I lived in Utah during a couple of points in my life. It is a beautiful state, with numerous outdoor activities available like hiking, fishing, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking…I’m not being funded by the Utah Chamber of Commerce, so you get the point. Living in Utah is an interesting proposition for someone like me who considers religion nothing more than myths carried from the Bronze Age (3000-500 BCE approximately), when human culture had barely left the last Glacial Maximum, and science was starting a fire. Utah is essentially a theocracy, where government is mostly run by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (known as LDS or Mormons). If you’re a non-Mormon (whom they call Gentiles) living in Utah, you sort of learn about the religion just by osmosis. And you mostly ignore them (there is a de facto segregation of neighborhoods between Mormons and non-Mormons for a lot of complex reasons). Continue reading “Mormons baptise Anne Frank–frankly, it’s disgusting”
A couple of days ago, I talked about the Amy Farrah Fowler character on one of my favorite TV shows, the geeky Big Bang Theory, who is a neurobiologist played by a real neurobiologist, Mayim Bialik. Yes, Bialik, former star of the TV show Blossom (never saw an episode) has a Ph.D. in neurobiology from UCLA. Yes, the real UCLA.
As we discussed, Dr. Bialik seems to believe in a whole host of pseudoscientific alternative medicine ideas, all of which does not make sense given her education. She believes in homeopathy, which is basically nonsense according to every definition of the word “nonsense.” Homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, since it is based on a nearly impossible foundation of water having a sort of memory to what it contacted. In other words, the basic principle of homeopathy violates all the basic principles of physics and chemistry. These aren’t ideas that require a Ph.D. to understand, and assuming that Bialik actually studied science, and didn’t cruise through her undergraduate and graduate training without opening a single book, she would have to be scientifically critical of homeopathy.
❝Public health officials in Indiana recently confirmed a 15th case of the measles in the central portion of the state.
Although all of the previous cases occurred in either Boone or Hamilton counties, located north of Indianapolis, the Indiana State Department of Health declined to specify where the newly confirmed case is located, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The health department said that the new case does not pose any increased public health threat because the individual has been in self-isolation since being exposed to the highly contagious respiratory illness.
“Through our investigation, we were made aware that this individual was exposed and may be at high risk for developing the disease,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin said, WANE-TV (Ft. Wayne, IN) reports. “This is good news, because since we knew about the exposure and risk, this person was able to stay home and avoid exposing anyone else while infectious.”
An Indiana school district recently refused to allow unvaccinated students to attend classes in the wake of the outbreak. This is the second measles outbreak in Indiana in less than a year.
“In general, when we experience measles in the United States, it’s a result of an unvaccinated U.S. resident traveling abroad or a foreign visitor from a part of the world where measles is endemic,” Larkin said, according to WANE-TV.❞
❝It appears that the faster-than-light neutrino results, announced last September by the OPERA collaboration in Italy, was due to a mistake after all. A bad connection between a GPS unit and a computer may be to blame.
Physicists had detected neutrinos travelling from the CERN laboratory in Geneva to the Gran Sasso laboratory near L’Aquila that appeared to make the trip in about 60 nanoseconds less than light speed. Many other physicists suspected that the result was due to some kind of error, given that it seems at odds with Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. That theory has been vindicated by many experiments over the decades.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court “declined to hear an appeal Tuesday from a former high school student who sued his history teacher, saying he disparaged Christianity in class in violation of the student’s First Amendment rights.” The case, C. F. v. Capistrano USD, involved a high school student who was insulted that his history teacher, James Corbett, didn’t think much of creationism and religion. Some of Corbett’s comments (which deserve some sort of hero’s award) are:
“Conservatives don’t want women to avoid pregnancies — that’s interfering with God’s work.”
“When you pray for divine intervention, you’re hoping that the spaghetti monster will help you get what you want.”
Referring to creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense”, which lead to the lawsuit.
I’m a huge fan of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), mainly because I’m a lifelong geek, but also because it is one of the better written shows on TV (a low standard indeed). The four main male characters are researchers at Cal Tech, although, as the show keeps mentioning, three have Ph.D.’s, and one only has a Masters from MIT. TBBT also amuses me because I was one of those characters, seemingly clueless about the opposite sex, more interested in games and Star Trek than in anything else, and spending hours in a lab doing obscure experiments. And I dressed that poorly too! TBBT just reminds me of my life. And I still love Star Trek (though Enterprise annoyed me).
The New York Times article, Heartland Institute Leak, a Plan to Discredit Climate Teaching, obtained some leaked documents from the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that denies the link between second hand smoke and cancer; and denies anthropomorphic global warming (human-caused climate change). These documents outlined “plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet.” According to the Heartland Institute, “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective (pdf file).”
A few weeks ago, Memorial University of Newfoundland’s student newspaper, the Muse, published an article, “MUN to offer creation science program next year.” It appeared that one of Canada’s top comprehensive universities, which has a some very good science programs in biochemistry and marine biology, had lost all sense of reality and decided to offer bachelor’s and graduate degrees in “Creation Science” (not a science).
The story was picked up by the Canadian University Press Newswire, “University to offer creation science program next year,” though clearly marked as “humour.” Then it was published in an atheist/skeptical blog, “Canadian University to Offer Creation ‘Science’ Degrees.” Then I read it, ready to publish it here.
But I have a policy about anything I write. I go read the original sources to make sure that I’ve got my facts right, something that the pseudoscientific lunatics rarely do. Memorial University’s website lacked any mention of it, except in the student Newspaper, where it was clearly labelled as “satire.” Oops. Very good satire too!
Oh well, I guess right-wing congressmen are not the only ones that get caught by satire.
❝The culture wars have been fought in the classroom for decades, waged over such issues as school prayer, the teaching of evolution and whether the Pledge of Allegiance should include the phrase “under God.” But the conflict usually pits backers of religious instruction against secularists. The latest skirmish, by contrast, is centered on a scientific issue that has nothing to do with religious teaching: climate change. Continue reading “Climate change denialists targeting classrooms”
An antievolution Republican Oklahoma legislator has introduced another anti-science bill in Oklahoma House of Representatives. The bill, if passed by both houses and signed by the governor, encourages teachers to teach the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution” and “global warming”. This is actually a slight modification to an original bill that was rejected by the House Education Committee last month, but the full house can ignore that vote and vote on it as a whole.