We had 65 submissions in May to What is Going On In The Blogosphere? our shiny little front-page news and views aggregator. Here are the top ten stories from last month.
The Conspiracy Theory Flowchart THEY don’t want you to see!
Comedy flow-charts are always fun because, well, they’re comedy flow charts. So what is not to love about this extensive beauty, which charts exactly what conspiracy you should believe in given a few simple questions. Are the bastards out to get you? Remember, if not, that’s what they want you to think.
Politico decides to give its conservative readers a reality check on the Religious Right.
The origins of the Religious Right may be inconsequential if you’re suffering from their problems – whether you’re a gay teenager sent for “re-education” or a woman who can’t secure an abortion for her rapist’s baby – but here Politico looks at one interesting theory on the origin of the Religious Right as we know it today.
The normal line of the thinking is that prior to the 1960s, Christian groups were all disparate; the Episcopal church was as different to the Baptist church as Sunni Muslims are to Zen Buddhists. But then this all changed when Roe vs Wade made abortion in the United States safe and legal, and Christian groups began to unite as “Christian” and the modern Religious Right grew from there. Not so, argues Randall Balmer, who points out that many of the key dates in how Christians reacted to abortion don’t line up with Roe vs Wade at all. Instead, it seems preserving segregation – through, for example, preserving tax-exempt status for segregated religious schools – was the main cause.
Of course, no movement as pervasive as the Religious Right in the United States can claim one single origin story. The Religious Right as we know it today are shaped as much by 1980s televangelism and neoconservative politics as 60s and 70s racism and women’s liberation. But Balmer’s argument raises one of those core origin stories that is often glossed over.
When Stephen Colbert called the Teabaggers “a bug up the elephant’s ass,” he may have been too kind.
Mother Jones and Chris Mooney report on a recent poll that shows traditional Republicans and their Tea Party offshoots disagree far more than one might think – particularly on the subject of agreeing with and trusting qualified scientists. 28% of those supporting the Tea Party movement actually trust scientists in contrast to 60% of Republicans, and 43% of them actively do not trust them.
Whether those are the same people who struggled at school because they couldn’t remember the three main parts of an atom wasn’t tested.
Denmark. It is a silly place.
Presented without further comment.
Just in case anyone really thinks the poor are secretly living the high life, or that all people are jerks.
In a story that is both sad and uplifting (and not in one of those “…and that boy’s name was Albert Einstein” ways) Mark Evanier tells the tale of a woman who simply couldn’t afford to buy basic essentials at a store after her credit card was declined. It’s worth just quoting the final passages for the poignancy:
He said, “Maybe twice a week. When it happens, it happens most often on the late shift. But usually, they swear the card is good and our system is screwed-up. They get angry at us, like it’s our fault they can’t pay. Sometimes, customers like you pay for them. A couple of times, I’ve felt so bad for the people that I’ve paid for them. That’s if it’s only a few dollars. I couldn’t have paid for this woman. Not on what we get paid here.”
The next person in line said, “If you pay for them, do they come back the next night figuring you’ll pay for them again?”
He said, “No, never. We never see them again. That woman who just left here…you will never see her in this market again. It’s too painful. It just reminds them of how bad off they were that night.”
Iranian women using Facebook to subvert their country’s hijab laws
Iran is a place where women could fail jail or corporal punishment for going outside without the ubiquitous veil. But many women in Iran are using Facebook – and by extension, the government’s less-than-total enforcement of their official ban on the site – to post pictures of themselves without a veil. The movement to start posting the pictures, based on individual private moments where women frequently remove their veils, was started by an Iranian living in exile in the UK.
Hooray! Now cops have to serve even those with different religious beliefs! Wait…why would any sane person think they shouldn’t?
The headline and WIGO entry are self-explanatory here. The ACLU reports on a case where one police captain refused to provide assistance at an outreach event held at a mosque – the kind of event that police frequent – on the grounds that it would pose a moral dilemma for him. At least, however, this was just one officer, and the Tulsa Police department itself was on side with the ACLU in the resulting court case that tested whether an individual’s beliefs can supersede their duty as an officer of the law. And the court agreed with them in an unanimous fashion.
Psychic Sally shows her true skills by receiving messages from somebody who’s alive and well and in the audience…
Sally Morgan is the self-styled psychic to the stars. She’s had a rough time of it recently. In 2011 people at her show reported hearing voices that seemed to be her associated feeding her information via an ear piece, in 2012 she gave a harrowing account of a soldier dying in Afghanistan (in an incident that was entirely and intentionally fictional) she was given the opportunity to take part in James Randi’s million dollar challenge and refused, and her management has been attempting to sue RationalWiki through a “let’s throw a lot of shit and see what sticks” approach.
Now, Myles Power reports one incident that will possibly come back to haunt her – although you need to special powers to see this ghost, nor any ability to contact this apparition (that’s enough – ed.) because the spirit she contacted at a recent show in Middlesborough was, in fact, alive and well. It turns out that one member of the audience simply got confused as to what they were filling out in advance of the show and listed a living, rather than dead, relative.
It’s not unusual for psychics and mediums to case their attendees in advance of a performance. Often “prayer cards” featuring names, details and stories are written out by audience members and the psychic on stage can repeat them verbatim as a last-ditch attempt to win over the audience. Sounds silly, but it works because no one else knows the contents of your prayer card, and to them it looks as if the psychic really is contacting the spirit world and not just reading the very material suggestions given to them in advance.
Given that mentalists and magicians like Derren Brown, who don’t claim magic powers at all, can perform adequately, or even better than claimed psychics, the most amazing thing about mediums is that they still employ such a troll-baiting method for their act.
Arthur Chu: “So, a question, to my fellow male nerds. What the fuck is wrong with us?”
In the wake of Elliot Rodger killing two women and it transpiring that he was very open about hating women for not sleeping with him, Arthur Chu is quite literally asking “what the fuck is wrong with us?”
Male nerds – gamers, anime fans, fantasy readers, sci-fi enthusiasts and all the rest – are beginning to get a bad rep around the internet for being misogynistic. And not without very good reason. Games feature a repeated trope of getting the girl, Revenge of the Nerds features a fantasy that is effectively rape (it may have been ground-breaking to portray nerds on top back in the ’80s, but now that scene is just creepy) and women frequently report abuse, groping and sexism at conventions – often being dismissed as “not real geeks” or “whores in a geek uniform”, as if the only True Fans are male because they are.
Indeed, what the fuck is wrong with us?
Got someone who doesn’t understand that correlation does not imply causation? Show them that, for instance, US spending on science, space, and technology correlates with the number of suicides by hanging, strangulation and suffocation.
Correlation does not imply causation. But even though it can wink suggestively saying “look over there”, sometimes the law of large numbers gets the better of us. Spurious Correlations charts, with some rigour, any significant looking correlation between a large range of figures. Did you know that the number people who drowned by falling into a swimming-pool correlates with the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in? Or that honey producing bee colonies inversely correlates with juvenile arrests for possession of marijuana? Well, now you do!
There are a lot of important lessons to be learned here for skeptics and rationalists alike, as well as taking some good laughs from how bad these conclusions really are. We need to be careful of the data being looked at, and be sure that random chance isn’t playing tricks on us, because it seems that, contrary to popular belief, R2 values of 0.99 really do grow on tress.