Sunday, December 28, 2008

How well can you pay attension?

Go to this site

...focus very carefully, and count the number of times
the team in the white shirts pass the basketball.

It's tough to do, but if you focus you should be able to get the correct number.

---The point of this is that there is an interesting lesson involved in counting the number of passes that is sort of related to skepticism and science - very cool.



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hey! A New Post!

A few things...


Although I'm sick to death of this phrase, I thought I'd throw it out there.

The concept is ridiculous, because it is assuming that Christmas is a purely religious holiday and that there is a massive, conspiring anti-religious movement attempting to destroy Christmas as an attack on Christianity. The movement of course is the 'Secularists' - the scare quotes meaning that the connotations associated with this word by the anti-'war' protesters.

Just ask Bill:

"See, I think it's all part of the secular progressive agenda to get Christianity and spirituality and Judaism out of the public square. Because if you look at what happened in Western Europe and Canada, if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage, because the objection to those things is religious- based, usually."

name that logical fallacy anyone?

It could not be any clearer that Christmas is not a purely Christian holiday, so I'm not going to get into too much, but consider for a moment the:

-Christmas tree
-Historical background
-Massive amounts of shopping
-Santa Clause


The super creepy gnome.

Towards the beginning of the year, a South American town was 'terrorized' by a gnome running around scaring people.

Since then more and more gnome videos have been popping up, indicating that this is an easy thing to pull off.

Do gnomes exist? Maybe, but these silly videos aren't enough to convince me.

The Montauk Monster

Midway through the year this monster was all over the media. The people who took the picture claimed that they had found it washed up on shore. Upon further investigation it was found to be a complete hoax, but more interestingly it was a viral marketing scheme that went amazingly well. I have to hand it them, it was a brilliant idea.

3.) 2009

For the next year, the OU Skeptic Society has a lot on its plate. We have advertising/recruiting, fund raising, and charity work to do - all of which is standard for any decent on campus group. But specific to us, we have:

1.) Darwin Day 2009
2.) Micheal Shermer @ OSU
3.) Skepticamp in Columbus
4.) ID panel in collaboration with Difficult Dialogues
5.) Weekly meetings and socials
6.) Drinking Skeptically meetings
7.) The Amazing Meeting 7 in Vegas
8.) and as always, lots of skepticism and debunking

to look forward too!

So all in all, I made this post to get back into it, and to say a.) the war on xmas is nonexistant, b.) some of the hoaxes of the last year were funny, and c.)the OU skeptic society has just began to get going.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creationism nonsense infiltrating North Carolina’s school boards

Greetings all,

Here is yet another instance of creationists making ridiculous, ill informed demands in an attempt to indoctrinate children. Normally I would hesitate to post yet another creationist post (David made one earlier today) but this is an absolutely horrendous issue that seems to be gaining momentum. I got the main article from PZ Meyers’ blog Pharyngula .

This is yet another instance of creationists attempting to bludgeon down the doors of logic and force their bullshit doctrine into public policy. This plague of creationism infesting our school boards has to stop. I feel like they simply do not care whatsoever about the constitution (unless it benefits them) which by the way was written by deists who were vehemently opposed to religion being ANY part of public policy. They had witnessed the horror that religion can bring about when state sanctioned and vowed to create the antithesis of the English state.

Okay, no more historical rant now down to the meat and bones of this post. This time the cancer that is creationism has spread to Brunswick North Carolina and as usual the proponents reveal their ignorance of science and lack of logic. As usual a local resident by the name of Joe Fanti brought up this point;

"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday's meeting. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."

Evolution of the atheists? Well, thank you for the complement Joe. Evolution, given the evidence available, is the most plausible explanation for the way in which life forms change over time. The key word here is EVIDENCE. I happen to believe in evidence and am also an atheist and I like to be associated with the belief in rational things such as evolution so thank you. Oh and the laws say we can’t have bibles in school because that is a RELIGIOUS book and we have a separation of church and state. Atheism is not a religion it is not a dogma it is simply the choice to not believe in a god that is it. I love how creationists attempt to disregard our separation of church and state guaranteed by our constitution but then, when attacked they hide behind the first amendment.

This is not even close to as bad as the next quote;

Babson(The superintendent) said the board must look at the law to see what it says about teaching creationism, but that "if we can do it, I think we ought to do it."

YOU CAN’T! SCHOOLS ARE RAN BY THE STATE S-E-P-E-R-A-T-I-O-N OF CHURCH AND STATE. This is a serious issue that needs to be curbed. Similar things have happened in Kansas and Texas however the creationists have been thus far thwarted. However they are tenacious and we need to stay vigilant in order to combat this proposed utter violation of our civil liberties. This is bullshit.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

UK Creationism

UK Creationism

"The materialist explanation of the creation has nothing to offer - if we came from nothing and go into nothing, then that encourages people to lead reckless and materialistic lifestyles.

"Evolution is a world-view that leads to futility. It's no wonder people are dissatisfied with it."

This is essentially the heart of Rev Dr Malcolm Brown's view of evolution. In just 3 sentences he states enough idiocy to demonstrate the problems of creationist thinking.

The biggest flaw in creationism, which is also one of the most obvious clues of a psuedo science, is assuming an end (which is usually a belief) and then cherry picking your way through the evidence to satisfy your unchanging bias. Let us deconstruct:

"The materialist explanation of the creation..." Here he is assuming nature as we know it was created. "...has nothing to offer,..." Here he is dismissing the evidence and techniques which have emerged from scientific inquiry outright. It is safe to assume that he puts it this way because the logical conclusion of the evidence ("materialist explanation") is in direct conflict with his belief.

"...if we came from nothing and go into nothing, then that encourages people to lead reckless and materialistic lifestyles."

Here he is assuming a teleological argument as being inherently true while simultaneously assuming (by assume I really mean believe, but I'll be nice) that the implied purpose of people being full filled is the only way to keep them from falling apart at the moral seems, as it were. Also, it is truly an insult to human beings on the whole to assume that 'reckless lifestyles' are synonymous with 'materialistic lifestyles.' If the only thing keeping this man from living recklessly is his belief in duality and creationism, then perhaps we ought not to convince him his beliefs are false. It is remarkably absurd to think that the only reason people are or can be moral and altruistic is if they too drink the creationist kool-aid. There really isn't any time to get into the specifics of this, but there are many people who do not believe in a god/gods, creationism, or Rev. Brown's religion who are not living 'reckless lifestyles.' Since it is apparent this fact of life is not obvious to him lends an explanation to why he believes so many ridiculous things in the first place...

"Evolution is a world-view that leads to futility. It's no wonder people are dissatisfied with it."

Who are these dissatisfied people? I'm assuming creationists, and not 'people' as in people universally. The fact and subsequent theory and hypotheses of evolution are of the highest degree of scientific inquiry and human achievement. The theory of evolution ranks with, at least in terms of certainty, the theory of gravity, electricity, electromagnetism, relativity, chemistry, and medicine. Unfortunately, the phrase 'it is only a theory' is perpetuated by men such as these and by poor science education. To dumb down scientific education (as the Rev. advocates) all the more with creationism will only worsen this further. Also, it will only further allow religion to proselytize in public schools, where the freedom of religion is currently protected. To put it another way, this is one religion seeking to take away religious freedom to further its own cause.

The reduction of intellectual honesty and the violation of the standard of religious freedom is something that I truly find appalling.

I'm not trying to be such a downer about this, but these issues are serious and are already stirring things up.



Saturday, September 6, 2008

Loving warnings

Check out how this church near Columbus sends out a "loving warning" to local area teens who watch Mtv

Although this may make you laugh because of how outright ridiculous it is, I think all reasonable people should stop and consider how twisted and well... evil the Christian church is when it's congregation spreads hate like this.
In my opinion, a true skeptic doesn't stand by while people are being taking advantage of, not even when the people taking advantage claim to be holy, or backed up by some all-knowing, all-loving force (who scorches you in flames). In fact, this should give us more reason to speak out against these people because really, how much of a chance do you think a confused teenager feels like they stand against all the fires of hell? I won't get to morbid on you now. I guess that's the christian church's job anyways. I will say that stories like this, that we see very often, are so played down these days, or their just laughed off because they seem so ridiculous, or believed, which is by far the worst of all possibilities. I'll always be willing point them out and remind you how wicked these people really are.

Alright, Quick psychology lesson!

: Projection is one of the defense mechanisms identified by Freud still acknowledged today. According to Freud, projection is when someone is threatened by or afraid of their own impulses and in response, attribute these impulses to someone else. For example, a person in psychoanalysis may insist to the therapist that he knows the therapist wants to rape some women, when in fact the client has these awful feelings to rape the woman.

...Or isn't it possible that some people constantly run around accusing people of being wicked precisely because deep down... they feel pretty wicked themselves?

who knows really, it would take more than a psychologist to understand some of these people I'd say.

That's all the fire and brimstone I've got for now, kiddies


Monday, August 25, 2008

Not at all natural

Over the past decade genetic engineers have made huge advances in the field of genetic modification. Organisms have been cloned, and genomes have been completely sequenced. It seems as if there are an endless amount of possibilities in terms of what scientists can achieve with knowledge of genetics and the tools to alter these instructions for life. The social controversies that will arise from these advances will undoubtedly require skeptical thinking.
First I'd like to mention the field of genetically modified food. So you've probably already heard about Prince Charles's Paranoid doomsday rant against GM food from earlier this week. Luckily for all the starving people in the world, Prince Charles isn't much more than an insignificant figurehead. Genetic engineers will continue developing ways to increase the yield and nutritional value of our food. Of course, precautions need to be taken, and there are already researchers that work constantly to determine the possible consequences of modifying an organism to the public and the environment.
Here's how inserting a gene from a soil dwelling bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, into a simple corn plant can cause the corn to be poisonous to the corn worms that threaten to diminish the yield of the crop, without harming humans who consume it.

The prospect of curing many diseases have driven the field of genetic modification forward into the world of animals. Maybe you’ve seen fluorescent fish like these at your local pet store.

In this case, genetic engineers extracted DNA from jellyfish and inserted that genetic information into zebra fish. This gene dictates the construction of fluorescent proteins, and results in an organism that glows under ultraviolet light. When the fish reproduce, their offspring are also fluorescent. From what I understand, these are the only genetically modified pets that are available to the public right now. In the past several years, scientists have tried this with multiple genes that code for different fluorescent colors in a variety of animals. This research can help scientists to have a better understanding of gene expression.
Check out these fluorescent pigs.

I don't know about you, but I think being fluorescent would be pretty badass.

Although this example seems almost novel, new research in genetics is quickly propelling us forward into an age where we could select for many different traits in humans.
This may sound very 'Frankenstein' at this point, but the fact is that people are constantly born with genetic diseases that could soon be avoided by employing the method of gene therapy. Modifying the genotype of a human could also increase the size of a human, alter any birth defects, or even raise the overall intelligence of the person.

So the question is: Where do we draw the line in terms of what techniques would be considered treating a disease, and what techniques would simply be enhancing the person?

The possibilities of people we could save with these genetic alterations are endless, but these advancements will undoubtedly lead to a countless number of ethical debates that will have very real consequences. The fact is that we will all have to employ methods of critical thinking to make a decisions on such complex issues.These issues, without a doubt, will be politically charged, but for those of us who do look beyond party affiliation, how should these decisions be made?

Whats the difference between someone who's lacking in a trait like height or intelligence to the point where gene therapy is the answer, and someone who just happens to be below the average?

It seems we may need to draw a clear line in the sand separating what kind of gene alterations are treating diseases, and what kind are simply trivial enhancements that only marginally increase chances of that individual’s survival.

Give me some feedback.

That's all I've got for now,


Sunday, August 24, 2008

If you're still on the fence in terms of ID theory...

"The man who follows is a slave. The man who thinks is free." Robert G. Ingersoll

As a skeptic, one is faced with dozens of ideas that aren't backed up by sufficient evidence each day. One notion that skeptics seem to be continuously faced with is that old misconception that we really can't trust everything that science has to offer us. Truly understanding the scientific method would clear this up for any logical thinking person.
The basis of science and skepticism alike is collecting all of the evidence that is available, and making the most logical judgment based off of the results presented. I refer to it as a "best we've got" stance because taking a step back from politics and pop culture, you realize that all knowledge that we have about the world has been obtained through the gathering of empirical evidence and testing that evidence over time to see if it holds. The scientific method is nothing more than that.

Recently I was reading the blog Neurologica, by Dr. Steven Novella, host of The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast, when I came across his response to yet another confused individual questioning how much trust we ought to have in science. His response can clear up this confusion:
"Science is, by its very nature, a self-corrective process. Science is the process of questioning our models of reality. Saying that it is important to question science is therefore redundant."

Science gives us provisional answers to questions in a massive world that is constantly changing. People are making amazing discoveries every day and if we try to say some things are set in stone (and we all know how much people like to follow rules that are set in stone), then we'll never really know anything.

So the scientific method and the evaluation of empirical evidence (which is the basis of skepticism), should not be confused with a belief or a viewpoint. There's a big difference between "I think John McCain would be a bad president because he has short arms." and "we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide", or "5+5=10". the first is an opinion (even if it seems so logical), the second is science, and the third is mathematics which is simple undeniable logic in it's rawest form. So the next time a proponent of intelligent design "theory" tells you the world is to complex to not have some omnipotent designer, explain to them that Darwinian evolution is backed up by MOUNTAINS of empirical evidence and therefore is logical and accepted by a majority of scientists. Explain to them that ID theory will have to be published and reviewed in a legit scientific journal, (not some janky psedojournal that their buddies threw together) or their ideas will never be viewed as more than pseudoscience. The last place it needs to be is a science class.

If the eye is so perfect, then why did I have to turn to science for prescription glasses?

Thats all I've got,


Polls about psychics and conspiracy theories, and RSS Feeds

At OU, we have the Scripp's Survey Research Center who has a site: They recently published findings that say 1 in 12 Americans have "seen a mysterious object in the sky that might have been a visitor from another world" and 1 in 5 "personally knows someone who has seen a UFO. Although these are extremely vague descriptive stats, its still pretty wild that 1 in 12 Americans are mistaking mysterious objects in the sky with otherworldly visitors.

Another study from the same group is saying that nearly 2/3 of Americans "think it is possible that some federal officials had specific warnings of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, but chose to ignore those warnings".

Although these results aren't terribly surprising, this is what Skeptics are up against. There is still a lot of work to be done with just the basic misconceptions such as UFOs, conspiracy theories, and the other topics we deal with such as psychics, ghosts, and superstitions. Although there are new things popping up everyday that are presented in an uninformed way that require some basic critical thinking, we still have the life long battle against these other beliefs that will almost inevitably continue to transcend time and culture.

Also, I just registered the blog as a feed for RSS readers and news aggregaters. In order to subscribe just click the link to the left of the page and it will bring up all of the options for all of the different readers and whatnot. Also, if you don't already use an RSS reader or aggregater I highly recommend Feedreader - its freeware and extremely easy to use and edit. This is probably the easiest and most efficient way to keep up with blogs and the news.

So, continue to watch out for those watching out for UFOs and government conspiracies, and get Feedreader!!



Thursday, August 21, 2008

lame ID stuff

Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute (intelligent design collective) wrote this article in response to how some new evidence suggests that the prevailing idea as to what Endogenous Retroviruses are still around for.

Endogenous Retroviruses are derived from ancient infections of germ cells in humans and animals such that their proviruses are passed on to the next generation and now remain in the genome. It is also widely assumed that they place a role in driving the evolution of their host. So, it could already be said that they have a ‘function’. According to Luskin:

“ID predicts function because the basis for ID’s predictions is observations of how intelligent agents design things, and intelligent agents tend to design objects that perform some kind of function.”

In response to this I’ll simply quote David Sloan Wilson in his book ‘Darwin’s Cathedral’:

“Thinking about an object or an organism as if it has a purpose can be called functionalist thinking. Functionalist thinking can be highly effective when applied to things that actually have a purpose, but in other contexts it can be misleading. Wondering about the purpose of your neighbor’s behavior can help you discern his intentions, but wondering about the purpose of the moon leads only to a folk tale.”

To identify function in a sense that something functions for the sake of something else one must know it was created or altered by that which it is functioning for. This thing is arranged top-down in order to function to the extent it was intended to.

When considering ourselves intelligent agents that have designed things to perform some kind of a function it seems like it is easy for some to superimpose this on everything they see. The ID people do this to uphold their belief in a god who created everything. They claim that their central prediction is that everything has a function. However, every time something that seemed functionless at first turns out to have some sort of a function they wish to claim this as evidence to their idea. In this article, Luskin focuses on the possibly newly found function for ERVs which have been considered ‘junk’ functionless DNA. What Luskin mentions then ditches immediately is that there is still the prevailing hypothesis that”if we find the same ERV’s in the same genetic loci in different species of primates, Theobald concludes they document common ancestry.”

There are thousands of adaptations which proved useful over time and thus survived natural selection. They were not created, they developed. These things that developed generally are considered the ‘processes of nature conflicting with design’. The example commonly used is a truck with rust on it – we designed the truck but the rust is of a natural process. However, one could assert that the function of the rust is to destroy the truck to make more room for people. As it can be understood, we could superimpose function on both the natural stuff and the stuff that has been deemed designed. So where does the distinction lie?

The most used (and now used up) idea is complex specified information (CSI). The basic idea is that if anything with a less than 1 in 10150 chance of occurring naturally. However, this number was assigned almost arbitrarily by William Dembski (ID advocate). The idea has been rejected by the scientific and mathematical community. Although Dembski is very well informed and smart, his belief in a designer (god) leads him to make very simple logical mistakes and the overuse of rhetoric. So, I guess whether he truly is informed or smart is up to you.

Furthermore, assuming the CSI were true, it must be admitted that the designer must be more complex than its design, because within the designer must exist the capacity to think about the design as well as be complex enough to create it, or create the means to create it. Then this designer, being as complex as it is must have had its own designer which was even more complex…….ad infinitum.

I’m getting too far into ID and I need to cut this off now. Basically, ID people are creationists in a new suit who are using rhetoric and weak philosophy that does not stand up even to simple logic to push their religious beliefs into the education system under the guise of science.



Athens Psychic featured in ANews

In the article “Local reader…” article from Thursday 8/21 in the Athens News, senior writer Jim Phillips describes a typical trip to a ‘psychic’.

First of all, the evidence tells us that there is no such thing as psychic powers. Also, magicians and mentalists can describe exactly what psychics do as a technique. As described in the article, psychics say things are extremely generic and relevant to a very large percentage of the population. Granted, this is a technique that takes time to develop well and is aided by some basic intuition into human behavior. It is very easy to sum someone up in a superficial way upon meeting them (i.e. – approximate age, wedding ring, mood, etc), and then from this follows some very broad statements that apply to most people. Psychics do, however, really make themselves look foolish when they say things like ‘don’t trust shady contractors’ because this is incredibly obvious (for those who haven't read the article, she does in fact say this).

If you wish to investigate how psychics do what they do I suggest looking into mentalist tricks, cold and hot readings, and other materials published by magicians. This is information available to anyone, so I will not get into it (maybe another blog another time).

I would also like to point out that some people go to psychics knowing it probably is not legit and treat it as a novelty. This is fine, but still, the psychic in the article is claiming to offer a legit service and not a novelty.



Jesus and Satan on a single plank of wood? Score!

Greetings all,

We have yet another example of paredolia for you today. This guy REALLY wants to see Jesus in this plank. He calls the holes in the wood the eyes and the hair just looks like a natural flaw . But wait! Turn it upside down and Jesus morphs into Satan(Fuck ya! Mighty morphin' Satan rangers)! WTF??? Why the hell would this ever be a good thing for a Christian? Also, why the hell don't these dudes show their images on something cooler than a damn plank of wood or a pizza pan? Shit, if I were Jesus I would show up on the White house. Check out this dudes video. Thanks for readin'


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prince Charles is obviously an agricultural expert

Proponent of 'natural' ideologies such as homeopathy, Prince Charles is speaking out against Genetically Modified (GM) foods. He truly thinks that it will be the end of the food supply and basically have apocalyptic ramifications. His ranting can be seen here. However, it is important to address the real concerns with GM foods as we eat them virtually everyday.

  • One concern is that GM foods will lead to more allergens.
    • As with any consumer product, especially with products involving food and pharmaceuticals, the producers/manufacturers put whatever they are planning on selling through rigorous testing. No sane manufacturer would (or really could with ease due to regulation) put a product on the market that will set off allergies in such a way that they are dangerous. Also, GM engineers can design the food in such a way to reduce allergens.
  • Another concern is that GM foods could inadvertently become an invasive species that would destroy the natural plant life.
    • This is a legitimate concern, especially given the current situation with invasive species. However, at this time there are not any cases of this happening and thus no need for alarm.
  • Health ramifications.
    • Current GM foods have been deemed safe to consume, and no adverse side effects have been recorded. Also, GM foods are generally more resistant to parasites and disease thus able to be grown with lesser amounts of chemicals and pesticides.

Besides, not a single fruit, grain, or animal we eat looks anything like they did over 10,000 years ago around the beginning of the agricultural revolution. We have been selectively breeding plants and animals to meet our needs for thousands of years thus leading to genetic modification. Unfortunately it has taken forever, but now we have the capabilities to speed this process up and allows engineers to control for various problems that arise. One such problem in the future may be a lack of genetic diversity which could lead to an entire crop getting wiped out. Still this is already a foreseen possibility and thus can be controlled for. The idea of 'natural food' is a silly one, and all to often leads many health and environment conscience people to making the naturalistic fallacy by thinking that anything 'natural' is better simply for that reason. However, all of our food has been derived from its less than desirable ancestors over time and are thus not natural.


David Plumb

Montauk Monster a Hoax? No Way!

Greetings all,

Well unfortunately for you crazy/nonexistent monster lovers the Montauk monster has been declared a hoax. The "Monster" was really a movie prop used to promote small time horror film maker Darren Goldberg's film "Splinterheads". The first woman to allegedly report the Montauk monster was no other than his sister Rachel Goldberg!!!! What great publicity for good old Darren and he didn't have to pay a dime. Good work Darren keep 'em commin'! Here is a link to an article explaining the whole thing. (Check out the website as a whole also its pretty awesome!)



Monday, August 18, 2008

A litte about our officers!

Greetings everyone,

The OUSS has been enjoying a lot of local media coverage over the last week with a newspaper article and a radio interview. The purpose of this post is just to introduce our officers because as a member you will hopefully be seeing a lot of us!

David Plumb- President of OUSS is studying Economics and Math
Adam Lane- Vice President is studying Psychology.
Sam Greene-Director/Crusher of Pseudo History is a senior at OU studying History and Spanish.
Amanda Apling- Secretary is also a senior and is studying Accounting and Management Information Systems .

(Sam, Amanda, David, Adam)

We really look forward to interacting with you all this year! Start sending us some ideas!


The OUSS Crew