Friday 22 May 2009

Support Simon Singh and Free Speech

A recording of the main speakers at the public meeting held at the Penderel’s Oak, Holborn, London on Monday 18th May 2009.

Event organised by Jack Of Kent
Recorded by Nick Pullar.

Part 1 of 5: Letters of Support

Part 2 of 5: Dave Gorman

Part 3 of 5: Nick Cohen

Part 4 of 5: Evan Harris

Part 5 of 5:
Simon Singh (Introduced by Brian Cox)

Special thanks to:

Dave Gorman, Nick Cohen, Evan Harris, Brian Cox, Simon Singh, Chris French, David Colquhoun, Norman Hansen, Nick Pullar, Imran Khan, Gia Milinovich, and Padraig Reidy

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Trick or Treatment 2: More Alternative Medicine Madness

Following last night's Simon Singh rally at the Penderels Oak and the ruling passed by Justice Eady on the meaning of Simon’s article, I have been doing some thinking. Whilst the UK still has libel laws that allow us to attempt to silence valid criticism, I have decided to launch my own range of new alternative medicines, and sue anyone who claims they are bogus. Here are my first three remedies:

Arse Candling
It has long been recognised that the ancient Chinese came up with some pretty crazy shit, but people still lap it up nonetheless. One of the best kept secrets of alternative Chinese medical wisdom is the ancient technique of arse candling. Arse candling is recommended by quacks, lunatics and general fuckwits as the most effective way to cure those annoying and itchy bum grapes that so many of us suffer from. The technique simply requires shoving a large candle up your arsehole and lighting the bloody thing. There have been a few minor side effects (known as dragons arse), reported by some of the more flatulent patients, but this is a small price to pay for such insanity. WooWax brand Arse Candles will soon be available in your local Chemist at extortionate prices

Vinddox is a unique Indian tincture that provides all of the non-existent benefits of colonic irrigation. The tincture is made of a special collection of herbs including Coriander, Garlic, Ginger, Chillies, Onions and Tomatoes. To increase the effectiveness of this special tincture it is recommended to add either lamb or chicken and to take the medicine with rice, naan bread and 2 large bottles of Cobra. The treatment should ideally be applied before bedtime; this allows the medicine to work while you sleep allowing a full anal apocalypse the following morning that will purge your delicate intestines of all its shit. To combat the side effect of ring sting, some practitioners recommend sticking a toilet roll in the fridge the night before.

Cricket Batting
Delicate manipulation of the body has been unsuccessfully used by chiropractors and reflexologies as a means of treating all sorts of ailments such as halitosis, dementia, itchy tits and even the dreaded man-flu. While these techniques show the placebo benefits you would expect, they fail to be as effective as possible due to the restraint inherent in the techniques. The new treatment of cricket batting addresses this issue by administering a more brutal treatment. Patients are recommended to have 3 separate treatment sessions, ideally a few months apart to allow for the bruising and swelling that may occur to subside before the next application. If you are lucky enough to find a competent cricket batting practitioner, he will lay you face down on the bed and proceed to twat you with a cricket bat until you beg for mercy and promise to stop being such a gullible pillock.


Saturday 16 May 2009

The Skeptics Strike Back

Click each page to Enlarge.

Notes & Credits:

Whilst searching the internet for a good copy of DaVinci’s Last Supper on which to apply my childish Photoshopping techniques I spotted that someone had already done it. As I’m not a fan of nugatory work I used the pre-existing version that must therefore be credited to Halfmooner

The same is true of the 4 Horseman image, which must be credited to this source

All other images I have photoshopped myself, although I have of course failed to obtain any permission, working on the premise that “It is far easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission”

Hopefully it does need saying, but this particular post, unlike my other posts, is not a fair representation of my actual views. It’s just for comic effect and I obviously don’t see things as the black and white battle depicted by this blog. I also appreciate that atheism and scepticism are independent ideas and do not have to be combined as this comic suggests.

Anyway enough excuses, hope you liked the comic.

Saturday 9 May 2009

The Skeptics Tarot Cards

Tarot cards have been used for centuries as a divination method. Many Skeptics and rational thinkers however have claimed that there is no scientific evidence to support the validity of this method. I have therefore drawn up a new pack of Tarot Cards for the more sceptically minded. To practice my new art of Tarot reading, simply find yourself a believer and get them to select a card. To help you out I have posted 12 sample cards below together with my interpretation of each cards meaning.

The Twat
You have a strong tendency to base your career on deception. However, you’ve dug yourself in too deep now. You feel like you may be conceived as an even bigger twat if you come clean, so best continue to attribute your cheap tricks to psychic powers. If you have trouble finding enough people to still believe that your basic parlour tricks are not illusions, then why not exploit the New Age market. You just need to mention Crystal Power, ESP or Dowsing and their sure to lap it up. You may occasionally receive visions, but do not worry; these are probably just extraterrestrials bestowing more powers upon you.

The Misinformer
Alas your brain has been addled with a constant wash of twaddle. Rather than understand the science behind the issues that concern you, use your maternal instincts to make sense of things. Do not worry if your instincts fart in the face of science and reason, seek to promote them as best you can. Perhaps an alliance with the Queen of Fuckwits could prove a suitable platform from which to spout your gibberish. Try not to worry too much about the consequences of your actions or you might you have trouble sleeping.

The Queen Of Fuckwits
You have a nose for bullshit and are able to sniff out vast piles of steaming crap. You are able to disseminate your bullshit across America like a gigantic, inexorable muck spreader tainting all those in its wake with your distinctive pseudoscientific endorsements. You’re confused as to whether you should follow nonsensical Christian dogmas or absurd new age thoughts, as both contain much irrationality you find yourself unable to choose between them. You could choose to use your talents, riches and influence for good but heck, there’s a fresh pile of poo to throw.

The Quack
You have come to realise that modern scientifically developed, trialled and approved medicines could only possibly be created for the profit of large pharmaceutical companies. They can never therefore be as effective as simple multi-vitamin pills. Why not put your knowledge to use by publically claiming that vitamin pills are more effective at treating cancer than chemotherapy and the “poisonous compounds” used by conventional medicines. Better still; why not take advantage of the ignorance of a South African president who believes that HIV does not cause AIDS. Perhaps you could peddle a few vitamin pills in place of anti-retroviral drugs that are clearly just poisonous and a conspiracy to kill and make money. Maybe a slogan like “Stop AIDS Genocide by the Drugs Cartel” could help shift a few more vitamin pills at the insignificant cost of say 171,000 new HIV infections and perhaps 343,000 deaths.

The Creationist
The best way to determine the truth is to make your mind up based on a single ancient, pre-enlightened, arbitrary book of your choice. Do not worry if your predetermined truths do not turn out to fit with later discovered facts. If you work backwards from your preordained decision it will become easy to ignore the vast sways of evidence that contradicts you and allow you to easily invent “theories” to support your decision. Avoid making movies at all costs.

The Gob-Shiter
Be careful what you say, remember some people may believe your vile gob-shite. You could continue to use your special powers for good by assisting the FBI as a psychic detective. However try not to be despondent because out of your 35 cases to date, in 21 the details you provided were too vague to be verified and that for the remaining 14, you played no useful role. I’m sure the fact that you pleaded no contest to securities fraud and were indicted on grand larceny will not affect your popularity. Especially as these crimes pale into insignificance compared to telling a desperate couple on the Montel Williams show that their missing son was dead, even though he later turned up alive.

The Grand Deluder
Your life is controlled by a dogmatic adherence to an ancient understanding of the universe. You are a person with the ability to influence the ethics and morality of others, yet you base your own morality on 2,000-year-old scriptures that commend slavery, homophobia, and female subjugation. When science reveals flaws in your beliefs you are no longer able to simply persecute the enlightened as heretics. However you can always just invent new creeds, but do not worry if they seem ridiculous now, with time and tradition they will become accepted and the more ludicrous they sound, the more virtuous the believers can feel. BTW your cock may well be allergic to latex.

The Conspiracy Theorist
You are regularly abducted by aliens armed with shiny anal dildos, usually during the night when you are most definitely not having homoerotic dreams. It must be true because there have been countless sightings of similar shaped UFO’s and aliens ever since the stereotypical flying saucers and extraterrestrial entered popular culture in the 1950’s. When presented with an issue you find that the most likely and rational explanation is seldom the right answer. Remember never to use Occam’s Razor, it’s a lethal tool promoted by the government that could cause you to accidently cut your head of whilst shaving. It’s true; I heard that from a bloke down the pub the other day.

The Tosswipe
Humour is one of your strong suits but always remember that they are not laughing with you, they are laughing at you. When things aren’t going too well, the situation can always be remedied by pretending to be possessed by a spirit whose names is an anagram of “Derek Faker”. Always research your subjects and locations thoroughly as this may aide your psychic abilities. Try not to make sudden movements or noises when in the presence of ex Blue Peter presenters, there is always a danger that they might inadvertently shit themselves.

The Prince of Woo’s
You should follow the example of your mother and learn how to keep your mouth shut. Your privileged position in society is tolerated due to a public desire for tradition, pageantry and tourist dollars, not through agreement with your kooky views. Why not try my special recipe homeopathic tincture. It’s made from a drop of water that has been in contact with a ladies vagina. That special water droplet is then diluted until no trace of the original special molecules remain. The resulting tincture is guaranteed to stop you being a twat.

The Stargazer
You are so arrogant as to believe that the relative positions of the celestial bodies at the time of your birth determine your personality traits and the future life events of yourself and all humanity. Although most people may now see the absurdity of your claims, the desperation of those seeking love, health and wealth may draw them to your ramblings. As you relate the vastness of the universe and the positions of stars and galaxies to your own personal fate you should under no circumstances whatsoever, enter the Total Perspective Mind Vortex. If however you are open to a new fully updated version of divinity based on similar logic to astrology, why not check out my shitoscopes. BTW, why have you never won the lottery?

The Lizard King

What’s that you say, “The Illuminati are a race of reptilian humanoids that secretly rule the world?” Have you not taken your medication today? NURSE, NURSE, he’s out of bed again. There, there, calm down now, the nice man in the white coat is going to drive you home.

Actually, I don’t know why I’m being so mean, he’s easily the most likable character in my deck of Tarot cards.

For further information on “The Quack” please refer to Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column and blog. Download the free chapter.
For further information on the misinformer please visit StopJenny
The image used for the Stargazer represents astrologers in general and not the specific astrologer in the image
The image used for the Conspiracy Theorist is of Fox Mulder and not the actor David Duchovny
Thanks for Rebecca Watson’s 2008 Jackasses

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Organised skepticism has made me more open-minded…

…although, as the old adage goes, not so open minded that my brains will fall out. Even though I used to hold religious beliefs, I have always been sceptical of superstitious and paranormal beliefs. As a kid I never worried about stepping on the cracks in the pavement and I made a point of walking under ladders. Although in hindsight even though I still believe this wouldn’t have affected my luck, it may well have increased the probability that something might land on my head.

I have fed my sceptical viewpoint for years with scientific reading, but only in the last year or so have I been partaking in Skeptical fellowship via the medium of lectures, talks, Skeptics in the Pub and Podcasts. These organised sceptical events and broadcasts have proved valuable resources in widening my understanding and appreciation, but they have not made me more dismissive of the claims of believers, in fact the complete opposite is true.

It would be all too easy to counter claims of psychic abilities or paranormal forces with un-investigated denial. All previous attempts to validate such claims have been successfully rebutted, why waste time even considering the possibility that such claims could be true? I’ve come to see that taking such a stance would be taking a non-scientific approach and would open me up to valid criticisms that I accept my sceptical views on faith. Fortunately scientists like Richard Wiseman aren’t afraid to conduct such experiments and whilst I’ve yet to see evidence to support the claims of believers, results still reveal placebo effects and other surprising details attributed to additional factors that may have not been considered otherwise.

For example, scientific evidence to date shows that it is easily possible to walk a short distance barefoot across hot coals due to the rate the heat is conducted through the coals and the feet. However longer exposure will result in burns, so when a believer claims their spirit guide can allow them to walk further, don’t just dismiss the claim. If nothing else it provides excellent entertainment watching them burn their feet, and if they succeed, then that’s an area worth further serious scientific investigation.

Taking some claims seriously and investigating them may reveal genuine benefits for those irrational beliefs. Maybe your psychic or astrologer is giving you sound valuable advice, despite their dubious methods. Maybe your belief in alternative medicine is providing a powerful placebo effect. Although on balance I still think such beliefs do more harm than good. (Check out Whatstheharm for numerous examples), the argument is perhaps not as one sided as I once thought.

I’m writing this blog on the day that Patricia Putt is taking James Randi’s Million Dollar challenge for her claimed psychic abilities. Although I am fully confident that Randi’s fund is safe, I'm not so arrogant to mention her failure without first checking the results. (0/10)

So for those believers who claim the rise in organised scepticism is promoting closed minds, I beg to differ.