Tuesday, 21 October 2008

'No God' slogans

'No God' slogans for city's buses (BBC News, Tuesday, 21 October 2008)
"I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti.

Can Stephen 'Birdshit' Green not be prosecuted for incitement to cause damage to property? Or is his phrasing not direct enough for that? In that case, I should be surprised if, after this ludicrous statement, the attributes of Green's own theist campaigns did not attract graffiti.

This is a good occasion to witness again that not all religions and branches of religions are created equal:
Spirituality and discipleship officer Rev Jenny Ellis said: "This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life."

She added: "Christianity is for people who aren't afraid to think about life and meaning."

It should be 'interesting' to hear the views of the Muslim Council of Britain on this matter. But don't bother.


The 'veiled' threats by Green are in fact more concrete than the BBC News article might suggest. He even includes a practical hint related to causing said damage, where he writes, at Christian Voice:
'I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti. People don't like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don't like it. The advertising space on a bendy-bus is just the right height as well.

Perhaps it should be pointed out that legislation on hate crimes also covers theist incitement to commit crimes against atheists, according to www.homeoffice.gov.uk:
This law, which came into effect in 2007, makes it a criminal offence to use threatening words or behaviour with the intention of stirring up hatred against any group of people because of their religious beliefs or their lack of religious beliefs.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Airliner had near miss with UFO

Airliner had near miss with UFO (BBC News, Monday, 20 October 2008)

As so often in these kinds of BBC News stories, it is difficult to find falsehoods, and the cited expert is an 'open-minded sceptic', whose past work on UFOs and UFOlogy has been sound and helpful. Nevertheless, the weak of mind may well take the title and some paragraphs as support of the claim that extraterrestrials are fucking with us.

The phrase "it is career suicide to have your name associated with UFOs" suggests existence of self-censorship keeping the truth from being discovered, and it may be all too tempting for believers to take the phrase "and make your mind up" and the comments form at the end of the article as supportive of a relativistic stance.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

children and fools cannot lie

'People doing drugs is really bad' (BBC News, Sunday, 5 October 2008)
In time, things turned even nastier. Bricks were thrown through their windows and they suffered an attempted break-in.

Chinese government propaganda against Falun Gong uses basically the same techniques. "Little girl meets family practising that evil religion, and before long, bricks are thrown through the windows." QED: Falun Gong is really bad. After all, who wouldn't believe a little girl?

Different issues, same stupid rhetoric. Thank you, BBC, for treating us like adults. By the way, how many journalists from the former Fernsehen der DDR did you recruit after 1989?

there's weird and there's weird

Healer methods doubted by expert (BBC News, Wednesday, 8 October 2008)
Professor Ernst, professor of complementary and alternative medicine at Exeter University, was asked about evidence from the woman about how Mr Hands had touched her.


Prof Ernst told the court that the methods she described were "not part of lymphatic drainage of the groin".

Curious. The guilt of the quack seems to depend on whether his holistic healing methods are more wacky than holistic healing methods are anyway. My understanding was that if reason goes out the window, then nothing is too weird. The legal profession apparently has a different view.

sex in public

Sex-on-beach trial Britons guilty (BBC News, Thursday, 16 October 2008)

Those cursed Muslims in Dubai with their outdated morals! We in Britain are more open-minded. Aren't we? Well, apparently the following is still not self-evident:

Police leniency call on park sex (BBC News, Friday, 17 October 2008)

quantum cryptography

'Unbreakable' encryption unveiled (BBC News, Thursday, 9 October 2008)

Experts in the field of computer security are aware that quantum cryptography is an answer in search of a question. But let reality not spoil a good story.

Recommended reading is:

Quantum Cryptography: As Awesome As It Is Pointless by Bruce Schneier (Wired, 10.16.08)


What does medicine owe to Africa? (BBC News, Friday, 17 October 2008)
But there is a debate to be had about why Indian and Chinese medicines which you can get on the High Street, but African medicine is still very much a taboo subject.

Perhaps that is because there is no such thing as "African medicine", no more than there is an "African culture" or an "African race". Equating Ancient Egypt to Africa, and overstating cultural and scientific achievements by peoples from Africa in ancient times is known as afrocentrism, a pseudo-science especially rampant in the US, where it is now considered offensive to point out that the Egyptian kings were in general not black (the Meroitic kings were an exception). If the BBC News article was not written by an afrocentrist pur sang, you could have fooled me.

See also:

Fallacies of Afrocentrism by Grover Furr (Montclair State University)

Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax

Why you should avoid 'mingqutnguaq' (BBC News, Saturday, 18 October 2008)

It seems BBC News has now started recycling news that must be at least 25 years old, which includes perpetuating an urban myth. The justification seems to be little more than a new video of a native Inuit blabbing about snow and ice.

The idea that Eskimo languages have many more words for snow than an average language from a culture familiar with sub-zero temperatures is known as the Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, and dates from the beginning of the 20th century. It was debunked by anthropologist Laura Martin in the 1980s. See also:

Pullum, Geoffrey K. (1991). The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and other
Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language. University of Chicago Press.