Monday 28 December 2015

Richard Dawkins talks with Dr John Huddlestun.

Richard Dawkins talks with Dr John Huddlestun.

An interesting (and civil) discussion with a Biblical Scholar.

It demonstrates some of the problems when using Biblical texts as an authoritative historical record.

Sunday 23 August 2015

US Civil Forfeiture Laws... WTF...

US Civil Forfeiture Laws... WTF...

I'm so glad I don't live in the land of the free where they have liberty and justice for all.
It sure does look like a corrupt oppressive tyranny to me.

Saturday 15 August 2015

BHA - How do we know what's True?

This needs no commentary from me.

Written and produced by the British Humanist Association

Narrated by Stephen Fry

Animated by SkeptiSketch

Sunday 9 August 2015

Episode 100 of the Skepticule Podcasts is out now.

Episode 100 of the Skepticule Podcasts is out now.

If you share this post with 20 of your friends in the next 24 hours, you are guaranteed a major cash windfall and extreme good luck within the following week. People will admire and respect, you will never need to cut your toenails again and you will be able to fart rainbows on demand.

If you don't share this post in the next 24 hours, your genitals will shrivel up and fall off while you are in the supermarket, everyone will point at you and laugh, you will grow un-trimable nasal hair and the Jehovah's Witnesses will call every Saturday at 7:30.

Skepticule Episode 100

Saturday 28 March 2015

First eCig Lung Cancer Death

Today, my lovely daughter sent me a link to an article about the first official Lung Cancer death caused by eCigs (Electronic Cigarettes).

I use an eCig and she was concerned that I may be harming myself while under the impression eCigs were much safer than Tobacco Cigarettes.

This is the article:-

Frank Delio moments before he died of lung cancer. According to the boy’s mother, he’d been smoking E-cigarettes for the past 11 months and had never smoked before.
TEXAS — Frank Delio, a 17-year-old Texas teen boy, became the first person to die of lung cancer associated with the use of E-cigarette smoking in the U.S. yet on Wednesday afternoon.
While it isn’t yet clear what led to the sudden tragic death, the boy’s case has raised concerns amid the rising popularity of E-cigarettes, with many users seeing vaping as a safer alternative to smoking.
According to the boy’s mother, he’d been smoking E-cigarettes for the past 11 months and had never smoked before. According to medical experts, the boy checked in on January 13 and was diagnosed with lung cancer after a small tumor was found on his left lung. But what really worries experts is that barely a month and a half later, the boy is dead. His lungs were ‘filled with tumors’, ‘like if they were multiplying at an extremely faster rate than usual.’
Many experts have pointed out the dangers posed by E-cigarettes. Mostly the fact that E-cigarette vapor can contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to 15 times higher than regular cigarettes.
“Newer versions of E-cigarettes can operate at very high temperatures, and that heat dramatically amps up the creation of formaldehyde-containing compounds,” researcher David Peyton, a Portland State chemistry professor, said in the news release. “High-voltage usage can release enough formaldehyde-containing compounds to increase a person’s lifetime risk of cancer five to 15 times higher than the risk caused by long-term smoking.”
Meaning; this poses a risk to users who increase the voltage on their E-cigarette to increase the delivery of vaporized nicotine.High-voltage E-cigarette usage can release enough formaldehyde-containing compounds to increase a person’s lifetime risk of cancer five to 15 times higher than the risk caused by long-term smoking.
While the incident could be the first lung cancer death caused by E-cigarette use, a spike in cases of patients with the disease, mostly aged between 17-32 years old, has already been observed. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) said that the number of lung cancer patients aged between 17 to 32 has increased from 1,543 last year to 4,638 as of Jan. 31 this year. Over half of these cases involved men younger than 25 years old.

It looks convincing doesn't it?

But there are several red flags and it didn't take too long to get to the bottom of this article.

Here is another picture of a distraught mother at the bed of a young Muslim boy who was attacked in a hospital in Homs, Syria as reported by a Chinese News Agency in 2011.... with a slightly different caption.

Note the Head Bandage….. For Lung Cancer?

Notice the: tag bottom right has been deliberately cropped from the first picture.

The original news item is at:-  and was taken on 29 Dec 2011

There are no Obituary records for the death of a “Frank Delio” for the whole state of Texas.
The nearest I can find is for a David Francis Delio but he was 73 when he died.

In fact this particular Frank Delio does not seem to exist anywhere on the internet which is very unusual (but not impossible) for a 17 year old Texas boy.

The site reporting this tragic cancer death is a “Click-Bait” site that posts salacious and provocative posts to generate clicks. This gives them increased affiliate advertising revenue.

There are thousands of “Click-Bait” sites especially on Facebook who’s only purpose is to get you to click on them. They have no real content, no product and no service, they just need you to click so they can make more money from advertising other people’s products and services.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 5.4 million people die each year from Smoking related illnesses.  Even if the above story was not a fake, I’d rather be in the 1 death/year group than the 5.4 million deaths/year group. Call me reckless, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. It would seem that to-date, there have been 0 deaths that can be directly attributed to the correct use of eCigarette products.   

I’m still open to evidence though, but that evidence must come from a recognized authority or from well researched statistical evidence, Not from Click-Bait sites or from medical speculation or from people with a conflict of interests.

Monday 16 February 2015

Today, I went to Church.

Today, I went to Church... A Charismatic Evangelical Church.

Four members of High Wycombe Skeptics in the Pub went in response to an open invite from the Kings Church High Wycombe.

Kings Church are running a series of responses to the major objections to various aspects of the Christian faith. The series is called "The Big Objections".

This Sunday's Topic was "What sort of a God would send good people to hell?"

The Promotion for the event read thusly:-
"What are your doubts, objections and criticisms of Christianity? We asked our local community this question and stressed that no subject was off-limits or too honest. We had many objections raised about all sorts of issues including sexuality, science, suffering, hypocrisy and world religions. 
Over six weeks during February and March we will be addressing the most commonly raised objections. We would love it if you could join us on those Sundays at either 9.30am or 11.30am to hear the responses."

The fist half of the event was specifically to address the "Hell" objections after which we Atheists could leave if we wanted or we could sit through the regular Sunday service.

I have a lot of questions and objections to this fundamentally Evil belief so it seemed like a good opportunity to engage with the local Christian community and express our utter disgust with the concept of eternal torment in the fires of Hell.

Dan from HW SitP and myself arrived early and the Church Elders seemed to zero in on us asking lot's of questions about our background, nothing too intense, in-fact it was mostly polite conversation. Neil and Paul arrived just before the start of the event and were spared the awkwardness of the overly polite niceties.

The Event started with a Happy-Clappy song accompanied by a 7 piece band. Within 10 seconds people responded to Pavlovian style triggers, up went the arms, eyes closed or glazed over, swaying from side to side or bouncing up and down.

I found this disturbing and I'm not sure why. I've seen this behavior on religious TV channels and knew roughly what to expect.

I know these people are conditioned for this at least once a week and I was aware of the focused anticipation immediately beforehand.  These people were clearly in some trance-like euphoric state triggered by the Elders raising their arms and the music. But it was instantaneous, no build up, no preamble, just instant zombification. When the music stopped, everyone immediately switched back to "Normal" mode again.

We were sat front and center. I now wished we had sat further back to get a better view of the audience because the body language and the responses of the audience were far more interesting than the sermon we received.

Yes, it was a sermon, we were being preached at. There was no discussion about Hell, none of the objections raised by the community were mentioned. We had to sit for 60 minutes to be told that our objections (which were not asked for) were all invalid and of course that Jesus loves us and died for our sins. Hell is apparently not a fiery place where you are sent, Hell is a state of mind caused by separation from God. It is confusion, anger and discontentment that grows "Like a fire", not a literal fiery place.

The speaker was reasonably good, clear, concise and he presented well. But, There was no Q&A and there was no opportunity to present our own objections. This was clearly not going to be a 2 way dialogue.

I felt somewhat deceived, tricked into attending their sermon on the pretense that we would be exploring the issues around the concept of eternal punishment.

We now had the opportunity to stay for the main service, but to be honest I had a urgent need to escape from this stifling atmosphere of religious fervor. If susceptible people can be induced into a euphoric religious state so easily, the main service was sure to generate spontaneous weapons grade outbursts of Speaking in Tongs, flopping on the floor like a stranded fish and other forms of induced hysteria. I already felt extremely uncomfortable, It was time to go.  

Before we could leave, senior Church members descended on us again. Still polite, no pressure, but somewhat distant. We eventually made it to the foyer were we found the speaker and more senior Church members. This was my opportunity to find out about the theological beliefs of this Church.

This was again a fruitless exercise. No one seemed to have any understanding of formal Theology or Philosophy. I was told "all that stuff seems a little to complicated for me".  Even on issues like Creationism, they didn't seem to have any understanding of the debate. All that mattered was that Jesus loves you and he died for your sins.  I attempted to get a discussion going on Truth claims and Faith but got blank looks of puzzlement.  Faith IS Truth... Oh and now the speaker informs me that Hell IS an actual place after all and that people do get sent there by God but he was unable to define any of the attributes of this place.

They were pleasant good people with a strong community spirit but with very little understanding or concern for hardcore Theology. I would suspect that community spirit and the emotional intensity of religious euphoria are the driving forces in this church.

I wish them well but I will not be attending the remaining "Objections" meetings.

We retired to the Bootlegger Pub for Rehabilitation of the liquid variety.

Next week there is an open forum at the local Sunni Mosque so I'll need to dig out my "Jesus and Mo" T-Shirt and Dan can point out some rather interesting articles in his Charlie Hebdo magazine.
Kings Church High Wycombe