Next meet-up: SitP 2014-01-27

Mt View Hotel, Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Image: Mattinbgn / WikiMedia Commons

Our next meet-up is the Melbourne Skeptics in the Pub on Monday 27 January, 2014.

As usual we meet at the Mount View Hotel, 70 Bridge Road in Richmond from 18:00 (6pm) onwards. Find us upstairs in the lounge, grab a meal and a drink as you please, and chat with other freethinkers!

(We will not meet in December; have a merry Grav-mass on December 25th, everyone!)

The harm of “traditional remedies”: Rhino horn for a hangover

A rhinoceros killed by poachers in Karbi hills, near India’s Kaziranga National Park. (AP Photo)

Via MSN, we learn that one of the most iconic African species is under additional threat of extinction, because of uncritical Vietnamese customers purchasing rhinoceros horn for magical cures for anything from cancer to hangovers:

What happened in 2008 to prompt a resurgence in demand? The closest guess is a rumor that swept Vietnam in the mid-2000s that imbibing rhino horn powder had cured a Vietnamese politician’s cancer. That rumor persists to this day. And note that this has nothing to do with traditional Chinese medicine. As Huijun Shen, the president of the UK Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine explained to Nature magazine, there’s no record of using rhino horn to treat cancer in nearly two millennia worth of Chinese medical texts (p.23).

In Vietnam, however, at least some respected doctors vouch for rhino horn’s cancer-curing properties. One woman who purchased $2,000 worth of horn powder on her doctors’ advice.

There will never be a shortage of devastation of our natural world, until the demand for that devastation is ended. Fighting against magical thinking, and marginalising ludicrous “traditional remedy” claims, is a key element and a worthy aim for skeptics.

Next meet-up: SitP 2013-11-25

Mt View Hotel, Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Image: Mattinbgn / WikiMedia Commons

Our next meet-up is the Melbourne Skeptics in the Pub on Monday 25 November, 2013.

As usual we meet at the Mount View Hotel, 70 Bridge Road in Richmond from 18:00 (6pm) onwards. Find us upstairs in the lounge, grab a meal and a drink as you please, and chat with other freethinkers!

Next meet-up: SitP 2013-10-28

Mt View Hotel, Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Image: Mattinbgn / WikiMedia Commons

Our next meet-up is the Melbourne Skeptics in the Pub on Monday 28 October, 2013.

As usual we meet at the Mount View Hotel, 70 Bridge Road in Richmond from 18:00 (6pm) onwards. Find us upstairs in the lounge, grab a meal and a drink as you please, and chat with other freethinkers!

Next meet-up: SitP 2013-09-23

Mt View Hotel, Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Image: Mattinbgn / WikiMedia Commons

Our next meet-up is the Melbourne Skeptics in the Pub on Monday 23 September, 2013.

As usual we meet at the Mount View Hotel, 70 Bridge Road in Richmond from 18:00 (6pm) onwards. Find us upstairs in the lounge, grab a meal and a drink as you please, and chat with other freethinkers!

Next meet-up: SitP 2013-07-22

Mt View Hotel, Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Image: Mattinbgn / WikiMedia Commons

Our next meet-up is the Melbourne Skeptics in the Pub on Monday 22 July, 2013.

As usual we meet at the Mount View Hotel, 70 Bridge Road in Richmond from 18:00 (6pm) onwards. Find us upstairs in the lounge, grab a meal and a drink as you please, and chat with other freethinkers!

Next meet-up: SitP 2013-06-24

Mt View Hotel, Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Image: Mattinbgn / WikiMedia Commons

Our next meet-up is the Melbourne Skeptics in the Pub on Monday 24 June, 2013.

As usual we meet at the Mount View Hotel, 70 Bridge Road in Richmond from 18:00 (6pm) onwards. Find us upstairs in the lounge, grab a meal and a drink as you please, and chat with other freethinkers!

Happy Towel Day 2013

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

toweldayImagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for. We all know that at some point in the future the Universe will come to an end and at some other point, considerably in advance from that but still not immediately pressing, the sun will explode. We feel there’s plenty of time to worry about that, but on the other hand that’s a very dangerous thing to say.

Douglas AdamsIs there an Artificial God?, September 1998

The story behind those creationism test papers

The Blue Ridge Christian Academy 4th grade 'science' quiz that went viral.

The Blue Ridge Christian Academy 4th grade ‘science’ quiz that went viral. Click to embiggen.

You’ve probably seen these images before. They’ve been circulating around the internet for the last month or so. An American 4th grade ‘science’ test from a school that’s clearly teaching Young Earth Creationism. The student has gotten full marks, for answering the most ludicrous questions.

According to the test, dinosaurs were the size of sheep, lived with humans on a planet less than a billion years old. Fossils were caused by a ‘global flood’, and the Bible is the ‘history book of the universe’. To anyone who challenges these ideas, the child should simply ask “Where you there?”. Yeah, that’ll show ’em.

So it’s not surprising this test went viral. The claims are so ridiculous, they are ripe for condemnation. Identifying the school that supplied the test turned out to be a challenge. To the degree that even Snopes.com thought they could be faked (at the time of writing, it’s status is ‘Undetermined’)  – surely no school could actually be teaching that sort of stuff? But eventually Australian ex-patriot Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis, revealed the school in a blog post.

In South Carolina recently, a fourth-grade teacher at Blue Ridge Christian Academy (a nondenominational K–12 Christian school) showed students a DVD of a children’s program, in which AiG song-writer and dinosaur sculptor Buddy Davis and I are featured. In this DVD, we teach children the history of the universe from the Bible, with a special emphasis on teaching dinosaurs from a biblical perspective (as we do inside our Creation Museum). The teacher handed out a question sheet to the children to test what they learned from the DVD…
A friend of one of the parents who has a child enrolled in the fourth grade class posted the quiz sheets on the internet. The parent, like all parents who have children enrolled at this academy, had signed a statement, which acknowledged an understanding that sending their child to this Christian school would mean they would be taught biblical Christianity. The parent expressed dismay that his daughter was taught a biblical approach to dinosaurs. The quiz’s posting to the internet resulted in a number of atheist websites reposting the questions and answers, and many of them responded in rage and vehement attacks on the school.

If,  when Ken describes “rage and vehement attacks”, he means threats of violence or personal attacks, then that’s something I cannot condone. But I suspect he’s actually referring to people ridiculing his beliefs and criticising the brainwashing of children with nonsense. If that’s the case, it’s to be encouraged. Young Earth Creationism is something that has been so thoroughly debunked it has absolutely no place being taught in a science class. This is a timely reminder that we need to actively campaign to keep religion – especially Young Earth Creationism – out of science class.

For the full story of the Blue Ridge Christian Academy science quiz papers, including samples of the ‘attacks’ and summaries of some of the other subjects taught at the school, read The Friendly Atheist’s post.