Skeptic Coffee Break Episode 2 - Jessica Ahlquist Update, Nigeria Religious Violence, Placebo Bands, Cold Fusion and more!
Episode 2 can be listened to here or downloaded via iTunes. The following are the show notes with links to further content. Thank you.
Hello and welcome to the second episode of Skeptic Coffee Break, your short form podcast designed for your coffee break or morning commute. My name’s Robert Sacerich, your host.
First, a little about me. I currently serve on the board of directors for the Greater Sacramento Humanist Association as well as Atheist Alliance International. I’ve been involved actively in the secular and skeptic communities for a few years now.
The goal of this podcast is to keep you up to date with a quick overview of current events and topics. My goal is to keep things fairly brief, as short at 5 minutes, and no longer than 15 minutes. I want this podcast to be able to be comfortably listened to on a coffee break or your morning commute. I’ll be touching on topics with a brief overview and a bit of commentary, then posting the show notes on tumblr with links and more detailed information on the topics I cover in the show. This way, you get a good taste of what’s happening and can quickly and easily access more information at your leisure.
For those of you who have been following my blog, Meanwhile, Back in Reality, I’ll soon be starting a few series’ where I’ll be covering some specific topics further in depth over many, longer posts. I’ll be doing one on Martial Arts and Magical Thinking, looking at various styles of martial arts and the mystical type practices that infuse themselves into that lifestyle. I’ll also be doing one entitled “Christian” as a blanket term, looking at what the effect of the George W. Bush classification of Christian to encompass so many has had on the social and political landscape in America, and the more moderate and liberal Christian groups that don’t necessarily fit that mold. I’ll also be doing an in depth look at the social and philosophical ideas on Morality.
Also, I’m beginning another blog project called Scriptural Analysis where I’ll be taking the Christian bible verse by verse from Genesis to Revelation and looking at it as literature. I’ll be examining the historical context, scientific accuracy and the way those verses are used today. I’m really excited about this project and I hope you’ll all check it out.
There are two great events coming up in the skeptical world. The first is the Reason Rally on March 24th in Washington, DC. A lot of great speakers are attending including Richard Dawkins, Adam Savage, Tim Michin, PZ Myers and many, many more. It’s turning out to be the event not to miss for 2012.
The second event is SkeptiCal. This is the skeptical conference in Berkley, CA on April 21. It’s going to be a great event with speakers to include Author Christopher Burt and well known scientist and radio host Dr. Kiki Sanford.
Now, for our news topics for the week.
Jessica Ahlquist Update
First, an update on Jessica Ahlquist, the young girl who won the court case against the prayer banner in Rhode Island. Well, the news on this is good and bad. The good news is that the moderate Christians of Rhode Island have stepped up to speak in Jessica’s defense. This is something near and dear to my heart. I’ve always agreed that moderates only serve to shield the extremists from appropriate criticism and that they should be the first to call out those they think are doing it wrong. Well, I’m glad to see that this time, they’re doing just that.
Unfortunately, there’s a bad side to all of this as well. It’s being reported that Jessica has stopped attending school due to the hostile atmosphere. Now, I’m having some trouble finding more detailed information on this to verify it, but I’ll keep you all updated once it’s confirmed on my Meanwhile, Back in Reality blog.
My second topic today is frightening, to say the least. MSNBC reported recently:
A radical Muslim sect attacked a church worship service in Nigeria’s northeast during assaults that killed at least 15 people, authorities said Saturday, as Christians vowed to defend themselves from the group’s widening sectarian fight against the country’s government.
The attacks by the sect known as Boko Haram came after it promised to kill Christians living in Nigeria’s largely Muslim north, exploiting long-standing religious and ethnic tensions in the nation of more than 160 million people. The pledge by the leader of an umbrella organization called the Christian Association of Nigeria now raises the possibility of retaliatory violence.
4 days ago, the death toll was reported to be in excess of 150.
People often ask, what’s the harm in people believing in what they want, if it makes them happy? Well, this is the harm; this and more.
My next news item follows a recent blog post I made outlining foods containing GMOs, or genetically modified organisms and the conspiracy theories that argue against the peer reviewed science surrounding them.
Whole foods, a major organic food chain, has admitted to selling “natural foods” as well as the certified organic foods. Natural foods aren’t held to the certified organic standards, and generally contain GMOs. Whole Foods has been selling these natural foods at organic prices, though they are far less expensive due to the GMOs, and raking in the profit. Most of the anti-GMO sites I’ve found are spinning at “despite best efforts, even Whole Foods can’t keep GMOs off their shelf.” It’s funny the cognitive dissonance people have when they believe things that are counter to the consensus of scientific opinion. They can’t imagine that Whole Foods perhaps knew what it was doing while making a huge profit off of it.
Here’s a plug I can behind. Get the latest is holographic technology to increase sports performance! Get the placebo band!
For those that have been involved in skepticism for some time, you know about the Power Balance band. It claims to use holographic technology to increase sports performance. Now, a new group has come out with the Placebo Band. This is a brilliant way to show the foolishness of Power Balance’s pseudoscientific claims.
Well, here we go again. Italian physicist and inventor Andrea Rossi claims to have attained cold fusion! How many times have we seen this before? James Randi covered the subject quite well on a recent episode of the Randi show, so I won’t go much into it here, but check the links on the show notes page and see for yourself.
Well, that’s it for the news. Now for Skeptical Education.
Today I’m going to cover a logical fallacy known as the Appeal to Probability. This is the fallacy whereby something is assumed based on the probability or lack thereof. One example is a recent conversation I had, actually, where the person I was debating with presented me with pages of probability data showing how low the probability is that life would exist on earth. He used this to assert “therefor, God did it.”
Now, the problem with this particular argument is that we have the science to back the fact that, even with the improbability, life must exist somewhere, if not many places, given the size and scope of the universe. Astrophysicists use several well supported theories that don’t require god to have had any hand it.
So, consider this the next time you’re face with a wall of statistics in a debate.
Well, that’s all for episode 2. I hope you’ve enjoyed the podcast and will subscribe for future episodes. As I go along, I’ll be tweaking the format to see what works and what doesn’t. Your suggestions are always welcome. Thank you, and have a great week.