Thursday 28 February 2008

Truth in medicine: FairDeal Homeopathy

If I ever feel the need for homeopathic remedies, this is where I'll go:

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Earthquake in England - divine retribution?

The BBC is reporting the damage:

According to reports, tremors were felt as far south as Hampshire (where I am), and I was awake at the time (about 1 am) but I don't remember anything unusual.

Nevertheless it was the strongest quake for a quarter of a century, at 5.2 on the Richter scale, though that's hardly a murmur compared with those often experienced elsewhere on the globe.

But how long will it be before some religious 'authority' declares this as God's punishment for the UK's stance on homosexuality, on abortion, or on embryonic stem-cell research?

Thursday 21 February 2008

Fantasy holiday: The End of the World Bus Tour

The BBC's recent run of five TV documentaries in the Wonderland series ended a week ago with this film about about a group of fundamentalist Christians on a tour of Armageddon. For many it was their last chance to see significant locations that will apparently figure in the Rapture, and in the end of the world, as foretold in the Book of Revelation.

Here's a link to the BBC's trailer on YouTube:

It's nice to have a theme for a holiday - it provides focus for sightseeing and other jolly activities. Don't fancy traipsing round a musty museum? Try helping out with menial labour on an Israeli military base. Bored with rubbernecking at old buildings? Then how about viewing the actual site of the nuclear apocalypse? When did that happen, you ask? Not yet, but just you wait - it will, we're told, be bloody. Don't worry, you won't be affected, not if you're a believer. You'll be raptured into Heaven with the other believers, disappearing from Earth in the blink of an eye, while the rest of us are left behind to perish (after which, of course, we have the small matter of an eternity of damnation to endure).

These are, by any rational standards, kooky beliefs, based on ancient texts of dubious authority. But they're beliefs held by a not insignificant minority of US citizens, this sample of whom appeared from this film to be decent (if deluded) people. Mostly they were pensioners. One teenager, however, on the trip with her parents, might have been tagging along simply for the chance to get way from her studies for a while. But no - she appeared to be as fundamentalist as the rest of them.

She said she was studying A-levels (in England, as it happens, quite close to where I live), photography (she was using the trip as part of a photography project), and - get this - critical thinking.

When explaining to the interviewer why she held her particular beliefs, she used Pascal's Wager. Perhaps when she actually gets around to that final part of her studies she'll learn what a false dichotomy is.


This wasn't actually the last in the present run of Wonderland, but there was a two-week break.

And for those who missed the broadcast, but can use BitTorrent, try here, here or (recommended) here.

Another gem from the broadcast: after seeing Armageddon, contemplating the end of the world, and looking across the landscape towards the 'enemies of God', our little group of devout tourists assembled at the airport for their trip home. Naturally they prayed. For world peace? An end to conflict? Relief for the afflicted?

No, they prayed that their flight would not be delayed.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

What is a blog? (repost from other blog)

Not only a succinct explanation of what a blog is, but also what it's for:

Monday 18 February 2008

Listen up, sceptics! - a list of sceptical podcasts

Here's a collection of podcasts related to rationality, critical thinking, scepticism, atheism, etc. It's not exhaustive; these are the ones I listen to when I have time.

Skepticality - the original sceptical podcast, with Derek and Swoopy, and now the official podcast of Skeptic Magazine

Point of Inquiry - the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, hosted by D. J. Grothe

Skeptoid - Brian Dunning's podcast book is also available at (for those who want an easy way to listen from the beginning)

Skeptics' Guide to the Universe - Dr Steven Novella plus a regular panel (associated with JREF - James Randi Educational Foundation)

Freethought Radio - Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor from FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation)

Bad Science - Dr Ben Goldacre (who writes for the Guardian) has an occasional podcast related to his well-known blog

Atheists Talk - Minnesota Atheists' new podcast

Quick Hitts - Dave Hitt is often controversial, but always interesting

If you have any other suggestions for podcast listening in this field, feel free to post them in the comments.