£415 fine for “offensive comments” about Allah *

Nov 27th, 2010 | Filed by

Prosecutor said the comments were bound to cause harassment, alarm or distress because of Leicester’s multicultural society.… Read the rest

Hitchens defeats Blair in audience vote *

Nov 27th, 2010 | Filed by

Blair talked the usual wool, Hitchens noted the usual difficulties.… Read the rest

PZ on GQ and “Jerry’s Kids” *

Nov 27th, 2010 | Filed by

We get a throw-away gimmick of having smart people stand next to popular entertainers, as if glitz were infectious.… Read the rest

Iran is about to execute Shahla Jaahed *

Nov 26th, 2010 | Filed by

Shahla is one of many victims of a misogynist and tyrannical regime.… Read the rest

Believers are desperate for atheist approval *

Nov 26th, 2010 | Filed by

They think their religion is a special snowflake.… Read the rest

HRW on rights abuse in Western Sahara *

Nov 26th, 2010 | Filed by

Moroccan security forces repeatedly beat and abused people they detained following disturbances on November 8, 2010 in El-Ayoun.… Read the rest

Jesus and Mo throw a party

Nov 26th, 2010 | Filed by

But attendance is sparse.… Read the rest

Salman Rushdie in conversation with Maria Tatar *

Nov 26th, 2010 | Filed by

The scholar of folklore talks to “the powerful creator of a new syncretic mythology that offers an alternative to the clash of civilizations.”… Read the rest

UK: plan to measure national well-being *

Nov 25th, 2010 | Filed by

Potential indicators include how people view their own health, levels of education, inequalities in income and the environment.… Read the rest

Facebook wants to trademark the word “face” *

Nov 25th, 2010 | Filed by

Face! Face face face face face face. Face face face face face. Face. Come and get me.… Read the rest

See those abs? Buy these cigarettes.

Nov 25th, 2010 2:53 pm | By

And since I’m revisiting things, I’ll revisit another one: the make science look cool by putting random guys in photos with rappers thing.

(Disclaimer: I don’t object to the thing itself; it probably doesn’t actually hurt anything; I object to treating it as a serious way to improve Murkans’ attitude to science.)

Here’s what I hate about the whole idea: it is about manipulation instead of argument or persuasion. It has, by design, no substance at all. It’s openly and proudly just a stupid advertsingy “look at this and feel like this so buy this” type of item. I hate that kind of crap, and I especially hate it when it infiltrates areas that are or should be all Read the rest

Bonding and meaning revisited

Nov 25th, 2010 2:36 pm | By

To expand on that post about feelings and meaning and science can’t from a few days ago. Another counter-example occurred to me – one that was touched on by people who mentioned postpartum depression, but not (that I saw, or at least recall) in detail.

Suppose the perinatal hormones hadn’t worked, or had worked the opposite way. Suppose Scott had felt a surge of not love and protectiveness but disgust and loathing. I think it’s fair to say we know what she would have done; she would have 1) done something to ensure her infant’s safety and well-being and 2) tried to fix her own response, via drugs or counseling. Why? Because of scientific knowledge about infancy. Because of Harry … Read the rest

Coyne’s cat contest

Nov 25th, 2010 1:50 pm | By

Jerry Coyne is doing a cat contest, and I’m one of the judges, chiz chiz, so bring out your felids as long as they’re domestic.

It’s going to be agony, though, the judging. First of all, I don’t have the Latin.* Second, they’re all beautiful and winsome and hilarious, so how can I choose?! Third, there is a kind of knowing that is needed for judging betwixt cats, and I haven’t been trained in it. Fourth, despite solicitation, no one has bothered to bribe me. Fifth, I am warm and kind and compassionate and I can’t bear to hurt the feelings of any cat or human by not giving the prize to her/him/it/them. Sixth, I have some kind of … Read the rest

Kasha Jacqueline at Oslo Freedom Forum *

Nov 25th, 2010 | Filed by

“People complained at school that I was not behaving like a proper African woman.”… Read the rest

Who will stand up to the superrich? *

Nov 25th, 2010 | Filed by

“How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?”… Read the rest

Thor Halvorssen on that UN vote *

Nov 25th, 2010 | Filed by

The resolution voted on in the General Assembly is significant for its clarity of message: “It’s okay to kill the gays.”… Read the rest

Nick Cohen on that UN vote *

Nov 25th, 2010 | Filed by

Rival dictatorial ideologies – African Nationalist, Islamist, Communist, crony capitalist – will sink their differences and unite in opposition to liberalism.… Read the rest

How to be kool

Nov 24th, 2010 12:53 pm | By

Martin Robbins alerts us to a new exciting red-hot totally hip yeeha thing where scientists get their pitchas taken with rappers and everybody suddenly understands how rad science is.

So here we are again, witnessing the isochronal cavalcade of embarrassment that is GQ’s annual ‘Rock Stars of Science‘ feature. Like a puppy trying to hump a leg, the idea is simple, and probably a bit wrong.

The concept arises from the tedious modern worship of even the most minor celebrities, paired with the idea that standing next to somebody cool can make you cool – a hypothesis comprehensively debunked by Tony Blair in 1997. From that, GQ extrapolate that making scientists pose awkwardly in the background of

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Start early

Nov 24th, 2010 12:40 pm | By

Baher Ibrahim notes that making little girls bandage their heads is creepy and stupid.

In general, the age at which Muslim girls in Egypt begin to wear the scarf has dropped. Back when I was in high school, very few female students wore headscarves. Today, my younger brother (who is 15) tells me that almost all the girls in his middle school wear a scarf. It hasn’t stopped there either, having caught on in primary schools.

Which of course means that it’s almost impossible for female students in middle school not to wear the bandages. (That thing is not a scarf.) Primary schools will end up in the same place.

Some suggest that I am overanalysing, and that the

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Get us, we are the more devout

Nov 24th, 2010 12:19 pm | By

You know…if you’re going to use massive power over the minds of people, you ought to do so carefully and thoughtfully. You ought not to use that power to wreck people’s lives for the sake of your power and celebrity. Wouldn’t you agree?

You would, but the Catholic church wouldn’t.

Papal comments on birth control began in the early 20th century, spurred partly by the emergence of new methods and also by the decision of the Anglican Church to allow exceptions to its no-contraception rule and the subsequent acceptance of contraception by other Protestant denominations.

Apparently the Catholic church wanted to show off by making a display of being more abjectly obedient to an imaginary god and its imaginary … Read the rest