Sunday, July 24, 2011

SSA Blogathon Highlights

This past Saturday, Jen McCreight at BlagHag has a 24-hour blogathon. I'm covering what I thought were the highlights. (Psst...the headers are links!)

Sarah Palin adds another grandchild to her list of hypocrisy

Apparently, Sarah Palin's eldest son, Track, got married. Also, what I've heard is that the wedding was quick, causing speculation that the bride was pregnant. According to Yahoo! News:
Pictures of the new bride posted on Facebook show that she is rather obviously expecting, while her marriage took place just two months ago.

I think Jen's opinions on the matter are quite fitting:
But you know what I think is the really scary part of this story? That it's more important to have shot gun weddings to save face instead of using a fucking condom. You're going to make a life commitment to someone because you accidentally knocked them up? Really? And these are the same people arguing about sanctity of marriage. The same people who won't let same sex couples who love each other get married.
She has more great comments, so I'll recommend going to her post.

Solve these critical thinking puzzles, win a prize!

Nothing really news worthy here except for some puzzles, and I love puzzles! My answers are as follows:
  1. Two - Ken Ham and narwhal.
  2. 50 lbs.
  3. B.

An intro to the neutral theory of evolution

This is an interesting piece on how species can change without selection processes taking place.

What makes men gay?

Here Jen discusses the latest in the scientific understanding of what makes men homosexual. In short, scientists just don't know. Yet, there are some ideas.
A study in 1996 found that gay men had a greater number of older brothers than heterosexual men. This is known as the "fraternal birth order" (FBO) effect, and has been replicated in many studies. It's independent of potentially confounding variables like year of birth, age, socioeconomic status, and parental age. Non-biological siblings had no effect on sexual orientation.

The main hypothesis for why you see this pattern is known as the maternal immune hypothesis. Just like your body mounts an immune response against bacteria or ill-matched transplants, moms may develop an immune reaction against a male specific protein that's present during development. Those proteins are normal for a male fetus, but a mother's body still recognizes them as foreign. The immune response may then alter parts of the brain associated with male specific proteins like the anterior hypothalamus, which has also been linked to sexual orientation.

"Men should have veto power over abortions; Women should be held criminally liable if they refuse"

Some psychiatrist who is also a Fox News personality (according to Jen) suggests that men should have veto power to prevent women, who are carrying their child, from getting an abortion. He could have made a compelling argument, but he made an fool of himself instead.
We are ignoring the quiet message that current abortion policy conveys to every American male: You have no voice in, and, therefore, no responsibility for, the pregnancies which you help to create. Your descendants are disposable, at the whim of the women you choose to be intimate with.
That's not a bad point, but Jen has a good counter of her own:
Or maybe you should know if a woman is pro-choice or not before you stick your penis in her, and if it's so goddamn important to you, then don't stick your penis in her. A mindblowing proposal, I know.
A bigger point could have been made here that there probably isn't any family planning considerations being made when the couple is having sex. Perhaps we should think of promoting responsible sex practices first.
Giving would-be fathers a lack of veto power over abortions is connected psychologically to the epidemic of absentee fathers in this country...
...We can’t, on the one hand, be credible in bemoaning the number of single mothers raising their children, while, on the other hand, giving men the clear message that bringing new lives to the planet is the exclusive domain, and under the exclusive control, of women.
OK, I can agree that you shouldn't send men a message that women have all the control of bringing in new life, but to suggest that not allowing men to have veto power over abortions is connected to the "epidemic of absentee fathers in this country" is quite simply least in the direction he appears to imply. If there is any reason men should not be allowed veto power over abortions, it is because of all the absentee fathers. Absentee fathers are not the result of a lack of veto powers or other supposed lack of control over the female reproductive system, which is what this man seems to imply. It is more likely the result of irresponsible males that have no interest in being involved in the reproduction process, with the exception of that first step.

Skepticism & fiction

Some reader asked Jen how she can be OK with Harry Potter and it having an afterlife. The answer was quite simple:
...Because it's fiction? Seriously, it's a fantasy novel that's full of magic, dragons, unicorns, giants, goblins, ghosts, elves, pixies, potions, charms, hexes, teleportation, and soul splitting... and you're worried about the concept of the afterlife? You could suspend disbelief for all of that, but not one vaguely religious concept?

Dude. Come on.
Jen also points out that recognizing fiction for what it is can be helpful when it comes to being told BS stories.
I knew that The Witches, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or Harry Potter, or Greek mythology were all just stories. That's exactly why when I heard about the Bible, I immediately recognized it as just another story. Fiction doesn't erode at skepticism - it can enforce it!

Harry Potter and Skeptical Thinking

Jen discusses Harry Potter further, discussing how their are examples of skeptical thinking in the books.
Think about it. Even though their world is based on magic, they have their own version of supernatural, pseudoscience crap - basically everything that Luna Lovegood and her dad believe in. Most magical people easily accept unicorns and dragons and nifflers, but Crumple Horned Snorkaks? Ridiculous.

And Hermione is a wonderful skeptic. Just look at this quote from the 7th book about the Deathly Hallows:
"But that's - I'm sorry but that's completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn't exist? Do you expect me to get hold of - of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean you could claim that anything's real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody proved it doesn't exist!"
Hermione just destroyed all Christian apologetics. ...Too bad the Deathly Hallows actually existed. *cough*
For those who do not follow Harry Potter, that last statement must be in reference to the Resurrection Stone. I think that is what Hermione was speaking of in that quote.

The University of Arizona Med School adds Integrative Medicine

This is a disappointing post on how the University of Arizona is adding an Integrative Medicine degree.
The track will focus on integrative medicine – healing-oriented medicine that takes into account the whole person (mind, body and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle.
The part where it says "spirit" should throw the red flag that this is not actually medicine, but pseudo-scientific nonsense.

LAN bans women to protect them from misogynists

This was just a post on stupid males who probably lack social skills. In order to prevent tension between misogynistic male gamers and any female gamers during a LAN party, the people running the party (probably all males) banned females from participating, instead of the misogynist males. Likely, it's easier to ban females than it is to figure out who the misogynist males are. They took the easy route to fixing a problem (which only temporarily fixes it, since it does not address the behavior that causes the problem) instead of doing the right thing.

Europeans: How does religion in the US look to you?

This post asked Europeans to chip in on how religion in the US appears to them, so check out the comments. Many looked like this:
Your religion just looks scary and fanatical, and has the kind of influence on society that it never should have!

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