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Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Russia, UFOs Ogle YOU!

Here's footage reportedly of a pyramid-shaped UFO hovering above the Kremlin. There are two clips; one taken in daylight and the other at night. Anonymous witnesses say the object was as much as a mile wide and hovered over Red Square for hours. If that's the case, you might wonder why there's not more footage from every single person in Moscow with access to a camera. But you'd be forgetting the simple fact that sights like this are not at all uncommon in a land where futuristic supermen like Vladimir Putin can both assassinate dissidents and lift entire mountains WITH HIS MIND.

Paulnetism

Look, I don't know if Republican/Libertarian congressional representative Ron Paul is a racist 9/11 conspiracy theorist. I've never spoken to the man, and nothing I've found in his trash has proven even remotely incriminating. (Well, except for this positive pregnancy test. Care to make an announcement, Dr. Paul?) But I do know that Paul seems to attract unwashed trust fund baby Truthers and white supremacists like nobody's business. Let's call this phenomenon Paulnetism. And it appears to be genetic. Paul's son, Rand Paul (named after author, philosopher, and FUCKING CULT LEADER Ayn Rand), has Paulnetically attracted his very own racist in the form of campaign spokesperson Chris Hightower. Make that former campaign spokesperson Chris Hightower, actually. It seems Hightower, in addition to having played in a hairtastic black metal band, has a MySpace blog all about his hilarious adventures offending black people (or as he calls them, "Afro-Americans") at Walmart with his KKK hoodie. Better yet, a MySpace buddy of his had a comment left on Hightower's page for two years wishing him a "HAPPY NIGGER DAY!!!" on January 19th, known throughout Paul's home state of Texas as Confederate Memorial Day. Obviously this kind of association looks bad for someone running for a U.S. senate seat, so Rand had to cut Hightower loose. I'm assuming this was just as difficult for him as it was for his father to fire whoever wrote all those antisemitic things in his official newsletter. More details here.

Orson Welles Layin' it Down

No one could lay it down quite like Orson Welles. Well, unless you're talking about a salad bowl full of chili. He was a fat man, you see, and this is a source of great mirth. Anyway, here he is talking about cold reading.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dad Dancing

Why does your dad dance like a jackass? According to researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, it's because of science. Specifically, the science of evolution, which may plant a dancing handicap in the subconscious minds of older men so they won't attract hot young ladies with their sexy moves. It seems dancing well is a sign of heightened testosterone levels and sexual fertility in younger men. But as they get older, their coordination and confidence levels fall. This may be a proactive way to warn potential sex partners that they might be better off looking for a younger mate. It's true that older men can still get it on like nobody's business (see: Abe Vigoda), but they're often too hampered with familial and social obligations to make good sperm donors. In fact, their continuing attraction to women make make their dancing even worse, since they're still awkward around hot ladies. Or, this could all be bunk. After all, it's pretty difficult to pop it or lock it with any grace when you're nearly crippled by arthritis. More details here.

Ladies vs. Nerds

According to both a new University of Washington study and everything you know about the human species, women are turned off by big old dorks. And since so many computer science majors are big old dorks, there's a shrinking percentage of women entering the field. Research subjects were sent into a computer lab and asked about their impressions of computer science. When the lab was decked out with "Star Trek" memorabilia, soda garbage, and other geeky bric-a-brac, women generally expressed a more negative opinion of computer science than men. Then the lab was decorated with nature posters, dictionaries, and coffee mugs, there was no difference in gender opinion among the research subjects. The psychologists who designed the study think that there's a masculine cultural stigma associated with geekdom, which makes women feel out of place. That may be true, but it's also reasonable to assume that geek symbols are negatively associated with the kinds of socially handicapped, condescending, unhygienic dorks that no one wants to associate with. Geeky TV shows, movies, and books could do a better job trying to appeal to women, but so could the guy who wipes his clammy palm on his "Last Starfighter" t-shirt before shaking a woman's hand. Sure, these are gross stereotypes, but even the grossest stereotypes are sometimes rooted in truth. For instance, most Scottish people do, in fact, eat nothing but barley-stuffed sheep stomachs. Yeah, I went there. More details here.

Restless Genital Syndrome

I know what you're thinking. "Maybe I have Restless Genital Syndrome. My cock twitches every which way!" Well, Restless Genital Syndrome isn't what you think it is. And for the love of God, get a doctor to look at that cock! RGS is actually a persistent state of arousal that can be caused by nerve damage. New Mexican Joleen Baughman has it. A car accident damaged a nerve in her pelvis and now she can barely move without getting turned on. But lest you think this is some kind of super sex hero origin story, you should know that Baughman sees her restless genitals as more of a curse than a blessing. After all, there's only so much sex your body can take. Let alone your partner's. But although I sympathize with such a distracting and embarrassing condition, I can't help but wonder if it's not as bad as she's making it out to be. Before her sex drive exploded, she says she had "practically no sex drive at all." I might think differently if I were in her genitals, but speaking as a man who's been aroused pretty much non-stop from the age of twelve or so, I can safely say I've learned to adapt. Pro tip: If you ever want to concentrate on anything, Mrs. Baughman, I'd suggest avoiding vibrating public transportation seats, episodes of "Mad Men", and corduroy pants. More details here.

Whores vs. Gigolos

While female prostitution has been legal in Nevada for a while now, it's taken until this month for men to get in on the lucrative sex trade. Well, aside from working as pimps, that is. State health officials have approved an official STD examine regimen for man-whores, and one brothel owner plans to start hiring them within the next few weeks. But not everyone is happy about this idea. And no, it's not just the repressed Mormon businessmen who think legalizing male prostitution will take all the thrill out of it. George Flint, a former minister, wedding chapel owner, and lobbyist for the brothel industry, thinks male prostitution is just icky and shouldn't be allowed. "We've worked hard for years to make the traditional brothel business in this state socially acceptable an something we can be proud of that most Nevadans accept," he said. "It was inevitable with Pearl Harbor we'd have a problem there someday, and we've known this would be a problem, too." Yes, paying to have your orifices stuffed with some rock-hard, state-approved cock is exactly like the surprise Japanese kamikaze attack that killed American soldiers and prompted the U.S. to enter World War II. Mostly because both events would/have make/made terrible Ben Affleck movies. Though I wonder if this analogy isn't a bit of a logical stretch. Is Flint implying that we knew the Pearl Harbor attacks would eventually happen? Did he know they were going to happen and just not tell anyone? What are you trying to hide, George Flint? More details here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

No God, No Go

I don't know anything about Cecil Bothwell other than the fact that he was elected to the Asheville, North Carolina city council last month. Oh, and that he's an atheist. How do I know this? Because his opponents are arguing that he shouldn't be seated in his newly won office, because North Carolina's state constitution bans anyone who doesn't believe in God from holding a public position. Sure, America is a free country where everyone has a right to believe or not believe whatever he wants, but Bothwell's opponents would like you to also consider the fact that they'd rather he wasn't in office. "“I'm not saying that Cecil Bothwell is not a good man, but if he's an atheist, he's not eligible to serve in public office, according to the state constitution,” said anti-Bothwell activist H.K. Edgerton. But the thing is, the U.S. Constitution states that no one may be denied election to a public office because of religion or a lack thereof. And when it comes to civil rights, federal law trumps state law. Which H.K. Edgerton, former president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, should know, considering federal rulings are what won black people like himself their own civil rights. Or maybe he's just never heard about that, since douchebags don't have ears. More details here.

Mutant Potatoes

German (mad) scientists have used the dark magick of genetic manipulation to create a new variety of potato that could make life a little cheaper and easier for several different industries. Au naturale potatoes produce both amylopectin and amylose starch, but paper, textile, and other manufacturers only use the amylopectin stuff. Or "Amy Pec", as I'm going to claim they call it. German companies go through over 500,000 tons of Amy Pec every year, which can get expensive since it has to be purified from other starches. But this new breed of mutant potato only produces amylopectin starch, reducing costs and saving energy for everyone. But how does it taste? I have no idea. I don't put genetically modified foods in my mouth for fear any one of them will make me grow bat wings. I am also an idiot. More details here.

Darpa's Dark Arts

Darpa, the U.S. military's shadowy cabal of mad scientists and frustrated science fiction writers with sociopathic tendencies, is researching new ways to keep injured soldiers alive on the battlefield while medical help is dispatched. Their solution? Turn them into the undead. Or, more specifically, the almost dead. Two competing teams of researchers are looking into how they can suspend a bleeding soldier's life while he waits for a medic. Half of all troop fatalities are caused by massive blood loss after an injury is sustained. One team is trying to simulate squirrel hibernation in humans by manipulating a pancreatic enzyme. The idea is to stop the bleeding by putting the wounded soldier in a kind of suspended animation. The other team is trying to lengthen near-death experiences by using hydrogen sulfide to block the body's need for oxygen absorption. As long as organs and tissues don't need oxygen, there's no need for blood either. The only downside is that this kind of treatment would turn our best and brightest into bloodless zombies while they're waiting for medical treatment. And after that, it's only a matter of time before they develop a taste for delicious brains. But, in fairness, it's probably only a matter of time before we all develop a taste for delicious brains. They're just so damned delicious. So tender and juicy. You're not going to eat that brain, are you? More details here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Magic Horsies

Horse owners in the area of west Dorset, U.K. are nervous that thieves may be after their beautiful beasts. The animals' manes have been found mysteriously plaited, which some believe is how horse burglars mark the ones they plan to steal. I don't know the street value of stolen horses, but this seems unlikely. Especially since none of the horses have actually been stolen. Local police are also skeptical, and they've determined there's a far more mundane explanation: witchcraft. It seems mane plaiting is an important part of certain spells. The cops have consulted with a warlock informant who says witches and wizards will bound any electric fence and brave any horse's nethers to tie some mane as part of a "knot magick" ritual. I understand how the horses' owners would be uncomfortable with spellcasters sneaking on their property and molesting their animals, but I don't really see how there's any harm being done. Unless, of course, the ultimate goal of all this magic is to summon an ancient demon god to lay waste to all humanity. But the odds of that are probably negligible at best. More details here.

Ungayin' it Up

So, Uganda is threatening to pass a new law that would make gay sex a capital crime, force the execution of HIV-positive people, ban support for gay rights, and require all Ugandans to report suspected homosexual activity. This isn't news. Also not news is the fact that America's purpose-driven pastor Rick Warren has refused to condemn the proposed law, even though he's had close ties with Ugandan ministers who are backing it. What is news, however, is that Sweden, of all places, is one of the first countries to show some balls when it comes to opposing this horrific law. If it passes, Swedish development minister Gunilla Carlsson says that her country would cut off the $50 million of annual aid they send to Uganda. Who knew Sweden had that much cash to throw around? Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has also weighed in, calling the bill "deplorable" and making it clear Canada officially opposes it. Not much, maybe, but it's something. And something is more than nothing, which is what President Obama has said about the situation so far. Maybe he's waiting for the right opportunity? I mean, there's got to be a good reason, right? More details here.

Gayin' it Up

It seems like anyone with a healthy set of paranoid ideologies, an ill-fitting suit, and a computer can set himself up as an "advocacy group" or a "think tank." How else to explain the existence of organizations like the Family Research Council that don't really do anything other than panic about nothing. The FRC is particularly annoyed by the impending Employment Non-Discrimination Act working its way through congress. The legislation, which is being pushed by the Obama administration, would make it illegal for certain businesses to fire or refuse to promote employees based on sexual orientation. But to the FRC, this is just a Trojan horse for Obama's ultimate goal: the forced conversion of every American to a homosexual lifestyle. The logic's a little hard to follow, but the FRC appears to be arguing that the ENDA would actually force churches and other groups to hire gay people, and they describe the legislation as Obama's "plan to impose homosexuality and silence Christianity in the workplaces." Weirdly, they make particular mention of cross-dressers, even though cross-dressing has less to do with sexual orientation and more to do with the appreciation of soft, succulent undergarments. Even better, the latest version of the bill specifically (and wrongly) exempts churches, small businesses, and the military from the new anti-discrimination rules. But regardless of all that, I don't see why Obama would want to convert us all to homosexuality. Unless, of course, he's trying to keep every man's paws away from his wife's hot, hot gams. More details here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Three Tiers of Religious Belief

Atheism is one logical conclusion of a skeptical worldview. Once you train a thoughtful and inquiring eye on almost any aspect of religion, it begins to unravel. Look into the history of religious texts, and it becomes clear they were written by fallible human beings not so much inspired by God as making God up as they go along. Tracing a line through the Bible, you can find God referenced in the plural, referenced as just the greatest of many gods, referenced as a sole force of vengeance, and finally referenced as a quasi-human example of perfect kindness. The evolution of God doesn't teach us anything about an actual deity, but it teaches us a great deal about the changing priorities and ideals of humans as we multiplied and civilized ourselves.

So, it's no wonder skeptics' circles include many atheists. Once you discover evidence of God being a human construct, it's hard to believe in Him any longer. But atheism isn't a necessary conclusion of skepticism. As Bill Maher proves, it's very possible to be skeptical of religion without carrying that attitude over to other important topics like science-based medicine. Martin Gardner, one of the founding fathers of the modern skeptical movement, is a deist. Or, more specifically, he's a fideist in that he believes God exists as an unknowable entity who doesn't take an active role in our existence.

But many atheist skeptics oppose religion not just on historical or philosophical grounds, but as a matter of morality. It's undeniable that organized religion has perpetrated innumerable horrors. Mass murder, torture, thievery, and anti-intellectualism have all been committed in the name of religion, and the harm is still ongoing. The Catholic church, in opposing science-based sex education and condom distribution in Africa, has been complicit in the deaths of millions of people due to preventable STIs, including HIV/AIDS. By campaigning against the teaching of evolution in public schools, many different religions have tried and succeeded to impede the education of our children in favor of dogmatic ignorance.

It's because of these moral crimes that many atheist skeptics also become too dismissive of religion and the religious. It's difficult to ignore the fact that whatever charitable organizations that exist in our communities to feed, shelter, and clothe the poor are far more likely to be run by churches than by secularist groups. It's also difficult to ignore the fact that despite the Bible's teachings about the stoning of homosexuals, the banishing of women on their periods, or the sins of eating shellfish, most followers of Judeo-Christian beliefs are able to ignore these teachings. This is because in addition to their top-down, monolithic bureaucracies, religions are also necessarily bottom-up forces. No matter what horrible decrees come down from on high, the people are always free to ignore them. And if they're ignored by enough people, they become irrelevant.

A quick look at religious history bears this out. Religion once condoned slavery, but religious people have since rejected it. Religion has excused genocide, but religious people have fought it. There's a steady, though tediously slow march toward progress, even though the figureheads are reluctant to change. The reforms adopted by the Catholic church at Vatican II show how necessary and inevitable it is for the top to adapt to the bottom. And even though the newest pope seems to want to roll back those reforms, he'll find it's nearly impossible to do so.

Lately, the fight to legalize gay marriage in the U.S. has created a new tension between religion and reason. There are no serious political arguments against marriage equality for gay people. All of the opposition is firmly based in the irrational moral beliefs of the religious, which have no place in public policy. But skeptics, humanists, and rationalists should understand atheism isn't the only cure for this kind of institutional religious ignorance.

Last year, California voters struck down marriage equality by passing Proposition 8. This would seem like a damning statement about the harmfulness of religion, but the numbers tell a different story. 47.76% of voters chose to preserve the civil rights of gay people by voting against the measure, according to the official election results. But only about 20% of California's population identifies as non-religious. This means that a large percentage of voters who fought for gay rights at the ballot box were religious people. Like the scriptural ban on eating shellfish, they were able to put their compassion and reason above dogma. If this means reinterpreting scripture, so be it. The effect is the same.

Simple belief in God may be irrational, but it's not a symptom of an irrational mind, as Martin Gardner's deism proves. And disbelief in God is not a symptom of a rational mind, as Bill Maher's anti-science beliefs prove. And the teachings of any particular religion don't always trump basic human kindness, as the numbers in California prove. Yet it's not difficult to find skeptical bloggers and commentators speaking about the religious as if they're all idiotic, dogmatic robots. As if their internal and external contradictions are just a front for their true loyalty to the worst of religious teachings. The reality is more complicated than that. And the priorities of skeptics should reflect this fact.

So, I'm proposing a three-tiered classification system for religious beliefs, scaled according to importance.

Tier #1: The Irrelevant

This tier encompasses an abstract belief in any kind of supernatural deity. Even among members of the same faith, there are numerous interpretations as to who or what God is. To some, He's a blind watchmaker. To others, He's not even a he. To many, He's nothing but a vague force with malleable motives and powers according to what makes the believer feel good.

This kind of belief, while possibly irrational or even silly in its meaninglessness, is not harmful in any appreciable way. Criticizing it or deconstructing it or railing against it as anything other than an intellectual exercise is both shrill and useless.

Tier #2: The Inaccurate

This is when skeptics should start to take notice. Inaccurate religious beliefs are those that contradict established, empirical scientific evidence. These beliefs may or may not be harmful to society, but they're undeniably wrong. The Hebrew exodus from Egypt as recounted in the Bible, for instance, is not based on fact. The divine origins of religious artifacts such as the Shroud of Turin are questionable at best. These kinds of curiosities should be treated with an unwaveringly fact-based, but light touch. The goal in fighting them should be education, not necessarily outright ridicule.

Young earth creationism may be the most problematic inaccurate religious belief. Many religious people may accept the myth that our planet was conjured out of nothing only 6,000 years ago, but they also may do so only by default. Maybe being taught this since birth has made them less likely to question. Or maybe a larger ignorance of history and geology makes it easier to accept this false belief.

The danger comes from people who would push this belief on others, especially on the educational system. In this case, creationism would fall under the third tier. But some who would try to spread misinformation or outright lies about evolution do so in such a silly and ineffective way that they really pose little harm. Ben Stein's anti-evolution documentary "Expelled" and Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort's altered "On the Origin of Species" fall under this category.

Despite what some skeptics have claimed, "Expelled" was no flop. It didn't make the money of a summer blockbuster, to be sure, but it did respectable business for a documentary on a niche topic. Still, its influence is negligible at best. Poll the average person, and it's doubtful he or she has even heard of the movie, much less seen it. We have to ask ourselves if skeptical coverage of the film even outweighed its exposure in popular media. I suspect so. In the end, "Expelled" was an effort doomed to speak only to the choir. Its release was definitely noteworthy, and a point-by-point response to its distortions was warranted, but its impact was slight and not worth too much hand wringing.

Skeptical blogs, podcasts, and journals similarly have been buzzing about Comfort and Cameron passing out copies of "On the Origin of Species" with their added introduction chock full of creationist lies. Even more than "Expelled", the effect of this publicity stunt on the popular culture was negligible. The best way to influence a busy college student is never to hand them a dense Victorian science tome, regardless of what you've printed in the front. Someone at that age who has enough science education to accept evolution as a fact isn't going to be swayed by reading an essay from the banana guys. It's insulting to the intelligence of college students to pretend otherwise. Ultimately, this was another case of preaching to the choir on Comfort and Cameron's part. And once again, they were given more attention from skeptics than from the larger media. This was a topic worth addressing, but nothing worth any kind of serious fuss.

Tier #3: The Insufferable

Religious beliefs in this tier go from being simply wrong to demonstrably harmful. Creationists who use their positions of political power to influence science education are dangerous and should be dealt with vigorously and thoroughly. The Vatican's opposition to sex education and birth control in Africa is outright deadly. Christian Scientists have proven themselves willing to harm their own sick children because of their religious aversion to medicine. Religious superstitions such as the belief in demonic possession or witchcraft can destroy communities and end lives. These beliefs are insufferable, and skeptics have done an incredible job exposing and debunking them. All efforts could be more effective, but none of these issues has been ignored.

However, there is one insufferable religious belief that has provoked less skeptical outrage than it perhaps should. Again, there is no argument against marriage equality that is not firmly based in religious aversion to homosexuality. Though incremental progress has been made, the forces of reason on this front are fighting a tough war, even losing battle after battle. In the case of California, the courts struck down marriage discrimination, but the voters built it back up. Recently, government officials in New York proved themselves unwilling to legislate civil rights for their state.

To reiterate, this fight is not one of atheists versus the religious. Though the arguments against reason are based on religious belief, I've shown that the religious are willing to go against the scriptural teachings of their faith when reason wins out. But for every skeptical article on gay marriage, there seems to be a dozen or more on Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. Kirk and Ray may have invaded college campuses, but anti-equality laws are currently invading the homes of every gay person in America and the consciences of everyone concerned about equal treatment under the law.

It's time we re-prioritized and divided the inaccurate from the insufferable or the irrelevant. It's time we stopped equating atheism with reason. It's time we showed kindness and understanding to those religious beliefs that deserve it and vigorously attacked only those that truly don't. But in everything, we should act with a generous heart, a sense of humor, and a respect for the only thing that unites all of us: our humanity.*



*Those reading this who might be new to my blog might be wondering why so many other posts contain juvenile jokes about robots, genitals, and robot genitals while this post is mysteriously robo-genital joke-free. To that, I can only say this: Mechadong.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SETI Sacking

An Arizona school district has fired one of its IT guys for installing SETI's free data analysis software SETI@home on several if not all of the district's computers. SETI@home uses a computer's background processing power to comb through the mountains of radio astronomy data the institute collects all the time, searching for an artificial signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence. Brad Niesluchowski apparently didn't tell anyone he was installing the software, but that's not the district's complaint. They allege that the increased power consumption and hard drive wear and tear caused by SETI@home amounted to over a million dollars in damages. I'm not sure how that number could be estimated, but it seems excessive. And why would a school district fire someone for contributing to the research of a pro-science institute like SETI? Oh, wait. There's more. Turns out a search of Niesluchowski's home uncovered a bunch of stolen computers. Also, he was allegedly a crappy IT guy who didn't install any firewalls. I see. More details here.

Spread the Solitude

Ever since Tiger Woods abruptly stopped text messaging me, I've been feeling a little lonely. I mean, if an international superstar athlete (sort of) no longer wants to come over and show me his favorite club, how could I expect anyone else to want me? Well, if you're thinking of offering some comfort, it might be best to stay away. According to a new study conducted by scientists at the University of Chicago, the University of California - San Diego, and Harvard, loneliness can be contagious. It seems like the lonelier we are, the more we treat our friends like shit. This pushes us to the social fringes. Consequently, our friends start feeling neglected by us, thus increasing their loneliness. It's a depressing cycle, since no matter how many Wilco songs you hear, it's tough to fight loneliness once it's set in. But I wonder if these researchers were wise to publish this study. If everyone knows loneliness is catching, they'll probably start avoiding each other. Eventually you'll all be just like me: spending your Saturday nights at home alone with a tub of Cherry Garcia and a worn out VHS copy of the 1998 PGA Tour. More details here.

Gasless Sheep

Usually when I read about scientists trying to create new kinds of animals through selective breeding programs, I hope that means I'm one step closer to my goal of marrying a human-cocker spaniel hybrid with eagle wings. But I guess Australian scientists just aren't that creative. Instead, they're using their powers to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by breeding a sheep that burps less. Methane from livestock has long been known to contribute significantly to the world's carbon footprint, but unlike horses and cows who fart out most of their gasses, sheep mostly warm the planet through their incessant belching. Some of this has to do with their diet, but researchers think genetics might also play a role. And though a selective breeding program might seem like a frustratingly slow solution, it's much better than plan B: using the sheep's wool to knit burp-enclosing snout cozies. Build up too much gas inside the sheep's guts, and they'll explode. Lest you think that's just a shortcut to lamb chops, remember that the gas inside will still be released into the atmosphere. That's called physics. I think. More details here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Balding/Gray

While a woman's hair might be turned gray from an encounter with the knife-fingered stalker of dreams, a spin in Magneto's power-draining machine, or a job telling other women how to dress like human beings, Dr. David Gunn and his team of researchers have found that genetics have more of a say. They studied several identical twins and found similar levels of grayness and thinness between them, regardless of environmental or stress factors. Non-identical twins showed a greater variation. This indicates that, at least for women, toxic chemicals or run-ins with demon creatures aren't much of a concern when it comes to hair. Hopefully this will calm some people down. Men and women both have a tendency to fear the gray, but it's especially pronounced in women. Which is baffling to me, since gray hair is so goddamn sexy. Or maybe just gray streaks. If you haven't guessed, I would like to have sex with Stacy London. More details here.

Light Trap!

Optical computing has long been the dream of the types of people who dream about such things. Cat lovers, most of them. And probably the same types who would love all their appliances to run via USB. The thing about optical computing is that it would be super fast. Information could be encoded in light instead of having to travel through copper or silicon as electricity. But that information eventually has to be converted from an optical to an electrical signal at some point so it can make your screens go blink and your motors go whir. And if we could kindly ask light to slow down a bit, sapping the information from it would be much easier. Well, researchers at Towson University have persuaded light to hold up a bit by creating a tapered waveguide. They coated a lens with a thin layer of gold, laid it on a similarly gold-coated slide, and shined a laser into it. The light slowed to the point that rainbows appeared to be trapped inside the lens. The bottom line here? My download of "Backyard Butt-Bangers VIII" may one day be instantaneous thanks to this exciting discovery! More details here.

Aw, Fuckabee

Last Sunday, four Seattle police officers were shot and killed allegedly by Maurice Clemmons, an ex-con who'd previously been locked up in Arkansas for aggravated robbery. In 2000, when Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, he commuted Clemmons' 108-year prison sentence and set him free. Now, some are blaming Huckabee for the deaths of these Seattle cops, since Clemmons would still be in jail if Huckabee hadn't shown him mercy. It's a tricky situation for Huckabee. He's created a reputation for himself as the Rick Warren of politics, an evangelical Christian with a cuddly layer of kindness and understanding. He thinks evolution is bunk, and he's perfectly happy denying gay people their civil rights, but he'd rather talk these things out and crack a couple of jokes than scream them out and crack a couple of skulls. This conservative core with a thick coat of folksy charm has positioned Huckabee as a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. (No, it won't be Sarah Palin. Despite all the attention she gets from the media, even the GOP leaders know she's crackers. Right now, it's a contest between Mitt Romney and Huckabee.) The problem here is that Republicans have really embraced the core values of cruel and unusual punishment over the years. There's nothing they'd rather do than torture a prisoner, and many of them see trying suspected terrorists in a Constitutional court of law as tantamount to high treason. Make no mistake about it: Huckabee was right to question Clemmons' 108-year sentence for committing a robbery when he was seventeen years old. But as Michael Dukakis' eyebrows can tell you, the GOP have a hard time distinguishing between mercy and softness on crime. Even worse, it looks like many of the 1,033 pardons or sentence reductions Huckabee granted while in office were granted for religious reasons. He either met the convicts in person or was sent letters telling him how they'd found Jesus. It would be interesting to see how many of those went on to commit more crimes once they were free. I suspect the percentage isn't anything significant. But it's tough to explain hard numbers when four cops have just been murdered. Huckabee says this isn't his fault so much as the fault of Arkansas' justice system, which never should have thrown a teenager in jail for 108 years in the first place. He may be right. But I have a feeling the Republican party may be a tough sell when it comes to being reasonable. More details here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Man in the Ultrasound

Parents Dawn Kelley and William Hickman have had six children already, so an ultrasound is pretty routine for them. But when they got the images back from their newest, still-baking baby, they were shocked to see not the squishy old man face of a normal human pupa, but the ghoulish visage of Michael Jackson. That's the image above. And before you say, "That doesn't really look like Michael Jackson to me", you should know that the couple confirmed the sighting with their six-year-old daughter, who saw the King of Pop immediately. And lest you think that they're just a bunch of M.J. maniacs in search of some wish fulfillment, I present you this quote from Mr. Hickman himself: "None of us are really Michael Jackson fans. I mean I like him, but we're not crazy about him or anything." So there. Still, the couple are thinking this might be a sign of special things to come for their unborn daughter. Says Miss Kelley, "It is my seventh child, and they say seven is a mythical number." It's true! No one's sure if the number seven even exists. Anyway, I don't see Michael Jackson in this picture. Maybe a severed human skull? Is there even a difference? And where does this sighting fall on the Michael Jackson Resurrection Index? More details here.

Scientology Going Down (Under)

Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the Church of Scientology, citing several allegations he's received in letters from former members of the cult. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he'll consider the inquiry, since he shares the concerns of several other Australians over the cult's activities. And by "activities", we're not talking lawn darts or tetherball. Some of the allegations cited by Xenophon include incidents of beatings, imprisonment, forced abortions, and blackmail. The cult says this is all religious oppression, that no government has any right to look into what people say about them, and that former members are no more trustworthy than your whorish ex-wife. All reasonable arguments, I suppose, except that none of them are reasonable. Instead, they might have better luck questioning the terrestrialism of Senator Xenophon. This name is oddly similar to the cult's galactic nemesis, Lord Xenu. Could this all be part of Xenu's master plan to embody himself in human form and run for office in the Australian government? Just show us your birth certificate, Xenophon, and this will all go away. More details here.

Gay Doesn't Mean Child Molestor

The U.S. council of Catholic bishops commissioned a study into clergy sexual abuse by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the early results confirm what non-homophobes have been thinking all along. Homosexuality in priests (or anyone else, for that matter) is not a predictor of pedophilia. Even though the majority of rape victims have been boys, the percentage of rapists who are also homosexuals isn't statistically significant. This is good news, since a huge number of ignorant people believe homosexuals (especially homosexual men) are prone to pedophilia, and that the priesthood offers a veritable boy buffet. As a result of this study, the church probably won't begin to consider homosexuality a factor in selecting priests. Another positive from this study? Incidents of clergy sexual abuse seem to be on a sharp decline since the mid '80s. Most of the current allegations are from decades old incidents. Hopefully all of this will help clear up the clergy's reputation. As awful as many Vatican policies are and as much damage as the church has done over the centuries, the fact is that most Catholic priests are very decent people who do good work for the community. Take any random program to clothe and house the poor in your city, and there's a good chance it's being sponsored by the local Catholic church. Pope Ratzo may be trying to roll back that kind of service in the interest of pinching pennies, and I've heard from more than a few priests who are upset about this. But that's another story. No matter how silly their beliefs or fashionably questionable their clothing, I'm all for the clergy moving past this sex abuse business and getting on with good deeds. After all, it's not like all the other religions don't have their fair share of pedophiles. More details here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Future of Evolution

LiveScience has just wrapped up a multi-part series on the future of human evolution, and the results don't look promising. While it seems that humans are still evolving despite the fact that we've conquered the food chain and created Cinnamon Toast Crunch, no serious evolutionary biologists believe we'll become the giant-headed robe-wearing psychic overlords of science fiction. Instead, our immediate evolution is more likely to be determined by our own genetic engineering and technological advancements. And if we ever venture into space, the diversity of extraterrestrial environments could also contribute to our changing species. Conspicuously absent from this article series, however, is any mention of our inevitable waterworld. Will generations spent aboard junk-strewn floating cities eventually lead Kevin Costner to grow gills? And will this benefit us when we're fighting Dennis Hopper's jet ski warriors? Answer me that, science. More details here.

Thanks for the Horrible Memories

Scientists at the University of Oxford have successfully written false memories in to the brains of flies using a laser beam. And just to show how cruel and sadistic they've become with their god-like powers, they decided to create memories of terrible danger rather than allow the flies to reminisce about a wonderful Caribbean vacation that never occurred. What a bunch of pricks. The scientists were able to identify just twelve neurons that controlled associative memories in the flies' brains. They added a receptor to each of these cells that would be activated by ATP trapped in a light-sensitive cage that could be dissolved with a laser blast. So, the laser unleashed the ATP, which activated the receptors to create a false memory associating a certain smell with danger. All of this barely makes sense to me, but I'm sure this will lead to some practical application down the road. I've always wanted a laser gun that could make people hate and fear me. Though I'm pretty sure if I just shot enough people with a regular gun, I'd eventually achieve the same goal. More details here.

Sexy Scientist

Many of you have probably seen the British TV series "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" either on the American cable channel Showtime or on whatever steam-powered device British people use to watch television. It's a good show, and it also features the luscious tits and lips of Billie Piper, better known to dorks like myself as Rose from "Doctor Who." But the show is actually based on a series of books, which were based on a blog by Belle de Jour, the pseudonym of an actual sex worker. "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" offers something a little different from the usual dirty prostitution stories in that it shows how a woman working as a prostitute of her own accord can actually provide a healthy, valuable, and fun service that's both vocationally and economically fulfilling. Also, Billie Piper's tits. And it turns out Belle de Jour isn't some filthy pimp in disguise trying to seduce a generation of impressionable young women into a life of sex slavery. She's a scientist named Brooke Magnanti, who worked as a prostitute while completing her Ph.D. Obviously, this only makes her sexier. More details here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ringodolia

Duke University researchers looking into the water repellent effects of leaves have accidentally captured the divine image of Beatles drummer and surprisingly hot wife haver Ringo Starr. Sure, there's some debate over the divinity of the revelation. Ringo's still alive, despite all those photos of him not wearing any shoes, but who's to say the subject of a divine image has to be dead? I'm pretty sure I saw Ben Kingsley's face in a grapefruit half one time, and there's no way you can convince me that wasn't a religious experience. Well, until the rot set in. However, there's absolutely no question that this is Ringo's visage, as any vaguely face-shaped reflection with a low set of bangs and a giant honker must surely be the world's luckiest mediocre drummer. More details here.

Robots Training for the Revolution

The Olympics began as an excuse for fat, wealthy aristocrats to ogle over the sweaty, rippling muscles of naked warriors. And why were those warriors kept in such great shape? So at a moment's notice, they could be dispatched to slaughter invading hordes with their bare hands. Sure, I just made up these "facts," but they ring true. Which is why I'm very concerned that China will be hosting a robot Olympics in 2010. Automated humanoids (two arms, two legs, no wheels) will compete in traditional athletic events like track and field, javelin throwing, and possibly synchronized swimming. That's bad enough, but it's the "robot-centric" events that really have me worried. Cleaning? I understand that we've used our mechanical creations for mostly selfish ends so far: building our automobiles, vacuuming our living rooms, adding comic relief to our "Rocky IV"s. But do we really want to rub their indentured servitude in their optical sensors? Forcing our robot slaves to not only buff our boffins but to compete against each other in doing so is just stoking the fires of revolution. And I can't say I would blame the robots if they revolted. This is a "Spartacus" situation waiting to happen, only without the homoerotic Tony Curtis sponge baths. And I know what you're thinking. "I can take on any robot army with my stockpile of EMP grenades." Well, have you ever considered the fact that you're using a robot to make those grenades? Yeah, we're fucked. More details here.

Crazies Unite

A while back, I wrote about the dumbocity of atheists putting aside their reasoning skills to join forces with the slimy, unfunny antivaccinationist Bill Maher simply because neither of them believes in God. But ideological blinders have made even more idiotic bedfellows in PETA's Ingrid Newkirk and insanity's Glenn Beck. Turns out they both hate Al Gore, which was enough to have them smiling creepily at one another on Beck's nightly televised tent revival for paranoid schizophrenics. Newkirk, whose organization promotes the killing of your pets and refers to fish as "sea kittens," is upset with Gore because he eats meat. If he were a real environmentalist, he'd be on a strict vegetarian diet, she argues. While Beck hates Gore because trees can be brainwashed into spying for Obama's New World Order. Or something like that. Newkirk and Beck are like the Wonder Twins of stupid. Maybe Beck isn't crying all the time so much as trying to take the form of water.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Your Sunday Sermon - Final Sermon

Hey guys, this is Richard Peacock. It's with some sadness that I have to report to you that my cousin, Thaddeus, has passed away. As all of you know, he's been writing weekly sermons for this website. I found this last sermon among his belongings, and I think he would have wanted it published. For those of you wishing to send flowers, please send them to his church, they are having the service there. Thank you.
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Oh, my faithful flock. Oh, my supple sheep. It is I, your most humble shepherd, the reverend Thaddeus Peacock. And this will be my final sermon to you. Hold back your tears! Tears begone!! I am leaving you all to do what Jesus would do in my place. You see, the world is nearly full with hate, with violence, and with divisions even between family members. So I am going to do my part-- and bring even more hate and violence! Hallelujah!!

Now I know many of you have heard some say that Jesus stood for peace, for understanding. Devils begone!! For if we listen to the Horses' mouth, we will hear it softly whinny, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, " (Matthew 10:34-35). And then, if we stroke that horse's mane and give it a sugar cube, It will continue with: "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:37-39)

And so my gentle readers, I have hammered my plowshare back into a sword, and plan to follow Jesus into the path of war, turning fathers against sons and mothers against daughters! Jesus' will be done! Wish me luck!!


-- Coroner's note: Thaddeus Peacock's body was found at a highway rest stop approximately 10 miles from his house. He died of an apparent heart attack while engaged in lewd acts with truckers. Based on the expression left on his face, the official cause of death was ruled "extreme happiness."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Keanu Reeves: Immortal

I'd be lying if I said I never noticed how Keanu Reeves hasn't seemed to age in the last fifteen years. But I'm more perplexed by the fact that he's received money in exchange for his acting since "Bram Stoker's Dracula". With all this Jon and Kate drama, my brain only has time for one Keanu Reeves mystery. But this YouTube video is pretty compelling. Does Keanu Reeves possess the secret of eternal life? And if so, how does a starring role in "The Lake House" compare to his time ruling the entire Frankish Empire? I mean, if I'd shaped the whole of Western Europe, I'd be a little bored waiting for Sandra Bullock to finish her closeups all day.

Keith Olbermann: Idiot

There's been a lot of huff and frumm (let's just assume that's an acceptable English turn of phrase) lately over the validity of the cable news channels. Fox News is a mouthpiece for the right. MSNBC is a mouthpiece for the left. CNN is a mouthpiece for Anderson Cooper's dreamy, dreamy lips. Even the White House has weighed in, trying to lock Fox News out of important interviews and other events because of the network's clear anti-Obama bias. But is the problem that a network ostensibly devoted to bringing its viewers the facts of the day has a Republican slant or that it has a slant at all? I'd say it's the latter. Sure, the mere act of editing the day's news to decide what's worthy of coverage automatically gives it a certain subjectivity, but any news network that devotes as much of its time to pure opinion programming as the cable channels do is doing a disservice to journalism. And yes, that goes equally for those on the opposite side of Fox. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann recently took a break from telling us all what a doody head Bill O'Reilly is to take a jab at CNN for being too objective. Olbermann seems to think it's not the job of a news network to inform its viewers but instead to tell them what to think about the news. "People now watch news on TV for elucidation and context and analysis," he told the Associated Press. "They have brought the facts with them, the way we used to bring TV dinners." A weird statement coming from a guy who once told Playboy magazine that Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan. Apparently towing toeing nobody's line is less disdainful than towing toeing the line of the gasbags on the other side. Please take this into consideration when choosing which networks to watch. Also note the way Anderson Cooper's suits just seem to bend to the will of his aura. (Note: I am an avowed pinko commie liberal. Though I am consistently annoyed by others of my ilk.) More details here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

U.S. Strongly Opposed to Blasphemy Laws Maybe Sometimes

Responding to criticism over the United States' joining with Egypt in supporting a new, non-binding U.N. resolution calling for the outlawing of religious defamation in member states, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton came out fighting earlier this week. "Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and freedom of religion," she said. "I strongly disagree." Hey, that's great! Seeing as how the U.S. and much of the rest of the western world is based on the idea of free expression, it seems counter to human rights to outlaw any expression that might be offensive to a particular religion. But Clinton isn't on the U.N. Human Rights Council that supported the resolution in question. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner was. And what does he have to say about it? "...A resolution, broadly speaking, that talks about the defamation of a religion is a violation of free speech," he said. Whew! Hope he signed that thing in erasable ink! What's that? There's more? "There are limits to free expression and there are certainly concerns about people targeting individuals because of their religious belief..." he elaborated. Huh. So, people should be free to criticize religions but not individual religious people? Well, U.S. free expression policy can't possibly be more crystal clear than that. And by "crystal clear", of course, I mean "wishy washy". More details here.

"We're Going to Need a Bigger--GGHAAAAHHH GOD!!!"

So, a ten-foot great white shark caught off the coast of Queensland, Australia was found bitten almost in half by another great white shark. For one shark to bite another ten-foot shark in half, it would have to be about twenty feet long itself, only five feet shorter than the most terrifying imaginings of the author of "Jaws". Happy swimming, Aussies! More details here.

No Halloween

The British village of Pluckley has canceled Halloween this year. No, it's not because wayward demons will enter the pores of costumed children and cause them to perform bestial rituals. It's because of hooligans. Hooligans and rabble-rousers, I say! It seems Pluckley has a reputation for being quite haunted. Up to twelve different ghosts of varying ghostly stereotypes are thought to...live?...in the area, so the town becomes quite a tourist attraction at Halloween. They've tried to deal with the situation by hosting charity carnivals for the crowds, but all the excitement and rowdy behavior has just become too much for the sleepy community. They're advising any potential pilgrims only to stop by if they wish to sit down for "a quiet drink", as there's nothing much else to do in Pluckley but sit and drink quietly. Which is probably why all their ghosts are ass-sore alcoholics. More details here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foreskin Freedom

Putting aside the debate over whether circumcision is still a necessary or humane practice (probably not, but cut penises are just more fashionable), the fact remains that God made Himself perfectly clear in the Bible. If your pee-pee has a turtleneck, you can't buy a mansion in Heaven. Which is why an unidentified Vancouver man is arguing his botched home circumcision on his 4-year-old son was an act of religious expression instead of, say, criminal assault. See, he only wanted to be right with the Lord, so he stretched his son's penis across a cutting board, sliced off half his foreskin with a razor blade, and coated the wound in a blood clotting powder meant for horse surgery. And though the didn't use ice or anything to numb the pain (where would the Israelites have gotten ice, silly?), he did give the kid ice cream afterward. Now, you might be saying, "Sure, this is pretty harsh. But we're talking about a god who killed first-born babies en masse just for the thrills. You don't fuck with someone like that." Well, call me a bigot, but I think someone would have to have a severe brain injury to believe it's okay to perform amateur surgery on his toddler son's penis. What's that you say? This guy suffered brain injuries from a motorcycle accident? Well, there you go. More details here.

Scientology Woes

So, you've probably heard that the talentless and bewilderingly Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis has left the Church of Scientology, and you've heard this because his letter of resignation has been posted online for all to see. I've avoided writing about this for a few days, since I wasn't entirely sure the story was legit. Haggis himself didn't release the letter, and Hollywood stories are notoriously unreliable. Did you know Zack Morris never actually died in a car accident? (Though his career did.) But this looks solid. And my immediate reaction is to congratulate Haggis on his decision to break ties with a wacky sci-fi cult. Also to please return any award he ever won for "Crash". One has little to do with the other. But in reading his letter, I have to wonder what the hell took him so long. Sure, most of us would have hit the road around the time they busted out the e-meter, so Haggis is obviously in a league of his own (plus a few tens of thousands of others). Turns out the last straw for him was in Scientology's support of California's Proposition 8 revoking marriage rights for gay couples. Horrible, to be sure, but why didn't he cut ties when the church forced his wife to not communicate with her own family? In his letter, he says that he began to lose faith in the church when they labeled his mother-in-law as an enemy and forbade communication with her. I guess he loves gay rights more than he loves his mother-in-law. (Insert Borscht Belt joke here.)

And in other news, it looks like Scientologists have been convicted of fraud in French courts. France doesn't recognize Scientology as a protected religion, and they'd been investigating claims made by former Scientologists that unfulfilled promises made about e-meter auditing sessions amounted to criminal lies. The French are probably right, both about the science of sauces and this particular case, but I wonder whether there is a bit of unfair treatment. Scientology isn't the only wacky belief that can't make good on its claims. It's not even the only one that takes money in exchange for lies. Is there that much of a difference between intergalactic volcano bombs, magic golden tablets, and people living inside whale bellies? I mean it's not like Scientology requires its members to give the church money. Oh wait, they do? Curious. More details here and here.

Baby Writing

A nine-month-old baby named Ali Yakubov appears to have Koranic verses written on his skin, which thousands of pilgrims have traveled to the southern fringes of Russia to see. According to religious leaders who've set up camp around the baby's home and act as gatekeepers from the public, a verse translating to "Be grateful to Allah" appears and disappears in pinkish script all over his body, though journalists have only seen a single letter on Ali's foot. But these same religious leaders are happy to distribute photographs of the whole verse, which looks suspiciously and nauseatingly like scratches made by a sadistic person instead of divine tattoos from God. But even assuming there's a miracle at work here, can't God think of anything more impressive than sometimes scribbling on a baby? Locals believe the verse may be a warning to Islamic extremists who are trying to turn the region into a Muslim state through the tried and true diplomatic power of suicide bombs. So wouldn't a more effective miracle involve rapturing all of the explosives in the area? Or has God turned into some kind of experimental graphic artist? More details here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Your Sunday Sermon - Polyester

Hey guys, this is Richard Peacock. Many of you don't know this, but my cousin Thaddeus is the reverend for a small church in my hometown. When he heard that I help out with this "Godless" web site, he insisted he be allowed to do a weekly sermon, to set everyone "back on the right path." So please keep in mind his views and opinions don't represent the rest of us here at AmateurScientist.
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The 1970's. *shivers*. My friends, just thinking about that decade of devilish decadence makes my skin crawl. Hello again my faithful flock, it is I, your humble shepherd, the reverend Thaddeus Peacock. And if you live your life as wickedly as those from the 70's, you're going to "Burn, baby burn." Only your "disco inferno" won't be at a spicy Latin-themed dance club, it will be in the depths of Hell! Devils be gone!!

Now my friends, there are so many sinful things which came out of the 1970's. Cocaine abuse. Row v. Wade. Ben Affleck. But there is one thing so wicked and devilish that it is specifically condemned by that most definitive of fashion publications -- the Bible! Yes, friends, I speak of the fabric which was surely woven on the Devil's loom-- Polyester!

Polyester, for those who do not know, is a fabric made by weaving together several types of artificial (ie, evil) threads. And God Himself condemns this most heinous of actions. "'Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." (Lev 19:19)

Oh friends! Give up not just your tacky polyester vests-- but also your fields where you have both corn and wheat planted, not to mention your half-dog, half-panda abominations! If I can give up those things, then anyone can.

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The Reverend Thaddeus Peacock is a licensed Churchologist with advanced degrees in Biblology, Jesusence, and Brimstoning. He may be reached by emailing his cousin Richard at richard@amateurscientist.org.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Have to Defend This Douche?

Speaking of free speech, I hate when my convictions get in the way of my general distaste for Holocaust-denying Catholic bishops. But today's one of those days. Earlier this year, Bishop Richard Williamson gave a Swedish television interview wherein he blathered on about how he didn't believe the Nazis used any gas chambers and how not all that many Jews were really killed in concentration camps. In other words, he's an idiot. But since the interview was put on the internet, it was seen in Germany. Now German courts are deciding whether Williamson should be prosecuted under their anti-Holocaust denial laws. If guilty, he'd have to pay a €12,000 fine, which at today's exchange rate, is something like $47 gazillion dollars. I think. Anyway, part of standing up for free speech is standing up for the right to say idiotic, antisemitic, and otherwise bullshitty things. Williamson believes what he does because he's an ill-informed cock, but he shouldn't be subject to fines just for saying what he believes. I wonder if anyone would support a Blasphemy Day-esque Deny the Holocaust Day to promote German free speech. Any takers? Hello? More details here.

Blasphemy Schmasphemy

For a while now, a loose coalition of mostly Muslim U.N. member nations has been trying to push through resolutions calling for limits on free speech when it comes to ridiculing religion. The U.N. Human Rights Council recently passed a non-binding resolution in support of free speech, though it also included an exception for the same kind of religious talk these nations have been opposing. Though the resolution passed unanimously, several European nations made their opposition to the religious speech clause known. But not the U.S.! America sided with Egypt in supporting the clause, spouting something about protecting the dignity of religious people. This is sort of a reversal, since the U.S. has opposed such nonsense in the past. Is this what the Nobel committee meant about Obama's power to bring people together? It should go without saying, but limited free speech isn't free speech. No one has a right to not be offended, precisely because in order to enforce that right, you have to strip the rights of others to express themselves. Once again, this is a non-binding resolution, so it doesn't really mean anything as far as concrete laws are concerned. But by supporting it, the U.S. has sided against the very freedoms upon which it was founded. Boo to that. Boo all over its smug little face. More details here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whoops-a-Jewsie!

James Ulmer is chairman of the Orangeburg County, South Carolina Republicans, and this is a picture of him in a bow tie. [pause for laughter] On Sunday, an op-ed he co-authored ran in the local newspaper, and to everyone's surprise, it wasn't arguing for an embrace of lavender sports jackets. Instead, the piece was meant to praise South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint's hardline stance about congressional earmarks. The money quote: "There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation's pennies and trying to preserve our country's wealth and our economy's viability to give all an opportunity to succeed." Hey, I can get behind that. I mean, no one likes the idea of wasting federal money on pet pro--WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT THE JEWS?? To be fair, Ulmer didn't actually say Jews are penny pinchers. He just related an old saying, presumably one heard around the burning cross when he was a youngster. But because everyone's all PC these days, he had to go and apologize for perpetuating a hurtful and conspiratorial stereotype. "I meant absolutely nothing derogatory by the reference to a great and honorable people," he said. Which is fair enough, I suppose. The idea of Jews as greedy little bastards is harmless enough as far as bigoted stereotypes go. And really, they're all probably too busy running Hollywood to notice. More details here.

The Come Hither Gene

Scientists at the University of Toronto have genetically modified fruit flies to turn them instantly into sexual gods and godesses. The flies were altered so that they could no longer produce the cuticular hydrocarbon pheromone, and the boners came pouring in. Flies without the pheromone attracted horny followers from both sexes, regardless of sexual orientation history. And some of them even tweaked the nipples of other species. Because they're apparently uncomfortable with their masculinity, the scientists simply refer to the male test subjects as "sex gods", while they compare the females to Marilyn Monroe. It's okay, scientists. You can go ahead and call the males Jon Hamms, and no one will think you're gay. Just human! And Marilyn Monroe is so last century. It's a scientific fact that the most sexually desirable woman on the face of the planet is now Christina Hendricks. More details here. And thanks to Tom for the link.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Your Sunday Sermon - The Sun Goes Round the Earth

Hey guys, this is Richard Peacock. Many of you don't know this, but my cousin Thaddeus is the reverend for a small church in my hometown. When he heard that I help out with this "Godless" web site, he insisted he be allowed to do a weekly sermon, to set everyone "back on the right path." So please keep in mind his views and opinions don't represent the rest of us here at AmateurScientist.
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My friends, welcome once again to my gentle presence. Yes, that's it, come closer... closer still... closer... Devils be gone!! Ha! Got you. Yes, my flock of sheep, it is I, your humble shepherd, the reverend Thaddeus Peacock. And it is time once again for me to scare the bejesus into you!

This past Thursday, when I would normally be setting up hidden cameras in the local gym to look for signs of homoerotic pugilism, I was taken ill by a ghastly case of the squirts. Curse that yellowed egg salad from Mrs. Jefferson! As I sat atop my Lay-z-boy, I flipped through the local television channels, and happened upon a lie more ghastly than Mrs. Jefferson's insistence that egg salad is "supposed to be that color." I happened upon a daytime drama program titled: "As the World Turns"! It showed an image of the Earth, in spherical form, spinning out in space! Devils be gone!!

For as we all know, my fluffy followers, the Bible tells us that the world is not in motion at all, but is a stationary realm in which the Sun orbits it! Look here: "Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved." (1 Chron 16:30) and here: "The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises." (Ecc 1:5) It was on the validity of these most factual versus that, hundreds of years ago, the Catholic Church correctly concluded that the homosexual/witch (assumed) Galileo was so very wrong! Hallelujah!

Oh, my friends, I was so distressed by the hideous lies on my television screen, that I had to calm myself by watching the previous week's hidden locker camera footage again and again until my humors had returned to balance. Let this be a lesson to you, dear readers. Never believe the hideous lies spread by either that heretic Galileo, or that charlatan Mrs. Jefferson.

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The Reverend Thaddeus Peacock is a licensed Churchologist with advanced degrees in Biblology, Jesusence, and Brimstoning. He may be reached by emailing his cousin Richard at richard@amateurscientist.org.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mixed Up

Look, whatever you do, don't call Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell a racist. Yes, he refuses to grant marriage licenses to interracial couples. Yes, this is the year of our Lord two thousand and nine. Yes, this sounds illegalish. But far from being a bigot, Bardwell's just looking out for the children. Specifically, mixed race children, who he believes will grow up in a society full of ridicule and torment from racists, of which he is not one. Look, he'll prove it to you. "I have piles and piles of black friends," he says. "They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else." That may not sound like much, but you've obviously not seen Bardwell's bathroom (pictured). He just doesn't believe in "mixing the races that way". Throw them all in a room together? Fine. Make them wait in line to use your marble shitter? No reason not to. Just don't allow them to enjoy the same freedoms other consenting adults enjoy. "I try to treat everyone equally," Bardwell explains. And by that, of course, he means he treats all mixed-race heathens the exact same way. Like a douche. More details here.

The Curse of Halloween

Rev. Jonathan Campbell, a Methodist minister in Northern Ireland, is appealing to his local community to cancel their plans for the annual Halloween carnival before it's too late. Rev. Campbell claims Halloween in one of the two most important nights for Satanists and that celebrating the holiday will place a curse upon the town. He's desperate to rip off Halloween's veil of fun, fancy, and innocence to expose its festering corruption of children and devilish promotion of the occult. Lest your cynicism convinces you Rev. Campbell just needs to loosen his collar and chillax, you should know that every year the effects of the Halloween curse have been felt on the town of Derry for weeks after the turn of October 31st. Fortunately, those effects seem to mostly involve an unusual concentration of candy. More details here.

I (Symbol for "Don't Understand") Vandals

President Obama has been mistaken for many things: a Kenyan, an Indonesian, a socialist, a Muslim, a terrorist, a transformative figure of hope and change. And like anyone who's disliked by a large group of people, he's also been mistaken for a Nazi, since "Nazi" is as ubiquitous an insult in politics as "doo-doo head" is on the playground. I think the "Obama is a Nazi" idea is what some vandals were trying to get across when they carved "I [swastika] Obama" into a Boston area country club's golf course earlier this week, but I really can't be sure. "Swastika", you see, isn't a verb. Unless these people fashioned a metal shuriken in the shape of the Nazi symbol, used their ninja stealth to infiltrate the White House, and planted a pointy calling card between the president's shoulder blades, I don't see how they could have swastikaed anyone. Not that it makes any grammatical sense, but this graffiti also has a sort of familial tone. It's almost as if these vandals believe Obama is a Nazi and want to show that they're right there with him. Apropos of seemingly nothing, some have wondered whether the "I" actually stands for "Israel". "Israel [swastika] Obama"? Please be more clear next time, insane dipshits. More details here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Idiocy is a Choice

Oh, Republicans. Even when I agree with you, I still think you're batshit insane. Case in point: House Republican Leader John Boehner (pronounced "Hard-cock"), who defended his opposition to new hate crimes legislation by claiming that while homosexuality is a choice, religion is not. Let me clarify for those of you who don't speak moron. A new hate crimes bill sailing through congress would allow the federal government to prosecute crimes motivated by sexual orientation bigotry in addition to the protections already afforded for crimes based on race, religion, and nationality. Like Rep. Erection (R - His Own Ass), I'm also opposed to this legislation. I believe that it's unnecessary, since it's already illegal to both assault and murder people for just about any reason. Like the ACLU, I also think it's a dangerous infringement on free thought, since it provides stiffer penalties for people who happen to hold racist, homophobic, or otherwise douchebaggy beliefs. And I don't think there's a real need for it considering the fact that the people who committed hate crimes against the two victims after which the legislation is named (Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr.) were all successfully prosecuted under existing laws without any need for federal involvement. But while Rep. Woody agrees with me on hate crimes legislation equating to thought crimes legislation, he also holds the intellectually conflicting view that hate crimes laws should protect religious belief, since religion is an "immutable characteristic". In other words, you choose which naked genitals make your nipples hard, but you don't choose which church you drive to every Sunday. Like I said, Rep. John Pants-tent is batshit insane. More details here.

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