Australia is led by an atheist

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has confirmed she is an atheist.

This morning during a Melbourne radio interview, the new Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard was asked point blank:

โ€œDo you believe in God?โ€

Her reply:

โ€œNo I donโ€™t, Johnโ€

And if all the lies Christians loved to tell were true, Australia would quickly be led into genocide, eugenics, and all sorts of other nasty consequences. But atheism is not a philosophy. Nothing normative concludes from atheism. It’s a descriptive position. And Australia is a democracy, not a dictatorship. Gillard is going to be led by the politics of her party, her own ethical system (which I’ll hazard is somewhat libertarian, but maybe someone from Australia will read this and be more specific and/or accurate), and – thankfully – not religion. In other words, reality is firm in her mind.

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Supreme Court ruling on gun laws

The Supreme Court made a ruling today which orders a lower federal court to reconsider its previous ruling regarding Chicago’s ban on handguns. It’s likely that ban will fall.

I don’t so much have a problem with extending certain gun rights to more owners. My passion on the issue isn’t as strong as, say, that of kooks like John Lott, but it does bother me how the purely political right-wing justices have routinely been ruling on these issues. This is how the Second Amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The spirit of the law is in the regulation of a militia, something relevant and needed in the time the amendment was written. The only way it should be applied today is insofar as there is a need for gun ownership. It can be argued that the Chicago ban on guns runs counter to a genuine need for protection, even outside the existence of a militia, but the purely political right-wing of the Supreme Court never argues that. They simply ignore the opening clause. Under their misunderstanding of both the spirit of the law and basic grammar, there should eventually be a right to keep and bear nuclear weapons for the average citizen under the constitution.

It’s often a problem that people think we ought to be beholden to the times and wishes of the framers, but in this case just the opposite is true. The purely political right-wing of the Supreme Court is ignoring the common sense of the framers while outright discarding the context of their times. The consequence of this obvious mistake may not be grave, but their argumentation is weak and embarrassing.

The Kennebec Journal falls off the deep end

After reprinting a sweet story about a cat with a signficant medical operation, my local paper, the Kennebec Journal, has once again printed an article full of bullshit.

They returned to the Readfield Historical Society expecting to hear a metaphysical teacher delivering a grammar lesson and the sound of a chalkboard being cleaned.

Instead, the team of paranormal investigators encountered occult forces that were far less welcoming.

Those were the results of a six-member team’s ghostly investigation into the Readfield Historical Society building, a former schoolhouse built in 1823.

I can’t believe this crap is getting printed. This team observed nothing. They’re liars. They’re making it up. There is no evidence of the bullshit they claim, only evidence that they’re full of shit.

The Kennebec Journal need only look to this article to answer why they’re doing so poorly.

Thought of the day

The evolution of life is one of the most important things anyone can ever realize.

The end of homeopathy?

Probably not, but one can hope.

British homeopaths are celebrating Homeopathy Awareness Week, yet it seems to me there is very little for them to celebrate.

Earlier this year, a report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that the principles of homeopathy are implausible and that the evidence fails to show that it works better than placebo. The MPs also criticised homeopaths for trying to mislead the public by providing inaccurate information. Their recommendation to government was to stop funding homeopathy on the NHS.

Then the Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health, a staunch supporter of homeopathy in the NHS, folded in the midst of a police investigation for fraud and money laundering.

Last month, the British Medical Association described homeopathy as “witchcraft” and called for an end to all funding on the NHS.

A streak of bad luck? Not really. Homeopathy’s fortunes have been crumbling for quite some time. The evidence to suggest that it has effects beyond those of a placebo has become less and less convincing. In 2005, The Lancet even pronounced “the end of homeopathy”.

I suspect there will come a time when homeopathy becomes far less significant in society, but I believe that day to be very far off. People are just too willing to believe the snake oil salesmen out there – and the snake oil salesmen are all too happy to oblige that will to believe.

But there is some immediate good news. (In fact, so immediate, it’s in the past.)

As a result, one of the five NHS-funded homeopathic hospitals had to close. After assessing the science, its NHS trust found that the evidence did not justify any further funding.

Of course, even the homeopaths knew their junk had no evidence. They aren’t interested in any real science. And just to prove that point, they became bold and made their lying all the more public.

Faced with increasing criticism, UK homeopaths become more and more desperate. My team has found that the Society of Homeopaths even appears to have been in breach of its own code of ethics in attempting to promote homeopathy. On the society’s website, numerous statements about efficacy were made that were not backed by science and so were not allowed under its own regulations.

The society’s chief executive commented at the time, in November 2009, that she was grateful to me for highlighting these issues and that the society would investigate and make amendments where appropriate. The website has since changed but many, perhaps even most, members of that organisation continue to make claims that violate their society’s ethical standards.

I don’t for a moment expect the ethical standards of a fundamentally dishonest organization do anything significant with all these violation. Even if they do manage to clean up some of their act, their basis is still magical thinking that has no roots in science. The only way they could ever be called ethical sans a smirk is if shut down their whole operation.