Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flying Spaghetti Monster costume

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

May you be touched by his noodly appendage

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I know love, Sir, and you are no love

This is Satchmo...

As you can imagine, he’s got a very hard life. His day usually consists of napping on the couch, barking at birds, chasing lizards out of the back yard, playing with his dad, and begging for cookies, which he gets. In the evening, we’ll drive out to one of the fields around our house that has not yet turned from cotton field to suburb development, and watch him run off the leash chasing birds, digging in holes for furry creatures, and finding any muddy patch possible to get dirty in. When we get back to the house he gets a Frosty Paws ice cream while we have dinner. A night, he sleeps in our bed, under the covers if it’s cold.

Yep, it’s a hard-knock life. Bob Geldhof should get together with some of his friends and write a song.

My point is this dog is LOVED. I’ve always been an animal lover, but loving this dog seems to have increased my love for all other animals as well, especially dogs. Watching animal rescue shows on Animal Planet breaks my heart. I dream that if I ever won the lottery, I’d make a doggy refuge for every unloved uncared for dog I had the power to rescue. If I were the goddess of dogs, Snausages would rain from the sky.

And if I had any kind of supernatural powers, people like Michael Vic would experience daily suffering. I’ve been to the medieval torture museums; I have ideas.

Maybe I am the goddess of dogs, just as I am. Doesn’t do a whole lot of good for all the dogs that aren’t Satchmo. Buster sitting in the pound, Fido digging in the trash can for food, or Poochie laying at the side of the road after getting hit by a car; none of them are going to be too impressed with me if I can’t do something to help them. I’m not waiting for them to ask me for help nor for them to do the right trick. What kind of sick fuck would do that? And it’s not that they’ve been bad or peed in the wrong spot or even bitten someone. It wouldn’t matter. I’d save them all if I could. But without action, without ability, my love doesn’t matter either.

Believers will often quip, “God is Love.” It sounds good. It’s very Hallmark. But even if it were true, it’s pretty meaningless. If there is an entity out there that loves me, LOVES ME, it’s not going to care whether or not I love it back. Looking at the world around me, if there’s an entity out there that loves us it’s obviously not very powerful and I’m not impressed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Skeptics Circle Quick Links

Skeptics Circle 71

Nothing pisses me off more

You could say I have authority issues and you'd be right. Whoever is in the White House, no matter what party, no matter even if I voted for him, I end up hating him. A visceral, bile producing hate. A large component of my knee-jerk radicalism perhaps. And I believe totally in the right of every idiot to have their say (by idiot I am referring to MYSELF - not anyone else.) Freedom of speech is perhaps the most important Freedom of them all and the blogosphere is an important part of that freedom. In the spirit of that freedom, I happily join other bloggers in reposting an article that The Society of Homeopaths was successful in getting blogger The Quackometer to pull; his post entitled The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing – an expose of how homeopaths falsely claim that homeopathy can prevent and cure malaria.

The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing
By The Quackometer

The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) are a shambles and a bad joke. It is now over a year since Sense about Science , Simon Singh and the BBC Newsnight programme exposed how it is common practice for high street homeopaths to tell customers that their magic pills can prevent malaria. The Society of Homeopaths have done diddly-squat to stamp out this dangerous practice apart from issue a few ambiguously weasel-worded press statements.

The SoH has a code of practice, but my feeling is that this is just a smokescreen and is widely flouted and that the Society do not care about this. If this is true, then the code of practice is nothing more than a thin veneer used to give authority and credibility to its deluded members. It does nothing more than fool the public into thinking they are dealing with a regulated professional.

As a quick test, I picked a random homeopath with a web site from the SoH register to see if they flouted a couple of important rules:

48: • Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority. • No
advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named
72: To avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or
in writing) implying cure of any named disease.

The homeopath I picked on is called Julia Wilson and runs a practice from the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough. What I found rather shocked and angered me.

Straight away, we find that Julia
M Wilson LCHE, RSHom specializes in asthma and works at a clinic that says,

Many illnesses and disease can be successfully treated using homeopathy,
including arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders, emotional and behavioral
difficulties, headaches, infertility, skin and sleep problems.

Well, there are a number of named diseases there to start off. She also gives a leaflet that advertises her asthma clinic. The advertising leaflet says,

Conventional medicine is at a loss when it comes to understanding the origin
of allergies. ... The best that medical research can do is try to keep the
symptoms under control. Homeopathy is different, it seeks to address the
triggers for asthma and eczema. It is a safe, drug free approach that helps
alleviate the flaring of skin and tightening of lungs...

Now, despite the usual homeopathic contradiction of claiming to treat causes not symptoms and then in the next breath saying it can alleviate symptoms, the advert is clearly in breach of the above rule 47 on advertising as it implicitly claims superiority over real medicine and names a disease.

Asthma is estimated to be responsible for 1,500 deaths and 74,000 emergency hospital admissions in the UK each year. It is not a trivial illness that sugar pills ought to be anywhere near. The Cochrane Review says the following about the evidence for asthma and homeopathy,

The review of trials found that the type of homeopathy varied between the
studies, that the study designs used in the trials were varied and that no
strong evidence existed that usual forms of homeopathy for asthma are effective.

This is not a surprise given that homeopathy is just a ritualised placebo. Hopefully, most parents attending this clinic will have the good sense to go to a real accident and emergency unit in the event of a severe attack and consult their GP about real management of the illness. I would hope that Julia does little harm here.

However, a little more research on her site reveals much more serious concerns. She says on her site that 'she worked in Kenya teaching homeopathy at a college in Nairobi and supporting graduates to set up their own clinics'. Now, we have seen what homeopaths do in Kenya before. It is not treating a little stress and the odd headache. Free from strong UK legislation, these missionary homeopaths make the boldest claims about the deadliest diseases.

A bit of web research shows where Julia was working (picture above). The Abha Light Foundation is a registered NGO in Kenya. It takes mobile homeopathy clinics through the slums of Nairobi and surrounding villages. Its stated aim is to,

introduce Homeopathy and natural medicines as a method of managing HIV/AIDS,
TB and malaria in Kenya.

I must admit, I had to pause for breath after reading that. The clinic sells its own homeopathic remedies for 'treating' various lethal diseases. Its MalariaX potion,

is a homeopathic preparation for prevention of malaria and treatment of
malaria. Suitable for children. For prevention. Only 1 pill each week before
entering, during and after leaving malaria risk areas. For treatment. Take 1
pill every 1-3 hours during a malaria attack.

This is nothing short of being totally outrageous. It is a murderous delusion. David Colquhoun has been writing about this wicked scam recently and it is well worth following his blog on the issue.

Let's remind ourselves what one of the most senior and respected homeopaths in the UK, Dr Peter Fisher of the London Homeopathic Hospital, has to say on this matter.

there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent
malaria and you won't find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so
people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this

Malaria is a huge killer in Kenya. It is the biggest killer of children under five. The problem is so huge that the reintroduction of DDT is considered as a proven way of reducing deaths. Magic sugar pills and water drops will do nothing. Many of the poorest in Kenya cannot afford real anti-malaria medicine, but offering them insane nonsense as a substitute will not help anyone.
Ironically, the WHO has issued a press release today on cheap ways of reducing child and adult mortality due to malaria. Their trials, conducted in Kenya, of using cheap mosquito nets soaked in insecticide have reduced child deaths by 44% over two years. It says that issuing these nets be the 'immediate priority' to governments with a malaria problem. No mention of homeopathy. These results were arrived at by careful trials and observation. Science. We now know that nets work. A lifesaving net costs $5. A bottle of useless homeopathic crap costs $4.50. Both are large amounts for a poor Kenyan, but is their life really worth the 50c saving?

I am sure we are going to hear the usual homeopath bleat that this is just a campaign by Big Pharma to discredit unpatentable homeopathic remedies. Are we to add to the conspiracy Big Net manufacturers too?

It amazes me that to add to all the list of ills and injustices that our rich nations impose on the poor of the world, we have to add the widespread export of our bourgeois and lethal healing fantasies. To make a strong point: if we can introduce laws that allow the arrest of sex tourists on their return to the UK, can we not charge people who travel to Africa to indulge their dangerous healing delusions?

At the very least, we could expect the Society of Homeopaths to try to stamp out this wicked practice? Could we?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas... oh my!

October 1st put me in mind of the next three months and the next three holidays. I love Holidays. My Mother was really good at decorating the house for different holidays throughout the year, which gave every month its own atmosphere and flavor. It’s a tradition that I’ve been lazy in continuing. Last year was the first year I managed to get the house decorated inside and out for Christmas, mainly because we had relatives visiting, so there was a driving need to make it festive. Without intending to, my house actually looked more Gay Pride than Christmas.

My slide into disbelief started somewhere in 2005-2006 but, looking through my livejournal, I didn’t become a full atheist until this year. This will be my first Atheist Christmas. Which leads me to, how do I, as an Atheist, celebrate holidays?
Do I need to be anti-holiday? Am I anti-religion or am I anti-dogma? Do I distain all religions equally or do I have a particular anti-Christian bent. What is my “hidden” agenda?

I have to admit to having anti-Christian feelings, particularly towards the Right-Wing “Moral Majority”. Did you ever hear the saying “the worst non-smokers are ex-smokers”? Having once been a Focus on the Family, Rush Limbaugh, Left Behind, Christian-jargon spewing zombie myself, I feel particular venom for those groups. Like Charlton Heston yelling, “Soylent Green is people”, I want to run through churches screaming, “It’s all a lie, the Jesus you’re worshiping never existed!”

That’s how I feel. But that’s also, I believe, not the appropriate way to do things. No one would listen. And I don’t want to just go from Christian-jargon spewing to Atheist-jargon spewing, even though my instinct is to do just that. I listen to a lot of podcasts about Humanism, Science, Atheism, and Skepticism. I admire many people on these podcasts; the ones who make me realize I’m reacting in an emotional way instead of a rational way. While I may want them to just tell me what to do, I would be an utter failure of a fan if I didn’t, at least, get that I need to think for myself. Think rationally not emotionally.

Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. When I think about these holidays, the things I most enjoy are the decorations. They’re fun. And with little to no effort they are, or can be, secular. Saint Patrick’s Day for most of us is about green everything, pretending your Irish, and drinking beer. We pretty much ignore the meaning of the word “saint” and I don’t think anyone really cares if someone named Patrick ever actually drove all the snakes from Ireland or not. Decorating with leprechauns for St. Pat’s or ghouls on Halloween isn’t taken by anyone as my believing in them. Anyone I care about anyway.

So if I decorate my house for Christmas, put up a tree, even put out on the coffee table the nativity scene my husband brought from Belgium, am I selling out to the Christians? My tree is decorated with Santas, Elves, Reindeer, Snowmen, and Angels; all fictional creatures. And whether that nativity was originally the story of Mithras or Osiris, does the fact that to most it’s now the story of Jesus really matter? Why should I be offended by one fictional symbol and not by any other just because many people don’t realize its fiction?

Putting energy into fighting the breakdown between Church and State because it’s interfering with Science, Medicine, individual rights, etc, is a worthy cause. Extending that energy to worrying about holiday decorations? Or bending over backwards to differentiate between my neighbor’s religious Christmas decorations and my secular Christmas decorations? I think could be time better spent enjoying the lights.