New Project - 'Hello. Do you believe in God?'

In which I ask strangers 'Hello. Do you believe in God?' and post what they reply.

I got the idea when an internet chum showed me a website that acts as a chat room for one on one chats with strangers (which sounds creepy when you write it down). I kinda like it because it's anonymous, and no one else is listening, which helps to lead to interesting answers.

I haven't excluded, censored or altered any. Even the ones where I come across like an Idiot with a My-First-Dvorak-Keyboard, so there is a certain amount of wheat vs chaff going on.

I'll give you two examples. Firstly:

And then to lower the tone:

The rest are here. Hope you like them.

US Congressman John Shimkus on Global Warming - God's got our back.

Republican John Shimkus is member of the United States House of Representatives. On the March 25th hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment he said this:

Poor Illinois.

Highlights are at 1:44 where he discusses the "Theological Debate" about whether this is a "Carbon starved planet." Personally, I would pay to see a debate of Bishops, Imams and Cardinals huddled over their holy texts deducing God's fate for carbon.

But the best bit, which we really need to grasp onto as a flicker of rational light, is the woman's smirk at 0:24.

If it wasn't for that, this video could reduce you to tears.

The Daily Mail links White on White violence to Scary Muslims.

I wasn't going to post this, as it is outside the remit of Skeptobot but it's really annoying me. Basically a 15 year old white teenager in her army cadet uniform gets attacked by a white woman and a white man of no stated religion.

Nevertheless the Daily Mail has done its upmost to link this horrible event to Daily Mail Brand Muslim Extremists.

The headline reads "Teen army cadets in uniform targeted by vicious thugs" and is followed up by a picture or Muslims protesting. It's only at the very end of the article you discover this has nothing to do with the people in the picture. After most people will probably have clicked away.

A case can be made that I'm overstating here, but It's just more (circumstantial) evidence why we can't have a civil discussion about our military actions and religion. One of the reasons it is so hard to criticise Islam without appearing like a racist dick is because the Daily Mail and the like take every opportunity to turn complex shades gray into sellable chunks of black and white with Muslims as the cartoon grade evil baddies.

To be fare there is no reason why the white attackers couldn't be Muslim. I just make the assumption they weren't because then the Mails story would probably been about how Islam is corrupting the Good Honest White People That Won The War.

Maybe one day the Daily Mail will actually commission an article about why our military actions have lead people of all skin and hair colour, who believe differing (but equally stupid) things to reprehensible acts of violence. But I doubt it.

Currently Simulcra obsessed.

Jesus on toast. Jesus in a sink. Jesus on a moth. I've become obsessed with simulacra again. Or more specifically Pareidolia.

This is collated and mixed by the wonderful, brilliant, superb Everything is Terrible.

It's a classic example of when a joke goes on too long it and it becomes funny. Except again and again for a full 6 minutes.

To continue my indulgence here are some favourites easily obtained ones I've found (click the thumbnails to biggify):

1) Cheesus

2) Treesus

3) Cheesus II: Death of Cheesus

4) Cookisus

5) Pizzsus? Burntsus. I dunno.

6) And finally, Dogsus (Click the thumbnail to obtain context - kinda NSFW if you realise what your looking at. Oh and also a photoshop - but too good not to post).

Elephant-shaped Ganesh growth cured my ills according to the laziest journalist ever.

This guy is Sam Lal. As far as I can tell he is a 60 year old manager of a Manhattan uniform company, who likes gardening. He hurt his back lifting a box, and was in pain for 3½ months, then he got better. Thanks to a MIRACLE!

The New York Daily News - a daily newspaper with circulation of ~650,000, making it the fifth most popular paper in the USA - breathlessly reported that the:

Elephant-shaped Ganesh growth cured my ills, Queens man says

yep, in their amazing article. Sam claims that the flowers are an 'incarnation' of the elephant headed hindu god Ganesh and that

"This formation came to heal my illness"

WOW! Go God Go! Still the journalist, Nicholas Hirshon, is a professional and knows that extraordinary claims need extraordinaty evidence, so he contacted the 'Experts' at the Queens Botanical Garden:

[The] Experts identified the plant as a member of the amaranth family... Horticulturalists at the garden have never seen an amaranth take an elephant-like shape, garden spokesman Tim Heimerle said.

"For it to have that long trunk like this is not a natural thing," he said.

So this miracle is pretty much confirmed right‽*

I mean the expert did say that right‽

That it wasn't natural‽ Really‽‽

I mean if, for example, one was to buy a packet of the seeds it wouldn't mention it on the packet would it‽

Would it‽

Would it‽


So yeah, apparently miracles cost $3.29 a packet... The shop page goes on:

The reason it's called Elephant Head is that the deep-red bloom grows quite large (36-40") with a long (18-24") protuberance that looks like an elephant's trunk.

It's an example of simulacra that's been given a lot of weight by a believer. That's fair enough, and at least it's prettier than Jesus-In-Toast or Allah-In-Tomato. But it would appear that neither the journalist, nor the 'Expert' even bothered to use google before racing to spread the miracle to 650,000 people. That's if the 'Expert' was even contacted. Or quoted fairly.

Journalist Fail. Expert Fail.

Tut tut.

* ‽ is an interrobang. My new favourite thing. What sums up skepticism better‽ I propse it to be our new official symbol.

Important: This post is entirely thanks to the Wonderful Mimi who let me know about this wonderfully poor piece of journalism, and let me turn it into an article here. It was Mimi who worked out the non-miracle, so she's officially better than New York Journalists and Botanical Experts. You should visit her link by the way, she sells things she makes by hand and they are lovely.

Fighting Badscience on the internet? Add to your Skepto-utility belt.

This site wants to be placed on your bookmark bar asap. Multiple times when dealing with badscience and the like you'll get the authors quickly removing the incriminating evidence. MyLifeMyID being a good example.

Normally you'll have to download a copy of the page and then re-host it yourself (opening yourself up to copyright infringement claims) But BackupURL seems to cut out the middleman. Simply paste your chosen URL in and it will spit out the address of a newly made cached version that will be immune to any Orwellian tampering.

I've just this minute stumbled across the site so I've no idea about their reliability in the long term, but as an additional tool to your activism it can hardly hurt. I would still do the old print-screen and webpage saving just to be sure though.

Forgive me if this is old news to some, but I've only just heard about it.