Posts

OPRAH'S A BAD DOCTOR

Image
Check out the current issue of Newsweek. The magazine takes on the Goddess of all quack medicine, Oprah Winfrey. Wow, Newsweek’s got balls!
Celebrities get to where they are by wearing blinders. They must have the ability to ignore other people’s opinions. To succeed in Hollywood (along with a mountain of luck) you have to have persistence. Persistence entails the ability to ignore everyone who doesn’t agree with you.
You must ignore critics who question your ability (that is to say the people criticizing the methodology by which you do things). You must ignore friends that might tell you it’s time to give up this acting thing and get a real job (that is not accepting results). And you must ignore odds that tell you your chances of succeeding are one in a million, (that means you must be bad at math). All those qualities that make for a successful celebrity make for a lousy scientist.
A good scientist (or doctor) should listen to his or her critics. If others can show a scientist’s met…

TRADING MY FINGERS FOR ALIENS

Image
I don’t believe in a damn thing. UFO’s, Bigfoot, ESP, the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts, you name it. In my mind it’s all a bunch of poop. Despite that, I still consider myself very open minded. The reason for this is nothing revolutionary. It’s a reason that other Skeptics sight as to why they too are open minded. Simply put, I want there to be flying saucers. Are you kidding? Alien visitors from another planet, how awesome would that be? I want there to be a Loch Ness Monster. The idea of some animal surviving from the age of the dinosaurs would be fascinating. I want there to be ghosts. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want there to be an afterlife? ESP? Bring it on. Mindreading would be the bomb. Now, in the spirit of complete disclosure, Bigfoot doesn’t do anything for me. If there really is some big, hairy, naked guy running around in the woods of Montana, I’d just as soon not know about it - but UFO’S?
To make it absolutely clear, as to how much I would love it if there where aliens…
Image
Want to not be a zombie? Change your Mind about something. Find a subject that you hold a specific position on and actively and honestly try to change your own mind on that subject. Do some research, read some of the opposition literature, really make an effort to understand the other side of that position.
I’m not saying give in to some something. I’m saying actively seek out a subject in which you can honestly say “I use to hold position A but after doing more research I now hold position Z which is it’s direct opposite.” You don’t have to change your mind about everything, just find one thing, anything. Start with something that is not to close to you, something you can give up without it meaning much.
You might even try arguing that new position with a friend just to test whether you really understand it. I'll explain using the A and Z thing again. Let’s say you hold position A and your friend also holds position A. (That’s probably why you're friends) I’m saying make an hon…

GOING GAULT

Image
There is a new term floating around the conservative blogesphere - It’s “going Gault” It refers to the protagonist John Galt in Ayn Rand's novel, “Atlas Shrugged." In the book Galt convinces all the captains of industries to go on strike to protest the fact that the rest of the world feeds off of what they (the executives) produce. Many conservatives are suggesting that executives in this country do this very thing to protest against Presidents Obama’s proposed tax hikes targeting the rich. (It’s not really a tax hike but actually just going back to the rates we had under Clinton and Reagan) They say they are going to stop showing up at board meetings and show us workers who the real producers in this country are. I say go right ahead. I would love to see them try. I guarantee if one hundred of the top executives in this country disappeared tomorrow the world wouldn’t even skip a beat. How full of themselves can these people be? The only billionaire that I can think of who ac…

THE BEST I CAN DO?

Image
After blasting the Freedom from Religion Foundation last week for coming up with what I thought were lame bus signs, I thought I would try to make one myself. I apologize to them. It’s not that easy. This one I made is clumsy but I am posting it for your amusement anyway.

THE BEST YOU CAN DO

Image
It started with signs in London that read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.”
Next came signs in DC saying, “Why believe in God? Just be good for goodness sake.” They pictured a young person wearing a Santa outfit and looking like they belong in a Benetton commercial. This is good advertising.
Recently the group Freedom from Religion Foundation paid to have these signs displayed on buses in Madison, Wisconsin. I think promoting Atheism is great. The London and DC sign campaigns were brilliant. With that said, these Madison posters are awful. There are so many things wrong with them, I can't type fast enough. First, they are all too negative. The sepia tone makes me feel like the Atheist movement belongs to the past like buggy whips, and baseball. What’s with Clarence Darrow? He looks like a Vulcan! And butterfly McQueen! Who in God’s name is Butterfly McQueen?
Besides that, if you want to show some famous people who are Atheists don’t quote Richard Dawkins. I…

Godless In Orlando

Image
A local Atheist group whose meetings I have attended recently wants to start a website and asked its members for name suggestions. Here is my response:
On the question of whether we should use the word atheist in the name of the site - I think it depends on what the purpose of the webpage will be? Do we want to recruit? Then maybe it should like a sports team (O-TownAtheists.com). Do we want to push for policy changes in local government? Then I suggest TheCollisionforLegislativeReason.us. Do we want to have influence on school boards? Then we absolutely have to drop the word Atheist and shove the word family in there someplace. How about AmericanFamiliesForReligiousTruth.org Who could be against Truth? Do we want to get exposure on local news? Then I suggest GodlessOrlando.net. If you want to get on nathional news - ChristiansAreDumb.com. Do we want a Facebook hookup site? Then go with FreeThoughtChicks.cc. Or, do we just want to alert members as to where the n…
Image

METEORS AND TAXES

Image
Have you heard of the “fair tax?” Throw away all taxes and just institute an across the board sales tax on everything. It sounds like a good idea at first, right? The problems arise when you stop to really think about it.
Forget about the problem with the actual legislation. It doesn’t eliminate the IRS as promised just changes the name. It doesn’t eliminate state income taxes, local city sales taxes, lodging taxes, or even federal gas taxes as promised, just adds to them. It would encourage the expansion of a nearly impossible to monitor underground economy. And it has built into the actual legislation a system of rebates basically neutralizing its “non-progressive” selling point. Forget about all that.
Let’s take a few seconds and look at the basic idea itself. Is the basic idea really fair?
As I see it the “fair tax” falls short do to one basic flaw. It mixes essentials (things we all need to exist) with nonessentials. Here are four scenarios that will help you understand why this is …

THE DOWSING MACHINE

Image
My friend who is participating in the dowsing test emailed me. Here is part of the email:
Please bear in mind that we are testing a specific and limited form of dowsing - I have never made any claims regarding dowsing for water, underground cavities, or anything other than ferrous metals - in fact, I am very skeptical about these other types of dowsing. We could also test the subterranean flowing water type of dowsing in another experiment, but it would require a different, and more complicated, test setup. I'd also like to build a dowsing machine to totally remove human subjectivity from the process, but this too is for later. Do you have a date or place in mind? We need to make this into a fun interesting event!
My response:
You are correct. First priority is that the test must be fun. I propose that all the guests at the party state which result they think will prevail, Skepticism or Dowsing. They are each given something to identify their position (preferably a silly hat). Each t…

DRUNKEN DOWSING: cherry picking

Image
I want to talk a little bit about a logical fallacy called “Cherry Picking,” but first I should bring you up to date on the dowsing test that my friend and I are working on.
I was really pleased with what my dowsing friend Tom (not his real name) said at the last party. He suggested for the dowsing test I hide rebar in one of several PVC pipes. I went to Home Depot and purchased some 2 ½“ PVC and 4 pieces of rebar. I plan to cluster the 4 pieces of rebar together and place the cluster in one of five PVC pipes for him to pick.
I was thinking that the day of the test Tom could designate 5 spots in the backyard that he feels are clear of any interference. We could put towels down to mark those spots. I would then place the PVC pipes on those spots. He would use his dowsing ability to pick which PVC pipe contained the cluster of rebar. We would do this a number of times. Each time I would switch out which piece of PVC contained the rebar.
Tom thought each round should have 10 choices (10 pie…

DRUNKEN DOWSING PART 2

Image
Here is the next installment of the dowsing test.

(DOWSER- TOM – not his real name)
Let’s make the Dowsing experiment into a kind of performance piece/party! I'll bring plenty of dowsing rods - I know that after I prove that dowsing is true, everyone will want to learn how. Maybe even you!

(ME)
A test at a party would be great but not at the one coming up. We have not yet come up with the protocol for the experiment. And as the Wicked Witch of the West has said, "These things have to be done delicately."
I would love to learn how to dowse. You may not know this but there are a number of science organizations around the world which will award you large sums of money (we are talking a million dollars) if you can demonstrate to them that you can do what you claim. But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Why don't we see if you can dowse first? Then we can have a dowsing rave because you are going to be rich.
From what I have read these science groups usually start out…

AS CLEAR AS MUD

Image
First off, I would like to say Happy New Year. I can’t seem to shake this nagging feeling that 2009 will be a really good year.
Recently our local, progressively minded, free newspaper, The Orlando Weekly, printed an article in which they asked local newsmakers what they thought 2009 will be like. They chose some county commissioners, a radio news personality, and some local charity board members to use their crystal balls to pear into the future. The responses the paper received were interesting but not outstanding with the exception of one, Kim Wade, resident “psychic” at a New Age Shop in Orlando called Avalon. I want to compliment Wade for her STUNNING AND DARING predictions for 2009.
Without the benefit of ESP, gay activist, Michael Wanzie foresees Florida’s ban on gay adoption being lifted in 2009. Kim Wade, on the other hand, went out on a limb to say “Political things will be front-row center” in 2009.
Because of the slowing economy, reporter, Mike Synan of WDBO radio was willing…

DRUNKEN DOWSING

Image
Well, I found myself at yet another party, with too much wine in me. There I was with five others arguing about the paranormal. As is generally the case, I alone was defending Science and Skepticism against assaults from all sides. I wasn’t doing very well. My losses were completely due to the amount of alcohol that I had consumed and in no way related to my position, which I assure you was rock solid. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Although the next morning I woke up with a terrible headache and my socks were missing.
Sensing vulnerability, one of my friends decided to attack on another front by reminding me that he is an accomplished dowser. They all know exactly where my buttons are and have no qualms in pushing them liberally.
The long and short of it is I have a challenge. I must come up with an experiment to test my friend’s abilities. I will try to document this experiment and keep you posted as to how it is progressing. The following is the first email exchange:

(ME)So I’v…

MESSAGES FROM WATER

Image
Last week at a party a friend of mine started talking about the experiments of Masaru Emoto. The following is an entry from Wikipedia:

Masaru Emoto , is a Japanese author known for his controversial claim that if human speech or thoughts are directed at water droplets before they are frozen, images of the resulting water crystals will be beautiful or ugly depending upon whether the words or thoughts were positive or negative. Emoto claims this can be achieved through prayer, music or by attaching written words to a container of water.

Two things came to mind when I heard this claim. Don’t you think it is an amazing coincidence that nice thoughts produced white orderly crystals, while angry thoughts produced black splotchy disorderly crystals? I understand that the bad guys are supposed to wear black hats and the good guys are supposed to wear white, but, come on. What are the chances that a chemical reaction would somehow correlate to old Hollywood western stereotypes? Couldn’t it have …

Laissez-faire Pigs

Image
Recently I heard a political pundit on the radio comparing George Bush to Harry Truman. He was saying that although Bush’s ratings are low (as were Truman’s when he left office) history will show what a great president he was. It made me think of something I wrote a while back. This is old but I thought I would post it anyway just in case there are still one or two of you out there who still support George W. The first section is an email that was floating around in 2007. The second half is my response.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
email-
One day while the class was in the lab the Prof noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept rubbing his back And stretching as if his back hurt.
The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and in…

WE NEED A GOOD BUMPER STICKER

Image
Orlando, Florida has a lot of traffic. I know, I sit in it every day. The other evening during my drive home I found myself sitting in a bunch of it when a car jumped in front of mine causing me to slam on my breaks. Having gotten a good look at the rear of this particular vehicle, I couldn’t help but notice it had a little metal emblem on it that was shaped like a fish, kind of. Now living in the South I see a lot of little fishes. They’re swimming everywhere: On cars of course, but also on billboards for attorneys, on the bill from my dentist, and even scribbled on walls, in the restroom stall of my favorite bar. I guess you can be struck in the spirit anywhere. I usually don't think any more about these symbols and their owners other then, “Well, there goes another one to the dark side.” This time though the sight of the little fish disturbed me greatly, because, this little fish had little feet growing out of its belly. In addition, it had the word "Darwin" written i…