A blunt, shit-stained instrument wielded indiscriminately to bludgeon pseudoscience, superstition, blind faith and common or garden irrational bollocks.
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Friday, 30 October 2009
Spine Wizards and other Woo-Woo Therapists
Anyway, this got me to wondering if we could think up some more good terms for the other alternative therapies. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started. Please fell free to post your suggestions in the comments field.
Buggeropathy v. colonic irrigation. To shove a garden hose up ones jacksie
Decashification n. detoxification. A cunning marketing ploy involving eating less and spending more.
Dilution Druid n. homeopath. One who prepares impotent quacksalvers with no memory of the bullshit it once contained.
Foot Wanker n. reflexologist. A medical numpty with a foot fetish under the misapprehension that the feet are connected to the pancreas.
Juju Jedi n. Reiki Master. One skilled in the ancient art of convincing the naïve minded that spiritual healing works and the laws of nature are wrong.
Prick Therapy n. acupuncture. The ancient Chinese martial art of stabbing people with small needles.
Quartz Quacks n. Crystal Therapist. A Woo-monger of immense gullibility prone to frequent misuse of the word “energy”.
Spine Wizard n. chiropractor. A caster of subluxation spells.
Wife Beating v. cupping. The pointless bruising of daft tarts.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Anal Ventriloquism for Dummies
Chapter 1: Sound-Bite Gob-Shite
Invent some random spiritual mumbo jumbo by plundering a few choice religions for currently fashionable nonsense. Whenever possible, pepper your flatulent prose with a generous sprinkling of meaningless keywords such as “spiritual”, “force” or “energy”. Assuming he’s not referring to the new boarding steps for the Airbus A380, here’s Deepak Chopra deftly demonstrating the technique with some vacant, meaningless arse dribble.
Chapter 2 : Religious Zeal
Why not reject contemporary tolerant free thinking in favour of blind adherence to Bronze Age superstitions that promote illiberal persecution. This will ensure that not only do you spout nonsense, but you spout abhorrent odious nonsense. Stephen Green demonstrates by commenting on the recent death of Stephen Gately and making Jan Moir sound relatively empathetic.
Chapter 3: Pick n Mix
Why not take a number of irrational beliefs and mix them up to come up with something utterly insane. Here’s crazy creationist and convicted tax evader, Kent Hovind succinctly combining Christianity, Conspiracy Theories and Anti Vax propaganda in a single sentence of verbal arse gravy.
Chapter 4: History Denial
If historical facts don’t align nicely with your heinous prejudices, why not just invent lots of ways of disregarding the facts you don’t like the look of. Here’s Nick Griffin demonstrating.
Chapter 5: Bat Shit Crazy
Once completely blinded by your preferred religious ideology you should be able to dream up some really crazy shit and direct it at an alternative bonkers religious ideology hell bent on world domination and submission, while remaining totally oblivious to the hypocrisy. Ann Coulter has made this into an art form.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Simpsons Skeptics: Video Edition
Original cards available here and here
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Pareidolia: For God and Country
I preach to the choir, so you lot will all be familiar with the phenomenon of Pareidolia. Our brains seem to be hard-wired to recognise face patterns, even when they occur randomly in nature.
Much pareidola is seen around religious figures, Christians claims to see Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, and Catholics in particular are good a spotting the Virgin Mary. This made me ponder if we are more likely to spot the things that interest us.
I took the following photograph whilst on a walking holiday in the Lake District this summer, perhaps it’s a little telling of my preferences, but to my eyes the tree in the photo reminded me of something that has fascinated and interested me for years.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Derek Acorah to summon the spirit of Michael Jackson
Under cover reporters from Science, Reason & Critical Thinking have infiltrated the shows script writing board and can now exclusively reveal an early draft of the show’s script. This early draft features Yvette Fielding as the host although recent press releases cite June Sarpong.
[Derek Acorah, Yvette Fielding and token Skeptic Chris French are seated around a round table in a darkened room lit only by a single dim, un-shaded light bulb suspended from the ceiling]
Derek Acorah: Spirits of the after life can you hear me?
[producer knocks light bulb cable with a stick to cause a small shake]
Yvette Fielding: [small shrill scream]
Derek Acorah: I feel a disturbance in the force.
Yvette Fielding: Who is it Derek?
Derek Acorah: I sense a presence, make yourself known, who are you?
Derek Acorah: Hang on, I’m getting something
Derek Acorah: Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009), known as the "King of Pop",  was an American musician and one of the most commercially successful and influential entertainers of all time. His unique contributions to music and dance, along with a highly publicized personal life, made him a prominent figure in popular culture for four decades.
Yvette Fielding: [Whispers] Nice research Derek.
Derek Acorah: Spirit of Michael Jackson, use my body as a medium.
[Derek bows head, closes eyes and sits still]
[producer flickers light switch]
[Derek, opens eyes]
Derek Acorah: [in squeaky voice] hello to all my fans in the UK.
Yvette Fielding: [screams]
Chris French: Hello Michael, now that you have passed to the other side, can you tell us the meaning of life?
Derek Acorah: [in squeaky voice] If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.
Yvette Fielding: [screams]
Chris French: Can you tell us which, if any, of the religions are correct? Are you in heaven, or another dimension, or just in Derek’s delusion?
Derek Acorah: [in squeaky voice] My goal in life was to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance.
Yvette Fielding: [screams]
Chris French: Is our current understanding of physics correct, is there a Higgs Boson particle, is the universe finite, are we just part of a multiverse, what happened before the big bang?
Derek Acorah: [in squeaky voice] Go and buy my new single, it’s really good.
Yvette Fielding: [screams]
Chris French: Can you give us any sort of useful information whatsoever?
Derek Acorah: [rises slowly out of seat and moonwalks backward around the table]
Yvette Fielding: [screams and shits her pants]
The BCA Press Statement
The Jack of Kent blog has some excellent analysis on the BCA press statement following yesterday’s High Court hearing where Simon Singh was awarded the right to a full appeal.
I haven’t managed such critical analysis of the press statement, but I have managed to acquire an exclusive photograph of the BCA’s press officer:
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Simon Singh has won permission for a FULL APPEAL
Entering the gothic cathedral of law for the first time was a little surreal as we wove our way through the corridors to our allotted courtroom. I sat at the back of the court with the Singh posse waiting for the Judge feeling not unlike a naughty schoolboy outside the headmaster’s office.
We all stood up as the Judge entered and Simon’s lawyer addressed the Judge. We were under strict instructions of no tweeting, blogging, farting or recording, so I am unable to give you a full transcript, however, please allow me to paraphrase…
Lawyer Dude: “You’re most worthy eminence, sir, your majesty whatever etc etc. We have given you a shit load of documentation explaining why Simon should be given permission to appeal, do you want me to go through the 4 major points”
Justice Law: “Nah, I can’t be arsed to go through all that as you’ve written far too much, anyway I’ve already made up my mind to grant Simon permission for a full appeal and Simon will be allowed to re-argue it was fair comment. Now bugger off and try and write something a bit shorter for the full appeal.
I may not have used the exact words, but you get the general idea. For a more sensible update take a look at
- Padraig Reidy’s piece for Index of Censorship
- Tessa's guest blog on Lay Science.
- Simons post hearing statement on the Sense About Science website
- Heresy Corner on Simon Wins One
- Nature News
- Dr Aust's Spleen
- And of course Jack of Kent's Permission Granted
I was hoping to point and laugh at the BCA, but they didn’t turn up, word has it they they’d got wind of the hearing.
Great News. Just a successful appeal and then a trial to go then. Piece of cake.
It was also nice to see #SinghBCA trending on twitter today, let hope this helps us get a few more signatures for libel law reform.
Ooh and even Google were in on the act:
Or perhaps i just made that up. Anyway, here's Simon speaking directly after the appeal...
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
The "Jesus Lizard"
At 2,000 frames per second, this new footage has helped scientists unlock the secrets behind the lizard’s miraculous feats.
Unlike water boatman or small insects, the basilisk lizard is too large and heavy to simply balance on the water tension and has therefore puzzled scientists for many years on how they appear to simply run across the water with a total disregard for the rules of physics as currently understood.
Many theories have been mooted as to how the lizard so effortlessly accomplishes this graceful act including calculating the optimum speed and direction of force ratio to the generation of small water bubbles to increase the time available for each step.
However, scientists at the Discovery institute claim that analysis of the lizards DNA and careful studying of the video footage has finally revealed that the lizard can walk on water simply because it is the son of God.
Further studies have revealed that the lizard can also turn water into wine and make some bread and fish go a very long way. Despite the miraculous abilities of the Jesus lizard, scientists have warned the faithful not to tempt the lizards into performing more useful feats. When quizzed further on why the lizards are able to suspend the natural laws of the universe in order to achieve fancy tricks but not to alleviate pain, suffering, famine and hatred, scientists simply responded: “Lizards move in mysterious ways”.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
The Amaz!ng Panel
On the Amazing Panel were:
Martin Robbins: The Lay Scientist
Andy Lewis: The Quackometer
George Hrab: Geologic
Rebecca Watson: Skepchick
Neil Denny: Little Atoms
Tim Farley: What’s the Harm?
NB These are not official TAM London video's
Tessa Kendall gave a brief talk on the current work of the National Secular Society before Tracy King introduced Rebecca Watson who lead the panel in an opening introduction outlining the contributions made by each of the panel.
Rebecca led the discussion on how to promote skeptical content to a wider audience
Question 1: Negative repercussions
Does the panel ever worry that their work in scepticism and wide Internet presence might have negative repercussions on their professional day jobs?
Question 2: Hate Mail
Have any of you made any real enemies or received any feedback from your blog that's actually frightened you?
Question 3: YouTube
Obviously YouTube is a big medium for scepticism. What's your take on the bannings that have been going on?
Question 4: Getting started
Its a pretty basic question for a beginner, but other than holding bits of paper up, if you've got a blog, how do you go about getting some readers when you're just starting out?
Question 5: European forum
We definitely need something like the JREF forum but more on European topics, because if I make a comment on the JREF about homeopathy they don't even believe their are real doctors in Hungary who practice homeopathy.
Question 6: The term “Skeptic”
Jonathan Ross tweeted today that he thought that the term "Skepticism", is a negative and he prefers to think of it as rational thought.
Question 7: Celebrities
Many of you, if not all of you have experienced some form of "celebrity" yourselves because of your skeptic work for example at TAM's you sign autographs.
NB These are not official TAM London video's
Official TAM London videos coming to the TAM London YouTube channel soon
Additional thanks to
And a special thanks to the so proffesional Rebecca for keeping her knees together throughout.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Richard kicked the event off his humorous introductions and punctuated each of the speakers with his unique blend of magic, psychology and comedy.
So, the first speaker to take the stage was particle physicist and ex rock star, Professor Brain Cox. “What’s the point of building a large Hadron Collider” mused Brian. He gave us one answer supplied by a science funding corporation, a single slide of meaningless, uninspiring management bollocks. As a comparison to this, he then went on to show a few simple images; a simple snap from an Apollo mission showing for the first time, the earth beyond the moons horizon; and an image from Voyager, when it turned around to look at us and captured a pale blue dot in a ray of sunlight. Brian accompanied the image with Carl Sagan’s timeless quote which raises more hairs on the back of the neck than any sermon ever could.
Having reminded us of the accomplishments of the Apollo and Voyager mission, Brian whetted our appetite on what we might expect from the LHC. Despite rather clumsily buggering up the machine last year, Brian assured us that they’ve now sussed out that they have to be very careful when sending a shit load of volts through a fairly thin wire. He promised us it won’t happen again, and they’ll be stoking her up again in a few weeks in the hope of cranking up a few particles to within a fraction of the speed of light and twatting them into each other.
It then got a bit technical perfectly comprehensible and enlightening just not dumbed down to the perceived levels TV producers frequently think necessary. By outlining our current understanding of particle physics it became clear how our current unifying theory (Excluding gravity) relies on the existence of the so far undiscovered Higgs Boson particle. It seemed clear from the talk that the LHC will either find the bloody thing, or give us the confidence to admit it doesn’t exit and force us to think up a new theory.
Brian closed off with a few quotes from some esteemed scientist on the LHC, including this quote from himself that he was rather surprised the BBC used verbatim:
“Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat”
Next up was Jon Ronson with some slightly lighter material. Jon stooped over the corner of the lectern and proceeded to tell us the story of the “Men Who Stare at Goats”. Jon’s best selling book of the same name, and soon to be movie of the same name starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor. The book came about as a true life investigation into the CIA’s secret paranormal research for military purposes. Jon treated us to a brief trailer of the upcoming movie that featured George Clooney as Lyn Cassidy who reasons thus:
“I am made entirely of atoms, and atoms are predominately made of nothing, the wall is also made of atoms and therefore overwhelmingly consists of nothing”
This simple logic did however lead to his perpetual confusion when every time he slammed himself into the wall, he completely failed to pass through it.
Jon talked us through the how his project started as a series of documentary films for Chanel 4 exploring some of the crazy shit going on within US military intelligence. Jon uncovered bizarre psychological experimental warfare techniques from starring at goats in an attempt to make their hearts stop right up to blasting Iraqi prisoners of war with the theme tune to Barney the Dinosaur, surely water boarding pails in comparison to this heinous violation of human liberty.
As I’m sure you all know that Simon is currently in the process of being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for writing an article in the Guardian some 18 months ago regarding the efficacy of chiropractic treatment for certain childhood diseases. The well now well known and oft repeated paragraph around which the libel case hangs once again is:
"The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments"
For his TAM talk Simon walked us through the genesis of his article, and in fact his book “Trick or Treatment” co authored by Professor Edzard Ernst. It seems as though the starting point was a BBC 2 documentary showing a woman, I believe in China, undergoing surgery without general anaesthetic, but using acupuncture for pain relief.
After further investigation Simon discovered that although she was receiving acupuncture she had also received a couple of drugs stronger in fact than morphine as well as a local anaesthetic. Of course this was never revealed on the documentary film leaving viewers with the impression that complete pain relief for surgery can be easily accomplished by jabbing a few needles around in your appropriate meridians. Hence the motivation to author a book that critically examines the most popular alternative medicines in an unbiased and scientific quest for the truth behind their efficacy.
The second part of Simon's talk focused around the pretty shitty English Libel laws that the ill conceived case has highlighted. Much has been written already about this important case by much wiser men and women than I, so rather than repeat the details now I would rather point you at a few other blogs that can explain it far more eloquently than I can:
Jack of Kent, The Quackometer, Stuff and Nonsense, The Lay Scientist Zenos Blog, Neurlogica, DC's Improabble Science
In fact Simon kindly paid tribute to this fine list of bloggers and thanked them for their kind support and awareness raising, unfortunately I can remember exactly which bloggers he listed as I was blinded by own name nicely highlighted in the middle. In fact, I’m filling up now just thinking about it, I’m going to have to move on...
Ariane Sherine recanted the fascinating story of the Atheist Bus Campaign. Ariane’s beguiling dulcet tones made her an absolute dream to listen to, and she enthralled a packed room of 600 skeptics with tales of how the campaign nearly fell at the first hurdle. But eventually ended up by raising, I believe in excess of £150,000.
Ariane loitered around with the great unwashed skeptics for much of the event and whenever she stood still for a few moments a massive queue of skeptics and Atheists invariable formed behind her, clutching their Godless Crimbo guides in the hope of getting Ariane to scrawl something in the book. She diligently obliged by taking the time to write a lengthy personal message in many books.
I feel a little guilty whenever meeting Ariane, as when I wrote her Simpsons Skeptic Top Trump Card, instead of concentrating on her sterling campaign work or captivating journalism, I opted instead for a few cheap sexist nob gags. The situation is only compounded every time I met her, as on this occasion when I some how ended up talking to her about my cock. My wife tells me that I’m lucky that she’s far too polite to just say "Fuck off you creepy man".
Ben Goldacre’s unique mixture of science, stand-up and rabble rousing has made him a firm favourite amongst the skeptical community. The self confessed potty mouthed nerd cheerleader and architect of the Bad Science column in the Guardian, and the Bad Science Book and T-Shirt and tank top, and hopefully soon skeptical action figure, is never short of things to say.
On this occasion, Ben used his platform to remind us to be vigilant of dodgy mainstream science reporting focused on selling papers through inaccurate health scares such as the MMR media reporting debacle, or meaningless equations to tell you about, for example the most depressing day of the year, or attention grabbing headlines like “all men will have big willies” derived by perverting genuine scientific research.
I was also delighted that he took some time to poke a pointy metaphorical stick at Dr Gillian McKeith, or to use her full medical title as Ben always reminds us, Gillian McKeith. For any non UK based readers unfamiliar with the middle class nutritional nut eating advice of Gillian McKeith, I’m always tickled by the fact that both Gillian McKeith and Ben Goldacre’s dead cat Henrietta are both members of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants.
Robin Ince & Friends
After a few swift pints next door at the Black Friars pub, we were back to the conference centre for our bangers and mash and an evening of comedy and music with Robin Ince and friends.
I shan’t go through all of Robin’s comedy and musical guest performers of the evening, but I will call out Chris Cox, who pulled my wife up on stage to assist with his great comedy mind reading trick. Despite my wife’s best efforts to derail him, he correctly honed in her selected playing card.
Robin’s in-between sets featured a sterling analysis of the author and columnist Ann Coulter. Now Ad hominem attacks may well be a cheap unscientific attack on an individual rather than an idea, but taking the piss out of Ann Coulter is just so much fun. Actually, Come to think about it, she was taking the piss out of herself, as all Robin did was read Ann’s own words verbatim from her book. They’re just hilarious to the rational and intelligent ear straight as they come out of the book. To bring back a bit of sanity and calm things down a bit Robin closed day 1 as it began by reading from the Gospel of Carl.
Geo enthralled us with a set of music and comedy to start of the second day of TAM. I especially enjoyed his story of how whilst driving through his hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, he was cut up by a car emblazoned with a God Fearing Jesus bumper sticker only to pull up next to said vehicle at the next set of traffic lights and spot crazy creationist Michael Behe in the passenger seat.
What to do? You can’t run him off the road, or give him the finger; after all we have our fine atheist reputation to uphold. Quick thinking George however solved the dilemma by rolling down the window and shouting “Boo”. Works for me.
George also gave us a number of songs interspersed with his jolly banter, my favourite of which is the anthem for the 365 days of Astronomy, “Far”.
Next up was Glen Hill, son of Elsie Wright, nee Hill whose famous fairy photographs of 1916 were believed by many to be genuine.
Glen explained how the fairies were drawn, cut out and mounted to indulge the fantasies of her little cousin. Glen then explained how Sir Arthur Conon-Doyle went on to promote the photographs as genuine in an attempt to vindicate his own alcoholic father who experienced hallucinations of little men or faries.
Inspired by the Cottingly fairy pictures I took some similar pictures of my own kids with the aid of Photoshop and a few Google image searches. However, no one considered my photo’s to be genuine.
Glen then moved onto the second half of his talk which was based on his book “ Religion Explained in an Hour”, where he postulated on how he believed the Abrahamic religions were founded on psychotic delusions. Now I enjoy a good bit of God bashing as much as the next rationalist, but I do feel he veered from impartial talk to anti religious rant. Still, it’s all jolly good fun.
Mythbuster Adam Savage told us a few tales behind the making of a couple of the scenes from the Mythbusters TV show.
The main one talked about was his experiment to see how fast you could swim through syrup, deftly accomplished by digging two long troughs and filling them with a suitably viscose liquid. Adam was a great story teller but the anticipated funny punch line at the end of the story failed to materialise.
I had a quick chat with Adam after his talk along with a few other people who lynched him when he came off stage. When I arrived on scene he was being quizzed by a chap doing a piss take of the star trek / comic book guy nerd, with the weird voice sounding not unlike Peter Cook on a park bench enlightening those near by on the length of their intestines. I was about to congratulate him on his amusing nerd pastiche when I realised he wasn’t actually putting it on for comic effect.
Do I really need to tell you how awesome Tim Minchin is live? As with his appearance at Robin Ince’s 9 lessons and carols for Godless people, Tim totally stole the show.
Anyway, he’s touring at the moment so I don’t want to give away too many spoilers as he did perform a number of amusing ditties from his live set. So I’ll skip the details of his TAM performance. I do however want to briefly mention the animated film to accompany his skeptic anthem, “Storm” that is currently in production.
We were lucky enough to get a quick sneak preview of "Storm". I expected the film to be pretty bloody good, but it’s going to be even better than that, so keep an eye out for Tim Minchin animated film of “Storm” next year when it is due for release.
Bringing up the rear of the conference was the President of the JREF, the incredulous Phil Plait.
As the first TAM to be held outside North America, it was great to teach our American Skeptic friends how to swear properly. After abandoning a few attempts to point out the hilarious differences between American English and English English, Phil went on to win the crowd by liberating his tongue around some good old fashioned British swearing. Phil successfully supplanted a "baloney" for a "bollocks" but failed to score higher in the TAM profanity bingo competition.
Incidentally despite first rate professional swearing from the likes of Goldacre and Minchin, I would have to award the curse of the conference trophy to Ariane’s hate mail author.
Anyway, I seem to have gone off topic in a hopeless attempt to be rude to Phil Plait. Oh, by the way, I had a chat with Phil and he promised to be very rude back to me on his Bad Astronomy blog so I’m really looking forward to fielding some first rate piss taking from the main man.
Where was I, Oh yes, Phil Plait's closing talk. Phil actually gave a superb talk based on his best selling book “Death from the Skies”, after explaining the difference between asteroids and comets Phil explained the reality behind the likelihood of a strike, the consequences of such a strike and some realistic mitigation methods. Phil contrasted these ideas with Hollywood’s perception of such events with a few clips from the very silly Armageddon and the slightly better Deep Impact.
Or if you couldn't be bothered to read all that, you could hear it on episode 4 of the Pod Delusion, availble from iTunes, or the embeded player below.
The Benny Hinn Show
Sunday, 4 October 2009
My Favourite Science Writers
Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Donald Prothero, Richard Feynman, Simon Singh, Marcus Chown, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Phil Plait, Steven Pinker, Ben Goldacre
Those at TAM London on Saturday morning should be able to break the colour code.
Friday, 2 October 2009
The Pod Delusion: Episode 3 (New Labour, New Atheists, New TV, New Apps)
- Will Howells takes a closer look at Gordon Brown’s keynote conference speech at the Labour Party conference
- Simon Howard examines Andy Burnham’s labour party conference speech on hospital parking fees
- Tom Morris rips apart Andrew Brown’s recent poor Guardian article attempting to establish a link between the middle classes and the “new” Atheists.
- Duncan Stephen investigates this weeks freeview retuning, and reminds us off the sort of shite we can enjoy on freeview
- I simply rehashed my iWoo blog and conducted a more detailed review of some iRrational iPhone Apps
You can now download and subscribe from iTunes (Just search the iTunes store for the “Pod Delusion” or listen from here:
iTunes review would be greatly appreciated.