Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Myths

      It’s a dark raining Good Friday.  But, that is what how it always is on Good Friday.  Isn’t it?  That thought took me back to childhood memory of standing on the stairs outside Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.  Our junior high school choir group of about twenty girls and three boys was invited to sing during Good Friday ceremonies.  That was about 60 years ago and back then we sang in both English and Latin and most of us actually understood the Latin. 
      As our music instructor, Sister Somebody, I don’t remember her name, gathered us in a group before entering the Cathedral, it started to rain.  No big deal, because we expected it.  It was Good Friday. As a child my perspective of the world was rather parochial.  When it was raining on us, we never gave it a second thought that it wasn’t raining on everyone.  I certainly wasn’t alone on this belief.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shroud of Turin

      It's Easter and as expected the Shroud of Turin takes on considerable interest at this time. Many people believe that this artifact is the actual burial cloth of Jesus.  Why?  This linen cloth bears the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion. Since first observed in 1898 by amateur photographer Secondo Pia in the Turin Cathedral, scientists, theologians, historians and researchers have been debating the origins and nature of mysterious image. The Catholic Church has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cyber Attack on South Korea

       The cyber attacks this week that caused large-scale disruptions on several banks and media outlets in South Korea were most likely carried out by previously known vulnerabilities and exploits.  John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute in Bethesda, Md said,"It really doesn't matter if the attacker is a nation-state or a cybercriminal or a hacktivist or a bored teenage kid, you have to make sure you are at least at the due-diligence level for the well-known critical security controls. If you close the well-known vulnerabilities, you can stop any attacker using those techniques."
    Security firm Avast Software noted in a blog that its analysis showed the attackers appear to have exploited a previously known Internet Explorer vulnerability to infiltrate computers at the affected banks.
     Security firm Sophos added that the malware used in the attack was not particularly sophisticated and has been around for nearly a year.
     Symantec published initial findings about the attacks on South Korean banks and local broadcasting organizations and discovered the malware contained a module for wiping remote Linux machines in addition to Windows 7 and Windows XP computers.
     The simple lesson for the average computer user in all of this is: keep operating software up-to-date using the latest update version.
For more info read:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Science Really Says About the Soul

Even when no evidence exists for a phenomenon, people will manufacture what to them is evidence to correspond to their religious beliefs.  No amount of actual evidence to the contrary will dissuade them. Read article by Stephen Cave with reference documentation at

      Nathalie was hemorrhaging badly. She felt weak, cold, and the pain in her abdomen was excruciating. A nurse ran out to fetch the doctor, but by the time they arrived she knew she was slipping away. The doctor was shouting instructions when quite suddenly the pain stopped. She felt free—and found herself floating above the drama, looking down at the bustle of activity around her now still body.
     “We’ve lost her,” she heard the doctor say, but Nathalie was already moving on and upwards, into a tunnel of light. She first felt a pang of anxiety at leaving her husband and children, but it was soon overwhelmed by a feeling of profound peace; a feeling that it would all be okay. At the end of the tunnel, a figure of pure radiance was waiting with arms wide open.
     This, or something like it, is how millions imagine what it will be like to die. In 2009, over 70 percent of Americans said they believe that they, like Nathalie, have a soul that will survive the end of their body. That figure may well now be higher after the phenomenal success of two recent books describing vivid near death experiences: one from an innocent—the four year old Todd Burpo—the other from the opposite: a Harvard scientist and former skeptic, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander. Both argue that when their brains stopped working, their souls floated off to experience a better place.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iraq War Anniversary

Have we learned from the most immoral event in American history (as many historians are now claiming).  I doubt it.  This war was SOLD to American public and to its allies by a criminal administration. It doesn’t take much effort to sell Americans on idiocy, such as Obamacare is bad for them, that Obama’s is spending more than Bush, and that the government can continue with its “handouts” without serious financial repercussions.

Duped on Iraq War, has press learned?
By Paul Waldman, Special to CNN, March 19, 2013

  • Paul Waldman: Rumsfeld remarks in push for Iraq War were classic doublespeak
  • He says reporters, who are supposed to be quick studies in new areas, were credulous
  • He says savvy Bush administration easily duped press into selling case for war
  • Waldman: All news media guilty but hope is that they learned from, won't repeat mistake


I received the following statistics from Barry Karr of the Skeptical Inquirer (SI) in a solicitation.  He claimed that a recent public opinion poll found:
  • 52% believe that it is possible for a house to be haunted.
  • 36% believe in black cats bringing good/bad luck
  • 55% definitely believe in religious miracles
  • 23% have witnesses a miraculous physical healing
  • 16% have received a miraculous healing
  • 46% are creationists
  • 57% believe people can be possessed by demons.
The problem for me is the "poll" and the participants are not identified.  Such absence of verifiable evidence hardly builds my confidence in these claims.  SI would not accept such careless reporting on pseudo-science topics and should hold to this higher standard for itself.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On this Ship We'll ALL Sink

      The chances for a sane solution to our economic demise are virtually non-existent.  Both parties in our dysfunctional government are so deeply entrenched in their ideologies and so well protected in their efficiently gerrymandered districts that little can change.  We are now on course for financial disaster that will make the hyped-up sequester seem like a mild spring thunderstorm.
      It is very unfortunate because a super-majority of Americans and legislators know exactly what needs to be done. Yes, the Tea Party are boorishly selfish idiots, but they are equally matched by less visible boorishly lazy elements on the left who expect someone else to pay for their irresponsible lifestyles. Both sides cling to their misguided beliefs with such religious fervor that they doom those that try to be reasonable.

The Ubiquitous Email of Impending Doom

      One thing that circulates the internet faster than Superman and a speeding bullet is a warning of impending doom And the dire consequences to us if we don’t share it with all of friends and family.  Without any fact checking, we broadcast it to our address book.  Here is my thanks.       Oh yes, I received the following in an internet email. 

As we progress into 2013, I want to thank you all for your educational e-mails over the past year. I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery.