Tuesday 30 June 2009

Atheist Summer Camps?

Following this article in last weeks Sunday Times about Camp Quest, I was asked by the BBC World Service to talk about my reasons for wanting to send my children to the camp. As the Sunday Times article contained a number of inaccuracies regarding Richard Dawkins' involvement and unfairly portrayed a rather militant atheist camp, the Director of Camp Quest UK and myself where keen to talk to the BBC to try and redress the balance.

The audio file below is an extract from the BBC World Service news on Monday morning and features the Director of Camp Quest UK, Samantha Stein, and myself talking about the upcoming summer camp.

As I am a rather pedantic old fart, I also wrote a letter to the Sunday Times to highlight some of the inaccuracies and emphasise what I hoped my children would gain from the experience. In the unlikely event that it is published I will add a link, otherwise I’ll stick it in a future blog post. In the meantime here are a few more links:

The Guardian
Derren Brown’s Blog
The Independent
My Previous Blog Post

Friday 26 June 2009

Life of Brian V Spinal Tap

This post is really just a pathetic and sad excuse to namedrop the fact that last night Jack of Kent and I had a very nice chat with John Cleese about science and religion.

On the topic of science and religion, I think there is a large overlap between my thoughts and Mr Cleese’s. However, I got the distinct impression that he is far less keen on the Dawkins style promotion of atheism than I am. So I was going to use this quick post to reiterate why I think Dawkins is having a positive effect on our culture by re-examining my two all time favourite films, namely Monty Python’s Life of Brian and This is Spinal Tap.

Firstly, the similarities between the two films. Although both films choose entirely different subjects to parody, there are a lot of similarities in the parody technique. I don’t see “Brian” as anti religious, and I don’t see “Tap”, as anti music. What each film does is examine the human absurdities that overtake the original passion for either the religion or the music. In Brian we can see how false dogmas and creeds may arise as a result of human ignorance and be amplified, controlled and organised beyond any of the original spirituality. Similarly in “Tap” we can see how the band loses sight of the music through blind devotion to periphery items such as sets, costumes, covers, amplifiers, pre gig snacks and the life style that shrouds the original musical spark.

In short “Brian” and “Tap” aren’t criticising religion or music, they’re pointing a satirical finger and saying look what these silly twats have done in the name of religion or music.

Now, finally to my point.

I clearly remember when “Brian” was originally released. I remember communities and cinemas, wishing to shield the public from it’s blasphemous content. I recall late night theological discussions. I remember the sense of hurt and indignation felt by many religious groups. When “Tap” was released, I do not recall throngs of offended musicians complaining. I don’t recall picket lines of slighted drummer’s outside the cinemas.

This is a prime example of Dawkins point on how religion tries to escape criticism and critical examination by simply taking offense and promoting a culture where such perceived blasphemy is unacceptable.

In their own ways I believe Python and Dawkins have both made good inroads in to removing religions underserved privileges in society. So I’m a big fan of them both.

Are Plait & Wiseman really evil twins?

I couldn’t help but notice that Phil Plait always refers to Richard Wiseman as his evil twin.

Well I have to confess to being a little bit sceptical of that claim, so I decided to do a little investigation to determine the truth behind this seemingly outlandish claim. After a little digging around on the internet, much to my amazement I discovered that the crazy skeptic twins did actually both feature in Stanley Kubricks 1980 cinematic version of the Shining, where they played the parts of the Brady twins.

Sorry for doubting Phil, but I am a Skeptic

Wednesday 24 June 2009

BULLSHIT by Jenny McCarthy

Yesterday’s post on the critically thinking new scent from Richard Dawkins was awfully well received, but I thought I’d best redress the balance. For those who do not like to give off an air of enlightened scientific understanding, I have come up with an alternative fragrance...

As seen on Oprah Winfrey

Let everyone know you’re a credulous fuckwit who will believe any old bollocks by generously dowsing yourself with the unsubtle and misinformed pungent stench of Bullshit by Jenny McCarthy.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Reason by Richard Dawkins

In my previous post (Python Plagiarising for Singh – Part 2), I used the line:

CHIRO #1: I don't want to talk to you no more, you placebo controlled double blind clinical trial conductor! I crack bones in your general direction! Your Stephen Fry is a rationalist and your Dawkins smells of reason.

Well, just to clear things up…….

NB The antidote to “Reason” is here

Sunday 21 June 2009

Python Plagiarising for Singh – Part 2 (The Quest for the Evidence)

As the Singh V BCA case continues to unfold, I couldn’t help but notice that recent developments continue to fit nicely with the Python’s Holy Grail. Following on from Part 1, I have therefore summarised things once again with some simple plagiarising….

[clop clop]

KENT: Halt! Hallo! Hallo!

CHIRO #1: 'Allo! Who is zis?

KENT: It is Jack of Kent and these are the Skeptics from the Pub. Whose clinic is this?

CHIRO #1: This is the clinic of the British Chiropractic Association

KENT: Go and tell your president that we have been charged by Singh with a sacred quest. If he will join us on our quest for unequivocal evidence of the efficacy of chiropractic methods for the treatment of asthma and childhood diseases such as colic, we will cease our criticising of his methods.

CHIRO #1: Well, I'll ask him, but I don't think he'll be very keen... Uh, he's already got a plethora of evidence.

KENT: What?

LEWIS: He says they've got a plethora of evidence.

KENT: Are you sure he's got a plethora?

CHIRO #1: Oh, yes, it's very nice-a [To Other Chiro’s] I told him we already got a plethora.

OTHER CHIROS: [Laughing]

KENT: Well, um, can we come up and have a look?

CHIRO #1: Of course not! You are Skeptic types-a!

KENT: Well, what are you then?

CHIRO #1: I'm an Alternative Medicine Practitioner! Why do think I have these outrageous methods, you silly skeptic!

COLQUHOUN: What are you doing in regular medicine?

CHIRO #1: Mind your own business!

KENT: If you will not show us the plethora of evidence, we shall complain to the Advertising Standards Authority!

CHIRO #1: You don't frighten us, Skeptical pig-dogs! Go and boil your rational bottoms, sons of a critical thinker. I blow my nose at your, so-called Simon Singh, you and all your silly S-Skeptics. Thppppt!

GIMPY: What a strange person.

KENT: Now look here, my good man!

CHIRO #1: I don't want to talk to you no more, you placebo controlled double blind clinical trial conductor! I crack bones in your general direction! Your Stephen Fry is a rationalist and your Dawkins smells of reason.

ZENO27: Is there someone else up there we could talk to?

CHIRO #1: No, now go away or I shall sue you a second time-a!

KENT: Now, this is your last chance. I've been more than reasonable.

CHIRO #1: Right, take down the websites!

[Sound of web sites crashing all around and business cards burning]

To be continued …. Perhaps.

Friday 19 June 2009


On Wednesday 17th June 2009 I attended the live recording of the Little Atoms radio show and podcast at the “School of Life” in Marchmont Street, London.

Neil and Padraig’s special guest on this occasion was the author and journalist, Jon Ronson. At the start of the recording Jon commented on the number of eminent sceptics gathered at the intimate recording, which included Ariane Sherine, Ben Goldacre and Sid The Skeptic from Viz magazine. Jon inspired me to once more start up my copy of Photoshop in honour of a great evenings entertainment and skeptic spotting.

Click Image to Enlarge

I was also delighted to have the chance to go for a drink and a curry with the hosts and some of my fellow skeptics after the recoding. Although the wife was not especially pleased when I got back to the station at 1:10am and required a lift having spent all my taxi tokens on beer and curry.

Monday 15 June 2009

The Total Perspective Vortex

How arrogant and conceited do you have to be to believe that the entire universe, our small bluey-green planet, and all its complex ecological systems of diverse flora and fauna, where created for the sole benefit of one random species?

Religions have frequently started off with a geocentric view of the universe, with a special place in creation for humanity. However, as reality dawns, our position in the universe must be revaluated. Science is continually humbling us as we begin to realise that our short existence is merely a brief fart of cosmic time in an unimaginably large galaxy spinning gently for aeons hence in a universe larger than the English language can accurately describe.

Failure to accept this reality in favour of an indefensible and deluded religious view of ones own importance in the cosmic scheme of things is a fairly loathsome trait.

I believe that this was the inspiration for Douglas Adams’ “Total Perspective Vortex” that was invented primarily to annoy his wife, much like my incentive for blogging.

Here’s a description in Douglas’ own words:

The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. Since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation; every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.

The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.

Trin Tragula, for that was his name, was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot. She would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.

“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.

And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex, just to show her. Into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.

To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot have is a sense of proportion.

I can easily relate to Trin, but I have no desire to annihilate the religious meme infected brains of the faithful. It would however be nice to give them a little perspective of how humanity really fits in with the rest of the galaxy. Of course I realise that this is a futile attempt as if your arguments are not restricted by reality, than an answer to any criticism can be simply plucked from the arsehole of your chosen authority.

Regardless, I have harvested this short YouTube video from Phil Plait’s excellent Bad Astronomy blog that is the closest thing I have seen yet to the Total Perspective Vortex.

I don’t intend to promote a meaningless and futile existence, which is how the atheistic viewpoint is frequently misinterpreted by the religious, merely help appreciate and make the most of the briefest spark of consciousness that we are so incredibly lucky to savour.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Saturday 13 June 2009

The Homeopathy Sketch

The nice thing about having a narrow readership of scientific and sceptical thinkers, is that you can take it for granted that they know their Python. So many thanks for all the positive comments on my previous post.

At the risk of over milking what seemed like a popular idea, I thought I’d take advantage of the Python boys once more in honour of homeopathy awareness week that starts today.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Python Plagiarising for Singh - Part 1 (The Scientist Trial)

A bogus transcript of the preliminary Singh V BCA hearing with a little help from the Pythons:

WOOS: A scientist! A scientist! A scientist! We've got a scientist! A scientist!

WOO #1: We have found a scientist, might we sue him?

WOOS: Sue him! Sue!

EADY: How do you know he is a scientist?

WOO #2: he looks like one.

EADY: Bring him forward.

SINGH: I'm not a scientist. I'm not a scientist. (I’m a science writer)

EADY: But you are dressed as one.

SINGH: They dressed me up like this.

WOOS: No, we didn't... no.

SINGH: And this isn't my test tube, it's a false one.

EADY: Well?

WOO #1: Well, we did do the test tube.

EADY: The test tube?

WOO #1: And the microscope -- but he is a scientist!

WOOS: Sue him! Scientist! Scientist! Sue him!

EADY: Did you dress him up like this?

WOOS: No, no... no ... yes. Yes, yes, a bit, a bit.

WOO #1: he's got a book.

EADY: What makes you think he is a scientist?

JAGO: He turned me into a nerd

WOO #3: Well, he asked me for evidence.

EADY: Evidence?

WOO #3: I faked it.

WOO #2: Sue him anyway!

WOOS: Sue! Sue him!

EADY: Quiet, quiet. Quiet! There are ways of telling whether he is a scientist.

WOOS: Are there? What are they? (Do they hurt)

EADY: Tell me, what do you do with scientists?

WOO #2: Sue them!

WOOS: Sue, Sue then!

EADY: And who do you sue apart from scientists?

WOO #1: More scientists!

WOO #2: bogus bloggers

EADY: So, why can scientists be sued?


WOO #3: B--... 'cause they're bogus...?

EADY: Good!

WOOS: Oh yeah, yeah...

EADY: So, how do we tell whether he is bogus?

WOO #1: Make unsubstantiated claims about him.

EADY: Aah, but can you not also make unsubstantiated claims about acupuncture?

WOO #2: Oh, yeah.

EADY: Do bogus claims get exposed in court?

WOO #1: No, no.

WOO #2: They’re vindicated! They’re vindicated!

WOO #1: Throw him into the courtroom!

WOOS: The courtroom!

EADY: What also gets vindicated in court?

WOO #1: Reiki!

WOO #2: Faith Healing!

WOO #3: Homeopathy!

WOO #1: Detoxification!

WOO #2: Cupping!

WOO #1: Ear Candles!

WOO #2: Vaccine denial!

WOO #3: Trepaning!

WOO #2: Herbal mdeicine – Herbal Medicine!

McTimoney: Chiropractors.

WOOS: Oooh.

EADY: Exactly! So, logically...,

WOO #1: If... he.. weighs the same as a chiropractor, he's bogus.

EADY: And therefore--?

WOO #1: A scientist!

WOOS: A scientist!

EADY: We shall use my English Libel Laws!


EADY: Right, remove the justice!

(whop) (creak)

WOOS: A scientist! A scientist!

SINGH: I shall appeal

Now with additional line, courtesy of Jack of Kent

Part 2 Now Available on all good browsers at an internet near you

Wednesday 10 June 2009

On-line Psychic My Arse

I know I shouldn’t get worked up about this kind of thing, but it pisses me off. I received this link to an online psychic website the other day via a tweet.

The home page has an online “psychic experiment” that uses the tired old missing card gag. On the off chance that anyone is still unfamiliar with this basic parlour trick, here it is again.

The subject is shown 6 cards, as below

The subject is then asked to choose one of the cards, but not to say which one, or touch or click the card. OK, Have you picked one?

You then insert your chosen mystic woo into this bit. Here's mine:
After you’ve looked into their eyes are waved your arms around or whatever method you choose to symbolise paranormal activity, the subject is instructed that the paranormal forces have transmitted the chosen card to the receiver.

The subject is then shown the following 5 cards and asked if their chosen card was the one mystically selected to be removed from the list.

Miraculously their card is no longer there, because these are four different, but similar cards. The subject generally only remembers the actual card they chose, plus the fact the others were picture cards of various suites. They scan the new list unsuccessfully for their card and assume the others were part of the original set.

Of course the trick is less effective here, as you can scroll back up and re-look at the original 6 cards. To complete the misconception you would set it up in such a way so as to not reshow the original cards.

Having (hopefully) amazed you with this “psychic experiment”, the website then takes you on to the next screen that claims to tell you how it is done. However, there is no explanation like the one I have just given, just lots of mumbo jumbo and bandying around of words used inappropriately, like crystals and energy. Then of course, the opportunity to register and pay them lots of money for the services of various charlatans and hoaxers.

The art of deception is a clever and wondrous thing. I’m hugely entertained by people like Derren Brown and James Randi, who can invent clever tricks that fool my simple brain. But they openly tell me that I’m being deceived. Creating the illusion that the trick is accomplished by paranormal means in order to extract money from the credulous is immoral and it pisses me off big time.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Yet More Trick or Treatment

Following Justice Eady’s illiberal ruling on the BCA Versus Simon Singh case last month, I posted a blog proposing some new sham alternative medicine procedures, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to scientifically defend the efficacy of my treatments, just sue anyone who criticised my claims. However, I have since learnt that suing may be counterproductive and simply make the public aware of the inefficacy of my treatments. Not overly deterred by this, I have come up with another new alternative medical treatment that I shall administer myself…..

Mammary Energy Balancing

As all credulous bimbos know, there is an invisible force that surrounds our bodies. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together. This force, or energy, is sometimes referred to by Certified Woo Doctors as “Che-Kra”; although in more enlightened circles the term “bollocks” is preferred.

After extensive training I have learnt to master the manipulation of this energy force and have the ability to realign and balance this energy for maximum health benefits. Che-Kra can sometimes pool in the mammary glands of especially buxom and attractive young ladies. Che-Kra frequently forms in unequal quantities in each mammary gland, or as we professional energy balancing practitioners like to call them, tits. This can cause energy imbalances that can lead to serious feminine medical conditions such as chocolate addiction, compulsive obsessive nagging disorder, the lunar cycle curse, and telephone dependence.

My revolutionary new mammary balancing treatment is the ideal remedy for such ailments. Treatment is administered by placing the palms of my hands over your firm naked jugs and feeling for the energy fields, gentle manipulation of each hooter will allow me to judge the Che-Kra levels within, and a series of rubbing and stroking procedures will help realign your energy levels.

Particularly generous fun bags are prone to attract negative Che-Kra life force; you should never underestimate the dark side of the force, which is why I have developed a revolutionary new technique to quash this negative energy. By placing my face directly between your dirty pillows and moving my head from side to side whilst reciting the mystical incantation “Wubba Wubba” the negative energy can be channelled away.

If this recognised procedure somehow fails to correctly align and balance the energy levels, I can administer intense energy rebalancing by physically sucking out the negative Che-Kra through nature’s supplied energy imbalance portals, or tit-ends.

Treatment session typically last for 30 minutes, or until I have applied my unique protein-enriched pearlescent ointment to the affected area, after which, I generally lose interest. Sessions are normally conducted on a one to one basis, although special rates can be arranged if you bring along an attractive friend for a simultaneous session.

If you would like to make an appointment for treatment, firstly email me a photograph so I can assess your suitability or give me a ring. NB Hang up straight away if the wife answers.

Saturday 6 June 2009

Watch Out Woo

Science and reason is coming to London on 3rd and 4th October 2009CLICK TO ENLARGE

Firstly apologies to the speakers for not using their official titles, but you know "Mr" fitted in better. Anyway, as much as I was looking forward to seeing Richard Dawkins at TAM London, news of his unavailability could not have been softened better than the addition of Tim Minchin to the line up.

However, this meant that my previous TAM London Photoshop effort had to be redone.

See you there guys

Friday 5 June 2009

Scepticism V Denial

This short post was born out of a tweet exchange between @giagia and @glinner that I was eye-wigging in on this morning.

I’ve blogged before on the overloading of the word scepticism outside of the scientific and sceptical community leading to confusion and false assumptions. @glinner's tweet this morning is a perfect example. In his tweet, Graham said:

“@giagia ugh. I do hate that. Moon landing sceptics are the 'space' version of holocaust deniers.”
I quite agree with him, but I do want to take issue with the semantics. The use of the word sceptic for those non accepting of the moon landings, but denier for those non accepting of the holocaust made me think about the distinction between the two words.

Surely if we reserve the word “sceptic” for views and opinions on items without scientific consensus and reliable evidence and use “denial” for the non agreement of widely accepted scientific theory it would avoid confusion.

So for example you could talk about:

Astrology sceptics
Paranormal sceptics
Alien Abduction sceptics
Alternative/pseudo medicine sceptics
Bigfoot sceptics
Dowsing sceptics
Past life regression sceptics
Etc etc

And then use the term “denier” exclusively for those who argue against the scientific consensus, thus:

Evolution deniers
Holocaust deniers
HIV causing Aids deniers
Moon Landing deniers
Climate Change deniers

Adhering to these semantics might help alleviate people outside of the scientific and sceptical community making association with my views and the later list, thus avoiding annoying comments like “Yes I’m a sceptic too, I don’t believe in evolution or the moon landings”

Sorry, just re-read that post and it seems a bit whiney and preachy, normal service of sarcasm and attempted witticism will be resumed in the next post.

Thursday 4 June 2009

I’m supporting Simon Singh too

I’m sure all of us in the sceptical and scientific community were heartened today by Simon Singh’s decision to appeal. The number of great articles and blogs I have read today have also buoyed me. I don’t feel that I can really add much more to the details of the case than has already been done by at least the following blogs and articles:

The Guardian
The Times
The Independent
Bad Astronomy
Jack of Kent

So rather than retype the facts of the case I wanted to impress a few thoughts on the wider implications of the case and echo my support for Simon.

The freedom to make valid scientific criticisms of any method or theory is how science advances its understanding. If an invalid theory, or worse still, an ideology, is allowed to hide behind illiberal libel laws rather then scientific analysis of the criticisms; science, truth, and knowledge are all in danger.

Simon therefore stands up to the greater principles at stake here by attempting to appeal the preliminary decision, but at a potentially immense cost of time, money, resources and stress. Therefore like so many eminent scientists, academics, broadcasters, comedians, writers, journalists and bloggers before me, I just wanted to use my humble blog to simply state that I’m standing right behind Simon with you all. Whatever you need, just ask, we’re ready to fight with you.

If you haven’t already signed the support campaign at sense about science, please do so.

Footage of the Simon Singh Support meeting available here