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It’s amazing what gets reported as news:

THE Catholic Church has revealed how growing interest in satanism and the occult has led to a rise in exorcisms across Queensland.

Well, for starters this statement is a little misleading. To be clear, what is actually on the rise is the rate of exorcism ceremonies being carried out. There is no evidence to suggest that any of these anecdotally reported cases involves anything that could be construed as supernatural demonic possession.

One priest, who asked not to be named for fear of “reprisals”, said he was carrying out at least one exorcism a fortnight.

Reprisals from who pray tell? Satan? Demons? The police? Other, saner priests?

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Firstly, apologies for the gratuitous Monty python quote.

Secondly, Saudi Arabia is planning to execute a woman convicted of being a witch. WTF?

Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.

In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent.

So not only does it look like she was fit up, but the crime is witchcraft. Doesn’t anybody else see a problem with that?

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The Geologic Universe

February 9, 2008

One of the things I’ve been tied up with over the last month has been my novice attempts at putting together audio content to contribute to a fancast celebrating the one year anniversary of the Geologic Podcast. It’s been something of a steep learning curve, but overall quite rewarding.

The Geologic Podcast is an intelligent and humorous (though often NSFW) layered blend of music, sketch comedy, rants, atheism, skepticism, science and bald jokes. If that’s not enough to get you interested, he’s just posted a video clip for the Assumption. Take a look, it’s brilliant.

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In case you’re interested, the asteroid TU24 has passed it’s point of closest approach, and we appear to have avoided fiery liquid death. (Although my coffee was a little cold this morning … Gah! Curse you TU24!)

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The image above is a pointlessly alarming graphic that is at best tangentially related to the following post. Silly I know, but all the cool kids are doing it.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this ridiculously alarmist video that now seems to be making the rounds on Facebook. The video makes a few vague slaps at NASA and the evil scientific establishment before launching into a presentation on apparently potential dire consequences of the asteroid TU24 passing close* to the Earth.

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Still in-frame-ous

October 14, 2007

Matthew C. Nisbet has backed up his gracious nod to one of this years recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize entitled “Does Gore Contribute to the Communication Crisis?”, with a new post “Only 50% of Americans Have a Favorable View of Al Gore”.

Here he basically reinforces his previous point that Gore has only limited success communicating his message on Global Warming because lots of people don’t like him (be that due to partisan political view or whatever). In the first post, Matt suggested that his message should be “re-framed” to be promoted by “less partisan opinion leaders” if it is to be effective.

I’m sorry, but I’m calling bullshit.

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Today I was thinking back to my pre-iPod and (gasp!) pre-DSL life, where I spent a stupid amount of time manually downloading new podcasts and shuffling them between my laptop and puny 256MB MP3 player (good grief, it actually needed batteries). I would then run into real difficulties if I decided that I actually liked a podcast, because it would take about a week to download the backlog of episodes over my crappy dial-up connection (which tended to drop out whenever someone looked at the telephone).

Well, I’ve moved on since then, but I still tend to spend a pretty large proportion of my time plugged into my MP3 player (now a shiny new iPod, thank my dear and fluffy non-existent lord) so I thought I’d go over some of the skeptical and freethinking/atheist podcasts that have crossed my earphones over the years:

Skepticality (Skepticism/Critical Thinking/Monkeys) Well, this was probably the first skeptical podcast I ever came across (and despite what you might hear, the real home of Monkey News). Derek and Swoopy did something new and funny and and it introduced me to luminaries like the Bad Astronomer and James Randi and a community of skepticism and critical thought I hadn’t realized existed. Some people have been critical of a lack of scientific expertise/focus, and I have been a little disappointed lately as the show has become less regular and moved toward a more formal interview format at the expense of the news and nerdy banter and discussion that I used to enjoy, but regardless, Skepticality remains a pioneer in the genre and a staple on my iPod.

The Skeptics Guide To The Universe (Skepticism/Critical Thinking) The SGU is the regular weekly podcast of the New England Skeptical Society (NESS) and is probably the best current example of the skeptical genre. It has great panel discussion, news and interviews all held together and directed by the indefatigable Dr Steven Novella. It is also associated with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and the beautiful and brilliant Skepchicks. Hard to go wrong really.

Skeptiod (Skepticism/Critical Thinking) Hosted by Brian Dunning. Similar to the SGU in technical content it’s an excellent, concise and short (around 10 minutes) skeptical podcast with a focus on a single topic each episode.

Point Of Inquiry (Secular Humanism and some Skepticism) The podcast of the Center For Inquiry hosted by D. J. Grothe. It’s credentials and reputation are impeccable and it presents an amazing array of interviewees, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t gel with me. While a lot of people like Grothe’s devils advocate style of interviewing, to me it seems a little disingenuous, and the whole show tends to come across a little like propaganda that’s trying to not sound like propaganda. (Though to be fair, Grothe also tends to side on the Nisbet side of the Atheist Noise Machine debate, so he kind of rubs me the wrong way anyway.) I don’t subscribe, but I grab the odd interview when it looks interesting.

Freethought Radio (Freethought/Atheism) The podcast of a nationally broadcast secular radio show hosted by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The show has general programming for non-religious listeners with a main focus on separation of church and state issues. It suffers a little from the time constraints of the radio format, but is generally very informative about ongoing church/state issues in the US.

Logically Critical (Skepticism/Critical Thinking) This is a funny one. Each episode has a single theme that is addressed with basic logic, analogy, humor, funny voices and sound effects. The host makes a point of not using statistics or historical information, and thus the show tends to tread a fine line between skepticism and comedy, leaving many listeners divided on whether the podcast is brilliant or fatuous. Either way, his sarcasm and exasperation sometimes sound a lot like the voices in my head, so I tend to rather enjoy it.

The Infidel Guy (Atheism) A pioneer in the Atheist radio genre hosted by Reginald Finley, founder of the Atheist Radio Network. This show has an enormous archive, but unfortunately is a subscription based resource (the above link is to a small selection of free content). There are some amazing interviews available, but I find Finley’s interview technique uneven, especially when debating scientific concepts, and the more recent episodes of the show also tend to suffer from the frequent soliciting for paying subscribers. Like Point Of Inquiry I don’t subscribe, but tend to grab individual shows if they look interesting.

The Geologic Podcast (Skepticism/Atheism/Music/Theatre/Funny Har Har) I originally came across George Hrab via Skepticality, but I only just discovered that he also had a podcast. It’s brilliant, funny, smart (and often NSFW) with excellent production values. (I wasn’t super impressed by the first episode, but it turned out to be a recording from a radio show he used to do. Episode 2 onwards is the podcast proper.) Anyone who likes Monty Python as much as he does is my kind of people.

Well, that’s me. Anybody have any other suggestions?