Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cranky news links

Weee good day for cranky news stories.

Some nice cranky news stories on subjects I like. Vitamins generally a big scam unless you are suffereing from a serious condition, scurvy, osteoporosis chronic wasteing etc.

For all the conspiracy theories around big pharma, (justified and not) very few people seem to think the same way about "natural" health remedies or vitamines and all the money in their industry.

Another product sold without much real evidence of effectiveness antibacterial soap.

Not to mention possible harm.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Found kittens

Pictures of the kittens we found at the cottage this past weekend.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dorm room photos

Assorted dorm room photos starting on roomie's side then over the kitchen and my side.

Walk along the water today.

A few photos from my walk along the kingston water front.
 The new psychiatric hospital near the campus.

I can't remember the name of this island but its not far away and its covered in wind generators.

 Photo of the old psychiatric hospital near the new one.

 Kingston Penitentiary on the other side of the olympic marina.

View of my college from across the athletics field on my ay back to the dorms.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Monarch hunt today.

 Well caterpillar hunting was a bust but I did find some frogs, bunnies, beetle sex and a mantis! 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Skeptical Hypocrisy

Ok so Jamy Ian Swiss's latest talk has been making the round and I eventually broke down to watch it.

I'm not going to discuss the whole video but I do want to point out one bit of hypocrisy that we see from skeptics.

In the defense of religious skeptics Swiss brings up the idea that skepticism is about the method not the destination. It doesn't matter what you believe so much as the reasoning you used to get there. While I think I  care a bit more about the end beliefs then Swiss does (Beliefs ultimately affect ones actions) I don't really have a problem with this. I don't have a problem with homeopaths, or religious people or in general skeptics who have beliefs I find ludicrously unsupported in skepticism and I don't think we can always expect everyone to be a perfect skeptic on everything or to share all our views. Having set up this fairly reasonable goal of judging thinking not conclusions can Swiss stick to it for the whole 60min lecture.

Well no.

The problem comes at the end of the lecture when he's defending his idea that skeptics and atheists are different things and different movements. To do this we get two examples: Bill Maher and an unnamed woman at an atheist meet up he organised over the american pledge in schools.

44:30 With Bill Maher Swiss has this to say: "Just as there are plenty of good atheists who are in fact not skeptics at all. But in fact what I would dub faith based atheists who have not come to atheism through a grounding in the scientific world view. These atheists are of no value to the skeptical movement and indeed can sometimes be our opponents. Bill Maher was given an award by the Richard Dawkins foundation. FUCK BILL MAHER. Bill Maher was given an award by the Richard Dawkins foundation but Bill Maher is an outspoken anti vaxxer. He is anything but a skeptic and he`s far from an isolated example."

Note that in discussing Bill Maher and what makes him not a skeptic we are only given his conclusions and that he is outspoken about them not. We are not given any thing on his reasoning or his thinking or how he arrived at his anti vaccination stance. This comes not even 5 minutes after the latest repeating of the idea that "So the skeptical movement is about how to think about testable claims." The process not the conclusion is what matters we're told until it comes time to bash someone.

Now maybe you want to defend Swiss saying well everyone has heard of Bill Maher and knows his reasons and thinking are sloppy. First I`d say then you still should have focused on his reasons for anyone not in the loop. Then that leads me to Swiss's other example of an unskeptical atheist.

46 min an anecdote about a woman at a meetup: "So umm she (his wife) decides she's going to organize an atheist parenting meetup group and because I've been an activist for many years I say you know you call it atheist you may actually not get the demographic that you're looking for exactly. OK you might be surprised about that but at the same time we were all worked up about the whole god thing coming into the house so ok we'll call it atheist *growls*. Sure enough we go to the first meet up atheist parenting meeting and this woman turns to me and says "So what's your sign? *groans from the audience* So a year or so ago I'm at dinner with Candice, myself, Richard Dawkins, Shawn Faircloth and robin hawk and Candice is telling this story. So she finishes the story and Richard looks across the table and says that did not happen. Yes it did! But that's that oh well its down but that's those atheist that are outside skeptics and humanists."

Now I'm going to completely ignore the non sequitur that this woman is somehow not a humanist and assume Swiss simply meant an atheist not in the skeptic-atheist overlap. In this case we know even less about the woman then Maher. Here we have a woman who initiated a conversation about astrology with Swiss and that makes  her not a skeptic. It's fairly reasonable to assume she believed in astrology but really we could be mistaken on that. We know nothing about her other beliefs or what other activism work she may have done. Maybe she was a completely new age infused woo woo atheist non skeptic. Maybe she was a staunch defender of science based medicine, well versed in the skeptical explanations for spiritualism and ghosts, and frequently argued against cryptozoology and on top of all this believed in astrology for some personal reasons. We don't know.

Just like Maher again all that is given is that they believe (concluded) something mainstream skeptics have concluded is bunk. Nothing about their thought processes or motivations or reasoning is given or needed. You're an antivaxxer or an follow an astrologer well the litmus test says you're not a skeptic case closed. Here we see the hypocrisy the actions that Swiss and other skeptics use all the time in denouncing people for their irrational conclusions is called off the table for peoples religious conclusions  Both reactions from the same person in one hour long lecture.

Now if you want to focus on peoples thoughts and not their conclusions as Swiss claims at the start of his lecture I'm fine with that. If you want to use the conclusions people have made as a litmus test of skepticism as you have shown you practice, it's sloppy and kind of a jerk thing to do but, that's also fine. But you have to actually make up your mind on which game you're playing and stick with it otherwise it's just more special privileges to religion and general skeptical hypocrisy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Star trek stop doing this.....

So I've been watching some star trek lately and something keeps bugging me. In both shore leave and this side of paradise we have planets with plants but no animals. This I could almost buy into except we have flowering plants. This is at least brought up by spock in tSoP but no one seems at all surprised by it in shore leave. Flowering plants use insects to spread their pollen and reproduce. So in a world with no animal or insect life it makes no sense for flowering plants to have evolved. If you're writing science fiction on your own try to think through the implications of your world building choices.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I feel unwelcome in skepticism :)

I don't feel welcome in skepticism anymore. (this is a bit of a rant but I just want to let it out)

How stats work.

As a minor point in a recent blog post Ben Radford included this remark.

"Except that I didn't; Myers misread it. I actually didn't write the "one billion" figure that Myers misquotes me as saying; that was Ensler's number. What I actually wrote (check it yourself) was that "one-third of women [have been victims of] homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse." (One in three women is not the same as one billion if you do the math, though perhaps that's just my hyperskepticism.)"

Seeing as it was an easy calculation I followed this up in the comments section with a quick back of the envelope calculation.

7billion people on earth x 1/2 women X 1/3 facing these abuses = 1.16 billion women

The math was simple 7/6 or 3.5/3 or about 1. So I'm really not sure where Ben got the idea that 1/3 wasn't 1 billion. So I left in the comments got no reply no correction was made and the comments ( including some by Radford) ignored it. OK fine it was there for anyone to see. I wake up this morning and Michael Kingsford Gray has  responded to my calculation.

Friday, February 1, 2013

then again...

I've been directed to Richard Carrier's definition of the supernatural.


Essentially natural has all minds contingent on matter and supernatural has non contingent minds. I'm not sure that such a ... redefinition(?) is worth doing on the muddled concepts of natural and supernatural but it is a big improvement over more colloquial usage and definition of the distinction. Something to continue thinking about anyway.

God did it! Methodological Naturalism and answers to questions.

Question: why x?

Answer: God did it.

To me there's nothing (well in principle) nothing wrong with this answer. If you look out at a garden where all the tulip bulbs have been dug up and ask: What happend here? Someone can answer squirrels did it. This could very well be the answer in general terms. Similarly I have no problem with God did it in principle as a general terms answer to a question. The problem occures right after when the answer is hollowed up.

Why? How?

Can something supernatural exist?

I'm starting to think no almost by definition but hear me out.

In the comments at pharyngula someone said this:

"That’s easy: no. You could be an atheist and not even be a naturalist of any kind. You could believe someone has psychic powers, for example, and not call that person a “god.”"

My problem with the idea of naturalism and ultimately the concept of the supernatural comes up in psychic powers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Brief little post and not responding to a video. PZ myers, Steven Novella et al have been discussing skepticisms and its limits. Really this has been going on for some time but it has flared up again. For my part I want to take a moment to define what skepticism is for me.

To me the key concept of skepticism is question everything. Challenge, explore, criticize examine everything. Nothing should get a free pass. If the ideas are valuable and useful they should stand against examination if they aren't they we should discard* them and move on. There are some (Barbara Drescher comes to mind search micahelD in the comments) who limit skepticism to scientific skepticism saying that skepticism can only examine testable claims everything else is beyond it. I disagree, to me science is only part of skepticism which should not be limited to science but all of critical thinking. Where science ends philosophy begins and that is where skepticism and critical thinking should continue.

Our values and untestable beliefs inform our actions and our actions  have consequences, I don't think anyone disagrees with this. As they have consequences both on ourselves and others there is all the more reason to challenge them, examine them and if necessary discard or change them. If you examine a value you shouldn't use science (although it may influence your views) but use philosophy and ethics. If you examine an untestable claim you should look to epistemology. Someone reading this might say that without science finding the truth about them is hard, maybe impossible. To me that's only a call for greater thought, greater discussion, and yes greater skepticism.

Skeptical bunny borrowed from deviant art.

*I want to leave a little note that it's not as simple as absolute right or wrong. There are plenty of wrong ideas that can still be useful in certain discussions as long as you are aware of the limitations. See Asimov's the Relativity of Wrong for a further discussion.

[Edit/Update] It seems (there's always a chance we've miscommunicated) for what it's worth that Novella agrees with the view that skepticism is about more then examining scientific claims (although I don't know how far he'd go for sure) See comments section ctrl + F for harker

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Extra credits on faith

And now for something a bit different. Another commentary on a video well 3 videos discussing a religion related topic but from outside the atheist community or youtube community for that matter.

In this case I'll be responding to extra credits a penny arcade show discussing the more artistic/technical aspects of games and game design. Over Christmas they decided to address the topic of religion in games spread over 2 videos and a third responding to the ensuing controversy. I actually really like the show for the most part but I think they really mangled their discussion of faith in games so after thinking it over I'm this is a response to them. More particularly where they went wrong discussing faith in games.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Feminism poisons atheism part 2 response.

Here we are once again those dinosaur names try to say them out loud and then say them again!  err youtube atheists.

Phil Mason* has releases another video and after some debate I've decided to respond. In for a penny in for a pound. There may be some minor paraphrasing in my transcript part but I have tried to keep the ideas intake as they are presented as much as possible and be honest to all that is being said. Here is a link to the original video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApozFPboUAQ Why 'feminism' is poisoning atheism (Part 2)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A response to Thunderf00t's latest video

Ok this is a break down and response to thunderf00t's latest video on youtube 
Why 'feminism' is poisoning atheism

Originally posted in the comments section of pharyngula http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/01/01/the-company-you-keep/#comments

Provided here all together for easy reading and with minor edits. The first 1.5-2 minutes are paraphrases of his comments after about the 2 minute mark I tried to accurately record the speech of everyone instead of paraphrasing. I may go back and fix the first 2 minutes at a later time.