God's wrath (9/8/2014)
While attending The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas in 2004 I suffered an injury to my foot. A different injury prevented me from participating in the 2011 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney with my friends from Sydney Gay Atheists (I am an atheist who lives in Sydney, so two out of three ain't bad). At the Global Atheist Conference in 2012 I suffered a recurrence of the injury from 2004, and I broke my ankle coming home from SkeptiCamp in Sydney later that year. When I spoke at Skeptics in the Pub earlier this year a glass of beer was spilled on my laptop computer, killing it for all eternity.
On Thursday. August 7 this year, I attended Skeptics in the Pub in Sydney and mentioned this sequence of coincidences that suggested that God did not approve of me going to such events.
On the way home He decided to escalate the displeasure and flung me with some force into the steps of the car park where I had left my car. Following a trip in an ambulance I spent the remainder of the night in hospital, where various people did tests to see if I had suffered concussion or maybe even more serious brain damage. Right now I still have headaches, my left eye is very black from the outside and presenting blurred images from the inside, my teeth on that side of my head hurt, my left wrist doesn't like going through its usual range of motion, and I have sore fingers on my right hand (not helped by the torn nail on my thumb).
I will be talking to more doctors in the next few days, but I suspect (and hope) that everything will work itself out without any major drama. Luckily, my phrenologist keeps good records so he will be able to tell if any of the bumps on my head have been rearranged.
Normal transmission will be resumed shortly.
Anti-vaxxers celebrate (30/8/2014)
Because people showed concern when I announced that I had been injured, I published a photograph on Facebook showing what my face looked like. It took almost no time for this to appear.
The thing posting it, "No Vaccines Australia", is of course anonymous, and it was posted in a forum where I am banned from responding. (Note: Jo, Meleese, and Fiona are real-life friends of mine.) Why I should be "Not so Skeptic now" is a mystery, and when asked why it had posted this idiocy it replied "Because I'm a fun guy".
This is a perfect example of the respect that anti-vaccination liars have for anyone who doesn't subscribe to their insane agenda. They don't care how many children die from preventable diseases, or how many are disabled by the diseases, they don't care if their children infect others, they don't care how many women die from cervical cancer, they don't care about people lying in order to get government benefits to which they are not entitled, they don't care how many people they might offend by comparing vaccine researchers to psychopaths like Mengele (yes, Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination(-skeptics) Network did that just this week). Why should anyone be surprised that they think someone being injured is a joke?
And in case you think I'm exaggerating about the Mengele comparison, that nobody could be that insensitive -
The words quoted were written in 1967 and refer to research done years before that. It is because of this attitude that the ethical boundaries around clinical trials are much stronger now than they were five decades ago. But why would you expect anti-vaccination liars to recognise that anything has changed? And remember that they are constantly clamouring for vaccines to be tested in double-blinded placebo controlled trials, where all subjects would be exposed to infectious disease but only some would be given the real vaccine. If they are going to quote Rivers but want vaccines tested to the standards of the Tuskegee and Guatemala syphilis trials it simply indicates the extent of the hypocrisy that they apply to their attitude towards human life.
The more I see of anti-vaccination liars, the more I'm convinced that they want to see more dead children. And people who think like that should be locked away for the protection of society.
I review a book (30/8/2014)
I've been reading and writing and talking a lot about philosophy lately. (Examples – writing for Australasian Science, speaking at Philo Agora, speaking at SkeptiCamp) One thing I have noticed is that philosophy is very much misunderstood so I've been looking out for books which provide an introduction to the breadth of philosophy without requiring the reader to spend some years at university enmeshed in difficult discussions about difficult topics.
One book that I have found useful for years is Mel Thompson's from 2003. This covers the major topic areas and because it's part of the Teach Yourself series it is designed for beginners and leads you through the learning process.
My local council public library has a section labelled "Philosophy" and I always check it whenever I'm passing. Unfortunately the Dewey classification for the subject seems broad enough to include all sorts of woowoo nonsense and self-help books plus a smattering of weird religions, but there is the occasional nugget among the dross. One such book is by Nigel Warburton. I've written a review of this book and you can read it here.
To make life a little easier I've added a Philosophy section to the Millenium Bookshop. Not all books listed are specifically about philosophy, but they all touch on certain aspects of it.
I write a book (30/8/2014)
Continuing the process of releasing books written by me, the third one this year is now available. It's a travelogue, telling the story of my trip to speak at The Amazing Meeting in 2004.
In January 2004, at the invitation of Mr James Randi, I was a speaker at The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas. At the time I was Vice President of Australian Skeptics and I went as a representative of that organisation, accompanied by the other Vice President. Also in the party was SkeptoBear, a bear of little repute, who insisted on coming as a neutral observer. This is the story of the trip around the bottom left-hand corner of the USA and the top left-hand corner of Mexico.