Episode 11

A little bit later in the week than I’d like to be publishing, but I hope everyone will bear with us while we work around my new schedule.  We went a bit long again, but I promise, we’re trying to keep it down to around an hour moving forward.

News Items:

Marvin’s Martian Microbials

Researchers from universities in Los Angeles, California, Tempe, Arizona and Siena, Italy have published a paper in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences (IJASS) citing the results of their work with data obtained by NASA’s Viking mission.The twin Viking 1 and 2 landers launched in August and September of 1975 and successfully landed on Mars in July and September of the following year. Their principal mission was to search for life, which they did by digging into the ruddy Martian soil looking for signs of respiration — a signal of biological activity.

The results, although promising, were inconclusive.

Now, 35 years later, one team of researchers claims that the Viking landers did indeed detect life, and the data’s been there all along.

We talk about how cool this would be, how it’s not really conclusive as yet, and tie it in to the religious angle in that we both assume the fundies will brush it off as lies or insignificant.

Romney’s non-polygamy and the Race for President

Conservatives have criticized [Montana’s Democrat Governor Brian] Schweitzer for bringing up Romney’s religion in this way, pointing out that President Obama’s Kenyan father was married to more than one woman at a time. “Both Romney’s parents and grandparents were monogamous, so tying him to the polygamous practices of his great-grandparents is a nasty piece of business and no more relevant to the 2012 campaign than an investigation into the marital practices of President Obama’s ancestors in Kenya,” writes Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine.

I resist briefly, but Brian brings me around to the conclusion that this has no real good side to it.  It was a crap, low-brow move, and he deserved the pundit pud-slap.

Moderate Christians are following REM’s suggestion

WASHINGTON (RNS) A growing tide of young Americans is drifting away from the religions of their childhood — and most of them are ending up in no religion at all.One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

Some bad reporting, but still interesting numbers.

NY State Exam Questions not quite redux

We almost reported a couple of weeks ago on a list of words the NY State school board was prohibiting from standardized testing.  We didn’t because, contrary to many reports I heard on the story, this only applied to standardized test word questions, and seemed designed to avoid inflaming emotions in students taking these tests.  Now, the test itself is out, and one of the questions has a whole bunch of people wondering WTF? Continue reading


Episode 10

Recorded completely live for the first time ever.  Stoked on that.  Episode 10 – a landmark indeed.  We totally had a huge party.  Not really, but we did have dinner and hang out for a bit because of my new schedule.  You’ll hear all about it.

News Items:

German incest couple loses human rights case

According to German law,  sexual intercourse between relatives is punishable with imprisonment for up to three years or a fine, Die Welt Online reported. Stuebing, 35, was handed several prison sentences and has already spent more than three years in prison, the German website said. His relationship with his sister has fallen to pieces as a result, something for which his lawyer believes German courts should be held responsible.

Ewww.  Just effing ewww.

Baby Baptism Lawsuit

This week the Tennessee Court of Appeals said Lauren Jarrell must face a criminal contempt hearing for violating a court order that said major decisions regarding the religious upbringing of her two children should be made jointly with the children’s father.

So we’re not sure about this one.  It seems like the parents sort of share the civil right to their child’s religious upbringing, and the court is trying to protect them for the dad, but to me, this just seems like they’re arguing over what color Russel’s teapot is.

Taking Credit for Other People’s Work

Earlier this week, when the CDC announced a record low in the teen birth rate, it listed two possible causes: “The impact of strong pregnancy prevention messages” and “increased use of contraception.” The Guttmacher Institute came out with an even stronger message: “The most recent decline in teen births can be linked almost exclusively to improvements in teens’ contraceptive use,” the organization said in a press release, which pointed to another CDC study for evidence.

But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from claiming that the drop is a result of, you guessed it, abstinence education and, paradoxically, an increase in abortions.

We laugh at the neocons and take a look at just how intellectually dishonest this position is.

Holy Shroud, Fraud Man!

A famed art historian told CBS News “Sunday Morning” on Easter Sunday, April 8, that the reputed burial cloth of Jesus – known as the “Shroud of Turin” – is real; while the report also offers a new take on the “Resurrection” which challenges Christian orthodoxy. At the same time, yet another challenge to the Shroud of Turin comes from the legions of Internet hoax-busters who find some sort of satisfaction in decrying anything they can’t see, touch or experience in a personal way. “To decry something is to speak disparagingly about someone or something; while also denouncing it as faulty or worthless,” explained retired Coos Bay teacher George Holborn during a recent Huliq interview about his personal interest in the Shroud of Turin. “What gets me about these hoax-busters is nothing is sacred to them because, in my view, they are a joyless bunch who get their jollies at bursting any bubble they can find,” adds Holborn when also comparing today’s crop of eager-beaver hoax-busters as “those kids who got expelled when I taught high school because they didn’t believe in their teachers, their parents, America or anything they couldn’t make a buck on.”

The short version of this guy’s argument appears to be that the fraudsters did such a good job, it’s almost impossible to tell from the real thing (without science, of course). Continue reading


Episode 9

Wow!  I can’t believe I sat on this for three days.  This has been ten minutes from done since Tuesday night, and I just thought I’d done it and published somehow.  Sorry everyone, please enjoy!

News Items:

The Pope says No to Frock-ing Women (wink wink nudge nudge)

Pope Benedict XVI has denounced priests who have questioned church teaching on celibacy and ordaining women, saying Thursday they were disobeying his authority to try to impose their own ideas on the church.
Benedict made the rare and explicit criticism from the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in his homily on Holy Thursday, when priests recall the promises they made when ordained.
In 2006, a group of Austrian priests launched the Pfarrer Initiative, or pastor initiative, a call to disobedience aimed at abolishing priestly celibacy and opening the clergy to women to relieve the shortages of priests.
Last June, the group’s members essentially threatened a schism, saying the Vatican’s refusal to hear their complaints left them no choice but to “follow our conscience and act independently.”

This gets me back on my ‘Why are you still a Catholic’ rant, and us into a good discussion about the Papacy.


The Philosophies of America’s Presidential Frontrunners

Republicans, Obama charged, are engaged in an attempt to impose a “radical” change of vision on the country – “thinly veiled social Darwinism” that allows us to “think only about ourselves” and not about “our fellow citizens with whom we share a community.”
Mitt Romney lost no time in taking up the ideological challenge. Just days after Obama laid down the gauntlet, Romney agreed that this was the philosophy election: “This November, we will face a defining decision. Our choice will not be one of party or personality. This election will be about principle…if you worked hard, and took some risks, that there was the opportunity to build a better life for your family and for the next generation.”

We agree this is a very well written, balance article on a subject that needed it.

Pregnancies now require a time machine in AZ

Arizona Bill Says Pregnancy Begins Before Conception!  A new bill up for a vote in Arizona could mandate that pregnancy be considered to have started up to two weeks before conception may have actually occurred.

Just another attempt to encroach on a woman’s right to choose.

Newsflash! Some homophobes may be latent queers.

Homophobes ‘may be secretly attracted to people of the same sex’ –

Homophobes could be attracted to people of the same sex but are not admitting it to themselves, a series of psychology studies has found.

Researchers in New York, Essex and California say they’ve found evidence that gays and lesbians remind homophobes of themselves  – which is why they develop an intense aversion and fear of them.


Items of Interest:

Matt – Google Plus Hangouts – free video chat

Let friends know you’re free for a video hangout, any time, anywhere. Then catch up, watch YouTube, or… just hangout.


A plugin that lets you see who’s hanging out.

Brian – GeekandSundry YouTube Channel

A new youtube channel from Felicia Day and Whil Wheaton. My review of their premiere show, Tabletop, http://youtu.be/X9QtdiRJYro, and a brief description of other upcoming shows.

The Game:

Rick Santorum ends bid for GOP nomination

(CBS News) Rick Santorum suspended his bid for the presidency on Tuesday, removing the last significant obstacle in Mitt Romney’s now all-but-certain march to the Republican presidential nomination.

We lament the loss of one of our more prolific sources of funny news items.

Matt’s PSA:  White House Solicits Inspirational Gay-Themed Videos For LGBT Pride Month Challenge

Listener Feedback:

We apologize to a couple of our early supporters for unintentionally ignoring their emails.  We really are dumb sometimes.


Episode 8

This one is short and to the point.  It was a slow news week, we were both tired, Brian had been sick, and we took so long prepping we were running out of time to record.  The result? A 40 minute BFP!

News Items:

The Black Queen Hypothesis

To many people, evolution is synonymous with an increase in complexity, but there are many examples in nature of organisms evolving to become less biologically complicated. Scientists call this “reductive evolution.”

The Black Queen Hypothesis (BQH) refers to a playing card, in this case the queen of spades in the game Hearts. In Hearts the goal is to score as few points as possible. The queen of spades, however, is worth as many points as all other cards combined, and therefore a central goal of the game is to not be the player that ends up with that card. In the context of evolution, the BQH posits that certain genes, or more broadly, biological functions, are analogous to the queen of spades. Such functions are costly and therefore undesirable, leading to a selective advantage for organisms that stop performing them. At the same time, the function must provide an indispensable public good, necessitating its retention by at least a subset of the individuals in the community — after all, one cannot play Hearts without a queen of spades.

Full paper found at: http://mbio.asm.org/content/3/2/e00036-12.full.pdf+html

We liked this one for a couple of reasons and take the opportunity to remark on the obviousness of evolution.

Two summers, Two Wars, two different reactions

Two Syrian-American brothers sneaked back into Syria to fight the Assad government. They ran into their father in the besieged city of Idlib, and he was not happy to see them.

We both get behind these guys and their father, but contrast their story with this asshattery from last year.

Trump says vaccines cause autism in children

Donald Trump‘s latest paranoid conspiracy theory rant is that vaccines cause autism in children. The failed Republican presidential wannabe candidate told Fox News that he “couldn’t care less” what people — including the medical community that has found this theory to be false — think; he “knows cases” where he believes this is true.

Wow.  Just wow.  Is anyone listening to this moron for anything other than morbid comedic purposes?  Anti-vax now, halfwit? Seriously? Continue reading