The Skeptic Canary

The blog of Dr Tom Williamson, atheist, humanist, skeptic and Norwich City fan!

Archive for the ‘scum’ Category

Channel 5 airs atrocious “Did we land on the Moon?” conspiracy documentary

one comment

Moon flag

Did we land on the Moon? Yes. Yes we did.

I’ve just spent the last hour launching a furious diatribe on Twitter having sat through one of the worst pieces of television it has ever been my misfortune to witness. Channel 5 have just broadcast a “documentary” (and I use the term very loosely) asking “Did we land on the Moon?”. They trotted out the same tired old arguments, let me just run through a few of them:

  • How could the flag fly if there was no atmosphere? – They had a pole running through the flag
  • How come shadows appeared at different angles? – Perspective. The moon is quite big.
  • How could they have used those chest-mounted cameras? – They practised before they went.

 

I could go on, but pretty much every Moon hoax conspiracy has been debunked many times on clavius.org. However, this program went far beyond the usual shite, and got pretty damn sickening. In 1967, the Apollo 1 mission ended in tragedy when three astronauts (Gus Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffee) died in a cabin fire. A terrible accident? Not according to the documentary. They went so far as to ask if the three astronauts could have been killed because they “knew too much”. Unbelieveable. I find that this kind of lazy sensationalism an afront to the memory of those brave, pioneering heroes.

I also find it incredibly distasteful of Channel 5 to broadcast such a shoddy and morally bereft program about the Moon just days after the death of Patrick Moore. If you really want to watch “Did we land on the Moon?” the page for the program on Channel 5’s website can be found here. There is talk on Twitter of complaining about the program to Ofcom. I don’t know what the grounds for complaint would be but I will certainly consider it.

At least Brian Cox has the right idea.

 

Written by Tom

December 12th, 2012 at 9:39 pm

“I wish to affirm” – my experiences of jury service

5 comments

Last week, I finished fulfilling one of my civic duties by answering the call of jury service. Now, before I go any further, I need to stress that I’m not allowed by law to talk about any cases I was on, so if you want to hear about any juicy murders or arson attempts you’ve come to the wrong place! I just wanted to write about my experiences of jury service from a secular point of view, in the hope that others can be prepared for the challenges it represents.

First off, you get randomly chosen for jury service from the electoral register and are informed of your summons by post. Then comes the potentially tricky part of working out how you are going to take time off. I was lucky in that my employer was very cooperative and sympathetic, but I do realise that being away from work for two weeks can be a massive inconvenience for some people.

I entered the court on day one with mixed emotions and a whole bunch of questions. What will it be like inside? What sort of case will I be put on? Will I even be put on a case? After going through an airport-style security scanner and into the main jury waiting room, most of my questions were answered by a 15 minute video and a chat with a member of staff. Then came the waiting. A lot of waiting. All you can do is wait for your name to be called out. It’s like waiting for a plane that never arrives!

Eventually, I was called and made my way upstairs with the prospective jury. Whilst waiting to be called into the court room, I experienced the only awkward moment of my jury service. The clerk asked “Is everyone OK with swearing on the Bible”? Myself, being an atheist, was not, so I put my hand up and said “I wish to affirm”. This was met with an “OK” from the clerk, followed by an “Anyone else?”. With that, 4 other hands went up! I do wonder if they would have if I hadn’t said I wanted to affirm.

For those not au fait with the concept of being sworn in on a jury, allow me to explain. Before a trial can start, each juror (12 in the UK) has to swear that they will do their duty as a juror. For most religious people, this involves swearing an oath while holding their holy book. The Judeo-Christian oath is as follows:

I swear by almighty God that I will faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence.

Other oaths are available for other religions, but they are essentially just reworkings of the same words with a different deity in place of God. However, if you have no particular religious affiliation, you can (as I did) choose to affirm instead:

I solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence.

Now, as you might expect I have several problems with the current set up. When you go into court as a juror, the default position is that you will be a Christian who is happy to swear on the Bible.  While this is most probably demographically correct, I don’t see any reason why Christians (or any other religious people) can’t affirm, as the oath and the affirmation carry equal legal weight. In fact, there are several religious groups who don’t believe in swearing oaths and choose to affirm instead. Therefore, affirmation should be the default position. If you choose to affirm, you have to make a positive decision. You have to go against the default. I’d love to hear from a psychologist on this, but it’s my understanding that standing up and saying “No, I want to do something else” is something most people would rather avoid. At present, the system only serves to embed Christianity into the legal system, something I think should be discouraged.

That said, I didn’t detect any prejudice from the courts or my fellow jurors towards my atheism, and I did on the whole find jury service to be a positive experience. You get to examine a lot of evidence and make some very important decisions. I went into it hoping to make the best of it, and I believe I did. I’d recommend it to anyone who gets a summons.

I also got a glimpse of the British National Party as I went in one morning, who were there to protest against a paedophile ring who were being sentenced that day. I wanted to shout “Nazi scum!” at them but I thought I’d better not as I was there in an official capacity. Fortunately someone else did 5 seconds after I walked past!

Written by Tom

May 20th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Posted in events,scum

How I would make millions by ripping off children with cancer

3 comments

Please don’t be worried by the title of this post. I haven’t turned evil, this is simply a thought exercise.

First off, I’d do the hard part and get a medical degree. I’d follow this up by getting a qualification that isn’t quite a doctorate, but I’d say it is anyway so that I could write Ph.D after my name as well as MD. I’d then follow this by researching at a university for several years, trying to find a simple chemical in urine that I could patent as a cancer cure. Once I had this patent, I’d open up my own clinic to treat cancer patients with it. Of course, I’d need to get around the fact that my drug wouldn’t work or have any sort of official approval. To do that, I’d treat patients as part of a ‘clinical trial’. Also, there would be nothing to stop me using real cancer drugs at my clinic, I just wouldn’t draw attention to that! I’d charge patients huge amounts of money for my treatment, and I wouldn’t feel bad at all about charging the parents of terminally ill children hundreds of thousands of dollars. Who knows, perhaps some famous comedians would put on charity gigs to pay for my treatments!

Of course, some people in this world would want to see some evidence that my treatment worked, and they wouldn’t be happy that I was selling their children false hope for extortionately high prices. In an attempt to placate them, I would fine some patients that have been lucky enough to survive my treatments, and put images of their beaming, smiling faces on my website. Everyone loves a testimonial, especially if it’s from a cute child! For those that want some actual scientific evidence, I’d occasionally write a piss-poor paper about my research and submit it to a desperate, crappy journal somewhere. I’d also present my work at a conference from time to time, and reference those presentations as if they were papers. Most people won’t know the difference! It wouldn’t matter if other scientists could not replicate my results, and I’d pay no heed to the opinions of cancer charities.

Now, with the scientific evidence for my ‘treatment’ being either flimsy or non-existent, I’d need a well-oiled propaganda machine in place. Once again, I’d resort to my testimonials as evidence. I’d say that the authorities are part of ‘big pharma’, who don’t want people to be treated by my amazing cure as it means they will lose money. I’d also rally against the establishment, claim that other scientists know nothing and declare myself a ‘maverick’. Once I had a dedicated following, I could even get a film made! Anything to get more people through the doors to line my pockets!

But, what to do with my detractors? I wouldn’t follow the normal scientific procedures and address criticism in the peer reviewed literature, I’d hire a lawyer to bully anyone who dared speak against me with threats of libel. I’d have plenty of money by then, and could easily absorb any costs involved. I’m counting the money in my head right now!

Fortunately, I will of course never do this because I’m not a shameless, manipulative greed-driven monster.

By the way, this has nothing to do at all with the Burzynski clinic. Nothing whatsoever.

Written by Tom

November 30th, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Posted in bullshit,science,scum

Nadine Dorries using flawed logic against humanists

2 comments

Nadine DorriesYou’ve just got to love Nadine Dorries. The conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire has been in the sights of people like Tim Ireland for quite awhile now, thanks to her irrational stances on issues such as abortion, and for claiming that her own blog is “70% fiction”.

As a result of Dorries stance on abortion and her position on sex education, New Humanist magazine have included her as a nominee in their annual Bad Faith awards. Naturally, Dorries hasn’t taken too kindly to it, and the other day squeezed out a short post on humanists on her blog:

I am not sure why anyone would admit to being a humanist and part of an organisation which has such extreme views. A humanist recently commented that, not only did he believe that abortion was acceptable right up to the moment of birth, but that termination of a child’s life was acceptable up until the point where the child had the ability to reason, understand and justify life.

At first, it looks like Dorries is basing her opinion on a rather large group of people based on nothing but rumour (and I’m not editorialising, that one quote is about half of the whole blog post). Obviously it’s easy to tell the glaring logical errors Dorries is making at this point, but it gets worse. Dorries felt the need to clarify her position and even name the person in question as the philosopher Peter Singer:

In 1979 he wrote, “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons”; therefore, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

In 1993 he stated that no newborn should be considered a person until 30 days after birth and that the attending physician should kill some disabled babies on the spot.

OK, a few issues here. Firstly, this is Peter Singer we are talking about, it’s very involved and complicated philosophy, it’s not something you can dip your feet into and cherry pick as Dorries has done. I can’t claim to be particular au fait with Singer’s work, although some of you might know that I’ve criticized his stance on animal rights in the past. Second, Dorries says that “a humanist recently commented”, and the most recent citation she comes up with is from 1993. She also tells people they can read more on Singer and directs them to the Christian Research Institute, an evangelical apologetics group. Quite a source!

So far, so much fiction. However, my main beef his her extremely warped thought process. Even if Singer did advocate infanticide, why does that mean that all humanists would agree with him? I find it amazing that Dorries can get away with this stance, because I believe that if she tried it with a religious group she’d be in very hot water. Imagine if she’d said something like this:

How can anyone subscribe to Judaism when Baruch Goldstein was Jewish? He committed a massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs. It’s scary to think how many people out there hold such extreme views.

Yet when an MP such as Dorries has a go at humanists, no-one bats an eyelid. Perhaps it’s time for us humanists to get just a little bit pissed off?

 

 

Written by Tom

October 26th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Morrissey is an idiot who is out of touch with reality

4 comments

morrissey

Insensitive idiot

Ex-Smiths front man Morrissey has been courting controversy once again. Following on from last week’s horrific events in Norway in which 76 people were killed, he decided to address the crowd at a gig in Warsaw on Sunday with these words:

“We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 dead. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Shit every day.”

I find this comment to be so insensitive, crude and disgusting that it almost beggars belief. What he is saying here is that the lives of the people who were murdered in the attacks in Norway are worth less than the lives of the chickens that KFC kill for food. How can anyone think so simplistically? I was thinking about writing why human life is intrinsically more valuable than that of any other animal, but do I really have to explain that?

This isn’t the first time Morrissey has been criticized for his views. His controversial lyrics and interviews have lead to multiple accusations of racism, and he has made remarks which appear to support violence against scientists who test on animals. All very unsavoury, with his views on animals once again stemming from the overtly simplistic belief that all animals are equal.

Source: mirror.co.uk

Written by Tom

July 28th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Posted in scum

The News of the World are deplorable

leave a comment

I can’t express how angry I am with the News of the World right now. It seems like the whole country is furious with them, and with perfectly good reason. According to a Guardian report, their reporters hacked into Milly Dowler’s voicemail, presumably in order to hear messages from distraught friends and family. When the voicemail inbox filled up, they went so far as to DELETE SOME MESSAGES, so that they could hear more. The family assumed that the only person who had access to the voicemail was Milly herself, therefore they believed her to be alive. Unspeakable.

By the way, the number for the newsdesk for the News of the World is 0207 782 1001. I’m saying nothing.

Written by Tom

July 4th, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Posted in scum

Gillian McKeith: revisting a good old b3ta joke

leave a comment

Thought of this at lunchtime, just had to throw it together:

Gillian McKeith needs her blood oxygenated

Written by Tom

November 22nd, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Posted in scum

Yet more Gillian McKeith fail

leave a comment

Sorry if I seem a tad obsessed by not-a-Dr Gillian McKeith on IACGMOOH, but rarely is TV this karmic (and no, I don’t believe in Karma, thanks).

So far, the diminutive quack has been voted to take part in every bush tucker trial she has been eligible for. The first was a piece of TV gold which saw her freaking out, fainting (despite adjusting her clothing), and being given oxygen. Her performances improved slightly as the week wore on, but last night saw her reach a new zenith of crappiness. She was first required to command a digger and retrieve some buried stars. Mistakes would be punished with a swift dispatch of insects to the head, so she didn’t even attempt the trial. Didn’t even try. Pathetic.

However, the best was yet to come, when the first live bush tucker trial of the series commenced. Unsurprisingly, McKeith came top in the public vote, but as she got up to talk to Ant and Dec, she “fainted”, once again requiring medical attention. Following a hasty commercial break, the hosts announced that Gillian would not be doing the trial, and that anyone who called in to vote for her could get a refund. I bet the ITV paymasters were happy about that! Here it is again in case you missed it:

Written by Tom

November 22nd, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Posted in scum

Am I wrong to enjoy the apparent suffering of one Gillian McKeith?

leave a comment

Well, I’ve got to say that last night’s episode of IACGMOOH was everything I hoped it would be. Gillian McKeith being buried alive with rats, freaking out and needing oxygen treatment. With every scream and every rodent sighting I was thinking “Yes! THAT’S for misrepresenting science! THAT’S for threatening people with legal action! THAT’S for PhDiva!”.

Is that wrong of me? I know that some people think that Gillian is in some way faking it, knowing that this is the best way to get publicity. Personally, I couldn’t care less. If she becomes famous as a subject of ridicule, I can live with that.

On a lighter note, these two comments from an article on the Guardian website are full of win:

guardian comment lol

Written by Tom

November 16th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Posted in scum

Not-a-Dr Gillian McKeith to be on “I’m a Celebrity…”!

leave a comment

Fake PhDWhen it comes to reality TV, I usually follow the Joe Cornish-inspired mantra “IACGMOOH, IACGMOOH, I do not watch it I’ve got better things to do”. However, I could well be watching “I’m a Celebrity” gleefully this year for just one reason: celebrity dump examiner Not-a-Dr Gillian McKeith will be amongst the contestants inhabiting the Australian jungle this year!

As far as I’m aware, the show involves the celebrities being voted by the public to undertake ‘bush tucker trials’, where the unfortunate victim has to complete a scary/dangerous/vomit-inducing task, otherwise the team goes hungry. Possibly the most famous example is ex-traitor Paul Burrell ripping his shirt off while the juices of a kangaroo’s testicle poured from his mouth. After what she’s done to various bloggers and scientists, who wouldn’t want to see Gillian McKeith suffer?

Written by Tom

November 10th, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Posted in scum