Evolution of Christianity

(hat tip: FSTDT)

Occams Razor - The Evolution of Christianity

Occams Razor - The Evolution of Christianity

Although the pedants might whine, I found this pretty funny.

Assault on Science

As I write this, it is the end of an interesting week where the western worlds decline to pre-enlightenment understanding of science has continued. Obviously, when I said “interesting” I meant sad…

The really annoying leader of this decline has to be Mary Midgley, as Heather previously addressed, who seems to think that “Science” is some dark art that has no relevance on any other aspect of society. Oddly she seems to be calling for the implementation of social policies, laws and the like without any scientific input. Obviously the idea that laws should be formulated without any experiemental reason to think they would ever work – I mean we are innundated with such laws now… Who cares if it can be demonstrated that Law X doesn’t work, as long as we “feel” it is a good law… Well done Mary.

Next in the firing line is the case of Dawn Page and here “nutritional therapist,” Barbara Nash. In a nutshell Page followed Nash’s frankly crazy advice and suffered major brain damage. Bad Science has an excellent take on this – the media as a whole has ignored the general trend of crazy advice by self appointed “Nutritionists” and focused on Nash as a one-off crank… The sad reality is the western world is inundated with fruitloops like this who go on about Chakras, Detox and the like. The even sadder part is that we fall for this nonsense without having the basic scientific reasoning ability to question their basically insane claims. I am all for sticking it to “professionals” who abuse their position (and I think £801,000 was a trivial sum in this case) but, for Toutatis’ sake, why on Odin’s Earth didn’t Ms Page go to the bloody doctors when she felt sick. When uncontrollable vomiting set in, most normal people (you would hope) would go to the hospital, probably via a 999 call to an ambulance. Not Ms Page, who returned to her nutritional therapist for more advice. As I see it, this is where Nash commited the greatest crime. Rather than telling Ms Page to seek real help, she stuck to her woo. Stupid or greedy? Who knows? Who cares – it still screams criminal negligence as far as I can see.

Closing on the heels of the above, and a strong candidate for the worst abuse of scientific illiteracy is the media’s “feeding frenzy” on the decision by Ronald Herberman (Director of the University of Pittsborough Cancer Institute) to issue a warning to his staff to limit their use of mobile phones due to the risk of cancer. Now, I am going to assume that Herberman is a scientist and aware of the nature of scientific reasearch – and indeed, he did say the “evidence is controversial” that phones cause cancer. The same can not be said for the media vultures that descended on this…

First off, often decisions have to be made on “inconclusive” evidence, so that in itself is not a bad thing. By its very nature a scientific proof is still liable to be disproven at any moment. In this manner, it is perfectly reasonable (there is that word again) for Director Herberman to send a memo to his staff saying that, in his opinion, they should limit their use of phones. Does this count as “evidence” there is an increased risk of cancers forming in users of mobile phones. No. Does this mean the “scientific community” (in as much as one can exist) thinks there is a greater risk today than they did two weeks ago – again, no.

If you were to absorb any news from the UK this week, however, you would think this was fundamental proof that mobile phones are dangerous. New calls are all over about how phone masts cause “electrosensitivity” and similar woo. It seems that people have assumed, that because Dr Herberman has sent out this message it must be true and obviously because Dr Herberman works at a Cancer Institute he must be correct, notwithstanding the fact that Cancer Research UK reported (in February) that phone users were no more likely to get cancer than someone who had never touched a phone. Obviously, as journalists are functionally incapable of reading research they go with what ever seems to have the power to sell as many issues as possible…

The Guardian newspaper on Saturday identifies what it sees as the logic at work here (and sadly this is where Dr Herberman seems to fall down). First off, it explains the problem in trying to find out what is a “cause of cancer” with:

Here’s the thing. Almost everything that causes cancer does so by causing mutations in our cellular DNA that accumulate over years and often decades before culminating in a tumour. So to prove something increases a person’s cancer risk, scientists must often not only wait for years to see a significant peak in the disease, but also be able to rule out any other possible cause. That could be changes in diet, environmental factors, lifestyle, the list goes on.

Yes. It it hard trying to work out what causes cancer, this is one of the reasons we have so many “institutes” around the world looking into it. I don’t seem to recall any of them having solved the problem yet though. The Guardian finishes with: (emphasis mine)

The independent Stewart review into mobile phones in 2000 advised children to limit their use as a precaution. Dr Herberman is following the same logic. “We shouldn’t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” he said.

Wow. A fail for science there. I think that funding research institutes causes cancer. Rather than wait to see if any study can agree with this, why don’t we withdraw the funding now so we can err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later.

Shame on you Dr Herberman, you have opened the floodgates to woo….

More atheist footstamping

For those who do not have the regular, erm, pleasure of reading through the Comment is Free blogs on the Guardian websites, there is an interesting one there from yesterday by AC Grayling titled “A force for evil.”

The post makes interesting reading, but as you can imagine the most humour can be found in the comments. Most are pretty unoriginal and just what you expect when ever someone says religion is bad. You can largely group the comments into categories: (with kudos to jackoba who did this before me!)

  1. The ones that say religion is not all bad, look at all the good things it has done.
  2. The ones that say Atheism is worse than religion and point to Hitler (a catholic), Stalin, Pol Pot et al. as examples of evil atheists. (Prime example is the comment by powerday with an ironic twist by longsword later on where he seems to be saying Hitler was an Atheist because he seems to have believed in a Teutonic god rather than the current mainstream Christian god…)
  3. The atheists who complain about atheists criticising theists and suggest we all go back to hiding under the table. (waltzingmatilda1 provides an example of this – and without wishing to be rude, I find this sort of argument very weak and almost cowardly, basically this comment says that because “outspoken” atheists draw negative comments from theists, they should shut up and behave themselves… Blimey…)
  4. People who have no idea what they are talking about, but need to talk (often conflating atheism with a religion or making massive logical fallacy leaps – sadly there are lots of examples of this, but for now I will leave it with mckgus)
  5. People who like to post about how repetitive the argument is. ( 🙂 )

I am teetering towards the last group at the moment. Sadly, even though there are some intelligent, educated, people writing articles about atheism now, there is a strong sense of repetition there. It is a good sign of the times that so many news portals carry atheist posts now, and this probably reflects the greater divide between theists and atheists. In the UK at least, a generation ago most people were apathetic enough towards religion as to make the distinction meaningless – even the faithful over here were not rabid enough to get worked up about. Now, though, things are quite different. It is interesting that an apparent British person writes this at the end of their comment:

Also, since humanism tends towards strict individualism, autonomy of the self, reason, independent thought etc, on its own grounds, it features a very spurious supernatural being (in the way he can escape from nature), the human of humanism, the self. Not only this, but the underlying liberalistic logic of evolutionary psychology and humanism (competing individuals where co-operation is a secondary and indeed undergirded by self-interest) is doubtless an easy way at an ideological level inwhich to further shure up capitalism, and I cannot help but think that this logic (though not humanism solely, but capitalism) will ulitimately kill more than ‘religion’ ever has, once the seas begin to boil and the world begins to throw out its selfish stewards.

Heavy on the big, long words but light on the sense and logic. (He began his comment with “Where to to begin with the stupidity of what AC Grayling is saying here?” so you got a sign it was going to be good!)

The problem is, as is often the case where something is either right or wrong, the argument eventually gets bogged down. It has been some time since I read a properly “new” article on the topic. Theists as normal, are often the worst spewing out the same tired, boring, reasons why people should believe in god. Graylings article in the Comment is Free, while interesting and well written does not really open any new ground and is unlikely to convert any theists.

With this in mind, I will endeavour to find some examples of mainstream media which has “new” arguments on the pro-/anti- invisible people debate. Personally, I cant think of any new arguments so finding them will be exciting and interesting (and therefore they will get looked at here!).

Looking for a silver lining on the Comment is Free, there are very good comments from olching. F101voodoo and especially jonwaring, but my personal favourite came from sidc:

The only interesting thing about these religion/atheism threads is that the atheists can spell better than the religious nutters.

Well said! 🙂

(footnote: the title comes from a comment, not something I thought up myself! )

[tags]Atheism, Theism, Religion, AC Grayling, Belief, Religious Nutters, Beliefs, Belief, Nutcases, Fundamentalist, Society, Culture, Logic, Understanding, Guardian, Nazi, God Delusion[/tags]

Interesting Links

It has been a while since I posted some interesting links, so here goes:

http://www.rense.com/general72/size.htm – visual representation of how the size of the Earth relates to other structures in the universe. The last image shows just how small the things we think are large, really are.

http://dmartin.org/weblog/things-i-can-do-in-linux-that-i-cant-do-on-windows – summary of why Linux is better than windows, as if people needed telling 🙂

http://www.pendrivelinux.com/ – how to boot and run linux from a USB drive.

http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/06/appeals_court_r.html – from Wired.com: “Appeals Court Rules Cops Can Steal Cars and Lie to Victims To Conduct a Warrantless Search”

http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/M42HeartNMCropM.html – image of the M42 Nebula in Orion.

http://www.religionfacts.com/ – information about the worlds religions, surprisingly detailed from what I have read so far and (also so far) does not call Atheism a religion 😀 .

http://www.forbiddenlibrary.com/ – “Banned and Challenged Books” – while interesting in that it shows what books have been “challenged” in the past, it also shows what wingnuts think they can get away with. Is 1984 pro-communist for example?

http://www.blifaloo.com/info/lies.php – “How to Detect Lies,” another one of those sites which have a little knowledge on a subject. This is one of the better ones, but it is still for entertainment purposes only. Do not rely on any conclusions you draw using the information here.

[tags]Science, Astronomy, Cosmology, Linux, Windows, Technology, Links,Law, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Orion, Nebula, Religion, Books, Body Language, Interrogation, Interview, Philosophy, Culture, Beliefs[/tags]

Capricious Pedantry

I know I should have learned my lesson long ago and I promise to stop responding to Parabiodox’s baiting after this post… (At least I will try).

Previously, I made a post about Christian humour in which I commented that the expected answer to a ranting comment would be “Atheists (agnostics etc)” rather than the Abrahamic religions I previously claimed. Now, I never meant this to imply Atheists were the same as agnostics, and if anyone did take away that impression from my (lengthy) post than I apologise wholeheartedly.

I am fully aware Atheism is not Agnosticism, and personally I do not find “agnosticism” a reasonable viewpoint which can be counted as an opinion. Agnosticism is (remember this is my personal viewpoint!) a good point of view for something about which you have no opinion. I am agnostic as to the existence of life on a planet orbiting Beta Canis Major for example. I am not agnostic about the existence of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Leprechauns, Pixies, Elves, Orcs, Gobilins, Demons, pink Unicorns or all manner of imaginary nonsense. What on Earth gives a particular religion special privileges about it’s claims to the existence of one (or more) deities? I will return to this.

Continue reading

Oddness of Faith

Two online blogs have attracted my attention, and while there is only a tenuous link between them they are both based on articles of faith. One is slightly better than the other, but that is to be expected.

As mentioned previously, The BBC has a programme targeting Scientology and this has resulted in considerable online debates. One of the sites mentioning it (ReligionNewsBlog) seems more like an aggregator than a blog but it does have this transcript:

JOHN SWEENEY: So, would you say it’s a cult?

TOMMY DAVIS: …no right to whatsoever to say what and what isn’t a religion. The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees one’s right to practice and believe freely in this country. And the definition of religion is very clear, and it’s not defined by John Sweeney. And for you to repeatedly refer to my faith in those terms is so derogatory, so offensive and so bigoted. And the reason you keep repeating it is because you wanted to get a reaction like you’re getting right now. Well buddy, you got it. Right here, right now, I’m angry, real angry.

If you watch the video of this Tommy Davis comes across as a worrying person. If that is him “real angry” then he is a sociopath. There is no overt sign of aggression. No change to his tone of voice. He sounds like a nutcase who would kill you over a packet of crisps… I would be interested to learn what this “clear” definition of religion he talks about is. The blog also has some more, entertaining articles: Continue reading

Questionable Science

In recent weeks, any science content in New Scientist seems to be purely coincidental, with more and more pages being given over to woo and thinly veiled mysticism. This weeks issue is a minor deviation from this pattern, although most of the “solid science” is to be found in the letters pages…

There is one article, in the Comment and Analysis, which I am unsure about. Reading it, triggers a “bad science” response in me, but I am aware this may be a bit hasty. In an article titled “The media make a killing,” Michael Bond looks at some of the issues around the coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. This is a well written article, which carries a lot of the “self evident truths” which the print media seem to like. As I was reading it, though, a few alarm bells were triggered — but this is not a subject in which I am well versed so before I scream Bad Science, I would like second opinions.

Continue reading