Remembering The Skeptical Review

I stumbled across an online article originally published in The Skeptical Review, a print newsletter that turned into a digital edition. The publisher J. Farrell Till has since passed but the site is still up and if you’re nostalgic for old sites like I am, it’s worth a visit. I actually have a couple of the print editions from way back in the day–The 90s! 1996 is around the time when I had discarded my faith in favor of reason. The site also retains the kind of web design you would see in the 90s.

Check out The Skeptical Review at theskepticalreview.com.

The Main Menu button (remember buttons?) will take you to an archive of articles.

Ray Comfort, Marketing To The Deluded

I’ve been getting Twitter recommendations on what their algorithm thinks might interest me and Ray Comfort is popping up regularly with the promotion of his movie The Atheist Delusion, a take on Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion.

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The theme of the marketing and the movie is apparently destroying a person’s lack of belief with one devastating question. I guess Ray is attempting to be humorous (?) with this ad and other tag lines, but I’ve never known someone Christian or Atheist to be  so susceptible to influence that it only takes one question to change their mind. In the era of social media and online debates, I would say it’s intellectually insulting to both sides of the debate. It’s also unlikely Ray knows what science is. But I guess from the perspective of Twitter wars and YouTube takedowns and Facebook brawls, it’s all in good fun. Let’s just remember that if Ray truly believes in a sky god and a literal interpretation of The Bible then the delusion is all his.

To be fair, as this is going to be released on YouTube, video YouTubers like to use hyperbole to get our attention, including atheists with vid titles like: “Most Brutal Hitch Slap Ever!” “Neil deGrasse Tyson Destroys Bill O’ Reilly!” And on and on.

However, per Ray Comfort’s ad, about Atheism’s days being numbered, atheists and others who identify as unbelievers are on the rise. It may be time to just accept that the world is changing and it’s moving away from “assumed truth” into a healthy debate about what is actually true and what is not and what it means to be a Christian. Ray should realize his brand of Christianity is fading away. I thought for him and his fundie ilk that this would be a good thing because the more unbelievers and “fake Christians” there are would mean that The End Days would be upon us. Him and Kirk Cameron can fly up into the sky and thank God for making bananas so easy to peel.

The Last Thing Brussels Needs Is Prayer

Prayer isn’t going to help Brussels on the latest Islamofascist attack on The West. If there is a god, he/she/it is incompetent or doesn’t care (or, let’s be honest, doesn’t exist). We need less call to prayer and a larger call to promoting unbelief so that we reduce adherents willing to kill themselves for a mythical afterlife; and then subsequently we will produce individuals who will help win against the religious propaganda war.

There is an unprecedented opportunity to integrate Muslims into Western culture due to the refugee crisis from Syria and allow for an introduction to secularization and most importantly the idea of “doubt.” It does not have to be forced, freedom of religion should be held in high regard, but if Europe and the United States can do their part we may have a second or third generation of Muslims who either will liberalize their faith in favor of a progressive society or may abandon their faith altogether.

A very idealistic notion I agree, but as I continually hear from our politicians that we should keep the people of Brussels in our “thoughts and prayers” and then at the same time I hear for calls to ban Syrian refugees or even ban all Muslims from the United States I think of how futile that is. Forget the prayers to absent ears! Let’s welcome Muslim refugees and show them a better way…a road to becoming secular Muslims and ex-Muslims. The elimination of the kind of radical belief that ISIS generates is not going to disappear in my lifetime, but exponentially we can, person by person, put in place the efforts needed to eradicate it in the future.

My heart goes out to Brussels just as it went out to Paris. And it breaks my heart to see that the terrorists are creating the kind of xenophobia and holy war thinking that they intended. Imagine there is no god and think of how utterly stupid all this killing is in the name of nothing.

Trump Chicago Rally And Free Speech

Trump is a dick. I think even some of his supporters would agree, which is why they think he can take on Hillary. And I would add that I think he’s a “xenophobic-narcissistic-lie-at-any-cost-opportunist-dick.” But I’m bothered by the protests that have resulted in some incidents of violence and the shut down of the Trump rally in Chicago on Friday, March 11th.

The reason being is that the protesters are coming inside the event and disrupting it versus a protest outside the event or even a counter rally on the same night. Per CNN,”Hundreds of demonstrators packed into an arena, breaking out into protest even before Trump had shown up.” This is what eventually led to law enforcement conferring with the Trump campaign and he agreed to shut it down for the safety of all involved.

When it was announced that the venue would be moved to a later date, the protestors inside were chanting “We shut shit down.” Yes, but did you have a right to? Did your strategy just embolden the Trump base and add new members? The one thing Americans hate is when they feel someone has been censored and therefore the censorship validates the candidate. He must be important if “they” are willing to shut his speech down.

Free speech in America is about allowing for “shit” including Trump. The aim of any protest should be to counter the rhetoric, not censor it or shut it down. So when the question comes up of who is instigating the violence as the media has been showing the now famous sucker punch landing on a black protestor…well? It seems to be the far left goading the right into becoming so frustrated with disruptions and the recent shut down that they start swinging. When you take away their free speech (their candidate’s ability to speak) what do they have left? Violence! And according to CNN, on Friday night the left was swinging back too. Hardly the nonviolent Civil Rights protests that we’ve come to admire from the past.

I can’t condone the self-congragulatory chanting much like I can’t condone Black Lives Matters disrupting rallies by Bernie and Hillary. And I’m not condoning that sucker punch or any violence by Trumpites or Trump’s line about how back in the day you could punch protestors and carrying them out on stretchers. Like I said, Trump is a dick and I think he has attracted this volcanic atmosphere and is loving it, but he has the right to be heard. And if the best idea protestors have is to shut down his rallies causing concerns for safety then that doesn’t sound like free speech to me. It sounds like a losing strategy for elevating Trump to a false martyr status amongst Republicans, Independents and maybe even some moderate Democrats.

BTW: Trump rallies as far as I have read are a mix of first-come-first-in-the-door. Tickets are available but don’t guarantee a seat. And there are rules given to attendees as it is considered a private event by the candidate. Signs, banners, etc are prohibited in advance. If protestors wanted to be clever they could silently come in, take a seat and wear T-shirts with “Elect Bernie.” I’m all for being subversive. Where I take exception is when protestors prevent a candidate from speaking at his own event. The far left is notorious for shutting down speech because I fear they can’t handle the concept.

Utah Votes Porn Is A Problem…Because They Keep Watching It!

The Utah Senate has voted that porn is a public health crisis for their state. Why? Maybe because Harvard research shows that Utah consumes it so much they top the the list. PC World gave them the embarrassing title of “Online Porn Capital Of America.”

SCR9, the resolution approving porn is a menace, doesn’t actually do anything specific. It’s simply a declaration. Utah senator Todd Weiler would like to treat porn much like they do tobacco or alcohol as they say it’s a health risk due to recent scientific findings. I guess that means they’re going to put a special tax on Utah citizens whenever they visit a porn site?

I’m not sure what research Todd is referring to, but if he knows anything about the history of declaring porn a menace he might want to do some reading. There is no conclusive evidence that porn is solely harmful. The presidential commission in 1970 could not find anything substantial and the same was true for the 1985 Meese Commission. Fact is, the Meese Commission was worried about the spread of porn via VHS tapes (remember VHS?) and predicted we would have an eventual epidemic on our hands if it wasn’t curbed. …Could they even fathom Internet porn? We have more porn, more varieties of porn and more ease of access to porn than ever–and America hasn’t ended! So much for the link to rape, depravity, and violence that fundamentalists and feminists thought would run rampant.

I don’t want to say there aren’t any ill effects to porn. There’s good and bad with any “product.” But if Utah is now the capital of online consumption of porn they should look in their own backyard to see why? Because wouldn’t porn be the symptom and not the cause? Sexual repression, outdated family values, unhappy marriages, church hype on how one spouse is supposed to fulfill all your desires? It seems the more religiously conservative a person is the more likely they will secretly watch porn or commit adultery or be caught with a hooker.

BTW: SCR9 declares porn a public health hazard? I wonder how far a state can reach into the private sex lives of individuals when something is declared as such?

 

Hitler Had A Small Dick

A joke about compensating would be obvious, but, according to Fox News Health, Hitler had a genital deformity called Hypospadius. Sufferers have a urethra that opens up on the underside of the penis which is often accompanied by another abnormality, an undescended testicle. Historians, based on medical records, do say Hitler had a ball that did not drop and a small dick.

Problems associated with the condition are spraying while urinating or having to sit down to pee, and sexual intercourse. The article says Hitler ‘s personal doctor Theodor Morell prescribed “hormones, amphetamines and cocaine.” Exactly the kind of stuff you want an egomaniac racist to ingest.

The more you read about Adolph Hitler the more you find how inferior he was to any concept of a master race both physically and mentally. Of course, no one can help the way they were born, but that’s the point–you don’t go and kill six million Jews because your penis is small and pees funny. That’s a dick thing to do.

John Kasich, Not So Moderate

While one is tempted to say all Republicans are extreme in the current campaign, John Kasich was looking like the moderate. Maybe “moderate” in an extremist environment is comparing the lesser of two evils.

Per CNN, Kasich has signed a bill for his home state of Ohio that will block an estimated one million in funding to Planned Parenthood because they perform abortion services. The bill doesn’t take into account that Planned Parenthood also provides health services for women including testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, health screenings and domestic violence prevention.

Planned Parenthood is not the only provider affected, any nonprofit clinic that offers abortion services will also be barred from funding. But the tactic does fall in step with the Republican effort to target Planned Parenthood following the faked videos by anti-abortionist activist David Daleiden who intended to prove the organization illegally sells fetal body parts. He has since admitted the video was a fraud in his own convoluted way. For him, the ends justified the means.

Bernie In Seattle; Let Him Speak, Speech Bullies

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I was disappointed to see that Bernie Sanders had his speaking time taken away from him in Washington State by the Black Lives Matters crowd, Seattle division, at Westlake Park. I’m not sure I would vote for him or agree with all his proposals (free stuff is often too good to be true), but it was his turn to speak and, with the exception of Trump (whether you like his buffoonish comments or not), he seems to speak his mind. Plus, if anyone is going to be open to the demands of Black Lives Matter it’s going to be him. By interrupting him, I believe the black women who took over the stage were working against their best interests and the best interests of the African American community who want these issues to continue to be addressed by the next president.

Politics  is about compromise and negotiation (and bribery doesn’t hurt either) and forcing Bernie and the crowd to listen to an unscheduled speech plus demanding a moment of silence for Michael Brown was censorship and insincerity  (the social issue was more important than the actual death, it’s like forcing people to pray because they happen to be at church). Remember, they refused to let Bernie speak while grabbing the mic away from him, it wasn’t a shout-out prior to him taking the stage or a request to debate him. And Bernie’s camp finally capitulated instead of forcing these protesters off the stage (considering the situation, it might have been detrimental to his campaign to have that scene on video).

Plus, if we’re going to give 4.5 minutes of silence to Michael Brown, what about the other black victims of police brutality they forgot? Should we be forced to spend hours in moments of silence? And what about the nonblack victims, including other races, gender or the LGBT community? Do they get to grab the mic from Bernie too or any politician scheduled to speak? Right, Bernie is such a big liberal bigot that he didn’t ask the police to remove the speech bullies–because they knew he wouldn’t. All they did was pick on the nice guy who had the most to lose from this situation if he did kick them off. They picked on the most left leaning politician in the two-party presidential race?

Yes, black lives matter and, yes, police brutality is an important issue–which is making great strides this year in awareness and action. It’s great to see! But it’s not the only issue the country is facing and you don’t get to grab the mic away from potential presidents we want to hear to give your own speech. Your issue–even an important one–doesn’t entitle you to someone else’s platform. Create your own damn forum. The black women interpreted the booing from what was apparently a majority white “liberal” audience as racist instead of what was obvious frustration with not being able to hear the speaker they came to listen to (and Seattle traffic is a bitch to get through to go to any event!). If a gay white man grabbed the mic at a Black Lives Matter “official” speaking event (or any black speaking event) to protest how the gay community is still demonized by the overall black community then I suppose he could call the primarily black audience a bunch of homophobic bigots for hissing at his interruption.

I embrace protesting, I embrace free speech even when it’s thrust in my face downtown. But this was childish behavior. I’m tired of leftist speech bullies.

John Ellis Magic Water Ad In Popular Science

Seeing as how I was pissed off at BET for promoting Peter Popoff (the faith healer) and his exploitation of African American viewership, I think it only fair to mention a similar advertising pitch found regularly in Popular Science.  You’ll either see a  quarter page ad or this full page ad displayed below, and if it happened once I would chalk it up to the advertising department of the magazine taking the money and hoping no actual science enthusiasts would notice or not bother to complain.

But this is a recurring ad. I’ve complained once to the editor and posted a small rant on one of my personal cartooning sites, however, that site isn’t read as much as Freethunk. Because I still have a subscription I just received the new issue and again saw the ad thus prompting me to post it here.

I’m certainly not naive that my complaint is a drop in the bucket, but I’m hoping other science readers, regardless of religious persuasion, we’ll see this ad for what it is–an outright hoax! It’s understandable that a magazine, especially one that may not have a mass appeal, will take smoking ads, ads for sex pills and even the recurring ad in the back for free books and DVDS regarding the Anti-Christ. As an atheist I could say the Anti-Christ is a hoax too, but really it’s a mythology and I don’t see a scientific claim associated with it. Science enthusiasts are not all atheists and if they want to read about religion, fine by me. For the cigarette and vaping ads, they have large disclaimers on their ill-effects and the health risks are well-known. For the sex ads, the claims can be hyped to a certain extent, but Viagra will get you hard and they are required to place all sort of medical disclaimers by the FDA.

The John Ellis magic water ad is different then the rest and I believe it is dangerous to consumers and damaging to Popular Science’s reputation. The main claim of the ad? To increase the water properties back to pre-Flood (the biblical flood) times. This is apparently done by increasing the “Hydrogen Bond Angle (HBA) in ordinary water from 104 to 114 degrees.” In plain English, the claim is that if you drink John Ellis water you will live longer and your body will be younger (similar to the people who lived long lives before The Flood).  To further clarify in plain English, this is B.S.. Changing the bond angle of water molecules or altering water to match a pre-flood era (as if you could know what that is from a religious text) is not going to make you live longer. It’s no better than a placebo.

It’s extremely disappointing to see this ad in Popular Science. Fact is, it’s shameful. I’m sure with the rise of the Internet print has been pressured to take advertising from any and every source. But just as I would not expect Popular Science to accept an ad promoting “Nazi Eugenics For Societal Health” or “Alchemy Kit Will Make Make You Rich” or “Psychic Surgery Cruise To Heal Cancer,” I would not expect them to allow the Ellis magic water ad. Advertising is always a compromise, but I’m increasingly getting tired of it with scientific resources that do not use discretion. Admittedly, it’s harder to control with online advertising (click ads that rotate are very random) and I could see dismissing an Ellis water ad that was funneled in via Google advertising–but again, this is print! There’s no mistake, the ad was accepted with full knowledge of what it claims.

If Popular Science magazine needs to go the way of the dinosaur because it cannot support the print edition with reasonable advertising compromises (the cigarette ads, the alcohol and sex ads, the religious literature, etc) then so be it. I have to draw the line at this hoax. I’m receiving renewal notices now from PS and will be ignoring them. There are too many options to be scientifically informed to justify rewarding Popular Science with a magazine renewal.

To contact the Popular Science editor, here is the email address: letters@popsci.com

However, I don’t think it will do as much good as either linking to this article or creating your own article or a Facebook or other social media entry. Commercial enterprises don’t listen until they realize their target audience is ticked off  at something they are doing and will eventually cause a drop in readership. I guess Popular Science can go the way of Discovery Channel Networks and start reporting on Bigfoot, aliens, ghosts and psychic phenomena. There’s always going to be more money found when placating the gullible.

There’s a nice overview of the hoax at Chem1.com.

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