Thoughts

On science and cynicism

Category: Rants (page 1 of 3)

On Balance and Bullshit

‘But what about balance!?!’ the not-homophobes wail, tears in their eyes; one hand gripping the earth beneath their knees, the other clenched into a fist, shaking at the Heaven that has seemingly forsaken Holy Ireland.

Balance“: a word somewhere between a rousing battle-cry and a sorrowful whimper the not-homophobes throw about in attempt to garner some semblance of credibility as their voices continue to sink into the abyss of Real Life. A word – along with “silence” – brought out on a regular basis to show how the not-homophobes are, in fact, the real victims in all of this. If a gay person appears on a radio show to talk about their everyday life in modern Ireland, then surely not having someone else to shout them down is “silencing” the opponents of same-sex marriage? How can we be a functioning democracy when the holders of the status quo in the country are unable to speak their not-homophobic minds without someone raising an eyebrow? Waaaah! Baaaaalaaaaance!

balance

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Peer Review for Conspiracy Theorists

I listened to RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke today, which featured Declan Waugh (expert in misrepresenting research) and Gerry Byrne (science writer) discussing water fluoridation. It made me recall previous interviews I’ve watched and heard, and I wondered how long it would take for anti-fluoride campaigners to start demanding to know “who is paying this so-called Gerry Byrne, really??? Is he being paid by Big Pharma to lie to the public about fluoride??”

Comments like this are not uncommon: many campaigners believe that a company can pay a researcher to publish a paper in their favour in a journal. This isn’t really possible to do, and I cringe when I hear people embarrass themselves in the media by showing how they don’t know how academic research and peer review works. Moreover, when people start making claims that researchers are deliberately undertaking professional misconduct for financial reward, this can very possibly lead to defamation cases in the courts. Continue reading

Iona Irrationality

If you were listening to Marian Finucane on RTE Radio One over the weekend you may have heard her chatting with with Breda O’Brien, patron of the lobby group the Iona Institute (a business name for Lolek Ltd). During the interview she stated that the Iona Institute is not a Catholic group. My eyebrow was certainly raised at this, and it echoes what her fellow Iona patron, Patricia Casey said to Matt Cooper on Today FM early last year:

Casey: “We’re not a Catholic institute.”
Cooper: “Alright. A Christian institution?”
Casey: “No. We’re not. We support the role of religion in society but we’re not a religiously based organisation.”

You only need to go as far as Iona’s website to see the tagline in the heading, For Religion and Society, and their four (possibly four; O’Brien seemed a little unsure when speaking to Finucane) patrons are all Catholic.

This probably gives you a bit of a taster into the odd, topsy-turvy logic and confusion the Iona Institute put forth on a regular basis. You’d previously have been excused for not knowing much about Iona, but if you’re reading this you’re probably aware at this stage of the whole Pantigate craic that’s been going on of the last while. Continue reading

Freedom of Speech vs Freedom from Consequence

For as long as I have been following various issues, I’ve repeatedly come across various groups individuals on the conservative side of the spectrum saying that liberals on the left are denying them their right to free speech. Those decrying such “oppression” are usually the recipients of valid criticism to their statements or claims, which is itself, of course, free speech. Continue reading

Quantum Mysticism: Abuse of Science and Faith

“Why yes, Pat; Angels exist!” exclaimed a lady with glee on the Irish weekend TV chatshow The Late Late Show some years ago, triggering a sense of internal rage within me. “It’s just quantum physics!” I quickly pulled out my phone and texted in to the show – as I saw there was a ticker of live text messages and comments on the screen – to try to counter the point, but, alas, it was not read out or shown on the ticker.

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The Problem(s) with Youth Defence: Hate

I’m not talking about the kind of hatred that some of us have for bad puns, or the kind I have for olives and mushrooms. I’m not talking about hatred of Monday mornings or when someone takes your parking space. I’m not even talking about that hatred of when you realise only too late that they never gave you your bag of prawn crackers at the takeaway.

I’m talking about the kind of hatred that consumed Anakin Skywalker and made him become Darth Vader. That deep, all-consuming bitterness you see in some people. The cruel hate that they clearly take some sort of empty enjoyment out of, and you can only feel pity for those people.

That is the hatred Youth Defence thrive on, and the bitterness they try to instill in their followers.

Please note that some of the images and language in this post may be triggering. Continue reading

A Question for The Iona Institute

If you’ve been following the news lately you will know that the Iona Institute have very conservative views on marriage and abortion rights: patrons of the self-styled ‘institute’ have appeared on various TV and radio shows over the last number of weeks to talk about some of the current major issues in Irish society at the moment. I was thinking recently about some of the positions held by the Iona Institute. While I expect them to be at odds with my own beliefs and opinions, I wasn’t really expecting the Iona Institute to have stances that, in fact, contradict and defeat each other. Continue reading

Ireland and the Realities of Sexual Relationships

For decades now, while we have made some positive steps, Ireland has had an unhealthy attitude towards sexual health and awareness. By being willfully ignorant of sexuality and sexual health in our society, the country had effectively tricked itself into believing that such things didn’t happen in Ireland: extra-marital relationships, contraception, same-sex relationships, abortions.

Many of you will have picked up today’s Sunday Independent and read the front-page article describing Michelle Mulherin TD’s outrage at a website giving advice to teenagers and young adults about sexual relationships. The advice in question dealt with threesomes and relationships involving more that two people. You can read the article at SpunOut.ie (which is an excellent website that helps young adults deal with the various issues that arise during growing up).
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Political Lobbying and the Anti-Choice Movement

Youth Defence and the Life Institute have ignored six requests by SIPO to disclose their sources of funding. This has been covered in the Irish Times today and in January. Continue reading

Meaningless Questions with Meaningless Answers

In recent days the Pro-Life Campaign announced that they had undertaken a poll asking people about their opinions on abortion. The PLC came to the conclusion that around 65% of people in Ireland supported a pro-life stance. However, the questions in the poll raised several eyebrows. With the poll being badly-worded and arguably leading, many people have pointed out the flaws with the poll, which goes in the face of an Ipsos MRBI poll that reports an 85% support for abortion in certain circumstances. Continue reading

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