Archive for August, 2010

Taxpayer Dollars to Promote Prayer..? You Better Believe it.

Posted in Atheism, Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by neandergal

When the emergency technician is about to apply CPR, nobody says: “Wait! Let’s pray first.” exclaims a quote from the Skeptic Dictionary

Well it turns out this may actually be the case in some instances. Biologist and science blogger PZ Myers reports on his blog post how the US government is funding metaphysical methods for promoting health and well being. It is hard to believe that a state department is advocating metaphysical baloney, but the evidence is loudly and clearly displayed on the US Department of Health and Human Services’ website.  

The Healthfinder.gov website content includes an article, Can Hands-on Prayer Help Heal? The article cites a bogus peer-reviewed study published in the September issue of the Southern Medical Journal. The peer reviewed study on “proximal intercessory prayer (PIP)” is the epitome of bad science at its worse. Proximal Intercessory Prayer is a euphemism for “abracadabra” and is a made-up term to describe incantations to the almighty for favors. The study on hearing and sight impaired subjects in Mozambique is bogus because it violated at least three basic scientific method protocols rendering it scientifically flawed. Miraculously, the study passed the peer-review process. 

A scientific experiment requires subjects to be randomized groups that include a control group and measurable variables.  The study was suppose to test the power of prayer on 23 non-randomized sight and, or hearing impaired subjects.  The so called improvements that resulted in prayer were anecdotal rather than empirically based. Anecdotal is testimonial and therefore subjective. 

The article on healthfinder.gov states, “And while they don’t discount that much of the results may stem from a placebo effect, benefits did seem to occur in some individuals.” The placebo effect is what clinical trials of treatments test for and compares it with the real drug for true effectiveness. Just because the placebo effect may work in some cases, does not make it effective treatment for all or anywhere near most individuals.

In the words of Richard Dawkins, “There are all sorts of things that would be comforting. I expect an injection of morphine would be comforting… But to say that something is comforting is not to say that it’s true.”

Sources:

PZ Myers: Pharyngula – Our Government at Work

PZ Myers – Pharyngula

Southern Medical Journal

 

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Mosque Controversy is Obama’s Prop to Promote Religion

Posted in Politics, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2010 by neandergal

While the controversy surrounding the construction of a Community center/Mosque three blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, New York continues, the more fundamental issue of a President of a supposedly secular nation taking a positive stand on the issue goes largely ignored. To add insult to injury, President Obama had the audacity to announce his support for the Mosque and community center from a dinner at the White House celebrating the start of the holy month of Ramadan. By taking a far from neutral stance on the issue, Obama is clearly endorsing religion. Obama could have chosen to remain neutral stating that the issue of the mosque is a local issue to be resolved locally and not a matter for the administration to pass judgment. Diplomatically, this would have been the correct response. Instead, he used the issue as a platform not to give a speech on the right to religious freedom and non-belief of which neither is in dispute, but to covertly promote religion. This recent appeasement to the Muslim community is not a display of religious tolerance, but is testimony to the President’s stand on faith generally.

Let us take a look back to 2008 and review the most grandiose inauguration ceremony in history where Obama chose the Southern California Pastor of the well to do Saddleback mega church, Rick Warren to say the inaugural prayer. And let us be reminded that Rick Warren backed California’s Proposition 8 which was to prevent the right for gays to marry. Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to read a prayer should have set off early alarm bells ringing loud and clear to the media, but instead they fell on deaf ears.

In February, 2009, less than a month in office, Obama rekindled George Bush’s Office of Faith-Based Activities and Neighborhood Partnerships by executive order and appointed then 26 year old Pentecostal Minister, Joshua DuBois to head the federally funded department.

Close inspection of Christianity, particularly fundamentalist forms of the faith, Islam or any other religion are far from democratic because they marginalize women and suppress thought outside the realms of the said religion. Either the President is incredibly naive as to what these belief systems represent or he subscribes to them and views them as an integral part of a secular democratic nation.

It is one thing to promote the virtues of the right to practice faith, but to endorse it with speeches, government offices and appointing ministers to run them is quite another. The question has to be asked is that was this really just a glaring political gaff or is there another hidden agenda to promote rather than restate the country’s neutrality on religion?

Sources:

UK Telegraph: Barack Obama backs Ground Zero Mosque

Executive order 13199:

A Frog’s Evolutionary Tale

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2010 by neandergal

Geologists are able to tell the timeline and sequence of tectonic plate movement by studying the genetics of a variety of 24 species of the Paini frog in Asia. Genetic analyses of the frogs allow scientists to determine their evolutionary trail along the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.

Formation of mountain ranges caused by movement of the Indian tectonic plate and climate change isolated populations of frogs. The different environments caused by geological changes led to different evolutionary changes in the frogs. From the genetic studies of the different frogs, it appears that the beginning of the mountain ranges of the Himalayas started in the Oligocene period some 34-23m years ago. Species divergences occurred in the Miocene period 5-23m years ago.

Scientists at University California Berkeley and Kunming in China analyzed the species of spiny frog that evolved muscular limbs to hold on tight to their mates in an amphibian grip known as the “Amplexus” (Latin for embrace) and rocks in the fast flowing rivers of their high altitude environment.