Education: Ur Doin It Wrong

30 Apr
Author: Benjamen Johnson

by Benjamen Johnson

This week my daughter receives her first communion. I’m not really pleased about her being exposed to the Catholic church, but that’s a rant for a different time. What it did get me thinking about is how Catholics celebrate the sacrament. The 2nd graders prepare for a whole year, learning about the event which eventually culminates in a special mass where the children are the center of attention. They dress in fancy clothes…especially the girls who wear elaborate white dresses purchased specifically for the occasion. Their families and friends attend the special mass then, most of the time, everybody has a big party afterwards with cake and sometimes presents.

Does the description above sound like Catholics hold the first communion as an important achievement? It sure does to me. Now, how about birthdays? Do most people place undue importance on an arbitrary day that fall the same time every year? Party, cake, presents, friends…yep. Now contrast this with something we skeptics hold important: education.

A few weeks from now, my daughter will have her reading hall of fame ceremony at school. The children who have read 400 minutes on their own for at least eight months of the school year get to participate. Now that’s over 53 hours of reading over the course of the school year, a pretty big commitment and a huge accomplishment for a 2nd grader. Considering that how much a child reads is an important indicator on how well they’ll do in school, this is important, right? The school does try their best, they have an evening ceremony in the school gym where they receive medals. Most of the children and parents are dressed in their everyday clothes if they even bothered to attend. I’ve never heard of anyone having a party afterward.

My point is with these celebrations we are showing our children what we value. My wife and I  place a high value on our children’s education, but as parents my wife and I aren’t showing this to our daughter. Imagine what you’d be saying to your kid about how important reading is, not to mention other kids and their parents, by having a very special ceremony and a giant party afterward with all their friends, cake, and presents. Isn’t this worth rewarding? Unfortunately I wonder how many people in my family would show up for such an event.

We’re stuck with the first communion and party this week, so we aren’t going to throw a party for my daughter’s reading hall of fame induction, but I am definitely going to do something special with her that week and make sure she knows why.


Field Trip!

18 Mar

Calling all local skeptics!

Skeptical musician/humorist George Hrab will be performing at House on the Rock Resort March 31st. The Chicago Skeptics have set up this special concert, and skeptics from all over the midwest are invited. Earlier in the day a lot of people are going to tour the nearby amazingly cool House on the Rock. I cannot do justice to how incredibly bizarre, eclectic and fascinating the House on the Rock is. I visited this past summer for the first time and cannot wait to go back.

Jennifer Newport from Chicago Skeptics has this to say about the George Hrab concert: “While the ticket price is $20, if this seems out of your range, feel free to contact me…sliding scale/grants available. This is all about trying to get a bunch of midwestern skeptics together for a fun event!” More details about the concert, HOTR visitor information and lodging options can be found at (this is also where you buy concert tickets) or

Please note: The HOTR tour and the concert are separate events – you can do one or the other or both. It’s up to you!

One of the (IMHO awesomest!!!!) rooms at HOTR.

So start planning your car pools, load up your mp3 players with skeptical podcasting and music, and get ready to rock at the Rock! (I apologize for that. It’s been a long day and it’s late).

The Amazing Ghost-Hunting Dog

20 Feb

That’s right! Pixie, an adorable Jack Russell Terrier, is part of the “Ghost Tours of America Research Team”. Her owner claims she has the extraordinary ability to sense ghosts…

This is where the damn video *would* be embedded if WP wasn't being such a pain in the ass. So click it for the link.

…because, as we all know, “dogs can sense paranormal activity”.  How does Pixie pick up on paranormal… perterbances? (Ok I just made that word up for the sake of alliteration) Well, according to her owner, when Pixie senses a ghost she will demonstrate unusual body language or behavior such as:

  • Stopping unexpectedly
  • Sniffing the air
  • Barking
  • Agitation

Hmmm…wow…that’s iron clad. I mean what Jack Russell Terrier would ever possibly display those unusual signs unless paranormal activity was involved?? Come to think of it, my cat senses ghosts, too! Only she does it by running across the floor for no reason and random crotch-grooming.

Watch the whole video for some great examples of confirmation bias. The only thing I was amazed at was how these people are able to convince themselves that this dog’s TOTALLY NORMAL BEHAVIOR is actually some sign of supernatural ability. Wowzers.

The Light and Dark Side of Medicine

20 Feb

by Travis Peterson

Recently I spent a week in an ICU watching a fantastic team of highly trained doctors and nurses use every technology at their disposal to keep my mother alive after a blood clot in her brain nearly killed her. Machines that help her breathe, feed her, and monitor every vital system in her body. Doctors prescribing drugs to thin her blood, control pain, and reduce swelling. Nurses keeping track and filtering data, while simultaneously fawning over her as if she was their own mother.  A well oiled machine-made possible by science.  This is the good side of medicine.

The day after I got home my wife handed me an envelope she got as an insert in the bottom of a shopping bag (not a good start, I know).  The envelope was very thick with the word “Chiropractic” on the outside.  Knowing that not all Chiropractors subscribe to the more fantastical claims of Straight Chiropractic, I fought off the urge to roll my eyes and opened the envelope.  What I found inside was nothing short of astonishing.  The list of procedures included laser therapy, body chemistry diagnostics, heavy metal testing, Ion foot baths and ear candling.  After reading the seven pamphlets of incredible claims (evidence of which the  references and studies failed to validate) included in this packet-o-crapola, I remembered a phrase my father says, “A man is as good as the company he keeps.”  If this is the company Chiropractic keeps, then I know all I need to know.  Modern medicine is flawed and incomplete, but when you see the best and the worst at the same time, then the false balance people give to pseudo medicine is painfully clear.

Creationism For Kidz

9 Feb

Creationist propaganda can be both funny and sad. Especially when it is aimed at children. Just for funzies I thought I’d post just a few examples of the kind of absurd nonsense creationists put out there in a desperate attempt to indoctrinate kids against the evils of “Darwinists”. The good news is they do a really shitty job of it.

Harun Yahya is an Islamic creationist website with all kinds of wacky nonsense. I particularly enjoyed the children’s story of Charles Darwin & his Magic Barrel, which proposes the idea that Darwin thought all life came from a barrel or something. Seems like a pretty easy strawman to refute. So why did they need 70 pages to do it in? What kid is going to read 70 goddamn pages of this crap? Hell, I fell asleep after three.
(Sister sites include the disturbing, and <–This one has cute pictures of kittens & ducklings next to the words, “Evolution is a lie!” Subtle.)


Here is a link to a creationist dinosaur quiz for kids. I failed it. And if you’re a thinking person you should too.


Amongst this website’s many tacky rotating gifs is what appears to be a triceratops on a leash being led by a caveman. There are many creationist activities for kids including crossword puzzles & coloring pages with lots of depictions of cavemen petting dinosaurs to ensure your dumbed down child never gets into college.


Of course Answers in Genesis has a plethora of creationist propaganda for the kiddies. For just $18.99 you can purchase douchebag creationist extraordinaire, Ken Ham’s D Is For Dinosaur book & DVD set or Dinosaurs of Eden. “Young children will learn the true history of the world from creation to Christ to the coming Judgment.” The coming Judgement. Let me stress this is targeted at 2-7 year olds. Yes, what could go wrong with reading a story about the end of the world to a small child at bedtime?


Kids for Truth is a pretty slick interactive website built for brainwashing. It includes many dynamations like this one in which they have the balls to declare, “Creationism is supported much better by the scientific evidence than evolution.” And you’re just a kid, so you’ll believe it, right? Of course you will…now go play with your Experience the Plagues coloring book.


Found this one on the “Kid Explorers” section of, it’s called Kids, what to do if your teacher is an evolutionist. Better title: The Fast Track to Bringing the Shame of Dover, PA to Your Town.

Oh Christ, there’s SO MANY MORE…

Creation Response Team for kids

Creation for Kids A two-hour “mini-seminarfor those 9 to 15 years old

Dinosaur No More by Little Talkers  “Dinosaurs died out in the flood which God sent upon sinful man.”

Creationism Encyclopedia For Kids

*bkewww*  That was the sound of my brain exploding.