Rom Houben and Facilitated Communication

November 29, 2009

I think the media is pulling my leg again with this Rom Houben bullshit. I mean, facilitated communication has been a con for quite a long time, and even viewing the video it would absolutely amaze me if anyone actually believes that a man who can barely twitch his eyes and has been in that condition for 25 years can type that fast. I mean, take a look at the communicator, she is clearly just moving his hand and banking in on this poor man’s condition.

This is possibly one of the most deplorable things I’ve ever witnessed and I’m stunned that the media has picked this up and ran with the idea that Houben can actually communicate this well. Dr. Steven Novella has more on his Nuerologica Blog, and it gets me more and more angry as I read about this sort of bullshit.

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Same Old Intelligent Design Arguments

November 24, 2009

Skepticon II had a huge turn out and was a total blast for everybody involved, so it pains me to articles like this one on over at National Geographic entitled, “Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: 6 Bones of Contention.” As had come up during Skepticon, articles like these mislead the public into believing there is actual debate among the scientific community about Evolution vs Creationism. But there isn’t, the community at large is in consensus that evolution is most certainly true.

The good news is that at least the article has the common sense to have every one of the claims shot down. I swear, if I hear that the eye is Irreducibly Complex or that Whales couldn’t have evolved I will choke somebody. Don Prothero does a very good job with quick responses and I’m sure his book, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, would be an incredible read. I’ll have to pick it up some time.

Right now I’m in the midst of a back log of Sagan, Dawkins and Calvino.


Gay Rights Groups Gear Up for Calfornia Battle

August 12, 2009

Equality California and Courage Campaign both have announced their deadlines for overturning the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages.  Initially I was reading  in the Wall Street Journal how EQCA decided it was best to delay efforts in the fight for same-sex marriage until 2012, but I decided to check a few other articles to see how they compare.

For starters, the WSJ article really reads as a downer, and I was initially upset since I’m pretty strong supporter of same-sex marriages.  Denying rights based off of sexual orientation is either discrimination or religion creeping into government, and in either case I oppose it. The article has line after line of how there isn’t strong support for a bill, it’s too soon, most groups agree, momentum will be lost, the battle will be waged over several years and so forth.

After looking into a few more articles, and checking the WSJ source, I discovered a much more optimistic picture was initially painted. The New York Times article headline reads, “Caution on Fighting Marriage Ban.” The article reads much clearer, and you get a better sense that two independent groups are trying to tackle the issue, but have differences of opinion on when to begin.

Courage Campaign, an online grassroots activism community, feels they have necessary support and donations to begin a battle for the 2010 ballot. Equality California, a more organized group with seven office buildings and a better website, would rather put pressure on 2012, claiming that a presidential bid will mean a larger turnout for younger voters, who traditionally vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

Although I can see EQCA’s rationale, Courage Campaign’s founder worded it perfectly by saying, “We are not going to let the calendar dictate people’s rights”

So I say let EQCA build up steam and a strong network of supporters over the next few years, but if Courage Campaign were to lay dormant in 2010 it would be a lost cause. They have to keep the fight fresh in people’s minds, even if that does mean a wasted ballot entry in 2010.


Nail, Meet Coffin: Toshiba Drops HD-DVD

February 17, 2008

Edit: It’s more official-er, Toshiba has issued a press release.

It’s finally official, Toshiba has dropped HD-DVD, so what happens next? Well, that’s a question many are asking. We’ll take a quick look at each aspect of the Toshiba HD-DVD industry to get a better idea of what’s to come.Bring out your dead.

Movies
If you own an HD-DVD player, then this is probably a pretty good scenario for you, despite how it sounds at first. There are hundreds of HD titles available, and within the coming months, they will hit rock bottom prices. In theory, you’ll be able to fill an entire movie library for $100.

PC
The internal PC high definition drive market really hasn’t been much of a format war. This is widely due to home theater enthusiasts not only requiring the expensive drive, but also an expensive video card capable of displaying high definition content. At which point, it makes far more sense to purchase a stand alone device.

The final nail in the PC coffin was the lack of any PC software requiring users to purchase the drives. Remember, CDROM drives weren’t sold based off the assumption that the emerging technology was “better” than floppy diskettes, they were sold because of Myst.

Don’t believe such software could push a product today? Microsoft Windows Vista’s sales increased after the release of Halo 2 for the PC. A game that required DirectX 10, which is only available under Vista. Funny, considering Halo 2 was an Xbox game, a DirectX 7 device.

Xbox 360
Microsoft has long been a strong supporter of the HD-DVD standard, arguably due to a nameless competitor using the rival format, Bluray. However, they never went so far as to embed the HD-DVD drive into their own system, only selling it as an accessory to home theater enthusiasts. This was a risky move by Microsoft that has definitely paid off.

Toshiba
The bottom line for Toshiba is a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. However, for a company with 200,000 employees this isn’t going to be a death rattle by any stretch. Toshiba’s sales are incredibly diversified, and the company is sure to bounce back strong. They have always been a consumer product and PC manufacturer, and will continue to do so well into the future.


Keep Obscene Material Away from Children

February 8, 2008

Today’s youth are being bombarded with same-sex couples and erotica laced advertisements, but BOOKS are a culprit that have been dodging regulation for decades.I like mine extra-crispy. If your priorities are arranged anything like mine, then you understand the importance of protecting the world’s children from the filth, obscenities and violence depicted throughout the modern media.

Warning: Explicit Content
Although many will complain that video game, music and movie rating systems aren’t doing enough, they will be hard pressed to find any system at all to prevent obscene books from reaching a child’s hands. Thanks to the unregulated nature of the First Amendment, any child has access to information that allows them to sell drugs, or themselves, on the street.

With this money in hand, they can walk into any bookstore and purchase even more mind-filth. As little Bobby or Suzie drops James Joyce or William Faulkner on the counter, the devil behind the counter won’t even go so far as to ask for ID before offering the defenseless child bargains on future pornography.

Public Pornographers
But it gets worse, not only are there no systems in place to prevent a child from purchasing this garbage, there are people who hand out this smut for free. These trash pushers, or libraries, only ask that the child give up their home address. We can only speculate for what reason, but it’s assumed to be for homosexual orgies/communist rallies/Ayn Rand.

While all of this is happening, our government is turning their back on us, with many public schools banning the most important book a child could ever read, the Bible. With the true word of God, as handed down to us by old men over the course of several editions, translations and hundreds of years, being kept away from these kids, how are they ever expected to turn into responsible adults?

Studies Prove It
The truth is they aren’t expected, with more and more research proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that exposure to violent, pornographic material as a youth leads to violent sex offenders. A University of Michigan study proved it. They have professors there, with degrees. In science. Probably.

More studies have shown that books may even be worse than The Internet. With 4.2 million pornographic sites online in the Internet’s 20 year history, we can assume that children have amassed over 273 million pornographic books since the beginning of early literature.

Fight For Your Right to Censor!
Don’t allow these pornographers like Mark Twain and Neil Gaiman to hide behind the constitution any longer, contact your legislators today about warning labels and a tiered rating system to prevent today’s youth from becoming tomorrow’s violent sex offenders!


FOXNews Fact Checking: Part Deux

January 25, 2008

I swear FOXNews isn’t even trying to be legitimate news source.

UFO Story from the AP? Throw it up on the main page.

Asteroid nearly hitting the earth? Better alert the masses.

Strange Lights
First up is the widely reported UFO Sighting over Stephenville, Texas. The information in the article is fairly straightforward.

The Air Force admits to doing test flights of up to 10 F-16s in the area. Even the title of the article claims the mystery to be solved. Why then, FOXNews, are you allowing an article to run where only 9% of the content relates to it being F-16 flight training, and the other 91% pertains to “UFOs sighted over Texas, Government Denies it?”

They even have a cute artist’s conception of a UFO printed with the article. Here’s a little concept drawing I did to show what they really saw.

Apocalypse, now!
Second, we have the Asteroid 2007 TU24 that is being so widely misreported that Phil Plait had to make a video so he could stop writing about it! FOXNews still seems to believe it’s a threat, however.

Now, not only does FOXNews fall for all of this craziness, they even have an artist’s concept up of an asteroid grazing the earth. Even better, 33% of the article doesn’t even inform the masses about what an extraordinary astronomical event this is. Rather, they discuss a What-if scenario of Armageddon.

These are NOT freak occurrences among their articles. On the contrary, it’s a perfect example of standard flair over at FOXNews. If they were to really live up to their slogan they wouldn’t have made exaggerated claims and hyped up events so mundane as a rock floating through space, they would just report the facts and not decide to sensationalize everything.


Confusing Fantasy with Reality

January 22, 2008

Like the mythical Bat-Signal of yesteryear, Christopher Grant’s “Keighley Takes on Fox News’ SEXbox Sexpose” was a call to arms. In the embedded video, you’ll see Cooper Lawrence, a talk-radio psycholgist that loves to take aim at video games.

Reasoning
I’m not writing this article to repeat what Grant has already said; I’m writing it to criticize Lawrence’s clear misunderstanding of scientific studies and research. In the embedded video you will see her make the claim that a “recent” University of Maryland study showed that “boys that play video games can not tell the difference between video games and the real world if they don’t have real life experience.”

As a male skeptic that enjoys video games I found this a bit of a stretch. Would a University really try to make this outrageous claim?

Absolutely Not.

What Study?
The study she is referring to is one that was organized and handled by the Professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland, Melanie Killen. I’m still waiting for a response from Professor Killen on the subject, but I will assume good faith in that her study was performed to the best of her ability.

This study didn’t involve thousands of young children. It didn’t even involve “real life experience” or even if they knew the difference between real life and fantasy. The Washington Post, in their story Students See Video Games As Harmless, Study Finds is more accurate, but not much more. The post still sensationalizes the issue by claiming that 14-year olds, who are filled with wrath, consider themselves “immune to mayhem.”

Process
Here’s how the study took place:
Professor Melanie Killen and two student researchers asked 100 University of Maryland students to participate in a study involving video games. Over the course of 45 minutes, these students were shown images from fake video games that bore a striking similarity to real games.

  • Image 1: Scantily clad women and brutish men playing violent games of golf. (Outlaw Golf?)
  • Image 2: A first person shooter where the enemies are terrorists. (America’s Army?)
  • Image 3: A sport surfing simulator. (Kelly Slator’s Pro Surfing?)

Afterwards, they were asked to answer a short list of questions, including their experience with gaming, whether the games depicted negative themes and harmful stereotypes, and whether the content could harm them or result in a negative consequence.

Results
Not suprisingly, participants that had played games prior to the experiment claimed “it’s just like fantasy.”

The key to remember here is that the study was neither a large or a diverse sample. 100 college students is just that, only 100 college students. The same college students that probably did this study so they could fulfill an Intro to Psychology requirement or to earn extra credit. The same who sell their textbooks at the end of the semester for drinking money.

Final Word
For Fox News, Cooper Lawrence or Daniel de Vise of the Washington Post to claim that this study finds that a child’s view of reality is altered by playing video games is absolutely ludicrous. All the study said, was that people who play video games are more likely to believe the stereotypes in them aren’t harmful. Young boys aren’t confusing fantasy with reality, sensationalist journalists and radio talk show hosts are.