Thursday, July 29, 2010

This week for NoCO Skeptics

We are going to meet at CB and Potts (1415 West Elizabeth Street,) this friday at 6. Topics of discussion will include the trip to the renaissance fair, LIFT at CSU, the meet-up group, and anything else people would like to bring up. Should be a fun time and if anyone would like, after dinner and drinks we can head to the drive in theater I believe they are will be playing Despicable Me and Inception or The Revenge of Kitty Galore with Sorcerer's Apprentice.
Hope to see everyone there!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Charles Darwin's Home Life

I'm sure most of you saw this on Respectful Insolence, but just in case you haven't.

It's a good thing Emma Darwin didn't actually look like Jeniffer Connelly or that threat at the end might have worked.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BP Buying the Scientific Consensus

Below is a clip of Rachel Maddow explaining, better than I ever could, the new tactic being employed by BP in response to the spill in the gulf.  Apparently BP has been offering scientists $250 an hour to help defend them against future litigation.  The only catch?  BP is requiring those scientists to sign confidentiality agreements which will effectively silence them for the next three years.

I'm a huge believer in science informing political issues, not deciding them.  So, I don't necessarily believe that there is a "skeptical" perspective on things like environmentalism and energy policy, except to say that we should have the best information and science possible as we approach those issues.  It is not only possible, but likely that with the same set of facts, variances in values will lead to variances in opinions on policy, which is why I have yet to comment on anything oil spill related in the blog so far.  While my skeptical nature informs my political beliefs, the two are not interchangeable.   However, in this instance, BP is no longer trying to simply sway public opinion concerning their activities, they are actively trying to discourage the dissemination of information and science, and that is something that as skeptics, we can't afford to tolerate.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Atheist Evangelist

Something i ran across on the web, an interesting view on atheism. While evangelism is not something i would promote, he does make some good points and points out hypocrisy very well. Check out the rest of his videos at

Now flyers with "in god we trust" on them out number pictures of George Washington in classrooms across the country.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Skeptical Field Trip- Renaissance Fair!

So we've been discussing a trip the the Renaissance fair all summer and its about time we planned one. I am busy this coming weekend, but the weekend after that (july 1, aug 31) is the last weekend of the Fair and I'd like to get a carpool headed down there. For more info, check out
If you are interested in coming, email me and let me know if you prefer to go on saturday or sunday.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Stonehenge: What's The Harm?

Recently, I was involved in a discussion concerning extra terrestrial visitors to earth.  Aliens are one of my favorite pieces of woo because they are my "hypothetical."  Like the skeptical equivalent of the "if you had to" game.  "If you HAD to sleep with a guy" (Ryan Reynolds)  "If you HAD to sleep with a golden girl" (Betty White, even before the others kicked off, she was my girl)  "If you HAD to beat a celebrity with a sock filled with nickels" (Glen Beck, although I had a lot of trouble narrowing the field on that one).  "If I HAD to pick a piece of woo" Aliens are the piece of woo I hold out the most hope for; I find it extremely unlikely that our planet is so unique and fortunate as to be the only one in all the universe to have life.  That being said, I also don't think your uncle was abducted, Groom Lake wasn't filled with little green men and what crashed at Roswell was Project Mogul.  The only real mystery involving aliens is, why I can never remember if it was Bill Paxton or Bill Pullman who played the president in Independence Day, the god damned Olsen twins aren't that similar.  But I digress, the real point is that I was speaking with someone who contended that man made wonders such as the pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge, and the statues of Easter Island are evidence that aliens had visited earth in our not so distant past; the assumption being that humans couldn't possibly have accomplished these marvels on their own.  There are far better discussions on the web about the law of parsimony and Occam's than I could ever give so I won't start down that path.  Instead I'd simply like to ask the true believers; how dare you?  These monuments are testaments to the ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness of the people who built them.  They stand as tribute to the limitless possibilities of the human spirit, how dare you take that away without evidence.  Skeptics are often asked "what's the harm?" this is the harm.  In each of these cases, a group of people managed to do what could easily seem impossible.  Through their hard work and determination, they managed to leave behind proof that when we work together we can both accomplish and become more than we each are alone.  When you take that from them, you cheapen not only them, but the rest of mankind.

Below is a video of a man who has chosen to pay homage to the actual creators of Stonehenge.  I can think of no more fitting tribute.


According to an article in this months Nature, the age of the earth may actually be closer to 4.467 billion years than the previously estimated 4.537 billion years.  Even though this represents a discrepancy of about 1.5%, this is the kind of thing young-earthers love, and you know that in the coming months you are going to hear this spun as "well, scientists disagree about the age of the earth to the tune of 70 million years, so how can you trust anything they say."  So, I wanted to put 70 million (1.5%) in a context that even young-eathers can understand.

*If dietitians were adjusting the 2000 calorie a day diet 1.5%, the discrepancy is 31 calories, or about 4 gummy bears

*If Ron Jeremy were involved in some horrible accident and lost 1.5% of his money maker, we're talking a little under an eighth of an inch, or about the thickness of a piece of wrapped cheese.

*If your work week was off by 1.5% you would save about 36 minutes, or most of an episode of Buffy, hope there's no twist ending

*If Glen Beck were tragically struck down with 1.5% remaining in his 60 minute program it would amount to about 54 seconds less inane chatter (even less if we account for time spent crying, or watching commercials for mail order gold buyers and militias)

*If Andre The Giant's weight changed by 1.5% it would represent 8 lbs, or about a gallon of water weight (yes men can put on water weight too dammit)

*On a flight from New York to LA 1.5% saves you 36 miles, or about 3 and a half minutes in a 747

*To the average 25 year old making 28000 a year a 1.5% raise means about $8 a week, or Starbucks twice a week (but only if you're willing to step it down from the venti)

And last but certainly not least, if a young earth creationist was off in their estimation of 6000 years by 1.5% that would be a discrepancy of 90 years, funny how I tend to hear the error bars placed closer to 6-10 thousand years, a 66% discrepancy if my calculator hasn't failed me.  How do you explain the lack of accuracy fellas, all you gotta do is hit the "+" sign on your calculator every time you see the word "begat."

Feel free to add your own wonderful examples to the list, and thanks to Discover Blogs for the original story.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pop-up LHC

It can be easy as a skeptic to end up rather pessimistic about the future.  Most people can be described as scientifically illiterate, and just as with literacy in general, it’s hereditary.  The future can look bleak, and that’s why I think it’s extra important to celebrate the wins.  Here is a popup book version of the Large Hadron Collider, because science is cool and kids have a right to know that.

Faking it

A discussion of faking religious beliefs and other parts of your life to please people. How often do skeptics and atheists have to do this in their lives?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Meetup Friday the 9th at the Stonehouse Grille 6pm

George Hrab - Trebuchet

Congratulations to George Hrab on his 6th studio album Trebuchet, you can give it a listen by downloading the Geologic podcast episode number 170.

For those of you who haven't heard of George, he is a white skeptical funk guitarist.  Which is about halfway between "differently-abled Inuit bisexual" and "folk-dancing Aboriginal philosopher" on the minority scale.

Here's a video of George doing his thing live in Texas:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Why are skeptics so often misanthropic?

Why are skeptics so often misanthropic?

I would bet that most, if not all, of my skeptic/atheist type friends would consider themselves on some level misanthropic. I know I say it a lot, I hate people and I really do mean it. People as a group are stupid, they don’t react to anything rationally or even accomplish anything good as far as I can tell.

I do have friends, I interact with people all the time and mostly its not that bad. There will always be certain people that I could live without, but the people that I spend most of my time with I really do like. I enjoy our drinking skeptically and spending time with other skeptical people. Most of the skeptics I know are genuinely nice people. They truly care about people and want the best for them. They are helpful and generous and generally fun to be around.

Hanging around our skeptics group you would never know that all of us hate people in general and have probably spent more time reading than hanging out with people (and prefer it that way). So why is this? Its obvious that we aren’t just evil people that can’t stand the sight of another human being, so what makes us dislike the human race so much?

There are easy answers to this of course. People act like sheep and don’t act rationally. Many people you meet (especially in middle school and high school) are just plain mean and tend to pick on the smart kids who tend to grow up to be skeptics. But is there something more to it? Is there something inherent in being a skeptic that makes us dislike or distrust other people? Or is there something inherent in people that only those skeptical of the world pick up on?

Are skeptics really as misanthropic as they would like to think? Why would Skeptics in the Pub be so popular if they were truly misanthropic? Skeptics is an international organization that provides skeptics a way to socialize with people. Skeptics also have things like TAM (the amazing meeting) and skepticamp. So what makes us think that we are misanthropic when obviously we aren’t (at least toward certain kinds of people).

I think its that we distrust those people that do not think for themselves and since for most of our lives, few people around us actually have thought for themselves, we tend to assume that everyone is like these people. People by their nature dislike the things they do not trust and so we as skeptics decide that we dislike people. I propose that we do not dislike people, we dislike people’s thoughts and actions but if they were able to change those and prove to us that they were thinking and acting rationally, we would like them as much as we like the other skeptics we have found. I know that as soon as too many people start agreeing with an idea, I start to question it immediately and distance myself from that group until I know more about the idea.

I know that to my non-skeptical friends I come off as not friendly and rather closed off to the world, but to my skeptical friends (as far as I know) I am a very friendly and open person. I know that skeptics in general have this problem as well, so how do we make ourselves seem more friendly and open to people and their ideas? This group started because a certain “skeptic” decided that she knew everything about everything and wouldn’t let any other idea survive. She came off as almost “religious” in her skepticism because she had decided that her ideas were right before even considering other’s opinions or sources of knowledge. So how can we prevent ourselves from coming off as “religious” while still finding certain ideas and opinions to be more worthy of merit than others? And how can we teach others that we are not trying to disprove everything another person says, but that we are trying to learn from them where the idea came from, why they hold that idea, and if the idea stands to logic and reason?

On that note, I will end with a quote from my favorite author Douglas Adams:

Well, in history, even though the understanding of events, of cause and effect, is a matter of interpretation, and even though interpretation is in many ways a matter of opinion, nevertheless those opinions and interpretations are honed to within an inch of their lives in the withering crossfire of argument and counterargument, and those that are still standing are then subjected to a whole new round of challenges of fact and logic from the next generation of historians - and so on. All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others. (as found at

Banana Madness

For some reason I keep stumbling across Ray Comfort everywhere I seem to turn so I felt the need to share something I found on the Skepchick blog from last christmas...

Notice the recipe at the bottom... I think it may need to make regular appearances at skeptics meetups lol

Friday, July 2, 2010

Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor. A simple, yet arguably one of the most powerful tools in any critical thinker's toolbox. Recently I had to explain the sheer improbability of the moon landing conspiracy and faking to a coworker who is convinced that humans have never landed on the moon. I explained that the simpler explanation is usually the best. Which is a gross oversimplification but I felt that "Plurality should not be posited without necessity" or even "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" would both be beyond the level of conversation of someone whose greatest conversation has finished with some of the worst fart jokes I have EVER heard. So I stuck with "the most simple solution is most likely the answer". I discussed with him the sheer size and complexity of the space program up to and including the Apollo program (and even the up-until-recently cancelled Constellation program). The hundreds of thousands of people that were involved in design and engineering, the mission planning and mission control, and not to mention the kind fellows like Niel Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. I feel obligated to include this video

Buzz, you are among a very select, lucky few who deserve every ounce of that punch

Now, which seems to be more likely, that all these people legitimately worked on an actual project, Built the rockets, capsules, rover, landers, command module, and computers that sadly are well outpaced by any cellphone even after it goes through a spin or two in the washing machine. Or that at least a large portion of these people were either payed off or given the Jimmy Hoffa treatment. Not to mention that in the almost 40 years since, not one family member has come forward with evidence even remotely suggesting that it was faked.
And finally I pointed out that at the time we were in the heat of the space race... Russia (USSR) was watching every move we made with insane intensity, had they had even the remotest inkling that anything was hinky they would have gone to town and taken NASA to task over it.

Now on the positive side of things it seemed that I didn't have to go into all of the other arguments that the nutters toss out such as radiation, or the flag waving, dust falling etc etc etc...

So to return to my original premise, Occam's razor comes to the rescue. As a tool for rational and critical thinking, Occam's razor is quite possibly unsurpassed in it's usefulness.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rand Paul Doesn't Know the Age of the Earth

Recently, when addressing the Christian Home Schooler’s Conference, Republican candidate for senate and MEDICAL DOCTOR Rand Paul passed when directly asked the age of the earth (it happens at about one minute twelve seconds into the video, I like to play a game where I see if I can hear the nation losing respect for him during the deafening silence).

Now, Rand Paul is a fair and honest man, he would never deny the people of Kentucky a piece of information that would help them to make an informed decision about the type of person they were electing. Given that, I am forced to conclude he actually doesn’t know the answer. This had me worried at first, if he was lacking this basic piece of science knowledge. . . WHAT ELSE MIGHT HE BE CONFUSED ABOUT!!! It’s a terrifying thought, but fortunately I think I have found the perfect tutors to take him by the hand and teach him about our world, the universe and all its wonders!

Screw it! Eric Idle for president in 2012!