News From Around The Blogosphere 5.29.11

May 29, 2011

1. Murdering teen escapes punishment because she was possessed by evil spirits

Lorraine Mbulawa, 19, escaped jail after judge Mr Justice Keith accepted the girl had such strong beliefs in witchcraft and evil that she was acting upon what she was told to do by spirits.

2. Anti-vaxxers forcefully remove peaceful protester from their convention – Ken Reibel and Jamie Bernstein were both ejected from the anti-vaccine “Autism One” conference by 3 security guards and 4 police officers. Their crime: being recognized as dissenters of the movement’s ideology. This speaks volumes about the intellectual integrity of their movement. If anti-vaxxers attended TAM or NECSS, no one would kick them out unless they were actually disrupting the conference.

3. Catholic adoption agency shuts down rather than let gays adopt – Finally, a charity that has its priorities in place. Better a child grow up in an institution than risk that child being infected by evil, gay cooties. Good thinking there, Catholic Charities of Rockford! You guys are a class act all the way!

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Insane Troll Logic 5.26.11

May 26, 2011

The trolls continue to bombard my piece on Quantum Jumping, and I do love addressing their asinine arguments even though I end up repeating myself a lot. And because the comments section of this one article would make for great source material for a game of Name That Logical Fallacy, I like to share it.

This time I’m responding to only one troll called Dstar, who posted several comments. To be fair, Dstar showed some fleeting moments of actual critical thinking and even agrees with some of what I said. The main reason I’m putting him in the category of troll is because, like so many trolls that come to pick a fight, Dstar’s main point of criticism has far less to do with the actual substance of my article and more to do with my having the audacity to suggest that reality itself is objective and that some ideas are simply wrong and even possibly fundamentally impossible. It’s basic New Age, post-modern anti-confrontationalism that boils down to nobody has a right to state that any idea, no matter how silly, is fairly definitively not true. This sort of extreme “anything is possible” ideology just really pisses me off.

But anyway, enjoy.

Dstar comment 1:

I would also like to hear your thoughts on what you believe to be “literal reality” as you have previously menitoned……..

I’m not sure of the context in which I may have used that term but I’ll take a stab at it. Scientific claims require falsifiability. And if one is going to sell a service that they claim is scientific in nature, they better be prepared to point to legitimate, peer-reviewed studies published in reputable journals that demonstrate the phenomena has survived proper testing. Science is a method of observation for determining how the world actually works. It’s not perfect but it’s the best method we have. And if we discover a new, better method, that will become part of science too. But if one makes extraordinary scientific claims without going through the scientific process of determining if they’re actually true and having those claims vetted by other scientists in appropriate fields, then that’s a problem. One ought to have an actual good reason to believe something is true beyond merely wanting to believe it is true. In other words, one’s level of belief in a claim ought to be proportional to the amount of evidence for that claim. If it isn’t, one does not have a good reason to believe said belief is true until such time as it can be properly demonstrated to be true, and the default position is not believe it. I hope that clarifies my position and the position of science.

Dstar comment 2:

I would like you to ask yourself two questions

What do you know?
What do you not know?

I believe, Sir, you are living out your ego/left brain and are overlooking true being.

Enjoyed comments made by Jay and restless [authors note: these two were among the worst trolls on the page]

And I believe you’re desperate to cling to comforting nonsense no matter what and will seek out any excuse to attack the character of people who disagree with you rather than consider the possibility that maybe you’re wrong.

You don’t seem to have any reasonable mechanism on which to apply critical analysis to your beliefs or test their validity, and you seem to prefer it that way I surmise because if a belief is unfalsifiable, you think you never have to ever face admitting you’re wrong. Tell me. Can anything convince you that you’re wrong? What would do so?

Dstar comment 3:

I was aiming to hihglight [sic] that: What cannot proved to be Real/True/Scientific fact, to me, also means some of the previously discussed, could be in the realm of possibility. I would like to stay open minded…

This is why I wanted to ask you, what do you actually know, and what is out there to find out. I would like to think that there is more to discover than the knowledge we hold to date, especially if you look at our current limited undertsanding of the reality we are supposedly living out.

Finally, I try not to think in terms of – true or false – right or wrong – beauty and ugliness

The above distinctions could be considered subjective and I feel that in this division we are creating the problematic world we live in. Division is destruction?

If we continue to build mental boundaries and erect mental fences around, what most consider to be outlandish beliefs, we can only play to the arhictecture we have built. And whether you believe in quantum jumping or not, this acrchitecture is starting to “stink”, but what did we expect?

I’m pretty sure we can rule out Santa Claus, leprechauns, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. While one ought to be open-minded to alternative hypotheses, that doesn’t mean one should treat absolutely every unfalsifiable claim they’re presented with as if it’s a perfectly legitimate and respectable possibility. Beliefs ought to be proportional to the evidence and the degree of likeliness considered. The burden of proof is always on the claimant; that’s just a basic rule of logic. For instance, as I’ve said before on this forum, if I said I went to Starbucks yesterday, I might be lying or confusing one day with another, but you have no reason to doubt that claim because it’s rather unremarkable. Whereas if I said I was abducted by space aliens yesterday and they let me fly their ship around the Earth, given the extraordinary nature of the claim, you’d have good reason to suspect that I was either lying or delusional. At that point, it would be quite reasonable for you to demand evidence. And if instead, I came up with a host of excuses, while that wouldn’t prove my experience didn’t happen, you’d have good reason to not believe it. And the responsibility would not be yours to prove it didn’t happen but rather it’d be on me to prove I did fly an alien ship.

This is ESPECIALLY important when charging people for a service. Caveat emptor, my ass. You commit fraud by selling a service you can’t provide, you’re going down. It’s that simple.
And as far as QJ goes, it’s about as likely as monkeys flying out of my butt. But again, I’m completely open-minded to look at compelling evidence under proper controlled conditions that might change my mind. Now I’ve told you what would change my mind; so to such an open-minded person as yourself, what would change yours?

You might not like to think in terms of true or false, right or wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that reality is not subjective and that some ideas are in fact false and wrong. For instance, if I claimed the moon was made out of cheese, I would be dead fuckin’ wrong regardless of how you or I feel about it.

Dstar comment 4:

And I wanted to point out that my first comments were not intended as a dig at your character. Maybe I should have asked you whether you believe – yourself and your beliefs are trapped in a reality of YOUR own creation?

I agree with some of your reply to “what is literal reality”

very much so regarding this looking like a scam. If you have this knowledge, why make a quick buck from it, surely you would aim to openly share this knowledge to those who would like to listen and be open.

You also have to consider that education and science have also been heavily manipulated over time. What you (us/humans) are taught to be scientific fact, may not be due to the control on educational and religous systems on a truly global scale.

The only person you can implictily trust is yourself and your inner intuition. I will keep to this

No, myself and my beliefs are trapped in reality period. Now we can certainly have fun with thought experiments about how we might all be living in the Matrix and that the rules governing our observable reality are just the rules of the game in a grand simulation, but while that could all be hypothetically true, it gets us nowhere. And if you want to believe that, be my guest and hop out the nearest 30-story window or slice open your eye with a razor because it’s all the same anyway.

Whether entirely “real” (whatever that means) or if we’re just living inside a giant video game, the only rational approach is to learn the rules through observation as well as trial by error. That’s what science is, using the best tools at our disposal for figuring out how the world works. And this method has clear practical applications that have made our existence better in every measurable way. It’s this method of science that has allowed us to split the atom, develop life-saving vaccines, defy gravity with airplanes, and walk on the moon. So what has the we’re all living in a simulation hypothesis given us? Nothing. Nothing at all. But again, any time you want to hop out that window, feel free. After all, if we can’t rely on our own perspective to guide our behavior, suicide might be the only true way to win the game. Could be. Though I doubt it.

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Oh Bill O’Reilly, not the tides again!

May 25, 2011

I’m starting to suspect he’s just fucking with us now.

News From Around The Blogosphere 5.23.11

May 23, 2011 - HBO Post-Emmys Party, Pa...

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1. Actor Paul Giamatti identifies himself as an atheist – Yup, in keeping with centuries of Jewish tradition, Mr. Giamatti doesn’t believe in any gods. He even goes further than many other celebrity atheists in that he’s not afraid to even use the label “atheist.”

2. Australian distributor of Power Balance bracelets goes out of business

The Australian distributor of the controversial Power Balance wristbands will be placed into receivership today, with the owner of the business saying that sales have “evaporated” since the business provided undertakings to the ACCC to stop claiming the wristbands could improve balance, strength and flexibility.

Power Balance Australia owner Tom O’Dowd has exclusively told SmartCompany that while he had been “naive” in thinking that the business would not by [sic] subject to laws surrounding the regulation of health products, the ACCC’s aggressive stance against the products effectively killed off any survival hopes.

3. 60 Minutes reports on Lance Armstrong scandal – Last week, I defended a piece by 60 Minutes about the cult group calling themselves Sovereign Citizens, but this week, I’m taking issue with one of their stories. Now I haven’t been following the investigation into possible use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional bicyclists, nor the particular accusations against Lance Armstrong. But it seems to me, at least as it was presented on 60 Minutes, that the real story here is an abuse of government power. From what I could tell, the entire investigation has turned into a witch hunt based not on any empirical evidence, but on nothing more than hearsay.

Now maybe Armstrong cheated and maybe he didn’t. I have no clue, nor any commitment to either conclusion. Certainly, as with any professional athlete, there is a clear motivation to cheat…at least as long as one  can keep it a secret, as exposure would almost certainly destroy one’s career. But if federal officials couldn’t even nab Al Capone for anything other than tax evasion, why is it that they can potentially bring down Lance Armstrong without anything other than the testimonies and conspiracy theories of people who may have a grudge against him?

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My glorious return to Earth

May 23, 2011
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Participants in a movem...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

As you all know, last Saturday at 6pm was The Rapture. But after I was raptured up into Heaven, imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was the only one that got an invite. It seems that no one other than myself was deemed worthy by God to saved.

But the reason I choose to return to Earth instead of stay in Heaven is two-fold. One, I need to help Harold Camping get the word out that God’s giving all you filthy, wretched sinners a second chance by having another Rapture on October 21st. Of course, Camping , liar that he is, is trying to spin it as The Rapture having not happened yet to avoid having to admit he just wasn’t worthy like me.

The other reason I’m back is because Heaven is fuckin’ the most boring place ever! There’s nobody there except Jim Jones and his 909 followers (yup, turns out The People’s Temple was the one, true religion–who would’ve thought?). And there’s nothing there except lots of milk and honey. I like milk as much as the next guy but you can’t even get chocolate milk because chocolate leads to sin.

The one good thing about heaven was that Mary was there, and she’s amazing in the sack.  No wonder Jesus fucked her so he could be born even though technically he could have chosen any means of coming to Earth that he pleased.

Anywho, I’m back until the next Rapture. And in the meantime, my divine mission is to continue to expose the liars, cheats, charlatans, and frauds so that more people can be enlightened enough to get Raptured in October.

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In case of Rapture, this may be my final blog…

May 20, 2011
Poster in Kendall Square, Cambridge, Massachus...

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…not because I’d be Raptured, but because with all the religious nuts gone, I will no doubt be filling my time by looting their shit.

Then again, according to Harold Camping, God is striking each time zone at their respective 6pms, and yet so far, no word of anyone being Raptured in New Zealand or Fiji. It’s not looking good for The Rapture.

But now let’s be serious for a moment. We’re all having a lot of fun mocking this insanely idiotic belief, but Camping’s campaign of terror actually has real serious consequences.

For instance:

There’s always a price for perpetuating superstition, and as far as I’m concerned, the blood of this woman’s kids is also on Camping.

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It’s okay to be Takei

May 20, 2011

News From Around The Blogosphere 5.20.11

May 20, 2011

1. The Catholic Church figures out who’s really to blame for their child abuse cases – A study commissioned by the completely unbiased the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out suggesting that all that child fucking the Catholic Church is so addicted to is really the fault of 1960’s hippies. It also apparently retroactively explains all that church sex abuse we know about from the 19th and early 20th centuries too. Amazing thing, that free-love 60’s movement!

2. CDC prepares for zombie apocalypse – In conjunction with Zombie Awareness Month, the CDC recommends planning ahead for a zombie invasion much as you would any other disaster. Of course, the point of this is to get people thinking about how to protect themselves from any disaster. The idea is rather brilliant. By framing it around zombies, they’ve gotten massive media attention, which they would not have if they were warning people about, you know, actual real threats people should be prepared for…which is waaaay less interesting to the media than who got kicked off Dancing with the Stars this week or what Lady Gaga is eating for breakfast. Steven Novella also discusses this story here.And don’t forget:  Cardio, beware of bathrooms, seat belts, double tap.

3. 60 Minutes discusses dangerous, anti-government Sovereign Citizens cult – Wasn’t familiar with them before but even a brief Google search turns up enough evidence that these people are nuts. And what’s really sad is that many people are calling the 60 Minutes piece biased and are actually defending these crazies simply because the Sovereign Citizens exploit anti-government, libertarian rhetoric.

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Happy Draw Mohammed Day 2011!

May 19, 2011

And for more images created for this day, check out the DrawMoDay2011 flickr page here.

You’re pitting WHO against Stephen Hawking?!

May 18, 2011

"Suck it, bitch!"

The other day, the world’s most famous living physicist Stephen Hawking made headlines with an off the cuff remark he made about heaven:

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he told the newspaper.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

And all of a sudden, people went ape shit, and several people called out the genius physicist for his statements. So who were these brave intellects who entered the ring against Stephen Hawking? Evangelical and former child actor Kirk Cameron, for one.

According to Cameron:

“”To say anything negative about Stephen Hawking is like bullying a blind man. He has an unfair disadvantage, and that gives him a free pass on some of his absurd ideas. Professor Hawking is heralded as ‘the genius of Britain,’ yet he believes in the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything and that life sprang from non-life,” the former TV star tells E! News.

I do agree on one point. Hawking does have an unfair advantage…actually knowing stuff.

Then ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer pitted Hawking against a random 12-year-old kid who we’re told had a near-death experience where he gained access to easily accessible information. ABC even framed the story as one versus the other. It’s almost like this kid had some sort of internet or something.

Then a religious physicist named Scott M. Tyson criticized Hawking with a bunch of logical fallacies, which Steven Novella details in his latest article. And finally, there is some writer for The Guardian who states that he’d stake his life that Stephen Hawking is wrong, which PZ Myers references in his piece explaining how not to argue with Hawking.

I’d love to be able to say there was no clear winner in any of these battles but just look again at the people going up against one of the greatest physicists of our time: an actor, a journalist, a 12-year-old kid? It’s sad that not only do these laypeople think can contend with Hawking but that the media seems to think they’ve got what it takes to be fair opponents. That’s like a boxing match pitting Mike Tyson against…well, a 12-year-old.

Sorry media but it wasn’t even close. The winner and still champion is Hawking, who only wins this battle of wits on the grounds that he’s way smarter than you and is a leading expert in the subject.

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