Growing up you believe the world is meant to be the way it is. The older I get the more I realise that this is not the case. The world is full of injustices and atrocities that governments and the voice of faith expect us to accept, though with each passing year they grow fewer and fewer, at least one would hope. I have created this blog as a space for me to rant about all things science, politics, philosophy and religion, before it’s too late and the vessel of new atheism propelled by a growing surge in secularism solves all of the world’s problems for good.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Pledge of allegiance, upgraded?

I think they should upgrade the pledge of allegiance to this! Haha

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Medical advance hindered, cancer cures won't make pharma companies enough money...

The hindrance of scientific advance, on any front, frustrates me to no end. Especially in the case of medical research being hindered for religious, political or financial reasons.

Too long has medical research suffered at the hands of religion and politics, in particular, areas such as stem cell research and cloning have long had to hurdle countless religious and political obstacles in order for society to get just a minute taste of their possible benefits.

Here are two recent examples that have been affected by the greed within the pharmaceutical industry in the world. The fact that Pharma companies are solely conerned with making money and not on the furthering of medical research and science, and more so the reduction of suffering for people throughout the world is upsetting.

I can imagine few people would personally want to prevent such medical successes to be heard about, invested in and spread throughout the world. So it’s crazy that when you have a number of these people working together for the companies who are supposedly working towards improving the area of medical science for society that they base their decisions more importantly on profit margins than the best products.

Both of these examples are directly related to curing and treating cancer no less… making the pharma companies’ non-interest in funding these products all the more alarming when you consider 1 in 2 will suffer from cancer in their lives.

“Researchers at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada have cured cancer last week, yet there is a little ripple in the news or in TV. It is a simple technique using very basic drug. The method employs dichloroacetate, which is currently used to treat metabolic disorders. So, there is no concern of side effects or about their long term effects.”

“This drug doesn’t require a patent, so anyone can employ it widely and cheaply compared to the costly cancer drugs produced by major pharmaceutical companies.” - Article

“… at face value it would be fair to expect the worlds press to get pretty excited over even ‘a suspicion’ of a cure for cancer, a disease which will strike down almost 1 in every 2 people.”

Cannabis can cure certain types of cancer. So why are we not researching it further? Because the pharma industry cannot get a patent on a plant so law enforcement holds the patent whilst the pharma’s try to build a chemical version..and that’s no longer good enough to keep it outlawed.” - Article
I might add for those who will argue that cannabis is illegal in many countries and that’s why research in that area is lacking, though the plant itself may be illegal and the drug marijuana that is derived from it too, the chemicals in the plant and drug are not. They can be synthetically created in the laboratory, with relative ease, however because they are naturally occurring chemicals they can not be patented by pharma companies and thus get little attention or funding. Meanwhile we have the same companies funding dodgy scientists to falsify data and research, finding in favour of those patented drugs that make them the most money.

The scary part of the matter is that cheap, readily and easily available cures and treatments to diseases are often quashed by those who control health issues at a national and even international level (the pharma companies). They are not prepared to let people cure their own illnesses, because it would cost them $trillions in over-the-counter pain-relief. Even though these products may be a 100% proven safer alternative, with few if any side effects in comparison to the pharma companies’ (patented) products.

Here’s hoping poorly funded Universities and other private organizations can do these areas of medical research justice and get the cures and treatments out into society to help those who need it.

Curing cancer is all well and good, but what use is the cure if it can’t make anyone rich……???? Hmmmm

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Beating wiki and youtube

Beating Wikipedia and YouTube in a google search FOR THE WIN!

Why people doubt science and scientists...

Scientists absolutely hate people like Joachim Boldt, who recently had 89 of his 102 published articles retracted for review in light of his scientific fraud; manipulation and falsification of data.

I wrote a big post having a bitch about this sort of behaviour when it comes to science but thanks to crashing it was deleted. Have a read of this article about what's happened with Joachim Boldt if you're interested.
Ex-Prof Joachim Boldt

Needless to say, the majority of scientists are objective and reliable when it comes to their research and science. However, there are always a few bad apples who for reasons like personal gain (he was receiving funding from a specific pharmaceutical company and only found results in their favour), commit scientific fraud. Science should always remain the pursuit of the truth, the facts and the real answers to problems we wish to answer. Fraudulent science pushes us further away from these goals, hindering the scientific progression of our world. So I say throw the book at people like Joachim Boldt, who was fired by his hospital, where he worked, and stripped of his professorship from his university.

Ugandan anti-gay bill, homosexuals may see life in prison or the death penalty

Ugandan anti-gay protestors
Today, the 11th of March will see a new bill to be voted on in Uganda, where homosexuality is already against the law, that if passed would put all homosexuals in jail for life for their 'crimes' of passion, or worse, repeat offenders would face the death penalty.

I think I first heard of the goings-on in Uganda with respect to their religious based anti-gay movement last year when similar legislation was being pushed to pass vote. However, it was withdrawn by their President, just before going to vote, for fear of losing precious aid dollars from the western world. Even though that was the case, there were numerous bashings and even murders, after a newspaper named and shamed 100 of Uganda's 'top homos'. 
Stopping the bill was insufficient to save the life of one Ugandan, David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in January. Kato was Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights advocate and had received many death threats before he was killed. In the winter months before his death, one newspaper ran a front page photo of Kato with an anti-gay rant and a banner urging “Hang them.” (Article)
David Kato holding the newspaper
I'm as disgusted today, as I was last year, when I first caught wind of this seeing that the snake has raised its ugly head again no thanks to intolerant religious fundamentalism, spread to Uganda and further inflamed by American evangelical Christians. of the unfortunate consequences of Americans exporting biblical literalism to developing countries is that people in those countries take the Bible literally – including the parts we all, missionaries included, wish they wouldn’t. In Nigeria, American Pentecostalism has fused with local animism and resulted in children being beaten and burned as witches, just like the Bible prescribes.
The current anti-gay movement in Uganda is thanks in no small part, to evangelical Christian Scott Lively.

ABC Nightline: Preaching Hate in Uganda

I just cannot believe that people like Scott Lively exist, and it always pains me when they pop up in the media as a result of such terrible sectarian efforts at home or abroad.

Scott Lively
People are so often asking me why I want to see a world without religion, and why I would fight so passionately for one. This is why. As Steven Weinberg once said: 
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.
It would be absurd to argue that all of these people protesting for these anti-homosexuality laws to pass in Uganda are just evil people, as that's no doubt far from the truth even though they believe such terrible things. The fact of the matter is that the only reason the do believe such terrible things is because of religion, because they've been indoctrinated, brainwashed and shampooed and taught to be intolerant and hateful of those who don't conform with their particular religious dogma. It is irrefutable that without religion we wouldn't have such a massive movement of people towards wanting to instate laws that would see homosexuals in jail for life or even getting the death penalty. Yes we'd still have the odd homophobe in society, but we wouldn't have a united group of people wanting to exterminate homosexuality because people would have no 'divine' beliefs contrary to such personal practices.

If this vomit-worthy bill passes I think the western world should open their boarders to the homosexuals of Uganda, and any other nation that has been poisoned by western fundamental religious ideology. Give them a home here in Australia, as I'm sure the majority of us wouldn't mind a few extra homosexuals around to glamour up the place.

Vote against this bill here on this petition.

The school chaplaincy invasion continues

The latest budget is giving the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) a $222 million boost in extra funding, with school chaplains and religious groups involved left licking their lips and no doubt laughing all the way to the bank. 

This atrocity of a program was introduced into the public schools of Australia in 2007 by the Howard government on the proviso that the chaplains wouldn't push their religion onto the children. However, numerous cases have been reported by teachers and parents of this condition being broken... What a surprise?! Why else would chaplains offer up their time, for free, in return for access to our children if it's not to "save their souls" through proselytization. Sure, I bet many chaplains will no doubt keep a lid on it, at least for now, but that doesn't change the reason why they're there. 
"...there is evidence they are encouraging vulnerable students to join religious activities and prayer meetings." - Monique Ross
Schools are no doubt taking up the NSCP's offer of a free chaplain simply because it's an extra staff member that costs the school nothing, you can't blame them for that. However, the government shouldn't be funding religious groups to enter our schools for counseling positions, etc. If anything, spend the $222 million on professional counsellors who actually have the training to properly help our children in need. Or better yet, spend it on something useful like scientific research, hospitals and medical care, or maybe even teaching toddlers Chinese or masseurs for the homeless. No spending it at all would be a better option than funding the NSCP...
"What these people are working with is some of our most vulnerable young people in society - young kids, teenagers in high school who are going through some difficulties," she said.
"We'd rather have qualified people who can work with students on a range of issues including mental health.
"The chaplaincy program itself is very faith-based. Our contention was always that if you are looking at providing welfare care for students outside of the realm of a trained school counsellor role, what is needed is someone that does not necessarily have to be from a faith-based background." - Helen Walton, president of the Federation of Parents and Citizens in NSW

We've already seen the likes of mega-religious groups like Hillsong invading our public schools in hopes of using them as a recruiting ground for their faith. The program called 'Shine' was effectively a way to groom young girls into becoming oppressed house pet wives for the Hillsong church. Why are we even surprised that this is their aim, and the result in numerous cases? The whole point of religion is to spread the message and recruit and "save" others, and now our government is paying them to do so with our children. We might as well set a pack of wolves among our lambs and then complain with what ensues...

I recently saw Allison Lyn speak at a University of Melbourne Secular Society meeting (the next is on the 31st for those interested), where she told of a number of stories about how school chaplains had abused their position in public schools and proselytized their religion. One school chaplain from Qld even had a young girl stay with her over a weekend after the student informed the chaplain of her suicidal thoughts. They apparently spent the weekend reading the bible in order to combat the child's depression... How on earth is that going to help the child? They need to have access to real counsellors who can offer real help for issues such as these!

Last time I checked Australia was supposedly a secular nation, but apparently this news hasn't caught up with Julia Gillard (our outspoken atheist PM) or the Labour Party, or worse and more likely the case, it has and they value the Christian vote above secularism. What rubbish... Stand up and be heard saying NO to the NSPC.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Richard Dawkins latest book!

Richard Dawkin's latest book The Magic of Reality will be released in early October on the 4th.

Have a look at or for more information.

Next stop, farming our own organs!

A group of researchers from Columbia University have repaired a damage heart by coaxing it to re-grow its own tissue. This study is also more proof of how useful and important stem cells are in medical research, and their potential to save lives.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) said in a release about the study:

[The researchers] filled the scaffold with human mesenchymal progenitors (stem cells that can differentiate into many cell types) and then applied the patches to damaged heart tissue. The patches promoted the growth of new blood vessels and released proteins that stimulated the native tissue to repair itself. Moreover, the team also used this controllable platform to identify the signaling mechanisms involved in the repair process, and expand our knowledge about the role of cells and scaffold design on heart repair.
"It really is encouraging to make progress with 'instructing' cells to form human tissues by providing them with the right environments," noted Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic. "The cells are the real 'tissue engineers'-we only design the environments so they can do their work. Because these environments need to mimic the native developmental milieu, the progress in the field is really driven by the interdisciplinary work of bioengineers, stem cell biologists, and clinicians. By enabling regeneration and replacement of our damaged tissues, we can help people live longer and better."
The published study via PNAS

This study is just another big step towards being able to re-grow our own organs, and who knows, one day we may even be able to grow and store our own organ replacements in advance to medical issues. Bring on the future.

Goodbye junk food ads and sponsorship?

So the Obesity Policy Coalition are pushing for the Government to step in and put heavy regulations on the advertisement and maybe even sponsorship of junk food companies.

It proposes unhealthy food advertising on TV be banned on weekdays 6am to 9am and 4pm to 9pm, and weekends and school holidays 6am to 12pm and 4pm to 9pm.”

I think we need to focus more on education to both children and their parents, as well as warning labels on the products themselves, or the ads too. However, I don’t think the Government should step in and choose when and where junk food companies can advertise and whom they can and can’t sponsor.

At the end of the day it’s the parents who decide what their children eat, irrespective of their children nagging them for MacDonald’s or Cadbury chocolate. They need to take some responsibility for their children’s weight and health. It’s not the fault of the companies, though their tactics at targeting the right demographic to make sales may have a questionable morality behind it, the parents need to harden up and say “NO!”. If you’ve got irresponsible parents, you can ban everything in the world, but at the end of the day if your parents will still be irresponsible… If they’re not up for the job it shouldn’t be the Government who has to step in.

There’s also absolutely no evidence to back up these regulations and prove they will work, the same as with the current goings-on with the plain packaging of cigarettes. We can’t just put policies in assuming they may work and thus are justified. That’s not good public policy making, and is a waste of time and resources.

Quebec, as an example, brought in the same kind of Governmental regulation of junk food advertising to children through any medium back in 1980. Obesity rates in children didn’t increase following this regulation, to the contrary, they actually increased.

On a quick final note, people keep telling me the “slippery slope” analogy is a fallacy, but I doubt it’s a coincidence that junk food is now being targeted after the huge move to further regulate cigarettes. Alcohol too has been the focus for a while; remember the alco-pop taxes that didn’t work…? People are finding it far to easy now to blame everyone but themselves and harass the government to clean up and take control. That is not their job. Take some responsibility for yourself people.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Homosexuality compared to pedophilia by Frankston MP Geoff Shaw...

A young man named Jakob Quilligan recently wrote to one of Premier Ted Baillieu's newly elected Frankston MPs named Geoff Shaw suggesting that churches should not be allowed to "impose their beliefs on others ... in non-religious/mainstream or secular settings".
"I'm 20 in a week. I'm able to vote. I want to work, live and love freely during the course of my life, and I want to do that without thinking that I can't."- Jakob Quilligan
To which Geoff Shaw responded by effectively comparing his desires to speeding motorists and pedophiles... He stated;
'What if there was a convicted sex offender who stated that, or a child molester? Can they still do what they want? Under your statement the answer is yes. What if one wanted to get drunk, take drugs, steal and murder? What if one loved this? Can they also do what they want without thinking that they can't?'' - Geoff Shaw
This is yet another fine example of the tenuous grip Christians and their "leaders" have on morality. How on earth can you compare illegal acts that directly endanger the lives of other innocent people to that of the love shared between two same sex individuals in their own homes and lives??? Unless of course it's viewed from a biblically literal standpoint whereby God and his rules penetrate through all and everything...

My view, as with anything, has always been that one should be free to do anything one wants in the privacy of one's home and life on the premise that it does not impinge on the freedoms of anyone else. Last time I checked homosexuality, like heterosexuality, in and of itself was a victimless activity. There is no difference between the love between a man and a woman, and that between two men or two women. So how on earth can the latter be compared to the abuse and preying upon by an adult on a child, or the reckless endangerment of numerous lives when speeding at 150km/hr down a residential street for fun? Both these activities can/do impinge on the freedoms of others, homosexuality doesn't.

I think Geoff Shaw needs to take a first year lesson in ethics, morality and freedom before being employed as an MP to fairly represent all of the people from Frankston, let alone the rest of the country, including the homosexuals you'd hope... Last time I checked Australia was a secular nation with a supposed secular government, thus Geoff Shaw needs to keep his ignorant degrading bigoted views to himself.

Much respect to Jakob Quilligan for standing up for his beliefs and rights.

For the entire article.

Austin: A city of bats

I was watching the documentary Human Planet on ABC tonight and there was a great part about a colony of Mexican Free-Tailed Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) that spend summer in Austin, Texas under the Congress Avenue Bridge. They spend winters in Mexico where it's warmer than Austin's winters.

Tadarida brasiliensis
It's the largest urban bat colony in North America, estimated to consist of as many as 1.5 million bats. They roost and live under this bridge, flying out each evening driven by their hunger. The huge city is illuminated well with each light acting as a magnet for insects. These insects are eaten by the bats, which apparently first arrived in the city in recent years. They consume up to 6 tonnes of insects a night, which equates to 2000 tonnes a year! It was this reason that quashed initial efforts by worrisome citizens, concerned with the threat of the rabbies disease, to remove the bats from the city. It was definitely a good choice as these awesome little guys now attract more than 100 000 people each year wanting to view them fly out from under the bridge bringing in $10 million to the city. One guy has even made a business based solely on these bats by taking out bat watching cruises each summer evening to view them take flight into the city.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

What big eyes you have!

I've always been amazed by how complex and perfect the eye of any animal appears to be, and just how beautiful they all look! A mate showed me this, a page with 20 macro photos of different eyes.

For anyone interested in the evolution of eyes.

End of the world, May 21st 2011... Bring it on!!!

You might need to click to read the ad on the cars properly

So these fruity Christians believe the end of the world (return of Christ/rapture) is going to come about this month on the 21st! ARE YOU READY FOR SOME ACTION MY FRIENDS?!??! Here's hoping they're right and we get to see some nice fireworks!

There has been at least 44 failed predictions between 30-1920CE, and numerous more that passed 1920-present and are set soon and far into the future... No doubt this one will be much the same, more false advertising by the Christians, we should take them to court if they're wrong! I'll be sorely disappointed.

The Steve Project: a piss take on Dissent from Darwinism petitioners

This is quite funny. Though I'd heard of it a few times in the past I'd never looked into it until today after I listened to a Point of Inquiry podcast that interviewed Eugenie Scott about her book Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction. She was talking about the most recent faux-scientific manifestation of creationism in the form of intelligent design or ID and how the religious were campaigning so hard in the US to "teach the controversy" and place ID next to evolution in the science classroom. 

Anyway, there was a petition being sent around the scientific community called A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, a piss poor effort at justifying the so called "controversy" between evolution and ID by getting the signatures of scientists who believed that darwinism couldn't explain everything when it came to the evolution of life on earth. The few pillars of evidence for ID, that were smashed faster than they were put together, being complex organs such as the vertebrate eye or bacterial flagellum. They believed these organs were too complex to have been created by evolution and thus ID was a legitimate theory as to their existence. Again I reiterate the fact that this is complete garbage and darwinian evolution can and does explain the existence of both of these organs (eye & flagellum).

Long story short, the Dissent from Darwinism petition barely managed to get 100 scientists (out of the 1000s upon 1000s of American scientists out there) to sign it. As a bit of a piss take Eugenie Scott and colleagues started another petition called The Steve Project, which was a document affirming that darwinian evolution could explain the evolution and existence of all life forms on earth (in short), but could only be signed by scientists with the first name Steve. As 1% of people in the US population have the name Steve, the number of signatures on this petition could be extrapolated out x100 to equate the number of scientists that also believed what was written on the petition. Within 10 days 100 Steve scientists had signed the petition, including two nobel prize winners, Steven Weignberg and Steven Chu. The number of Steves on the list today (since 2003 when it was started) has grown far beyond 1000, effectively representing the views of 100 000 scientists in the US alone. A massive number in comparison to the still meager list of scientists who've put their name to the ID petition.

Here's the statement to which the signatories of The Steve Project agree to:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
For more information have a look at The Steve Project wiki page.

Friday, 6 May 2011

What a bitch...?!

I just watched the first episode of this new TV show No Ordinary Family. The show and what it’s about is pretty much irrelevant in this rant however. Obviously it’s about a family, father, mother, daughter and son (usual equation no less… lol).

So the daughter (14-15 years old?) finds out the boyfriend she had who said he loved her and would wait for her to be ready to lose her virginity. She goes away on holidays and comes back and effectively finds out that another girl from school and her boyfriend have been sleeping together.

She tells her mother exactly what happened when she spoke to her boyfriend and found out, and the first thing her mother says is “That girl is such a bitch”. Nothing at all is mentioned about the boy and him having done the wrong thing…

THE FUCK?! It struck me straight away… I’ve seen this before on countless American sitcoms and chick flick movies where it always seems to be portrayed like the “bitch” has seduced the boy into sleeping with her and diminishes the fact that he is equally to blame. To me, this seems to be exactly what we seem to abhor about the Islamic view of women and how they need to cover themselves up with “insert oppressive form of clothing” because they pose a threat to men who can’t control their urges…

Why on earth are we sending this message to our kids in movies and TV shows?

A sane, rational and intelligent republican, can it be???

This is what Ron Paul (American Republican) had to say about his underlying principles recently at a Republican Debate. Though he's a republican, he's also a libertarian and is thus much more liberal than the majority of Republicans, fighting first and foremost for the freedoms of others. Good man.

He may decide to run for president in the next election, if so, he'd be the first Republican I'd want to support.

Female genital butchery

People may believe that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a foreign practice that only occurs in a few Middle East and African countries, but they’d be wrong. This tradition is very much alive in western countries where immigrants have brought their torturous cultural practices with them and continue to impose them onto their children.

In the UK alone, it’s expected that 500+ girls each summer undergo the brutal tradition of FGM. The summer holidays are chosen because FGM requires about 6 weeks to recover from. The below short documentary has chilling stories of how these girls are lied to, being convinced they’re going on a holiday overseas to see family and friends. Shortly after arriving at their holiday destination they are set upon, ambushed, by their so called family and friends, held down and have their clitoris and labia removed with a razor blade (a new one costs extra), and are then sewn shut. They’re made to lie in bed for weeks with their legs bound together so that they are unable to stand or walk, which would tear their stitches.

It was found recently in the UK that “cutters” (those who carry out the human butchery) are being flown into the country and paid to circumcise girls, as this is cheaper than each family having to go on “holiday”. It has also been reported that these cutters are often used at FGM parties where up to 20 or more girls undergo FGM en masse.

For most girls, this practice occurs at a much older age in comparison with male circumcision. Girls can be anywhere between 5-12 years old or more when they undergo this practice. And unlike male circumcision they can remember the entire event and live with it for the entire lives, imagine the emotional and psychological ramifications for these poor girls. Girls can suffer from medical issues straight after the event or later in life such as ruptured bladder or urethras, cysts and infections due to them retaining their menstruation (one girl in the above video talks of this), they can become infertile and those who don't have huge issues when it comes to sexual intercourse and child birth, and a number of girls die each year as a result of FGM.

The same issues are rampant in Australia with some doctors even suggesting legalising a less extreme form of FGM in order to prevent families taking their children overseas to their home countries to have it done on a kitchen bench instead. I really disagree with legalising any form of FGM though as it is not ok full stop. No person has the right, whether their own children or not, to have their bodies mutilated, and we shouldn’t be facilitating such a practice in any way shape or form.

An Australian doctor Greg Jenkins works for Sydney’s Auburn hospital, which opened a clinic devoted to women in 1995 who’ve suffered FGM, as women were showing up more and more with medical issues related to FGM. As of the early 2000s they were seeing around 40 women a year, the number has no doubt climbed since. An interview with him reported...

FGM is sometimes performed by trained surgeons in a clinical environment but in most cases it is performed by village midwives, often using razors or broken glass.
Cat gut or thorns are used to suture the wound and the girls' legs are usually bound together afterwards for healing

"(It's) not done under any sterile conditions at all," Dr Jenkins says.

"Sometimes it's done in quite early childhood but often it's done when the girls are a little bit older - six, seven, eight - and they do often have quite full recollection of the procedure.
"It has quite a significant mortality. In some cases friends of the women that we're looking after haven't survived the procedure either from haemorrhage or infection.”
I’m an outspoken atheist and critic of religion and barbaric cultural practices, such as FGM, which often sees me receiving a great deal of flack from people with whom I converse about these things. To me, I am not being bigoted, I am not being racist or “culture-ist”, when I speak against these sorts of practices, having particular issue with their religious and/or cultural derivation. It IS child abuse (breaching a number of human rights) no matter what lens you look at it through, and I cannot stand those ultra politically correct people who try to avoid this fact, claiming that “it’s a practice that has long been a part of their respective culture, therefore they have the right to continue it”. I’m sorry, but that is nonsense. Cultures do not deserve respect simply because they have been practiced for a long time. By the same token you could argue that child abuse in the catholic church has occurred for many 100s of years and thus deserves to be “left alone”.

Immigrants definitely have the right to practice their religion and cultures freely in Australia, and in any other western country they migrate to. However, freedom to do so should dissolve as soon as the freedoms of others, their very own children in this case, are impinged on. If they are breaking the law, like any other citizen of the respective country they are in they should have to answer for it, whether or not they claim that the action was part of their culture. Ancient derived cultural practices don’t get precedence over the law simply because they’ve been done for a long time elsewhere.

Map of countries where FGM is practiced
Map of countries where Islam is practiced
I might also bring up the fact that FGM and Islam have are intrinsically linked. Though it is true, there are a number of countries where Islam is practiced and FGM is not. However as both the images above show there is a blatant overlap of effectively all countries where FGM is rampant. Islam is the predominant religion in all of these countries, and though FGM may not have specifically been derived from the islamic religions, it is no doubt continued with great enthusiasm by muslims who believe female sexuality is something to be ashamed or and oppressed.

Also see:

Kicking Skeptic Ass - Global Warming

If you're like me and getting sick and tired of climate skeptics, then have a read of the Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism. It covers all of their arguments and proves them wrong in each case offering up evidence to back up their points. A large number of expert scientists (those studying climate science) helped put this article together last year (2010), so it's up to date and accurate.

So next time you're in a debate with a climate change skeptic you've no excuse not to kick some serious ass!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Brazil beating us to the punch...

Brazil's Supreme Court just ruled in favor of recognizing same-sex unions, unanimously too.

Brazil's Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that the nation should recognize same-sex unions.
The court voted 10-0 in favor of recognizing the unions. One justice abstained because he had spoken publicly in favor of same-sex unions when he was attorney general.
The court ruled that the same rights and rules that apply to "stable unions" of heterosexual couples will apply to same-sex couples, including the right to joint declaration of income tax, pension, inheritance and property sharing.
The ruling does not allow same-sex marriage, but gay rights activists hailed it as an important advance for same-sex couples. Previously, decisions related to same-sex unions were left for judges to evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Why are we still arguing about this here in Australia, where the ACT is the only place to recognise same-sex unions here. This is what the wiki page has to say about it (Also see). To me it seems like a question of basic human rights, and currently we're denying same-sex couples the same right to unions recognised by the law as other couples receive.
Since 1994 the ACT has had the Domestic Relationships Act 1994[47] becoming the first jurisdiction in Australia to "acknowledge same-gender couples legally". This provided for distribution of property and finances in the event of a separation, and inheritance in the event of death. On 16 August 2003, The ACT enacted laws relating to same-sex adoption.
Where our states and territories
currently stand on same-sex unions
With our backflipping Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who originally was for gay-marriage, now being opposed to it in order to appease the Christian voters and politicians. So who knows whether or not where Australia stands on same-sex unions is going to change in the near future. Though it doesn't seem like she is opposed to unions for gays.

"We believe the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we have as a government taken steps to equalise treatment for gay couples," - PM Julia Gillard.
There's no reason for us to keep holding back on this one, the rest of the world are getting there, including even backward Christian dominated America, which currently has gay marriage in a number of states. Time to pull our thumbs out and stop pandering to the moronic supernatural agenda of the christian groups and support equal rights for all!

Christian Classroom Piscocide

Wow... What a humane, compassionate, ethical and moralistic act to commit while trying to make and incredibly stupid point. This is just another reason why I so adamantly avoid and oppose the moral and ethical teachings of the bible and Christianity. Christians seem to have absolutely no respect or regard for the lives of any other life forms, though I guess that isn't much of a surprise considering the bible supports human slavery.

This morning's lift ride

So this morning I arrived at the museum, grabbed my coffee and jumped into the lift up to my office. Just as the doors started to close in the lift a guy put his hand between them, they opened again and he got in. Who was it? Greens MP Adam Bandt.... I voted for him and the Greens in the last election and he became the first Greens politician to be elected into the House of Representatives. Small world I guess.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Animal of the week: The Madagascan Tenrecs

So I thought it might be cool if I wrote up a little article about a specific animal or group of animals each week and list some unusual or interesting facts about them.

I'm going to start with this awesome family of animals called Tenrecs from Madagascar. I watched a documentary on them tonight narrated by David Attenborough

The Madagascan Tenrecs

Streaked Tenrec 

-       Unlike other placental mammals they have a single opening for their anus and urogenital tracts called a cloaca.

-       They have a low body temperature, which means they don’t require a scrotum to cool their sperm like most mammals.

-       Most species of Tenrecs are noctural though they have poor eyesight, but incredibly sensitive whiskers and sense of smell.

-       Unlike most mammals, their permanent dentition only completely erupts well after they reach adult body size. This trait they share with elephants, hyraxes, sengis and golden moles, which is consistent with Tenrecs sharing a common ancestor with these animals.

-       The Common Tenrec can have up to 32 young in a single litter, and females have up to 29 teats, both these numbers are the highest for any mammal.

-   Offspring become independent after only a month.

-   Some species are social and live in family groups consisting of multiple generations with more than 12 individuals.

-       When foraging for food with her young, The Striped Tenrec mother is able to communicate her location to her young by clicking together quills located along her spine. The young hear the high pitch sound and never get lost even with their poor eyesight.

Here's a video showing a mother using her quills to call back one of her lost young.

See also:

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A rant on plain packaging of cigarettes

I’m incredibly disappointed and concerned with New Scientist’s recent article on the plain packaging of cigarettes in Australia. It was written by Simon Chapman a Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised with the bias, tone and position of the article.

First of all I’d just like to outline the fact that I am not pro-smoking in the least. I abhor it, and know a number of people who have died from horrific diseases resulting from their addiction to tobacco. However, I believe that the government shouldn’t be a ‘nanny state’; it has no right to control any voluntary risk taking behaviour that I or anyone else wish to partake in. If you’re allowed to sky dive knowing the risks of injury or death are somewhat increased, you should be allowed to do the same when it comes to tobacco or any other recreational drug on the proviso that it doesn’t impinge on the well-being of others.

It’s a slippery slope the Australian government is starting to venture down when it comes to bringing in legislation for plain packaging on cigarettes, for alco-pop taxes, and the pre-commitment scheme coming in for gambling and internet censorship in the future… and there’s even been talk on banning transfats and junk food, which is already occurring in some areas in Australia. Where will it stop?.

Anyway, back to the article by Prof. Simon Chapman.

“EARLIER this month the Australian government released draft legislation that promises to be a landmark in the global fight against tobacco. If passed, from January 2012 cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco will have to be sold in plain, unappealing olive-brown packs plastered with large, graphic health warnings. The only thing distinguishing one brand from another will be the name written in a standard font on the top, bottom and front of the pack, below the health warning. This is a world first.”

The legislation also proposes that cigarettes themselves should be completely plain. That means no branding, no coloured or flavoured papers, no gold-banded filters and no different gauges like slimline and mini cigarettes.”

So they’re completely removing all differentiation between the products. That’d be like making all soft drinks use the same bottle, same liquid colour, same everything other than the ingredients which went into making it.

“With this bill, the Australian government is sending out an unambiguous message that cigarettes are exceptionally dangerous.”

This is breaking news is it? Cigarettes are dangerous? Wow, why haven’t we heard about this before…? Shouldn’t we tell all the smokers out there that what they’re doing is incredibly dangerous? Surely if they had this information they’d quit straight away, right!? If the smokers haven’t already got the picture from the mandatory grotesque pictures on the packets, and constant anti-smoking ads and campaigns, not to mention public harassment, they never will.

Many Australians are left wondering, if it won't work, why is the industry bothering to waste its money campaigning so hard against it?”

Ummmm…. Geee… Maybe because the government is stealing their trademarks making them all indistinguishable from one another. Wouldn’t any company be fighting against such action? Imagine if every single soft drink brand had to suddenly display the same label so the customer would no longer be able to distinguish between Coca Cola and Coles Homebrand, don’t you think companies like Coca Cola would get angry even if it wouldn’t affect their trade? It’s effectively stealing their intellectual property!

On top of that: this is the next step in a long run of bullying by the government and society after decades of tax increases and being forced to display graphic images on their packages. These don’t even prevent people from smoking anyway, instead they condition people to associate the grotesque images with the action of smoking, and then they crave a cigarette (refer to Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom). The government has treated them like absolute shit, whether or not you would argue they deserve to be treated that way, I can see why they would spend so much money in the latest brutal bullying campaign against them.

We shouldn’t be attacking these companies anymore than we already are. We should be more focusing on the people consuming the cigarettes, especially when it comes to youths, the main demographic taking up smoking. If we can’t cut the problem off at the base, it’s reasonable to assume it will keep growing back.

“…the literature suggests package marketing only influences the choices of existing smokers” – Chris Berg, IPA

We have to also remember, smokers currently can’t even see the packaging until after the purchase… has this changed anything? Most youths try smoking simply because it’s illegal for those under 18 and because it’s risk taking. It’s much the same as arguments for why young people try illicit drugs. Once something is legalized and regulated the mystique is removed from it.

In my experience with smokers, they didn’t start smoking because the packaging of a specific brand was appealing. They started because their friends smoked, they thought it looked cool when they saw others smoking in the street and thus took it up. When it comes down to it, even with the plain packaging, they’re not going to give a crap about brand… they just want to smoke! We should be targeting them and spending our taxpayer’s money and revenue from tobacco taxes on that.

“With the proliferation of tobacco advertising bans, generations of children are growing into adulthood having never been exposed to tobacco promotions. In Australia, no child under 17 has ever seen direct tobacco advertising, and the number of both young and adult smokers is the lowest on record.”

And yet you still can’t go out to a cafĂ© or club without walking past numerous young and old smokers. Many of which, as stated, would have never seen any of the advertising, and yet they smoke nonetheless. Will this next step really change anything? I doubt it…

Where is this all going to lead is my main concern, and where is the government going to stop? There are many dangerous activities, products and objects in society. Are we one day going to be under so much control that we’ll have a strictly regulated daily regime to make sure we avoid personal harm at all costs? “This is what you can eat, this is where you can go and how you can get there, this is what you can do for fun.” No doubt the bastards will put chess at the top of the “safe recreation” list, just above stamp collecting, oh the joy… Control, control, control… Whatever happened to a government instated to hold up the liberties of all its citizens? Will that soon be a nostalgic thought written in our history?

Pete, edited by Han.

Just to scare you a little more, I suggest you have a read of The Preventative Health Taskforce’s report released in Sept, 2009. It includes 122 recommendations for change in legislation, and is effectively a blueprint for the ‘nanny state’ in Australia. Here's an article on it from the IPA.