October 27, 2014

And now . . . this - Oct. 27/14

We are now officially stupider as a species for having to say this, but . . .

The U.S. Forest Service at Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe say visitors are risking their lives in the hunt for a unique profile picture by approaching the bears.

‘We've had mobs of people that are actually rushing toward the bears trying to get a “selfie” photo,’ Lisa Herron, spokesperson for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit told Reno Gazette-Journal.

[Full Story]

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Why is it that you need a license to buy a gun or catch fish, but anyone with a smartphone and a double-digit IQ can go out in the bush and take a picture of himself with a bear?

October 23, 2014

The shocking truth about the basic necessities of life

I used to make a hobby out of reading and collecting examples of various kinds of crackpottery. At some point, though, I lost interest. I think I just became overwhelmed (and not a little bit discouraged) at the sheer volume of anti-intellectual nonsense that floats around on the Internet.

My latest thing to follow in that vein is Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe. Hari is a crusader against all kinds of foodborne injustice. She is arguably best known for her campaign that pressured Subway into removing the additive azodicarbonamide from their sandwich bread. However, this additive decomposes when baked into gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide—all of which are harmless when eaten—as well as a harmless amount of ammonia gas. Hari is not a food scientist, medical doctor, nutritionist, dietician, or any other sort of expert in the field, and it shows. Her recent tirade against Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte complained that it contained "[a]bsolutely no real pumpkin in ingredients." (Of course not: it is flavoured with pumpkin spice, the spice mixture used to flavour pumpkin pies: typically some combination of allspice, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.) To date, however, her most hysterical raving has been against microwave ovens, in which she decries "unnecessary daily exposure to radiation": "Afer all, human cells are made of molecules and molecule bonds are broken and destroyed when exposed to radiation." She clearly does not understand the difference between ionizing (e.g. X-rays, gamma rays) and non-ionizing radiation (e.g. microwaves, radio waves, visible light).

Another site that similarly takes the cake is Realfarmacy.com, which exposed the "horrifying fact" that Big Macs contain, of all things, cellulose. You may never want to eat a vegetable again.

Health sites may very well raise legitimate concerns about the food we eat. Fresh food prepared yourself is probably better for you, and fast foods do contain a lot of salt, sugar, and fat that we can all probably do without, at least on a regular basis. But all too often, any legitimate concerns get buried in a sea of pseudoscience that takes a number of forms, including:

  • "Chemicals" are bad for you, and if you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't eat it. (Never mind that even a fresh, organic fruit will naturally contain as many, if not more, unpronounceable "chemicals" as part of its intrinsic makeup, as anything you buy at a McDonald's.)
  • This substance has been proven toxic to rats. (But usually in amounts that are orders of magnitude beyond what humans will come in contact with. Also, remember that substances that are toxic to animals might still be safe for humans: daylilies are harmful to cats, but edible for people; chocolate is awesome for humans, but very dangerous for dogs.)
  • A food substance or additive is also used in the manufacture of non-food items, e.g. azodicarbonamide used in commercial bread is also used in the manufacture of yoga mats. You don't want to eat something that someone's sweaty butt has rubbed all over, do you? (This particular argument commits the logical fallacy of division: that each component part of a whole shares the same properties as the whole. Just because eating a yoga mat is bad for you, doesn't mean everything used to make the yoga mat is bad for you. For example, the puffed corn starch used to make biodegradable packing peanuts is the same stuff used to make cheese puffs.)
  • A food substance or additive can also be found in other non-edible or unpleasant substances. (Cellulose is found in wood, therefore Big Macs are really bad for you. Cellulose is a structural component of plant cell walls; want to bet that a Big Mac's cellulose comes from the lettuce, onions, and pickles?)
  • A food substance or additive is derived from non-edible or unpleasant sources. For example, shellac (used to make candies or pharmaceuticals shiny) comes from bugs, and the musk glands of beavers have been used as a source for natural vanilla flavouring. (Here, at least, we have a somewhat legitimate concern: if you are squeamish about eating insect secretions or beaver butts, you would be wise to read the label. However, keep in mind that the source of something does not necessarily determine how safe it is to eat.)
  • This food is, or contains, a genetically modified organism (GMO). (Never mind that a comprehensive study of 100 billion animals has found no issues with a diet of genetically engineered feed.)

These fallacious arguments are often accompanied with (and made palatable by) attractive-looking graphics. I've wanted to try my hand at building infographics for some time—so, I thought, why shouldn't I get in on the scaremongering game? Behold the infographic that will completely change your life! You'll be shocked at what you put in your body over 20,000 times per day.

[The Air That You Breathe: And Why You Shouldn't Breathe It]

The worst thing about air, however, is this: It isn't even organic or vegan.

October 07, 2014

The Vegan Monologues, at a dinner theatre near you

And now, this: California-style, weapons-grade moonbattery courtesy of one Kelly Atlas, under the auspices of an animal-rights group calling itself "Direct Action Everywhere".

This utter loon walks into a restaurant, where coincidentally the PA system is playing "My Girl," and delivers a monologue about her girl: "I have a little girl. She was very abused for her entire life. She was terrified. . . . And she was hurt and abused her entire life because of this establishment and because of establishments like it." And so forth.

Of course, as the weepy, blonde monologue progresses, it is eventually revealed that her "little girl" is actually a chicken named "Snow" whom Kelly apparently "rescued" (read: stole) from a commercial farm or some such place. Kelly's lachrymose jeremiad continues, bemoaning the fate of Snow's "sisters": "And right now their eggs and their milk and their bodies are on plates inside this restaurant, and that is so unfair to them!" she wails.

Behold the certifiable delirium that is the modern animal-rights movement:

Direct Action Everywhere writes, on their Web site, explaining why they engage in "direct action":

The passion of the movement for animal liberation is unmatched. Many of us have cried countless tears of pain, as we have heard, seen, and even felt the oppression and violence imparted on our non-human sisters and brothers.

Of course, they don't really believe this, and they say so: the hashtag in the YouTube video title is #DisruptSpeciesism. If a chicken truly is my brother or sister, then eating him might be racism or sexism, but it isn't speciesism. Direct Action Everywhere doesn't want to stop animals from eating other animals. If they really believed humans and animals were brethren, they'd try to stop animals from eating meat, or they wouldn't try to make humans stop eating meat, against their nature. Their aims contradict their presuppositions, and so their message is incoherent as well as risible.

As I wrote a few months ago, "there is a significant categorical and moral difference between human beings and animals. One is made in the image of God, and the rest are a gift of God for our use (Genesis 9:3)." Snow isn't made in the image of God, and it's going to take a lot more than a crocodile-tear-jerking homily from a flaky Californian to convince me I can't turn her into delicious chicken tenders.

And now . . . this - Oct 7/14

These days I consider myself lucky if I can grab a couple of weird news stories in a day. So today is a smorgasbord!

A mother of a 4-year-old was arrested after her daughter brought heroin into a daycare and began passing it out to other children, Delaware State Police say. . . .

Police say a 4-year-old girl unknowingly brought the small bags of heroin into the childcare in a backpack that her mother gave her after hers had become ruined by the family pet sometime in the night.

Upon thinking the packets were candy, she began passing them out to her classmates.

[Full Story]

Kids these days.

Of course, she's probably the driving force behind the class president by now.

October 04, 2014

Superman Saturday: Ain't it a shame about the radium rain?

Clark Kent and Lois Lane are in New Birmingham to interview Lois' uncle, meteorologist Horace Morton, who has a supposedly foolproof method for predicting the weather. They soon learn, however, that he has discovered a means to control the weather, and is being used by a criminal syndicate to aid them in their crimes.

Dr. Morton was also aiding a local radium refinery to find a new process for refining pitchblende ore. When Clark and Lois discover his assistant dead, with a handful of pitchblende, the police arrest Morton for murder. However, the syndicate actually committed the murder, and also abducted Morton from the jail . . .

October 03, 2014

Friday in the wild: October 3, 2014

I haven't done a Friday in the Wild for a few weeks, so while it might look like I'm playing catch-up, it is in fact a doozy of a week. Lots of interesting stuff to share. So, without further ado:

Come Reason posted this about the rise in relativism in Christian youth:

This kind of thinking is how tyranny is born. If one cannot tell another his actions are evil, then they will continue until those that would dare to oppose immorality are themselves labelled as immoral. . . . And now, the kids we send to college hold not the belief that they cannot stand their moral ground, but that they should not stand their moral ground, because to do so is itself an immoral act!

[Read The Epidemic of Relativism Among Christian Youth]

Woe unto anyone who declares woe unto anyone.

And now . . . this - Oct. 3/14

Some pig

At a campground in Western Australia over the weekend, a feral pig guzzled down 18 beers that had been left out improperly secured. And just like anyone 18 beers in at a rural dive bar, the pig got big-headed and decided to start a fight with a cow, resulting in the cow chasing the pig around a car.

[Full Story]

Oh dear. Wilbur's on a bender.