The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

House of Saudomy

If anyone has ever happened upon this site and thought, "Gee, this guy really doesn't like religion...I wonder why?", here's your answer. A news story out of Saudi Arabia has laid bare religious stupidity (in the Islamic vein) with such clarity that no one (with a mind unclouded by sky-daddy horseshit) can claim not to see the burningly ludicrous, empty-headed vapidity that is Shari'a law.

Known only as "Qatif girl", she was gang raped by seven men and then, because she was both "mingling" and an accused adulterer, sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison. It is at this point that I'm wondering if we should courier a copy of The Accused over to Riyadh so they can...oh, wait...they'd just jerk off to the rape scene and then condemn Jodie Foster to the fires of hell for tempting them and being a whore. They'd likely try to kill her - so we should probably steer them clear of Taxi Driver too.

The case is now being tossed around in U.S. politics where talking-head "newsfolk" are trying to be all topical by asking presidential candidates what they think of the verdict. What are the politicians supposed to say?
"Well, according to the rules of their land, that little lady was asking for what she got by not being with a male relative while outside her home! What did she think would happen? That gang-raped teenager should be punished to the full extent of Shari'a law and the United States will endorse any....what's that? We don't...? Oh, oh, ok...ummm... We think this treatment is barbaric and abhorrent and stern words shall fall upon Saudi Arabia, I'll tell you!"
unknown presidential candidate
Fuck, what a non-question. Of course they're going to condemn the treatment of the girl...then they'll do nothing about it and make a pipeline deal behind closed doors. Ah, foreign policy, how you drive a stake into my good good heart.

You don't think so? Howzabout this little factoid. Four months before the 9/11 attacks in '01, George W. Bush congratulated the Taliban in Afghanistan for their curbing of the opium trade and gave them...guess? Bananas? Nope, he gave them money, and lots of it. How much is lots? How's $43,000,000 dollars? Yep. Oh, and the opium they "stopped growing" was actually halted to increase the price, and shipments into Tajikistan were increased. Thanks, guys. But I digress....

Prince Saud al-Faisal was all pissy because he had to defend his silly religious laws to reporters at the Middle East peace talks. Here's what the douche said:
What is outraging about this case is that it is being used against the Saudi government and people.
See, the real victims of the situation are government and the people. That girl who was gang-raped at knife point? Oh, she's just trying to make us look bad.

What a monumental assfuckhole.

Sunni and Shia hostilities played into the situation, but what's new about that? Of course people of the same religion - with slight differences - want to kill each other. Reminds me of that old Emo Phillips joke (if you hate his voice skip ahead to the 2:00 mark) - it's a perfect illustration.

What really kills me (and, potentially, the girl in the story if her brother has any say in the matter) about Shari'a law is the reaction of the judges. After she told her side of the story, they said, "What kind of relationship did you have with this individual? Why did you leave the house? Do you know these men?" I mean, fuck, they sound like the father of a 15 year old who broke curfew. Overbearing religion makes itself your daddy, no doubt.

I really have no closing comments to this article. It's just too goddamn sad. I hope this girl and her husband leave Saudi Arabia somehow and she becomes a women's rights activist and I hope the men who raped her are eaten by desert wasps.

(hat tip to writerdd over at Skepchick for the initial outrage and linkage to the original story)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Get Mail

My recent rant on reiki drew a reply from a "professional writer" named "Hurricane25" who says he is taking a reiki course. I felt I should reply to some of his concerns, so here are some bits from his comment:
As a beginning Reiki student (I am taking Reiki II this weekend), I can definitely see the impact that this ancient healing art form has made in my life. And despite all the things you mentioned, there is just one thing to keep in mind when talking about Reiki--it clears your body and chakras of energy that may be impeding regular function.
Ok, I'll bite. Please show me where these supposed "chakras" are and how you know they're there. Also, when explaining, you are not allowed to say that "sensitive" people can detect chakras but no machine can; that makes no sense. I dealt with "energy" in my post - what are you talking about when you say "energy"? Heat? Chemical? Did you read my post?

A favorite claim of the woo woos followed:
The body can rid itself of toxins naturally, however energy blocks (stemming from diet, emotional trauma, stress, etc.) don't allow the body to do the job on its own. Once those blocks are cleared, your body and organs are supported and able to do what they do best.
You'll find only the rare piece of wooish literature that doesn't invoke the "toxin" monster. What, Mr. Hurricane, is a "toxin"? It is my understanding that the old maxim, the dose makes the poison holds true for pretty much every substance. Botulinum toxin is one of the most horrific molecules on the planet, but vain mofos inject that shit into their faces to look younger. It's all dependent on the dose. Now, "energy blocks" goes back to my previous point of, what the fuck are you talking about? Stress is not well understood, but that in no way means that you should start talking about silly "energy" pathways no one can see, feel, detect, or measure as the cause of illness.

And P.S., your organs don't get "blocked" - it's not like you need some sort of somatic Liquid Plumber to get your liver to keep workin'. If I may suggest, an intro physiology course would be money much better spent than what you are planning on attending.

Then we have the "I'm on your side, but you have to admit..." fallacy:
Western medicine has its place for sure, I am not aruguing (sic) that. However it can also introduce new toxins to the system that upset the delicate balance...and who wants to take medicine if they really don't have to?
Well of course "Western" medicine introduces "toxins". To have an effect, you have to potentially have side-effects and harmful effects. Hell, vaccinations are weakened or dead versions of the actual virus it's protecting you against. Try to pay attention!

For reiki to work you have to believe in it and as I've said before: if the efficacy of a treatment is dependent on the belief of the patient, the treatment is irrelevant. If I can convince you that wearing a midget's sock around your neck for a week will cure your cough, it probably will - if you actually buy my bullshit. Mr. Hurricane is trying to use the old argument that homeopaths used when the medicine of the day consisted of no-anesthetic, no antibacterial amputations and bloodletting; obviously giving people water was better for the ol' survival than that.

He then says that he used to be sick and now he has turned his life around by doing various things, reiki among them. Good. I'm glad that he's better, but the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy is loud and clear. Just because you started doing reiki and then got better doesn't mean, in any way, that reiki made you better. You are confusing cause and effect, my friend.

Oh, the non sequiturs that leap forth from the computer screen! I share:
So although you may be skeptical, there is no denying that we are all made up of energy. The possibilities for how those energy particles interract (sic) or react in certain applications is still being explored on hundreds of levels. Remember, the microwave wasn't always a common household appliance!
Ok, I'll take these in order: A) yes, I'm skeptical. Very much so. B)I will certainly deny that we are "made of energy". I would, again, ask you to define what it is that you are talking about. C)How "energy" particles interact is, indeed being studied - if you're referring to subatomic particles and the like. I doubt very much that any of the real scientists involved in that work would recognize what the fuck you're talking about and they'd probably be wiping the tears from their eyes after laughing in fits for twenty minutes. D) I have no idea what you are talking about with respect to the microwave. The microwave is based on solid, repeatable, predictive science; what you're talking is gibberish that means nothing.

And finally, the last resort of the woo woo - personal testimony! Just try it and you'll see! All that matters is anecdotes!
So the only way to really know the truth is for you to get a Reiki session done. Read all the materials you want, but the proof is in how you feel once your session is over. Peace!
No, the "proof" is not "in how you feel once your session is over." Everyone repeat after me: the plural of anecdote is not evidence. The late, great Richard Feynman once said, "The first principle is not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool". The scientific method is designed to eliminate as much as possible the effect of experimenter bias which is ALL Mr. Hurricane is advocating. "Just try it and you'll know the truth" - no, I'll have a personal story that means nothing. When reiki is actually put to the test, it does not do well and the more well-designed the study, the worse the results for "energy". Not a good sign.

With that, I'll leave Mr. Hurricane25 to answer.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spill Whose Blood, Now?

Pope Benny assimilated 23 new bishops into the Catholic World Domination Brigade the other day. This wouldn't concern me at all normally as I couldn't care less what the Pope or his minions blather on about or what size fish hats they wear on their misguided heads, but this event has me a little freaked out.

It's only because, when he was speaking to the newbies, he said they should spread the Catholic faith and that they should be true, "'usque ad sanguinis effusionem' (to the point of spilling blood), the pope reminded the new cardinals that their red robes signify their willingness to die for their faith."

Um, "die" for their faith? Is that a new thing? I mean, I understand that in the past when folks were being thrown to the lions (literally), it might have been an issue, but today, no one is freaking out and killing Catholics - that I'm aware of, anyway. Unless you're in some Earth-Ass place where Bronze-Age lunatics rule the country, you probably don't have much to worry about when you wear a cross around your neck or say your daily prayers. Am I the only one that thinks this is a little over the top?

Benny was wearing clothes from the 15th century, so maybe that Bronze-Age comment above applies more to him than any others. I'm watching you Ben. I...will be watching...you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Who Loves The Weird? Me Loves The Weird.

Oh Don, how you make me laugh. This humour is not for everyone, but I can certainly tell who I'd like to have a beer with by who laughs at this. I hope it's you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

74th Edition of Turkey! Wait...Skeptic's Circle!

The new Skeptic's Circle is up over at Med Journal Watch. Go forth and be skeptical to your heart's (and stomach's) content.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dear "Little Juice" - Thanks, Captain Obvious

I really have to comment on this article I saw over at King Aardvark's place. He seemed to think I'd have something to say, and he knows me quite well.

The gist of the article is that some Brazilian "psychic" wrote a letter to some folks in Indonesia and said that they'd have an 8.5 magnitude earthquake on December 23 of this year. Antara, the state-run newspaper there, said this fella, Jucelino ("Little Juice") Nobrega da Luz, had predicted in 1998 the 2004 tsunami. Funny no one knows this guy's name when that killed a quarter of a million people....

Oh, wait, people do know his name because he claims to have told the U.S. goobernment where Saddam Hussein was hiding and he still wants to get paid the $25,000,000 reward. You want proof? He wrote it in his diary and supposedly sent a couple letters (oddly, some other letters and predictions were outright wrong or seemingly changed after-the-fact). He really seems like just another wannabe "psychic" who twists the facts to fit his vague predictions or waits until after something happens and then "retrodicts".

I find it odd now though that he sends a letter to Indonesia warning them of seismic activity, but if you look here you'll see just how many earthquakes occur in that area (look pretty much dead centre). In case you have trouble looking at dense collections of dots, here's the world earthquake report for the last seven days, and from that, here's the specific results for just Indonesia (results are by date and Richter Scale rating:
Nov. 14 - 5.4
Nov. 14 - 4.9
Nov. 14 - 4.8
Nov. 15 - 4.8
Nov. 16 - 4.9
Nov. 16 - 5.1
Nov. 17 - 4.9
Nov. 18 - 5.0
So they're averaging damn near a 5.0 quake every day. Gee, what a stretch to predict an earthquake. Sure sure, he said they'd have an 8.5 mag. but if they just get a quake, he can claim to be correct - just off by a bit in the magnitude. Not to mention they had an 8.4 on Sept. 12 of this year (4th listing down). Jesus, that's like "predicting" that a tornado will hit Kansas next year. See, he really can't be wrong. Must be nice to have that job.

If he really wants people to take his predictions seriously, he should make them on videotape with a current day's paper held to his chest. Or, to go another route, predict that Ron Jeremy will win a Best Actor Academy Award. If that came true, I'd start to pay attention to him.

Edited to add resources:
Earthquakes Data Magnitude 5.0 and Over 2005 - 2014
http://krilloil.com/blog/earthquake-data/

Seismic Monitor
http://www.iris.edu/seismon/

Quakes - Live Earthquakes Map
http://quakes.globalincidentmap.com/

Thanks to Sharon Thornton of The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics for the links.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dear Believer - Reiki

Dear Believer,

I understand you believe that Reiki is a wonderful, useful and in some ways perhaps, scientific modality for diagnosing and treating illness. We need to talk about this because it seems that there are some problems and logical fallacies in your thinking.

Reiki is defined as:
...a non-physical healing energy made up of life force energy that is guided by the Higher Intelligence, or spiritually guided life force energy. (from reiki.org)
Can anyone explain that to me in layperson terms? I'm only asking because it reads like Dharma talking to Greg when she's high; pretty, but pointless and brain dead. Most people that I've talked to relate Reiki to a couple of things that I'd like to quickly address, then I'm going to move on and go through a couple of articles from reiki.org and see what they've got to say on the subject.

Firstly, we have to talk about the "meridians" idea. The concept of invisible, unmeasurable energy pathways makes no sense whatsoever. Right off the bat, I need to ask, what kind of energy are we talking about? There's a bunch of different types and I never hear specifics from "alternative health providers" about what, exactly, they are tapping into (I think because they're deluded about what it is they are doing/feeling). Also, if people can feel this energy with their bare hands, why can't it be measured? Why won't electrical machines pick it up? You know your "healing techniques" are in trouble when a nine year old girl kicks your ass in a study (yeah yeah, that was Therapeutic Touch, but it's the same thing with respect to the "energy" used).

Moving along to the articles, the first is What Is Reiki? If ever I have tested my capacity for withstanding woo woo in high doses, it was when I visited reiki.org. Wow. In case you think Reiki is just for colds and stomach-aches, there is this bit of hyperbole:
It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.
Am I correct when I read that Reiki helps every known illness and is never harmful? I have to say, there's this saying in medicine - anything that can help can also hurt; it's the old "the dose makes the poison" line. If Reiki doesn't hurt, ever, then it's not doing anything in the first place.

Next is the a great line:
Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class.
Right. Sort of like a cold. This is like the high-school student who didn't study and decides, in a moment of desperation, to put the textbook under her pillow so she can learn through osmosis. Information or "energy" can't just flow from person to person. I was fully expecting to run into the word "quantum" at some point, but gladly I did not.

Here's an interesting set of quotes that highlight how odd this belief actually is:
Reiki is not dependent on belief at all and will work whether you believe in it or not...Reiki comes from God...(BUT!)...In order for the Reiki healing energies to have lasting results, the client must accept responsibility for her or his healing and take an active part in it.
So which is it? Does it work if I don't believe, or do I have to "accept responsibility" and believe? These two sentences are mutually exclusive. Oh, and what if you don't think any "Gods" are real?

Moving along to the next link, How Does Reiki Work?, we see this bold assertion:
Life force flows within the physical body though pathways called chakras, meridians and nadis. It also flows around us in a field of energy called the aura.
Ah yes, auras. How do you folks still believe in these things? Supposedly the aura is "2-3 feet thick" (see fifth from last paragraph here), so why can't someone do a test where a practitioner gets people whose auras she can clearly see, then get 10 or so opaque screens and stand the people behind them so the practitioner can make sure that the auras extend above the screens, then randomly place people behind to see if she can "see" them?

Oh, right, because James Randi already did that on TV in 1989.
James Randi conducted another test for a television special, offering $100,000 for successful results. The psychic challenger selected ten people she maintained had clearly visible auras, and agreed that the auras would extend above the screens behind which-unseen by her-the people were to stand. Unfortunately, in choosing which screens supposedly had people behind them, the psychic got only four out of ten correct guesses-less than the five that chance allowed (Steiner 1989, from here
Believers, your case is not looking strong for Reiki here.

Supposedly negative thoughts "attach themselves" to your aura. I assume by some sort of supernatural Velcro. Reiki, the article says, "raises the vibratory level of the energy field...where the negative thoughts and feelings are attached". What, exactly does this mean? What's vibrating? The energy? I thought that "flowed"? There's a loop here of which I'm out.

Another great line from the How Does Reiki Work article is this gem:
Reiki is a special kind of life force that can only be channeled by someone that has been attuned to it.
Editor's note: please change "been attuned to it" to "paid for training in full". Oddly enough, the article says that people who "heal" but don't use Reiki are using "another kind of life force". What would that be? Phreiki? Sort of a stolen, fake Reiki? Do the clients of those "healers" have to go get their "phreiki" on?

The article then gets into levels of woo that I can't spend time on here because it would turn this blog post into a book-length tome. Just know it drops into past lives, spirit guides and more about vibrations. Near the end of this piece though is a very telling line which says, "One never need worry about whether to give Reiki or not. It is always helpful." Sure it is...to your account balance. How nice it is to have something that can treat anything. Finally for this bit, the author advises, "it is also much easier for the ego to stay out of the way and allow the presence of God to clearly shine through." I find it odd that "God's" presence is never, ever, ever enough to heal even one amputee. It's not like starfish and salamanders can't do it.

This last article, and the one previous, actually, were written by a Reiki Master named William Lee Rand. He traveled to the North Pole ('97), the South Pole ('99) as well as to Jerusalem ('04) to place a "World Peace Crystal Grid" at each location. We can all see just how well those are working out. My thrust at Dear Believers here takes this form:
All negative or dis-harmonious thoughts or feelings will cause a disruption in the flow of Ki. Even Western medicine recognizes the role played by the mind in creating illness and some Western doctors state that as much as 98% of illness is caused directly or indirectly by the mind.
I would love to be in the room when Mr. Rand tells cancer, MS , Parkinson's, and ALS patients that 98% of illness is "in your head". That'd be a hoot, I'm sure. I particularly like the "Even Western medicine recognizes..." line. It has been "Western medicine" that has made all the advances in the last hundred years, so Mr. Rand has no real weight to thrown around here.

It's about this time that one of you Believers will toss out the, "Well, Reiki has been around for thousands of years so something has to be right about it", argument. That's a logical fallacy called Appeal to Antiquity, which is a variant of the Appeal to Authority. You might as well say that the Earth is the centre of the Universe because that's an old argument held high by such luminaries as Ptolomy and the Catholic Popes from ages ago. Old doesn't equal correct.

My penultimate issue is this:
The great value of Reiki is that because it is guided by the Higher Intelligence, it knows exactly where to go and how to respond to restrictions in the flow of Ki.
Well la-di-friggin'-da. Why does anyone need a Reiki practitioner when the "Higher Intelligence" knows right where to go and what to do? Why not cut out the middle-woo and save some cash by dealing directly with said Higher Power?

Lastly:
Reiki flows through a sick or unhealthy area, it breaks up and washes away any negative thoughts or feelings lodged in the unconscious mind/body thus allowing a normal healthy flow of Ki to resume. As this happens, the unhealthy physical organs and tissues become properly nourished with Ki and begin functioning in a balanced healthy way thus replacing illness with health.
Basically this is just the Law of Attraction but with payment to someone who can scrape your aura of negativity. I really like the "become properly nourished with Ki" part, as if it's some sort of tangible thing. Can't I just take a Multi-Ki tablet once a day and be done with it?

So, Mr/Ms Believer, it would be fabtastic if you could address the points I've brought up, or just sit back and think about the complete lack of efficacy and reality that is Reiki. Thanks for your time.

God's Sarcasm

I just read this comedy article over at the Huffington Post and laughed quite a bit. I realize that HuffPo is more than a little bit flaky but occasionally they put up a piece that's worth checking out. Please do so and have a Friday guffaw at the expense of Georgia Governer Sonny Perdue.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Answer for Sandwalk Regarding Philip Johnson

Over at Prof. Larry Moran's blog, he puts it to his readers to evaluate this "argument" from creationist Philip Johnson and comment on whether or not it is valid:
Creationists are disqualified from making a positive case, because science by definition is based on naturalism. The rules of science also disqualify any purely negative argumentation designed to dilute the persuasiveness of the theory of evolution. Creationism is thus out of court—and out of the classroom—before any consideration of evidence. Put yourself in the place of a creationist who has been silenced by that logic, and you may feel like a criminal defendant who has just been told that the law does not recognize so absurd a concept as "innocence."
Firstly, Creationists are not at all disqualified from making a positive case, there just isn't one. Every creationist I've ever talked to (and I've spoken to my fair share) have one "argument" that boils down to this: "X is really really complicated and hard to understand, therefore God did it...so stop looking around more...and stop asking questions unless you want to go to Hell. Would you like to go to Hell? It's pretty hot", and then they usually go into Pascal's Wager. It's sad.

The scientific method does indeed disqualify purely negative arguments because, tah dah, they don't explain or predict anything. They are, then, by definition, useless as scientific tools. See, "God did it", is a conversation and investigation stopper. There's no point in trying to learn more once you utter that phrase. Why tamper with the creation of the Master of the Universe (apologies to He-Man). The scientific theory of evolution through natural selection makes testable predictions (retrodictions, actually) about the (idealized) future and about the past, many of which have been performed and verified, not to mention uncovering a ton of those dastardly transitional fossils.

Creationism is not out of the court/classroom before consideration of evidence; it is out of court and classroom because of the evidence (or lack thereof). If any creationist/IDiot could bring out ANY evidence, it would be a grand day for them. The best any of them can do is sit around and complain about how gosh-darned complicated some bodily system are and how, gee willikers, some Designer just HAD to be involved! Nevermind all that Stupid Design:And finally, the last sentence is ridiculous. It is nothing like a criminal defendant being told that the law doesn't recognize "innocence", it is much more like a criminal defendant being told that the law does not recognize so absurd a concept as a green fairy that committed the armed robbery s/he is accused of perpetrating. See the difference? "Innocence" is a real state, that of not being fouled or of being pure. Green fairies with handguns would have to be shown to be real to start with (much like, oh, I don't know...supernatural daddy-figures in the sky) before even being considered as appropriate to enter into court/classroom discussion.

I would think this would be fairly straight-forward, but apparently not.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Great Song for Guitar

I'm getting myself an acoustic guitar for Christmas and as such, have been trolling around on YouTube for free lessons and trying to learn about music again. In my digging and surfing, I found this great live version of Bryan Adams doing Summer of '69, which is a personal favorite and one I'd like to play sometime. Please enjoy a really bitchin' tune.

Vote For Mike Huckabee or Chuck Norris Will Kill You

That's right, folks. Chuck Norris has officially endorsed Mike Huckabee as the next president of the United States saying, "I believe the only one who has all of the characteristics to lead America forward into the future is ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee."

Well call it all off, Chuck has spoken. Remember when Vince Carter was in the Slam Dunk contest and did that catch-off-the-bounch, under-the-leg, windmill slam? When he landed, he looked in the camera and said, "It's over", even though the contest was not, officially, over. But it was. Well since Chuck Norris declared his support for Huckabee, it could be over. We all know about the famous Chuck Norris facts and, of course, the most important one to recognize is that, "America is not a democracy, it's a Chucktatorship".

It really is too bad that Chuck Norris is a religious anti-evolution weirdo. Check this out:
"...(H)ere's what I really think about the theory of evolution: It's not real. It is not the way we got here. In fact, the life you see on this planet is really just a list of creatures God has allowed to live. We are not creations of random chance. We are not accidents. There is a God, a Creator, who made you and me. We were made in His image, which separates us from all other creatures. By the way, without Him, I don't have any power. But with Him, the Bible tells me, I really can do all things—and so can you." from here
Right, Chuck. You can "do all things". Howzabout you resurrect your film and/or TV career. Don't worry, I'll wait. Also, here once again, we see the fallacious, "we're not creations of random chance" line of belief that shows off both the speaker's ignorance of what they are criticizing and an unwillingness to even look at their opponent's position/argument.

I'm shocked that we'd see this level of incompetence from a former action-film star.

Of course, Huckabee is the same way. He actually said this in response to his lack of "belief" in evolution by natural selection:
"If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, that's fine. I'll accept that, I just don't happen to think that I did...(and also he wants) schools to acknowledge that there are views that are different than evolution." from here
This guy is out of his mind with respect to science education. I mean, I think that Bill Clinton's Oval Office hummer showed a tremendous lack of respect for the position he held and brought into question his moral character, no doubt. That being said, I'd rather have someone in control with a bit of a philandering personality than someone with a total lack of understanding concerning one of the most demonstrated and evidence-based scientific theories in history. I mean, you may as well say that you believe objects can fly because gravity is "just a theory", or that you don't care about satellites or photos from "the Moon" because you know that the Earth is flat. Jebus....

So if you feel like having a scientifically illiterate person near atomic weapons, vote Huckabee! Just imagine, it'd be like Pat Robertson and Zombie Falwell on the ticket! Let's all chant together, American Theocracy, Now!

Now whatever did happen to that darn Establishment Clause....?

I Need An Old Priest And A Youn....Ah Screw It

While reading my morning links and such, I came across an article from the Sydney Morning Herald that told of a poor woman (named Janet Moses) who was killed by her family in an exorcism. Nice, eh?

The article comes with a handy Q&A about silly Maori bullshit ideas like curses, "expert religious practitioners" (I'm guessing these are the exorcists), and what people believe about...well...these weirdyass beliefs. Take, for example, this answer to the eternal question, "What can it (the curse) do?"
In extreme cases a makutu is believed to kill its victim. A victim who is told, or believes, that ill- health or bad luck is the result of a makutu would seek its removal.
I find it difficult to believe that people still believe in curses. Didn't Snow White have a curse put on her? The Beast from Beauty and the Beast? What about the Frog Prince? The Little Mermaid? I was under the impression that Disney had the monopoly on curses. And another thing - wouldn't a person who was just in plain ol' ill-health, regardless of what they believed caused it, "seek its removal"? Right. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

Grown adult human-beings (up to 40 of them!) holding a person down (under water, for chrissake!) or watching intently so the "demon" can be excised after a "curse" was put on the victim - are you shitting me? All that because of this:
A relative said yesterday that the family believed a curse was put on Moses after someone, either her sister or a cousin, stole a blessed taonga (treasure).
Yeah, cursed for stealing a blessed treasure. Sort of like Aladdin's monkey stealing the big jewel from the Panther Cave and getting trapped inside. Well, that or the plot from an Indiana Jones movie. I can't believe I have to write about this shit.

So yeah, enjoy that bit of pointless sadness today and check back again soon - motivation slowly rising...rising, falling...RISING! Ahhh....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I'll Take Box #73, Please

Pay attention people, 'cause the new Skeptic's Circle is up over at Holford Watch. Go there, click the appropriate box, and read 'til you can't handle the truth no mo'.

Ok, just go enjoy some of the best in skeptical blogging from the last two weeks.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Long Time Gone

Well well well, it's been a while, hasn't it? Yes it certainly has. I've been a very slack man with my writing and I have been quite unmotivated of late. Apologies all around for that. Sadly, not much has piqued my interest even when I read a story that just fucking cries out for a thrashing.

Like the recent tidbit on the Indian girl born with eight limbs who was thought by some to be the reincarnation of Vishnu. Nevermind that Vishnu is usually depicted with six limbs (yeah yeah, there can be more). I guess being a reincarnated god comes complete with the operation to take off the parasitic twin i.e. your "enchanted" extra legs and arms.

What about Cris Angel almost getting into a fistfight on the new and queer show Phenomenon? I have to say, it looked staged, but kudos to Angel for calling out both the overly-dramatic contestant and Uri Gellar - who I'm always surprised is not assumed to be a douchebag at every turn of his life. 'Cause he is, you know. A douchebag.

There's Colbert's failed presidential campaign, Musharraf and the "emergency state" in Pakistan, and the new Beyond Belief conference that just finished. Really, there's no excuse for my not writing more...except for my being busy at work, wanting to spend the nights playing with my daughter, and my interest in playing guitar picking up steam all the time. There's that.

I've been toying with the idea of podcasting. Might pick up a microphone over Christmas and in the meantime, put together a format for a weekly sound-type thingy that people could either get from this site OR download from iTunes if/when I get tech-savvy enough to be incorporated into the Borg Collective. I think it'd be fun to just do a weekly recap with rants and bitching and the obligatory happy, pro-science, pro-skeptic thoughts. I know it'd be big undertaking and competing with the larger shows like Skeptoid, Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, Point of Inquiry, and blah blah blah would be difficult, but with a solid concept and regular segments it could fly.

So there. Posting may be light over the next little while and I apologize to my seven regular readers for that. Please peruse and enjoy my archives whilst I try to put together something palatable for the future of this site.

Me!