Religious Pseudoscience in America’s Public School Science Classrooms: Jesus Better Make Way for the New Age

[Excerpts from my guest post at The Friendly Atheist.]

A charmingly enthusiastic science teacher from Arkansas just received an award for helping her students learn about nature and environmental sustainability:

Hackler [Intermediate School] is one of six schools in the state winning the Arkansas Green Schools Challenge, sponsored by the Arkansas Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators.

A science and social studies teacher, [Barbara] Penrose is teaching her students much more, such as how make compost and how to grow vegetables to feed their families. Actually, Penrose teaches the fourth-graders more than that; she teaches them to appreciate and care for the environment around them.

… Penrose not only teaches her fourth-graders about protecting the environment and recycling, as you might expect, but also “fun” things like worm composting for the school’s vegetable and butterfly gardens. Though an annual butterfly release, they learn about pollination, and they’re developing a marked nature trail to teach identification of trees, wildflowers, birds, and insects.

Wonderful stuff. I wish my school had been like this!

But wait… we’re not done yet: Continue reading

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HuffPo Publishes the Most Inane Article Ever Seen on the Internet

[Excerpts from my guest post at The Friendly Atheist.]

An associate editor for Huffington Post Lifestyle, Suzy Strutner, has bequeathed upon the world a truly extraordinary work of inanity in a piece called “Your Birthday Says A LOT About What Happens In Your Home.”

So there’d be no confusion, HuffPo wisely waited till the day after April Fools to post the piece on its “Positive Change” section. Let us ponder Strutner’s words as she shares her findings about Local Space Astrology in home floor plans:

Your birthday creates special, invisible “planet lines” around your house.
Continue reading

India’s News Media Warns Public That Solar Eclipses Can Make Them Sick, Contaminate Food, and Cause Tsunamis

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Crowds in the Ganges River attempt to cleanse away ‘dark energies’ from a 2010 solar eclipse

The Internet continues to reveal the world in the 21st century is not what a lot of us think it is.  Take the London primary school in a Hindi neighborhood, which yesterday banned its students from watching the solar eclipse outside for “religious and cultural reasons,” arranging to shield them from its evil energy by making them watch it on TV inside.  British media drew unflattering attention to the ban, with The Telegraph noting:

Hindu scriptures say that an eclipse makes believers impure.  And fundamentalists believe that they need to bathe immediately after an eclipse and chant the name of God to overcome the forces of darkness.

However parents said children were disappointed by the decision, arguing that religious superstition had been allowed to overshadow science.

It’s a big deal in India, where astrologers are given regular slots during TV news programs.  Yesterday morning, TV News Desk warned its readers that eclipses make you sick and to cleanse themselves when it’s over: Continue reading

A professional astrologer realizes astrology isn’t real

Rudolf Smit

Rudolf Smit

Rudolf Smit loved astronomy as a child, and now he loves astrology… but he no longer believes it’s real.  There was a time when he was a full-time consulting astrologer and widely admired astrology author.  Founder of the Society of Practising Astrologers in the Netherlands and deeply passionate about a belief he found quite beautiful, Smit authored an astrology handbook and wrote popular articles for Dutch astrology publications like Earth & Cosmos and The Planets Speak.

The planets failed to reveal the shock that was to come.

In a moving autobiographical essay on his website Astrology and Science, Smit tells his story.  Born in 1942, he began to fall in love with astrology in the late 1960s, but not without a healthy dose of skepticism: Continue reading

David Tennant Really Hates Astrology

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This week’s “Just a Minute” crew: Julian Clary, host Nicholas Parsons, Stephen Fry and David Tennant.

Astrology fans seem to love Doctor Who, going by the galaxies of Internet astrologers analyzing Doctor Who incarnations by birthday.  That love is not returned from the Tenth Doctor.

On BBC Radio 4’s venerable “Just a Minute” celebrity radio panel game, guests are tossed a subject and must immediately speak on it for one minute, “without hesitation, repetition or deviation.”  Or they get buzzed and lose points.

This week David Tennant played for the first time, and was a natural.   After beautifully addressing two Shakespearean topics, he was next thrown the phrase “It’s in the stars.”   In a lovely Scottish lilt, David launched into a passionate speech on the ridiculousness of astrology: Continue reading

NPR Station Gushes Over ‘Psychic Detectives’ and ‘Forensic Astrologer’

WNPR News - Connecticut’s Public Media Source for News and Ideas 2015-02-08 11-00-51

Your Radio Has Let You Down

You turn on your radio, and are surprised to hear a talkshow host gushing “Oh wow!” over “psychic detectives” and “forensic astrologers.”  Did you accidentally tune in to the home of the fringe, “Coast to Coast?”  You check the dial.  Nope, it’s right there on your usual NPR station… in this case, WNPR News, Connecticut Public Radio.

Has your faith been misplaced?  No, seriously, what is Faith Middleton doing, this award-winning long-time contributor to NPR news programs All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition?   You’re listening to the latest  episode of the 50-minute Faith Middleton Show, Retired Law Enforcement Working With Psychics to Find Missing Persons, Solve Murders.  You think, Oh, I get it, she’s looking into their claims, good.  You expect what any good journalist would bring: challenging questions, rational skepticism, and at least some basic factchecking.

You’d be wrong.   The show was a tribute by a fan.  Continue reading

Why do planets keep LYING?! Astrologic ‘science’ advisors lead Sri Lanka president to crushing defeat

Astrologer Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena: “I have never given any wrong advice.  President Rajapaksa cannot be defeated.”

Sri Lanka president loses

Defeated: President Rajapaksa

This is Sri Lanka,  where voters prepare for elections by watching serious TV news programs featuring “panel[s] of experts seated behind a thicket of microphones somberly [holding] forth at an opposition news conference… The subject: Astrology.”  Where  “panels of astrologers debat[e] the fortunes of political leaders, in a format something like that of “The McLaughlin Group.”

Before Thursday’s national election, the stars seemed to shine down on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa: Continue reading