The Big Bang Theory is ruining science

When The Big Bang Theory first premiered, I watched it with a lot of hope.

It had science script checkers and sought to bring the nerdy culture of physics into the mainstream. My wife (then girlfriend) and I started watching it while we were both undergrads – me in engineering physics and she in physics. While it’s predominantly male cast and token ditzy blonde was problematic from the start, it was relatable for us and our friends. Even if none of us were a Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, or Howard, we saw bits of each of those characters in each of us. Even Penny started to develop into a rounded character and slowly they introduced a couple female scientists. Overall, it was good.

But it’s moved so far from that. Many of our friends gave up on it years ago as the show drifted toward the lowest common denominator. The physics jokes are almost entirely gone and the humour is more about laughing at the gang for being nerdy and socially awkward than the humour in the situations they get into.

This latest episode – the ninth season premier at that – reached an incredible new low though. Amy’s escape from her joyless relationship with Sheldon was seen by Sheldon as an indictment on half the population. The script writers then chose to run with that “gag” through the entire episode. In one scene Sheldon is creeping in a window because he wanted to pressure Amy into getting back together with him. By the end he’s saying that the only good woman is scientist Marie Curie but she was “an honorary man because she had a penis made of science.”

Not to be outdone on the creep-factor, comic book store owner Stuart’s gag was to instantly prey on every female character as soon as he had a hint that she might be single. Meanwhile Leonard follows up his elopement to Penny by revealing that he works with a woman he cheated on Penny with and then offers sex as a means to distract her.

Given the deep systemic issues faced by women in science, there’s no forgiveness for this show to stoop to this level. What could be a way to make science cool, fun, and engaging has instead just become offensive for its misogyny, its disservice to the incredible women in science, and for perpetuating cruel stereotypes about men in science.

I feel betrayed.


A full response to Humanist Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation statement

Two weeks ago I began Tweeting my reactions to Humanist Canada’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report. I heavily criticized the organization for it’s response, which in my view used the opportunity to make an easy attack on religion while doing nothing on promoting reconciliation with Canada’s aboriginal peoples. I expanded upon my Tweets in a Storify, which I posted here, on Twitter and Facebook, tagging Humanist Canada.

To his credit, Eric Thomas, President of Humanist Canada thanked me for my comments and promised to circulate them with the Board. My hope was that Humanist Canada would engage with my critique and together we could work toward a stronger and more constructive statement. I have belonged to Humanist Canada in the past (I mostly don’t right now as I’m living in the UK) and, while Twitter is a glib medium, did hope my public criticisms would prompt action.

Continue reading A full response to Humanist Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation statement


Libertarian activist puts politics before reality to argue the left puts politics before reality

On the libertarian blog Reason, John Stossel trots out the tired cliche that the left are just as anti-science as the right, and in this case potentially even more damaging. Because non-evidence based views about climate change have no real world consequences right?

He cites the usual tropes as the left-wing anti-science positions, yet fails to actually show any political divide for any of the claims. In fact, public opinion research debunks his two main examples: vaccines and GM. In the US, at least, there is a divide on support for nuclear power and animal research* – but a majority of Democrats still support nuclear power and the question of animal research is far more about values than evidence.

Compare this to the gap between science and reality on the right on evolution, stem cell research, global warming and corporal punishment (to name but a few)

Stossel’s final argument is that the left is styming research into IQ differences between men and women and between different races. Even though he only cites his own anecdote, given history, I’m okay with some pretty critical lenses being applied to anyone starting down this path.

So no, the evidence doesn’t support the claim the left is anti-evidence.
*I’m being charitable and assuming his rant about SeaWorld – an entertainment facility first, research second – is about animal research.


“I’m glad it’s over”

Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass emailed me a couple days ago to say:

More than three years ago, I wrote a post on Canadian Atheist about prayer in Peterborough municipal council meetings.  In the comments you suggested I contact CFI Canada. I did and CFI connected me with Dan Mayo and Secular Ontario. Thank you for that advice. My case against the City of Peterborough for saying the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of its council meetings has been successfully resolved in my favour.

Continue reading “I’m glad it’s over”


Fringe party crashes election debate in Hornsey

I can safely say I just got home from one of the most bizarre electoral hustings I’ve ever been to.

Tonight’s debate, hosted by Horsney Parish Church and moderated by Father Bruce Batstone, invited candidates from the five largest parties running in my constituency, Hornsey and Wood Green:

  • Suhail Rahuja from the Conservative Party
  • Gordon Peters from the Green Party
  • Catherine West from the Labour Party
  • Lynne Featherstone from the Liberal Democrats (incumbent)
  • Clive Morrison from UK Independence Party


The other three candidates were invited to submit questions for the debate.

That’s not what happened though.

Continue reading Fringe party crashes election debate in Hornsey


How to lose an election

Alberta’s election continues to be far more entertaining than the one here in the UK.

Amid his party’s plummeting polling numbers, Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice needed to re-connect with voters and rebuild trust for his party during the leaders debate last night.

Instead, he told the only woman on stage that “I know the math is difficult…” in a discussion around tax increases. Very soon after #MathIsHard started trending in the province and NDP leader Rachel Notley was able to remind viewers that this is the leader who doesn’t want Albertans to “worry their pretty little heads.”

There’s an adage that governments typically lose elections, rather than opposition parties win them. In this case, I think Prenctice just lost it and Notley has a truly unexpected chance to win it.

For more on the debate, read Don Braid’s analysis in the Calgary Herald.


10 reasons the Saguenay ruling establishes Canada as a secular country

It’s been only 5 days since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the prayers said by the City of Saguenay discriminated against atheists, and already cities across Canada are reviewing their own practices. But I suspect (although caveated with the standard, I am not a lawyer) this ruling will have wide reaching consequences as there are very few Supreme Court precedents on cases of religious freedom in Canada.

Reading the ruling, I think secularists should feel confident. Here’s my interpretation of my 10 favourite parts of the ruling (in the order they appear).

Continue reading 10 reasons the Saguenay ruling establishes Canada as a secular country


On PZ Myers and Atheist Ireland – what she said

I can’t add much to this statement from Secular Woman on the recent “public dissociation” controversy. I will admit that this blog was briefly listed as one of the Secular Policy Institute’s affiliates though (because they literally asked everyone they could google). But after they issued their bizarre statement about “shock bloggers” I dissociated myself (though not publicly, till now I guess).