Skeptic News: Senate Nominee Akin Claims ‘Legitimate Rape’ Doesn’t Cause Pregnancy

20120819-222549.jpgBy Lee Christie

In an interview on The Jeco Report on Sunday Aug 19th, Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, Todd Akin claimed that women’s bodies have defences that make it rare that a rape would result in pregnancy.

In answering a question on abortion rights in the case of rape, Rep. Akin stated:

First of all from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy resulting from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down…

Akin went on to say that

I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

Regardless of the moral argument presented, this claim should be of interest to skeptics as pseudoscientific claim. This claim is not new or unique and has been used publicly by other pro-life republican politicians.

According to Planned Parenthood:

Women can and do get pregnant from rape. In fact, more than five percent of all rapes result in pregnancy. That is one reason why Planned Parenthood is fighting so hard to make it mandatory for emergency rooms across the country to offer emergency contraception to women who have been raped.

You can view a clip of Akin’s comment here uploaded by YouTube user uploads1138:


Skeptic News: eBay to Stop Selling Magic

By Lee Christie

The eBay long-standing auction website are removing the Metaphysical listing category from August 30th and blocking attempts to list such items. eBay will no longer permit the sale of spellscurseshexingconjuringmagicprayersblessing servicesmagic potions, and healing sessions.

The banning of these items does not appear to be directly targeted at woo, as it appears to be part of a larger shake-up which also sees the removal of advice & instruction, membership, businesses & websites, digital art, and recipes.

Presumably it is impossible for eBay to ensure the effectiveness of items such as hexing and prayers, as well as advice and recipes, and mediate dispute of fraud. Hopefully the new rules will reduce the opportunity to defraud people on eBay, and can be see as an unexpected win for skepticism and consumer protection. The change is likely to ruffle some feathers in the magical-thinking community.

Full details of all upcoming changes to eBay listing categories can be see in eBay 2012 Fall Seller Update.

Skeptic News: Anti-Vax Family Denied Adoption

By Lee Christie

The Van Tienderen family in Pheonix, Arizona was recently refused the right to adopt because their biological daughter was not vaccinated for what the family called “philosophical reasons”.

The mother (Susann, aged 27) is quoted as saying

“I feel like if I knew every ingredient that was in each shot I would comfortable to make an educated decision” (  10th August 2012)

The family dispute the decision not to place the potential adopted boys with the family on the grounds that the children they are hoping to adopt have already been fully vaccinated, however, Arizona law states that all children in the household must have been suitably vaccinated before adoption can take place.

Vaccination offers invaluable protection against communicable diseases. The anti-vaccination movement (AVM) has become in increasing threat to health in recent years. The AVM threatening the return of diseases which killed many only a few generations ago. The family in question do not appear to have made clear their specific objection to vaccinating their daughter, but are ignoring the scientific and healthcare community’s who state that vaccination is safe and advisable.

Skeptic News: Anti-Vax Attempt to Block Skeptic Blogs

By Lee Christie

Two skeptic blogs: reasonablehank, and Losing In The Lucky Country have been targeted by an anti-vax–motivated censorship. The method, making false reports to the Trend Micro as containing spam and malware, causing users of this service to be blocked unless they are willing to risk ignoring the service’s warning.

Reasonablehank alleges that the trouble was caused by Liz Hempel (@SAVNGodComplex, although her Twitter account is now suspended). For more information, check out reasonablehank’s blog on the subject, which contains a transcript of the related Twitter conversation.

Thankfully, Trend Micro has co-operated, and both websites have now been re-rated as safe in Trend Micro Security Center.

Skeptic News: Evidence-Based Apparitions?

By Lee Christie

An apparition is the alleged perceiving of something or someone (such as the Virgin Mary). Apparitions of all kinds: religious, spiritual, and Elvis-Presley–related have been widely reported throughout history. These could be explained by a number of psychological or physiological factors.

The Vatican’s website has released guidelines to help tell the difference between real and false apparitions.

According to the Vatican, evidence in favour of a genuine apparition includes:

  • Honesty of the person;
  • Living an upright life;
  • Mental sanity; and
  • Spiritual fruits of the apparition

While evidence against an apparition includes:

  • Doctrinal errors in the alleged message;
  • Use of apparition for monetary gain; and
  • Leading to immoral acts

This is not the only time the Vatican has warned against false apparitions. For example, in 2009, Catholics who see the Virgin Mary were ordered to remain silent until checked out by a team of psychologists, theologians, priests and exorcists.


Skeptic News: Internet DIY Abortion Myth Kills Mother of Five

By Lee Christie

Following the advice of Internet rumor, Catherine Furey (38) of Manchester died from drinking vinegar in an attempt to terminate her pregnancy. Mrs. Fury was a mother of five and did not wish to have another child. Causing further heartache for the family, her sister-in-law Dawn Chadwick was charged with manslaughter for providing the vinegar bottle. The family said they do not blame her for Mrs. Furey’s death.

Natika H Halilfrom from the Family Planning Association commented:

“We know there are many myths and misinformation about abortion on the internet. […] It’s so important to use trusted sources to gain accurate information on how to access abortion services.” (Mirror, 22nd May)

The Food Standards Agency warned:

“Drinking vinegar, even in large quantities, is unlikely to have an effect as vinegar is a dilute solution, usually 5% acetic acid. […] However, when acetic acid is ingested in high concentrations it can be harmful as it is corrosive. We are aware of previous fatalities.” (Mirror, 22nd May)

Mr. Furey’s death has become a tragic anecdote of what can happen when women do not have easy access to safe abortion, and serves as a warning for others to be careful which information sources to trust with your health.


Skeptic News: Did TV Psychic Claim Maddie is Dead?

By Lee Christie

According to an article in The Sun, TV ‘Psychic’ Derek Acorah (who The Sun calls ‘Derek the faker’) has made the strange and shocking claim that Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in May 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday, died several years ago and is ‘soon to be re-incarnated’ as another little girl.

Not surprisingly these claims have outraged parents Kate and Gerry McCann, and the public. Derek Acorah had publicly denied the allegation on Twitter stating:

“I totally refute the article that had appeared in a newspaper today. I am not so sad that I have to cash in on somebody else’s misery!” (@derek_acorah)

Some users of Twitter have pointed to the irony that Acorah’s career as a medium relies on the grief of others, whether or not he is guilty of this particular claim. It remains to be seen whether Acorah will take libel action against The Sun.

Acorah was famously caught out by parapsychologist, Ciarán O’Keeffe, on TV show Most Haunted who invented the characters “Kreed Kafer” (an anagram of Derek Faker) and  ”Rik Eedles” (Derek Lies) who Derek “channelled” during the show.

Skeptic News: Powered Baby Flesh Seized by South Korean Officials

By Lee Christie

A large number of capsules hidden in other medicine boxes has been seized by customs officials as they were being smuggled from China to South Korea. The pill contained powdered flesh from dead babies and foetuses. Over 17,000 capsules have reportedly been seized since August of last year.

The pills are, shockingly, considered by some alternative-medicine practitioners as a miracle “cure-all”. The bacteria in these capsules pose a significant health risk, and are far more likely to do harm than good. A customs official was quoted in The Korean Times stating:

"It was confirmed those capsules contain materials harmful to the human body, such as super bacteria. We need to take tougher measures to protect public health."

Deng Haihua, a Chinese ministry spokesman told China Daily:

"[China has] strict management of disposal of infant and foetal remains as well as placentas.”

Skeptic News: Democratic Congressman Doesn’t Believe in Atheists

By Lee Christie

In a recent CNN interview, Emanuel Cleaver, pastor and congressman for Missouri, revealed a lack of believe in those who lack belief in God, stating:

I don’t believe that there is such thing as an atheist because no respectable atheist would walk around with something in his pocket that said ‘In God We Trust’.

The topic of discussion was whether an atheist would have a difficult time running for office in the United States. The US has a famous constitutional clause which states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”, however, the religious climate of the US leads to much doubt as to whether an atheist could be elected at the current time. A famous Gallup poll in 2007 showed that 53% of those surveyed would not vote for an atheist.

Despite his scepticism of the existence of atheists, the congressman thankfully goes on to urge respect for non-believers, as does fellow interviewee Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, who seemed optimistic that voters would not discriminate against non-Christians.

As for Cleaver’s comments on there being no atheists in America, I’m sure that American Atheists, or any of the other numerous national and local atheist and secular organisations would beg to differ.

You can watch the clip of the interview here uploaded by YouTube user wimsweden:


Skeptic News: Gay-rights Activist Offends Christian Teens

By Lee Christie

20120429-142602.jpgDan Savage is an award-winning American author, public speaker, and activist, who famously started the “It Gets Better” project in 2010 with his husband Terry Miller. The project aimed to prevent suicide among LGBT youth and garnered the support of many famous people, including President Obama.

During his invited talk at a NSPA/JEA’s annual high-school-journalism convention in Seattle, WA, Savage, who was raised Catholic, attacted some controversy with an impassioned speech on learning to ignore the content of the bible:

“… We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the bible about gay people, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the bible about all sorts of things. The bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave-owners waved bibles over their heads during the civil war and justified it. …”

The response to this was mixed with many cheering and applauding contrasted with dozens of teenagers slowly filing their way out of the room all thoughout this section of the talk, presumably having taken offense at Dan’s remarks on the bible. His speech continued, and before moving on to the next topic, he invited those who had walked out to return, calling them “pansy-ass”, and justifying why he brought up the topic:

“You can tell the bible guys in the hall they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the bible. It’s funny as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the bible, how pansy-ass some people react when pushed back. I apologise if I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings, but, I have a right to defend myself and to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the bible and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.”

You can view a recording of Dan’s talk here uploaded by YouTube user bandroadie95: