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If he needs a third eye, he just grows it.
Updated: 10/23/2004; 11:51:25 AM.


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Sunday, December 01, 2002

An Alien Abduction Can Complicate Your Life. A Sci-Fi Channel mini-series attempts to give viewers who have not been abducted by space aliens a taste of what it must be like. By James Gorman. [New York Times: Arts]
What a strange sentence; I hope it's ironic. It implies that there are viewers who have been abducted by aliens.
6:21:05 PM  Permalink  comment []

Seeking a Vision of Truth, Guided by a Higher Power. I believe creativity is a votive gift, presented arbitrarily by the hand of God, and those who possess it are simply its vessel. By James Lee Burke. [New York Times: Arts]
Very nice essay by Burke. I've only read a few of his novels, and the last one I read didn't impress me at all, but this is a great essay. The novel is my favorite art form.
6:19:56 PM  Permalink  comment []

Ossuary Genuine, Inscription Fake

A few weeks ago, the news that an ossuary (box o' bones) was found, bearing the inscription "Jacob son of Joseph brother of Joshua."  Of course, this was accompanied by reports saying it was proof positive of the existence of the Jesus portrayed in the Bible, with statistics saying it was something like a zillion to one that there were three people with these names, and that inscription would only be there if Joshua (Jesus) was known to be an important person.

Not suprisingly -- I mean, really, don't most religious claims turn out to be lies -- this is a forgery. This is a not long, but technical piece. The gist of its conclusion is:

 The inscription on the "James" ossuary is anomalous. First it was written by two different people. Second, the scripts are from two different social strata. Third, the first script is a formal inscriptional cursive with added wedges; the second script is partly a commercial cursive and partly archaic cursive. Fourth, it has been gone over by two different carvers of two different levels of competence.

My comment a the time I saw this was that I thought that it had been already estalished that there was a historical Jesus (Joshua), so that this added nothing new. It turns out that someone, sometime, faked this. Does this mean there wasn't a historical Joshua? Not really. But it does show, once again, that sloppy thinking and dishonesty go hand in hand with religious claims.

1:04:20 PM  Permalink  comment []

A Prayer Before Dying

I mentioned this a week or so ago, I think, but this Po Bronson piece in Wired about Elizabeth Targ is really good reading. Targ conducted some studies which apparently proved the power of prayer, not suprisingly paid for by your tax dollars:

 The National Institutes of Health has already awarded her grants of $611,516 for one study, $823,346 for another. Even greater Federal largesse may be forthcoming before her studies are completed. [Time]

At first glance, the studies look like they do turn up some interesting results. But as Bronson reports, there's a lot in the report that goes unsaid, including some apparently pretty shoddy "science." And of course, the nutcases are all over this.

But Bronson does a good job showing how this kind of stuff is not harmless. The nutcases swarmed around her as she was dying this last summer, and gave advice that increased her suffering and that of her husband:

With complementary medicine, the usual assumption is "If it helps, great - it can't hurt."

But it can. Consider the Russian psychic Nicolai Levashov. He urged Targ to cease radiation treatment and then convinced Comings that the cancer was no longer killing her; it was the necrotic cancer tissue, Levashov insisted, that was poisoning her body. It had to be cut out or she would die. Comings wasted the last month of his wife's life on a wild goose chase, desperately calling every brain surgeon in the country, begging them to perform this surgery. In her final week, he made an appeal to the tumor board at Stanford. He gave them her MRIs and medical charts. The board met on Thursday; they made a decision but didn't call until the next morning.

"We're sorry," he was told. "We've looked carefully at it. We disagree with what you've been told. The tumor growth is killing her. We can't do the surgery."

"You're too late anyway," he returned. "She died last night."

12:55:09 PM  Permalink  comment []

Emmett Till's Long Shadow. The story of a murdered black child in Money, Miss., shamed the nation in 1955, but it may be darker still. By Rick Bragg. [New York Times: NYT HomePage]
12:28:57 PM  Permalink  comment []

The New American Freedom Fighters

A breath of fresh air: Nat Hentoff reports on efforts in communities around the country to go on record against the Patriot Act and attacks on civil liberties by the Bush Administration. This is important stuff. If we don't do something now, we won't be able to do anything later.

On October 16, the Madison, Wisconsin, city council passed a resolution protecting the Bill of Rights from the Justice Department. During the four hours of debate, West High sophomore Sol Kelley-Jones, representing Students for an Informed Response, which helped draft the resolution, said:

"We need to do more than be passive observers of history, because the decisions being made right now are our future. . . . Laws like the USA Patriot Act were passed in the name of freedom, but what they really do is take away our freedom to fully participate in our nation's democracy.

"The Patriot Act," she continued, "means government surveillance of our school, library, and Internet activities without even being told. Even reading certain books or researching certain topics, both constitutionally protected activities, are now grounds for criminal investigation.

"For many of you in this room who were active in the civil rights movement of the '60s, you've been down a similar road before, and for my generation it's a road we don't want to go down again."

There's more truth in there than in all the warbloggers you're going to read. More info at

12:25:41 PM  Permalink  comment []

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