November 2008

Brian Dunning at compiled a list of his 10 Most wanted: Celebrities Who Promote Harmful Psuedoscience or as I prefer to call them – Douche Bags.  I wasn’t going to lower myself to that type of ad hominem attack but I’ll let Brian take the high road and I’ll take the one full of expletive-laced name-calling which IMHO is what these people deserve.

I don’t really much care what celebrities say unless they have already earned my respect regarding a given topic.  Unfortunately, their opinions carry an ENORMOUS amount of weight with many many people and the stupid, uninformed things they say actually do cause great harm.  Don’t believe me?  Well, I’ll give you one example: Jenny McCarthy has been a boost to the efforts of the anti-vaccination folks and her activism has resulted in lowered vaccination rates.  Vaccinations are only truly effective if a very large percentage of people are vaccinated.  If enough are not, the disease that we’re trying to eradicate (or at least control) can mutate and rebound.  Every time a parent is convinced by Jenny (or her buddy Oprah) to skip vaccinations, they put not only their own children at risk, but everyone else as well!  Actually, calling these vermin douche bags is an insult to douche bags.

Anyhow, Brian does a great job with his list of Top Ten celebrity shit heads, so please check it out.

p.s. for more info on vaccination, please visit Dr. Steven Novella’s Science Based Medicine Blog.


After writing the last post which was rather tough, I want to focus on the good news of the day:

Articles in the Guardian and on took me by surprise this week.  They talk about Hyperion Power Generations plans to build a small (not exactly pint-sized) nuclear reactor that will service approximately 10,000 homes.  Hyperion claims that the $25 million reactors are safe, reliable, and clean.  Each unit would utilize non-weapons grade material, have no moving parts, and would only need to be serviced every 7 to 10 years.

It sounds too good to be true, and usually I’m very skeptical of these types of claims.  Very skeptical.  Did I mention that I’m skeptical?

In this case, however, it seems that the Japanese are working on the technology as well.  According to The Guardian, Toshiba has announced plans to build small reactors capable of powering a single building for 40 years.

That coupled with the claim that the technology is based on research at Los Alamos National Lab gives me hope that Hyperion is for real.  If so, this could be a real game changer over the next 10 to 20 years in our quest for energy Independence.

See.  I told you it was good news.

Today is a good news / bad news kind of day.  Two articles from the UK have inspired me to write.  First the bad:

A rather lengthy, and extremely disturbing, article in the Telegraph details horrendous behavior in Nigeria at the hands of so-called Priests and other religious leaders – namely the torture, abuse, and even murder of children deemed to be witches.  That’s right – Witches!

In a bizarre combination of Christianity and ancient mythology, tens of thousands of children have been accused of witchcraft and Satanic possession.  Though exorcisms are sometimes performed, most families can not afford the large fees charged by the local religious leaders – an entire year’s income for an average family!  Most children are simply banished from their homes with no where to go or outright killed.  Even the exorcisms (which are basically two weeks of torture) are not guaranteed to work.

It’s no surprise that the same people who identify the child witches are the ones who charge the exorbitant fees for the exorcisms.  One of them is Helen Ukbabio.  Check this out:

Some Nigerians blame the increase on one of the country’s wealthiest and most influential evangelical preachers. Helen Ukpabio, a self-styled prophetess of the 150-branch Liberty Gospel Church, made a film, widely distributed, called End of the Wicked. It tells, in graphic detail, how children become possessed and shows them being inducted into covens, eating human flesh and bringing chaos and death to their families and communities.

The preacher says that her work is true to the Bible and is a means of spreading God’s word.

She claims that her films and books do not contribute to child abuse.  Yeah right…

Another piece of crap highlighted in a new documentary to be aired in the UK is a man who refers to himself as “The Bishop”.  He proudly claims to have killed at least 110 witches and that there are over 2.3 million in Akwa Ibom province.  He also charges a hefty fee to perform his rituals.

The fear is so pervasive that many hospitals won’t even treat the children who have been abused and thrown out in the streets.  Thankfully there are shelters for these children but that is little consolation in the face of such horrors.

I can’t even talk about this anymore…

Readers of skeptical blogs know (as well as viewers of Montel Williams) that Sylvia Brown has been one of Americas best-known (and wealthiest) psychics for several years.  Skeptics have invested a lot of energy in debunking her claims and calling her out on her scams and harmful behavior.

Robert Lancaster has maintained the site for several years and has been dedicated to providing detailed information regarding her exploits.  Recently, Robert has been ill and in his absence, his original domain name expired and was auctioned off.  The site is located at and the skeptical community is being asked to let everyone know.  We’ll need lots of people to click on links and go there so that the search engines will list the new domain name when people search on her name.

So please, give it a click and see what all the buzz is about.

Recently I was watching a clip from a McCain interview.  I’m not sure but it might have been from The View.  In any case, when asked about issues related to Separation of Church and State, he resorted to an old argument about how the founding fathers based the Constitution on Christian values, and specifically mentioned how “In God We Trust” (IGWT) is on the currency.

I’ll save the topic about the founding fathers motivations for another time.  There is good evidence to suggest that Jefferson in particular favored a secular state, but let’s just talk about the US Currency.

Many people cite the IGWT motto and attribute it to the founding fathers.  The FACTS are that the first instance of IGWT being on currency was in 1864 on a two cent coin.  According to the Wikipedia entry, this was in response to growing religious sentiment after the US Civil War.  IGWT first appeared on paper money in 1957.

In 1956, Congress adopted the phrase as the official motto of the United States as a Cold War measure: measure: “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic Communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, it is proper” to “remind all of us of this self-evident truth” that “as long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail.” (see Wikipedia reference [7])

So next time you hear someone making the IGWT falicy, feel free to correct them.  It’s not a matter of opinion.  It’s simply a matter of historical facts.