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Jehovah’s Witness to Pay $28 Million Over Repeated Abuse of 9 Year Old Girl & Keeping It Quiet

An Early Watchtower Magazine Cover
An early cover of the Jehovah Witness magazine “Watchtower”. It and it’s companion magazine “Awake” have been in print since 1879.

In 1995, Candace Conti was 9 years old and a member of  the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There over a period of 2 years she was repeatedly molested by a fellow member of the church, Jonathan Kendrick.

At first glance, this appears as yet another instance of the sexual abuse of minors in a religious environment, but this has much bigger implications.  An opinion piece in the New Statesman news magazine and website is highlighting an important stance that was recently made in the political and law world. Are organizations that silence and hide sexual abuse culpable in the crime?

The jury in the case found Jehovah’s Witness at least partly at fault. They are to pay 40% of the $7 Million in compensatory damages and another $ 21 Million in punitive damages. Kendrick is to pay the remaining 60%.

Over and over again, we’ve had stories of Catholic bishops and other office-holders in the Roman Catholic church refraining from reporting allegations of abuse to civil authorities. Now, this unfortunate legal landmark demonstrates that this behaviour has occurred in at least one other religious institution, and that it won’t go unpunished when it is exposed.

Jim McCabe, a lawyer for the Jehovah’s Witness congregation, said that they plan to appeal the decision, contending that Kendrick was just a member of the North Fremont congregation, not a leader or pastor. He said: “This is a tragic case where a member of a religious group has brought liability on the group for actions he alone may have taken.”

Had the secrecy around Kendrick’s 2004 conviction not been put in place, that might have been a semi-valid point – demonising a whole faith and community because of individual incidents is absolutely not what this is about. That said, it’s the idea that a church-wide policy enforced the silence that is so disturbing. Traumatic as this case will certainly have been for many involved, part of me can’t help hoping that it sets a precedent and we see many more like it come to light, until every institution, religious or otherwise, understands that hiding things like this is much, much worse than exposing them – for everyone.

Alpena, Michigan Was Apparently The Start of The American Rebellion

This symbol I pulled from the site. I have no idea what it means.

I came across this simply amazing piece of woo-filled-tripe (tripe-filled-woo?) today. It’s from a website I’ve never heard of  before called the European Union Times. They had posted an article that I’m still having a hard time figuring out whether it’s satire. The headline reads: “380 American Rebels Reported Killed In Michigan Battle.” This article is a complete “cut and paste” from a site called Which is a home of genuine nutballery.

A shocking Federal Security Service (FSB) report circulating in the Kremlin today states that last week an “intense” battle erupted in the US State of Michigan between military forces loyal to the Obama regime and American rebels that killed at least 380 men, women and children who had gathered to oppose their nations slide towards a totalitarian dictatorship.

Just to verify this claim, I went to the FSB website. It is completely in Russian but with help of Google Translate I browsed and searched the site. There are no press releases or anything that turned up in a key word search containing “Michigan”, “Alpena” or “Obama”. If you can read Russian please check out the site and let me know if there actually is something about this on the site.

The article goes on to give a very detailed account of an attack that killed 380 civilians including bombing runs with 2000 lb laser guided bombs. I don’t know if you have seen what the impact of a 2000 lb bomb looks like, but it looks like this:

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Gratuitous Pandering For Money

2nd Birthday Balloon
Our Second Birthday is coming up. Please help us out.

I’m not good with asking for money. So I’m going to just go ahead and say it.

Next month, The Michigan Skeptics Association is going to turn two. Two years ago, we started the Michigan Skeptics Association in the hopes of creating a resource for skepticism and humanism in Michigan. We’re planning a birthday celebration for it. I created Meetup and Facebook event pages for it already.I will put out an official announcement this week. Feel free to RSVP early if you would like.

But what I really wanted to ask you was for help. We have plans for the event, including entertainment, prizes and cake. If you can afford to please go to our ChipIn page and give what you can. You can also click on the ChipIn Now button on the right. We would be greatly appreciative of any help you can give.  We will post a list of donors at the celebration thanking them for their donation.

Thank you all in advance for your help!

Michigan Skeptics is Celebrating Alan Turing’s 100th Birthday

Image of Alan Turing
Alan Turing was born on June 23rd 1912 and died on June 7th 1954.

This month is the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing’s Birth. It’s also the 58th anniversary of his tragic death. So this month at our monthly Get Together we’re going to celebrate the father of modern computing and the one of the key architects of the allied victory in World War II. We’re going to learn about his life and his accomplishments. We will also the events that lead up his death by suicide in 1954.

We’re meeting on June 9th at 4:00 PM. Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and take part in the discussion.

Please be sure to RSVP at our meet-up page for the location and so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Announcing the May Get Together!

MISkeptics Get Together
We sell these at our MISkeptics store.

Our May Get Together will be on May 12th at 4 pm.This will be out first time at the new location, this one promises privacy and quiet. Plus they won’t lose our reservation causing us to have to find a new place at the last-minute.

This month is our social event and we have plenty to talk about. At our April Get Together, Val Morris stopped by to meet with us. Her article came out not too long ago and had a great review of us. Also it was our Hitchens tribute and we showed in public for the first time our Thank Hitch video that featured people from around the world thanks Chris for all the great work he has done.

We will also talk about our plans going forward with achieving non-profit status! This will help us with get famous speakers, collect grants, and will help play for all the great prizes we give out during our games and raffles. Plus all people who give can claim it on their taxes.

So you can see the Donate buttons below and over there on the right? We need your donations to help us do what we do. Please go click on that button and donate what you can for promotion critical thinking in Michigan!

So please head over to our Meetup site and RSVP. We look forward to seeing you all!


Michigan Skeptics Featured in Christian News Article

Val Berry
Val is a Christian Reporter for she is also a local traffic reporter.

At our April Get Together,  we had a special guest. Val wasn’t here to present to us or to deliver a lecture. She was here to learn about us. Val “Berry” Morris is a reporter for the She reports on Christian topics in the Detroit area. She came here to learn about something she had no experience with, the world of Skepticism and Atheism. She had never been exposed to either and wanted to learn about us and talk about what she learned.

I want to thank everyone that spoke to her and to everyone for making her feel welcome and at ease. She did not know what to expect and expected possible hostility. She learned that we are no different from anyone else and are a warm and welcoming group. She has expressed interest in doing this again and I agreed that it would be fun to do. There are a lot of misconceptions  about Atheists and Skeptics out there. It’s good that we can educate people about us.

She broke the article into two parts, because it was so long.You can find the first part here and the second part here.

Everyone should comment on the article and thank her for the great work she did. If you don’t want to register with you can comment here or send them via our contact us page.

Once Again, thanks to Val for coming out and meeting us. And thanks for the great article!


Paleontologists Re-debunk Aquatic Dinosaur Theory Shot Down Decades Ago

Dinosaurs courtesy of Wikimedia
A collection of skeletons mounted in museums of various dinosaurs. source: Wikimedia

Last week, Paleontologists were required to respond to claims that dinosaurs were actually semi-aquatic creatures and stayed in water to support their great size. A theory that was thoroughly and completely debunked in the 1960s. The Smithsonian Magazine reports:

Earlier this week, the rotting corpse of a discarded dinosaur idea rose from the depths. Brian J. Ford, a television personality and self-styled independent researcher, decided that Apatosaurus, Allosaurus and kin just looked wrong ambling about on land. Unfettered by the accumulation of scientific evidence about how dinosaurs moved and the environments they lived in, Ford decided to set scientists straight by floating an idea that had been sunk decades ago—that all large dinosaurs spent their lives in water. And, like the bad science it is, the idea strained to explain everything about dinosaur biology. Not only did the idea supposedly explain why non-avian dinosaurs went extinct—their watery homes dried up, of course—but the aquatic setting also explained the small arms of the tyrannosaurs. The great tyrants, Ford said, would catch fish and hold them close for visual inspection before downing the sashimi. Ford’s speculation is a buffet of nonsense. There is so much wrong with it, it’s hard to know where to start.

Brian J. Ford is a British Journalist and television personality. He doesn’t have a college degree but has been an advocate for science and education since he dropped out of college in 1961. His article, published in the April edition of Labratory News, (apparently with a video trailer) purports to not only provide evidence for, but actually concludes that dinosaurs were aquatic.

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Will Holding a Gun Make You Think Others Are Too? New Research Says Yes.


James Bond Holding a Gun
I'm pretty sure he's holding a gun. Wielding a gun increases a person's bias to see guns in the hands of others, new research from the University of Notre Dame shows.

Research from the University of Notre Dame that shows a person’s bias to see guns in the hands of others is increased when the subject is holding a gun. The research, which will be published in the soon-to-be released issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance showed that subjects holding a toy gun were more likely to perceive the image of a person they were looking at to be holding a gun as opposed to another type of object.  The research was performed by Notre Dame Associate Professor of Psychology James Brockmole along with an unnamed colleague from Purdue University.

In five experiments, subjects were shown multiple images of people on a computer screen and determined whether the person was holding a gun or a neutral object such as a soda can or cell phone. Subjects did this while holding either a toy gun or a neutral object such as a foam ball.

The researchers varied the situation in each experiment — such as having the people in the images sometimes wear ski masks, changing the race of the person in the image or changing the reaction subjects were to have when they perceived the person in the image to hold a gun. Regardless of the situation the observers found themselves in, the study showed that responding with a gun biased observers to report “gun present” more than did responding with a ball. Thus, by virtue of affording the subject the opportunity to use a gun, he or she was more likely to classify objects in a scene as a gun and, as a result, to engage in threat-induced behavior, such as raising a firearm to shoot.

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Our April 14th Get Together Is All About Hitch

The great Bearded Hitch
The Great Bearded Hitch. Photographed in the wild.

This Month is going to be our tribute to Christopher Hitchens. As you remember, we were supposed to do this in January but had to do something different because the venue closed down at the last minute. So, as April is his birth month, we are going to pay tribute to him today.

We will be watching the IQ2 debate where where he and Stephan Fry eviscerate the Catholic church. We may also watch a debate from Brazil. But most importantly we will be watching the Thank Hitch video we put together and sent off to Hitchens himself. Only a few people have seen it including Hitch himself.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

We also have special guests and speakers that contribute to the conversation and/or debate.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary.

Also make sure to join our Meetup Group for future Get Togethers and other great events.

I hope to see you all there!

New Evidence Knocks Down Daryl Bems Claim of Psychic Proof


crystal ball
The results were clear. "We found nothing," Ritchie said.

LiveScience is reporting on experiments done by researchers at three universities trying to replicate Daryl Bem‘s 2010 claim that he had found scientific proof of psychic ability. The researchers Stuart Ritchie of the University of Edinburgh, University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman and University of London psychologist Christopher French all conducted the experiment separately at their respective universities with 50 participants each.

 The researchers chose the strongest of the eight positive findings that Bem originally published. In the experiment, Bem’s participants seemed to reverse the usual cause-effect sequence of time. They saw a list of 48 words flashed onto a computer screen and were then treated to a surprise memory test in which they were asked to type in as many of the words as they remembered.

Next, a random sample of 24 of the previous 48 words was presented again. The participants did some practice exercises with these words, and then the experiment ended. Analyzing the memory-test results, Bem and his colleagues found that the students were more likely to recall the words that they’d soon see again than the words that were not on the later exercise list, as if they could see the future.

“It’s almost as if you study for an exam, you do the exam and then you study for it afterwards and then you get a better mark,” Ritchie told LiveScience. “So you can see why we were kind of surprised by that.”

Bem encouraged replication of his results, and he put the computer program he used in his experiment online so other researchers could use it.

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