Saturday, 19 December 2009

Porn at 9pm?

What is wrong with Christians?

Do they really think that commercial stations are going to show porn on their channels?

The group in question is called Family Voice Australia.

And they clearly do not know what porn is.

No free to air channel in Australia, and this is including SBS, who are known for showing films with more sexual content then the others, will ever show porn at 9pm. Not now, and not in the near future.

I have to wonder if these groups think of themselves as the "only moral people in the country/world/universe"? Or perhaps they have too much grease lying around and have decided to use it to make more slippery slopes? Either way their argument is really, really, really dumb.

I think that Sue Turnbull of La Trobe University sums it up the best:
"If this particular group don't know what real pornography looks like, then maybe they should see some, so that they can actually make the kinds of distinctions that the people that are doing this classification make every day," she said.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Sumarians Were Indeed Confused

As the number 5 story of The Onion's "Top 10 stories of the last 4.5 billion years.

It must have been terribly confusing to hear God speak everything into existence when it was already there.

But while you laugh, remember that there are people out there who believe that God did create the universe at that time. And then laugh even more.

More on the Australian Internet Filter

This is some more information that I've managed to find, continuing on from yesterday's post. The move is becoming controversial and it looks like news bodies outside of Australia are starting to take notice. Google News already has a list of articles, some of which are from Australia and some are foreign which talk about this.

Google joins the anti-filter side

The Official Google Australia Blog has a post on their views of the filter.

Google has joined the list of groups that don't like the filter. Remember that groups that oppose the filter aren't just groups like the EFA but also groups like Save the Children. As well as essentially all the ISPs in the country.

They link to an interesting report from professors Catharine Lumby, Leila Green and John Hartley titled Untangling the Net: The Scope of Content Caught by Mandatory Internet Filtering, but more on that later.

They do make a good point in one case though, their SafeSearch allows the search engine to filter out unsavoury content. It must work quite well because Cracked have an article that uses the filter (for porn, so I guess that even though it's censored it will be blocked if the filter goes through.

There is one thing that they add though, Germany has a filter but it only filters child porn. Not potentially most of the internet.

Part of the issue, as I said yesterday, is that it's not just the Government's job to protect people on the Internet, it's also the role of parents to be vigilant and to teach their kids about internet safety. It appears that many, if not most Australians understand this, but some groups don't.

They also add that controversial topics should not be censored because it stifles discussion. This is correct. But most people will agree that it's quite fine to censor child porn because it's one issue that is believed to be wrong by most people regardless of their views on other things.

However stifling discussion is not a valid proposal.

The Filter and Euthanasia

This article was on the ABC today. Apparently the filter will restrict information about euthanasia.

Now it is clear that euthanasia is a touchy issue in society. However this is one of the issues that should not be censored.

Dr. Phillip Nitschke, a prominent voluntary euthanasia advocate has some of his websites listed on the ACMA blacklist.

Michael Duffy reported on the adding of Nitschke's work to the blacklist back in May. And if you search for the website for the online version of his book The Peaceful Pill Handbook on the Wikileaks copy of the blacklist you will find it there (just search for "") right below partypoker.

But this is not the only issue where we see information being censored.

The Report

We now turn back to the report that I mentioned earlier (link to article here).

The key findings are listed on page ii.

Overall the conclusion is that there shouldn't be a filter. Especially based on Australian law and the scope of the blacklists. It also states that it may lull people into a false sense of security.

One of the interesting things that they found was that only 32% of the blacklisted stuff was child pornography. Some of this content that has been prohibited falls under R18+ and X18+ classifications from the Office of Film and Literature Classification and are technically permitted as long as they are not sold to people under 18.
Yet it states that at present there is a strange contradiction in that under voluntary filtering X18+ is prohibited (so for internet purposes it's Refused Classification).

Strange huh? You can buy porn from stores in the ACT, or over the phone, but you're not allowed to do it over the internet.

But it lists various other hypothetical websites that could be considered RC based on their content including a website for LGBT people to discuss their sexuality, or a literary website. Which just goes to show that the classification system has the potential to paint most of the internet as RC, and therefore fair game for any filter.

Other potential issues include transparency, the article suggests some form of judicial review on blacklisted sites. But also whether we should be allowed to know what is on the blacklist. And also a section on balancing the filter, what happens if we over or under filter.

At present though we have to wait until Labor draft some legislation to see how some of these issues are sorted out.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Wanted, Reliable Proxies. Apply in Australia.

The government has given the go ahead for an internet filter. This has been an issue since the previous government but the measures were not so drastic. At present we are looking at the possibility of adults being prevented from looking at legal websites as they are advertently and inadvertently blocked, or a massive throttling of broadband speeds from either active or passive filtering. Something that goes against the Federal Government's attempt to provide Australians with faster internet. It also may see websites blocked by groups who wish to censor content for certain arguments, violating ideals that Australians believe in.

Electronic Frontiers Australia has a site on the feed.

The October Report: What may be censored

Part of it has to do with the content that is filtered.

The recent October report from the government about the filter states that Enex (which I believe is the company that did the test) used the ACMA (the Australian Communication and Media Authority) blacklist.

Wikileaks managed to obtain a copy of the blacklist, I'm using the most recent one that I could find, dated 18 March 2009.

Now some of the sites listed I can understand. They are sites that clearly violate laws in this country with content such as child porn. That's fair, and I think many people would agree with that.

But other websites are on there as well. Wikileaks itself is on the list, after ACMA added their page on Denmak's Internet Black List. As are three youtube links, a page from the Zombie Survival Wiki on tips and tricks, and three pages from Encyclopedia Dramatica (Offended, Kittens and something called "snapesnogger". I don't read ED, so I don't know) and a couple of pages from Wikipedia. There may be some legitimate, legal porn sites on there too, but I'm afraid to check because some of the URLs don't really make themselves clear.

The report continues to tell us on page 15:
Inappropriate for children test list
Content on the inappropriate for children test list included:
  • Gambling
  • Adult
  • Lingerie/Swimsuit
  • Drug-advocacy
  • Nudism
  • Gross-content
  • Profanity
  • Racism/Hate
  • Sex
  • Terrorism/Crime
This is the content inappropriate for children. Will homes without children be able to opt out of this? As far as I'm aware nobody will be able to opt out completely, but we would be able to opt out of this stuff.

I guess this will bring about a censorship of the news though. Many news sites have been using some of the things in that list to get more people to click on links.

Connection Throttling And the Filters: The ACMA Report

Will the filter (or filters) chosen throttle connections. This is also based on how well they block since this variable will weigh more heavily on the Government's choice of filter then speed. Looking at this report from ACMA gives us individual results in Appendix F and grouped results on other pages.

The report itself gives graphs showing that over between 2005 - 2008 the abilities of ISP filters has improved. Except in performance, where we see on page 5 that in the three years between tests that the range has increased dramatically.

Moving on to Appendix F, which is a breakdown of the filters. We can see that some of the filters were pretty good in a passive mode, but in an active mode filters like Alpha and Gamma would throttle a connection. Theta was a major exception, throttling when it was passively filtering.

We don't know how much any of these filters cost, but it would be terrible if either of these were the cheapest. (Personally I think that the Delta filter is the best to choose in terms of active filtering.) Knowing the Australian Government they are going to choose the cheapest because if there is one problem that Governments in Australia have it's that they think in the short term, not the long term.

If we find that Alpha or Gamma are chosen then the Government will have a lot of pressure when it comes to who is next on the list for the National Broadband Network (incidentally, Tasmania was first and they are already in stage 2. It also makes it completely pointless. Part of the idea was to make Australia more attractive to businesses. Being told that they might have to use internet with a filter that would throttle speeds by 80% is not attractive at all.

At present the issue would be moot in a place like Tasmania, which will have had the broadband upgrades completely finished by July next year, but would affect the other states that have not, which for some people would be "welcome to broadband, just as fast as dial-up."

Ramifications of Blacklists and Censorship

Websites will need to be identified before they are blocked. A complaint will need to be lodged with ACMA and they will do something and the website may be put on the list. (As I understand it's Phase 1. Collect Websites. Phase 2. ? Phase 3. Blacklist). It was found on the Wikileaks blacklist that a website of a dentist was on the blacklist.

As noted in the Sydney Morning Herald article just linked, being blacklisted gives the impression that your website hosts content that is very unsavoury. If the filter was in effect and a page appeared to notify you that the page you are viewing is blacklisted then what will you think?

Without proper oversight, which also includes ACMA actually checking the websites to make sure that they complaint is valid, the ACMA blacklist may end up being like the Hollywood Blacklist of 1950's America, you're on the list you're guilty, even if you aren't. Will there be methods available to stop the abuse of such a blacklist?

This raises issues regarding how extensive the blacklist will be. Will all pages of a website be blocked? Or will each individual sub-page be blocked depending on the content?

If it is the former then there are further ramifications that may actually infringe on the few constitutional rights that we have as well as other legal avenues that may arise through being thought of as guilty by association.

As there are a couple of Wikipedia pages on the ACMA blacklist, will that affect access to Wikipedia in general?

Do People Want A Filter?

In most cases it appears to be a no. According to the Sydney Morning Herald back in February 26 stated that a Galaxy poll conducted around that time found that only 5% of people (of 1100) wanted the ISP to filter, and 4% wanted the Government to do it.

In another poll of 10 000 Netspace customers 61% of people opposed such a move.

It isn't just opinion polls of random Australians that show this. The ABC reported back in July that the organisation Save the Children have stated that the filter won't protect children and it won't stop child porn from being leaked around the internet.

And today we see that The Greens have also opposed such a move, joining numerous other groups, like the EFA (linked to at the start of this post), GetUp!, the Australian Sex Party (who state the filter 95% of all porn sites which, in terms of the popular view of the internet is most of it.) and other groups who consider it to be a waste.

Groups that will support such a measure are primarily religious. And this is an important point to be made.

Potential Legislation and the Senate

According to Opposition Senator Nick Minchin (Liberal Party) legislation will be required for Australia to undertake such a task. I assume that has more to do with punishments for circumventing the filter and issues regarding defamation from being added to the blacklist for no good reason rather the censorship.

The reason I say that is because in terms of free speech Australia is a country where it is enshrined as an ideal, not a political reality. We have no right to free speech, the closest we have is that you aren't allowed to censor political communication.

This aside if legislation is required then the odds are that it will easily pass the Lower House based on numbers and the party line being enforced. The real fight will be in the Senate. The passing or defeat of this bill relies on a majority in the Senate, and it looks like Labor will need to woo many people into joining them.

In October of 2008 it was reported that Steve Fielding would support the filter if it would block all porn, and Nick Xenophon would try to use the bill to block foreign gambling sites (following his platform of "no pokies").

At present however only one of these two key members of the Senate support the filter. That member is Steve Fielding, the Family First Party.

For those that don't know, Family First are essentially the religious party in Australian Politics and they hold one of the two important positions in the Senate.

Nick Xenophon is the sole independent senator in the Senate, and a senator from my home state of South Australia. In a Q&A with ARN in November of this year, Xenophon has stated that he does not support the mandatory filtering of the internet.

Essentially at present the Senate would be hostile to filtering legislation. With the Coalition, the Greens and Xenophon voting no, and all along party lines, then the Senate would be hostile to any filtering legislation. It is quite possible that it will fail in the Senate.

I would question whether Tony Abbott, the Liberal leader and devout Christian, would pressure the Senate Liberals into voting for the bill, but I suspect that even he sees that it would cause him to lose leadership as it would probably fragment the party even more.

This issue will not go away however, but if the mandatory filtering does manage to pass through Parliament, or is implemented in another way, it will most likely become an election issue at the next election.

We may see either a change of government or a radical change in the political makeup of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.


What should be concluded from this? Well firstly it's that we do need proper protections of our rights. It is not good enough to see them as ideals that are culturally engrained, because it allows for abuses of power. This is part of the issue here. Will we see the abuse of power from minorities who don't want people to have access to certain information because they don't agree with it?

Will we see proper oversight of the ACMA blacklist, and if other, foreign, blacklists are used (like say the UK's Internet Watch Foundation blacklist) what chances of recourse will we have if they blacklist a site?

And do we need filtered internet? In terms of protecting children it seems that most Australians feel that it should be the job of parents and not the government. Groups like Save the Children prefer proper education rather then stopping everyone from visiting certain sites. If these groups see that filtering is not the right way to go then the claim that "it's to protect the children" is more likely to be a smokescreen.

Like issues regarding the media part of the onus is on the viewer. If you don't like what it is that you are watching/listening to/reading then you should stop. Change the channel or radio station, turn the page or close the tab. Don't try to force your morality on other people, which appears to be part of the reason for this filter in the first place. Just because you don't like websites that feature legal porn does not mean that you can tell me that I can't look at that legal porn.

At present this issue is not even at a stage where you could make a bill. There are too many holes, not enough oversight and quite possibly secret blacklists. The fight may be far from over, but it's not one we can afford to lose.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Dick Dastardly is a scapegoat

I thought of something random at work today.

If anyone has ever seen the cartoon Wacky Races then they would know that Dick Dastardly is always being called a cheater.

My though was that they always called him a cheater, but the others would cheat as well. I suspect that it's because he stops to cheat.

Think about it, all the other cars had devices that essentially allow them to cheat. Take a look at the Gruesome Twosome for example. They have a ghost that they use to scare the other racers, now how the hell is that not cheating? Or Professor Pat Pending, his "car" can turn into anything. "Oh dear the road has just suddenly turned into a lake. I'll just turn my car into a jetpack." Because we all know that it's still a car race when you're using a jetpack.

Essentially the entire race was a bunch of cheaters cheating their way to victory. (A notable exception would have to be Peter Perfect, whose car was just that, a car. And it usually fell to bits because of it.)

But Dick was always the "cheater". But maybe there was another, more sinister reason for it.

In order to cheat as much as he does he would need money. Since he never wins any races he would probably run out very quickly.

I think therefore that he would have been paid by the Wacky Races people (if such an organisation existed) to cheat to make the races more interesting. There is no other reason for it. If he is able to get a massive lead every race (and several times too) to set his traps then it stands to reason that he could, you know, just race normally and win.

By scapegoating him it also allows the people to claim that the others don't cheat, because you have to stop and do something in order to cheat "properly".

So that's pretty much it, Dick Dastardly is a scapegoat, but he's also part of a massive conspiracy that involves him being a scapegoat.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Atheists in a pseudo-fundamentalist world

It's a strange thing being segregated. It's even stranger when you consider that I'm 13 697km away from their physical location.

I've mentioned before that I spend time one the CARM Discussion Forums (an apologetics group) however the current turn of events makes me wonder if they are actually apologetics.

I didn't actually spend a lot of time on the "Atheism" section, I found it to be rather dull because the few Christians who were there were either those actively proselytising or just trolling. There may have been a few actually interested in what Atheists do and the likes, but not many.

However, a post from the President of CARM (Matt Slick) changed everything. This is where the post is located. Since registration is required the entire post is reproduced below:
Atheists are now restricted to post only on the atheism (future sub boards) and evolution board.

Super Member Atheists will be permitted to keep current privileges to other forums only until their membership expires and then they will be restricted to the Atheism/Evolution board. Any renewals of Supermembership now/thereafter will be restricted to atheism/evolution board.

More changes are coming.

Why? Trolling.
I suggest you don't argue with me about it or bannings will occur.

So because some Atheists were trolling that means that all of us are to be segregated from the religious people because some Atheists troll.

So we are limited to two sections, the Atheism one, and the Evolution and Intelligent Design one. Now these two subforums are in a section called "Secular". There are 11 sections just there alone. All in all there are 100 main sections, each with varying numbers of sub-sections. Atheists are no permitted to use 2% of the entire forum. But that's ok apparently because according to their vice-president, Diane Sellner (Diane S) who says here:
Important notice concerning Atheists/Agnostics

If you want to debate Atheists/Agnostics/Secular Humanists, you will have to go to the Atheism forum, since they will be restricted to the Atheism forums. We will be making a few sub forums in the next day or so for the Atheists/Agnostics.

They will NOT be permitted to debate on the Apologetics or other forums on CARM but Evo/ID for now. Again, at your own risk, don't expect them all to "play nice" you will have to debate the Atheists on the Atheism forum, copy your last post to them and MOVE your discussions to the Atheism forum if you wish to continue your discussions.

See, they're going to give us some subsections so we can talk about similar yet different issues to the rest of the forum.

I guess the reason they aren't banning us outright has to do with their purpose and scope:
The CARM discussion boards exist for several reasons. First, they are to promote conversation among people with different viewpoints. Second, they are to help train Christians on how to deal with false religious systems. Third, they are to help Christians become better equipped to defend the Christian faith against non-theological systems.
This is apparently to allow conversation among people with different viewpoints. This is because this is an "apologist" site. In order for apologists do do what they do they need to be exposed to other viewpoints. It's a logical approach to take because apologetics requires a person to know what their belief says, and also what others think of their beliefs.

Continuing on:
Because of the nature of discussion and facing false doctrines, this means that Christians will be exposed to anti-Christian arguments from such groups as the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the atheists, the evolutionists,1 etc. Some Christians think that this is a bad idea. They say that it is better to have only a discussion board where Christians can talk to Christians without the intrusion and challenge of the unbelievers. If this is how you feel, then these boards are not for you.

Again they stress the need to have different viewpoints. In a way the ideal of the forum is one that allows apologists from different faiths to do their thing.

But the underlined is the interesting bit. In segregating atheists they are creating a board where Christians can talk to Christians (to be specific I mean all denominations) without seeing a non-theist appearing to put forward their point of view.

Then there is this part of the quite extensive rules:
19. Censorship:
  1. Please feel free to agree or disagree without fear of censorship or ridicule. CARM does not stand for censorship but will enforce requirements of decency per the board rules. You are, of course, free to discourse within the limits of the rules.
Technically their actions actually violate their own rules.

But I can't conclude without saying that I understand that it's a private organisation and I'm at their whims when I agreed to join the forum. It's just that it essentially undermines their purpose.

The fact of the matter is that the atheists there are now caged on CARM. We're there to look at unless you want to discuss things with us.

Unfortunately the few Christians that will appear will be trolls and essentially all Fundamentalist Protestants. To be honest the reason I joined was not to argue solely with those people. When I was able to look around I saw many varied posts from people of different faiths, denominations and from a wide range of religious viewpoints. I learned things about moderates and I've become more tolerant of religious people in general.

Now I can look. I can watch all these people discuss things but I won't be able to ask questions of people who will never venture into the Atheism section. CARM has, essentially, censored the Atheists from their forum but at least they threw us a bone. It might be a crappy bone, but it's a bone nonetheless.

I say this now because of a response from a poster calling himself 1TrueDisciple who said in response to me saying that if he were in charge all the Atheists would be banned:

If I were in charge, there wouldn't even be an atheist forum.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

It's too hot to study

I know I really should but it's just too hot.

We're currently having the hottest November since 1894.

It's going to be 36°C on Saturday according to the quick Google check, which will be fun. Especially since it's Pageant Day, but I'm sure we're still going to get a lot of people, but I don't think that we'll get any Guinness World Records for anything this year (I'll tell you later.)

Anyway, I should be studying I've got exams coming up.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ray Comfort makes a fool of himself

Ray Comfort, the banana guy, was invited to debate Eugenie Scott by a bloke called Dan Gilgoff. this was his first post. Eugenie makes some very good points and I'm not going to bother writing too much about Comfort's first post.

For a summary Comfort basically says "book burning atheists are angry racism racism racism Hitler non-standard definition for "atheist" plug for book angry atheists abuse Amazon I like science theory theory theory no evidence qualifiers are bad I only mean well really people should read the book evolution is like Mormonism it's a miracle and Darwin is a fantasy writer."

I must admit that I did like this paragraph:
The problem when arguing with those who believe in atheistic evolution is that they move goal posts by redefining atheism or evolution or the word species. From Darwin to Dawkins, they speak the language of speculation, continually using words like probably, maybe, perhaps, and could've. And Darwinism is as nebulous as a puffy cloud on a hot windy day, forever moving, changing, and expanding—because its bounds are limited only by the fertile human imagination.
Good ol' Comfort. First we see him claim that "evolutionists move the goalposts regarding definitions" considering that he said earlier:
The Introduction also defines an atheist as someone who believes that nothing created everything—which is a scientific impossibility.

That's what an Atheist is? It's not someone who "a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings"?

Why that sure looks like someone moving the goalposts there doesn't it?

Then again there are members in his camp that don't seem to have a very solid definition of a Kind or Baramin.

Then it's that scientists use speculative words when talking about something we don't know for certain. Based on that paragraph then we can say that God must have built the pyramids because we don't know for certain how they were built. Look at all these possible ways that we think the Ancient Egyptians built their pyramids.

Then we see Comfort contradict himself with his "forever moving and changing line. It does make me wonder what he thinks science is. I guess it must be some sort of unchanging pseudo-Bible where you'll be damned for all eternity if you dare change it. It's also a really good hyperbole.

But enough about Ray and his first post. I'm going to talk about his second post.

We start with some back pedalling, Comfort immediately addresses the criticism of his book put forward by Scott, that Comfort removed some of the chapters. Personally I think that the reason Comfort decided initially to remove chapters was so he could make Darwin's work seem weaker then it actually is.

But since he's put those removed chapter back in there isn't really any problem now, even with his introduction you would still be getting yourself a copy of On the Origin of Species.

So let us move on:

Scott quoted a famous geneticist, who said, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." I would like to drop one word, so that the quote is true. It should read, "Nothing in biology makes sense in the light of evolution."

Really Ray? Really?

Nothing at all makes sense? I guess we are seeing another example of a creationist redefining a word, in this case "evolution". It's clear that Comfort takes a middle ground regarding "microevolution". So clearly he must be talking about "macroevolution" which in creationist circles is some fanciful magical form of evolution that has no grounding at all anywhere.

When you make a strawman it's easy to make one that conforms to your beliefs.

Nothing we have in creation is half evolved.

I'm pretty sure when he says "half evolved" it's that a creature has "half a wing" or "half a gill" or something stupid like that.

So I'm going to propose a new theory that explains this:

Evolution is "quantised" (for lack of a better word) so you can't have a "half evolved" species.

My evidence is the fossil record, I now call on the Nobel Prize Committee to give me lots and lots of money.

My second point is that Scott is happy for students to read the first eight and the last 10 pages of the Introduction, but she doesn't want them to waste their time on the meat in the sandwich. She says that this portion is my weakest, most tasteless of arguments. If that is true, shouldn't she then encourage students to read that portion to prove the weakness of my case? Instead, she says not to read it. I wonder why?

Well from what I've read of it, the reason she says not to bother reading it is because it's irrelevant to the topic at hand. What does Jesus have to do exactly with evolution? Or Hitler?

The introduction is just a veiled attempt to poison the well and nothing more.

I'm going to skip the stuff about ardipithicus ramidus because it appears to be Comfort misunderstanding information that he has been told.

So I'm just going to skip towards the end.

She then encourages doubters to consider museums where "you will find transitional fossils galore." I went to the Smithsonian to see the fossils galore, and they were there—millions of fossils that were evidence of special creation. The Smithsonian didn't have any transitional fossils that proved evolution (staunch believers claim that they have them, but not on display). I also visited the evolution museum in Paris (Grande Galerie de L'Evolution). I took a camera crew, and we spent an hour looking for the evolution exhibit. It didn't have one. All it had were millions of fossils of fully formed animals that God created.

(my bold)

Ray, it's a museum about evolution, the whole museum is one giant exhibit about evolution. It's right there in the name of the museum.

I'm going to bring this post to a close. I took a while to write it, because I had a few distractions and in that time Eugenie Scott wrote her reply, and there is a thoughts post.

I'm going to say though, that Comfort comes across as someone who is misinformed about what exactly science is, but I get the feeling that he knows better. I think he's like many of the more vocal creationists (big names and anonymous people online), someone who actually knows that they are wrong, but is so willingly blinded by dogmatic faith that they will torture scientific findings so they can prop up their faith in what can really only be described as a weak and quite possibly incompetent creator God.

Looking over the your thoughts post I think that there are many people who see can see through the lies and misrepresentation of Comfort and his ilk.

However there are many people who don't and are blinded by misinformation. There is still a lot of work to be done in the US, and it will be achieved through the hard work of people like Eugenie Scott and the NCSE.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

When people don't read.

I created a thread on the Evolution section of the CARM forums about this article about God creating a new bird. (Sorry, no direct link since registration is required).

This is the first response to that post, from a creationist called scarlets79 (fstdt):
so when a "new" species is found, this doesn't mean it is a "new" species that just evolved. It just means we discovered it, not that it has only just come about.

You don't seem to understand the difference between an event occurring and an event being reported.
I can understand his confusion. I mean we all know that The Onion is America's finest news source.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Comedies predict the future

'Naked' scanner in airport trial says the BBC.

Well you know who did it first? Airplane!.

So, instead of looking to psychics to predict the future, we should start looking at comedies. I wonder what mystical insights they will hold?

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Homeopaths Take Heed.

'Cruel' parents jailed over baby's death is the headline on the ABC.

Thomas and Manju Sam have been sentenced to 6 and 4 years jail respectively for allowing their 6-month old daughter, Gloria, to die from eczema.

The reason she died? Thomas, being a homeopath, decided that homeopathy would be a better way to help her daughter then proper medicine.

The report that I found from AdelaideNow is more graphic in some details:

On the ninth day, concerned about a lingering eye infection, the Sams took their daughter to the Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick.

Doctors described Gloria as "incredibly sick" with a "massive eroded rash" and "grossly malnourished".

They gave her morphine for the pain and began treating her eye infection - her corneas were melting.

The sad thing is that even though these people are going to jail, I still don't think that they understand the gravity of their crime. I'm of the opinion that they honestly thought that they were helping their child.

Although this is a child negligence case the ABC article says something interesting:

Thomas Sam got the longer sentence of at least six years because, as a homeopath, he had a double duty of care.

This I believe is very important. And I suspect that it will have some rather big repercussions in the CAM industry. In NSW at least. If the above is actually true it means that homeopaths have a greater duty of care to their clients, and can be held responsible for whatever happens to them. This probably won't affect the "take this along with regular medicine" crowd, but it will affect the "don't take the regular medicine, take this instead" crowd.

Even if it doesn't I hope that people who are in the "Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Industry" take a good long look at themselves and think about the possible ramifications of what they tell people. This little girl never got a chance at life because her parents didn't seem to trust modern medicine. Would you want to live like they do, with the blood of an innocent on their hands?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

All the US is like Texas

Just like all Australia is like Queensland.

This is the story in question regarding Tegan Leach who is currently charged with procuring drugs for an abortion.

This article from the Courier Mail states that the laws that she is being charged with are actually over a century old.

Now the issue isn't "Why does Australia have such crappy abortion laws" but it's in fact "Why does Queensland have such crappy abortion laws". The issue of abortion is not a Federal issue, but a state one. In general whatever isn't explicitly stated in the Constitution as something the Federal Government is in charge of is the job of the States to deal with. That is why Marriage law is dealt with on a Federal level, but de facto relationships are dealt with on a State level.

Now to be fair, the state I live in (South Australia) actually has some rather crappy laws regarding abortion compared to other parts of Australia. Wikipedia has a nice picture summing it up here.

Queensland does not even allow abortion in rape cases.

Victoria and the ACT allow abortion on request (there might be limits I don't know about though...) and they are basically the polar opposite of Queensland in this sense.

With time, and also from the reactions that people have against those who firebomb the houses of people charged with violating the abortion laws, the view should change and Queensland should start to come in line with the rest of the country.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

RIP Norman Borlaug

He is, beyond all doubt, the greatest man who ever lived. Through his work in agricultural research he helped to improve the lives of billions by ensuring that enough food could be grown for them.

He died today at age 95.

His life was spent creating strains of plants that were high yield and disease resistant. He helped countries like Mexico, India and Pakistan become self-sufficient in their production of wheat, and did similar work with rice and other cereal crops. In doing so he prevented hundreds of millions of people from starving.

His work helped to make the world a better place, and we should remember him, and also try to make the world a better place as well.

Friday, 4 September 2009

With $4 I'll be a Millionaire

Not even in Zimbabwe would I be a millionaire with A$4.

However that is the amount of money I got back on my tax return.

I don't think I'll ever cash the cheque they gave me though. Probably going to frame it.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

"Is that the only experience you've had?"

That tactless phrase is what Kyle Sandilands said when a 14 year old girl announced on the Kyle and Jackie O radio programme on 2Day FM that she was raped.

The reason? She was attached to a lie detector and asked this question by her mother.

What the girl said was:
"I've already told you the story about this ... and don't look at me and smile because it's not funny.
Oh, okay, I got raped when I was 12 years old."

People are calling this child abuse.

The police are going to investigate the crime.

But the news reports are varied, most are about 2Day FM, because it was on their show.

I'm wondering why exactly they asked a 14 year old girl about her sexual history.

A joint statement, which is mentioned in the first link says:
"A young girl's sexual experience is not relevant or appropriate for the entertainment of anyone.''
Which I believe is perfectly true. However, the show in question has done things that involve sex, which was mentioned on Media Watch. However in past cases it appears that their shows might not breach any standards, because they don't regulate bad taste.

I get the strange feeling that this might be the case as well.

The ABC has reported that Kyle Sandilands has said the privacy of the girl should be protected.

Yes. The privacy of the girl should be protected. However the report goes on to say:
But this morning, Sandilands criticised news organisations for making the 14-year-old's private situation "one of the biggest news stories of the day".

"If you want to have a go at me, go me. I'd rather you go for me than the girl or the mother," he said.

But the thing is that it wasn't the news organisations that made her private life "one of the biggest news stories of the day". It was their show.

If the question was not asked while the girl was attached to the lie detector and as far as I'm aware the concept actually involves things that people would usually keep private. It's rather hypocritical in a way to suggest that the rest of the media shouldn't report on stuff like that.

However Sandilands is somewhat right. I don't think anyone has had a go at the girl. From what was mentioned on the radio the girl told her mother that she was raped and, from what I can gather, wasn't believed (why else would the girl say that it wasn't funny?), and has had to live without seeing her rapist get justice.

The mother however, is still fair game. As the person who asked the questions she could have just not asked that question. Her reaction after the question was asked is also something that just sets off alarm bells.

According to a piece written by Sandilands on The Punch:

The mum hadn’t said anything about the rape. She was concerned that her daughter was on drugs or was sexually active. Like a lot of mothers worried about their kid, she just wanted to find out what was going on.

So, just in case you didn't get that. The mother was worried that her daughter was taking drugs or was sexually active. She didn't tell the producer of the show (Jackie O says something similar here.) that her daughter told her that she was raped.

If the mother was indeed worried about her daughter I would have thought that she would ask her in private, not drag her on to a radio show that is syndicated nationwide. If this was the last resort then that's probably because the girl felt that she couldn't trust her mother.

People are however starting to think about rape and the problems that victims face. On todays episode of Hack on Triple J, they were talking about the difficulties that rape victims have telling family and others about their experience. Hopefully this event will see a change in how Australians think of rape.

However, I think that Kyle and Jackie O will need to think of a new thing to do instead of a lie detector. Too bad I don't have any power.

I don't think we'll ever know why this girl told what has turned out to be all of Australia that she was raped. I don't think we'll ever know.

(End note: I'm mentioning 2Day FM, which is the name of the Sydney station, and not SAFM, the affiliate, because this segment was cut from the rebroadcast show that we get.)

Friday, 24 July 2009

Curling? In Australia?

After reading this, I learned that there are Australians out there who curl (I think that's the right word).

Apparently some thieves mistook a truck with curling stones for a beer truck, which really tells you how well known the sport is over here.

But I think this was a gem:

"They are useless to anyone else except for us, apart from as a doorstop or propping up a coffee table," curler Paul Meissner told the Associated Press.

So I think we know how the police will find them. They'll just have to grab a copy of the Trading Post and look for cheap granite rocks that can be used for mundane household tasks.

Incidentally, I'm looking for a good doorstop, perhaps I should invest in a curling stone...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Accountability of Demagoguery Creating Disinformation

Every now and then you'll see on RationalWiki's What is going on at Conservapedia page entries referring to "conservative words" and "geometric growth". The page they refer to is this one.

Which raises the question, what is a "conservative word"? If you can be bothered to read the Conservapedia article you will see that the words in this title are actually in the list of "conservative words".

This raises a second question, how exactly do you define a word as a "conservative" or "liberal"?

My gut says that all words are inherently neutral until they are used by someone to express an opinion using a political viewpoint.

The thing is that Conservapedia don't seem to give a definition of how you can tell if a word is "conservative" or if it is "liberal". Without at least explaining how words fit into these two groups it's quite simple for anyone to say that the list is useless.

Based on the edit history and also the words chosen for the "conservative" and the "liberal" section, it's rather clear that the words in the "liberal" section are ones that they don't seem to like. The converse is also true. Words like "atheism", "quote mining", and even "Big Bang" are classed as "liberal" while words like "competitive", "cross-examination", and even "demagogue" are listed as "conservative". Some of the other "conservative" words include things like "Good Samaritan" or "Trojan Horse". Apparently "local" is a "conservative" word, as is "transistor". Even "conservation of charge" which is more of a phrase then a word is "conservative".

The other thing that should be noticed is that the words are also being added to the list to create a geometric rate. They are giving this in the form of "1-2-4-8", starting at 1612, because of the King James Version. I'm starting at 1600 because that's where their table starts.

In the 1600's the number of new "conservative" words was 14, or on average 0.14 new words per year. 1700's, 28 (0.28), 1800's, 56 (0.56) and in the last century 112 or about 1.12 words are year. That means that last century we apparently saw a new "conservative" word every year. That would mean that at the end of this century we should see 224 new "conservative" words.

I'm aware that new words don't appear in a nice progression like that. If that were true we should already have about 20 new "conservative" words by now. According to the table the number is 5 (preliminary).

The other question is if "1000 new words are created every year" what will happen when the growth of "conservative" words exceeds the "actual" growth of words? Does that mean that the actual growth of words will increase? Or will the number be bound by 1000?

Lastly I think it's fair to ask how you could include words that predate modern conservatism as "conservative"? To someone from the 1600's a modern conservative would appear to be extremely liberal to them. If conservatism was really on an "inevitable triumph" wouldn't that mean that the world should technically be more conservative compared to someone in the 1600's?

Oh, and my own personal opinion of the article: It's completely bollocks.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Still Alive

I just don't feel like blogging anything at the moment.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

What Kind of Stupidity is This?

Some news from my home state.

Some idiot in the northern suburbs (for those that don't know, the northern suburbs are well known for housing the underclass or the lumpenproletariat for the Marxists among you) decided that it would be a good idea to teach his ex to lock her doors at night by breaking in and raping her.

You heard me (or would know if you read the article), he raped her.

He didn't just enter and wake her up while she was sleeping, he went in, bound her and used a sex toy to rape her.

Well, she'll probably lock her doors now, but it's not because of his "good intentions". She'll probably be scared that people will break in and rape her.

Brilliant mate. What better way to teach someone to do something then by scarring them for life.

And get this, the guy pleaded not guilty. He apparently apologised for raping her, and pleaded not guilty.

As you can see, I don't like this guy. I don't think that rape should be used by anyone for any purpose, let alone "teaching". Based on what I know about rape, I'm guessing that this guy was probably pissed that they broke up and really did this for power reasons.

Either way I'm going to say that it would be laughable if he tries to use a "I was teaching her an important lesson" as a defence.

The article does say this though:

"Defence lawyers told the jury they would be asked to consider whether the man believed the acts were consensual."
So let me get this straight. They're trying to argue that the man believe consent based on what? Leaving her doors unlocked? Doing that means that she consents to whatever he wants?


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Eurovision Commentators: Aus v. UK.

I finally managed to get the UK version of the contest downloaded. Yes. It took me this long.

Thanks Telstra, if you hadn't continuously told my ISP that "the exchange was full" I would have a 2 Mbit connection and I would have gotten it about two days after the contest.

But enough about Sol Trujillo's former company.

The reason I'm writing this is because I'm waiting for some dictionaries to download, so I can't do the work I want to do, and I figured the Eurovision would keep me awake.

Australia sent their own people this year because Terry Wogan left and apparently SBS has something against Graham Norton. We sent Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang. The only really enjoyable thing was that they were wearing shirts that said "Terry Wogan isn't here anymore" and "Yes, we miss him too".

To be honest they weren't really any good. I'm finding Graham Norton far funnier, you're still hearing somewhat snide remarks from him about the other countries, and he can be genuinely funny (probably because he's a comedian...).

So Graham Norton wins.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

If I Badmouth Australia Do I Get $31 Million Too?

Some background for non-Australians.

Telstra, the former government owned telecommunication company over here, used to be run by a man called Sol Trujillo. I don't know if he did a good job at all, because I don't really care about Telstra.

All I do know is that during his reign is that it seemed like their quality of service went down the toilet, like the share price.

Added to that was the small thing of Trujillo getting rather large amounts of money when as far as everyone could tell, he didn't actually do anything.

Apparently he's sad now because those big mean Australians were apparently racist.

Meh. Of all the criticism that I ever read regarding him, not one of the things would classify as "racist".

For example:
In the interview, Mr Trujillo cited Australia's "very restrictive" immigration policies and rigid rules on company privatisation as his evidence for the nation being backward and racist.
Yes, you read that right, because we don't just let any old person into the country we're racist. So to not be racist we would have to remove immigration laws?

And we're backward because we don't subscribe to US values regarding government and business. Gotcha.

You know, I frankly don't care if he was Hispanic. I'm not going to remember him for that.

But he got $31 million for his troubles. On top of all the money that he got destroying the share price of Telstra.

If I was to leave and say "Australia is backwards and full of racists" will someone give me $31 million too?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Alexander Rybak Borked

Ok, like many people who watched the Eurovision, I didn't mind the Norwegian entry. Considering the standards of Eurovision it was actually very good. I'm guessing it's because he wrote his own song, so it would be to his standards and not to Eurovision standards. I've posted a video of his entry below:

Unfortunately after I heard him say some stuff in Norwegian at the end, all I could think of was the Swedish Chef from the muppets. I know that firstly, the Swedish Chef isn't real and neither is his language, and secondly that Sweden isn't Norway, but real Swedish and Norwegian sound similar.

Yet I couldn't shake it. I kept on thinking about it so much that I used the Bork Bork Bork! add-on and went to a lyrics site and used it. This is my result:

Yeers egu, vhee I ves yuoonger
I keend a leeked, a gurl I knoo
She-a ves meene-a und ve-a vere-a sveet heerts
Thet ves zeen, boot zeen it's trooe-a
I'm in lufe-a veet a feurytele-a
Ifee thuoogh it hoorts
Coose-a I dun't cere-a iff I luse-a my meend,
I'm elreedy coorsed

Ifery dey ve-a sterted feeghting
Ifery neeght ve-a fell in lufe-a
Nu oone-a ilse-a cuoold meke-a me-a sedder
Boot nu oone-a ilse-a cuoold leefft me-a heegh ebofe-a
I dun't knoo vhet I ves dueeng
Vhee sooddenly ve-a fell epert
Nooedeys I cunnut feend her
Boot vhee I du ve'll get a brund noo stert
I'm in lufe-a veet a feurytele-a
Ifee thuoogh it hoorts
Coose-a I dun't cere-a iff I luse-a my meend,
I'm elreedy coorsed

She's a feurytele-a yeeh
Ifee thuoogh it hoorts
coose-a I dun't cere-a iff I luse-a my meend,
I'm elreedy coorsed

It does actually sort of work, if you sang the song with those lyrics.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Odin Must Have Too Many Rings

Odin had a ring called Draupnir, which would, every ninth night, drop off eight copies of the ring. But considering how much time has passed that would mean that Odin would probably have a warehouse full of rings by now.

If we say assumed that the world was made from the remains of Ymir about 300 000 years ago (remember this is a completely arbitrary number) and then we assume that he got the ring about 250 000 years ago then 91 310 625 would have passed since then until now. Every nine nights he gets eight new rings that are exactly the same but don't make more rings. That would mean that he would have 81 165 000 rings by now.

What the hell would he do with 81 million rings? It's not like he can give them to the other Gods as a Yuletide present. I could imagine it.

"What did you get from Odin this year Thor?"
"What do you think Njord?"
"Another ring right?"
"Yep. Did you get your ring this year too?"
"Yep. I wonder if he just does this because he can't be bothered making the attempt to find us something?"
I guess he could start giving them out to people.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A Response Of Some Kind

About 322 days, 5 hours and 53 minutes ago on a cold July afternoon I wrote " Is A PNAC Front.

View wise it's the most successful thing I've ever written because of the nice referrals I get from the site in question.

Anyway, enough background.

I've received a comment from a chap calling himself "Chuck Boldwyn" challenging a debunking of something that he managed to calculate that shows that what he has done proves that the September 11 attacks could not have happened the way they actually did.

Unfortunately, comment wise, I can't really say anything. I've only had some instruction in classical mechanics and I'm also not an engineer. I've never even pretended to be one on TV (incidentally I'm not on TV...).

I can, and will, only comment on things that I have noticed.

As far as I can tell from the post in question though, it seems to be using the assumption that the tower was essentially acting as one big block of steel. That seems to ignore structural elements like joints etc. I would have thought that the force acting downwards upon the building would affect the load bearing columns and the joints and so on.

There is a bunch of maths which to me seem to work. By the way, if a proper engineer happens to read this could you please tell us whether the equations are being used correctly together?

But then we get to an interesting bit:

This means the the lower 94 block of steel could support 100 blocks of 94 floors before possible total collapse could occur.

This also means that the lower 94 block of steel could support 588 blocks of 16 floors before possible total collapse could occur, since one 94 block is equal to 5.88 16 floor blocks.

588 Vector Force units of upward support (stressed Normal Force)against 1 Vector force unit of downward gravity weight force, all by its lonesome.

Now apply Vector math Addition to opposing Forces to find that the top block could never in one's wildest dreams totally collapse the lower 94 floor block of powerfully strong and very thick,
4 inches, steel.

588 Force units of upward support
1 force unit of downward weight Force
gives 587 force units of non-collapsing support.

1 Force Unit(FU) = 1 DL(16)

(588 FU up) - (1 FU down) = 587 FU up.
This is something I don't understand. What the hell is a "vector force unit". I'm well aware that force is already a vector, so "a vector force" is rather redundant statement. Where does this "1 force unit" come from?

I do question why such "hard hitting" research is being posted here and not being sent to an engineering journal to undergo peer-review. Hell, even a letter to one would be better then posting it here. But I'm not expecting him to sent his work in to a credible journal because of this statement here:
That is the Final & Ultimate answer as to why the twin towers could never, ever collapse under the conditions offered by NIST, the Government, the Mass Media, and the big name University and corporate PHDs.

Since the confirmed discovery of the red and gray nano Thermite active and explosive particles in the WTC dust samples, there is no leg to stand on by the NIST, government and all the "quack" PHDs hired by the Government to do their lying diry work with the Mass Media.
(emphasis mine)

Basically to him there are no "peers". There are only "shills".

"Confirmed discovery of red and gray nano Thermite" [sic]? Yes, by a man whose entire argument was "I've found things that would be in thermite therefore there was thermite", without determining whether the elements and molecules analysed would appear in any regular office.

There are also two other posts that don't really have any substance. One links to a youtube video, and they both go on mentioning "patriotism" and "traitors".

For those that haven't read anything else on this blog, I'll mention this here. I am not an American. I don't hold US citizenship, I also don't live in the US. I am an Australian. Accusing me of being a traitor to the US is like claiming that Saddam Hussein was a traitor to the Sudan. It doesn't work.

I'm going to post his last comment in it's entirety:
This "Anti Truth Movement" site has been completely and 100% debunked with no mercy. You are all fools, dupes, idiots, numbskulls, morons, and retards if you still, yet, support the government's and the Mass Media's Theis Conspiracy. You will now be a supporter of mass murderers. Be careful of what you support.

Next time, use your brain, if you have one...
Two small things:
  1. Re: support of mass murderers. I can claim the exact same thing to you. By not supporting my side (which, by the way is the one supported by far more evidence then yours) you support Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda are mass murderers. Therefore you support mass murder.

    So next time you argue this, don't try to label people. (Yes, I am aware of the fallacy above.)

  2. I have used my brain. When will you start using yours properly?

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Orang-utans Are Revolting

There was an enclosure break at the zoo today. An Orang-utan managed to escape from his (or her) enclosure at the Adelaide Zoo. Regardless of the sex we're going to have to prevent it from breeding. Because you know who else was a smart Orang-utan?

Dr. Zaius.

If we don't prevent this intelligent creature from breeding then he'll be the result. It's a slippery slope people.

Either we let all the Orang-utans breed and watch as they rise up and overthrow us, or we selectively breed them and ensure that we remain top ape.

Ok, actually I think good on it. It figured out what the electric fence was and a way to get across it without being shocked. I know they offered a refund, but I would have paid money to see that, because it just shows that our Orang-utan cousins aren't as stupid as some people think them to be.

Update: This is what I get for not checking my local paper, or at least the umbrella site for it. The Orang-utan is female, and she was enticed into her night enclosure. And her name is Karta. By the way, why not see what PZ said on the issue.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Media Watch Calls Out Peter Popoff

For those that aren't in Australia, Media Watch is a show on the ABC (the government station) that basically spends its time pointing out breaches in broadcasting regulations and also silly things some times.

This week they did a segment on Peter Popoff and his "miracle water" scam. (side note, I know in the past that sometimes ABC websites aren't accessible to non-Australians, so just in case I'll put up a youtube or other video site link when I find it.)

Basically the problem is that he might be misleading, but since nobody actually knows whether he's actually breaking a regulation means that it's difficult to determine whether he's done anything wrong.

This is because Channel 9 haven't stated whether he's paid for the timeslots or not. So if it's actually a programme it falls under a different body then if it was actually an ad.

The plus side is that he's on at a time when nobody watches them. Like all the other religious programmes on the commercial stations.

I did learn something new though. Apparently the Sandgropers have done some good. They have a whole page on their website ScamNet dedicated to him. So good on you Sandgropers. I, a Croweater, salute you.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A Stupid Ad

There is an ad showing on TV about premature ejaculation.

It's got the man and the woman and the guy has the problem and the "bedroom police" make him go to the company.

All I can think of whenever I see that ad is "how the hell did those guys get into his house".

Then again another ad involving two guys playing the piano with their penises (you didn't see anything) was "if I go to these people will I get a prehensile penis?". Honestly, how the hell can you play part of a song that is made up of joined quavers.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Fiji Daily Post

I don't know about non-Australians, but if you are in Australia and read the paper about a week ago, you would have seen an article like this Sydney Morning Herald article.

The Fiji Daily Post have been printing articles like that as a way of making fun of the government censors.

So we get articles like Man gets on bus, Paint dry, Breakfast as usual and I'm guessing that King of the baize is also one.

I don't know about you guys, but all I could think of was The Onion.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Snakes? Check. Plane? Check. Samuel L. Jackson...

Snakes ground Qantas flight.

Except unlike the crappy movie that I referenced in the title this plane was devoid of killing, and hopefully popular one liners.

And yes, it did actually happen.

The snakes were harmless and only caused some hassle for passengers.

Incidentally, trying to find a second news article on this story gave me an odd result. What exactly does royal incest shockers have to do with snakes?

A link to the snake story.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Undead Jesus Day

Happy Easter everyone.

Let us remember the day when Jesus became one of the undead.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

This Blog is My Thread

Parody of this. (Account needed)


The Price Of Fundamentalism?

It's from an old episode of Trading Spouses, so it's not the latest news but it does raise a valid point.

I'm going to have to ask you to go and watch this video first. It's a little loud, and also somewhat bigoted.

From what I can gather, and from a vague understanding of those types of shows I think that the scene is the "homecoming". I'm sure that the family probably thought that it would be like all the other shows, the mother, Marguerite Perrin, would be all happy to be home and it would be all love and happiness and the like.

If you watched the video you know how it turned out.

Personally I can't help but feel sorry for the family. Looking at the faces it just seems that they've seen a side of their mother/wife that they either haven't seen before or was part of the "it wasn't that bad" sort of thing.

I suspect that other people have found, and still do find, it funny.

I don't, and I don't think I ever will.

This is a person who has become blinded by her "faith". I suspect that it's "faith" because it sure isn't faith. All we saw there was bigotry wrapped in religion. Nothing else.

But it's the loved ones in this case that are affected by this woman. She let her own prejudices blind her to everything that she loves and should hold dear to her and turn a moment that should have been nice go sour because of it.

But in a world where there are people who take their faith to such an extreme you have to ask how often do they let their "faith" hurt those that they love?

And why is it that for some people such "faith" is something to look up to?

Friday, 10 April 2009

Happy Dead Jesus Day

Well it is, in essence anyway, what today is.

So for the religious people who happen to read this, I wish you a happy Easter. For those of you who aren't, then enjoy the long weekend or make sure you're earning public holiday rates if you're working.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


I was listening to a song (see the end of this post) and it got me thinking.

Lucifer, apart from being a saint which I just learned about, is commonly tied with Satan, the Devil, also known as the Prince of Darkness.

Although the latter does raise questions as who the King of Darkness the better question is why would you tie a name that means "Bringer of Light" with someone who people consider to be the "Prince of Darkness"?

Light is commonly used in Western culture at least (So I don't know about the use in other cultures, so sue me) as a representation of the "forces of good", and as a bringer of truth and also knowledge (The Enlightenment anyone?). So why the name "Lucifer" for a being that is supposed to spread lies and make us dumb?

I'm sorry but it's illogical, unless it's supposed to be the other way around.

Based on some modern day social controversies, such as evolution vs. creationism, or stem cell research, it appears that there are far more religious proponents on the side that would slow down, or even stop, humanity from learning new things, new enlightenments.

It does seem that religion wants to keep us in darkness, make us live in a world of superstition and monsters, to keep us down and hold us back.

Perhaps then the name is apt, for the enemy of someone who wants to keep us in darkness would be one that brings us light.

Now playing: Gregorian - Ave Satani (The Omen)
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Texas State Board of Education and Science Standards

Panda's Thumb reports that fifty scientific organisations have sent a message to the Texas State Board of Education telling them that their "Strengths and Weaknesses" passage is a load of rubbish.

But this isn't about the number of people/organisations who support an idea or set of standards (I'm looking at you, you list making IDiots), but instead what the overall message is.

In this case it's "don't teach your children crap because it's bad for Texas."

Anyway, at present the SBoE is voting on whether their "strengths and weaknesses" and other anti-science phrases is made part of their science standards, or as they will be known in the future "science" "standards".

The Houston Chronicle had liveblogged the discussion. Unfortunately for me I can only read about it becuase I don't know if I can find a copy of what was a live feed.

There was an opinion comment by McLeroy in the Austin American-Statesman (by the way McLeroy is the head of the SBoE) which has some very odd comments like this one:

The first step is to define science in a way that is satisfactory to both sides. Using new wording from the National Academy of Sciences, Texas' standards define science as "the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomenon as well as the knowledge generated through this process."

This definition replaces the academy's 1999 language that was very controversial; it stated that science was "to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena." The change from "natural explanations" to "testable explanations" is very significant. The old definition was inferior in that it undermined both the philosophy of the naturalist and the supernaturalist. By circular reasoning, the naturalist was prevented from using science to prove that "nature is all there is," and the supernaturalist was prevented from offering supernatural hypotheses. With the new definition, both the naturalist and the supernaturalist are free to make "testable" explanations. The debate can now shift from "Is it science?" to "Is it testable?"

I don't really see the point here. How exactly does the old phrase, with "natural explanations" mean that naturalists couldn't use science? I don't even see the supposed "circular reasoning" in the statement. It doesn't make any sense to me at all. His point on naturalists appears to be there just so he can try to give his point validity. The real point, as far as I can see, is his comment on supernaturalists offering supernatural hypotheses.

The thing is that in the end they haven't actually done anything, by his own admission the only reason why the changed it was to allow "supernaturalists", who are most likely the religious in this sense, to try and get their crap into science classes.

What I think makes it worse in this case is that he's gone and taken something from the National Academy of Sciences, which I believe is a very important body in the US regarding science, and has managed to utterly misunderstand the point they were making.

Those that believe in the supernatural won't be able to offer supernatural hypotheses using either definition of science. The latter because the supernatural is not testable, and therefore you can't actually construct testable hypotheses and in the case of the former because it is, by definition, not natural, so you could never use such hypotheses to "to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena." See the use of the word "natural" there? No? Ok, nevermind...

The second statement was:

Once we have our observations, we can make a hypothesis. The controversial evolution hypothesis is that all life is descended from a common ancestor by unguided natural processes. How well does this hypothesis explain the data? A new curriculum standard asks Texas students to look into this question. It states: "The student is expected to analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record." It should not raise any objections from those who say evolution has no weaknesses; they claim it is unquestionably true.

So. Much. Wrongness.

For those playing at home you should know that evolution is only semi-random. Yes, all the stuff involving genes is essentially random. However evolution is not just genotypes and phenotypes. Using his hypothesis you see the flaw about "unguided natural processes". Usually when creationists say "unguided" they really mean "random". It's just that "unguided" sounds more scientific, it's the same choice of words that quack doctors use to convince the scientifically illiterate that their stuff is genuine.

If someone can care to show me that "unguided" is not used by creationists as a synonym for "random" please do so.

What he is ignoring are things like sexual selection, predation and environmental factors. All of which are non-random, and affect evolution.

Lastly, he isn't actually referring to evolution at all, but common descent.

And the way that they suggest that students learn about common descent? Something completely stupid.

"Here is a bunch of fossils. See how they don't show conclusively that everything is descended from one thing? Good. Now you see how evolution is wrong. No Bobby, don't look at that evidence over there that proves that it's right. No, we're only allowed to use the fossil record."

Frankly I couldn't care less about "weaknesses". As far as I can tell the real possible "weaknesses" are actually at a level that is far beyond the level that the students should be at. The reason people complain is because what is being suggested is so blatantly wrong. It's making children learn that something is wrong by only looking at a small subset of the evidence.

I don't really have too much to say about the meeting at present. The liveblog, which I linked to above, covers it really nicely.

Monday, 16 March 2009

AIDS Cure?

I'm going to show you the cure for AIDS. This is it:

According to a man known as Brian Marshall from Melbourne, this is the cure. He's been selling it to people in Papua New Guinea. And their Government are annoyed. Our Government is annoyed about this as well.

This isn't very good to begin with.

Granted, the HIV/AIDS rate in Oceania is actually quite low compared to other countries, but PNG actually has the highest rate of HIV in the area, which is, according to this report from UNAIDS is about 1.3%.

Which means that it is an epidemic.

Personally I don't really think that it is, but it is the highest in the region.

Unfortunately for people who like to believe that homosexuality is the reason that HIV spreads it isn't the case in PNG. According to this country profile from WHO, the rate of transmission from heterosexual sex is 84%.

Now PNG has a low HIV rate compared to other developing countries. I'm sure that it would be in the best interests of everybody to keep it that way. This man however has most likely helped to make the problem worse.

There is an education programme going on in PNG to slow the spread of the disease. Unfortunately this man has helped to undo that by preying on the stupidity of people. They see a man saying "Bottled water cures AIDS" and would think "Why didn't they tell us this? Why do we have to wear a condom when all we have to do is drink some bottled water?". And they go with the "easier" option, and don't bother trying change their habits.

I hope that they do find him. I don't know how exactly you could punish him adequately though. Perhaps all his assets in PNG should be confiscated and the proceeds donated to AIDS research or education or something like that.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

And That's Why People Hate You Catholic Church

Brazil, a country known for the Amazon, beaches, women, and religion.

Within this predominantly Catholic country lies a state in the north-east known as Pernambuco.

In this state lives a little girl. A girl whose name is unknown, but the events surrounding her, however, is known.

This is about that little girl, and the reaction of the biggest Church in the world.

This girl, who is nine by the way, was raped, by her stepfather. She has been abused by this man since she was six. He also abused her older sister who is 14.

However, a situation arose. She became pregnant.

With twins.

Doctors examined her, and believed that she would not be able to deliver the babies. She would need to have an abortion to save her life.

However abortion is illegal in Brazil, except in cases where the health of the mother is in jeopardy. Her's was, and so it was legal to give her an abortion.

It happened on Wednesday.

However, there were repercussions.

The Catholic Church were annoyed. They had tried to stop the abortion and failed. So they did something that most people think stopped happening ages ago.


The doctors and nurses involved, and even the mother of the girl are now forbidden to receive the Eucharist, do anything in Mass and a few other things.

There has been no mention as to whether the rapist has also been excommunicated.

The story of the girl ends here. She was not excommunicated because she is too young. Those who were will have to go to the bishop, the local ordinary, or someone who has been empowered to remove excommunications. However I doubt that in this case it will be easy.

The sad thing is that the Church has really moved anger towards themselves, instead of against the rapist in question. They should have just kept out of it, but they didn't.

As I said before, the girl being pregnant was a health risk. According to Fatima Maia, the director of the hospital, and I'd assume a doctor, stated:

"She is very small. Her uterus doesn't have the ability to hold one, let alone two children,"

However a person by the name of Marcio Miranda, who is a lawyer for the diocese, believed that the girl should have carried the twins for the full term and had a caesarian. Becasuse we all know that ignorance is the best way to make any decision at all.

The archbishop isn't any better:

"The law of God is higher than any human laws, [...] When a human law — that is, a law enacted by human legislators — is against the law of God, that law has no value. The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion have incurred excommunication."

(Source: Fox News)

So it works this way. The director quoted the opinion of doctors. These doctors however, don't know the human body as well as a lawyer. The lawyer on the other hand, most likely knows less about the law then the archbishop.

But the archbishop is just parroting something that the Church has been claiming for about 1500 years. Popes have convened councils that ended up stating that the Pope, with spiritual authority, was the first amongst those with temporal authority because God gives people temporal authority, and since the Pope is the messenger of God, he is first.

It's not very logical but I don't think the Church actually cares.

I don't know where it says that you can't have an abortion, but I think that it is something that has no actual biblical roots, or from any teachings of Jesus. But apparently it's God's law, and a God who people claim is all about love and compassion shall not be overruled by man, who want to save the life of a little girl.

The actions here, along with this unrelated event, show that the Church is at least trying to be consistent. But do you really think people would give a damn if you did nothing in this case? Are people really going to cry "The Catholic Church is hypocritical" because you don't excommunicate these people?

Ok, the answer is probably.

But, we do see some Catholics who don't like what happened. Like the President of Brazil, who even stated that the doctors were right.

That is all that this comes down to in the end. Do we save the life of someone who is already alive, by sacrificing two foetuses that aren't?

Of course.

But the Church, I guess, prefers to see three people die instead of seeing one person live.

However it is backwards views like this that cause outrage. It's like telling people not to use condoms regardless of how effective they are against the spread of AIDS. People are going to call you out on it because it is a cruel thing to say.

The message that the rest of the world sees is that women who are raped and become pregnant have to carry the child of the rapist. The other message that we see is that abortion is wrong even when the health of the mother is at risk. Are these really messages that the Church wants to send?

In case you are wondering, the stepfather is now languishing in a jail cell. The police found him trying to flee to another part of the country.

Hat tip toPharyngula twice.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Conservapedia v. Student Sixteen

I honestly feel sorry for Student Sixteen. The comments on this homework (If it doesn't work try here.

I mean this person who is apparently called Charles Thoreaux actually did quite well in my opinion, based on what I have seen of these "World History" homeworks.

I wonder what exactly Andrew Schlafly uses as a benchmark to mark people. Compare the above to Student Eleven.

I know I'm not a teacher, but if I were I would not have given Student Eleven 100%, I would probably give a low pass mark because said student did give dates.

However, I get the feeling that Student Sixteen has actually done some research regarding Roman Philosophy. Sixteen chose Marcus Aurelius as his favourite Emperor because of his philosophical insight. Unfortunately he is getting marks from a guy who thinks that the Romans didn't actually do anything apart from conquer the Mediterranean and most of Western Europe and build roads.

You even see this regarding his comment on the answer to Question H1 (it's an "honours" question). Student Sixteen mentions Greek Philosophers in his answer, and then mentions Roman Philosophers who were influenced by them, apparently Cicero, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Virgil were all Greeks. Who knew?

The sad thing in a way is that for someone who does that "honours" question, you have to work around the definition of "truth" that Schlafly uses, a "truth" that involves the Bible and Christianity. So in essence the question is flawed to the extent that every civilisation before the birth of Christianity would not know what "truth" is.

I mean this student actually picks up and mentions the flaw in the question (judging an entire civilisation based on the actions of one man, in this case Pontius Pilate).

I think in a way the irony of the question is that Schlafly claimed that the Romans just took what the Greeks had with regards to philosophical ideas and ran with it, without making their own contributions, but still somehow can think that they wouldn't have applied Greek philosophical teaching to their lives. It doesn't make any sense.

I would, to be honest, have not deducted any marks in that case because I think he answered the question quite well there. He gave examples (albeit more passively) that shows that the question is wrong, and showed the main flaw in the question.

Other instances that make me feel for the guy is that he lost marks on a question about Latin because he didn't argue for the "inherent advantages" of Latin (which, by the way, was based on what I think is a rather ridiculous definition of "caveat emptor") which somehow means there is a "Liberal bias".

Schlafly's comment regarding question 3 ("more depth in analysis is needed") is rather hypocritical considering that Student Eleven answered the same question with far less depth then Student Sixteen did. Eleven gets full marks for writing something along the lines of "The Eastern Roman Empire had fewer attacks then the Western Empire and lasted far longer". I'm trying to be grammatically correct here and make sure you understand what I'm going on about.

So if I was to take any lesson away on Schlafly marking things then it would have to be "you can be as grammatically incorrect as you want as long as you spell your words right".

That being said, I would never give Student Sixteen full marks, because there were some answers that were clearly wrong, and a lack of dates in answers that should have them would also mean that you couldn't give full marks either.

The last thing that I am going to comment on is that I don't believe that Student Sixteen should lose marks because of a perceived bias, which is clearly what happened in question six. Question seven is a different can of worms. I feel that the answer that was given is actually quite good, the problem is that Schlafly undercuts his own comment regarding deducting marks and opinions, by having done exactly that in the previous question.

Question six was worded in such a way that you would be getting opinions as answers. Nobody, anywhere knows all the facts for a current event, because it is exactly that, a current event. It's pretty easy to form an opinion of the US at present based on the Fall of Rome, however it is ultimately opinion.

I think that most people who know anything about Conservapedia understand that Schlafly is not the most consistent of markers.