Saturday 27 November 2010

Cardinal Tucker: Papal Advisor

Many people are under the delusion that Armando Iannucci based the character of Malcolm Tucker on Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell. This is of course a vicious and unfounded falsehood. Minimal and shoddy investigations by the Science, Reason & Critical Thinking research department has uncovered that the character in question is in fact wholly based on Cardinal Tucker, a Papal Adviser based in the Vatican during the previous Papacy.

Despite the above being completely plucked from my arse. The following references may be of interest:
The Times

Thursday 18 November 2010

Karma Kanics: The New Age Vehicle Well-Running Centre

Middle Class, Middle Aged, Rationally Minded, Educated, White Gentlemen in the Pub (MCMARMEWGitP)

Middle Class, Middle Aged, Rationally Minded, Educated, White Gentlemen in the Pub (MCMARMEWGitP) is a popular movement that seems to be picking up a head of steam. Branches are popping up all over the country. I myself even started one in Winchester with my sceptical comrade from the Hampshire Skeptics Society, Dave Hughes, and it’s going from strength to strength.

Each month we invite a fellow MCMARMEWG to the pub to tell us how clever we all are for not believing in silly superstitions.

We have made a couple of exceptions, we did once invite a female speaker, and we’ve even had a speaker of Asian descent called Simon Singh, who gave a very good talk, but he’s obviously not like the rest of them.

So we are quite clearly not an elitist or racist organisation, anyone is welcome to attend. The fact that we have an almost exclusively white audience is sadly just a simple manifestation of the fact that black and Asian people tend to be more superstitious than, and not quite as clever as us.


In the light of last week’s ruling on Paul Chambers' appeal at Doncaster Crown Court, I feel obliged to point out that the above text is of course ironic. Hopefully though you will have found the rhetoric suitably uncomfortable.

It’s a topic that I have brought up on twitter before, shortly after attending this years Amazing Honkyfest where I couldn’t help noticing that our audience was far from an accurate representation of the population at large.

Alom Shaha raised the issue again yesterday in the Guardian, and I believe he is right to do so.

By attending Skeptics in the Pub my friends and family do not see me rejecting my culture, my heritage and my values. Most of the people I know are fairly indifferent to the fact that I get together with a bunch of friends for a drink and a rational discussion on religion, the paranormal or pseudoscience. There are therefore no real consequences for me in attending these meetings and events. This may well not be the case for many Black and Asian people.

Even though the doors of our pubs may be open, we cannot just expect everyone to turn up unencumbered by the beliefs of their family and friends. If Skeptics in the Pub is not the medium for reaching everyone, we need to think what other mediums we should also be promoting in addition to SitP.

Saying that we have a non exclusive open door policy, sadly is not enough.

Saturday 13 November 2010

#TwitterJokeTrial #IAmSpartacus

I was most upset and shocked at the decision in Doncaster Crown Court on Thursday following the conviction of Paul Chambers.

I shan't attempt to rewrite the details of the case. Please see here and here for background, if by some chance you are not familiar with the case.

I was however rather heartened by the show of solidarity on twitter on Friday (and I hope Paul was too), with the #IAmSpartactus hash tag being used to accompany a mass re-tweet of Paul's original tweet.

Well done twitter, what a fine bunch of people you are.

Friday 12 November 2010

Oprah Winfrey: Bullshit Flow Diagram

A few weeks ago I posted an Alternative Medicine Flow Chart. Although I am a software engineer by trade, I very rarely actually use flow charts. I have however spent an awful lot of time attempting to model systems using more structured systems design techniques, and am therefore far more likely to use an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) or a Data Flow Diagram (DFD).

So here's a quick Bullshit Flow Diagram (BFD) using Gane-Sarson-Notation crudely modelling the flow of bullshit around the most successful bullshit processing system I could think of.

So first off, a context diagram, showing the overall system and its data interactions with external entities:

Next, a level 1 diagram showing the flow of data within the main processes of the system.

Then a would draw a level 2 diagram, but I suspect the joke has already worn too thin, and anyway David Attenborough is on the telly in a minute, so bugger it.

Monday 8 November 2010

Guess Who? … Is Britain’s Most Credulous MP

The phrase “Evidence Based Policy” sounds to me like a rather trite statement of the bleeding obvious. Alas many of Britain’s MP’s seem to guilelessly value anecdotes, faith and misinformed public opinion over empirical evidence as a method for determining sound government policy.

After reviewing the voting records of all currently elected MP’s I had no problems in populating my children’s “Guess Who” game with 24 political numpties for whom critical thinking and evidence-based policy appear to be merely a slight hindrance to the promotion of their frequently irrational agendas.

So who is Britain’s most credulous MP? Click on the “Guess Who” board below and hover the mouse over each MP to display a “Guess Who” style question to identify the MP in question.

I have restricted the entry criteria to only those British MPs currently in office and have reviewed the voting records of all 650 MP’s paying particular attention to support of Early Day Motions promoting un-evidenced medical or pseudoscientific agendas, anti-human rights voting grounded in a non progressive faith position and simple denial or dismissal of scientific evidence that does not align with a predetermined position.

I have selected individuals on their personal voting record and publically available comments, articles and speeches regardless of their affiliation with any particular political party. However it is interesting to see a pattern of predominately Conservative cards, but with the DUP as far the highest ratio of credulous beliefs pro rata.

Skeptical Voter
Hinckley Times
The Telegraph
BBC News
The Church of Ireland Gazette
The Guardian
They Work For You

Narnia gag courtesy of Martin Robbins