Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Debunking Can be Cool

Looking for a fun but educational diversion on the intertubes during your holiday downtime? Try:

Captain Disillusion does a fantastic job of making critical thinking look cool (which it is by the way) and he's very funny in doing so. His videos also have the highest production values I've ever seen on YouTube. Penguin Slap Debunk is a great place to start.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why Only Christmas?

I recently did a holiday quiz for the Skeptic group I belong to. While researching myths associated with this time of year, I came across an interesting curiosity. It seems that while the Christian holidays have a pages dedicated to seasonal myths, the Jewish and Muslim faiths have, as far as I can tell, none.

Why? Is it because their belief system is so rigid that it doesn't allow for any questioning of the doctrine? Could it be that most Christians are more open-minded and accept adding on non-theist, or more accurately, Pagan traditions to their celebrations? I would bet that if you took a worldwide survey on people's first impressions of Christmas and Easter, Santa (or Father Christmas in his various incarnations) and the Easter Bunny (or Easter Bell in Italy), would be the first thing most people associate with the holidays, and not the birth and resurrection of Jesus.

But that brings up the question; What is a myth? According to the dictionary it's:
"A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society."

With this definition, isn't all religion mythology? Every religion practiced today would fall under this definition. Why is the Jewish Torah anymore believable than the secret texts of Scientology? The one thing they all have in common is that they can not be proven to be true. There is no factual evidence on which these beliefs are based, many actually contradict historical documents.

It all comes down to "Faith" and that is a topic for another day!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

He Shall be Known as the King of Kings

UPDATE: A great overview of December 25th Deities can be found at

In the olden days, virgin births evidently weren't that rare. The gods seemed more then happy to knock up a young, trusting teenager.
The gods seemed to know what they were doing though. Take a look at the resulting offspring.
  • Attis was a son of the virgin Nana. His birth was celebrated on Dec 25. He was sacrificed as an adult in order to bring salvation to mankind. He died around March 5, after being crucified on a tree, and descended for three days into the underworld. On Sunday, he arose, as the solar deity for the new season. His followers tied an image of Attis to a tree on "Black Friday," and carried him in a procession to the temple. His body was symbolically eaten by his followers in the form of bread.
  • Mut-em-ua: The virgin Queen of Egypt, supposedly gave birth to Pharaoh Amenkept III through a god holding a cross to her mouth. Isis gave Virgin birth to Horus. Virginal birth, or women being impregnated by gods was a common theme in Egyptian Mythology.
  • Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) On the night Siddhartha was conceived, Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six white tusks entered her right side, and ten lunar months later Siddhartha was born. The Buddha broke from the traditional religion of his people and spoke of peace, love and understanding.
  • Egyptian, Osiris is a savior-god who had been worshiped as far back as Neolithic times. "He was called Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods...the Resurrection and the Life, the Good shepherd...the god who 'made men and women be born again'" Three wise men announced his birth. His followers ate cakes of wheat which symbolized his body.
  • And Last but not least, Jesus of Nazerath. Born of the Virgin Mary, he would be the spiritual leader for billions... I think most of you know his career stats. ;-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Would You Like the Data to Say?

Lies, damn lies and statistics.
- Mark Twain

My Uncle sent me an e-mail today that had a break down of this years presidential election.
Here it is:
Some interesting statistics
Some unreported stats about the 2008 election

Professor Joseph Olson of Hemline University School of Law, St. Paul , Minnesota ,
points out some interesting facts concerning the 2008 Presidential election :
-Number of States won by: Democrats: 20; Republicans: 30
-Square miles of land won by: Democrats: 580,000; Republicans: 2,427,000
-Population of counties won by: Democrats: 127 million; Republicans: 143 million
-Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by: Democrats: 13.2; Republicans: 2.1
Professor Olson adds: "In aggregate, the map of the territory Republican won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens. Democrat territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in rented or government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare..."
Olson believes the United States is now somewhere between the "complacency and apathy" phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy, with some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the "governmental dependency" phase.

Statistics are second only to the Bible in justifying a belief system. And before you think I'm pointing a finger at my Uncle, we ALL fall into the Stats Trap. Except me of course ;-)

Let me throw a little light on these "Interesting Facts".
The voting map is also a great representation of population density (except for Wisconsin oddly enough). The land 'won' associated with each party demonstrates this quite well.
I can also infer from these stats that;
1. Republicans are apathetic. If they had a 143 to 127 million majority, they should have won the popular vote. Democrats won by 10 million.
2. The murder rate correlates to population density as expected. I would suspect that our tax dollars spent on social services would follow a similar trend.
3. Again, population density explains land ownership versus renting (throwing in government welfare and public housing is a red herring argument used only to reinforce a current belief system. "Look at this! Our money is going to support those Democrat free-loaders!"
4. The last bit of information also IMPLIES that democrats are dependent on welfare and government hand-outs.

This is all well and good but the favorite thing I learned from this is that Professor Joseph Olson of Hemline University didn't write this!!! It's made up!

I was looking for the source of this article and came across his bio page:
Read the disclaimer. The map and stats don't even jibe with this years election.
A Snopes article also can be found at

Bottom line... don't take anything at face value. Especially if it has an agenda. Research and question sources. When you do a search on Google or any other search engine, look at the credibility of the sites.
I recently looked up topics like Rikki Healing and Colon Cleansing. The majority of the top website returns were from sites selling books, training and products. They have an agenda. they want to make money off of the believers so they will tell you what you want to hear.

People always ask "Well then ,why should I believe you?" The answer is you shouldn't. Do what I do, look it up. Get information from multiple sources and check out those sources. Ten minutes of your time in front of a computer will get you closer to the truth and save you from passing along bad information.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

'Tis the season for giving. So, I'm going to give you a list of my favorite holiday things.
As far as movies go, everyone puts "It's a Wonderful Life" as their favorite Christmas movie. It a classic and I love watching it, but I find "A Christmas Story" far more enjoyable. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen it a thousand times and I can't recite the dialog with the actors (yet).
Television has only one entry. "Merry Christmas Mr. Bean". If you don't laugh until you cry when Bean rescues Baby Jesus or 'puts the turkey on' then you are a soulless robot (Not that that's a bad thing).
As far as reading material is concerned, David Sedaris rules the holidays. His book "Holidays on Ice" is a brilliant collection of Christmas related stories. For classic Sedaris, checkout for his live reading of "Six to Eight Black Men" set to photos and video.
Audio-wise, the only other thing I can think of is "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton. A festive Christmas song with a twist. All of his stuff can be found at
As far a musical theater goes... Well it's musical theater so it's all crap!
What do you have to offer? Leave a comment and have a great secular holiday season.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Comedy in a Box. Or Not.

These are just a few comics I found surfing the tubes tonight.
The first person to figure out the theme get's a ball filled with catnip!
A bonus pot of cat grass to the first one who can tell me which ones are wrong and which ones are correct.
As always, click to embiggen and thanks to original artists/posters.

All images are posted under the fair use doctrine. ;-)
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Critical Thinking Primer

When you have 30 minutes to spare, please visit
Brian Dunning of has put together a great video as an introduction to critical thinking.
I believe people's inability to look at things with a critical eye is a big reason for America's standing in the world today.
When Oprah and Larry King are considered valid information outlets, our collective intelligence suffers.
My world travels may be fairly limited, but when I've watched TV in France, Germany, Holland and England, there are actual round-table discussions about current events (that don't include shouting and name calling). A station out of Paris has a weekly show that discusses books that airs in prime time.
A recent study shows that most commercial television stations in America only air the minimum amount of educational programing per week and then, even the content is of questionable value.
So what do we do? Well, start by watching There Be Dragons and if you feel it's worthwhile, tell someone else about it. If you're an educator, show it to your students.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama Makes Me Sick

As soon as I get motivated to start this thing I get sick.
Until I feel better, please enjoy
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The World Changed Last Night

We've woken up in a different country this morning. Barriers have been broken. There is a renewed sense of hope. The future looks just a little brighter. We've thrown our hat over JFK's wall and have reclaimed it by daring to climb over.
Electing Barack Obama to be our 44th President, hopefully, will be the tipping point for this country. With a fresh face, fresh perspective and fresh ideas leading America, we may yet reclaim the greatness that we once had and took for granted. We may achieve the enlightenment (A word the Conservatives have used in a derogatory manner) that Europe enjoys today.
But like Obama's catchy campaign slogan "Yes We Can", these are just words and thoughts to rally behind. Nothing will change without us caring about what is happening to this world, both physically and politically. We have to start holding our leaders (the people working FOR US) accountable for their actions again. And we have to hold Barack Obama to a higher standard and expect more from him then we've ever have with previous leaders because that is the only way change will happen.
Looking back on the eight years, I realise that I've bitched and moaned about the state of things and have done nothing more. I should have been marching down Michigan Avenue in Chicago protesting the unjust war with my Mother-in-Law Mary. She's in her 70's with artificial hips and she marched and shouted and risked arrest while I sat on my couch and watched in on TV. As I type this I am genuinely ashamed of my inaction.
These feelings are fresh and strong now and we should celebrate but they will fade as time moves forward. That's the way we are.
On November 4, 2009 will we still feel the same way about President Barack Obama?
I hope so.