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July 13, 2013

So, where has he been? (13/7/2013)
My best laid plans caught a dose of Robert Burns and went aft agley. The picture over at the right shows a tooth with an abscess under it. Just looking at the picture makes my face hurt again. The picture comes from the web site of a dentist who has written a book about how he has the cure for all dental health problems, can regrow tooth material after decay and prevent all decay in the first place. He says that root canal work is always unnecessary and if you just buy his book you will never have to spend a cent on dental work again. Luckily, I have access to dentists and doctors who are neither insane nor lying charlatans and was able to get made better. I'm glad I was able to get treatment, because I was about to ring the tax office and tell them about secrets on my tax return if only they would stop the pain.

As well as the tender loving care of professional health workers, I am indebted to the people who make and distribute the following chemicals. As we keep being told by supporters of snake oil and quackery, nobody makes anything unless it is covered by patent and can therefore return billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies. I was lucky to find that my pharmacist had access to an underground laboratory where Big Pharma is defied and out-of-patent medicines are made in small batches for distribution in deserted carparks late at night. Or something.

And there are more reasons for delay! (13/7/2013)
My convalescence added guilt to the equation by preventing me from reading all those books about religion, atheism and the relevant physics, so I wasn't able to do all the research and preparation I thought I needed to get ready for recording some television programs. It all seemed to go well, though, and we managed to record three pilot episodes. The show is tentatively titled "Chats with atheists" (although there is only one atheist) and will be a series of conversations between me and Father Antonios Kaldas of Archangel Michael & St Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church at Mt Druitt, near Sydney. Fr Antonios and I have developed a good relationship despite our differing views on some aspects of life and the universe, and I appreciate the opportunity to show some Christians that not all atheists are devil worshippers bent on destroying religion. We have recorded three chats so far, on New Atheism, Morality and Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing. The recordings have been sent off to head office of the TV network in the US for evaluation, but the local people seem confident that the series will be taken up and have booked us into the studio in two weeks time to record some more.

I've always been a stickler for preparation for these sorts of things, but I found that it was impossible to read and understand Krauss, Dawkins, Aquinas, Russell and so forth while the side of my face was trying to fall off. In fact this seemed to be an advantage as it allowed the conversation to go to unexpected places. In the final discussion on the origin of the universe I had a sort of epiphany, but I will have to wait until I watch the recording to see how close to the edge of the conversion precipice I came.

The show will air on the Christian Youth Channel,, and goes out on satellite as well as on a YouTube channel. I'm not quite sure what the Christian youths are going to make of an ancient atheist, but the idea is to get both sides to reflect on their positions and this can only be a good thing.

See more SMBC here

Speaking of the media ... (13/7/2013)
I was at a bookshop for a talk by the authors of a new book about differing views of religion and I was ambushed by a young lady who interviewed me about my religious beliefs. My words will appear, if they appear at all, in a program that lives on the web site of the Centre for Public Christianity. (One of the authors is a Director of the Centre.) I'll be sure to overcome my natural shyness and tell everyone when it is available.

When I say "ambushed" I meant it. The final question put to me, without warning but knowing about my atheism, was "What do you think is the best evidence for God's existence?". I mentioned this on Facebook and was immediately told by some people that I should have been rude because there isn't any god. This is just the sort of close-minded bigotry that gets atheism a bad name.

Chiropractors are unhappy! Sob, sob! (13/7/2013)
Some of my friends appeared in a television show this week about chiropractic. Chiropractors are not happy, because the show wasn't a complete pander to their delusions of making a meaningful contribution to public health.

I congratulate the ABC Catalyst program for presenting a balanced view of this form of quackery. My opinion about this nonsense is well known, so I will allow the video to stand on its own for now. I will however make special mentions of Dr Mick Vagg's wonderful statement about how we don't turn to magic carpets because planes crash, and how could I resist another distribution of Mr John Cunningham's lovely facepalm.

Another one where the origin was disguised by passing through the Facebook filter. Again, please let me know who made it if you know.

Greening the vaccines (13/7/2013)
Last week I mentioned the distress that statements from the Greens Party had caused to the Australian Vaccination Network. The butthurt has continued, and the President of the AVN demanded the right of reply. He appeared on the television program Today Tonight to have his say.

Then the whining started again. The claim is being made that Greg Beattie was promised that he would have 60 seconds to make his point and that he would not be edited in any way. I've done a lot of media interviews and promises like these are never made, because they can't be kept. There is an obvious edit in Mr Beattie's piece (it's when the screen flashes white) and what was taken out was something that could have exposed the program to legal action for defamation. (I know this because the excised words have since been published by the AVN.) As an aside, if Meryl Dorey took out AVO applications to stop threatening phone calls, why didn't she accuse me of that in her application against me?

The whining continued with demands that the Greens repudiate Senator Di Natale, and part of this was based on the fact that the AVN had received support from Dr Bob Brown in 1997 when he was the Parliamentary leader of the Greens. Dr Brown has since retired, but his support then was on the matter of conscientious objection, and he took the civil rights position (which I happen to share) that it is wrong to close off the opportunity for people to object to having their religious principles compromised. He wasn't talking about creating fake churches or just saying that you didn't like something, but about firmly held religious beliefs. The AVN suggested that Dr Brown be brought back into the discussion to show that he still supported their crazed agenda.

Here is what Dr Brown had to say:

Dear [citizen],

I support the work of Greens Senator Richard Di Natale in promoting vaccination to ensure Australians are protected from needless death or damage.

It is true that in the 1990s I endorsed the right of true conscientious objectors against compulsory vaccination. However, my view then, as now, was that vaccination is in in the interests of public health and should be promoted.

My endorsement for conscientious objection does not extend to orchestrated campaigning against public vaccination and I have grown very concerned that upholding the right of conscientious objection has now become part of the campaign against public vaccination.

I have not been consulted by AVN in using selected quotes from me and I do not support AVNís campaign against public vaccination.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Brown

PS You may treat this as a public letter.

Suck on that, anti-vaccination liars. You've been caught out in another lie.

See more Hypnocrites here

Swearing! (13/7/2013)
When someone takes on public office in Australia they are required to make a statement of loyalty. The Australian Constitution has the following to say about the forms of words that are to be used in that statement:

Commonwealth Of Australia Constitution Act


I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Her heirs and successors according to law. SO HELP ME GOD!


I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Her heirs and successors according to law.

(NOTE - The name of the King or Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the time being is to be substituted from time to time.)

You will notice that it is perfectly legal to leave out any mention of a god if you choose to do so, whether you believe in one nor not. It is legal for a Christian, for example, to make an affirmation following clear instructions in the Bible about this. Here is Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:

  1. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
  2. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
  3. Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
  4. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
  5. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

You will also note that no mention is made of any holy book that needs to be used, although it is traditional to have people place their hand on a Bible if they choose to make an oath rather than an affirmation.

Apart from grumbling from some atheists that having an oath violates some principle of separation of church and state, the manner of inducting public figures is generally ignored. Then along came this horror:

That's Edward Husic being sworn in as a new Parliamentary Secretary (a minor ministerial post, for those unfamiliar with Australian democracy). He is a Muslim and chose to take his oath on the Koran. And the world exploded. His Facebook page and email inbox filled up with hate messages. Democracy was threatened, women will be forced into burkhas, Sharia law is inevitable, there will be terrorist training camps, ... All the usual ridiculous bullshit we have come to expect from bigots. The fact is that no single person has or can have the power to impose any sort of religious beliefs or practices in Australia. Not won't - can't. As an atheist I don't care at all whether parliamentarians swear an oath or make an affirmation. I only care about how they do their job, and almost without exception the religion or lack of it in our leaders has made little difference to what gets legislated.

It almost goes beyond irony that most of the noise was coming from people who, if they followed the Bible, should be just as enraged at someone swearing an oath on the Bible. But I have given up thinking that familiarity with the holy texts is anything to be expected from religious fanatics.

I might remind those people whining so loudly about this of what the Constitution has to say about Muslims becoming Members of Parliament or even Ministers:

116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

July 27, 2013

The idiocy continues (27/7/2013)
Just a reminder that I'm back in court on Monday, July 29, to respond to yet another attempt by Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network to abuse the courts and the legal system in order to stop me talking about her, her nefarious activities and the filth propagated by the AVN. Her ridiculous attempt to have an Apprehended Violence Order placed on me was comprehensively dismissed on April 26, but she has appealed the decision. Her grounds for appeal are, in full:

I am appealing because I contest the dismissal of an Apprehended Violence Order made in these proceedings.

The July 29 appearance is listed as a mention, which is usually just a five-minute process to set dates for submission of statements and a final hearing. I was not required to appear in any form for the seven (yes, seven!) mentions in the AVO proceedings but I have been ordered to appear this time. As the court house is about 800 kilometres from my home I have been given permission to attend by telephone. In my request for permission to be absent from the mention I set out some reasons why this appeal is baseless, so perhaps the order to have a real presence there means that more will happen than just everyone checking their diaries for a mutually satisfactory time for the next stage.

You can keep up with the excitement by following me on Twitter at @RatbagsDotCom or search for the hashtag #AVOmerde.

See more Argyle Sweater here

More distractions (27/7/2013)
I've recorded three more episodes of "Chats with atheists" for the US Christian television channel, this time on "Christianity in History", "Christianity in the World Today" and "The Problem of Evil". I hope I don't come over as too uninformed about about theological matters, but I've never claimed to be an expert on everything. As soon as a decision is made about showing the recordings (and obviously I hope that the decision will be favourable) I'll let everyone know where they can be seen. The channel broadcasts on satellite (in the US) and online but everything is also made available on YouTube.

The other thing occupying my time has been an article for Australasian Science magazine. I expect it might upset some climate change deniers because its about the way they caused a scientific paper to be temporarily withdrawn because they didn't like the fact that it was on research into the way conspiracy theorists respond to criticism by proposing that the critics are themselves part of a conspiracy. Climate change deniers were there because the bulk of complaints about a previous article on conspiracies had come from them. This is another thing you will have to wait to see because I don't like to publish here until my stuff has appeared in the print edition, but while you are waiting you can look at this old, recycled joke.

See more from Joel Pett here

Speaking of conspiracies ... (27/7/2013)
The Australian Skeptics National Convention will be all about conspiracies this year. It's being held on the weekend that includes the 50th anniversary of one of everyone's favourite conspiracies - the murder of President John F Kennedy. You might not remember where you were on November 22, 1963, when you heard the news but where you should be on November 22, 2013, is the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra. I'll be there, revealing the details of a massive coverup about a government project that only I know the truth about.

And while we're on the subject ... (27/7/2013)
Here's an excellent analysis of conspiracy theory research by my vicarious friend Crispian Jago at The Reason Stick blog.

But wait, there's more ... (27/7/2013)
It has been announced that the HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) in Alaska has been closed for some time and might never be brought back online. The money has run out and nobody is reaching for the chequebook.

Well, that's what the people involved with the project are saying, but as every good conspiracist knows, anything said by officials is the exact opposite of the truth. The stories about how it's still secretly controlling minds and weather are multiplying daily. This will get even sillier when the equipment is dismantled, because that will be "evidence" that it is being moved to a more secret location. Videos of the components being crushed for recycling are probably being made in the secret studios at Area 51 right now.

Even if it closes, though, its work will continue. As part of a secret joint experiment agreement between Australia and the US (or maybe the UN) that only I know about because I found the papers in a picnic area in Canberra, a distributed version of HAARP is being constructed across Australia, with an antenna in every backyard.

See more XKCD here

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