Pope condemned by The Lancet

The Pope, under the spell of infallibility and religious delusion, recently declared that condoms “increase the problem” of HIV transmission in Africa. This would be news to the CDC.

Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing heterosexual sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Research on the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing heterosexual transmission is both comprehensive and conclusive. The ability of latex condoms to prevent transmission has been scientifically established in laboratory studies as well as in epidemiologic studies of uninfected persons at very high risk of infection because they were involved in sexual relationships with HIV-infected partners.”

Now the Lancet speaks out.

But the London-based Lancet said the Pope had “publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue”.

It said the male latex condom was the single most efficient way to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV/Aids.

“Whether the Pope’s error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear,” said the journal.

But it said the comment still stood and urged the Vatican to issue a retraction.
“When any influential person, be it a religious or political figure, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record,” it said.

“Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/Aids worldwide.”

John Kwok sends email

The Kwok has been mailing all over the place. He has complained to facebook, and to the Panda’s Thumb. He has written to CFI-Michigan in advance of my visit here, telling them to throw a pie in my face. I have heard from quite a few friends in the scientific community that Kwok has written to them, as well, telling them what an awful jerk I am and how they should not ever associate with me. He has now cc’ed to me a message he sent to several of my colleagues at UMM, with an incredibly ironic title.

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Even dumber than Denyse O’Leary?

Scientists are baffled by his ability to survive. After the recent discovery of transitional fossil octopods, I predicted that creationists would abuse the discovery…and Denyse O’Leary fulfilled my prediction of stupidity by claiming that the fossils showed that cephalopods hadn’t evolved at all. Wouldn’t you know it, but Joseph Farah of World Nut Daily has upped the ante by being even more explicitly wrong.

1Scientists are baffled by the latest fossil find.

It’s an octopus they claim is 95 million years old.

And, guess what? It looks just like a modern-day octopus — complete with eight legs, rows of suckers and even traces of ink.

In all that time, it seems, the octopus hasn’t evolved — not one tiny bit.

1Scientists aren’t baffled at all by this discovery.

2Superficially, this is true — they do say it is 95 million years old. Farah is trying to spin it, though, by implying it is only a “claim”. It is a conclusion supported by the evidence.

3There are hundreds of octopod species. The level of description Farah provides is about what a four-year-old with a crayon might say, and it’s false. They (there were several species identified) do not look like modern octopods, but have several tell-tale differences.

4Completely false. Farah hasn’t read the paper, which fits these fossils into a long history of evolutionary change in the lineage.

That’s an impressive collection of falsehoods. It takes a creationist to screw up a story that thoroughly, I guess.

We need a new car!

There was a good suggestion in the comments that I have a thread dedicated to suggestions for a new car. I do have criteria: it should be amphibious, it must have tentacles, and the ability to fire a cloud of ink is desirable; it must also at least have mounts in place for a bank of lasers. I need a squidmobile.


Unfortunately, any new vehicle is not for me, but for my wife, Mary (I get to inherit her decrepit Honda Civic). She has different requirements. This would be a commuter car to get her to and from work every day; our first need is for safety, then good gas mileage and efficiency, and of course, price and availability. We’ve heard about Smart Cars, but we are automotive ignoramuses. I call upon the collective wisdom of the Pharyngula hordes to give us car shopping advice!

(Oh, and if it does have squidlike properties…well, maybe she’d let me drive it on weekends.)

I’m alive, never fear

I had a harrowing morning. I got up at 5 to make the long drive to the airport, only to discover that last night, after several days of rain, it had frozen. And snowed. Uh-oh, you say…at least in my usual caution I had given myself 5 hours to make a 3 hour drive, so I figured I’d have no problem.

It wasn’t bad; little traffic, the roads were icy, but I was taking my time and coping like a real Minnesotan. Then, as I was leaving lovely Glenwood, I saw a truck stopped to make a left turn way ahead — like 4 or 5 blocks ahead. So I touched the brakes to slow down a little more. So I tried to slow down a little more. So I tried very hard to slow down some more. Why isn’t this car slowing down at all? I still had plenty of room, so I started easing over to the right to miss the truck on the shoulder. I tried to ease over. Why isn’t the car turning? I was pumping the brakes and trying to shift over just a little bit, right up until the moment I crunched into the right rear corner of the truck.

I’d managed to slow it down enough that the truck was hardly damaged — a shattered tail light, and some dinged up body work. Unfortunately, my car smacked right into the wedge of the back corner directly at my left front wheel, and then slide forward to take out the driver’s side door. The wheels looked rather pigeon-toed afterwards, and I got a broken glass shower.

You will be pleased to know that I did not pray at any moment, but kept busy trying to get the vehicle under control. I did have plenty of time to curse at length and polysyllabically, saying cruel and hurtful things about the car’s ancestry and the sexual and excretory habits of Minnesota weather systems.

I have bounced back! My wife made an emergency run from work to pick me up and deliver me at the airport (I owe her big time now). I’m now waiting to catch a slightly later flight than I had planned, but I’ll still make it to Michigan in time for my talk tonight. Have no fear, I will also look composed and fabulous when I make my entrance.

A heartless faith

There was an appalling and tragic plane crash in Montana: 14 people were killed, 7 of them children.

Tom Hagler, a mechanic at the Oroville airport, told The Sacramento Bee that he allowed several children ages 6 to 10 to use the airport bathroom before they boarded the doomed plane.

“There were a lot of kids in the group,” he said, “a lot of really cute kids.”

Nine of them were members of one family. This was a horrifying and genuinely horrible accident; I can’t begin to imagine the grief felt by the survivors, who lost children and grandchildren.

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