Archive for secular humanism

Electron Boy Saves the Day!

Posted in health, News with tags , on May 8, 2010 by cpolsonb

I love this story, I really do. This is just so awesome and touching that I had to write about it. No it’s not really a science or skepticism piece but my gosh, it’s just so cool.

Everyone has heard of the Make-A-Wish foundation right? They are a charity that arranges special occasions, trips and meetings for terminally ill children. It began in Phoenix Arizona in 1980 when seven year old leukemia patient Christopher Greicius was granted his wish of being a police officer for day. The media coverage of the event prompted the founding of a national organization which soon went international and now operates in more than 30 countries. Tragically Christopher Greicius died of his illness just four days after his wish came true.

Just last month one particularly special wish came true and garnered international attention. 13 year old Seattle resident and liver cancer patient Erik Martin was granted his wish of becoming a superhero. Thus began the amazing story of Erik Martin Electron Boy and his amazing lightning rod! Erik was met by Spiderman in the morning (one of Electron Boys pals), who asked for his help in freeing the Seattle Sounders who were imprisoned in their locker room by Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy. Electron Boy quickly put on his costume and hopped in the Electron Mobile driven by Moonshine Maid went to the rescue. Oh and I musn’t forget the 20 motorcycle officer escort along the closed off main road!

Upon arrival Electron Boy met up with Lightning Lad who gave him the lightning rod which he promptly used to free the Sounders. After many heartfelt thanks from the team and a re-energizing power up secret handshake from Lightning Lad Electron Boy went onto the oval where he was awarded a signed football and personalized jersey. But the trouble wasn’t over because over the Jumbotron Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy announced that they planned to take over Seattle and make it dark! Electron Boy was off to the rescue and hopping in the Electron Mobile went and freed the head of the local electric company from atop a cherry picker. After that he needed to free some workers from a trapped elevator and then prepare for the final confrontation. In a battle of epic proportions Electron Boy faced up against the evil duo and managed to freeze them with his lightning rod.

All in all hundreds of people were involved in the occasion. The day was executed flawlessly in a light-hearted and feel good manner that left everyone smiling. Not only were the local police force and football team part of it but many local actors were given roles and hundreds of electric company employees gathered to cheer Electron Boy on. After the final battle Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw granted Electron Boy the key to the city and announced that Thursday would be known as Electron Boy Day. Erik was clearly enjoying himself the whole time despite his ailment. He did have one thing to say though:

“This is the best day of my life.”

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Images Courtesy of Seattle Times


The Big Libel Gig!

Posted in health, News, pseudoscience, skepticism with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by cpolsonb

This past Sunday (14/3) at the London’s Palace Theater in jolly old England, artists, scientists, authors and performers from all walks of life put on a show to help raise awareness (and money) for the fight for libel reform in the UK. For more information on what Libel Reform is all about take a read of my previous blog on the subject here. This Big Libel Gig really did have a stellar bill, including such talent as: Dara Ó Briain, Tim Minchin, Marcus Brigstocke, Robin Ince, Ed Byrne, Shappi Khorsandi, Professor Brian Cox, Simon Singh, Professor Richard Wiseman, Dr Peter Wilmshurst and Dr Ben Goldacre. All of these talented and gifted individuals gave wildly popular talks/performances many of which had the audience in stitches (figuratively).

Seeing such a group of people come together for such a worthy cause is just super awesome, how I wish I could have attended. Libel Reform is such a passionate issue of mine because it is well beyond a mere scientific issue, it is one of human rights. This is an issue that any member of the public can feel outrage over, regardless of their religious or philosophical viewpoint. For me it’s much more of a humanism fight than a scientific one. It is also a prime example of how a ground swelling of support from the skeptical movement can translate into a public issue. There is perhaps no better current example of the influence that skeptics and rationalists are actually capable of wielding. So far 197 members of parliament have signed “Parliamentary Early Day Motion 423” and Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, leading Tories and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP have all praised the Libel Reform campaign since 10,000 letters were sent to MPs. This comes on top of the chilling effect it’s had on UK chiropractors (a prime example of abusers of current libel) which you can read about in my blog entry here.

For a taste of what was in store at the Big Libel Gig I’ve embedded two videos of backstage interviews conducted by skepchick founder Rebecca Watson and host of the Little Atoms podcast Neil Denney. The first is with psychologist, author, magician and master of British wit Richard Wiseman and the second is with wildly popular musician and comedian Tim Minchin.


Coarse Language Warning (including some Libel of their own)

Chronicle of Belief: Part 2 – Secular Humanism

Posted in personal views, Philosophy with tags , , , , on March 6, 2010 by cpolsonb

It’s time for the second installment of my “Chronicle of Belief” where I attempt to put into words my own world-view and the opinions and positions that help define me. This entry is about my identification with the label Secular Humanist, a particular world-view with which I sympathize and identify strongly. Before I begin explaining secular humanism I should start by clarifying my position on other terms commonly used by those who reject the supernatural and/or demand falsifiable evidence for claims about reality. Of these people some of the most common terms I hear used are skeptics, rationalists, critical thinkers, agnostics, atheists and humanists. I must make clear that this blog entry is not about arguing for or against the existence of divine beings. I am planning on dividing my evaluation of particular arguments for divinity into a series of future blog posts. This is simply about which branch of non-believers I identify with and why. I am also not discussing which particular belief systems I believe are objectively “better” than any other. While I do believe strongly that beliefs in the supernatural range along a spectrum with demonstrably harmful on one side (Jonestown) and perfectly harmless on the other (loose deists) this post is not a discussion on such matters. I shall enter now into a case by case discussion on particular labels associated with a rejection of the supernatural:

Atheism vs Agnosticism
This issue is perhaps one of the strongest and most passionately debated topics dividing non-believers today. At the core of the issue is a true lack of definition for each of the terms. As well as this there are a myriad of sub-divisions and cross-overs between the camps. I couldn’t dream of covering the issue in any real depth, there are hundreds of pages of blog entries and forum threads which have attempted to do that already. Instead I’ll hit on a couple of main points as I see them.

One interpretation of atheism is that it requires an assertion that no gods exists. In this particular strand a truth claim is made that positively argues that there are no gods or divine beings. While this view is an honest interpretation of atheism it is also commonly set up as a straw man by believers in order to characterize the atheistic world-view as dogmatic and unscientific. I reject this view of atheism as there is no scientifically verifiable way to prove a negative. There is an equal amount of proof that the god of Abraham doesn’t exist as there is that a Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist. All that can be done scientifically is to prove that any interaction with reality claimed to be divine (like prayer or creationism) actually occurred through natural means. So far this effort has been successful and I’m not aware of any testable divine claim that has turned out to be truly supernatural.

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