as snarky as I want, here we go:

I find it amusing that you’ve failed to provide a single piece of this “proof”

Josiah Maas (Letter to the Editor, “Claims already have extraordinary proof,” Monday), You say that the universe I live in is extraordinary evidence. You’re a science major, Josiah. You should have learned that science is based on repeatedly testing hypotheses and gathering data, not letting emotional reactions or arguments from ignorance overwhelm rationality. In fact, what we’ve seen when investigating the universe is an overwhelming amount of data showing that natural processes shape everything from the formation of stars to the diversity of life on earth. The supernatural has zero evidence (though if you claim to have so much, would you please let me in on this little secret?). Maybe if you start paying more attention in your science classes, you’ll understand this concept. It’s okay, you have a couple more years until graduation.

Jennifer McCreight
Senior in the College of Science