Look on the Bright Side

Chad Farnan, a high school student, successfully sued his European history teacher, James Corbett, for disparaging Chad’s religious beliefs.

In all fairness, he had a point. Mr. Corbett, was probably a little too free with his opinions given his position of authority in a public institution like a high school.

What was very interesting was the number statements about religion that the court failed to find afoul of the First Amendment. Statements like, “when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth” and “conservatives don’t want women to avoid pregnancies — that’s interfering with God’s work”.

It took calling creationism, “superstitious nonsense” to cross the line. Now, I personally feel that stating a fact like that should be legal anytime and anywhere. It is unfortunate that the courts were unwilling to defend free speech in the one instance where the teacher was on VERY solid ground.

So, what is the bright side in this?

By saying that Mr. Corbett was “displaying hostility” towards religion with that statement, the court clearly equated Creationism with religion. That is useful precedent when they try to preach it in the science classroom.

“Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.”
— Bernard Baruch (American financier, stock-market speculator, statesman) via
The Skeptics Guide to the Universe


The Amazing Meeting 6 (Next year, for sure!)

I was unable, again, to attend the James Randi Educational Foundation’s , The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas. It conflicted with the trip to Costa Rica. Which was awesome and more important to my marriage.

Nonetheless, with the help of some of my favorite podcasters, I’ve been able to experience some of the better moments.

This was George Hrab‘s first year at TAM, and he was on the bill! It’s worth listening to his post-tam episode, just to hear what someone sounds like when they get what they always wanted.

Skepticality is running a series of episodes featuring interviews from TAM 6. The first two interviews, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Adam Savage from The Mythbusters.

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, recorded a live episode at TAM and will be incorporating interviews from the meeting into future episodes.

The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, has blogged of the event and included a cool video.

Soccergirl episode #286 and #287 has some great video footage from TAM 6.

These are only the ones I’ve managed to get to since I’ve been back from travel. I’m sure there’s more great coverage out there I haven’t found yet!

But are not the dreams of poets and the tales of travellers notoriously false?
H. P. Lovecraft



I recently heard an interview with Brian Dunning on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and was very impressed with him, so I pulled down his podcast. I’ve now gone back and listened to all of them.

Skeptoid is a very different skepticism-oriented podcast from the rest I subscribe to. It is not a round table, it is not interview-oriented. It is just one guy, who does his research, and presents one topic per show in a straightforward intelligent manner.

His topics range from Homeopathy, and other medical buffoonery, to 9/11 conspiracies and the war on Terror. Along the way Brian sprinkles in some good education on Critical Thinking and how to spot Logical Fallacies and Fallacious Arguments.

Brian is committed to just getting clear information out. All of his podcasts are available for free, they are also reproduced as essays on his site AND now many of them are collected into his new book, SKEPTOID: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena with a foreword by none other than James “The Amazing Randi” Randi.

He doesn’t even accept donations, he only asks that you spread the word. So, in my little way…

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.” — Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850), journalist, critic, women’s rights activist