Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Atheists as bad as witches and paedophiles

Via strummer on the badscience forums, a lovely piece of managerial fuckwittery. Apparently Birmingham City Council has banned access to sites:
"to do with "witchcraft or Satanism" and "occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism".
But not mainstream religions like Christianity, noo, no 'mysticism' there! The national secular society is on the case as this is not only ridiculous but also illegal. It looks like this is an example of the council implementing some proprietrary net usage restriction sofware, presumably from the US (thanks to Szlater - Blue Coat WebFilter)- at least I hope so, the alternative is just too disturbing, but Szlater points out that "Alternative Spirituality/Occult" and "Religion" as seperate with atheism and Wicca presumably part of the former, and Christianity and Hinduism part of the latter (I note you can also ban "Abortion", "Education", "LGBT", "Political/Activist Groups", "Sex Education ", "Spyware Effects/Privacy Concerns") so Birmingham Council obviously have some choice in the matter.

More at Pharyngula, you can see how a site is categorised here, and the category descriptions here:

"22 - Alternative Spirituality/Occult

Sites that promote and provide information on religions such as Witchcraft or Satanism. Occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism are represented here. Includes sites that endorse or offer methods, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, incantations, curses and magic powers. This category includes sites which discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events." [my emphasis]

Apparently RichardDawkins.net was listed as 'Religion' but is now 'Society/Daily Living'!

*Since I'm reusing old post titles, this one refers to previous posts pointing out that atheists are worse than terrorists and as bad as gays and Jews, apparently this Blue Coat software also blocks access to sites that "promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

I ate the baby Jesus too*

I haven't been following the crackergate story too closely, but PZ Myers seems to have fomented quite a little storm in a teacup (see Cosmic Variance).

Basically some student receives a Catholic communion wafer and instead of eating it he keeps it to show to his friend, some of the congregation get a bit upset about it and try to take it of him, he gets annoyed at this and takes it home, lots of Catholics are pissed off because he's taken the body of Jesus 'hostage' - nutjobs like Bill Donohue waded in to call for sanctions to be brought against the student and for extra security at a Republican convention to defend the delegates from the likes of PZ Myers. So far so dull - kid seems like he's being a bit silly, Catholics come across as over-reacting and their silly (and falsified) beliefs are highlighted.

So PZ writes about this taking the predictable line "Get some perspective, man. IT'S A CRACKER." He finishes by asking for someone to send him a consecrated wafer to desecrate. And when he gets one he sticks a nail through it also providing a delightful sample of the threats he's been sent in the meantime, e.g.:
"You fool, the vengeance for your sacrilege will not be . exhausted against you, but it will be carried out on your child. Wait and see."
It seems to have created quite a stir on teh internets, despite the fact that PZ has blogged about desecrating the quran and bible before without anywhere near such attention.

For what it's worth I think that deliberately winding up theists by threatening to violate their laughable taboos is a bit mean, but perfectly acceptable behaviour, particularly if it is funny (compare the Jyllands-Posten controversy to Jesus and Mo). D^2 lives up to his reputation as being vaguely amusing but a bit of a dick in this post at crooked timber:
"While I of course do not countenance the harassment of anyone by religious nuts, I also have something of a baleful view of the kind of self-conscious atheist who regards it as a good use of his time to spend the day winding up the god squad.
while I am perhaps the last person on earth who is well-placed to tell anyone else that winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do … well, winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do, and furthermore Dawkinsite militant atheists are as annoying as fundies in their own way and perhaps deserve a bit of winding up too.
And so it is that, at some point this weekend, I plan to tell a small, credulous child (about whom I will provide no other information) that a rainbow is a special sign from God that he promises never to flood the world again and that this proves that God exists."

It's summed up nicely by mpowell:

"I think Dsquared has outdone himself on this one.

Step one: Hypocritically look down on those who have a go at others for the sake of it.

Step two: Brazenly imitate this behavior.

It’s times like these that I realize that I can never really measure up in the area of being a pretentious, sarcastic wise-ass. It’s almost enough to make me give it all up, but I’m not sure my friends and family could bear the loss."

Some of the other comments are also priceless:

"The fact that you can generate such a reaction merely by claiming you plan to do something—which is, in the final analysis, totally harmless—says a lot about the New Atheism."
Obviously I don't think D^2 means it, nor particularly care if he does, but it is interesting to note the symmetry or lack of between his threat and PZ's threat - PZ is quite entitled to do what he wants to communion wafers, but it causes quite some stink. Theists are quite entitled to bring their children up with nonsensical stories about God and floods (or even other lies about Father Christmas) and this is so accepted in our society that no one would seek to prevent this - the only opposition from atheists and secularists is about willfully witholding information about alternatives and indoctrination at the state's expense.

*I appear to have used the pun in the title "I ate the baby Jesus" before, repeating myself already, oh dear.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Thrombolysis in stroke

In response to a post by Dr Crippen about thrombolysis in stroke I'm posting a nice graph showing how the outcome of thrombolysis is very dependent on speed of treatment.

I believe that thrombolysis was approved by the FDA in 1996 after a single positive RCT (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke rt-PA Stroke Study Group 1995, NEJM 333) although other trials showed no benefit. There has been much scepticism about the benefits and criticism of the original study (there was a baseline imbalance in stroke severity but reanalysis suggests this does not strongly affect the results – Ingall et al 2004, Stroke 35).

Uptake has been slow due to fears about intracranial bleeding and only around 3% of stroke patients are eligible (.

The figure above is from The ATLANTIS, ECASS, and NINDS rt-PA Study Group (2004) Lancet 363. They performed an individual patient meta-analysis of alteplase (2775 patients, 6 RCTs) and found:
•Logistic regression adjusted OR for 'favourable outcome' varied with time to treatment
•Substantial rate of intracerebral haemorrhage 6% vs 1%
•No significant difference in mortality

NICE Guidance (2007) is:
•Alteplase within 3 hours of symptom onset
•Exclude intracranial haemorrhage by imaging (i.e. CT)
•Administration by stroke specialists in a specialist centre
•Not indicated for under 18 yrs or over 80 yrs
•0.9 mg / kg (max 90 mg) infused i.v. in 60 mins, with 10% administered as an initial i.v. bolus
•Costs e.g. 75 kg patient, 67.5 mg alteplase at £480 (<£4000/QALY)

Post-marketing surveillance shows that thrombolysis is of similar efficacy and safety when used outside of clinical trials (Wahlgren et al 2007, Lancet 369 - SITS-MOST trial).

There's also been a Cochrane Review with similar results (Wardlaw et al 2003).