“The Atheist Insult”

February 24, 2009

Oh, this is just too good.  More religious people whinging that the Atheists dared to put out an advert.  To be fair, this guy doesn’t like adverts.  He really doesn’t like adverts:

Adverts are by their very nature offensive. Whether they are printed, pop up on computer screens or play out on radio or TV, they are irritating invasions on private space that seek to bully and bombard people with pernicious consumerist messages.

Bear in mind that this is clearly the benchmark this guy is using for adverts: they’re offensive by default.  So to write a whole article on why the atheit bus campaign is so evil, he must really hate it.  And he does:

But what if the ideology urged by the advert really, really offends you? What if it challenges the core beliefs that fundamentally form the way you live?

Can you guess who’s about to magically become offended by a viewpoint expressed on the side of a bus?  A viewpoint, incidentally, that does not incite and does not accuse.  It does not express the view that people who disagree with the sentiment of the advert are evil, or that people who disagree should be punished.  It simply promotes the view that, “There probably is no god”.  Simple.

I can understand this guys confusion though:

With their marketing scheme, the Atheist Bus Campaign sought not to sell a product, but a particular point of view

I’m guessing that James hasn’t lived through many local or national government elections. But then James starts getting weird:

[There’s probably no God] Is a pretty bold statement to make. Though it stops short of saying “God does not exist,” the idea put forward is that there is no cosmic entity overseeing the universe. But how can you know?

Erm, James, it says, “There’s probably no God”.  Perhaps you should have spent more time reading it than being offended by it.

Maybe a divine being does have a role in such issues, and that comes down to your own personal beliefs and how you think the universe works. Personally, I very much believe that there are “paranormal” beings beyond our mundane human order out there and I reckon that there are spiritual energies and forces at work around us. As such, as someone who believes that godly beings exist, I’m definitely affronted by the Atheist Bus Campaign.

So James believes that there are paranormal beings beyond our mundane human order (whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean), but is strangely affronted by the Atheist Bus Campaign?  James, you’re views are weird.  They make no sense.  Yet strangely, I can read them without being offended.  I fundamentally disagree with you – and, incidentally, would like to see the proof you demand from the atheist with respect to your beliefs – but I am not affronted by having seen them.  Why do people with weird beliefs have such difficulty making this distinction?

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the advert isn’t nice at all and is, in fact, a pretty damn nasty bit of text

James thinks this is nasty? I wonder what evidence he’s going to produce to make the association that, “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy life” is nasty.  That’s one hell of an accusation, James.

The average commuter could be plunged into an existential crisis and find themselves contemplating life much more than they intended to on their Monday morning journey to work.

OMFG! It’s going to cause and existential CRISIS. EVERYBODY PANIC!!!!111 one!1.

James, of course, places himself above “Joe the commuter” of course, and doesn’t experience this existential crisis: he simply goes straight to “offended”. Do not pass god, do not collect £200.

For those that believe in God or, indeed gods, the advert is even more of a kick to the psyche. It sticks out as a personal insult to those who pay reverence to a deity and dutifully follow a spiritual schema by basically saying: “You are wrong”.

OMFG! Someone is wrong on teh religions. (sorry).  EXISTENTIAL CRISIS!!!

it’s actually a noxious sermon that seeks to stigmatise a significant section of society. The campaign is preaching prejudice rather than peace of mind.

James, have you been following the teachings of the various religions lately?  Do you really want to get into the whole “my sermon is more obnoxious than your sermon” debate?  Seriously. Don’t go there.  You can’t win.  Unless, of course, you actually meant to use the word “noxious”.  In which case this could get real messy real quick.

At a gut level, religion is once again represented as a bloody great bugbear that brings hatred and malice; the preserve of superstitious simpletons, delusional traditionalists andfundamentalist loonies.

What did that sign say again, James?  “There probably is no God, now stop worrying and get on with your life”.  Did it mention religion?

Religion can do remarkable things – and has done so repeatedly. To simplistically state that “Religion is evil” is like saying “Fire gives people third-degree burns.”

James, once again who is making these accusations?  The Atheist Bus Campaign didn’t.  You are the only person in your article making these associations.  Perhaps that says more about your own attitude to the gods and religion than it does about the atheist.


Sexist rubbish

February 23, 2009

I’m writting this whilst watching the University Challenge final I started writing this whilst watching UC, but failed dismally to ignore the gripping final! This is the usual Daily Mail sexist trite:

Before reaching the grand final – to be screened tonight – her team trounced Exeter University 350-15, a victory described by host Jeremy Paxman as ‘less like a general knowledge quiz and more like a cull’.

But, rather than celebrating Miss Trimble’s success, many viewers have subjected her to vicious abuse. Some experts say this behaviour exposes the sinister hostility to brainpower in our dumbed-down, celebrity-obsessed age.

While some have praised the 26-year-old as ‘very sexy with a gorgeous smile’, others call her ‘a hateful know-it-all’ and an ‘ annoying bitch’.

So she’s either “very sexy with a gorgeous smile”, or a “hateful know-it-all and an annoying bitch”?  Could it not be possible that she’s actually very fucking smart? The outrageous sexism that pervades the Mail comes through in this piece in buckets:

They have taken particular exception to her saying ‘Oh, well done’, ‘Of course’ and ‘Quite’ to her teammates.

One said she was a ‘horse-toothed snob’ who ‘ruins University Challenge every time she is on it with her “better than thou” attitude’.

Another said Miss Trimble was ‘so brain-rupturingly irritating and smug’ that they hoped science would come up with ‘a screen that you can reach through and punch those inside’.

‘She could easily win University Challenge on her own, but I get the feeling she may well celebrate alone as well.’

So she’s smart, she does her job as the Captain of the team, and she has the temerity to be female?  Yeah, there’s nothing sexist going on here.  “Smart women dine alone”? Give me a break.

And their clincher?

Her breadth of general knowledge is truly impressive but when it comes to the kind of questions regularly posed in pub quizzes, gaps in Gail Trimble’s knowledge appear.

A series of questions put to her by The Sun newspaper left her stumped. Here they are….

1) Who won the Brit Award for Best Female last week?

Gail: ‘I don’t know’

2) What was the name of the 13-year-old dad whose story was broken by The Sun and caused a global storm?

Gail: ‘I read the article, but I can’t remember the boy’s name.’

3) What is the name of the British lead actor in the Oscar-nominated film, Slumdog Millionaire?

Gail: ‘I have no idea.’

4) Who is the new manager of Chelsea FC?

Gail: ‘I don’t know.’

5) Who won the most recent series of Celebrity Big Brother?

Gail: ‘I don’t know. These aren’t academic questions.’

If you, too, are stumped then here are the answers.

1: Duffy. 2: Alfie Patten. 3: Dev Patel. 4: Guus Hiddink. 5: Ulrika Jonsson.

On a good day, I will get may be 5-10 questions right on University Challenge.  And by good day, I mean phenomenaly good day.  I would not be able to answer a single one of the Sun’s questions as quoted by the Daily Mail.  I can only imagine what conclusions the Sun would make of that.

Congrats though to Corpus Christi Cambridge.  And f*ck you Daily Mail.

Jeni Barnett looses the internets.

February 11, 2009

Until a few days ago I’d never heard of Jeni Barnett.  But now she has had her name plastered all over the internet as an excellent example of How To Loose The Internets.

Briefly, Jeni Barnett is a radio and television broadcaster who hosted a three-hour phone-in broadcast stating that vaccines cause autism.  Ben Goldacre at BadScience.net caught wind of it and used a 40-minute clip of the show to play a quick game of Bad Science Bingo.  Normally this would have been left at that, and life would continue as normal, and most people outside of London would have remained blissfully unaware as to who Jeni Barnett was and how woefully ill-informed she is on the current state of vaccine research.  Unfortunately it didn’t end there.

LBC – the company who pays Jeni to broadcast to Londoners – decided to send in the lawyer attack-dogs to Ben Goldacre claiming copyright infringement on the clip he’d posted on his blog.

Now whether you agree with the lawyers or not, this is a monumentally dumb thing to do.  Ben Goldacre is an extremely popular blogger, and his posts regarding the piss-poor state of science journalism in the UK is both frightening and enlightening in equal measures.

Can you guess what happened?

The clip in quesion is now on Wikileaks, and pretty much every corner of the internet.  It is now being discussed in everything from the most obscure blog (which I think is officially this one) to the most popular.  Pretty much everyone with the most vaguest interest in good science is now aware of LBC and Jeni Barnett.

And do you think it stops there?

Does it hell.  Ms Barnett later decided that she was only interested in a health debate, and posted a comment to this effect on her blog, whilst calling Ben a “Bad Scientist”.  As she’d invited comment, people – informed people – commented.  Of course, being interested in debate, she removed the comments and closed comments on her blog.


The comments are freely available here.

Jeni Barnett: EPIC FAIL,

So this is what poverty must be like

February 11, 2009

Just in case you thought the banking crisis wasn’t bad enough, maybe you should spare a moment for these poor folks who are facing imminent abject poverty.  Bankers:

Five hundred thousand dollars — the amount President Obama wants to set as the top pay for banking executives whose firms accept government bailout money — seems like a lot, and it is a lot. To many people in many places, it is a princely sum to live on. But in the neighborhoods of New York City and its suburban enclaves where successful bankers live, half a million a year can go very fast.

Aww shucks, that sounds bad.  But wait, it’s worse!

As hard as it is to believe, bankers who are living on the Upper East Side making $2 or $3 million a year have set up a life for themselves in which they are also at zero at the end of the year with credit cards and mortgage bills that are inescapable

Which probably explains why the economy in America and the UK has tanked.  If you can’t balance a $2-3 million annual salary – plus bonuses, don’t forget the cash bonuses – I don’t think you’re in any position to run a bank.