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Thursday, November 29, 2012

War on Christmas....Bull $h!t

Greetings friends.  First off, I'd like to apologize for the last post.  It goes to show that just like drunk dialing, you shouldn't insomnia blog.  I wrote that while suffering from insomnia due to pain in my knee, and I will re-post a better version of it.  Secondly, Christmas is fast approaching (it's been here for several months going by the displays in the stores) and for those looking to get their favorite bloggers a gift, but don't know what to get them, I would like a nemesis.  They don't have to be anyone fancy like Lex Luthor or Magneto.  It could be the Skrull or The Hand foot soldiers.  I'm easy to please.

Speaking of Christmas, before the season got under way, I began to think that the first person to utter the phrase "War on Christmas" needs to be hit with a can of cranberry sauce.  Up until last night, I had escaped hearing this horrible term.  Then, a local T.V. news personality, Kelly Ogle (I think, there is about a dozen Ogles on different channels here in Oklahoma.  I think all the stations have a clause in their F.C.C. contracts stating that an Ogle must be on their news crews at all times.) said the damn phrase, quoting Fox News (remember them, fair and balanced, kinda like loaded dice).  While Fox News obviously leans towards the Christian ultra conservatives, Mr. Ogle is at least a moderate conservative.  He has a segment on channel 9 called "My 2 cents" where he can basically rant about a topic in the hopes of garnering a response.  Normally, he does lean towards historical "Oklahoman Ideals" meaning the republican side of the issue.  What set me off last night was the whole War on Christmas shtick.  It was played out last year, but just like Christmas music at the malls, it's being played again this year.  Mr. Ogle talked about an exhibit in Germany of Christmas trees that was taken down for fear of offending the Muslim community.  They have put up an electronic holiday tree in its place.  Then he stated "It's called a Christmas tree, get it right" or something to that extent.  People are already complaining about the holidays being influenced, corrupted, or destroyed by other cultures and beliefs.  First off, to Mr Ogle, I would like to say, if you're going to be a stickler about it, a christmas tree should actually be called either a Yule Tree or Weihnachtsbaum, the German word for christmas tree.  The Christmas tree was originally used in Germany in roughly about the 1800's with evidence in the form of woodcuts dating back to the 1400's.  They gained popularity with the nobility in other countries in the early 19th century.  If you want to skip a bit of history, don't worry about the next 2 paragraphs, and you can jump back into the main issue.

Thing is, while christmas trees were gaining favor in the European countries, christmas itself was an illegal celebration in the United States.  The people that banned christmas?  Can anyone guess?  You with the ball cap, and you'd better have enough gum for everyone.  No, not the Jews.  No, not the Muslims, and no not the Buddhists.  No, not the Pastafarians either.  It was the Christians.  The Protestants to be exact.  They felt that christmas celebrations were an excuse for drunken, immoral revelry and they also had a poor view of saints in general. so rather than let people cut loose and have fun, they banned it.  It was banned until 1820 in the U.S. and wasn't a federal holiday until 1870.  This means that unlike today, you were expected to be at work on christmas day. 

The history of Christmas, and especially the (and I love being able to say this about a religious figure) evolution oof Santa Claus (Kris Kringle St. Nick, St Nicholas, Father Christmas, the man has more alias' than a two bit drug dealer) is actually fascinating.  From this point on, I'll just refer to the fat red man as S.C., unless mentioning a specific historical character that is responsible to his make up.  St. Nichols (the "actual" man) was born in Patara, which was a Greek country, on the southern border of modern day Turkey.  (Hint hint, he's probably not white)  He protected poor children from basically being sold into slavery and helped sailors.  To this day, he is still the patron saint of archers, sailors, children and pawnbrokers.  There is also a little bit of a Norse god in our idea of S.C.  Not just any god, but the big bad daddy of all the Norse gods, Odin.  According to tradition, children would leave their boots outside full of food for Sleipnir, Odin's 6 legged horse (can you imagine trying to put horseshoes on that thing?) and as a reward for their generosity, Odin would leave candy or toys for the children.  Dutch folklore has St. Nicholas dressed in a red cape over his bishops alb ( the nearly dress that they wear).  He has an assistant named Black Peter that carries the book of St. Nicholas.  Good kids get candy and toys, bad kids run the risk of being caught by Black Peter, who happen to carry jute bags (think burlap sack) and cane rods for that purpose.  There are also British, Scandinavian, and German traditions in out modern day S.C.  Thomas Nast, the political  cartoonist from the mid 1800's, is the man responsible for the image that we have now of Santa Claus.  His first picture appeared in 1863 in Harper's weekly.  Even though S.C. began as a christian bishop, in out modern times, he has become a secular figure and representation of christmas.

I know it was a bit of a tangent, but I think it was worth it.  Back to the "War on Christmas" bullshit that I started out on.  The Christians have actually been waging their own war on christmas by trying to have Santa Claus removed from christmas.  They feel he is taking the Christ out of Christmas and convoluting the "reason for the season".  And I have heard several people use the old Santa/Satan comparison.  You know, they both have the same letters in their names (but I don't recall C L A U S being in conjunction with any form  of satan), both wear red outfits, and one person actually said both have little children sit on their laps. (WTF??????)  The thing is the christmas holiday was originally incorporated by the christians to entice the pagans to follow their beliefs.  From what I've gleaned from several sites and researchers, if Jesus did exist, and was born when the bible says he was, he was born in the spring or early summer.  (The shepards with their flocks in the fields?  You don't pasture sheep in the winter, and you really don't stand out their all day watching them in freezing weather.)  The three wise men, (I really want to make a three stooges joke, but I'll be nice) which are a staple in every nativity scene, didn't find Jesus until he was 5.  Almost every aspect of the holiday, outside of the name, comes from pagan rituals.  (Sorry, another tangent, back on task.)  I don't know why the christians are claiming that there is a war on christmas when I saw christmas goods for sale back in September.  They had this stuff out before Halloween for fucks sake.  (By the way, I'm not against christmas, I enjoy the holiday, and my family, meaning my wife and son, does celebrate it in a secular fashion)  I have already been hearing the music on the radio (these, for the most part, I don't care for, I was made to sing them every year at every family gathering as a child) and seen ad flyers for christmas sales.  I can't blame Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, athiests, agnostics, Shinto, or other cultures for being pissed that the American christian version of christmas seems to last for 3 FLAMIN MONTHS!!!!!!!!!!!  I have personally seen ( and I know this is an anecdote) someone of the Jewish faith say Happy Chanukah and get yelled at by another customer to "Get it right, it's Christmas, not some made up holiday!"  Personally, if I walk into someones house or business this time of year, and I see a menorah on a table, even though I am an atheist, I simply think "Cool", because it gives me a chance to learn about a culture I didn't grow up in.  I don't get upset if someone says Happy Kwanzaa.  Hell, half the time, I'll say it back.  I really don't even get too perturbed about the crosses, and mentions of the bible and Jesus everywhere.  Most people that I know of different faiths don't have a problem with the displays.  Normally the people that raise the most hell about christmas displays are politically correct folks that are trying to keep from offending anyone. 

So as I try to tie all these various topics together in a coherent manner, I have come to realize that, in a way, there is a war going on.  It is a war by christians trying to dominate and sublimate other cultures and beliefs out of an almost inferiority complex, which stems from the "persecution complex" that christian leaders seem to instill in their followers.  If they want to follow their own edicts and "love thy neighbor" (which seems to happen way too much in some circles), they should give equal exposure to other traditions that other cultures have at this time of the year.  Or at least proportional to their respective faiths.  Remember, contrary to the tirades of certain leaders, we are NOT a christian nation.  We are the melding pot of the world, made of of many cultures, beliefs, faiths, and non faiths.  E pluribus unum, From many, one.  So the next time you hear someone say that there is a war on christmas, simply agree, nod your head, and say "Yup, and the Christians started it."

Okay kiddos, I'm going to wrap this one up before I stress myself out too much.  If anyone has a comment, you know what to do, leave one in the comment section.  Thanks for hanging with me on this rant, and as a special holiday gift, everyone gets 5 cool points, and if you leave a comment, you get 20.  These can be used at most bars and pubs, just let them know how many you have, and they'll let you know what you can get.  Until next time, be good, be skeptical, and have fun!  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas (or Xmas if you're from Futurama) Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Chanukah, or whatever holiday greetings you feel appropriate.  And feel free to tell me about your holiday traditions, either personal or cultural.  I'm always interested in learning about other traditions.  And if you're a secular humanist, how do you either celebrate or deal with this time of year?

The Skeptical Okie

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crocoduck, Bigfoot, and church as a punishment?


Hey everyone, how's it going?  Now that the elections are over, I've decided to emerge from my bunker in an undisclosed state in a hidden location.  I'm assuming that because we aren't at war with Iran and the industries haven't been de-regulated, Obama must have won.  Things have been hectic and interesting here at the Skeptical Okie secret base.  To those that are from Oklahoma, this will make sense.  To everyone else, I'll try and explain.  Recently, I was at my local Wal Mart (yes I know, evil big corporation shutting out mom and pop stores, bad practices, etc, but it's the cheapest place for miles around, and the closest.) and I ran into someone that remembered my grandpa.  My grandpa used to make a bit of extra pocket money by witching for water wells.  Witching wells is called dousing by the rest of the world.  I used to go with him on a few of these jobs, and he "taught" me how to do it.  Basically, he put 2 willow rods (because willow is attracted to water) in my hands and told me to feel for the water.  I watched what he did and noticed he was tensing his arms, so I did the same thing.  He thought I had the gift.  Remember, his daughter, my mother, thinks she can heal sunburns by touching them.  Anyway, this gentleman at Wal Mart remembered me (I haven't changed much in appearance) and told me he had just bought a quarter section and needed to put in a well.  He wanted to know if I would come out and witch it for him.  As we are living on a single paycheck right now, there was a lot of temptation.  I looked at him and told him no, I couldn't.  I didn't go into an explanation of why, mostly because he would just tell me I'm wasting my "gift", and yes, I've heard it before.  The major issue I really wanted to point out is that most of the state sits on top of the Ogallala aquifer, and if you drill down enough, you'll hit water.  I've had a few run ins with our local ghost hunters too, but that story is for another day.

Okay, this story is one that can make you facepalm and hurt a rib at the same time.  Basically, a 14 year old girl in New Zealand (to my NZ readers, is this attitude normal?)  states that homosexuality will bring human development to a standstill, but she doesn't believe in evolution.  Because ducks nest in pairs, they will be more evolved than humans.  Quick, someone get her a biology book, STAT!!!!!!!!!!  I guess someone forgot to tell her that often ducks do take a same sex partner.  Sometimes, they'll try and breed an animal that's a different species. (Crocoduck anyone?  Kirk Cameron may be trying this, though I don't imagine the coupling will be pleasant for either animal, unless a lot of alcohol is involved.  Could you imagine the walk of shame the next morning after that?)  The whole article is found at
http://now.msn.com/homosexuality-will-put-ducks-in-charge-of-world-teen-says


I loved this one!!!  In the state of Georgia, Charles Darwin, who has been dead for about 130 years at this point, received over 4000 write in votes against Sen.Paul "evolution is from hell" Broun.  Just goes to show that anyone can run for office in this country.  Granted, Broun still got 209,000, but it was a valid protest that got his attention.  I've been hearing a lot of people saying that they wasted their votes, and a few people ask who Darwin is.  This is one the the rare times that a write in vote like this wasn't a waste.  Broun was running unopposed, so basically either you voted for him, or you didn't vote.  A version of the story can be read at
Charles Darwin was the natural selection for 4,000 Georgia voters


I've heard of cruel and unusual punishment, but this one is a little odd.   Judge sentences teen to 10 years of church   Here in Oklahoma, we've got a long history of strange laws (such as you can go to jail for taking a bite out of someone elses hamburger or that sex is only legal in the missionary position.  Who the hell enforces these?)  There is a district court judge who has a habit of sentencing people to church.  Basically it's deferred sentence where they have to attend a religious service instead of A.A.  A 17 year old kid had a few drinks (legal age in the U.S. is 21) got into a wreck that killed his passenger and was charged with manslaughter.  Judge Mike Norman in Muskogee sentenced him to church.  When I was a kid, I know church felt like a punishment, by I always felt like I'd done something wrong BY going.  As I am writing this, I found out that this isn't exactly legal, though the judge is defending his decision.


Okay, this one ties into the main thought of this post.  I know I've brought up a lot of topics already, and I hope I've given everyone some fodder for conversations.  I'll admit I do watch "Finding Bigfoot" on Animal Planet.  It does spike the old blood pressure, but I like to make it into a poor mans version of MST 3000 ( I like to think I'm Tom Crow).  Keep in mind I found this article first, then saw the fella on Finding Bigfoot.  In Idaho, gold miner William Barnes and scientist Jeff Meldrum are launching a remote control blimp to try and track Bigfoot from the air.  The article is at
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49424363
 I saw Meldrum on a recently aired episode of Finding Bigfoot (from here on referred to as FB to save my poor tired fingers and brain) and I realized that I had read an article about him a day or two before.  The reason I'm bringing up FB is because watching the show, I have come to realize a few things, outside of that odds are bigfoot is highly unlikely to exist.  The first is that the 3 guys, who are believers are always shooting down the solitary female whenever she puts her opinion out there.  Keep in mind, 1 of the men has always been a bigfoot hunter (Bobo, gotta love that nickname), 1 was a computer programmer (goatee guy), I think, and the third guy is Matt Moneymaker.  You would figure if you were running a "non-profit" organization, you would change your last name.  The female is actually a biologist that specializes in wildlife.  I once heard Moneymaker make the comment to her that "She doesn't know what it's like to be in the field".  To earn her degree, she had to spend time in the field tracking and observing animals in their native environment.  Another thought that occurred to me was the locations that they go for their research, and I'm not going to use quotes around the questionable designations for the rest of the article because I'm kinda afraid of wearing the key out.  If you would be so kind as to look at the 2 maps below,

bigfoot




black bear



Not the best comparative maps, but they were the best I could find.  When I can find better, I'll put them in.  The majority of bigfoot sightings are clustered in areas that are also black bear habitat.  I can see how a person could mistake a bear walking upright for a hairy humanoid creature.  Another problem I have with their research techniques is how they actually look for these creatures.  They have a variety of ways that they do this.  One of the most common is sound blasting.  I do have a friend that is a believer, and have discussed some of these with him to find out what the concept behind this was.  Sound blasting, which is basically a boom box (o.k., I'm old, it's a large sound system) playing various animal calls including gorillas, chimps, and large N. American predators like wolves and coyotes.  The idea is that bigfoot, being a primate, will respond to the ape calls, and bigfoot follows wolves and coyotes. (More on that in a minute)  Bigfoot, anecdotally, according to my friend, is also very territorial and can be violent, so it's a good idea to let them know you're there.  Another technique I've seen is the Rave, which is what it sounds like.  Laser lights, loud music.  It's supposed to make the animal curious, and draw them in to investigate. (Yep, you want to have a large, territorial, possibly violent humanoid come to you)  There is also the, what I'm calling, "Damsel in distress".  The female sits alone while the men go off and watch the terrain.  She talks, calls out, and generally tries to entice one in.  Poor gal if it ever happens.  They also play recorded children's voices, claiming that bigfoot are curious about human children. (Is the plural bigfoot, bigfeet, bigfoots?)  They have also basically had a large camp out, complete with a bonfire, people playing music, and singing.  Another method that they've used is where they ran through the woods with torches (for my British readers, I don't mean an electric torch, I mean a flaming pitch type of torch) yelling and screaming.  Who the fuck runs through the woods, at night, with a flaming torch?  Have they never seen the Smokey the Bear commercials?  They normal method is to wear large camera rigs, divide up into 2 teams, go a distance apart and "call" back and forth.  These rigs have lights, and a lot of electronics on them, but they say that bigfoot is sensitive to electronics and avoid them.  They also banter a lot back and forth and over the radios. 
Another issue with these bigfoot hunters is the tracks.  A lot of the time when they point out tracks, I don't see them, and the biologist doesn't seem to see them as tracks either.  I think this may be more of a case of Pareidolia,  which is when the brain finds patterns that don't actually exist.  Some good examples are seeing a Philly cheese steak in the clouds.  Some other examples are 
            
Another problem I have with the tracks is that generally a biped will put most weight on the balls of its feet, making that part of the track slightly deeper.  Every time the biologist says she doesn't see what the others do, they jump down her throat. 
And my major peeve with the show.  Every episode, they will cut in to one of the 3 men describing perfect bigfoot territory, foods, and body types.  I like it when Bobo says "If I like it than a squatch will like it."  I've begun to think he's actually a shaved bigfoot that is sent out into the human population to keep us away, or if he can't, warn the local bigfoot.  I know, it's goofy, but it makes the show a little more entertaining.  What I want to know, HOW THE HELL DO THEY KNOW THIS???  Without a living population, or at least several samples for observation and testing ,there is no way, except for anecdotes, to have this information.  They say that bigfoot are apex predators and follow wolf packs.  They have shown stick structures, kinds like a lean-to, and stated bigfoot must have made it.  Thing is, I've built a lot of those when I've been camping and caught out in a storm.  For the life of me, I can't understand how they can make these claims without proof and documentation. 

The main reason that this bugs the shite out of me is watching these folks bumble through the woods.  Don't get me wrong, I would love it if someone would actually bring in a live one, or at least a corpse that isn't a frozen costume.  I have spent a lot of my life tracking animals, everything from lost pets and livestock to predators that have killed pets and livestock.  You can't run through the woods making noise, talking on the radio, waving a torch, playing loud music, using laser lights, etc.   When stalking an animal, firstly you need to understand their behavior, even if it is acting abnormally.  Then you either find tracks or spoor, and follow the trail, or you find likely spots, and sit there quietly and see what comes along.  There are a lot of other things about the show I want to talk about, but this post has gotten longer than I intended, and if your still reading it, your eyes are probably getting tired. Until next time, be good, be skeptical, and have fun.

The Skeptical Okie

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Politics as Usual, depressing. Religious Healing? Bullshit!

Hey guys, how has everyone been?  About normal in my neck of the woods.  (For those that are new to the blog, that roughly translates to hectic, chaotic, and unpredictable)  It looks like I might be going back to working animal control, or even possibly a state job in the environmental management area.  We'll see how it goes, though I still want to teach.  Got a few topics I was wanting to talk about a bit.  I know I said I would write about "The Family" or "The Fellowship", but I'm still researching them, and I keep hitting dead ends, and I don't want to rely solely on Wikipedia for documentation.  I'm also going to start doing at least a couple of semi-regular segments.  One idea I had was to borrow from George Hrab and discuss the most annoying religious or political stupidity during an as of yet unannounced time period.  Another one is "What's Skeptical Okie listening to now?"  I know it's not the best name, but it will suffice for now.  And now, on to the show!

One thing that really bothers me is when people put so damn much weight on the crap that falls out of celebrities cake-holes.  Remember Jennie McCarthy and all the good she did.  How many children were saved because of her well informed and publicly held views on the link between autism and childhood vaccinations?  I don't remember that happening either.  For those that live outside of the U.S., it's presidential season.  For us, it means hours of lip service debates, horrible t.v. ads, pundits accusing the other side of foul play, pundits blaming the other side for their candidates failures, people fighting over which candidate is the better liar, and hearing the candidates go on and on about how their opponents plans won't work, but theirs will because it has a donkey or an elephant behind it.  And on another tangent, why a donkey and elephant for political party mascots?  Because both are stubborn and will trample you if you get in their way?  Recently I heard on N.P.R. that Meatloaf, the singer, not the foodstuff, is supporting Romney for president.  Now I put together a short list of people of celebrated personage for everyone to compare and contrast.  I also put in what they are known for.

Romney                                                                 Obama
Mike Rowe-T.V. Dirty jobs (a personal favorite show)                                          Daniel Craig- 007, not an American
Gene Simmons-Music, frontman for KISS                                                              Russel Crowe- Actor, not American
Jenna Jameson-porn starlet                                                                                      Daniel Radcliffe-  Harry Potter, n.a.
Jeff Foxworthy-comedian (who I think got his ideas from my family)                Mark Hamill- Luke Skywalker
Trace Adkins- musician                                                                                          Richard Dean Anderson- McGuyver
Kid Rock- musician                                                                                                  Morgan Freeman- actor, voice of god
Jon Voight- actor, Angelina Jolies Dad                                                                  Angelina Jolie- actor
Ted Nugent- musician                                                                                               Brad Pitt- actor, hubby of Angelina
Chuck Norris-  actor, will kill you                                                                       Samuel L. Jackson- actor, total badass
Donald Trump- rich, bad hair, insane                                                                  Chevy Chase- actor
Clint Eastwood- actor, going senile, thinks a chair is president?                            Leonardo DiCaprio- actor

I love how the first three I listed for Obama aren't even American citizens, but no one else seems to have pointed it out.  Romney seems to attract the loud kinda crazy people while Obama seems to get the people with the calming voices that you would want to be the ones to announce the end of the world.  Also, I noticed that Romney has 1 porn star supporting him (insert your own mormon underwear/pornstar joke and submit it in the comments, best one gets 15 cool points) while Obama has 8, count them 8 pornstars including Ron Jeremy giving him a hand.  And speaking of porn stars, Jenna Jameson is quoted as saying "When you're rich, you want a republican in office" (Businessinsider.com)   Once again people, why the hell does anyone give these peoples choices more weight than say mine?  They memorize scripts or tunes.  Yes, some of them are very intelligent, and very thoughtful, but still.   Who out there is waiting for the Metallica contingent to speak up before they make their choice?  (And to those that are concerned with who the stars pick, Bill Nye and I believe Neil DeGrasse Tyson support Obama)  I say look at the candidates, find out where they stand on the issues that are important to you, and,  oh hell who am I kidding.  Vote Obama, Romney as president is already giving me nightmares.  To any Canadian readers:  If Mitt Romney wins, can we camp out at your place for a while?  I'll work for room and board, and I hear that you guys have decent medical care up there.  Thanks, A Rational American.

A second topic I want to bring up is Ann Coulter....I think I just threw up a little.  This goofy woman recently tweeted  "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard."  This obviously refers to President Obama as having a mental deficiency.  She refuses to back down from the comment stating that for the past 30 years it has come to mean loser.  (What debate were you watching Coulter?  Or did you only watch the commercials and fill in the blanks yourself?)  And then along came this man
COULTER28N_2_WEB
This paragon of virtue (and that comment was in no way derogatory, I honestly mean it.  This guy has brass balls the size of a Mac truck) is John Franklin Stephens, a 30 year old Special Olympian that has Downs Syndrome.  He wrote Coulter (and hell no, I'm not going to dignify her with the proper polite title of Ms.) an open letter, which you can find at http://specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/an-open-letter-to-ann-coulter/  , and I heartily recommend everyone of you read what this man has to say, and if possible, copy it and forward it on to Coulter until she recants her hateful term, even though the damage has already been done.  And if possible, tell Mr Stephens that it took a lot of courage for him to write to her the way he did, and that he does have peoples support.

Now on to some slightly .... I don't know how to describe this story.  Mostly because I do take a perverse pleasure when religious groups get in trouble, especially the really crazy ones, but I really don't like it when someone dies when they probably shouldn't have.  Not that I like it when some one dies when they should, but you know what I mean.  By crazy, can anyone guess this weeks religious flavor?  No. not Mormon, but close.  Not episcopalian, and you see me after class.  Yep the (damn I hope I don't get sued for this) scientologists.  Recently at the Narconon Arrowood facility, there have been at least three deaths, and at least one of them have no known cause.  Looking at the Narconon website, they claim a better than 70% success rate for treating addiction, using scientifically proven methods.  Of course, scientologist science is an entirely different flavor of science than what most people deal with everyday.  One of there methods includes high levels of niacin combined with up to 5 hours in a sauna.  This helps to flush the toxins out of your system, and prevents the withdrawl symptoms, which can be painful and sometimes lead to death.  As of right now, there are 3 suits against the Arrowhead facility for wrongful death, and failure to provide care.  This place is right here in Oklahoma, near Lake Eufala, up by Tulsa.  This folks is why religion and science don't mix.  If you do use religion and medicine, side effects may include: shortness of breath, inability to get medical help, failure to use logic, and death.  Please use responsibly.  I don't have a problem with someone praying for help, as long as they are actually getting help.  In the bible, god himself says that "He helps those that help themselves."  So if you're going to use a religious tome to help with your health issues, use it to hold the door open in the doctors office.

And now for the new segment "Whats Skeptical Okie Listening to?"  Or as my wife says, "What the hell is that?"  I am talking mainly about podcasts I try and listen to on a regular basis.  A new one I found is Cognitive Dissonance.  Tom and Cecil are the hosts, and this is mostly a back and forth banter type of show.  They do tend to deal more with atheist topics, but there is a lot of good skeptic quality there.   It honestly sounds like a couple of guys just talking about whatever pops into their heads.  Granted, they curse a lot, and there is a disclaimer at the beginning that basically says if you don't like bad language and sensitive topics talked about in a frank and open manner, don't listen.  2 thumbs up, just remember, not for the kiddos.  I still listen to the grandaddies of them all, The Skeptics Guide and the Geologic Podcast.  I have also begun listen to a couple of casts by Parrot or The Dumbass, depending on if you know him on the SGU message boards or not.  The first one is The Dumbasses guide to knowledge, and the second one is The invisible Sky Monster.  Both are pretty good, the guide being a general talk type and Invisible being an interview.  I also listen to Monstertalk and The Conspiracy Skeptic, both being interview shows, both definitely worth your time, depending on what your skeptical bent is.  And finally, there is Exposing Pseudoastronomy (man I hope I spelled that right)  which deals with astronomical conspiracies, or astronomically large misconceptions.  The newly minted Dr. Stuart Robbins does a very good job of breaking down the details and taking the conspiracy nutjobs arguments apart with scalpel like precision.  That and he tears Hoagland a new one.  I don't like Hoagland. 

Well, that's it for now guys.  I'll see everyone soon I hope. Until next time, be good, and have fun, especially on Halloween.  All good skeptics, humanists, secularists, and atheists should really enjoy this holiday.  Let me know what your costumes are going to be.  I'm going as Roland Deshain, from Steven Kings "The Dark Tower" series.  Youngish Roland, I've got too many fingers.  See you soon.

The Skeptical Okie

Friday, October 12, 2012

religious reluctance, carnivorous hogs, and evolution is from hell?


Hey kiddos, how has everyone been?  Things have been a little frustrating here, but that should be going away soon.  As soon as I have a steady paycheck again, it should make things easier.  There have been a lot of things that have popped up lately that have really irked me, and one that was a little morbid, but goes to show that on occasion, urban legends and folk stories do have a grain of truth behind them.  I've got a lot of short stories to get to, so lets go.


A quick congratulations to the State of California. They have banned gay cure therapy, but still won't let same sex couples marry. The copy of the article I found was at http://now.msn.com/law-banning-therapy-to-cure-gay-kids-signed-in-california . This has been an issue in a lot of places, especially lately. For the life of me, I have no idea why people try to "cure" the gay out of people. It's like trying to pray the gay away. Neither works, unless they both involve some form of gene therapy that is decades ahead of anything else on Earth (which I just realized is the only planet not named for a Roman god). I hear a lot of people say that homosexuality is a choice. Why the hell would someone choose a lifestyle that will leave them ostracized from friends, family, community, and possibly cost them their lives? Once again, kudos to California, and if they would just get back to work on the marriage issue.

A quick note on this story I found on NPR. Basically, it states that both candidates are going to avoid mentioning god, or any other deity on the campaign trail. I say YIPPEE. Now if they can just leave god out of the White House, regardless of who wins, and policy is developed on rational thought and careful analysis, everything should be good.   That can happen, right? Right? At least we can hope.
This one I found at http://www.npr.org/2012/10/02/162080111/both-candidates-leave-god-off-the-campaign-trail

The morbid one has nothing to do with religion, WOO, cryptids, education, or any other normal skeptical topic, but being the farm boy that I am, it grabbed my attention, mostly because I grew up hearing warnings about this, and we always had to have an adult with us when we went to feed the hogs.  I grew up, as I said, on a self sufficient farm.  Meaning we had a lot of livestock, including pigs.  Anyone that has grown up around hogs has heard the old saying "If you need to hide a body, put it in the pig pen."   I don't know why every hog farmer feels they have to know where to hide a body, but they all do.  I found the story at http://now.msn.com/terry-garner-farmer-eaten-by-his-hogs  .  When I heard people talking about it, I realized most people 1) Don't realize that pigs are omnivores (they eat animal and plant matter) and 2) don't realize where their food comes from.  I don't just mean the meat eating part of society.  I'm including vegetarians, vegans, and all the other plant based energy intake diets that exist.  The only exceptions are those that grow all of their own food, and to these people, my commendations.  I feel sorry for the mans family and it was a horrible way to die, but contrary to some of the vegans I've seen or heard comment on it, I don't feel that it was an act of karmic fair play.  Shit happens, and sometimes, you get eaten by breakfast.

Here's an idea.  Tell me what you think.  Take a religious zealot, the kind that thinks god is punishing America for allowing homosexuals in the military (or to exist), will picket military funerals, his group is fairly litigious and the leaders are also lawyers.  Lets also have him against evolution and get him to run  for a board of education position.  It's happening in Kansas, sorry guys.  http://now.msn.com/jack-wu-running-for-seat-on-kansas-board-of-education  A member of the ever popular, forward thinking, love thy neighbor Westboro Baptist church is running for a board of Ed. seat.  I glanced at his Twitter feed, and he comes across as being a little unstable.  The Friendly Atheist has a pretty good blog post about him at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/10/03/an-interview-with-jack-wu-the-westboro-baptist-church-member-running-for-kansas-state-school-board/  .  I know this will probably send a few readers to his blog, mostly due to the fact that his articles are a lot more researched with better references than mine,as well as he seems like a friendly guy,  but come back, there's cookies and milk later.  Really though, his articles are really good, and he puts in the hours. 


This next topic shows what we may be in for for the next few years. 
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/republican-congressman-says-evolution-is-lie-from-hell-8202896.html  I found this one in several places, but I think The Independent covers it the best, just ignore the banner that pops up in the middle occasionally.  Paul Broun, a Georgia politician, basically says that evolution is from hell and is a test of faith.   I'll give you 3 guesses as to his party, but the first 2 don't count.  Keep in mind that this man is responsible for U.S. government policy on science and technology.  What The Fuck People!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This kinda of dogma is why I keep saying religion should not have any bearing on public policy.  If he has his way, evolution will be taken out of schools and basically the answer to everything will be "god did it"  or "god willed it".  This is a scary, scary man.  This kind of power, and these religious ideals are like matches and small furry animals.  They should not be put together. 


This last one pissed me off to no end.  I mean I was yelling at the television.  Recently in Tulsa, which for the foreign contingent in located in north-eastern Oklahoma, there was a 13 year old girl that reported being raped in a stairwell on a church campus.  She reported the assault to employees at Victory Christian Center, which is a mega church.  I don't know if these things exist in other countries, and if they do, let me know.  If you haven't seen these, they are monstrous.  Instead of a normal church that holds maybe 150-200 people, this one has 17,000 members.  No, I did not misplace the comma.  I've pulled a couple of dogs out of these things, and the stage looks more like a television studio than any pulpit I've ever seen.  The girl reported the rape on August 15th and it was finally reported to authorities on the 30th.  Just the fact that someone would sexually attack a child is enough to set me off.  Personally, my views on harming children is no quarter given.  People that hurt kids like that should have no where to hide.  What really pissed me off is the fact that the 5 people that were suspended for failure to report the rape are being allowed to return to work at the ministry.  This poor girl is believed to be at least the 4th victim of a couple former workers.  I believe in forgiveness, and I know it's kinda the churches deal, unless you're gay, muslim, buddhist, or some other non-christian denomination.  Other than that, it's forgiveness out the wazoo, which I think may be a stoning offense in Leviticus.  This church tried to investigate the matter in house.  To me, as an outside observer, this seems to be more damage control than anything.  This story can be found at The Tulsa World and other places.  I first heard about it on one of out local news channels and the on-line article is here.
http://www.news9.com/story/19767576/5-employees-to-return-to-ministry-after-suspension

I know that I had a jumble of topics this time, and they kinda ran the gambit.  I just needed Kevin Trudeau, Sylvia Brown, holistic medicine, Richard Hoagland, and bigfoot riding up on Nessie and building a pyramid before taking off to Alpha Centari and I think I would have had it all.  And I just found out that bigfoot is not a valid word in spellcheck, but Nessie is.  I know I mentioned "The Family" in the last post, and I promise, I'll talk about these goofnuts soon.  The research is taking longer than I thought, partly because a lot of links that I've tried to follow on-line end up being dead ends, or are so pro-The family that I get nauseous.  I thought that reading the creation museum or answers in genesis web site was rough.  Have a good weekend, be good, be skeptical, and stay out of jail this time.

The Skeptical Okie

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Quick note about topics.

Well, it seems the people have spoken.  It appears that, outside of a few loyal readers, most of the people out there are interested in the cryptids and religious issues that free thinkers, atheists, and skeptical folks in general face.  So I'll probably bend to peer pressure and look into these issues more.  That's not to say that these don't interest me as well.  As a matter of fact, I'm actually very interested in these items.  I originally intended this to be a more broad spectrum blog, looking at a wide range of topics.  Granted, if something interesting in say, homeopathy, were to pop up on my crap-dar (a skeptical form of radar, available from the good folks at ACME, the makers of the Do-it-Yourself self launching Trebutchet), I'll still write about it.  And of course, I do take requests.  You can leave them in the comments.  If you hear of something that you want me to write about or discuss, let me know.  I hope to hear from everyone of you soon.  And I know who you are.  Until next time, be good, and be rational.  (I kinda want to end these with Live Long and Prosper, or May the Force be with you, but neither Leonard Nimoy or George Lucas have responded to the various e-mails, letters, and bricks in their mailboxes.)

The Skeptical Okie

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Religious Freedom vs. Human Rights

Ok guys, I know it's been litttle while, but suprisingly enough, I'm still fighting the good fight here in the bible belt.  Between listening to people spout theories about President Obama, 9-11, flouride in the water, the pecan tree in the front yard dropping a branch on my windshield, and the normal bull that comes and goes in waves, and trying to find a new job, I've been a little swamped.  But I am still looking for new topics to try and either clear the mud or stoke the fire about.

The only thing I've got for you this week is basically a question of a violation of religious beliefs and personal rights.  What I'm talking about is a recent suit  filed by an Oklahoma company called Hobby Lobby.  I don't know if these are nation wide or regional, but it is basically a Wal-Mart for craft supplies.  I'll admit, I've gone in to some of these stores looking for projects or the odd piece of decoration for the house.  Overall, it's not a bad store, and they don't have an overly religious feel to them.  You know what I mean.  That feeling of being expected to say the lords prayer on command or the random urge to beginn speaking in Latin.  It's kinda fun in there, and with a small child that is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and any other type of train, it can be an experience.  Back to the main point.  Much like Chik-filet, Hobby Lobby is run by an extremely religious family.  I have stopped going to said chicken store because they donate a large part of their profits to religious based groups that are completely against my personal beliefs, and honestly, a strike against common sense.  I haven't heard if Hobby Lobby does the same, but they did file a suit against the government because they are now required to include birth control in their insurance for their employees.  They are stating that this is a violation of their religious beliefs.  Now where does it say that they, as in the owners, have to use contraceptives, only offer them to their employees.  Unfortunately, the suit is backed by some fairly powerful people, including Senator Tom "Climate change isn't real, keep burning fossil fuels" Coburn and Rep James Lankford.  Coburn has links to "The Family",  which has caused some problems in a couple of African countries.  I'll try and write about this pretty soon, because these people are a real pain in the ass.  Both of these men are, of course, republicans in Oklahoma, which means they are also christian fundamentalists.  If they aren't, then they act the part on T.V. to keep their numbers up high enough for elections.  The main arguement that the Green family (the owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardels, which I'll talk about in a minute) is using in this suit is that this is a violation of their religious freedom.  No one is stopping them from practicing their religion in any way they want, short of sacrificing for a fruitful harvest.   The law merely states that they should provide contraception through insurance.  It's not like their being told they have to stand at the door and hand birth control pills and condoms to everyone as they leave for the evening.  Some people will say simply to avoid having sex.  (Keep in mind that the fundies are also the ones that say the wife should be submissive to their husbands.)  Some people will say if you want contraceptives provided by your employer, go work some place else.  That is not as simple as it sounds.  If they are single income families, they may not be able to take time to look for another job.  I know the internet is now open 24 hours a day, but not everyone has access to the inter-tubes.  While Hobby Lobby may claim religious discrimination, I think that this may actually constitute a violation of personal rights.  Honestly, it could even be viewed as failure to provide medical care.  Personaly, I feel that they should go ahead and offer the insurance to their workers, and not use it themselves.  Like I've said in the past, I don't really have a problem with a persons religion, unless their trying to cram it down my throat.

A quick note about Mardels here in Oklahoma.  I recently took a job as a middle school science teacher, which is a story in itself.  Matter of fact, it's several stories.  Anyway, my wife and I were needing to get a few things to try and dress up my classroom.  We tried Hobby Lobby, but couldn't find the inspirational and factual posters that you normally see on the walls in most classes in America.  A few of the other teachers kept mentioning going to Mardels, even though it;s a little expensive.  I only knew of the place from some friends that have crosses hanging on their walls.  Mardels was started by Mart Green, son of the founder of Hobby Lobby.  (What kind of name is Mart anyway?)  We figured we should go and see what they have.  Upon arriving at the store, there was a guy selling crosses right outside the door, though he didn't offer any of his wares to us.  The whole way to the door, my wife basically kept telling me to behave, which I'm proud to say I did.  We went in and I had an instant cold chill run up my spine.  Have you ever walked into a room and realized this is not somewhere you whould be at?  I've walked into a house full of gang members complete with guns and pit bulls on chains and didn't get that feeling.  It happened here.  To the right, half of the interior was full of psalms on posters, crosses, jesus fish, bibles, etc.  To the back and left was school decorations and books.  I glanced at some of the books and they were for home schooling.  Fine.  Look closer.  Home schooling teaching creationism as being the only viable science.  Head got hot, vision fuzzy.  Walk away.  Look at posters.  They actually had a pretty nice selection.  One problem I had was that in 8th grade science, you teach physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, and EVOLUTION!  At least by the core standards.  I did find a little about evolution, but I was more concerned with the basics.  The reason for this particular kinda non-sequitor blurb is this is about the only place to find the cheesy feel good posters, anatomy, geolgy, biology, math, history, and other normal items you'll find in any class across the country.  Why the hell is a hardcore christian store nearly the only place to find room supplies for school?  I mean thats kinda like going to an AA meeting and ordering a pint of Guinness.  I actually got nervous  in the store.  I kept waiting for someone with a German Shepard to run to the front and start yelling "THERE ARE UNBELIEVERS IN THE STORE.  EVERYONE STAY CALM AND RECITE THE LORDS PRAYER UNTIL THEY ARE FOUND."  Yeah I know, at times I get weird thoughts, but hey, that just shows I'm normal, right?  Right? 

It's getting late, so I'd better head out.  Until next time, be true to yourself, and help others come to the skeptical light. 

The Skeptical Okie

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cryptids and other interesting fauna

To anyone that reads this blog on a regular basis, sorry that it has taken so long to get a new one out.  I recently began teaching 8th grade science, and it's an experience that I won't soon forget.   Things have been pretty damn chaotic.  Hopefully, it'll calm down soon.  But to the loyal folks, thank you for hanging in there.

The first topic I wanted to talk about is an example of bigfoots (bigfeet mayhaps?)  and cars not being a good mix.   The article can be found at http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/28/bigfoot-hoax-ends-in-death-authorities-say/?iref=allsearch .  The basic gist of the story is that a guy was running around dressed as a bigfoot as was hit by a car, was killed.  This does actually bring up the debate about killing any cryptids.  Texas basically said that because they don't exist, it is legal to shoot a bigfoot.  Kinda mind numbing logic on the surface, but if you think about it, it does make sense.  Hunting regulations are designed to manage the populations of game animals and native wildlife.  Texas said that because there is no definitive proof that bogfoots actually exist, there are no regulations or limits on them.  Thats fine.  Unfortunately, this statement has 2 immediate effects.  The first is that it seems to send the message that there are bigfoots running around Texas.  I will admit that I have seen some really tall guys down there, but unless some bigfoot group is using a lot of Nair or electrolysis treatments, I don't think they count.  The second problem is that some people prefer to shoot first and to hell with the questions.  On one episode of Monster Hunters on the chupacabra, a boy in Texas stated "I didn't know what it was, so I shot it."  I am worried that this may lead to people being shot because they thought it would be funny to scare people by running around in the woods dressed in a gilly suit or a bigfoot costume.  I don't feel that cryptids should recieve protective status like Nessie and several others have in recent years, but I do feel that Texas handled the question badly.  They could have simply said that there is no proof that they exist, and odds are if you see one, it's probably a person in a suit, so use common sense and don't just shoot at it.  I'll admit I was intrigued by the story at first, but as I thought about it more, I realized that aside from a perfectly good practical joke going horribly wrong,  it was a waste of a human life.

If you listen to a lot of skeptic or believer podcasts, Monster Hunters, Monster Quest, or anything of that ilk, you've probably heard the terms cryptid, crypto, and cryptozoologist.  I have met a lot of people that hear the terms and don't really know what they mean.  Cryptid basically means a hidden animal, and therefore a cryptozoologist is a person that studies a hidden animal.  Some people use the term crypto instead of cryptid, or they use it as a plural form.  I will be the first to admit that I am fascinated by the stories around these "animals", but I don't think that it is likely they exist.  Loch Ness for example is not a very likely site for a breeding population of plesiasaurs.  First of all, it's too small to contain an animal of that size for a long period of time, let alone a breeding population.  Secondly, it is too recently formed by about 30 million years.  For the chupacabra, you can actually trace the story back to the first report in Puerto Rico in 1995.  In the scant 17 years, it has undergone a major change from an alien like creature (for those of you old enough, think Species) to a hairless canine.  Ben Radford from the Monster Talk podcast spent 5 years researching this case and has determined, as well as wildlife biologists, that it is normally a canine with mange that most people report as a chupacabra.  And now for the big man on campus, Bigfoot.  As populated as the country is, as many people that fly, walk, drive, ride horses, or otherwise travel the country, you think that we would have found definite, undeniable proof that these creatures exist.  I personally find it highly unlikely that a large enough population needed to continue a species would remain undiscovered.  I will admit that it would be really cool if they did, but I doubt it.  There is a slight chance that they do, but the odds are better for navigating an asteroid field with Imperial TIE fighters right behind you.  I have spent a lot of my life tracking animals in the woods and rural areas around here, and we do have stories of bigfoot in Oklahoma,.  I have seen cougars, wolves, bobcats, coyotes, deer, elk, bears, and even a monkey one time.  I have been to sites that bigfoot has been spotted, looked at the "tracks", spoor, and claw marks.  I have yet to find any proof that to me would say Bigfoot was here!  The tracks a lot of the time are where a rock has been turned over by a cow or a deer, or even a fisherman or even a natural depresson in the ground, the spoor a lot of times comes from coyotes or feral dogs, and the claw marks end up being deer rubs or bears clawing at the trees.  And something about the show bigfoot hunters that really gets me, other than the head of a non-profit with the last name of "Moneymaker" is how in the hell do they "know" the habits, behaviors, and even sexual preferences of bigfoot(feets?)  Someone clear this up for me.  It has been bugging the hell out of me for a long time)  There is no empirical evidence, no studies on living animals, not even a really bad documentary on animal planet.  How can they say that bigfoot are omnivores, herbivores, or carnivores?  How can they say that they build shelters, hunt, cross roads, or eat jerky? 

The other story I wanted to talk about briefly is about "mutant" mosquitos.  The article is titled
"Mutant mosquito' plan slammed" .  Basically, it is an attempt to control mosquito populations in Florida by releasing a genetically modified male mosquito that is designed to die early.  People are upset because they are claiming, and rightfully so, that they don't want to be a lab rat in a companies experiment.  The mosquitos had already been through clinical trials, and were found to be safe for release.  As of this writing, I have not found any more info on the plan, so if anyone out there in internetland has any, I would appreciate knowing what came of this.  I know this article is a bit old, and it has been sitting in my to write about list, but this is the first chance I've had to write on it, let alone the bit of research I was able to do. 

Like I said, thanks to anyone that kept checking the blog, and I hope the long wait didn't cause too many of you out there to lose hope.  Like I said, hopefully, I hope to get back on a more regular schedule on these.  Until next time, be good, be safe, a keep an open mind.

The Skeptical Okie

Monday, July 2, 2012

Creation museum redux

How has everyone been?  Not a lot going on in my small part of the world.  Been pretty quiet, but I kinda dread the 4th of July because, hey we're in the bible belt, and never mind that we haven't had rain in 2 weeks and the grass is a tinderbox.  Everyone around here starts setting off fireworks on the 1st.  I don't have a problem with fireworks, I love setting them off myself.  But if people could at least make an attempt not to set their neighbors house on fire this year, that would be swell.  Thanks.  As usual, there are a few things I wanted to talk about today, so I'd better jump right into it.

I saw an article today on MSN.com about a study stating breast milk kills HIV.  This is a study done at  University of North Carolina's School of Medicine.  The title of the article demonstrates a major problem when it comes to the mass media reporting on research.  First of all, according to a synopsis of the study, which can be found at http://news.unchealthcare.org/news/2012/june/breast-milk-kills-hiv-and-blocks-its-oral-transmission-in-humanized-mouse/ they mostly show that breast milk can block oral transmission of the virus.  As a matter of fact, their title for the study is  "Breast milk kills HIV and blocks its oral transmission in humanized mouse"  MSN makes it sound as if a cure has been found, and all you have to do is find a lactating woman.  The study only shows that transmission to the baby may be prevented if the mother is HIV positive and decides to breastfeed, not that it is a cure.  With article titles like this, is it any wonder that conspiracy theories keep cropping up?  If nothing else is announced from this study, shortly, we'll be hearing "They have a cure for AIDS, but  (insert your favorite shadow government here) is suppressing it."  They also have an article stating that a Scotsman could be the "grandson" of Eve.  Yes the biblical Eve, not the one from 1991 with Gregory Hines.  (If that doesn't date me)  Basically the article , which comes from The Telegraph, states that his mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from the mother, only has 2 mutations from the first woman that lived in the British isles 30,000 years ago.  I'm a little worried that they are actually using biblical references to garner peoples attention, which given the fact I'm writing about it, it seems to have worked.  Damn it, I got pulled in. 

Now for the Creation museum, Part II
Last time I wrote a little rant about the billboards that have been going up everywhere for a creation museum in Cincinnati.  I decided to check out their web site.  One of the first things I found was that Ken Ham, a young earth creationist of some note from Australia, is speaking there as well as being the president of the museum. They have a short article about him on Wikipedia.   Ham is the head of AiG, or Answers in Genesis, a fundamental christian, right wing, conservative group.  They are some of the loudest voices screaming Teach the Controversy!  concerning evolution and climate change.  there is no real controversy, given that most researchers and scientists agree on evolution and C.C., they just differ on their opinions on the details.  The creation museum has an exhibit on  Australopithecus afarensis, or better known to the layperson, such as yours truly, as Lucy.  (Besides, Lucy is easier to fit on a name tag)  According to their website:

"As a part of our fifth anniversary celebration this weekend, the Creation Museum has opened a new high-tech exhibit designed to expose the scientific bankruptcy of the evolutionary interpretation of the famous so-called ape-woman “Lucy" Perhaps more than any other fossil, Lucy is presented as “exhibit A” for evolutionists in their attempt to show that humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor. Through the scientific research of the Creation Museum’s Dr. David Menton (PhD, biology, Brown University) and the artistic talents of Doug Henderson and his crew, the museum has created a stunning holographic refutation of Lucy. (The technical name for this Lucy creature found in Africa is Australopithecus afarensis.)  “I expect that scientists, both evolutionists and creationists, will make a trip to the Creation Museum to see this exceptional exhibit, not only because it refutes Lucy as an ancestor of ours, but also due to its use of remarkable holographic technology,” declared Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the museum."
The picture they have with their "holographic technology" which appears to be a simple overlay, appears to be a lowland gorilla with a hip joint and skull shown "holographically".  The info they give doesn't explain how a pretty display can refute the hypothesis that A. afarensis is an ancestor, or what the "scientific bankruptcy" is.  Also, reading through some of their articles, I caught the phrase concerning their patrons of "sacrificial giving" .  Does this have something to do with goats or virgins and a volcano?  Nope.  Apparently, their ticket sales just barely allow them to break even, so they ask for donations, but re-title it.  They also have a link to an article called Farewell to Lucy.  I'm not going to put a link to it here, partly because I'm afraid my computer will explode if i put a link to B.S. like that.  The bit I read before the aneurysm struck, was talking about the jaw structure being more ape like than human.  Of course its going to be more ape like.  Evolution is an extremely slow process, so the changes are going to minor.  A massive, all encompassing change to several body structures at the same time would be a detriment rather than an advantage.  I appreciate them being skeptical of the evidence and wanting proof, but to just say "Nope, looks like a monkey to me, and god didn't make me from a monkey." just seems a little irresponsible, especially when they are touting this as the definitive proof, and that their evidence will completely prove evolutionists wrong.  What some creationists seem to be doing is a reverse scientific process.  They go in with a hypothesis, and make the facts fit their ideals.  The hypothesis should be the mutable part of the process, not the facts. Something funny that they put on their site was a fossil hunt that they held which included  "This area is rich in fossils, and many were found, including lace corals, lamp shells, sea lilies, snails, a trilobite, and an abundance of horn corals"  This is in Cincinnati Ohio, roughly 500 miles from the nearest seacoast , and has been land-locked for a while, at least since I was a kid.  I also found the statements "Natural selection is not evolution." and "You’ll also uncover the truth about antibiotic resistant bacteria."  I don't think I even need to discuss these, but if you fine folks want me to get more in depth on these, let me know, either in the comments or you can e-mail me at skepticalokie@gmail.com .  They also have several movie that they show.  One basically tries to make a connection between dragons and dinos, and asks the question "Did dinosaurs walk with humans?"  The other one, I just have to put their description of it on here, and hope I don't get into trouble.  The name of this artistic masterpiece is "Men in White"  (I thought only porn and Mel Brooks did the bad spoofs of popular movies years after they came out.  Coincidence?  I think not.)

Meet Wendy. This intelligent young woman has heard the constant barrage of evolutionary ideas about the world, but the more she thinks, the more she sees that what she’s been taught doesn’t make sense. She ponders some of the most important questions of life: What is the truth about where we came from? Is there meaning? Is there really a God, or did this all just happen by chance? Suddenly, Gabe and Mike, two contemporary angels, “descend” to help her. Get ready to join Wendy, and experience the exciting truth of Genesis like never before! Prepare for some fun—and some surprises. Prepare to believe. 

Keep in mind kiddos that this is only a review of 1 creation museums website and some of the pieces they link to.  I have yet to go to a creation museum, and outside of hearing about their experience on "Oh No, Ross and Carrie", I haven't heard anyone elses experience. And I recommend you check out their podcast, it's pretty good, and you just might learn something, and isn't that what it's all about.  That and brats and Guinness (hint hint to those who know what thats about)  If anyone in Oklahoma is interested in going to Texas and checking that one out, drop me a line.  I promise, the banishment should be lifted by now.  Next week, I'll be talking about bigfoot and possibly another cryptid thats kinda close to my clavicle, or maybe my spleen. I know this one has once again been kind of long, but thank you for letting me rant about some of the oddball stuff that gets trapped in my head, and especially thanks for joining me in that small, dark place between my ears.  Until next time, be good, be nice, and be skeptical.

Thanks,
The Skeptical Okie.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cancer cure and ineptitude.

Alright folks, I know I had 3 posts out the week before, and then none last week.  I'm trying to become more regular on writing these, but part of my problem is that I've got notebooks full of topics I want to talk about, but researching all of them takes a lot of time.  That being said, I appreciate the comment on the creation museum post.  And as always, if you have an opinion or a comment, feel free to leave on.  I've got a couple of short items today, and one of them relates back to probably every post I'll ever make on here, unless they ruin more of my childhood with live action movies on cartoons from the 80's.

First of, I've seen a heading pop up on my facebook page lately.  Basically it states "B17-Cancer Killer!"  I read a bit of it and started thinking "Crap Kevin Trudeau is doing it again."  Trudeau is a charlatan and huckster that has books out on "natural cures they don't want you to know about"  and now a free money one.  During his natural cure one, he implied he had been a medical professional, and the free money one he says he was a Wall Street insider.   His health books have caused so many problems for people that he's been banned from appearing on television to hock his shit.  I don't think he's been charged with anything, but he probably should be.  (I'll probably talk more about him in the next post) B17 is being touted as a B vitamin that can cure cancer.  First of all, it's actually derived from the bitter almond, apricots, and black cherrys.  What it actually is is called an Amygdalin.  This chemical substance, when ingested, is acted on by enzymes in the gut that produce cyanide.  In large enough amounts, I guess it would cure cancer, because death tends to cure almost everything, up to and including the messy problem of living.  There is a synthetic, non-lethal form used in food preservation, but the natural form is lethal.  The idea of it treating cancer has been around since the 1840's, but in 1920, it was deemed too lethal in the U.S.  and nearly 100 years later, to paraphrase the girl from poltergeist, "It's Baaack".  In 2006, there were more clinical trials.  In a brief synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia,

A 2006 systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded: "The claim that [l]aetrile has beneficial effects for cancer patients is not supported by data from controlled clinical trials. This systematic review has clearly identified the need for randomized or controlled clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of [l]aetrile or amygdalin for cancer treatment."[31] Given the lack of evidence, laetrile has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[15]
The U.S. National Institutes of Health evaluated the evidence separately and concluded that clinical trials of amgydalin showed little or no effect against cancer.[23] For example, a 1982 trial of 175 patients found that tumor size had increased in all but one patient.[32] The authors reported that "the hazards of amygdalin therapy were evidenced in several patients by symptoms of cyanide toxicity or by blood cyanide levels approaching the lethal range."[7]
The study concluded "Patients exposed to this agent should be instructed about the danger of cyanide poisoning, and their blood cyanide levels should be carefully monitored. Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment".

After multiple trials, this has been shown not to work.  Much like homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and bi-partisan politics, people continue to believe in this.  The most commonly given reason is "Big pharma doesn't want us to know about it because they would lose money."  This is basically a conspiracy theory with industry behind it instead of a shadowy government.  The other problem is that cancer is not 1 single disease.  There are dozens of different types of cancer, some caused by viruses, some by genetics, and some by environmental issues.  Just because of the many causes, it is highly improbable (remember, nothing is impossible, just extremely unlikely) that there will ever be a single cure for anything, short of Death.

The other topic I wanted to touch on, like I said relates to all the other posts, except the one about the failure of The  History and Discovery channels.  I am a certified teacher currently seeking employment as a teacher in either Agriculture or Biology.  I have several friends that are currently teachers.  One of these people was recently let go so that the school could hire someone that was also a coach.  He received excellent evaluations and commendations, yet they let him go.  This is becoming a more common problem in Education.  I understand that most schools are under financial pressures and high school sports programs are the primary source of income, outside of the federal government.  As a (hopefully) science teacher, I do believe that science is the future of our ability to compete with other countries as global competition continues to escalate.  When schools put a higher priority on sports and decrease funding for the arts and science, it seems to be a precursor to the direction that our country is heading.  Couple this with the whole "teach the controversy" line of thought with climate change and evolution, our future scientists are going to be sorely lacking in the next decade.  And just for the record, there is no controversy on these.  There is a solid consensus concerning evolution and climate change, it is primarily the religious right that is pushing this as a controversy. 

If the spelling isn't up to my usual standards, it's because the spell-check either isn't working, or I kinda killed it on the last couple of posts. Until next time, thank you for reading, and remember, every time you respond in the comments, and tell your friends if you like it, you get double cool points for the next month.  These are non-transferable, non-negotiable, and not valid as legal tender in any state that has a vowel in the continental U.S.  I'll leave you with a quote that I feel is pretty relevant.

"Science is the thing that's going to save us!" ---George Hrab


Thanks again
The Skeptical Okie


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Short note on a creation museum

EDIT:  I have recently noticed that this seems to be my most popular topic to date.  I also noticed that my post seems to be the third most popular on Google for creation museum info, right between
Museum of Creation Truth | TravelOK.com   and Creation Truth , which I personally find sort of satisfying and kinda funny.  I know the reason that the topic interests me, but what is it about a creation museum that interests everyone else.  I am especially curious if this is occuring in any other country other than the United States.  If you  could leave a comment with your thoughts or experience concerning onee of these, for lack of a better phrase, propaganda structures, I would greatly appreciate it.  And now back to the story.



I've noticing billboards along I-40 in Oklahoma City advertising for a creation museum, I think in Cincinnati.  What are your thoughts on this.  Personally, as I've stated, I have no real gripe against religion as a source of community or for the feeling of fellowship.  When you claim religious fables are science using either mis-interpreted or blatantly false information, then that's where I draw the line.  First of all, the art work on these ads is atrocious.  Seriously, they look like something out of a 1950's comic book.  While I like the look of the golden age comics, I don't think the style lends itself to advertising for what is claimed to be a hard science museum.  Secondly, I personally can't remember an anklyosaur or triceratops in the bible, unless they were one of the plagues that I missed.  Or was there a pteradon in Sodom?  Point being, if you talk to someone that believes dinosaurs walked with humans and the Earth is only 6000 years old, they will tell you dinosaurs aren't mentioned in the bible because when it was written, the word wasn't invented.  I'll bite, but where does it say "And lo, the gigantic lizard did tempt the shepards to leave their charges in their fields and follow it unto Bethlehem."?  There is no description of anything even remotely similar to a T-Rex or a Brachiosaur in the bible.  And how did they fit on the Ark?  Did they bump the unicorns, manticores, centaurs, and dragons to make room?  And who was the poor bugger that had to clean up after the dinos on the boat.  The interesting aspect of this is you can see a clear division in religious thinking.  On one side, you have the people who go to creation museums that claim the mega fauna lived with humans.  The other side believes that the first is nuts, because everyone knows god placed the bones in the ground to make us think the world is older that 6000 years.  Guys got a wicked since of humor, especially to wait 6000 years for a practical joke to pay off. I know that there are some people that are religious, but do trust in science and know that evolution is the most likely explanation. I don't include them, because they aren't likely to visit a creation museum. Either way, my main point, outside of being perturbed by this (it's not too obvious, is it?) is that these people, who could all be lumped together as "young Earth creationists" (and I wish I had coined that term) are mis-using the scientific method or out and out corrupting it to prove their world views.  They go in with a preconceived notion and bend the data to make it fit, kinda like the anti-vaccers.  The Y.E.C. (a fitting acronyms) claim  carbon radio dating is faulty, that the only way to date a fossil is to issue a blanket statement that all the fossils date from the great flood 4,400 years ago.  They have a tendency to use a lot of logical fallacies including argument from authority, strawman argument, Argument from ignorance , Argument from scripture (Spider-man fallacy), (shifting the) Burden of proof, and I could keep going, but it's not worth the time right now.  Like I said this is a short one, and I'm really wanting to know what people think of these creation museums.  On the one hand, they are dishing out crap and calling it good science.  On the other hand, if a skeptic goes to one, they can get a good idea of Y.E.C.'s thought process.  I've also heard the suggestion that if you have friends that study paleontology, paleobotony, or anthropology, take them with you and turn 'em loose.  I like that one, and I'd even sell tickets.  Let me know your thoughts or feelings, or even if you feel that this is a completely over-blown reaction to a harmless little museum, and keep in mind folks, that there are several of these in the United States, and there may be more in other countries.  To my international readers, let me know if they have these things in your countries and where they are.  Better yet, if you've been to one, what was it like?  Until later.  And if I misspelled the names of the dinos, sorry, Latin isn't my first language, but I did try.



The Skeptical Okie

Monday, June 11, 2012

Outrageous Conspiracy Theory

I love it when someone leaves a firebomb in a public park.  Yeah, someone blew up a tree in the park about a block from the house.  What a sight to wake up to.  I personally think people that are going to do shit like that should test them in their own house first, provided there isn't anyone else living there.  Safety first.  I mean really, who the hell does crap like that?  Especially where kids and people normally congregate.  Yeah it's been a fun week, especially the part where I got smashed around by horses at work.

Anyway, the main point of this posting is an interesting theory I heard from someone at work.  Keep in mind, part of my job involves dealing with animals that could be carrying diseases ranging from ringworm to parvo to rabies.  We try to remind people not to touch the animals to lessen the risk of transmission.  Anyway, as I was going through my spiel with a couple, the guy looks at me and asks, completely out of the blue, "are you smart?  What do you know about the zombie attacks?"  For those that don't know, in Miami Florida, one naked man attacked another naked man and was biting his face off.  The police ended up having to use lethal force in order to stop him.  The news outlets touted it as a zombie attack, and with the C.D.C.'s "zombie preparedness kits", it caused some people to think that the zombie apocalypse had final happened, so naturally, some people at work started to ask me a lot of questions, including wanting to know how big my house was.  I seem to be on everyones zombie survival team.  First off, the zombie kit recommended by the C.D.C. is a basic emergency kit for any kind of disaster,be it a tornado, flood, earthquake, Bieber movie, you name it.  Secondly, the attack was by someone who had apparently had a psychotic breakdown, though the drug known as bath salts were initially blamed for his actions.  Back to the main story, when I informed him of what I knew at the time, being that he wasn't really a zombie (which actually seemed to disappoint both the guy and the girl), and that bath salts were being blamed, the guy looked at me and said "Did you know that there is only 1 chemical difference between bath salts and the H1.... the flu thing."  I looked at him as I felt the aneurysm coming on and asked him "Do you mean H1N1,?"  He basically said yeah, that's it.  At this point, my super power, impromptu skeptic education, kicked in.  Kinda like the Hulk, only with glasses and a tweed blazer, rather Sagan-like.  What I told him was that H1N1 is a flu virus, which is an infectious agent, not manufactured, and naturally occurring.  And yes, I know that viruses can be modified in a lab, but I left that out of the conversation due to time constraints and the steadily increasing noise levels.  I also told him that Bath salts are similar to meth or cocaine, meaning that they are made in a lab, or someones kitchen.  Also they are believed to cause "zombie-like symptoms" in the people that use them.  The girl that was with him had a look on her face that made me think "My work here is done"  ,but all my hopes were dashed when the guy informed me that it was a government conspiracy to create zombie super soldiers.  I think I said "Wha????" but I was so dumb struck I just kinda stared at him.  I got my bearings and said I don't think the government wants a bunch of uncontrollable, flesh eating killing machines.  He looked a little saddened and walked off.  I have debated people on the black helicopters, men in black, ghosts, aliens, cryptids (which is a personal favorite of mine),  ancient astronauts, Bear Grylls, vaccines, acupuncture, homeopathy, and holistic medicine.  Granted, I don't always earn points with them, but rarely am I taken aback as much as I was on this.  I think the girl was on the fence to begin with, but the guy unfortunately was fully in the other camp, right behind the latrines.  And, as skeptics, we have to realize that these are the people that we will never reach.  they will use every logical fallacy to maintain their beliefs, and this guy used quite a few.  I do however pride myself on the fact that I didn't just go completely skeptical commando on him and end up looking like an arrogant fool.

A side note on these bath salts.  You can actually buy this crap in mini-marts and convenience stores.  The manufacturers have found that if they slap a "Not suited for human consumption" label on the package, then it's legal to sell them.  According to the NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) " these products often contain various amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV), mephedrone and pyrovalerone. These drugs are typically administered orally, by inhalation, or by injection, with the worst outcomes apparently associated with snorting or intravenous administration. Mephedrone is of particular concern because, according to the United Kingdom experience, it presents a high risk for overdose. These chemicals act in the brain like stimulant drugs (indeed they are sometimes touted as cocaine substitutes); thus they present a high abuse and addiction liability. Consistent with this notion, these products have been reported to trigger intense cravings not unlike those experienced by methamphetamine users, and clinical reports from other countries appear to corroborate their addictiveness. They can also confer a high risk for other medical adverse effects. Some of these may be linked to the fact that, beyond their known psychoactive ingredients, the contents of "bath salts" are largely unknown, which makes the practice of abusing them, by any route, that much more dangerous."  Basically, this crap is dangerous and the makers know it.  Some of the names it's sold under are :"Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," "Red Dove," "Blue Silk," "Zoom," "Bloom," "Cloud Nine," "Ocean Snow," "Lunar Wave," "Vanilla Sky," "White Lightning," "Scarface," and "Hurricane Charlie." .

Another item that came up, and one of the main reasons that this post is a day later than I had hoped, is a friend of  mine had her dog attacked by a pack of coyotes.  Nothing paranormal about the canines, no glowing eyes, special abilities, just an attack on a domestic dog.  A big dog, granted, but normal behavior in pack of hungry animals.  No, it was something she said about her vet.  I was looking at pictures of injuries (I couldn't look at the actual injuries on the dog as it really doesn't like anyone but its owner) and she was telling me about the vet she took it to.  She said on top of the stitches and flushing of the injuries, the dog got acupuncture and homeopathic medicine.  I have known her for years, and I know that she is deeply religious,and a bit of a hippy, but I was unaware of the fact that she bought into the whole alternative medicine rigmarole.  She asked me if I knew about holistic and homeopathic medicine, (the dog owner and I had talked several times about homeopathy and holistic medicine in the past)  and I said I was familiar with the concept behind it, and I knew the vet that she was using. (I had had a run-in with this individual a few years ago at work, and it made for a rather stressful environment.)  I made no mention of efficacy trials or any testing on alt med.  She just nodded her head and asked if the vet was any good.  I had to admit, she is good, up to the alternative "treatments".  Sutures, spay and neutering, diagnostics, yeah, she's good, but I can not in good conscience give her any more credit than that.  The dog was in good health (the injuries were fairly minor), and both the owner and the dog seemed to be in good spirits, so I let the matter be.  I know that it seems hypocritical, but you have to know where to draw the lines.  If she (the owner) was suffering from cancer and was going to an alt med professional as her only source of treatment, yes, I would probably try to convince either her or her family to at least try conventional western medicine as well.

There were other items that came up, but I haven't decided whether to discuss them here or not, due to the person that said them.  I have to wonder if they found this blog and learned who writes it and wants to see what I have to say, even though I'm not really known for keeping my opinions to my self in the real world, or if they actually believe it.  On some of it, I lean towards the latter, especially when prefaced with "I have a pet theory" which makes me want to look at them and go "Do you mean hypothesis?"  Anyway, I am actually taking some vacation time this week, partly for medical reasons and partly for my own sanity.  That and on Sunday, I will have been married for 12 years to one of the loveliest, smartest, sweetest women on the planet.  And I'm not just saying that because she reads this and knows where I sleep.  Until next time, be good, and keep an open mind.

The Skeptical Okie