Sunday, 30 August 2009

Australia and New Zealand Atheists Blogroll

Atheist Astute readers may have noticed the new blogroll in the right-hand column.

This was put together by Sean the Blogonaut, and offers a convenient one-stop-shop for atheist bloggers in Australia and New Zealand. As such it features some of the best atheism bloggers on the planet … and (in the case of blogs like mine) some amateur windbags with too much time on their hands.

Particular shout-outs go to Podblack, Bastard Sheep, A Drunken Madman, Dave The Happy Singer and OzAtheist, but it’s all good stuff and well worth your time.

One of our main tasks is to promote the next Atheist Global Convention, a.k.a. “The Rise of Atheism”, to be held in Melbourne in 2010.

Guests for the event include Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers along with local heroes Catherine Deveny and Phillip Adams.

It should be a blast. Stay tuned for further details.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

My Universe Is Too Big For Your Little God

Atheist To quote the incomparable Douglas Adams:

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to space.

I often hear religious believers expound on the wonders of their faith and how it gives them a sense of transcendence; a sense that there’s something beyond this world and beyond our understanding and beyond and beyond and beyond …

It mystifies me when that kind of transcendence is found in religion.

The gods of our mainstream religions are just so small.

Take the Jewish god. He’s a petty misogynist obsessed with diet, fabrics and personal hygiene.

The Christian god (thought to be the same guy once he’d become a father and calmed down a bit) wants his followers to ritually cleanse themselves and demands legal marriage before any rubbing of genitalia can take place.

The Islamic god is also obsessed with sex, calling for adulterers to be stoned and women to cover their bodies lest the men around them fail to control themselves.

Just stop for a minute. Would an omnipotent and omniscient god really be interested in these things?

Look at the stars. Look at the Universe around you. Look at all the wondrous things these gods supposedly created.

We are a vanishingly small island in an unimaginably vast ocean of energies and forces.

Do you really think a being capable of mapping the galaxies cares how many times you wash your hands?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Homeopathic Vaccinations? Oh, Please.

This morning David and Kim (admittedly hardly paragons of scientific virtue) really dropped the ball.

Not only did they give a substantial chunk of air time to Isaac Golden, a “doctor” of homeopathy with some very strange ideas about vaccinating using homeopathy, their resident actual doctor Nikolai Petrovsky completely failed to call Golden on any of the bullshit he was spouting.

Warning: video may induce the urge to hit head on desk.

The video has been removed from YouTube because of a copyright claim from Channel Ten, but you can find a transcript here.

At timestamp 4:10 Golden claimed to have a homeopathic treatment for swine flu, and it was actually David who asked the very good question: “What is it? What are the components of it?”

Golden started banging on about the “law of similars” and similar nonsense, and Petrovsky still didn’t call him on it.

All Dr. Petrovsky had to say was “I’ll tell you what the components are David … it’s simple. In fact there’s just the one. Water! That’s it! You could fill your syringe up at the tap and it’d do you just as much good as a homeopathic vaccination. In fact, screw the $400,000 the Cubans apparently paid for their treatments. I’ll do it for $50,000 and a slab.”

But no … all Petrovsky could manage was some lame protests that “vaccines work” before being interrupted by Golden with some hand-waving about a “major scientific paper about to be published”.

Just quietly, I’m not holding my breath for that one.

The real concern here is that viewers watching this piece may have come away thinking that homeopathic vaccination is a viable alternative to genuine vaccination.

I’d like to see a follow-up piece, in which it’s clearly explained that the claims of homeopathic practitioners fly in the face of all known scientific principles, that homeopathy has never been shown to have any effect in a properly controlled double-blinded trial, and most importantly, that homeopathic solutions are indistinguishable from everyday tap water.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Australian Idol Stalls

The once-proud ex-juggernaut Australian Idol has limped to an unimpressive third in Sunday night’s ratings.

But why, I hear you ask? What could possibly put the kaibosh on this most venerable of reality TV staples?

Was it an audience backlash against professional tool Kyle Sandilands and his penchant for questioning 14-year-olds about their sex lives?

Was it the sudden realisation on the part of the audience that in all likelihood it’s going to be just as mediocre as last year?

Or has the audience started to twig that Australian Idol is just a relic of a bygone age?

After all, it’s just a glorified karaoke competition where the prize is a recording contract. And seriously, what’s that worth?

Once upon a time a recording contract was something to be valued. Once upon a time you needed a contract to get the capital to put a record together.

That meant teaming up with a record company and convincing them to stop snorting cocaine off the arses of Thai ladyboys for long enough to help you out.

But the party’s over. The record companies have lost their relevance.

Now any kid with some musical ability and a few hundred bucks for equipment and net access can record and distribute an album worldwide.

The game’s changed. If Idol wants to survive, it needs to change with it.

Of course, that’s probably giving the viewing audience of Australia too much credit.

It probably was Sandilands.

Kyle Sandilands

Friday, 7 August 2009

The AVN: Lies, Lunacy and Conspiracy Theories

The Australian Vaccination Network, despite their name and claims to be “pro-choice”, are a rabid group of anti-vaccination ideologues led by the (possibly well-meaning, possibly evil, definitely misguided) Meryl Dorey.

Spreading lies about the contents of vaccinations and debunked pseudo-science about their supposed effects (for the thousandth time: vaccines don’t cause autism!), recently they’ve gone right off the rails. On the AVN blog last week Meryl re-posted an article with some insane conspiracy theories incorporating Big Pharma, the Illuminati, and a nefarious plot to use vaccinations to infect us all with nanobots.

So that’s why they don’t like vaccinations. Huh. Here was me thinking they just had an aversion to needles.

One would hope this lunacy means they’ll stop being taken seriously by the public at large. It certainly won’t look good on their record now that they’re being investigated by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission for breaches of the Public Health Act of 1993.

We’ll be watching with interest to see how that turns out.

The legendary Dick Smith has also gotten in on the action, taking out a huge ad in yesterday’s Australian to publicly denounce the AVN as the menace to society that they are.

Immunisation Get The Facts

The battle continues, and I suspect it will continue for some time. After all, anti-vaxxers have been around for as long as vaccinations.

We must remain ever vigilant and ensure the correct information gets out there.

Vaccinations save lives. Meryl Dorey and her crowd are spreading lies and misinformation. Left unchecked, lies like this will lead to death and suffering.

These are the simple facts.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Dead Pool 2009 – July Update

Celebrity Dead Pool now has its own blog!
Find it at Celebrity Dead Pool 

My most humble apologies for the very tardy update.

I have no excuses to offer except for the fact that I’ve just had Foxtel installed (that’s cable TV for our American friends) and hence found other ways to spend my time.

But enough with the smug confessions and on with the dead pool update.

Mollie Sugden The month started with a tragic double act on the 1st, with the deaths of actors Mollie “Mrs Slocombe” Sugden and Karl “Lieutenant Mike Stone” Malden.

On the 3rd US author and journalist John Keel died at the age of 79. A noted UFOlogist and author of The Mothman Prophecies, Keel managed to turn an unfortunate case of clinical paranoia into a lucrative writing career.

Walter Cronkite The 17th saw the death of legendary newsreader Walter Cronkite. His mellifluous voice had him cited as the “most trusted man in America”, which makes me think John Howard might have been more trusted if he didn’t sound like such a whiny little shit. Or maybe not.

On the 18th Henry Allingham, just elevated to the position of world’s oldest man last month, passed away at the age of 113. I don’t want to jinx anyone but Walter Breuning, aged 112, takes his place. Good luck, Walter.

Frank McCourt On the 19th famed Irish author Frank McCourt passed away at the age of 78. Author of Angela’s Ashes and 'Tis, McCourt turned his impoverished upbringing into a lucrative writing career. Take note, Keel.

The 21st saw the tragic death of actor Les Lye, best known for playing all the adult characters on classic Canadian kid’s show You Can’t Do That On Television.

Captain PugwashOn the 22nd cartoonist John Ryan, creator of the legendary Captain Pugwash passed away at the age of 88. Sadly those rumours about saucy double-entendres hidden in the character names (Master Bates, Seaman Staines and Roger the Cabin Boy) were nothing but urban legend. Dammit.

And finally on the 25th we farewelled Harry Patch, one of the last four surviving World War I veterans and the last to have actually fought in the trenches. Patch was 111.

And that wraps it up for July.

There’s been no further movement on the scoreboard so, as last month, it looks this:

Ty 64
Benn 64
Eliza 50
Rob 50
Russell 50