Archive for February, 2008
Like many people I watched the documentary film Super Size Me and was amazed at the effect that Spurlock’s 30-day McDonalds only diet had on him. It nearly killed him! What a dude for performing such an experiment! Stick it to the man! etc…
About a year later I turned on my television to see him hosting this vile show called I Bet You Will, where he hangs around college campuses and offers idiot students 20 bucks to eat their own vomit or perform other such stupid gross-out activities. I couldn’t reconcile how this dude with principles could involve himself in such execrable nonsense.
Until now. Brian Dunning of Skeptoid talks about follow up studies that did not demonstrate anything like the effect that Spurlock claimed in the movie, and busts a few myths about evil fast food vs regular normal food. It’s not that fast-food is particularly good for you; merely that if you can resist the urge to force-feed yourself then it’s really not [necessarily] so bad for you either.
This was a lot funnier in my head…
One of the things frequently discussed in New Zealand is the absence of nasty spiders that can kill you. Australia is of course notorious for having spiders, jellyfish, snakes and even ants that can kill you in abundance. But New Zealand is safe, as in, roll-around-in-the-undergrowth-and-fear-nothing-more-than-a-bit-of-itchiness safe. At least that’s what they tell you here.
Well say hello to my leedle friend…
I met him while putting on my pants this morning. More specifically, he was in my pants while I was pulling them on. At first I thought he was a scrunched up ATM receipt, but as he fell to the floor with a rather obvious thunking sound I looked down to see this evil little flurry legging it across the carpet. So, after saying a quick morning prayer– Jesus Fucking Christ! – I grabbed an empty jar and caught the bugger.
Now I just have to work out if he is the kind of spider whose venom causes paralysis leading to asphyxiation, or merely the common-or-garden necrotizing flesh wound variety.
UPDATE: Oh alright it’s just a stupid house/window spider. But it is a big one!
On Sex – My favorite podcast by a mile these days is Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast (iTunes link). It is joyfully vulgar, funny, honest, sometimes heart-breaking and generally eye-opening. It answers questions I’d never even thought to ask and routinely makes me laugh out loud on my way to work. Of course it also reminds me of all the fun I’m missing out on right now, what with my relatively ascetic lifestyle [ascetic means "not getting any"].
On Skepticism – There seem to be a lot of skeptically themed podcasts around these days, but my favourite is still Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (iTunes link), for its humourous and mostly geeky banter, and for great mix of personalities headed up by Steven Novella, president of the New England Skeptical Society. A great complement to SGU is Skeptoid (iTunes link) a tightly focused show with each short episode devoted to a straight talking dissection of a pseudoscience or other supernatural phenomena. Listening to both of these podcasts is probably more than enough to shock you on a regular basis at the amount of bullshit even intelligent people will tend to swallow.
On [American] Life – Although it’s still more a radio show than a podcast, This American Life (iTunes link) continues to be my favourite source of stories. About people, place, politics, anything. It’s the sort of show that makes neo-conservatives puke, and so it should, being a celebration of everything that makes us human.
On History – Ok, in truth this is about the only historical podcast I listen to, but if you remember that senile old movie star who used to be president, I recommend listening to his speech at the Berlin Wall via Great Speeches in History (iTunes link). Everyone thought Reagan was an idiot didn’t they? Compare his speech with anything delivered by GWB and suddenly he seems like Abraham Lincoln. (only updated every month or so)
I’m currently interested in finding some new podcasts to listen to, so if anyone has any suggestions please leave them in the comments. As long as they are not religious, because I’ve sampled a few of these and found them exactly as boring and pointless as attending church. Atheist offerings can be a little boring too, as they tend to comprise people feeling pressed to explain for the ten millionth time that yes, atheists have morals too, and yes they are openly discriminated against like no other minority.
I must admit I have pondered the idea of having a podcast, but have yet to come up with a suitable theme or source of material for it. A panel/discussion type of thing would probably be fun, but so easy to stuff up and requiring of so much organization that it will probably never happen. Also, 90% of podcasts aren’t really worth the time it takes to listen to them. Just as it’s probably better that every person doesn’t get to go on the radio and say what they think, it’s probably best that most people not bother producing podcasts (a nightmare scenario many evangelists seemed to think was the medium’s future). You can skim a blog entry in seconds, but you can’t skim 5 minutes of someone breathing into a mic going ummm and complaining about the media.
Spirited biologist PZ Myers recently debated Geoffrey Simmons, a clueless twit who seems to know almost nothing about evolution and yet has written an anti-evolution book titled What Darwin Didn’t Know.
PZ posts about the "debate" here:
I was shocked for a moment when, after I’d mentioned the recent discovery of Indohyus, he went on to claim that there were no intermediates between that deer-like artiodactyl and modern whales … and when I tried to mention Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodcetus, Basilosaurus, etc., he seemed to have never heard of them, claimed his information came from a Scientific American article some months ago (way to plumb the depths of the scientific literature, Dr Simmons!), and then started making up stuff about them not exhibiting dorsoventral flexion in swimming, and not having dorsal blowholes. He wrote a whole book about "Billions of missing links"! His other book, What Darwin Didn’t Know, needs to be retitled in a new edition, What Geoffrey Simmons Doesn’t Know. It will be a very large book.
Fortunately the radio station provides online access to its audio archives, so you can listen to the good Dr Simmons swallowing his tongue as PZ politely tears him to pieces.
PZ has always come off as pretty forthright on his blog, so I was quite surprised at his softly spoken manner and the admirable restraint he showed during the debate. He could have easily added the words "…you idiot" to the end of everything he said, and I still think it would have been a fair exchange.
If you think Dr Simmons is getting a raw deal here, bear in mind he claims to have studied evolution for 40 years and understand it well enough to call out huge problems with it (having written at least two books claiming everyone else has it wrong) yet he appears unaware of the current state of the literature and offers no evidence or suggested mechanism for any alternative theory. He keeps harping on his point that no one is allowed to question Darwin’s evolution, even though there is significant debate within the field of biology on the details and mechanisms at work, and evolution belongs no more to Darwin than gravity does to Newton or Einstein. Simmons deserves about as much respect as someone standing in the middle of the room shouting about how maths is pointless and doesn’t explain anything.
Below the fold is a transcript of Intelligent Design fans listening to their champion go down in flames. Sooooo delicious :) It is provided here in the spirit of fair use, and also because it was disappeared from the site where it was originally posted (ie they deleted it because they were embarrassed by it).
There’s been a few items popping up this week to fan the flames of my rational indignation… For one thing we have Pope Ratzo (aka Palpatine) whining about the "seductive" power of science wooing people away from the dignified human values instilled by religion, like worshipping an invisible sky fairy, pretending to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and inserting penises into no orifices other than vaginas– apparently God only likes to watch his children have vanilla sex (missionary style one would also presume).
"When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless state of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure ‘biological material,’ how can one deny that they are being treated not as ‘someone’ but as ‘something,"’ he said.
Yes, you probably weren’t aware of this but at this moment hordes of scientists stalk the land snatching defenseless babies from the womb in the course of research directed to the eternal preservation of the body of Richard Dawkins.
"In an age when scientific developments attract and seduce with the possibilities they offer, it’s more important than ever to educate our contemporaries’ consciences so that science does not become the criteria for goodness," he told scientists.
Actually, science makes no claim to "goodness", and religious dipshits often construct this straw-man argument: if science observes that strong organisms tend to perpetuate their lineage more effectively than weak ones, therefore people like the handicapped and infertile should be killed because they are "weak" from an evolutionary perspective. Funny, science also tells us that microorganisms can kill us, but rather than saying that is a good thing, science helps us come up with ways to stop microorganisms killing us. Unlike religion, which in its various guises has suggested that sickness was caused by demons, witches and God’s displeasure with us, science is a tool we can use to measurably improve the lives of billions.
The Catholic church especially is not equipped to "educate our contemporaries’ consciences" – they can’t even educate their own priests well enough to discourage them from sexually interfering with children. Oh, was that a cheap shot? Sure, not all priests are child-molesters, but if the church really holds this magical moral highground, why are any of them child-molesters? If God is the font of all the love and justice in the world, then surely being so close to him should displace such foul proclivities? If you were to pick a random priest and a random person off the street, I seriously wonder who is more likely to have abused children…
While science is essentially amoral, I think its adherence to the principal of seeking objective truth has a lot more good to it than the insidious sophistry of religion, which promises everything and delivers nothing. Which makes absurd claims which are untestable, then lauds the fact that these claims are somehow beyond scrutiny.
The other thing I was going to bitch about here was that an Athiest & Agnostic group on Myspace– 35,000 members strong– was deleted with no explanation or consultation, but that has since been restored, taking the hot air out of my sails somewhat, so if you want to know more you can just go read about it here and form your own opinion. God, I hate MySpace.