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Comments by njwong

Go to: The Right’s Righteous Frauds

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by njwong

... that’s not a reason to change thousands of years of thinking about marriage ...

I recently discovered an MSNBC commentator called Lawrence O'Donnell who had a great take on the "highly changeable institution of marriage" in response to statements from the Republicans and the religious right that marriage has always been about "one man and one woman".

MSNBC video

Tue, 22 May 2012 06:39:38 UTC | #942758

Go to: "We Believe" Todd Stiefel speaking at the Reason Rally

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by njwong

Comment 5 by Metamag :

Comment 3 by Net :

politically over correct LGBT instead of the original GLBT

What?? jesus imaginary christ!

You know, I have never noticed that the acronym LGBT did not match the term "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender" before. In most articles, gay terms are invariably referenced as "Gay Community", "Gay Parents", "Gay Marriage" etc. Where the fully spelt out long form term is used, I normally see the ordering "Gay and Lesbian" instead of "Lesbian and Gay".

I can't believe that there is actually a section in the Wikipedia entry talking about the acronym variants!

But GLBT does have a problem as it is very close to GBLT (Gourmet Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich), so perhaps that is why the LGBT acronym is preferred :-)

Thu, 17 May 2012 07:49:08 UTC | #941985

Go to: "We Believe" Todd Stiefel speaking at the Reason Rally

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by njwong

That was a great rah-rah-rallying speech from Todd. According to Wikipedia, in Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, "I Have A Dream" is said 8 times (link). Todd's "We Believe" is said 9 times. But what is memorable 9th one it was:

And most of all, we believe freedom is based on “We the People”, not “They the Clergy”.

Well done!

Thu, 17 May 2012 07:20:20 UTC | #941981

Go to: In defence of obscure words

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 96 by njwong

Comment 82 by Saganic Rites :

... One of my favourite childhood jokes was a very simple play on words. Sadly, almost everybody I told it to needed it explaining, but just for old time's sake.....

Did you hear about the architect who had his house made backwards so he could watch television?

I have absolutely no idea why that is funny (link). Jokes that need explaining sort of misses the point.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 16:39:12 UTC | #937505

Go to: Monster-Sized Rabbits Discovered; Sadly, They Can't Hop

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by njwong

Wow. That trailer for "Night of the Lepus" was really corny.

I did not see "Night of the Lepus" (nor "Harvey") back in the 70s. However, I did watched a B-grade "sci-fi" movie called "Food of the Gods" with a similar theme (giant animals kill humans):

The special effects look much better than those in "Night of the Lepus" :-)

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 08:19:38 UTC | #936946

Go to: The sound of sin

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by njwong

This reminds me of a story I heard recently:

The King of Saudi Arabia asked the leading clerics of his country to come to his palace to declare a fatwa on the use of satellite TVs. After much deliberation, the clerics told the king that satellite TVs should be haram because the prophet did not use satellite TVs.

Later, as the clerics left the King and made their way to the palace car park, they found to their astonishment that all their cars were missing and had been replaced with camels. An attendant was waiting there for them with a message from the King, saying that as the prophet did not use cars, the clerics should likewise be forbidden to use them too.

Today, satellite TV broadcasting is one of the primary channels Saudi Arabia uses to propagate its brand of Islam (Wahhabism) throughout the world.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 04:55:44 UTC | #936914

Go to: Evolution in motion: organisms once stuck to rocks can now evade predators

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by njwong

This reminds me of a very beautiful TED video called "The Secret Life of Plankton":

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 02:24:27 UTC | #935910

Go to: Why I'm saying no to a smear

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by njwong

I think Dr McCartney has clearly indicated that she is "not against screening, but am against unthinking screening".

Besides, there have been quite a number of reports recommending the same advice that Dr McCartney had given. Screening is performed on "healthy" people without symptoms, and merely identifies people at an increased risk who are then recommended to go for follow up diagnostic testing. However, the majority of those who do the follow up diagnostic test do not show any cancer at all - because these people are the "healthy people without symptoms" in the first place. It is precisely because the efficacy of such screening tests are not very high that we should really ask whether we should spent such a huge amount of money on screening in the first place.

For example, according to this article:

Percentage of eligible females screened for cervical cancer:
USA - 86%     OECD average - 61%

Cervical cancer 5-year survival rate:
USA - 64%     OECD average - 66%

Although the USA had significantly more screening than the OECD countries, the survival rates in both the USA and the OECD countries were about the same. From the data, I would think that the increased screening rate in the USA offered no benefit whatsoever as compared to the lower screening rate in the OECD countries.

Ultimately, everything must be weighed against the benefits and the costs.

And I don't buy the reason that it is better to go for a screening (despite its dubious efficacy) than to not go for a screening. That sounds exactly like a Pascal Wager cop-out.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 10:45:49 UTC | #929235

Go to: Hibernating bears' wounds heal without scars

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by njwong

Just hope the investigation doesn't lead to the conclusion that the bears' healing powers come from the bear's bile. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bile of the bear can cure "trauma, sprains, fractures, hemorrhoids, conjunctivitis, severe hepatitis, high fever, convulsions, and delirium". I think there is a need to prevent bear bile farmers from justifying their "barbaric" practice of caging bears simply to extract their bile:

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 07:01:09 UTC | #928850

Go to: Nate Phelps to Speak at Military's Atheist Festival - Son of Infamous “Thank God For Dead Soldiers” Preacher To Speak on Fort Bragg

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by njwong

I agree with Justin's decision not to invite Fred Phelps and his family. Their presence will simply be a thorn in the flesh, and detract the focus of the celebration of reason and rationality, and of atheists in the military. Besides, I am sure Fred Phelps and family will find some way to picket the event. Like moths to a flame, they simply will not be able to help themselves from doing so.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 06:47:55 UTC | #928843

Go to: The spectre of militant secularism

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by njwong

Comment 28 by HardNosedSkeptic :

By the way, at the end of the first part of the speech (at about 9:40), the camera briefly swings into the audience. Do my eyes deceive me, or can you see Richard for a few seconds?

Hmmm. You are right! It is indeed Richard in the foreground.

Which is very amusing because it reminds me of Nick Cohen's post, where right at the end of his article, you suddenly see the mention of "Richard Dawkins" from out of nowhere. And likewise for the video, where right at the end, you see a glimpse of Richard from out of nowhere!

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 06:38:11 UTC | #928841

Go to: The spectre of militant secularism

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by njwong

Comment 2 by Richard Dawkins :

This is a text version of the excellent speech that Nick Cohen gave when presenting the awards at the National Secular Society's 'Secularist of the Year' lunch in London. Peter Tatchell, recipient of the main award, also gave a very good speech.


I just found Peter Tatchell's speech on YouTube:

The video is out of focus, but the sound quality is okay.

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 15:53:03 UTC | #928646

Go to: Is Richard Dawkins an ape?

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by njwong

Saying that humans are "brighter" than apes in mental activities reminds me of the memory test where the chimpanzee constantly bested humans:

I wonder what would Vasko Kohlmayer explanation be for why "God" gave the chimpanzee such amazing memory.

Above all, we must not teach our children that they come from animals. Not only is this untrue, but if we tell them that they are animals they will eventually start acting like animals.

Only religious ignoramuses like Kohlmayer would loudly claim scientific truths to be untrue, and proudly teach falsehoods as the truth.

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 18:34:48 UTC | #928404

Go to: Scientists Last Supper

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by njwong

Perhaps someone can do a scientists Periodic Table. There should be enough slots there so we don't have to quibble about this or that scientist not being represented.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:39:22 UTC | #927426

Go to: Rick Warren and the “Same” God Issue

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by njwong

Meanwhile, there is a provocative article on The Telegraph that Jesus may be a hermaphrodite:

Jesus may have been a hermaphrodite

That should sell a couple more copies of this newspaper which had previously insulted us by calling the Richard Dawkins Foundation as a "Foundation for Enlightening People Stupider than Professor Richard Dawkins" (link).

Dr Susannah Cornwall's paper that was referenced in The Telegraph article can be downloaded from this site: Link to PDF

Tue, 06 Mar 2012 09:38:53 UTC | #924805

Go to: Rick Warren and the “Same” God Issue

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by njwong

Comment 50 by susanlatimer :

... Don't be fooled by the numbers. I check in to read more than I do to comment....

... I voraciously read every biology report but don't feel qualified to comment. I just audit those threads. I'm more interested in those but of course, until I learn more, I don't have anything to contribute so I don't comment....

... I never miss a post by Helga Vierich, for instance. And I don't respond, as I have nothing to contribute and not enough fully-formed questions to interrupt. She's given me a lot to think about on many subjects that interest me. She'd never know that. That's just one example....

Agree 100%.

Tue, 06 Mar 2012 09:22:46 UTC | #924802

Go to: Atheist group targets Muslims, Jews with ‘myth’ billboards in Arabic and Hebrew

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by njwong

It's great to see the word "Allah" written in Arabic on the signboard. A lot of so-called Moderate Muslims (read: Extremist Muslims) will simply get all worked up when they see this word. The latest incident is the one from Malaysia where US singer Erykah Badu had her scheduled concert cancelled by the Malaysian government simply because some Moderate Muslims noticed that Erykah Badu had, among other "tattoos" on her body, one that showed the word "Allah" in Arabic:

BBC News: Malaysia cancels Erykah Badu show over 'Allah tattoos'

The "Allah tattoo" on Erykah Badu

As usual, the Malaysian government had simply jumped the gun saying that Erykah Badu was "insulting Islam" and causing offence when in reality, nothing of the sort had been intended. (The so-called Moderate Islam that the Malaysian government proudly proclaims they practise is every bit as intolerant as Standard Islam ie. the one practised in Saudi Arabia and most Arabic countries near Mecca).

The singer has explained that in fact, the so-called "tattoos" were actually ink. She had her body painted with all symbols and names of God, taking inspiration from the movie "The Holy Mountain" which features a character called "The Painted Lady":

"One of his characters is called the painted lady. She wore all symbols and names of God on her body. I posed as her in a photo shoot for New Am pt2. This idea embodies who we All are...One."

Erykah Badu's explains the "Allah tattoos"

Unlike Moderate Muslims, Erykah Badu did not take offence with the cancellation of her concert. This is such a contrast with the Malaysian government who didn't even bothered to ask her for an explanation of the "Allah tattoo" and just cancelled her concert because they knew that Moderate Muslims will not react well to the "Allah tattoo". Erykah Badu, a non-Muslim, is gracious and forgiving. The Malaysian government, who are devout Moderate Muslims, are simply the obverse.

I have actually viewed Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 movie "The Holy Mountain" (it is available on the internets), and it is simply one of the most bizarre and inexplicable movies I have ever watched in my life. It definitely epitomizes the terms "post-modernism art" that is much debated here in RD.NET - I just don't understand it. Anyway, you can see what I mean and make up your own mind about the artistic value of "The Holy Mountain" by watching its 2 minute trailer on YouTube:

Trailer for Alejandro Jodorowsky's "The Holy Mountain"

Personally, the movie is downright weird.

Sat, 03 Mar 2012 03:09:23 UTC | #923943

Go to: What Were the Consequences of Early Human & Neanderthal Interbreeding?

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by njwong

Comment 1 by Jos Gibbons :

Why does it come with an astronaut picture?

I guess it is because the site is called "The Daily Galaxy", and the owner has decided to have every post accompanied by an obligatory space photo, regardless of context or relevancy. See the site's "Home" page for examples.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 05:14:25 UTC | #923023

Go to: There’s More to Nothing Than We Knew

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by njwong

Guess this "there is more to nothing" concept is just fuel for the believers. They will probably be harping on it (if they have not already):

You see, even your own scientists say there is something rather than nothing. Just as the thinking that there is nothing is now scientifically proven to be wrong, the thinking that there is no god is likewise wrong. There is more to no-god. There is some god!

Fri, 24 Feb 2012 04:55:56 UTC | #921381

Go to: The Church wins the award for intolerance

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by njwong

I was curious who was the scoffer who made the remark that Richard was running a "Foundation for Enlightening People Stupider than Professor Richard Dawkins". A quick Google search shows that it was penned by a Charles Moore from The Telegraph.

Far be it for me to return Moore's insult by calling him names. I shall offer him a poem instead:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I have 5 fingers
The 3rd one's for you.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 09:47:43 UTC | #920302

Go to: Dawkins & Krauss Discussion from ASU 4 Feb

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 54 by njwong

Comment 49 by phil rimmer :

Comment 30 by Cartomancer :

Carto, we are going to need a book out of you soon. Perhaps someone who knows you could introduce you to Bantam or OUP?

Not only is this stuff fascinating but the exact nature of this "Christian Intellectual and Moral Heritage" thing needs to be autopsied.

"Christian Intellectual and Moral Heritage, an Autopsy." There. Should appeal to the CSI generation....

I thought Richard provided a good book title too: "The Tragic Futility of The Theological Mind."

Seriously, Cartomancer should compile many of his essays from RD.NET and rework them into book form. I was thinking about how 2 of my favourite pop-culture authors, Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics), and Malcolm Gladwell (of The Tipping Point), started with their first books, which were basically expansions of ideas that they had previously published in essay form. Cartomancer can be likewise, specialising in the area of pop-theology :-)

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 17:47:13 UTC | #917255

Go to: Happy Darwin Day!

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by njwong

Comment 6 by Luke_B :

(as an aside I wish this site recognised English spelling of words. I'm tired of being chastised for simply spelling things in a correct but different manner).

Spell checking is a setting on your browser, and not from RD.NET. I always configure my browser to recognise "English (UK)" spelling (as the default is otherwise "English (US)").

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 01:46:45 UTC | #917048

Go to: The new anti-science assault on US schools

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by njwong

More should be done to ridicule these politicians for their superstitious beliefs. Their credibility can only be destroyed by being mocked at. Secularists are not doing enough in this respect.

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 01:20:17 UTC | #917043

Go to: Malaysia deports Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 50 by njwong

It is most unfortunate that Kashgari had to stopover at Malaysia. It would have been safer for him had he not need to transit in any Muslim country.

Malaysia itself is probably caught in a bind.

As Islam is the official religion in this Muslim majority country, Malaysia is dependent on Saudi Arabia for the number of Hajj visas issued to them by the Saudis for Muslims doing the Hajj pilgrimage.

If Malaysia do not deport Kashgari and thus anger the Saudis, the Saudis may retaliate by reducing the number of Hajj visas to Malaysia. This will cause a political problem for the Malaysian government if many Muslim citizens cannot secure a visa to make the Hajj pilgrimage, and decide to switch their support in the upcoming elections from the current United Malays National Organisation (a secular party) to that of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (an Islamic party) which has called for implementing stricter Islamic Sharia laws in the country.

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 00:59:43 UTC | #917039

Go to: Pope 'exorcised two men in the Vatican', claims new book

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 88 by njwong

If the incident is real and was witnessed by the public, I would think the 2 men are actually accomplices who were engaged to make the public think the pope possesses some magical and godly power. The whole thing screams of magician's stooges, and only truly gullible people will buy into the explanation that the pope has some divine power.

I was reminded of the Youtube clips in one of Sam Harris's blog post about the kung fu master with the power to deflect blows from his students, as well as being able to knock his students to the ground, simply by throwing magical punches that do not involve any physical contact between the 2 persons.

Kung fu master knocking his students down with non-contact magical punches

However, when the same kung fu master tried using the same magical kung fu against a real opponent in a pugilistic tournament, his opponent gave the kung fu master a bloodied nose:

Kung fu master facing reality

The students are like the believing Catholics (such as Father Amorth) who are so deep in the delusion that the pope has godly powers, that they even need to actively participate in the deception to propagate the false belief.

(Thanks to Premiseless for the Sam Harris post.)

Fri, 10 Feb 2012 21:38:10 UTC | #916421

Go to: Elephants Took 24 Million Generations to Evolve From Mouse-Size

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by njwong

If I recall my science correctly from Godzilla, you only need to add radioactivity to have the komodo dragon evolve to skyscraper size in 1 generation :-)

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 20:33:46 UTC | #915127

Go to: How to Dispel Your Illusions

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by njwong

The story that using a statistical formula was better at determining the most suitable vocation for the recruit versus the expert judgement of the interviewers reminded me of a similar story described in Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink".

In chapter 4 of the book, Gladwell describes a problem that Cook County Hospital in Chicago was having with potential heart attack patients in the ER (Emergency Room). Previously, whenever a person checks in to the hospital with a complaint of chest pain, the doctors will try to gather as much information as they can (take a Blood Pressure reading; Take ECG - electro cardiogram; How long have you experience chest pain? Where does it hurt? Are you in pain when you exercise? Have you experience chest paint before? Have you had heart trouble before? Do you use drugs? Do you have diabetes? etc ) From the answers, the doctors will then use their judgement to decide if the patient is a potential heart attack victim or not, and act accordingly.

However, the doctors judgement were not very accurate. And when a hospital bed in the coronary care department came in at $2000 per day, and a patient needs to be warded for a minimum of 3 days for observation, this was very costly in both sense of the word if a non-heart attack patient was warded (and depriving a bed for a genuine heart attack patient), or more dangerously, if the doctors misjudge a genuine heart attack patient as not suffering from a heart attack and did not ward the patient.

A cardiologist Dr Lee Goldman did a statistical study of chest pain patients, and realise that to predict if a patient complaining of chest pain is suffering from a heart attack, it is not necessary to consider the whole myriad of factors as the doctors were then doing. Instead, it is only necessary to measure just 3 of them:

  1. Is the chest pain felt by the patient an "unstable angina" (ie. heart is not getting enough blood flow and oxygen)

  2. Is there fluid in the patient's lungs?

  3. Is the patient's systolic blood pressure below 100?

In 1996, the doctors refused to believe that just measuring these 3 factors is a better predictor of heart attacks than the doctors' more comprehensive questioning of the patient and the doctors' judgements. They did a trial for 2 years, where every chest pain case was recorded with the doctors judgement and Goldman's algorithm. At the end of the trial, Goldman's 3 factor algorithm won hands down over the doctors expert judgements. With that result, Cook Country Hospital switched to using the Goldman's algorithm for all chest pain patients since 2001.

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 20:18:11 UTC | #915124

Go to: Republican Candidates and Religion

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 54 by njwong

Comment 24 by zengardener :

Go ahead, throw your vote away.



Thanks for the link to the CGPGrey channel. His videos were most informative - the best explanation about flaws in systems like First Past The Post and the Electoral College I have seen. It's truly astonishing that the Electoral College system can potentially allow a candidate to win the US Presidency by winning just 21.9% of actual citizens votes and not having to care how the rest of the 78.1% of the population voted!

I was also intrigued by his video that from a monetary point of view, it actually makes more sense for the UK public to pay the 40 million pounds per year to upkeep the British Royal Family than to ditch the monarchy. Very counter-intuitive, but a most interesting explanation.

Mon, 30 Jan 2012 18:34:59 UTC | #912752

Go to: To the Moon, Newt!

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by njwong

This is an MSNBC interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the same topic (Newt Gingrich's Big Idea):

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 10:26:29 UTC | #912168

Go to: Jake: Hanging out with a teenage Einstein

njwong's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by njwong

Perhaps Jake can put his mind to solve problems in the field of renewable energy and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuel. I would love it if we make giant advances in battery technology that will allow my notebook to run on battery power for a full 24 hours instead of a mere 4 hours. Or improving solar energy efficiencies so that the sun can be used to recharge the 24 hour battery. Is the 4th dimension like an extra drawer in a cupboard? Maybe the 4th dimension can be used to store solar power during the day that can then be tapped upon at night :-)

Wed, 18 Jan 2012 17:54:50 UTC | #909592