Episode 114: Ray Comfort’s “Atheist Delusion”

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Gem, and Laura review Ray Comfort’s new “documentary” with special guests Ash Burkowski and David Bonwick, and the panel bids farewell to evangelical cartoonist Jack Chick with a game of Jack or Fiction.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: Bad Science Watch | NHP Monograph Consultations (Bad Science Watch) | TRC #420: Origin of 420 + Gem Newman of Bad Science Watch + History Of Halloween (The Reality Check) | The Atheist Delusion (YouTube) | Checkmate, Atheists! (YouTube) | Jack Chick (RationalWiki) | Leonard Nimoy Gallery (NSFW)

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Episode 102: Apologetics & Counter-apologetics

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem runs through several arguments for the existence of God with Ashlyn, Ian, and Laura, and the panel ponders whether it’s worth talking about religious arguments at all.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: Selling Religion Door to Door (Startled Disbelief) | Ontological argument (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Miracle of the Sun (Wikipedia) | Sanal Edamaruku (Wikipedia) | The Argument from Miracles (Arguments for Atheism) | Thank You God (Tim Minchin) | Euthyphro dilemma (Wikipedia) | Euthyphro dilemma (Iron Chariots Wiki) | The Euthyphro Dilemma (Philosophy of Religion) | Episode 132: Euthyphro’s Revenge (Reasonable Doubts) | Argument from design (RationalWiki) | Occam’s razor (Wikipedia) | Cosmological argument (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Kalam (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Leibniz cosmological argument (Iron Chariots Wiki) | Ontological Girlfriend (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) | 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Strange Notions) | Dietitian at Home

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Episode 94: Free Will

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem is joined by Donna, Ashlyn, and Ian to talk about free will, determinism, and what it means to make a choice. Also on this episode, Donna sits down with August Berkshire of Minnesota Atheists to discuss the moral implications of a world without free will. We went a little long, but don’t blame us: determinism exempts us from all ethical responsibility!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Note: Barium. Radioactive caesium decays into barium.

Links: Free Will: What is it? and Do we have it? (The Winnipeg Skeptics) | Free will (Wikipedia) | Phineas Gage (Wikipedia) | Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action (Behavioral and Brain Sciences) | Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain (Nature Neuroscience) | A Brief Defense of Free Will | Discovery of quantum vibrations in ‘microtubules’ corroborates theory of consciousness (Phys.org) | Quantum indeterminacy (Wikipedia) | Uncertainty principle (Wikipedia) | Minnesota Atheists | Freedom Evolves (Wikipedia) | Freedom Evolves by Daniel C. Dennett (Amazon.ca) | Free Will by Sam Harris | Breaking the Free Will Illusion by ‘Trick Slattery | Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner (Amazon.ca) | Killing of Tim McLean (Wikipedia) | Li case exposes ugly truth about Tories (Winnipeg Free Press) | The Fallaway Slam Podcast (The only podcast that matters!)

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Episode 82: What Have You Changed Your Mind About?

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn Noble, Gem Newman, and Ian James discuss several of the things that, as skeptics, they’ve changed their minds out.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Reasonable Doubts Episode 43: Stewards of This Earth | PETA Embraces Autism Pseudoscience | Gem’s Favourite Recipes | Insite Supervised Injection Site | Harm Reduction in Public Health | Ramtha/J.Z. Knight at the Skeptic’s Dictionary | Your Friday Dose of Woo: H2Ooooooommmm | Masaru Emoto’s Wonderful World of Water | A Grain of Truth: Recreating Dr. Emoto’s Rice Experiment | Can Thinking Change Reality? | Geocentrism – Seriously? | Donate to Habitat for Humanity’s Muddy Waters Ride (Gem) | Donate to Habitat for Humanity’s Muddy Waters Ride (Laura) | HAAM’s Atheist Bible Study

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SkeptiCamp Winnipeg: Do Human Rights Exist?

Embedded below is Brendan Curran-Johnson’s talk from SkeptiCamp Winnipeg 2013. Brendan Curran-Johnson spent his youth finding loopholes in his parents’ rules. The resulting skills (a love of logic, semantics, and learning) led him to programming, and to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Manitoba.

SkeptiCamp Winnipeg is a conference for the sharing of ideas. It is free and open to the public: anyone can attend and participate! Presentations and discussions focus on science and free inquiry, and the audience is encouraged to challenge presenters to defend their ideas. You can visit our SkeptiCamp page for information about upcoming events and links to past SkeptiCamp talks.

Episode 68: Atheist Myths

Episode 68: Atheist Myths

Is atheism a religion? In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Donna Harris, Greg Christensen, Pat Morrow, and Jeffrey Olsson take on a few of the myths and misconceptions about atheists.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Atheist vs. Agnostic | Atheism starts its megachurch: Is it a religion now? | Calgary Secular Church | Michael Enright: Could Atheists please stop complaining? | Elizabeth Renzetti: Heavens, we atheists have become a smug, dreary lot | Betty Bowers Explains Traditional Marriage to Everyone Else

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Episode 62: Star Trek’s Humanism (and Lack Thereof), Part 2

Episode 62: Star Trek’s Humanism (and Lack Thereof), Part 2

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Greg Christensen, Richelle McCullough, Robert Shindler, and Gem Newman continue their discussion of Star Trek’s long history of humanism, and some of the places the franchise has stumbled along the way.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Episodes Discussed: The Next Generation (The Measure of a Man, Who Watches the Watchers) | Deep Space Nine (Family Business, In the Pale Moonlight) | Voyager (Author, Author) | Enterprise (Dear Doctor)

Other Links: Riker Sits Down | Gem’s Rant on the Subject of “Dear Doctor” | Mansplainer #3: I’m Sick of Television (and Real Life) | That Mitchell and Webb Look: English Civil War

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Episode 61: Star Trek’s Humanism (and Lack Thereof), Part 1

Episode 61: Star Trek’s Humanism (and Lack Thereof), Part 1

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Greg Christensen, Richelle McCullough, Robert Shindler, and Gem Newman discuss Star Trek’s long history of humanism, and some of the places the franchise has stumbled along the way.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

News Items: An Open Letter to Exodus International’s Super-remorseful Alan Chambers | Vaccine Against HPV Has Cut Infections In Teenage Girls | ‘Racist’ Licence Plates Recalled in New Brunswick | Licence Plate Standards (Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick)

Episodes Discussed: The Original Series (Who Mourns for Adonais?) | Star Trek V: The Final Frontier | The Next Generation (The Child)

Other Links: Riker Sits Down | ‘Star Trek’ Franchise an Homage to Humanist Philosophy | Gene Roddenberry | Michael Piller | CBS/Paramount and Michael Piller’s “Fade In” | D.C. Fontana | The “Mind Rape” Trope

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SkeptiCamp Winnipeg 2012: Morals vs. Ethics

On Saturday, 29 September 2012, the Winnipeg Skeptics held their third annual SkeptiCamp event. SkeptiCamp Winnipeg is a conference for the sharing of ideas. It is free and open to the public: anyone can attend and participate! Presentations and discussions focus on science and free inquiry, and the audience is encouraged to challenge presenters to defend their ideas.

Mike Innes is a geek gone wrong. He has a tan, he can throw and catch a ball, and he looks you in the eye when he’s talking to you (some of the time). He’s also a disgruntled IT worker for a local insurance company, armchair philosopher, and self-proclaimed face-melter of Internet trolls.

SkeptiCamp is an open conference celebrating science and critical thinking. For more information please visit SkeptiCamp.org.

Potent Nonsense

Cross-posted from Startled Disbelief.

Pseudoscience has teamed up with erectile dysfunction to wipe several species of rhinoceros off the face of the earth.

A dead Javan rhinoceros. Public domain image courtesy of Wikipedia.

From the Telegraph:

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which publishes an annual ‘red list’ of endangered species, said the Western Black Rhino could soon be joined by the Northern White Rhino of central Africa which is “possibly extinct” and the Javan Rhino which is “probably extinct.” Though overall numbers of black and white rhinos have increased, the three subspecies are particularly vulnerable owing to a lack of political will in their habitats and poachers who target their valuable horns which are used in Asian medicine.

When this article first appeared, I linked to it on Facebook, with the title, “Fuck you, Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

An acquaintance from my dinner theatre days (with whom I’ve always been on friendly terms) took umbrage. What follows is a transcript of the short discussion that ensued.

Brandi: The sad part is, western medicine and antibiotics kill and harm ALOT more animals than chinese medicine will ever do. And to add to that, western medicine also kills human beings. Just a way of looking at the other side of things!

Gem: Good to know where you stand on the whole real medicine versus fake medicine thing.

Brandi: Lol my comment was not meant to be offensive or opinionated but rather to shine a light on the subject. Facebook is tough for that!! I do not agree with senseless killings. People could argue for days about what medicine is real and what medicine is fake but the key is education and as I mentioned, there are certainly outs to allopathic medicine as much as anything else. I always say, you bring me your research and I’ll do the same! Only then can one really get into it;)

Gem: Bring you what research? I don’t do medical research, and I’m not qualified to evaluate it. Luckily, we have physicians and medical researchers whose expertise lies in just those areas. I’m certainly always interested in learning more about so-called “alternative” medical practices, [but] citing a positive study or two is unlikely to persuade me of efficacy, because cherry-picking is rampant in the alt-med community and I understand what a p-value is and I recognise that we expect the occasional false-positive. Not only that, but alt-med studies tend to be poorly blinded and controlled. I suggest that if you’re interested in learning more about science-based medicine, you visit http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/.

The fact that you use the absurd and discredited term “allopathic” to describe modern scientific medicine illustrates your biases on the subject. This pejorative term was coined by arch-quack Samuel Hahnemann to distinguish the (in many ways prescientific) medicine of his day from his new (and absurd) “homeopathy”. (For more on the subject of homeopathy, feel free to read this: http://www.startleddisbelief.com/2010/04/winnipeg-skeptics-presentation.html.) Hahneman asserted that allopathic interventions were those that treated the symptoms, rather than the cause, of the disease. Most science-based medical treatments today do not conform to this definition, because they either seek to prevent illness or they remove the cause of an illness by acting on the etiology of disease.

Occasionally, remedies that were once labelled “alternative” are integrated into science-based medicine—but this should happen only after a large body of medical research has demonstrated that the intervention is effective to a reasonable degree of certainty. And it’s always important to consider each study in the context of the entire body of the medical literature. To quote the wonderful comedian/musician Tim Minchin, “By definition … alternative medicine … has either not been proved to work, or has been proved not to work. You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.”

Brandi: Lol clearly you have decided to take this much further than it needs to go:) There are plenty of scientific studies to support every field of medicine. I understand how to read them and I can tell you by the abstract alone whether it’s even worth reading the entire study, or if it’s a waste of time:) It’s nice to see you take an interest in the subject as well, hopefully you didn’t need to fork out the thousands of dollars that I did for the education:) I would like to say that using words like “absurd” to color what I have said, clearly states you are not up for the open minded discussion that I was after. I’m always interested in facts and any science to back them up, however I’ve also learned that it’s really not about a cold competition when there are so many things to learn on all sides. I’m sorry to have sparked such a battle, that was not my intention, clearly it’s not something you take lightly. Nor do I:) So let’s leave it here? If we ever run into each other I think the topic would make for some good conversation!!! Hope you are doing well and kudos on the Clue (party?) that was awesome! Was that for Halloween? And who’s idea was it? Good stuff!!!!

Scott: ‎”western Medicine” aka scientifically-shown-to-work-medicine is backed my empiracal evidence. If Chinese medicine doesn’t kill people directly it’s probably because it doesn’t actually do anything, so it would kill people directly in the fact that whatever health issue the person has isnt actually being treated.

Scott: Either a treatment has.

Gem: I’m not being “closed-minded” or dogmatic about this, Brandi. I will gladly change my mind about any given intervention when large, reproducible, randomized, well-controlled studies can consistently demonstrate efficacy. That’s called being intellectually honest.

And if you don’t consider homeopathy absurd, I would wager that either (a) you don’t know anything about it or (b) you have some sort of vested interest in it. It is mathematically hilarious and the body of the medical literature demonstrates that it works no better than placebo.

Gem: Brandi seems to have deleted all of her comments. Interesting.

You’ll note that I ignored her offer to move the discussion on to a more friendly subject, which I’d imagine was what prompted her to stop responding and delete all of her comments. And fair enough; she doesn’t owe me a response! But I think that this is a very important subject, and I was unwilling to be derailed.

Scott later pointed out to me that not only does she work at a health food store (that’s fine, I suppose), she’s also attending the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. As I’m married to a Registered Dietitian (you know, one of those science-based nutritional experts) and I’m a nutritionist myself (not that that means anything) I find quack colleges such as these distasteful.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, that’s the same Scott who blogs for the Winnipeg Skeptics and who co-hosts our new podcast, Life, the Universe, and Everything Else (Facebook, iTunes).

Luckily, I still had the comment thread open on one of my other computers when Brandi deleted her comments, so the discussion is preserved here, in case there’s anything to be learned from it.

The bottom line is that these animals almost certainly would not be dead if it weren’t for the idiotic notion that rhino horns (and other phallic objects) can aid those suffering from erectile dysfunction. Even if it were true (it’s not!), it would still be horribly unethical to kill these animals for their horns.