atheist news feeds

Amazon’s next attempt at world domination

Pharyngula - December 1, 2013 - 9:30pm

They’re going to be doing deliveries by drone.

I don’t think I’ll live close enough to a distribution center for these to come buzzing by my house, so I’m not going to worry about them yet. I’m am remembering that in my younger days I was a deadly shot with a slingshot…I may have to start practicing.

I might change my pessimism about fleets of drones flitting about overhead, if they’re actually shown to represent an energy savings.

Categories: Our friends


Pharyngula - December 1, 2013 - 9:12pm
So I watched this show with Anderson Cooper’s name on it; he didn’t bother to show up, so maybe he has some sense of shame. It was dreadful. It was three anecdotes about people who had experienced serious trauma, and then invented lovely narratives about a happy afterlife to make themselves feel better, or to justify their prior religious beliefs. There was no fact-checking. It was just these three women getting interviewed and telling unverifiable accounts of events that happened while they were unconscious. First woman: She claims to have “died” in a kayaking accident in Chile. Her kayak was pinned underwater by a rock; she describes all of her sensations, including her legs breaking when her friends dislodged the boat and she was torn free by the current. Her friends were frantic, yet she’s happy to claim that they accurately described the passage of time, and that she was under water and deprived of oxygen for 30 minutes. She said she “gave herself up to god”, was visiting spirits/angels/whatever while resuscitation was attempted, and that she had a conversation with Jesus who told her she had to go back to take care of her husband. Her husband was later diagnosed with lung cancer. Thanks, Jesus! Also, she’s flogging a book Verdict: completely unverified account of a “death”. This was a religious woman who experienced a serious trauma, and who had also experienced the death of a child and wanted to believe that there was a purpose to life. It was a wish-fulfillment fantasy. CNN’s verdict: “Amazing”. Not one word of doubt about anything in the account. Christian Mingles is advertising on this show, of course. Second woman: Child growing up in Hong Kong, of Indian descent. A friend dies of cancer, and she becomes paranoid; she later is diagnosed herself with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She deteriorates under treatment, and later lapses into a coma. Claims to have heard...
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Atheist 'mega-churches' take root across US, world - Colorado Springs Gazette

"Atheist" in google news - December 1, 2013 - 8:12pm

Belfast Telegraph

Atheist 'mega-churches' take root across US, world
Colorado Springs Gazette
Nearly three dozen gatherings dubbed "atheist mega-churches" by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the U.S. and Australia - with more to come - after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement, fueled by social media ...
DUP MP criticises first Northern Ireland meeting of atheist 'church'Belfast Telegraph

all 2 news articles »
Categories: Atheist News

Finally! A special episode of Doctor Who I’d enjoy!

Pharyngula - December 1, 2013 - 6:14pm
Oh, wait. There’s another one: The Carnival of Evolution has a Doctor Who theme this month.
Categories: Our friends

Sunday Faith: Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists focus on positive ... - The Province

"Atheist" in google news - December 1, 2013 - 1:11pm

The Province

Sunday Faith: Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists focus on positive ...
The Province
Jeff Gruban in his Abbotsford home. Gruban does not believe in God and does not call himself an atheist. ABBOTSFORD, B.C. : NOVEMBER 21, 2013 - Jeff Gruban with some of his books, November 21st, in his Abbotsford home. Gruban does not believe in ...

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Categories: Atheist News

Piety masked with scholarship is particularly revolting

Pharyngula - November 30, 2013 - 5:03pm

I know professors of English. I like professors of English, and can respect their work. But then some professors of English publish total rubbish like this, and it’s facepalm time.

Jesus’ resurrection: What really happened?

This scholar’s interpretation navigates between the perils of realism and fundamentalism

Read the whole thing, if you can stomach it. There’s no navigation at all; there’s nothing but totally credulous acceptance of much embellished legend, treated as if it were fact. Take the opening story, for example:

The burial of Jesus took place in haste, in keeping with Jewish law, as commanded in Deuteronomy 21:22-23: “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hange him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day.” One can only imagine the eagerness of those who loved Jesus to remove his body from the cross, a position of extreme exposure and embarrassment, and to lay it gently in a crypt, safe from mocking Roman eyes. At last, the torture was over.

Having acquired permission to take charge of the body, Joseph of Arimathea wrapped it carefully in fine linens and, with the help of Nicodemus, put it in a crypt hewn from rock not far from the site of the execution on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Nicodemus had brought a mixture of embalming spices: aloes and myrrh.

“One can only imagine…” Yes, that is the one true phrase in the whole mess. It’s all built up out of imagination. We have no contemporary accounts of the death of this person, Jesus; we don’t even have reliable sources for the existence of the person at all. Yet here this Parini fellow is reciting speculative BS about how people were feeling during events that may not have happened at all.

Maybe, to Parini, navigating between realism and fundamentalism means avoiding both and dwelling on kitschy rose-colored portrayals of fantasy events?

Huge questions confront anyone thinking about Jesus. Did he really rise from the dead? Was there an actual Resurrection? If so, what would that look like? A large number of Christians throughout history have imagined a resuscitation, refusing to countenance the slightest hint that the Resurrection should be regarded as something beyond human understanding. I myself would argue this: life and death are mysterious, at best, and the membrane between the living and the dead is a porous one, perilously thin. Jesus rose from the dead, the scriptures say. I see no reason to doubt this. And yet a literalistic belief in the Resurrection cannot be, as many fundamentalist churches insist, the only important part of the “good news” of Christianity. The message of God’s love in operation in the world trumps everything and must be regarded as the necessary extension of the idea of rebirth, the social basis for true spiritual enlightenment. Nowhere more so than here does it matter that we find a proper balance between the literal and the figurative, giving full weight to the concrete meaning while relishing the mythic contours of the story.

He has no reason to doubt a magical account of a god-man rising from the dead 2,000 years ago? Really? No reason at all? Does he have a brain in his head? Perhaps I have no reason to believe that.

I can appreciate the difference between literal and figurative, like the difference between science and art, but sometimes there is no concrete meaning to balance, and the best answer is rejection of the nonsense, rather than wallowing in it.

We’re going to be seeing a lot of this pious bullshit in this month before Christmas, aren’t we?

Categories: Our friends

Canadians are so adorably awkward

Pharyngula - November 30, 2013 - 1:24pm

They have conservatives up there, too. And here’s one, Brian Pallister, trying to be nice to atheists.

Categories: Our friends

Not the best way to start the morning…

Pharyngula - November 30, 2013 - 11:40am

…discovering that I’ve been cited in the Daily Mail. They picked up on my criticism of the MFAP hypothesis, and illustrated it with a photo of a slender naked woman.

I’ll hang my head in shame the rest of the day.

But at least they got the story right, and quoted extensively from my article that ridiculed the idea that humans are the product of ape-pig hybridization.

Categories: Our friends

Tell 10: Atheist billboards, the knockout game and hair -

"Atheist" in google news - November 29, 2013 - 10:45pm

Tell 10: Atheist billboards, the knockout game and hair
pubId=35121343001 Tell 10: Atheist billboards, the knockout game and hair In Tell 10 for Nov. 29, 2013: Viewers call about atheist billboards, the knockout game and hair color. tell10 Must Watch weather covered california local kids News KXTV 02:54 ...

Categories: Atheist News

Black and White Psychology: The Mental Underpinnings of Fundamentalism

Crackpot Chronicle - November 29, 2013 - 9:02pm



Written by Johnny O’Coileain

Editor, Crackpot Chronicle/ONUN




One of our readers, Douglas, asked a brilliant question that was voted as this week’s article topic. His question was:

“How many of the ‘fundamental-underpinnings’ (as practiced by ‘Fundamentalists’) of a religious-system can one disbelieve/ignore and still reasonably call themselves a member of that religious-system-?”

With religion in general, it varies based on the ideological purity requirements of different sects. Just like with religious systems in general, you have varying degrees of dogmatism, ranging from mostly accepting, to jumping off the mental cliff without a parachute. But in narrowing it down to the wording of the question, we’re speaking of fundamentalists.

Such individuals, at least in the American renditions, over-focus on ideological purity more than others. If the standard of belief even deviates slightly, what you think is automatically wrong. In theory, the room for error, differing interpretations, or views, have zero room to exist. Some general characteristics that come to mind are:

Strict Black-and-White thinking. This idea underpins how the rest of their thinking flows. The world, in their eyes, has no gray areas. This is why complex philosophical ideas, variables, or evolving scientific notions, elude them. If there are gaps in knowledge, it must be filled, even with imaginary concrete. If ideas or things can’t be strictly placed, then the idea is always wrong, not them. It’s a thought process championed by simpletons and the uneducated. Life, we know, is black, white, and gray.

Biblical literalism. This version of the Black-and-White thought process follows that if reality, laws, beliefs, or anything, doesn’t conform to the Bible, it’s inherently wrong. It’s another symptom of fundamentalist thought.

In-groups vs. out-groups. This is a sociological version of Black-and-White thinking. There are social groups that “get it,” and those who are deviants, evil, immoral, heretics, gays, ect. Pick your out-group, because they have many. This is where black and white lines are drawn along social borders that distinguish the Chosen Few vs. the atrocious many on the wrong side of Heaven. Those that strictly adhere to Biblical literalism via black and white thinking, are those favored by the Divine. Everyone else is an enemy against righteousness.

Anti-intellectualism. This term applies in the world of competing ideas. With philosophy, science, and other religions, it takes intellectual thought to explore and consider them. This invariably requires taking your mind to the next level through questioning and exploring. It also liberates you from  the black and white electric fence used by the cerebral concentration camp of Fundamentalism. The possibility of competing ideas about existence is something they’ll never tolerate.

Such people think in terms of well defined, rigid, unwavering boundaries. The answer to Douglas’s question (in a general sense) might be one answer as to why different versions of the same religion exist. When one group within a sect dares to be different, they violate the ideological purity of that group. A splintering effect happens and they start a new strain founded on their deviations. It’s evolution in a sociological way. Fundamentalist interpretations are extremely ‘down to the letter’.

Logic appears to dictate that if a person’s views differ even minutely, they can’t reasonably call themselves a member of that sect. They have mentally become something different than the party line. In a given fundamentalist group, all of their underpinnings must be accepted, otherwise you’re in violation. To them God sets strict rules that require strict adherence, which includes their unique interpretations.

What we see in the psychology of Fundamentalism is identical to that of modern Fascism. It’s the same primordial impulse that finds its expression in different ways. Traditional religions, or political religions like Stalinism or Nazism, represent just a few social outlets. With that, I’ll conclude this writing with a penetrating quote from George Orwell:

“A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened.”

Sunday Assembly 'Atheist Church' Provokes Criticism - Huffington Post

"Atheist" in google news - November 29, 2013 - 7:21pm

Sunday Assembly 'Atheist Church' Provokes Criticism
Huffington Post
“We get called the 'atheist church,' but we are really all the best bits of church but with no religion,” he said, darting his lanky form up and down the aisle, arms flapping like some excitable exotic bird. “Our vision is to help people live the best ...

Categories: Atheist News

A tragedy in Morris

Pharyngula - November 29, 2013 - 2:30pm

I have learned that the university bookstore in Morris has completely sold out of all copies of The Happy Atheist. I know, rural residents of western Minnesota, you were hoping to pick up a few pallet loads to give out as Christmas presents this year, and you were planning to drive in to town with your pickup trucks to get them today, on Black Friday. I’m sorry to disappoint you.

Like much of the rest of the world, you’ll have to order them online. They do make entirely appropriate gifts, especially if you’ve got one of those annoying relatives who always gives out religiously-themed presents.

Categories: Our friends

Atheists sink to new depths of depravity!

Pharyngula - November 29, 2013 - 11:36am

Ken Ham has a new post up about how evil atheists really are.

It seems like atheists will go to pretty extreme lengths to combat the words of a God they don’t even believe exists.

Uh-oh. What have we done now? Beheaded people? Tossed them in prison for believing? Stoned them to death? Persecuted people who don’t practice sex exactly as we do? Demanded legislation to allow us to demand that everyone use contraception?

No. Worse.

A recent article from the Religion News Service reports, “Atheists use a popular Bible app to evangelize about unbelief.” The article contains interviews with a number of young atheists who have chosen to use YouVersion, one of the most popular apps around, as a way of trying to shake the faith of Christians.

That’s right! We’re reading the Bible!

He goes on to whine about atheists using “supposed contradictions” and how they’re supposed to use a “literal translation”. The implication is that it is young naive atheists who don’t understand the deepities of the Bible who are doing this, but as always, Ingersoll was there first, and he knew exactly what an evil book the Bible was.

Ministers wonder how I can be wicked enough to attack the Bible.

I will tell them: This book, the Bible, has persecuted, even unto death, the wisest and the best. This book stayed and stopped the onward movement of the human race. This book poisoned the fountains of learning and misdirected the energies of man.

This book is the enemy of freedom, the support of slavery. This book sowed the seeds of hatred in families and nations, fed the flames of war, and impoverished the world. This book is the breastwork of kings and tyrants — the enslaver of women and children. This book has corrupted parliaments and courts. This book has made colleges and universities the teachers of error and the haters of science. This book has filled Christendom with hateful, cruel, ignorant and warring sects. This book taught men to kill their fellows for religion’s sake.

This book funded the Inquisition, invented the instruments of torture, built the dungeons in which the good and loving languished, forged the chains that rusted in their flesh, erected the scaffolds whereon they died. This book piled fagots about the feet of the just. This book drove reason from the minds of millions and filled the asylums with the insane.

This book has caused fathers and mothers to shed the blood of their babes. This book was the auction block on which the slave- mother stood when she was sold from her child. This book filled the sails of the slave-trader and made merchandise of human flesh. This book lighted the fires that burned “witches” and “wizards.” This book filled the darkness with ghouls and ghosts, and the bodies of men and women with devils. This book polluted the souls of men with the infamous dogma of eternal pain. This book made credulity the greatest of virtues, and investigation the greatest of crimes. This book filled nations with hermits, monks and nuns — with the pious and the useless. This book placed the ignorant and unclean saint above the philosopher and philanthropist. This book taught man to despise the joys of this life, that he might be happy in another — to waste this world for the sake of the next.

I attack this book because it is the enemy of human liberty — the greatest obstruction across the highway of human progress.

Let me ask the ministers one question: How can you be wicked enough to defend this book?

Well, we all know…Ken Ham is pretty damned wicked.

Categories: Our friends

Anderson Cooper is going to be embarrassing, I bet

Pharyngula - November 29, 2013 - 11:19am

Brace yourselves. The heaven brigade is going to get another whirl on the mass media carousel.

AC360° Special report Sunday

"To Heaven and Back" airs Sunday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. E.T. Randi Kaye meets three people who were on the brink of death, when they say they left this world for another.

I’ll probably tune in to cringe. It’s good timing, though: after watching Anderson Cooper give attention to the silly people who claim to have gone to heaven, I’ll flip channels to watch The Walking Dead, which will be slightly more credible.

Categories: Our friends

The Pope Emeritus and the Questioning Atheist - Catholic World Report

"Atheist" in google news - November 29, 2013 - 11:06am

The Pope Emeritus and the Questioning Atheist
Catholic World Report
Left: Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, in March 2013 (CNS photo/L'Os servatore Romano via Reuters). Right: Italian professor and atheist, Piergiorgio Odifreddi, in December 2012 (Niccolò ...

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Categories: Atheist News

Friday Cephalopod: Black Friday

Pharyngula - November 29, 2013 - 10:31am

In Medias Res

Vampyroteuthis would like you to know that it is forgivable that you visit Walmart or any of the other greedy big box stores today in search of bargains; however, the retailers who exploit their workers and gin up scarcity and treat the desperate poor as targets are going to someday find themselves dying cold, dark, hypoxic deaths, and the grim clammy bleak squid of their conscience will rise up to drag them down into oblivion. Live humanely while you can. They wait.

Categories: Our friends

Belated retraction of Seralini’s bad anti-GMO paper

Pharyngula - November 29, 2013 - 10:17am

Last year, the Elsevier journal Food and Chemical Toxicology by Gilles Seralini and others that purported to show that rats fed genetically modified corn were more prone to get cancer. The cranks loved it; Mike Adams thought it was great, it was touted on the Dr Oz show (I don’t know why they were concerned; these are the people who think cancer can be cured with herbs, urine, and drinking hydrogen peroxide).

But right from the beginning, scientists were appalled — not by the conclusion, but by the incredibly shoddy protocol used by the researchers. Biofortified went through the paper, step by step; would you believe that in a study with a control group and multiple experimental groups fed on GMO corn, the authors did not use any statistical tests to tell if there was a significant difference between any of the groups?

Let that sink in.

Here’s the first figure from the paper, and Ashley Ng’s breakdown of the data.

In the study, Figure 1 shows Kaplan Meier plots the number of rat deaths by “control group” and other “treatment groups”.

What do these mean? Well, not much because the authors failed to use a statistical test to tell if there was a difference between the control groups and treatment groups.

This is important, as all their claims relate to the incidence of cancers (and other “diseases”) in the “treatment group” compared to the “control group”. These comparisons can only be made if a statistical test shows that what you observe is not happening by chance.

Still on Figure 1, we see that several “treatment groups” of male rats receiving GM NK603 corn (the 22% group and 33% group) actually had fewer cancers than the male control group.

Similarly, a treatment group of male rats receiving 33% GM corn and Roundup had no difference to the control group, and two treatment groups receiving Roundup (A and C) had the same or less incidence of cancer compared with the control group.

I just eyeball the data, and what I see is typical noisy cancer mortality data (these are rats with a genetic predisposition to get cancer: 70% of males and 87% of females get it.) The one thing that would have looked significant to me is the higher likelihood of females coming down with cancer…but that’s a predilection already built into the strain. The problem is compounded by very small ns — there were only 20 rats in each group. I wouldn’t be surprised if the researchers had done some statistical analysis, but didn’t report it because the paltry statistical power of their study meant nothing was significant.

At the time the paper came out, Carl Zimmer also raised holy hell because it was another case of science by press conference. There were all kinds of complaints by scientists about the study, but journalists who got the paper in advance had to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibited them from consulting with experts — they were expected to flounder about in the dark and simply accept what they were told.

Here’s a little good news, though: the paper is being retracted. The editor-in-chief of the journal has made a rather weasely statement denying any wrong-doing by the authors, but that the paper is being retracted solely because of the ambiguity of the results.

Unequivocally, the Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. However, there is legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer-review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.

He then goes on to praise the peer-review system, which is weird, because here’s a paper with huge obvious holes that fell right through the system. And furthermore, it’s a paper with gigantic political implications — right now, it is the linchpin of anti-GMO movements around the world — and should have gotten extra-careful scrutiny.

Jon Entine at Forbes has an especially thorough dissection of the implications of the paper. It reveals that other problems have emerged.

“The study appeared to sweep aside all known benchmarks of scientific good practice and, more importantly, to ignore the minimal standards of scientific and ethical conduct in particular concerning the humane treatment of experimental animals,” concluded a prominent group of scientists in Transgenic Review. They noted the rats in the study were exposed to extreme and unnecessary cruelty. None of the results depended on the size of their tumors or how long they lived after the tumor appeared. This unethical treatment of animals was a direct violation of accepted research protocol and was by itself grounds for the article being rejected initially or withdrawn.

It was rather peculiar that the paper reported only on mortality. They were studying the appearance of cancer, so a more relevant and direct measure would have been to assess by the appearance of tumors of a particular size, and then to humanely euthanize severely affected animals. This study had them languish in a cage until they died and could be scored. There was no description of the cancers in the control group! They did seem to have a number of rats with huge, grossly disfiguring tumors that were handy for photo ops, though.

So it was a terrible, sloppy paper with gaping deficiencies that somehow slipped past peer review but made scientists gape in surprise when they finally saw it published, and it’s finally being retracted. But too late: anti-GMO propagandists are now seeing the retraction as a sign that there is a conspiracy to Hide the Truth™, and are using the efforts to apply standards of evidence to the work as proof that Big Science is out to give everyone cancer.

Categories: Our friends

Atheist billboard campaign to counter religious displays - KIRO Seattle

"Atheist" in google news - November 29, 2013 - 8:58am

Atheist billboard campaign to counter religious displays
KIRO Seattle
"Remember the reason for the season.” It's a refrain often heard as Christmas approaches — but through a new billboard campaign, one atheist group is saying it's okay if you don't. Atheists in Sacramento, California are now planning 55 billboards to ...

Categories: Atheist News

Comet Ison: Perihelion is now

The Panda's Thumb - November 28, 2013 - 1:52pm
Nice video here, along with a sky map telling you where to look in the early morning. Instructions for viewing it in daylight here – wear sunglasses and take their advice to use a stationary object, not your thumb, to block the sun. And latest images here. I am going out now with my trusty camera and looking for a lamp post, but it may be too close to the sun already. Update: Here is... Matt Young

Atheist Drops Golfer's Sponsorship Due to 'Childish' Christian Beliefs and ... - Christian Post

"Atheist" in google news - November 28, 2013 - 10:50am

Christian Post

Atheist Drops Golfer's Sponsorship Due to 'Childish' Christian Beliefs and ...
Christian Post
In the email, McMahon, a pronounced atheist, says the sponsorship is being terminated because he cannot imagine supporting an athlete who praises Beck and Cruz, two public figures he argues are "destroying America." "David, I have never had an issue ...

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