Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Genius of Charles Darwin

I love the simple argument against a designed eye, fantastic! Richard Dawkins science programs are nearly without peer. He might even give Sir David a run for his money! I will most certainly be picking this doc up when it's released. More>>

Friday, January 30, 2009

Robots are Cool, and Terrifying

Why does this robot-dog thing scare the crap out of me? Can't....look......away! More>>

Dr. Kaku Gets his Own Show on the Science Channel


I don't get the Science Channel, but I am really stoked that Michio Kaku is getting his own show. I've listened to his podcasts for quite a while, and the man is absolutely fascinating. More>>

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The World Has it's First Openly Gay Leader


How far we've come. 2009 so far has seen an African American President, and now Johanna Sigurdardottir will become Icealnd's next Prime Minister and the first openly gay leader of a country. She will have her hands full dealing with the economic crisis, but I wish her best of luck in all of her endeavors. More>>

The List: 10 Essential Books on Evolution


We are getting pretty close to Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, so what better way to celebrate than with some excellent ruminations on biology's most important principle? These books cover a myriad of angles, from straight overview to specialized species oriented approaches. It was exceedingly difficult to come up with ten of my favorite, so I only allowed one book per author. Stephen J. Gould and E.O. Wilson were a couple of authors just squeaked out of the top ten, but they will both show up in another evolution themed list that focuses more on the more technical aspects of evolution which will be coming up fairly soon.

10. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters - Donald Prothero

It always amazes me when people claim that there are no transitional fossils. Prothero catalogs the huge variety of fossils and the story told by studying them. Evolution is a very comprehensive look at and some compelling illustrations of concrete physical examples of transitional fossils. There is also a nice bit of interest overlap with Paleophiles and Dino-nuts.

9. The Plausibility of Life - Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhart

Many creationists with little understanding of Evolutionary Biology think that Darwin's original works are where evolution began and ended. Of course, most of us familiar with the scientific method know that this is an extremely silly assumption. John Gerhart and Marc Kirschner expand Darwin's adaptations and show how chance has very little to do with evolution, showcasing the elegance and tenacity of life.

8. The Beak of the Finch - Jonathan Weiner


Jonathan Weiner's Pullitzer Prize winning examination of Peter and Rosemary Grant's fascinating study of Darwin's finches. The Beak of the Fince is a beautiful and mind boggling example of how fast evolution can occur.

7. The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans - G. J. Sawyer, Viktor Deak, Esteban Sarmiento, Richard Milner


An exhaustive look at our ancestors. Vivid and detailed illustrations highlight the adaptations of those who came before.

6. At the Water's Edge : Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea - Carl Zimmer

This is one of my personal favorite evolutionary subject, land animals going back into the sea. The whale and hippo connection is one of the coolest things in science. Carl Zimmer has penned an infinitely readable biological classic.

5. Why Evolution is True - Jerry Coyne

Coyne's Why Evolution is True is one of the best overviews of Evolution and a great place to start for anyone interested.

4. Your Inner Fish - Neil Shubin

Equal parts funny and insightful, Neil Shubin shows us the early roots of the human body in a variety of life forms. Complexity may not be so irreducible after all.

3. The Third Chimpanzee - Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond presents what is possibly the best account of human evolution written. Compelling and easy to read, Diamond weaves a concise tale of how we became human.

2. The Ancestor's Tale - Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins popularization of science is impossible to ignore. Few authors can create a scientific account as appealing as any novel. The Ancestor's Tale is a gateway of sorts to his other material, and is a good base coat before delving into the shiny finish of The Selfish Gene.

Dawkins paints a picture in a homage to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, following our path from animal to animal each telling a different part of the story. The length and breadth of information in this book can be a bit daunting, but Dawkins humor and ability to teach shine through every page.

1. On the Origin of the Species (Illustrated Edition) - Charles Darwin

What better way to learn about origins of life, than with the origins of evolutionary theory? I chose this specific edition for the myriad of illustrations and footnotes much like the "annotated guide" series of literary classics.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Keepon Keepin' On

I want this robot. It also has very good taste in music. More>>

Science Commons

How cool is this? MIT's Science Commons project brings scientific research to everyone by attempting to streamline and free up information previously caught up in data limbo. Sharing research data can be a long and frustrating process which has probably retarded the development of any number of scientific discoveries. Sharing is awesome. More>>

I'm Not!

Freeing up all the Python content and placing it on Youtube was a very successful strategy. You should buy everything associated with Python. I command thee!

Jehova! Jehova! Jehova! More>>

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There's Probably No Elune: Now stop Worrying and Enjoy Azeroth


I play World of Warcraft. This is hardly a unique phenomena, and most estimates show around 10 million people play the game. That is a pretty damn large slice of humanity.

Each one of those 10 million subscribers is effectively a deity for a very small number of followers, namely the amount of player characters or "toons" that person has created. Each of these beings are under the direct control of a very specialized supreme being.

My main player character is a level 80 Shadow Priest named Miach, and all in all he leads a rather quiet life. He whiles away most of his day happily chipping away at veins of titanium between flights on his huge green proto drake.

Unfortunately, his god has other plans for him. Miach's god wants him to obtain a new robe to show the other gods and their followers how well his god can provide for him.

Obtaining this robe, however, will require the slaughter of a variety of living, or at least undead, beings. These conflicts are initiated mostly to obtain relics, clothing, or weaponry which allow the bearer the power to be more effective at said relic hunting.

This circle of conflict is powered by deities who are obsessed with the sartorial status of their subjects, and will put them through endless cycles of death and rebirth. Callously inflicting death without a thought on the horror their followers are experiencing.

Miach receives no thanks for his service to his deity, just a small reprieve until his next cycle of slaughter, death, and rebirth.

This account is certainly not an attack on WoW, as I love the game dearly. But if you put the mechanics of a video game "player" and a "real world" deity together the similarities are very similar.

I think that there is probably no god, but if there was he would make a crappy raid leader. More>>

Monday, January 26, 2009

The List: 5 Fantastic Animated Depictions of Evolution


Darwin's revolutionary idea is perhaps the most elegant scientific process we have ever discovered. Is there any fantasy that is more interesting than the familial connection between whales and hippos?

The elegance is highlighted even more when the process is put in animated form. A word of warning as these aren't the most accurate representations in the world, but I'm willing to forgive a lot to see Moe Sizlak devolving.

5.Matt Lloyd's Hand Drawn Evolution

Hand drawn evolution from Matt Lloyd on Vimeo

Matt Lloyd has created a really ingenious paper animation. Simple and cool, Lloyd deftly creates the bird's path.

4. Evolution in 4 Minutes From Godbestaatniet2005

I don't know very much about the creator of this video, the words were all in Hollish or something. A very bizarre animation style, sort of a mix between stop motion and real photography, gotta love the Dutch.

3. Walking with Dinosaurs

Wickedly cool 5 minute sequence from Walking with Dinosaurs. This is probably the most scientifically accurate of the five.

2. Guinness Evolution

Guinness's award winning commercial proves the link between the development of our species and the most delicious beverage ever created.

1. The Evolution of Homer

It just goes to show you that The Simpsons are light years ahead of most things on television. I really like the homer rat.


Whiskey Osmosis

It's always easier to demonstrate a scientific process with whiskey. More>>

Friday, January 23, 2009

The List: The 7 Greatest Fictional Skeptics

Most of us interested in science or skepticism are also huge pop culture nerds. In the vast murky stew of our cultural landscape there are quite a few excellent skeptical archetypes.

7. Adrian Monk - Monk

Adrian Monk solves crimes not with gun play, but with a rational and methodical attention to detail. Despite his many quirks, and full blown obsessive compulsive disorder, Monk is able solve crimes his more credulous and careless peers.

He is also terrified of milk.

6. Velma Dace Dinkley - Scooby Doo

Despite the fact that her foes were usually in costumes, and no one seemed to notice the talking dog, Velma would never jump to any conclusions paranormal conclusions.

Sadly Velma was fired for fashioning Scrappy Doo's skin into a new ascot for Fred.

5. Encyclopedia Brown - Encyclopedia Brown Series

A boy genius who solves mysteries with his considerable intellect and ability to see through con games. Donald J. Sobol's creation taught children to think critically, instead of glorifying martial heroics.

4. William of Baskerville - The Name of the Rose

Umberto Eco's meticulous Franciscan friar is a man out of time. Searching for empirical evidence in an era reliant upon faith and portents William epitomizes Occam's Razor.

3. Hercule Poirot - Agatha Christie's Poirot Series

The great Belgian former police detective Hercule Poirot uses his "little grey cells" to suss out tiny clues to seemingly impossible situations. Blunt and crafty, but always a gentleman, Poirot was possibly the first psychological profiler.

He also sported a superb mustache in his David Suchet incarnation.

2. Cadfael ap Meilyr ap Dafydd - Cadfael
Yet another monk who challenges the conventions of his day. Cadfael is shrewd and intelligence with no lack of street smarts. Sir Derek Jacobi's portrayal of Cadfael with a myriad of facets, portrayed a rare rational mind in 12th century England.

Later, Cadfael regenerated into Sam Tyler.

1. Lisa Simpson - The Simpsons

I think most of us can empathize with Lisa. It can be very hard to be one of the lone voices of dissent in a sea of fools. Intelligent, talented, and sarcastic, Lisa Simpson is someone all of us want to emulate.


Texas ID Proponents Defeated in Court


This is a huge decision. A victory for ID would have changed science standards until they are reviewed ten years hence. I tip my hat to you Texas! More>>

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Randi and Specialized Vocabulary

James Randi shows how susceptible we are to the wording used by certain groups to push their agenda's.

Newspeak anyone?

I would also like to claim the $1,000,000 challenge by showcasing my vast psychic powers. During final Jeopardy last night, the topic was plays from the 1980's. I blurted out Glengarry Glen Ross right before the screen faded to the commercial break. When we came back to Alex and Co. the answer made me laugh like a maniac.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning play was inspired by the writer's own experiences selling real estate in Chicago.

The question, of course, was Glengarry Glen Ross. I have now made more accurate and detailed predictions than Sylvia and Rosemary combined.

My wife didn't act impressed, and I don't think she was paying attention when I blurted out the title. She said she did, but I suspect that I was being humored. She doubts my all seeing powers! More>>

Atheist Hell


Oh, how true.

Noooooooooo! More>>

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Do Black Holes Have Such Strong Gravity?

Phil Plait speaks of Black Holes and Revelations. More>>

I'm Looking for a Few Good Heathens


I need help.

Specifically, I need your help.

I would like to spend much more time on this blog, but real life has a way of limiting my output. So, I'm looking for some Heathen contributors to flesh out the ISOC. This would increase the content of the site and add some more voices to this godless skeptical community.

I want you to email me stating why you would be a boon to ISOH, with possibly a sample article or at least an idea for one.

Throw in your hat by dropping me a line at: More>>

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 44th President


Hopefully this will be a turning point for the U.S.

President Obama specifically mentioned bringing science to it's rightful place in his speech! I am definitely optimistic for this administration.

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."

I'm amazed.....he mentioned nonbelievers!

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth" More>>

Friends of God

This is more than a little creepy. Brainwashing is certainly happening in this documentary.

I'm sure we'll hear that these people don't represent Christianity, and that their god isn't like this. The problem is, the fundamentalists do represent the biblical literalism within Christianity and have a very loud voice. How much money do you think is poured into the so-called Mega churches and used for political lobbying?

This is from the HBO documentary Friends of God. More>>

Facepalm Award: Astrologer Predicts Second Term for Obama


I'm going to present the first ever facepalm award for things in the news that defy common sense. After being presented with the abortion doughnuts story, I think a new category of idiocy needs to be recognized.

Why would the AFP even hear about an astrologers opinion? Especially one in Myanmar?

What does the pet psychic have to say?

Apparently, the unnamed astrologer predicts a glorious re-election for President Obama in four years. (S)He also predicts possible "threats" to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and possible attempts on President Obama's life, which is not necessarily the most journalistically responsible thing to report on.

Why must our media feed us these feces filled pigs in a blanket. More>>

Monday, January 19, 2009

The List: 10 Essential Books for the Skeptic

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I think every skeptic has one of those "this is bullshit" first step moments that pushes them over to the side of science and reason. Once that moment happens, there are some fantastic authors who can provide a wealth of information in transforming yourself, much like Optimus Prime, into a critical thinking dynamo.

10. Phil Plait - Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"

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Dr. Phil Plait is one of the best science bloggers on the internet. His
Bad Astronomy blog, on which this book is named tackles space and scientific fallacies with wit and candor. Bad Astronomy the book, is also incredibly readable and informative, Plait has a gift for mocking the true believers without being overly snarky.

9. Martin Gardner - Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

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Martin Gardner is the progenitor of modern skepticism and a master thinker. Any one of Gardner's books could have been on this list, but Fads and Fallacies is a good introduction. In this book Gardner climbs into the over inflated egos of pseudo scientists and scam artists with much of the vitriol that they deserve. Something to look for here as well, included is a very early critique of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, which would become Scientology.

8. Michael Shermer - Why People Believe Weird Things

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Michael Shermer is one of the most lauded skeptics active today, and this book shows you why. Packed with information on everything from Holocaust denialism to the Latter Day Saints. Shermer's writing is clear, concise, and infinitely readable.

7. James Randi - Flim Flam!
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Everyone's favorite grumpy magician. James Randi rocketed skepticism and debunking to the forefront with his exposes on Uri Geller and the faith healing movement. Flim Flam! is a very entertaining and pissed off refutation of psychic scammers by a very intelligent curmudgeon.

6. Chris Wanjek - Bad Medicine

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The sister book to Bad Astronomy, Bad Medicine explores the alternative medicine movement and the general poverty in medical journalism. The emotions usually piqued by Wanjek's book start out with incredulity and morph into horror as the dangers of faux medicine become apparent.

5. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson - Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)
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The story of how human minds can explain away the fallacies and horrors they have committed. equal parts fascinating and terrifying Tavris and Aronson's book touches on the makeup of human nature itself.

4. Steve Salerno - Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless
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A much needed critique on the self help movement. Salerno attacks the pseudo-scientific meanderings of frauds like "Doctors" Laura and "Phil". Be careful when toting this book near true believers and Opraholics.

3. Jon Ronson - The Men Who Stare at Goats
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Jon Ronson's humorous tale of the U.S. Military's paranormal dabblings. Much like his book THEM, Ronson gets very close to the people he writes about, and his experiences with extremists are hilarious until you realize that they are deadly serious. Just remember to tell yourself that this book is not fiction, because it will be hard not to be exasperated with his subjects.

2. Richard Dawkins - Unweaving the Rainbow
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Like all of Professor Dawkins works, Unweaving will actually make you feel smartter after having read it. Richard Dawkins treatise on rationalism and the beauty of science is a must on every skeptics shelf.

1. Carl Sagan - The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
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Simply put, I think this is the best book on skepticism ever written. Sagan has the soul of a poet, the curiosity of a child, and the intellect of a scientist. Beautifully written and thought provoking, Sagan weaves a tale accessible to everyone. Demon Haunted World is a one book Baloney Detection Kit.


Dr. Kaku on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe


My favorite theoretical physicist on my favorite podcast! It's like chocolate and (salmonella free) peanut butter. The guys and gals of the NESS put together a great show that skeptics will quickly become addicted to.

Dr. Kaku on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe More>>

Friday, January 16, 2009

fundaMENTAL Deficiencies: Just Say No to Abortion Doughnuts


There was a time on this Earth when you could eat a doughnut without having a Holy book toting lunatic condemning you to a myriad of nether worlds.

Alas, that time has passed us now that the courageous American Life League is here to save us. It looks like those communistic Obama loving baby-killers at Krispy Kreme are giving away free doughnuts upon the new president's inauguration this Tuesday.

Now if that alone wasn't insidious enough, those limp wristed pastry atheists have dared to use the word CHOICE in their press release. Of course we all know what choice means don't we? MURDERING BABIES!

In the immortal words of ALL's president "Downtown" Judie Brown on the ALL website:

"The next time you stare down a conveyor belt of slow-moving, hot, sugary glazed donuts at your local Krispy Kreme you just might be supporting President-elect Barack Obama's radical support for abortion on demand – including his sweeping promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as he steps in the Oval Office, Jan. 20.

The doughnut giant released the following statement yesterday:

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet "free" can be.

Just an unfortunate choice of words? For the sake of our Wednesday morning doughnut runs, we hope so. The unfortunate reality of a post Roe v. Wade America is that "choice" is synonymous with abortion access and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand.

President-elect Barack Obama promises to be the most virulently pro-abortion president in history. Millions more children will be endangered by his radical abortion agenda.

Celebrating his inauguration with "Freedom of Choice" doughnuts – only two days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion – is not only extremely tacky, it's disrespectful and insensitive and makes a mockery of a national tragedy.

A misconstrued concept of "choice" has killed over 50 million preborn children since Jan. 22, 1973. Does Krispy Kreme really want their free doughnuts to celebrate this "freedom.""

As of Thursday morning, Communications Director Brian Little could not be reached for comment. We challenge Krispy Kreme doughnuts to reaffirm their commitment to true freedom – to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and to separate themselves and their doughnuts from our great American shame."

This is absolute insanity. My Poe's Law sensor was ringing like Egon's PKE meter, but it does seem like this group is as genuine as any nutty pro life crackpot organization can be.

As the immortal D.P. Gumby once said "My Brain Hurts!" More>>

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The List: 10 Insane Chick Tracts


Ahh...Jack Chick. Is there anyone more bugshit insane than you? The amount of unintentional humor you have created almost makes up for the awful fundamentalist brainwashing pamphlets foisted upon an unwitting populace.

It was hard to pick just ten, but I think I have found a pretty broad range of Chick's psychosis.

10. Apes, Lies, and Ms. Henn

Jack takes on EVILution with the tale of Brave little Susy Barnes. I like the fact that the teach is clearly not married as denoted in the title, and the many things that Jack is likely inferring with this.

What the hell is wrong with the little bald kids face? Is he Hydrocephalic?

As the picture shows, Susy is pointing out God's words in Tyrannasaurians 15:4.

9. The Devil's Night
Photobucket're kind of a bitch.

Wait...why does Susy's grandfather look like Dr. Quest?

Halloween demands human sacrifices! This is, of course, the exact opposite of the festivals origins. Samhain was largely a harvest and ancestor honoring event.

Why did Susy choose a Santa suit? Come on Jack, isn't Santa evil too?

8. Fairy Tales

Did George Lucas write this tract? Now go kill the younglings in the name of Darth Santa!

7. In the Beginning

"But before that, there were dinosaurs who were a bit crap so fuck 'em."
- Eddie Izzardius 101:4

More Dinosaur nonsense. Like many creationists, Chick likes to use the Bible as proof of The Bible.

6. First Bite

This vampire is scarier than the ones in Twilight. What in the utter hell is going on in this tract? Is there some sort of vampiric messiah in the Bible? Tomb of Dracula is not Biblical canon Jack, even though it's probably a better read.

5. Angels?

Satan created Christian Rock?

OK, I'll give him that one.

4. The Last Generation

Apparently the faith healer shops in the DC Universe. You could probably replace the made up NWO in the strip and the meaning would be exactly the same.

3. Moving On Up

Few million years? But of course, 6 days sounds much more plausible.

2. The Accident

Damn, and it really tied the room together.

1. Dark Dungeons

The mother of all Chick tracts.

I couldn't imagine a DnD group could get a successful witches coven off the ground. After every prayer or spell there would be three hours of arguing about experience points.

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