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Topics - solstice

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Main Hall / Return to Africa's Witch Children
« on: February 06, 2010, 09:58:55 AM »
A year ago, Dispatches told the story of how children in Africa's Niger Delta were being denounced by Christian pastors as witches and wizards, and then killed, tortured or abandoned by their own families. Following the introduction of the Child Rights legislation and an increase in financial support for a British charity providing a refuge for affected youngsters, the programme returns to find out what happened to some of the people featured in the first film.

Main Hall / Jesus Riffles
« on: January 22, 2010, 03:40:40 AM »
Yep.  You heard correctly!  Pun intended.
I can not think of anything less American than our own military right now.  Of course, it's not just this, but this example is extremely and blatantly unconstitutional and irresponsible.  Why do we not just paint giant bull's eyes on their uniforms?

The Cafeteria / Glenn Beck not Killed in Fatal Crash
« on: November 04, 2009, 09:35:14 AM »
Glenn Beck was not killed in the wreck earlier, and mourners for the poor young woman ask God why she died before he did;

Other / Prayer Kills
« on: August 31, 2009, 07:39:56 AM »
This is a paper that was published in American Heart Journal (2006), concerning whether or not prayer is helpful to recovery, and whether or not knowledge of that prayer is helpful.
The next time a friend or relative is hospitalize, dont say you'll pray for them.

Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Patients at 6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; 597 did not receive intercessory prayer also after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided for 14 days, starting the night before CABG. The primary outcome was presence of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were any major event and mortality.

In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.

Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

Main Hall / Free Memberships with the Rosicrucian Order
« on: August 06, 2009, 08:49:17 PM »
I been informed that the Ancient Mystical Order of Rosae Crucis is accepting new members free of charge until the end of August in celebration of their anniversary.
If interested visit this page, and e-mail your response to (you will be redirected to billing if you send that form).  Terms and conditions can be found at

Voting Forum / Chatroom Identity
« on: March 11, 2009, 01:03:22 PM »
According to the rules, changing names in the chatroom to "mimic" or "impersonate" a staff member is prohibited.  Yet, I have not seen any line drawn that could possibly distinguish vague similarity, and actual mimicry-- the rules do NOT stipulate any such difference, which leaves room for confusion and abuse.
Thus, I propose that we vote on whether or not we should be allowed to have whatever idenity we choose, that does not actually contain most of a moderator's name or strong variation of it, such as kobok123 or pr0fecy, or something else that bears more than a vague similarity.

Voting will close in two weeks.

The Cafeteria / Looking for Voice Actors
« on: January 12, 2009, 03:39:14 PM »
I am looking for someone or several people to assist me in making a least one satirical video for Youtube.  The roles are simple and you do not need to be particularly convincing.  I do not have a mic right now, which is why I ask.
There's not yet a written script, but I know what kind of dialogue I want and the kind of message there will be.  To get an idea of the end result, check out the channel called "Nonstampcollector" that inspired me.

I need to fill these distinct rolls: 3 adult males; at least 2 adult females; 1 male child; 1 female child.
There's no deadline, but I would like to get some samples within this month so I dont forget about it.

Main Hall / My Letter to the Atheist Community
« on: November 27, 2008, 04:31:36 PM »
There's a cable show, and live stream, hosted by the Atheist Community, called Atheist Experience.  Mostly, they are informative and enlightening.
Today, I watched a clip of an episode about the soul (here).  Since I am a huge fan of the existence of such a thing, and most of you know that I am writing something related, I thought I would write to their show to see if they had any response to some of the scientific evidence that run contrary to the claim made there.
Hopefully, I will get a response and I can let you guys know if they concede or want to know more.  This is my letter:

Dear Atheist Experience,
I enjoy your show, and have been catching episodes on and off for a couple months.  You bring a refreshing new perspective to skepticism, even along the lines of what Robert Lancaster did with Sylvia Browne (if you are familiar with his former website).  Not once do I feel personally offended, which is sometimes the case with Pen & Teller and the Randi Foundation.
I am writing to comment on one episode, entitled "Illusionary Soul", which I caught on Youtube.  Tracie and Matt mentioned that stimulus responses could appear like something Supernatural, but really was not; and that there was no soul in that sense.  This interpretation seems a little naive, and I am wondering if you have seen some of the scientific papers published that would suggest that interpretation to not be totally true?  I will include which articles I mean at the end, but I wanted to know what you think of the idea that the physical world (and our definition of that) exapnds with new information?  These articles suggest that there is something interacting with us, that does not seem to have a known causal explanation.  Natutally, I would not endorse that this kind of evidence supports the validity of a specific religion or anything like that, however, I do think they indicate there is more to reality than what we can currently detect; and that to say there is "nothing" more than what we can see is not all true.
I have copies of each article as a PDF if you are unable to find them.  I had difficulty getting them all, myself.  There's a lot more, but I'll be brief for the sake of time.  My understanding is that these experiments have been repeated with similar results, and I could provide you with those too.  I hope to hear your response


"Evidence of Correlated Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Signals Between Distant Human Brains"
By Leanna Strandish, et al (Published in Alternative Therapies, vol. 9, no. 4).

"Skin Conductance Prestimulus Response"
By S. James P. Spottiswoode, et al (Laboratories for Fundamental Research)

Tracie responded!  This is what she had to say, but I am not clear as to whether or not she agrees that the findings actually support my interpretation.  She is in agreement that these findings deserve further research, as do I.

The first paper is published in a journal that has a reputable staff so far as credentials go. That does not endorse the findings of the study. It means that the study was most likely professionally executed based on the researchers' descriptions of their methodology. When I search the title on Yahoo, I find a number of woo blogs and one edu site for a college that labels itself "Higher Education honoring the Spiritual Dimension of Intellectual Life." I can't find this promoted by any universities that deal in serious neuroscientific research, and I don't find it mentioned in any medical journals not dedicated to an "alternative" viewpoint.

The second paper reports it found a response, but does not appear to offer an explanation based upon the reasearch for what causes the response: "stimuli in this experiment deviates significantly from chance expectation (Z ł2.76, pł0.006 two-tailed, ESł0.0552). While there is dispute as to the mechanism of these effects..."

It is very important to bear in mind that in any experiment, repeatability is extremely important. Zener cards are a good example. They are a set of 25 cards, with 5 symbols printed upon 5 cards each. A person tries to guess what the next card to turn over will be. If you used Zener cards to test your psychic ability, it's possible you could get all 25 cards correct on your first try--and that, by itself, would be completely meaningless and unimpressive. You would have to do this over and over and over, the more times the better. Once you've repeated it many times, we would be able to see if the first attempt was a lucky occurance. We should expect on average you will get at least 5 cards correct. But that doesn't mean you'll hit 5 cards each time you do it.

Meanwhile, with something like the papers you note below, I would have no objection to anyone doing further research into this. In fact, there is ongoing paranormal research. It is possible to find interesting natural phenomena in studies of previously unexplained phenomena.

But we first need to do enough research studies to demonstrate that what is found in these papers you mention is found consistently on average--that it is a reality that we can rely upon to manifest consistently and repeatedly in many well done research studies. Also, bear in mind there was, just this weekend, an article on NPR (National Public Radio) that discussed a problem in science publishing--which is that positive results are more likely to be published. It appears that it is far more interesting if I find positive data in support of a strange hypothesis--but how interesting is it that I did a study of Zener cards and found that on average people get 5 cards right--exactly as we'd expect? It's not new or exiting--it's simply predictable and mundane--and will a journal be likely to devote precious and limited space to my paper in that case?

What I was referring to on the program, however, was a combination of Jung's observations on the subconscious, and the later support for his observations that was provided by research such as that of Crick and Koch--neuroscientists who found that subconsious mind initiates action, and the conscious mind allows or vetos that action. Their work has detractors, but is widely accepted as valid by other neuroscientists. And that's the type of research I would consider reliable--that which is used to create the most widely adopted models in their field of study--by other credentialed researchers in their field of study.

So, the current model we end up with is a reality where the section of our brains that we are unaware of (consciously) actually "tells us" what to do. And the conscious mind (that I generally think of as "me") either does what it is "told" or decides not to do it. It is "as if" I have some other mind within my own brain that is driving me--of which I am unaware. And "I" am just a function of a greater mind--the bulk of which operates and motivates without my conscious knowledge or consent. This causes many people to think their ideas come from god or the devil--because it seems not to be "me" initiating my thoughts and actions. And that's very understandably confusing to people.

If there is a precognitive capacity in human beings, such as the papers you provide imply, that would be interesting--and would be an even further reason, in my view, for some people to confuse their normal, human abilities with spirits or ghosts or gods. I have no personal agenda to deny such a human capacity if one is solidly demonstrated. Jung, in fact, had an extensive theory on this called "Synchronicity"--which, while I find it to be brilliant science fiction (for his time), was not supported by empirical data; although Jung was operating based upon research he believed had supported precognition (but was later shown to have flawed results).

If some sort of human precognition becomes the generally accepted model of the neuroscientific community--then I'll be happy to recognize it as scientifically supported model. But for now it seems to be an interesting observation that deserves a bit more investigation so we can know (1) if it's a valid/verifiable observation and (2) if it can be consistently repeated. Then we need someone to offer an explanation for the observation and demonstrate that via testing, so that we can make some educated statements about what is actually at work with this. But that seems, to me, to be a long way off, if it's going to happen at all.

Main Hall / Proposition 8 is Bullshit
« on: November 11, 2008, 10:26:58 AM »
(For those of you that are unfamiliar, go here and then here.)

Is anyone else rather disgusted at how much religion is pervading everyone's life?
First of all, marriage is a religious institution, with legal support.  Married couples in one state are not legally married in another.  What this means, is that the law defends your ability to consolidate your personal resources, to become a "union".  Further, it means that God has blessed your ability to make children together.
Now, I seem to remember that my Constitution explicitly forbids batshit-insane fantasies to determine how I choose to live my life.  Yet, I am now being told it's not okay to consolidate my life with another person without being married, because some stranger thinks an invisible man in the Sky will cry.  Does anyone else think this is a bit hypocritical, considering that the framers of legal bills are responsible for preserving the Constitution?
What I also find interesting, is that the union between parents and children is almost exactly like the union between a married couple.  Children are not allowed to own property as individuals, or have a legal opinion for a period of time.  Instead, their responsibilities and belongings are shared with their parents; parents and children have a legal union.  Naturally, this union actually helps the economy, because parents need to earn more income, and new jobs need to be created to support growing families and the eventual growth of that economy.  No one ever says they support "real families" but not "civil families", do they?
So, people choose to protest Proposition 8 through rallies and fund-raisers.  Yet, everyone seems bent on protecting the word "marriage", rather than seeing it for exactly what it is: a dogmatic and civil union.  I propose that if one truly believes in equality, then protest by getting a divorce, and reject religion from determining how our country works.  If the millions who reject Proposition 8 were to sharply increase the divorce rate in America, then state governments would have no choice but to amend their laws concerning things like adoption, insurance and property.

Main Hall / Palin Knows the Most about Energy
« on: September 16, 2008, 02:23:14 PM »

Main Hall / More Skeptical Propaganda
« on: August 12, 2008, 02:04:31 AM »
I rencently found this article, as a response to a study done at Harvard University.  The study seems to use MRI scans to detect the presence of psi phenomena.  However, the author states that it shown no evidence at all.
Being as I have about 5 different studies that totally contradict the statements made by the author and study mentioned, I found it appropriate to write and ask for a retraction.
I'd urge anyone else to do the same, and let him know that journalistic dishonesty is not the best way to speak of science.  This is my letter:

To: Steven Novella <>
From: Me
Subject: Steven Novella: RE: MRI and Psi Evidence

Dear Mr. Novella,
I recently read an on-line journal article pertaining to your response to an MRI study conducted on behalf of the hypothesized existence of psi phenomena (January, 2008; The Ness).
First, I would like to know if this particular publication was your only source.  If not, could you perhaps cite some more sources?  Second, I noticed that only two scientists authored the source you did mention.  I would like to know, if you are aware of the other similar studies conducted?  At least a dozen others have participated in the same experiment, and their results contradict the statements made by Moulton and Kosslyn.
I am enclusing a list of these experiments, all of which can be found through Google, or I can send you the actual files via PDF.  What is your opinion on these, and why would they contradict the results from Moulton et al?
Lastly, I ask that you write a retraction to your original article, should you read these experiments and concede they do seem to contradict your original source.  Further, until it is determined why such a difference in data was found (if at all), I ask that further articles should involve more care.


"Anomalous Anticipatory Response on Randomised Future Conditions" by Dick J. Bierman, et al (Perceptual and Motor Skills).
"Anomalous Anticipatory Brain Activation Preceding Exposure of Emotional and Neutral Pictures" by Bierman, et al (University of Amsterdam).

Further MRI Experiments...

"Evidence of Correlated Magnetic Resonance Imaging Signals Between Distant Brains" by Leanna J. Standish, et al (Alternative Therapies).
"Replicable Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Evidence of Correlated Brain Signals between Physically and Sensory Isolated Subjects" by Todd L. Richards, et al (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine).

Main Hall / Psi Wheel Video
« on: July 08, 2008, 02:11:43 PM »
I find this on Screwtube today.  What are your opinions?
What bothers me, is that I can not see both hands all the time, and there is no way for me to determine if what I am seeing was done in one shot.  This is the best set-up I have seen, but I dont really believe it yet.

The Cafeteria / Gay Scientists Discover the Christian Gene.
« on: June 19, 2008, 04:26:08 PM »
No longer, do we need to judge our Christian friends.  It's not their fault, and gay scientists have discovered why;

Main Hall / Ebeneezer Walmart
« on: March 27, 2008, 03:16:02 PM »

It is not enough they literally take homes from people, but they actually have to squeeze you until you have nothing left.

Main Hall / Hampton Roads Publishes Deathbombs
« on: March 08, 2008, 03:10:40 AM »
For those of you that do not know, Hampton Roads is a publisher of different New Age and self-help books.  They are currently endorsing the author Robert Bruce, for which I felt the need to write to them and ask a couple questions.
This is what I wrote, and I will show you guys their response, if there is any.  In order for you to understand just what it is I had read that provokes such a letter, enclosed is a copy of the page in particular.

Dear Hampton Roads,
I am writing to ask for the intended target audience of one of your books, and possibly call attention to what seems like a potentially dangerous passage there-in.
In "Practical Psychic Self Defense" by Robert Bruce, on page 238, he instructs the reader to burn sulfur indoors.  The passages says, "[Close] all windows in the room being treated.  Remembering to hold your breath, add a small amount of sulfur powder to the glowing coals of the censor."  The rest of the paragraph goes on like that.
My question, is this book meant for young adults?  And if so, does Hampton Roads or the author understand how dangerous it is to come into contact with sulfur smoke?  I am sure it is not the intention of Hampton Roads to endanger its readers in any way, but I know for a fact that younger readers do own books by Robert Bruce, including this one.  Further, younger people do not tend to share their interest in metaphysical and self-help matters, and are thus more likely to pull a foolish stunt like this without supervision or the proper knowledge.
Thank you for your time.  I usually enjoy reading other books from Hampton Roads.

[Signed here]

Hampton Roads currently has an on-line form, if any of you have families that would also care to complain about the content of  the book.

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