Notes and Comment Blog

Hanging out in Seattle

Jun 6th, 2014 4:12 pm | By

I’m off to hang out with PZ and other friends in a couple of hours. Did I tell y’all about that? In case any of the Seattleites among you want to go? I forget. If not, get in touch with me fast to find out where. It’s secret so that we don’t get any of the assholes who live around here, and there are quite a few.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong

Jun 6th, 2014 3:46 pm | By

And then some people just don’t get it. Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur, for instance, who explains that rape is a social crime, sometimes right, sometimes wrong.

Gaur, who is from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said on Thursday that the crime of rape can only be considered to have been committed if it is reported to police.

“This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong,” said Gaur, the home minister responsible for law and order in BJP-run Madhya Pradesh.

When is it right? In wartime is it? During riots? When a genocidal mob is feeling really pissed off?

Although a rape is reported in India every 21 minutes on average, law enforcement failures mean that such crimes – a symptom of pervasive sexual and caste oppression – are often not reported or properly investigated, human rights groups say.

More sex crimes have come to light in recent days. A woman in a nearby district of Uttar Pradesh was gang-raped, forced to drink acid and strangled to death. Another was shot dead in northeast India while resisting attackers, media reports said.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he was “especially appalled” by the rape and murder of the two girls.

“We say no to the dismissive, destructive attitude of, ‘Boys will be boys’,” he said in a statement this week that made clear his contempt for the language used by Mulayam Singh Yadav.

I have a much higher opinion of boys than Babulal Gaur does, I must say.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The commuters watched silently

Jun 6th, 2014 3:25 pm | By

Via Taslima on Twitter – The Times of India reports

A lady conductor of an ST bus was kicked and thrashed till she fell unconscious after she reprimanded a 30-year-old man for trying to board the vehicle from the front, which is meant for exit.

The accused, a 30-year-old factory worker from Navi Mumbai, also beat up the driver and another woman conductor when they came to the victim’s rescue. The incident took place in Dombivli on Wednesday morning and the accused has been arrested.

The drama lasted nearly half an hour but, according to the victim, the commuters watched silently as she and the bus driver Vinayak Nayakwade (59) were being roughed up.

Singh, who tried to board the bus from Dombivli, was on his way to his home in Kalamboli, Navi Mumbai. When Nayakwade asked Singh to get in from the rear door, he began abusing him. On hearing the commotion, the conductor reportedly reprimanded Singh, leading to him turning on her. She was slapped and pushed before being kicked mercilessly. “He kept kicking me like a football,” said the 34-year-old woman.

When Nayakwade stopped the bus and rushed to her rescue, Singh got aggressive with him too. He then pulled the victim out of the bus by her legs, tore up her uniform shirt and beat her till she fell unconscious on the road. According to the victim, the beating lasted almost 30 minutes.

Everyday sexism.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Tell us more, more, more

Jun 6th, 2014 3:07 pm | By

I get to talk to someone else at the Global Secular Council on Monday. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of talk needed. I want them to

  • apologize on Twitter for their rudeness to me on Twitter


  •  unblock the people they’ve blocked for asking them questions about the GSC


  •  answer questions about the GSC

That’s all. I don’t see it as needing hours of conversation. They can just do it.

They just can’t refuse to answer questions about their shiny new project. They’re not the Vatican, and they’re not the kind of organization that wants to model itself on the Vatican. They’re the kind of organization that prides itself on being transparent and accountable – that’s a secular value, as opposed to the theistic values of mystery and unquestionable authority. They advertise themselves, so that means they have to respond to questions about themselves. They want our support, so they have to explain themselves to us. It’s just part of the territory.

But…I’m not sure they actually have that kind of mindset. Check out another picture that they use at the top of another page:

dinnerRemind you of anything? it reminds me of the Last Supper.

Última Cena - Da Vinci 5.jpg

We really really really don’t need any priestly imagery of Dawkins receiving the adulation of the multitudes decorating our new “Global” projects. We really really really don’t need to make a pope or monarch or hero out of Dawkins. Enough already.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Why do they think they are above being questioned?

Jun 6th, 2014 10:57 am | By

There’s more from the incompetent unresponsive unrepresentative “Global” Secular Council. I hope this will be my last post on the subject (of this particular quarrel, not the Council overall), but who knows – they keep adding to their CV.

Item: they apologized fulsomely to Rebecca Watson yesterday.

apolIn itself, of course, that’s good – an apology was owed. But they refuse to apologize to me, so offering an energetic apology to someone else for a small part of the very thing they should apologize to me for…looks pointed.

Item: they still refuse to apologize to me.

The refusal is now taking the form of pretending not to know how to do it, not to know what they did that’s apology worthy, not to know how apologies work, not to know that they are an organization and thus responsible for what branches of their organization do. They are demanding that I write the apology for them.

Here is how our correspondence on that subject went:

To me:

Would the following Tweet meet your current request:

We are sorry we called @OpheliaBenson “Ofie”.

If so, I will have staff implement promptly.

My reply:

“We apologize” would be better than “We are sorry.”

For the rest, it’s a grudging ungenerous minimum, but if you want to look grudging and ungenerous, go ahead.

To me:

What else would you like me to have the account say?

My reply this morning some 14 hours later:

This is ridiculous. That’s a ridiculous question. It’s not a matter of “the account” – it is your organization. The account isn’t a separate thing; it speaks for your organization, and your organization is accountable for what it says. You’re the press contact person. If you can’t figure out how to apologize for grotesque rudeness, you have a problem.

There has been no response. The press contact person is probably extra busy dealing with the departure of Edwina Rogers, but there it is – the press contact person is hopelessly bad at her job.


We sincerely apologize, ! We did not look closely and had no idea that a photo of you had been abusively doctored. Horrible.


We are sorry we called @OpheliaBenson “Ofie”.

It’s pretty staggeringly rude, isn’t it. You can almost see the sullen defiant child, delivering the forced apology as rudely as it dares and longing to blow a huge raspberry instead. And the press contact officer thought it a good idea to offer me that.

Item: they blocked @VitaBrevi too.

Photo: Secular Council blocked me! Wow! Ophelia Benson I was following them yesterday and have sent a bunch of criticism their way in previous days. Yesterday's made them block me. BLOCK ME. A person they're supposed to represent. I wonder if they'll claim I "bullied and trolled" them too, as they claimed you did? As Nick Fish confirmed on twitter, as a spokesperson for a secular org, you don't block your critics! Even when they're unkind or rude or angry. They never responded to my criticism at all, just blocked me.

She was asking them questions, so they blocked her.

A shiny new secular organization that’s a subset of a less shiny less new secular organization is blocking people who ask it questions on Twitter.

How, exactly, are we supposed to go about asking them questions? Do we have to petition them? Go through channels? Pay a bribe? Disable the guards? What?

I’m serious here. They seem to think they don’t have to answer questions, so much so that they can malign and taunt and silence people who ask them questions. That is a very peculiar and sinister position for a secular non-profit to stake out.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Only if there’s due process

Jun 5th, 2014 6:27 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz on Newsnight arguing with an Islamist called Ibrahim Hewitt who would love it if Britain became a sharia state and who won’t condemn or reject the stoning of “adulterers.”

There’s a bit starting at 4:30 where Maajid tries to get Ibrahim Hewitt to answer the question – “If there’s due process, stoning to death is ok?” – but the latter dodges and feints and Jeremy Paxman helps him get away with it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

An inquiry into the circumstances behind so many deaths

Jun 5th, 2014 5:57 pm | By

Good. The discoveries about the Tuam mortality figures are making a stink in Ireland. Good.

There is growing pressure on the Government to hold a full historical inquiry into the deaths of almost 800 children in a mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway between the 1920s and the 1960s.

There were numerous calls from TDs, Senators and councillors yesterday for a full inquiry following the disclosure that many infants and children who died in the home run by the Bon Secours order were buried in an unmarked plot.

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan said yesterday that he was giving “active consideration to the best means of addressing the harrowing details emerging regarding the burial arrangements for children who died many years ago in mother and baby homes”.

Wait; focus, people. Throwing them out like garbage was bad, yes, but it wasn’t the worst thing. Letting them die was the worst thing. Not taking proper care of them was the worst thing. Taking money from the state to take care of them and not taking care of them was the worst thing.

Yesterday politicians from both Government and Opposition parties, including Galway East Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, called for an inquiry into the circumstances behind so many deaths in the home, as well as into the remains found in the unmarked plot.

There you go, that’s the one. It’s the so many deaths in the home, far more than the mass burial.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Round 3, or is it 4

Jun 5th, 2014 4:43 pm | By

Huh. The Global Secular Council’s contact person told me in her first replies (before the ones where she refused to tweet an apology)

I have instructed the Social Media team for future to take less liberties in this regard, and to run similar challenges by me before “tweeting” in defensiveness, rather than diplomacy.

I guess her standard isn’t exactly what mine is.


Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

Seriously? You’re calling me “Ofie” now?

Michael DeDora @mdedora

. There is absolutely no excuse for this. I urge the to retract and apologize.

Bames Jillingham @FuperSuck

Why is everyone suddenly going crazy because Ofie has been called “Ofie” ?!?

Secular Council @SecularCouncil

Thank you for your support.

So much for instructing the Social Media team for future to take less liberties in this regard. And as for tweeting an apology – !

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jun 5th, 2014 12:23 pm | By

Here’s me “bullying” or “internet trolling” the Global Secular Council.

Secular Council @SecularCouncil May 24

Sorry you missed this, . We responded many times to Ms. Ophelia. We are many women, & more joining soon. www.secularcouncil/team

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson May 24

@SecularCouncil @VitaBrevi

Actually you didn’t. You typed words but they were consistently non-responsive.

Also, I don’t call myself “Ms Ophelia” – I don’t know what that’s supposed to be.

Secular Council @SecularCouncil May 24

@OpheliaBenson @VitaBrevi How would you like us to respond? Is there a way we could respond that would actually have you talk nicely w/ us?

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson May 24

Honestly, fairly, and substantively.

Secular Council @SecularCouncil May 24

We don’t believe our org is a mistake. We believe it needs expansion. That is in earnest!

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson May 24

But then – again – why did you go public before expanding?


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Think global, tweet local

Jun 5th, 2014 10:00 am | By

The Global Secular Council is getting much much better at remembering that “Global” has to include people who aren’t from the US or the UK or even Sweden; much much better at following the news from other parts of the world and sharing voices from there.

Or, not.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jun 5th, 2014 8:41 am | By

Wow, the Global Secular Council and its parent the Secular Coalition for American sure is doing a great job of representing US secularists.


Secular Council @SecularCouncil June 2

Thanks, , for understanding we had been trying to answer Ofie’s questions, but had not been heard!


That’s what the harassers call me. Sometimes they vary it to Oafy, just like any 5-year-old.

And the Global Secular Council thinks it’s appropriate to follow their lead.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by Leo Igwe: From a ‘Bird Woman’ in Nigeria to a ‘Genital Thief’ in Burkina Faso: Is Africa Returning to a Dark Age?

Jun 5th, 2014 8:18 am | By

Sometimes I ask myself : Are Africans returning to a dark age? Are we moving towards or away from enlightenment, from civilisation? These questions have become necessary if one is to put into context the magical and superstitious beliefs that are ravaging the continent.

Recent reports from Burkina Faso and Nigeria (not just about Boko Haram and the missing girls) have caused me to wonder as to where this African continent is heading in this 21st century. Africans, just like people in other regions of the world, entertain magical and mystical beliefs. They also hold spiritual and supernatural opinions. But the superstitious currents in Africa appear to be taking on a different dimension. I mean the situation is getting out of hand. African superstitions are so charged and threatening to the point that some may think that the people of this region are essentially a different sort of human being. But, of course, they are not.

I mean, India, Japan, China have their own superstitions. But they have a way of managing them so as to not allow these notions to hamper their scientific, technological and human development. The number thirteen is associated with occult nonsense in the US. But that has not prevented Americans from making breakthrough discoveries in science and technology. It has not stopped Americans from excelling in mathematics. Has it?

But in Africa, the situation is different. Superstition is so visible and widespread. Superstition is the greatest obstacle to development and progress in the region. This is because Africans have allowed themselves to be held back by irrational beliefs and associated harmful practices.

Many Africans express their magical beliefs in ways that make them a laughing stock internationally or reinforce the prejudice that Africans are primitive and credulous. Otherwise how does one make sense of a recent report from Nigeria that a woman turned into a bird?

In fact a local newspaper, the Punch, captioned the story this way: ”Police rescue ‘bird woman’ from Lagos mob”. ‘Bird Woman’? Well the story went like this. An elderly woman was accused of being a witch. She allegedly turned herself into a bird as a result of her witchcraft but something went wrong during her flight from a neighbouring city.

According to the report, ”she came from Ibadan for a meeting in Lagos but as they were returning home they missed their way and wasted so much time hovering in the area till daybreak. The woman claimed she fell because she was tired of flying”. And that transformed her back into a human being.

Is that not absurd? How on earth can a human being turn into a bird? But some people in Lagos are not asking such questions. For them it was not a fairytale. It was an act of an evil witch. An angry mob gathered and wanted to lynch the woman. But some police officers intervened and took the woman, or should I say the accused ‘bird woman’, away.

Many people in Nigeria and across Africa believe human beings can turn into animals. This claim is associated with witchcraft and magic. Many Nigerians believe witches can turn themselves into animals to carry out their occult operations. Birds are commonly believed to be witch’s familiars. Meanwhile no evidence is ever produced for these beliefs. Stories of people changing into goats, cats, or insects abound in Nigeria. But they are all based on hearsay, insinuations and received narratives, which Nigerians refuse to question, critically evaluate, or abandon. Not too long ago, the police in Ilorin in Central Nigeria arrested ‘a goat’. The goat was brought to the police station by members of a vigilante group. They claimed that the goat was a thief who was being chased but who then suddenly turned into a goat to avoid being arrested. Just imagine that!

When the police chief in the area was contacted, he said he could not confirm the accuracy of the story but stated that the ‘goat’ was now in custody. Tell me where else on earth could this happen today? Where in the contemporary world could the police arrest and keep a goat in custody? Did the police interrogate the ‘goat’? Did it eventually face charges? Was it brought to court?

You may have heard that some hunters in Bornu state have gone in search of the missing girls? They have joined the rescue efforts, not with satellite or drone technology but with magic charms ”amulets of herbs and other substances wrapped in leather pouches as well as cowrie shells, animal teeth and leather bracelets”. They claim these charms will protect them from the bullets of Boko Haram militants. Will they? If the anti-bullet charms are effective, why should Nigeria waste money buying bullet proof vests, vans and armoured cars for the police and the army? Why should Nigeria expend resources securing foreign military assistance? In fact why do we need up to 500 hunters with anti -bullet charms in the first place? Two or three of them should be enough to take on and defeat Boko Haram militants and rescue the girls.

Well, these superstitious absurdities are not only to be found in Nigeria.

In Burkina Faso a man was accused of using magic to steal the genitals of another man. The two men has some misunderstanding at a local resturant and this led to a fight. One of them claimed in the cause of the fight that the genitals had been stolen.

The accused man called the police for protection but before they arrived at the scene, a local mob had lynched him. Complaints of genital disappearance are common in other parts of Africa- in Nigeria, Ghana, Congo DRC etc. When men claim that their genitals have been stolen, it does not mean that the organ has disappeared. The organ is still there but the claim is that their sexual power has gone; that it has been magically removed. This complaint often leads to the accused receiving a beating or even being lynched. The belief is not only that some people can magically ‘steal’ the sexual potency of others or as is often claimed cause their penis to disappear, the ‘thieves’ are also accused of using the ‘genitals’ for ritual sacrifice which can make them rich or prosperous.

But there has never been any confirmed case of genital theft or penis disappearance. Claims of genitals stealing are often later discovered to be a hoax. But the belief remains very strong and often leads to murder or maltreatment of accused persons.

Now think about it. Where is Africa heading to with all these superstition-based abuses, absurdities and atrocities? Can Africans realize a civilized and enlightened society in this 21st century with this cognitive baggage, these pervasive dark age irrationalisms? But I must add that there is some light at the end of this dark tunnel of superstition. Many skeptics and freethought groups and activists are emerging in the region. Today, we have active groups in Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya etc that are campaigning against superstitious and irrational beliefs.

But will the emerging trend of skeptical activism overwhelm the rage of dogma, superstition or magic? Only time will tell.

Leo Igwe

Leo is on a speaking tour in the US next month: details here.




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Leo Igwe in the US next month

Jun 5th, 2014 7:51 am | By

Leo Igwe is doing a speaking tour in the Ohio-Indiana-Chicago-Michigan area in July. Don’t miss this if you are in that rectangle!

July 11-13: SSA conference in Columbus
July 14: CFI of Northeast Ohio
July 15: Freethought Dayton
July 16: Humanist Community of Central Ohio in Columbus
July 17: CFI Indiana in Indianapolis
July 18-20: FBB conference in Chicago
July 21: CFI Michigan/Society for Humanistic Judaism in Birmingham, MI
July 23: CFI MIchigan in Grand Rapids

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jun 4th, 2014 5:42 pm | By

A word of advice. If you’re attempting to write a panegyric in defense of someone who is useful to you but a blister on the heel of many other people – the first thing you want to pay attention to is verisimilitude. You want to make it believable. You see what I’m getting at? You don’t want to say “my friend is a saint, and for this saintliness he is roundly punished.”

You don’t want to say that because right away you’re going to get doubts and questions. “Huh?” people will say. “Why would that happen? Why would anyone punish your friend for saintliness?”

And then they’ll start to wonder if you’re just blowing smoke, and then you might as well have saved yourself the trouble.

You’re welcome.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

When the philosopher sees it is rewarding to get out of the armchair

Jun 4th, 2014 4:43 pm | By

Patricia Churchland responds crisply to Colin McGinn in the New York Review of Books. (Colin McGinn. You’d think he’d go quiet for awhile, wouldn’t you, to let people’s memories fade.)

Other scientific disciplines are also extremely important in understanding the nature of the mind: genetics, ethology, anthropology, and linguistics. Philosophy can play a role too, when the philosopher sees it is rewarding to get out of the armchair. Some philosophers, such as Chris Eliasmith, for example, have truly made progress in computationally modeling how the brain represents the world.

Nevertheless, there are nostalgic philosophers who whinge on about saving the purity of the discipline from philosophers like me and Chris Eliasmith and Owen Flanagan and Dan Dennett. What do the purists, like McGinn, object to? It is that their lovely a priori discipline, where they just talk to each other and maybe cobble together a thought experiment or two, is being sullied by…data. Their sterile construal of philosophy is not one that would be recognized by the great philosophers in the tradition, such as Aristotle or Hume or Kant.

I get the feeling she doesn’t have a lot of patience for the salvation of disciplinary purity.

The view for which McGinn is known is a jejune prediction, namely that science cannot ever solve the problem of how the brain produces consciousness. On what does he base his prediction? Flimsy stuff. First, he is pretty sure our brain is not up to the job. Why not? Try this: a blind man does not experience color, and he will not do so even when we explain the brain mechanisms of experiencing color. Added to which, McGinn says that he cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be a bat, or how conscious experience might be scientifically explained (his brain not being up to the job, as he insists). This cognitive inadequacy he deems to have universal epistemological significance.

McGinn of course doesn’t see it that way, and says so, but I enjoyed Churchland more. (Misandry!)


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Trying to wriggle out of it

Jun 4th, 2014 11:21 am | By

But, we are told, it wasn’t the church, or it wasn’t the church alone, or the church was just following orders adhering to the norm, or it was poverty and wars and the drink, or no one else wanted these children and it was very kind of the church to take them in, or you’re just a pack of bigoted secularists so you are. An avowedly Catholic blog runs through them all, one after the other.

The story of the home run by the Catholic sisters of the Bon Secours has hit the UK press after a resulting Irish media storm.

It has predictably whipped up anti-Catholic outrage and sentiment amongst the small clique of Irish secularists who seem to inhabit Twitter, lurking to pounce on anyone who dares to say anything less than condemnatory about the Catholic Church in Ireland.

It may be predictable, but is it wrong? I can’t see the wrongness. The Catholic church had and continues to have huge pretensions to tell everyone in Ireland what to do in great and intrusive detail. Why should they not be held to a very high moral standard? Why should wholesale cruelty to and neglect of children the state hands over to their care for a fee not be greeted with anger?

The blogger goes on to squander many paragraphs on comparative irrelevancies – the mass grave, the septic tank, the unconsecrated ground, and only then get to the real issue: the neglect and the monstrously high death rate. She gets to it to minimize it.

The death rates from neglect, malnutrition and preventable diseases easily treated with antibiotics are undoubtedly shocking. No-one seeks to excuse them. With that in mind, the death rates in Tuam seem to be consistent with the death rates of illegitimate children throughout Ireland as a whole, which were 3 or 4 times that of legitimate children and double the death rates of illegitimate children in England and Wales.

Ireland was in the grip of poverty, as  Anglo-Irish Catholic tweep @dillydillys has pointed out, rural Irish society was ruthless compared with our comfortable armchair perspective. Life was tough during the lean years of the economic wars between Britain and the Free State.

No. It’s notorious that in the Industrial “Schools” the nuns ate the very best food while the children ate small amounts of cheap nasty horrible food. This is not just a matter of national poverty. The church had money, because it extorted it from the people. The church got rich and accumulated real estate. The church got money from the state for taking care of the children and babies in question. Also, as I mentioned, the church takes itself to be the moral authority for all of Ireland and all the world; it doesn’t get to fall back on the low standard that applies to Just Humans Doing Their Best In Hard Times.

This is not to deny abuses or shocking treatment, but to point the blame solely at the church alone is too simple.

Reports from 1929 show that a special maternity ward for the unmarried mothers was added to the Home in Tuam. The reason for this is that married women and paying customers at the local district hospital in Connacht were unwilling to share their hospital facilities with the ‘misfortunates’. They wanted segregation. This proposal was opposed by a priest, Canon Ryder who wanted to find accommodation for these mothers in other hospitals.

This moving of the mothers to a separate institution lacking trained staff and facilities would have undoubtedly contributed to infant and maternal mortality rates.

Society and state wanted these women to disappear and colluded with the Church who were willing to provide institutions. A sanctioned burning of library books portraying unmarried mothers in a positive light took place in Galway in 1928. A ratepayers meeting in  Portumna said that no additional burden should be placed upon married parents who already had enough to do with the raising on their own children and that the state must step in to act.

And what was the chief source of those attitudes? The Catholic church whose “teachings” pervaded all of life in Ireland at the time.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Keep Health Care Safe and Secular

Jun 4th, 2014 10:58 am | By

Here’s a much-needed campaign, run by CFI.

Yes, do.

Right now health care is beset by two plagues:

  1. The imposition of religious dogma on health care, resulting in limited access to and even the denial of medical services;
  2. The shameless marketing of sham remedies, sold as “natural” or “traditional” cures, often accompanied by the rejection of scientifically proven treatments.

We need to come together to fight for health care based on sound, scientific principles.

We need a campaign to keep health care safe and secular.

Keep Health Care Safe and Secular is harnessing the talent, intelligence, and enthusiasm of people who want to ensure that our health care is focused on effective remedies and proven outcomes. We’re educating the public, the media, and policy-makers about the threat of misinformation, dogma, and quackery. And we’ve created this website to provide you with the information you need and the actions you can take, right now, to help keep health care safe and secular.

This is your health. This is your life. This is your campaign.

Separation of church and health care, stat.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by latsot: Tools people can use to level playing fields

Jun 4th, 2014 9:58 am | By

Originally a comment on To hell with making sense, eh?

Ah yes, Wimmin’s Lib. Burning bras. Damn uppity women jumping in front of the king’s horse. Patronising sitcoms. Patronising sketch shows. Bluff, honest CEOs explaining why they can’t possibly pay women the same as men because babies, menstruation, hormones and they’d only spend it on fashion and hair anyway.

I spend half my time being genuinely shocked on remembering that we live in the 21st century and the other half being even more surprised that we obviously still live in the fucking 70s.

I grew up in those exact fucking 70s in the UK. The very concept of feminism was widely and blandly treated as a joke. Why, feminists didn’t even shave their armpits! They wanted non-sexist language! They frowned upon rape! Ridiculous, I know, but we men indulged their little fancies. We gave them a weekly pittance so they could indulge their fascination with gossip by visiting their non-threatening friends on the way back from doing the shopping. And all we asked in return was our dinner on the table and couldn’t you just put a nice frock on once in a while despite working, looking after the children and looking after me as if I myself were a child? We as a nation rolled our eyes at their silly attempts to be like men and smugly congratulated ourselves for indulging feminism by mocking it on a societal level. We sure as shit spent more time creating media that portrayed feminism as infantile than we did actually, you know, listening to complaints, raising our consciousness or adjusting society so it was fair.

And here we are four decades later and though many things have changed for the better, the prevailing attitude seems to be exactly the same. It reminds me of those experiments – also done in the 70s (and earlier) – where people wore special glasses that split their vision in half. The subjects had difficulty commanding their limbs to do various things.

There’s an idea some people have that their brains are split in half because they feel they have to accept what they know is true (women are people) while simultaneously pining for the days when it was acceptable, even desirable in society, to treat them like they weren’t.

I think those people blame women for their brains being split in half. Their brains aren’t split in half, though. Get over that cognitive hump – men – and everything is better. Dawkins made two good points right at the start of The God Delusion: the concepts of Raising Consciousness and I Didn’t Know I Could. It’s an astonishing shame that he doesn’t apply either of those excellent concepts to himself.

Sorry, I’m ranting again but LATSOT MAD, pink trousers ripped, and I hope you’ll excuse it. My work is about making tools people can use to level playing fields and it’s so frustrating that I can hardly tell the attitudes of today from those of forty years ago.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Thursdays with water

Jun 4th, 2014 8:58 am | By

Gwyneth Paltrow thinks water thinks you are thinking about it, and that it can tell when you are thinking mean things about it versus thinking nice things about it.

Gwyneth Paltrow loves nothing more than imparting life advice to her followers, and while that advice has dabbled in the pseudoscience before, it’s rarely been as totally off the rails as the May 29th edition of her newsletter goop. Paltrow begins:

I am fascinated by the growing science behind the energy of consciousness and its effects on matter. I have long had Dr. Emoto’s coffee table book on how negativity changes the structure of water, how the molecules behave differently depending on the words or music being expressed around it.

Oooh ya that is fascinating; no wonder she’s fascinated by it. The energy of consciousness – I wonder if she’s also fascinated by the consciousness of energy? That’s fascinating too. They’re just fascinating. Energy – wo, fascinating. Consciousness – mmm, fascinating.

And she has a book. Just goes to show, doesn’t it.

She then turns the newsletter over to her health guru, Habib Sadeghi, who continues:

Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto performed some of the most fascinating experiments on the effect that words have on energy in the 1990’s…In his experiments, Emoto poured pure water into vials labeled with negative phrases like “I hate you” or “fear.” After 24 hours, the water was frozen, and no longer crystallized under the microscope: It yielded gray, misshapen clumps instead of beautiful lace-like crystals. In contrast, Emoto placed labels that said things like “I Love You,” or “Peace” on vials of polluted water, and after 24 hours, they produced gleaming, perfectly hexagonal crystals.

Masaru Emoto, the water whisperer of whom Paltrow and Sadeghi are so fond, has a bit of a following in New Age-y circles, and was featured favorably in the popular 2004 documentary What the #$*! Do We Know!?Few scientists have tried to debunk his claims since they’re so self-evidently ridiculous. “Have I tried to reproduce Mr. Emoto’s experiments? No, and I don’t intend to,” writes Caltech physicist Kenneth Libbrecht, an expert on snow crystals. “As we liked to say back on the farm in North Dakota — it’s good to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out!” Libbrecht’s best guess — and the logical explanation for Emoto’s findings — is that he’s selecting pictures of crystals that fit his findings and rejecting those that don’t.

Well how else would you conduct research on the energy of consciousness and vice versa?

The closest replication of Emoto I found was done in Skeptical Inquirer by Carrie Poppy, who focused on an “experiment” of Emoto’s wherein he poured water over cooked rice in three separate jars, one labeled “Thank You,” another labeled “You’re an Idiot,” and a third without any label.

Read the rest; it’s hilarious.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

To hell with making sense, eh?

Jun 3rd, 2014 4:31 pm | By

This is what I mean. kellym linked to a bit of Twitter harassment of Pamela Gay, so I took a look at the guy doing the harassing, and this is that guy.


one can speak either yes and no about everything… My social views: I am against racism, homophobia, capitalism, fundamentalism, and feminism

This is what I keep saying. People who recoil in horror at the very idea of being racist or homophobic…proudly declare themselves opposed to feminism. That’s what I don’t get.

Racial equality; good. Sexual preference equality; good. Gender equality; ewwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Is it just obvious? Racial equality, meh, he doesn’t have to do anything. Sexual preference equality, meh, he doesn’t have to do anything. But gender equality – omigod that might get right up in his very own personal face!!!

Just shitty selfish shittyness, is it? Just feeling threatened? Just not being worried about his white privilege or his straight privilege but worried as fuck about his male privilege?

I don’t know. To me it’s like those Which Of These Things Is Not Like The Others? thing that kids used to do – there’s a bear, a lion, a pineapple, a tiger, and a wolf.

Or it’s just a random collection. I’m against sugar in pasta sauce, plaid trousers, global warming, bedbugs, feminism, and the Ford Motor Company.

I don’t know. For that list to make sense, it should go: I am against racism, homophobia, capitalism, fundamentalism, and sexism. The way it does go, Ivan is just flattering himself. “I’m right-on except when it might cut into my special extra advantages.”

Maybe he knows that, and that’s why he takes the trouble to pester Pamela Gay.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)