Archive for May, 2010

Skeptics In the Pub

Posted in news, Skeptic on May 24, 2010 by saskskeptic

The next skeptics in the pub is Wednesday May 26 starting at 7:30.

Hose Brew Pub
612 11th St E
Saskatoon, SK S7N0G3
(306) 477-3473

Agenda

Chip Coffey was in Saskatoon now a local psychic is having a psychic kids class.

Does Mexican coke taste better than Canadian coke.  Mexican Coke does not use corn syrup.

Martin Gardner passed away Saturday. He was one of the original skeptics.

Any Issue People wish to bring up.

Support Science at the Royal Ontario Museum

Posted in Skeptic on May 22, 2010 by koinosuke

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is sponsoring a talk by the infamous Deepak Chopra. This author has built his career on the public misunderstanding of science. His talk is at odds with the ROM’s mission as a science educator. The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Scepticism (CASS) at CFI Canada is putting together a formal protest. You can help by signing by adding your signature to this letter of protest.

More Reading

Shame on the Royal Ontario Museum

Ley Lines

Posted in Skeptic on May 15, 2010 by koinosuke

Standing at the Wanuskewin medicine wheel overlooking the South Saskatchewan River valley, one gets a sense of the immense time that has passed over this land. The exact purpose of the wheel is still unknown. The owner of the Sacred Places of Saskatchewan thinks he knows; he stood at these ancient sites and realized, with a start, that the sites he knew of were laid out in a straight line. Not really, as it turns out, but why would that be significant?

Ley Lines and Earth Crystals

A straight line connecting points of interest, especially ancient monoliths, is known as ley line. Ley lines may sound like ancient geomancy, but the term was invented in 1921 by British amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins. He speculated that the alignment was caused by an prehistoric network of roads and navigation beacons criss-crossing Britain. His ideas were universally rejected by archaeologists. Watkins’ Ley line did not have the supernatural powers ascribed to them today. It was in the 1936 novel The Goat-Footed God that ley lines gained their occult-like powers. Dowsers claim to be able to find these lines, yet dowsing has never passed a controlled test and is hardly a reliable method of finding anything. As far as I can tell there is no repeatable scientific test to determine where ley lines are located.

Could such alignments happen by chance? Britain has a high density of archaeological sites due to its relatively small landmass, so it would be unsurprising for such chance alignments to be found. How good of a fit are these alignments? Well, here is where the pseudo-science begins. Maps are a 2-dimensional representation of a complex 3-dimensional object. How the map was produced, and what type of technology was used, will reflect on the scale of the map and its accuracy. Think of a map as a measurement of the real world; it has a certain lever of error associated with it. There are some people who have taken a map of the earth and have connected every point of interest that they are personally familiar with.

Ley Lines of the World

When faced with such a map, one should ask how it was created. This map was originally described in a 1975 publication known as New Age, which is – unsurprisingly – not found in Google Scholar. An excerpt goes as follows:

The main thrust of the article [which appeared in Khimiyai Zhizn (Chemistry and Life), the popular science journal of the USSR Academy of Sciences under the title: “Is the Earth a Large Crystal?”], based on studies made by the three collaborators of data taken from fields as widely separated as archaeology, geochemistry, ornithology and meteorology, was the suggestion that the earth projects from within itself to the surface a dual geometrically regularized grid. The first part of this grid forms twelve pentagonal slabs over the sphere from which evidence the research triumvirate suggested that the first shape of the earth had just such an outline. In other words, it was a dodecahedron.

Alfred Watkins’ ancient navigation markers have come a long way; apparently they now exist because the earth is crystal dodecahedron. Since the earth is very clearly not a dodecahedron, proponents believe the dodecahedron crystal is buried under the surface. The evidence apparently comes from Russian magnetic surveys, but these surveys are not referenced. The author did not even bother to show satellite imagery. None of the actual evidence is presented or discussed in any detail. The article then goes on to assume the dodecahedron hypothesis is true, and then marvel at how the dodecahedron model fits the cherry-picked evidence. The author marvels how one of the dodecahedron ribs fits along the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Remember that not a shred of evidence was presented to attest to the existence of the dodecahedron crystal. How do we know that the ridge is there, or did Chris Price draw an imagery line over the mid-Atlantic ridge? This is why this article appeared in New Age and not Nature.

If there was a dodecahedron crystal underground, could we detect it? During an earthquake the whole earth “rings”. Shock waves spread out from the epicenter and can be deflected off the internal structure of the planet. Do I really have to say that this data is not compatible with the dodecahedron hypothesis?

The Sacred Places of Saskatchewan has taken the ley line concept and crystal earth hypothesis as true, and drawn out the grid on to a picture of Saskatchewan. I can not dignify this image with the title of map. It has no scale and not even a hint of a map projection. Map projection is important, as all maps have distortions: some projections conserve area, others distance. A map without the scale or projection is pretty much meaningless. The author apparently copied the lines by hand, not a very accurate method. The sacred sites which are supposed to be along these lines are represented by points so large, they occupy an area larger than Saskatoon or Regina.

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This photo has been removed by the request of Roger Nelson, whose comments may be viewed below. You may view the map here. Note nothing on scale of the map shown here is accurate to within a couple of inches.

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The website offers tours of these lines. How that is even possible, given such large inaccuracies? If these lines are within +/-10 km, that would be impressive. Since there is no objective way to determine where the ley lines are to be found, this map is worthless. I suppose the tours will at least deliver you some fresh air. The problem with maps such as these is that they have the illusion of accuracy, nothing more. Here is another prime example of this: the author goes from a 1: 1,000,000 map to a 1:50,000 map with no explanation. I’ve changed my mind: if those ley lines are within +/- 50 km, I’ll be amazed!

Conclusion

If ley line hunters want to be taken seriously, I have some advice: buy a GPS receiver. They are not expensive. You will be able to locate your features to +/- 10 m, which is so much better then +/- 10 km. Combine this with some free mapping software, and you will be able to create a truly meaningful map. I predict that the “perfect” alignment of the ley line features will vanish with the improved accuracy. It does not matter though: collecting GPS data for sacred shines and other places in Saskatchewan is still an adventure. These areas are beautiful on their own terns. With apologies to Douglas Adams: isn’t it better to realize that a place is beautiful without having to believe the earth is giant dodecahedron crystal?

Links

Wikipedia: Ley Lines

Skepdic: Ley Lines

Saskatoon Freethinkers Meetup: Contra-dictions Understanding Confusing Holy Texts

Posted in Event, news on May 15, 2010 by saskskeptic

The Saskatoon Freethinkers are holding their next meetup Sunday May 16 at 11:30 at Venice House 906 Central Avenue, Saskatoon

It is no surprise to an atheist, or even some believers of religious doctrine that the texts on which religions base their authority are full of contradictions and confusing accounts that may lead even the most avid reader astray.

What may be even more difficult to reconcile for those same readers is the claim that these texts, fraught with inconsistency and hypocrisy, are divinely inspired – yet many maintain this view. For the Bible and the Qur’an, even the simplest introduction to these two holy books suggests that the sources of these discrepancies are the result of human error in the translation, compilation, publishing and politics that contributed to the creation of these books.

We will briefly discuss how these two books were assembled (or claimed to be assembled) and learn one simple method to argue the inconsistencies of religious texts. To whet your appetite, have a look at this website that describes some of the internal differences between the four major gospels of the Bible on the topic of Jesus’ resurrection.

Also, just for fun, have a look at one believer’s opposition to editorial decisions made by the creators of the New King James Bible.

Note: This meetup will be led by Jonathan Sherman

Secular Parenting-A Day with the Dinos

Posted in Event, science, Skeptic on May 15, 2010 by saskskeptic

The secular parenting group will be holding a Day with the Dinos:

Start Time: Saturday, June 5 at 2:00pm
End Time: Saturday, June 5 at 4:00pm
Where: U of S Geology building

Who’s up for some prehistoric summertime fun? Let’s meet at the U of S Geology building, and explore the Museum of Natural Sciences together [http://artsandscience.usask.ca/geology/pdf/museum.pdf]. We’ll meet down by the T-Rex at 2:00, and we’ll explore the dinosaurs, plants, fish, and other museum items together. Afterwards (weather-permitting), we’ll head out to the bowl for snacks and some games.
If anyone wants to come up with something dinosaur-related (games, quick lesson, etc.), feel free to bring it along with you.

For inspiration, check out the music video to the They Might Be Giant’s song, “I Am a Paleontologist” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7zo2zY1Zqg]

For more information, check out our Meetup page for Saskatoon Secular Parenting [http://www.meetup.com/saskatoon-secular-parenting/].

Saskatoon Freethinkers In the Pub

Posted in Event with tags , on May 12, 2010 by saskskeptic

The next Saskatoon Freethinkers In the Pub get-together is Wednesday May 12 starting at 7:00 at Nino’s at 801 Broadway Avenue

Freethinkers in the Pub is an informal gathering.  There’s no agenda, but feel free to bring recent news items or other relevant topics for discussion. Everyone is welcome!
We’ll be in the Fireside lounge, which is the room on the right after you go in the door.
We will be there from 7pm onward so drop by anytime in the evening. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

FYB Event: Panel Discussion with Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Canada

Posted in Event, news on May 12, 2010 by saskskeptic

May 20, the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee is holding a panel discussion with Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Canada.

Royal Saskatchewan Museum Theatre
2445 Albert Street

Event starts at 7pm

Panelists

HIS EXCELLENCY JAWED LUDIN was appointed Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Canada in May,

2009, after serving as ambassador to the Nordic countries, based in Oslo. Prior to his diplomatic posts, Ambassador Ludin served as chief spokesperson for Afghan President Hamid Karzai between 2003 and

2005 chief of staff to the president from 2005 to 2007.

NAJIA HANEEFI is a founder of the Afghan Women’s Political Participation Committee and is the former head of Afghanistan’s largest women’s organization, the Afghan Women’s Education Centre (AWEC). Ms. Haneefi currently resides in Ottawa.

TERRY GLAVIN is an author of several books and a journalist whose writing from Afghanistan has appeared in newspapers and magazines as diverse as Democratiya, the National Post, the online daily The Tyee and Vancouver Review. He is a co-founder of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee.

LAURYN OATES, a human rights and gender equity activist with CASC and Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WA).

RSVP and media inquiries:
info@afghanistan-canada-solidarity.org

Refreshments served.