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The Argument From Douche-Baggery [Ken Ham Is An Idiot]

Saturday May 24, 2008 41 comments

The Lie

For anyone who’s read my previous post concerning Ken Ham, you’ll have gotten a pretty good idea of how ignorant he is. Well, he’s either ignorant, or he’s a liar. I’ll let you decide.

In any case, in keeping with the scientific method – providing evidence to support one’s claims, I have more nail-in-the-coffin evidence that Ken Ham is either (a) ignorant, or (b) lying concerning evolution.

On his Answers In Genesis website, he has a “Media” section with audio, video and pictures of creationist propaganda in easy-to-access, easy-to-use, ignorant form. Of course, it’s all nonsense, lies and misrepresentations of actual science and reality. But, one of these especially caught my attention.

The title of this segment is called “Neptune’s wonders… “proof” of creation?” Here is the segment in question, for your listening pleasure.

The first quote from this work of genius is priceless…

You know, even though the incredible planet of Neptune can’t be explained by evolution, at the same time it really is strong evidence for a young universe. You know why? Well, you see, Neptune is a planet that can’t be explained by long ages of time.

Wow, Ken Ham! Your complete lack of understanding of what evolution is… it’s awe inspiring. I’ve never known someone to so brazenly take their own ignorance of a topic and recklessly use it against people who spend their entire lives studying that particular field. Is tithe money running low?

According to Ham, Neptune “can’t be explained by evolution.”

The Truth

This just kills me. Okay, let’s take a look at what Ham’s statement actually means.

How about, to elucidate on just how ignorant this quote is, we substitute the word evolution for evolution’s definition. Evolution can be defined as change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next.

Now, let’s put this quote into context.

You know, even though the incredible planet of Neptune can’t be explained by changes in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next, at the same time it really is strong evidence for a young universe. You know why? Well, you see, Neptune is a planet that can’t be explained by long ages of time.

Ken Ham, you are an idiot. Neptune can’t be explained by changes in alleles within a gene pool?

I suppose next you’re going to say that calculus doesn’t explain elephants, and that this is “proof of creation.”

Now let’s look at some facts, which Ham has completely left out of the picture, and for good reason. Facts don’t support creation. Random nonsense, on the other hand, does.

  1. First of all, as far as we know, Neptune does not have volcanoes.
  2. Secondly, Neptune does not actually generate heat. It’s surface temperature is -218° Celsius. Pretty cold, if you ask me. (Neptune’s core is around 7,000° Celsius, which is similar to most planets in our solar system.)
  3. Thirdly, it is actually Neptune’s moon, Triton that has the volcanoes on it. And volcanoes on Triton are perfectly explainable by the gravitational effects of Neptune on Triton’s core. And these are not ordinary volcanoes. They aren’t spewing lava, or molten rock. It’s actually liquid nitrogen, dust and methane compounds.

Hey, Ken Ham. Maybe you should try doing some research on your topics before going off on some kind of nonsense tangent. I get tired of having to interrupt your nonsense with real, verifiable facts.

Now, Neptune may not be explainable by changes in alleles within a gene pool, but it sure can be explained by astronomy, geology and physics.

Ken, how about you try explaining things with regard to the field that they are actually involved with?

The Logical Fallacy

Technically speaking, Ken Ham’s argument, in this case, would be considered a straw man argument. You take a position A (evolution), construct a weaker position B (the “straw man”), and attack that position, instead of position A.

But Ham commits this offense so often, that I have now renamed this fallacy – naming it after Ham. It is now, officially, referred to as the argument from douche-baggery.

Ken Ham is a douche bag.

Read a book.

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Lying For Jesus [“The Lie: Evolution” By Ken Ham]

Thursday May 15, 2008 47 comments

Introduction

Science and religion. Mutually exclusive fields? Some people say science and religion can exist simultaneously, and harmoniously. I, on the other hand, quite disagree.

If one wishes to preserve intellectual integrity, science and religion cannot take equal priority in one’s mind. They can only exist together if there is compromise, meaning that you either tolerate a little bit of bad logic, bad science, or you dilute your religious views to the point where there is really no substance to them.

Nowhere can this be seen more than in Ken Ham’s book, “The Lie: Evolution.” Ken Ham is the founder of Answers In Genesis, a “Creation Science” organization, dedicated to converting the entire world to Christianity, whether they want it or not.

There is one important thing to point out here. It’s one thing to let a logical fallacy slide here and there, for your own sake; to preserve your own belief system. If you choose to accept bad logic as proof of God, so be it. But to lie to people who may be ignorant of the facts, to imply that your views are “scientific,” to exploit this ignorance, that is an entirely different issue. It is, for lack of a better term, evil. If I were a Christian, I’d say it was “of Satan.” But, being an Atheist, I’ll just say that it’s immoral, deceptive and, to say the least, dishonest. Not, what I think, Jesus would want. Would Jesus want us to distort information (lie) in order to persuade others to accept Him? If Jesus were real, would we really have to distort information (lie) in order to persuade people of his reality?

I think the main problem is that there is either (a) a complete lack of understanding as to what evolution is, or (b) there is a deliberate attempt to mischaracterize and misrepresent (lie about) what evolution is and how it works. I think choice (b) is more likely in Mr. Ham’s case. I mean, people would not believe on the sweet name of Jesus if evolution were true. Therefore, Ham’s only option is to lie his head off to try to keep people from accepting 150+ years of solid science.

Main Theme Of The Book

This book has a pretty pernicious underlying theme: lying. The pot is definitely calling the kettle black in this book. Bad logic is so blatantly rampant, lying and misconceptions abounding so bountifully that I can hardly contain myself.

To start with, the major premise of this book is that evolutionary theory is the root of all evil in society. From this premise follows the false dichotomy: you are either for God or against Him. And not just God in general, but specifically the God of the Christian Bible – and in Ham’s case, the King James version of the Bible. Accepting evolutionary theory is equated with being “against” the God of the Bible. What about every other religion in the world? In one fell swoop Ham totally eliminates the possibility of anyone else’s opinion, other than his own.

Now, it would seem that if one was so confident in one’s position, one might offer some scientific evidence of this position. Right? You would think so. But, not in this case. Not any real evidence, anyway. Not any evidence that would be consistent with the supposed standards he holds evolutionists to.

In cases where a reasonable person would offer proof, Mr. Ham simply presents Bible verses, or appeals to authority. For example, on the topic of geology, Mr. Ham says in reply to a student he is talking with that…

Even if your geology professor were here and said things I don’t understand because I’m not a geologist, if what he says disagrees with the Bible, then he is wrong.

No evidence presented, whatsoever. It is clear that Ham has no interest in evidence. He’s already made up his mind – facts or no facts to support his conclusion. If no evidence exists to support creationism, he will simply manufacture it. Or, if that fails, he will simply resort to trying to poke holes in evolutionary theory. This is the total opposite of how the scientific method works. And on that note, a segue…

Mischaracterizing The Scientist

How do scientists arrive at their conclusions? They observe phenomena (as is the case with observational science), or they examine evidence. Wherever the evidence points, that’s what scientists will tend to accept as truth.

This is not what Ham wants you to believe. He wants you to believe that scientists accept evolutionary theory in the same way he accepts Christianity… with faith. There’s one big problem with this. Where did the idea of evolution come from? Did Darwin just “make up” evolution? Was he just sitting around one day and decided that he wanted to, as Ham claims, destroy the foundations of Christianity? No. Of course not.

Evolutionary theory came about because of overwhelming evidence (see Evolution Is A Religion?). Darwin wasn’t just going on a whim and making things up willy-nilly. He observed speciation in finches (among other animals as well), and determined that there must be a process by which their different characteristics originated – and that mechanism is called natural selection. And as we have discovered more fossils (including many, many transitional fossils, which Ham refuses to accept on an ideological basis), the evidence piles up that evolution has undeniably occurred. It is undeniable, except in Ham’s case. It’s easy to deny anything with the right amount of bad logic and lies.

In the first chapter of the book, there are two illustrations outlining what Ham says are myths and “truths” about scientists.

Four Commonly Believed Facts About The Scientist In The White Coat:

He is unbiased.

He is objective.

He is infallible.

He wears a white coat.

Well, isn’t that neat. Sweeping generalization. One of my favorite logical fallacies.

Then he goes on to show…

Four Truths About Scientists:

He is biased. (Look at his books!) *Books in the picture: Origin Of Species, Modern Zoology, Gould, Modern Science, etc.

He is NOT OBJECTIVE!

He is HUMAN!

He seldom wears a WHITE COAT!

Wow, Ken Ham. How objective you are!! Such broad generalization accompanied by a complete lack of evidence! You wouldn’t happen to be human, would you?

No evidence whatsoever of these points. No specific persons given, or in what way they were biased, not objective, or even if they were human! And do you have pictures of these scientists without their white coats on?

I suppose I can’t say he offers no proof, whatsoever. He does offer this little trinket of information regarding evidence for accepting the Bible…

…modern science, which enabled the development of the car, arose when people began to base their science on the Bible. Therefore, this machine runs according to the laws which God made.

Wow. False premises, a non sequitur and an appeal to authority. There are more logical fallacies than there are sentences here. Great job, Ken! You’ve managed to fit all of these fallacies inside a blatant lie.

Religion has fought science tooth and nail since the beginning. How many people have died in the pursuit of science? Killed by the religious zealots for calling into question their precious Bible? Galileo was nearly killed for claiming the Earth was round. What a heretic!!

All of this, and Ham has the audacity to claim that these things arose when people “began to base their science on the Bible?” Give me a break!

Evolution Is A Religion?

I particularly enjoy this type of attack against evolution. Evolution is, in Mr. Ham’s eyes, a “religion.” Interesting. Let’s take a look at that proposition.

Wikipedia has this to say about the definition of religion

A religion is a set of beliefs and practices, often centered upon specific supernatural and moral claims about reality, the cosmos, and human nature, and often codified as prayer, ritual, and religious law. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience. The term “religion” refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction.

Evolutionary theory actually came about through the use of the scientific method

Scientific method refers to the body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

Now let’s look at the evidence. That’s what an intellectually honest person would do… not someone who lies for Jesus.

To start off with, Darwin was not the only person to “come up with” evolutionary theory. Pierre Maupertuis, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and even Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, among countless others, had been observing the evidence. Most Creationists, like Mr. Ham, would like you to think that Darwin simply came up with the idea of evolution out of nowhere. That it was just a convenient way to remove God from the process of life.

Lines of evidence for evolutionary theory come from everywhere, not just Darwin. I mean, look at the work of Gregor Mendel. His work was going on at the same time that Darwin was developing his theory, completely unbeknownst to either one of them.

I could go on and on, but instead, I’ll refer you to this page. An excellent resource for all of the evidence for evolution. Scientific, testable evidence. Not a faith, or religious belief.

The bottom line is that science is based on evidence. Religion is based entirely on faith. The evidence for evolution has withstood 150+ years of scientific scrutiny. Nothing we have discovered has been able to disprove or discredit it.

Ham’s Christianity Is Dangerous

Chapter 2 is entitled “Christianity Is Under Attack.” In this chapter, Ham makes another great logical fallacy. His appeal to pity. He talks about how the evil evolutionists are repressing Christians, and that evils are taking over the world because people accept the theory of evolution.

Then there’s the false dichotomy that runs rampant throughout the book: You’re either Christian, or you’re against God.

God’s absolutes dictate that there are rules by which we must abide. Christianity cannot co-exist in a world community with relative morality as its basis. One or the other will yield.

What about Buddhism? What about Islam? Did Ham forget about these other religions?

He makes the point that there is no room in his version of reality for any other opinion than his own. Strict adherence to the Bible.

If the Church wants to be successful in changing society’s attitudes toward abortion, pornography, and homosexuality, it is going to have to fight the issue at a foundational level. The foundational basis of evolution needs to be destroyed and the foundational basis of creation restored to its rightful place of importance.

So Ham equates evolution with all sorts of evils, which is a complete non sequitur. He says that…

…the clash we see in our society at present is the clash between the religion of Christianity with its creation basis (and therefore absolutes) and the religion of humanism with its evolutionary basis and its relative morality that says “anything goes.”

I’d be interested in his sources for this supposed “anything goes” morality he’s speaking of. To say the least, this is a false premise.

(As a side note, just to put some perspective on things, let’s take a look at what some statistics say about morality and where evil comes from. Just to make things fair, since Ham insists that evolution is the cause of so much evil in the world. A study was done fairly recently concerning religion as it relates to prison populations. The numbers I’d like to point out real quick: Christians make up approximately 76.6% of prison inmates. Atheists (those darn evolutionists) make up… get this… 0.4% of our prison population. Yeah, those evolutionists are pretty evil, aren’t they?

Update [5/16/2008]

I will admit that there are definitely problems with this study, as Michael had pointed out in his comment on this post. Even so, the amount of error required to make these differences negligible would have to be massive. There is still a disproportionate difference between Christians and Atheists in prison.)

Anyway, because of his arbitrary, non sequitur link between things which he perceives as “evil,” and their supposed cause (evolution), he deems it necessary to destroy the foundational basis for evolution, regardless of whether or not it is true.

And what would be the result of one person, group or organization being in control of what “truth” was? Have you ever read 1984 by George Orwell? That is the kind of world we should expect, if Ham had his way.

Imagine the Ministry Of Truth, going around and destroying any information it deemed “untruthful,” erasing it from history – not because it was unscientific, but because it didn’t aid the cause of the establishment. Eliminating anyone who questioned the truth set forth by the establishment. Do the Crusades sound familiar? Imagine the Crusades today, with the technology and weapons we have available.

It may sound extreme, but far from unrealistic. Think of the power exerted by Hitler during his reign. And he was far from being an Atheist, which Ham and his cronies like to portray. Hitler wrote this in Mein Kampf:

What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and the reproduction of our race…so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe…Peoples that bastardize themselves, or let themselves be bastardized, sin against the will of eternal Providence.

You could draw similar parallels between this statement and what Ham wants to accomplish. To convert everyone to Christianity, with the elimination of everyone else. In fact, I challenge you to tell me what’s different about Hitler’s quote and Ham’s philosophy of worldwide Christianity. They are one and the same. For Hitler, it was the Jews, or those who weren’t of “Aryan descent.” For Ham, it’s anyone who isn’t Christian.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t suppose Ham to be such a militant Christian. But this book, this entire point of view is shared by a great many. And many of those feel it is their duty to spread Christianity by any means necessary. A good documentary on this topic is called Jesus Camp. A frightening look at what militant Christianity can do to people (especially children).

In Conclusion

Science does not claim to have all of the answers. We are, as Ham says, all human. Our knowledge is imperfect. But science does the best that it can, with the evidence available to reach a real understanding of the world around us. Our ideas are always changing. Not drastically from one extreme to the other, as Ham would like you to think. Evolution is still undeniable, even though some very small details as far as the mechanism of evolution may be refined over time.

Religion, on the other hand, and in particular, Ham’s version of Christianity, claims to have all of the answers – right now. It is arrogance at the highest level. No matter what evidence we come across, no matter what conclusions it leads us to believe, Ham says that if it disagrees with the Bible, it’s wrong, regardless.

And what reason would one have to think that way? What has religion ever delivered to mankind that would better the human condition? As Carl Sagan once said, “Science delivers the goods.” Every bit of technology, everything that makes our lives easier, our understanding of the Universe and how it works… these all from science and its efforts.

Religion has no place in the scientific realm. They cannot mix. As Ham says, one side will have to yield. And I prefer truth over faith.

So this has been an unusually long entry, but I felt it needed to be written. Thanks for sticking with me through the whole thing and let me know what you think. If you’re going to criticize me, make sure your rants are free of logical fallacies and false premises. I don’t respond to illogical criticism.

Read a book.

I’ll also point out that, if you really are interested in understanding what evolution is all about, check out the Evolution 101 Podcast. Dr. Zach does an excellent job of explaining everything you need to know about how evolution works.

Is Nonsense A Good Measure Of Reality?

Saturday May 3, 2008 3 comments

Recently, I’d read a post on the existence of ghosts, and left a comment. A very short comment…

I’ve written a logical refutation as far as the existence of ghosts goes. It’s actually impossible for ghosts to exist in the way that people claim they do.

There Are No Such Things As Ghosts

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m just asking for trouble, posting on an entry like this. Call me a glutton for punishment.

Needless to say, I got what I was looking for. Immediately, Middle Man replied to me. I couldn’t have asked for more nonsense in a single reply. But why try to describe it? Take a look for yourself.

Oh godkillzyou if only logic and science was the measure of reality. Ghosts, like alien abductions, are because we fall asleep?

Belief in things makes things real. For some, God is real because of religion. For others, vodoo can inflict real pain and hurt. Others, believe in ghosts.

The psychic can be powerful from the intuition or instict that makes children afraid of natural dangers such as spiders, through to the inner power that enables small women lift heavy cars to free a trapped child.

In theory, if you build a big enough telescope you will be able to catch up with the light emitted from planet earth and view history being played out in real time.

Ghosts, real? Trapped energy? Psychic imprints? Dunno. But, you cannot tell me that what I have personally experienced was not real. Your logic may tell you so but you have no theory to give me an alternative cause of what I have seen, felt and heard.

That aside, how is life on planet Vulcan?

Thanks for visiting.

I’m just going to come out and say it. This guy is a nutcase. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but let me dissect this big ol’ pile of poopy.

Let’s take a look at his first mal-formed paragraph.

Oh godkillzyou if only logic and science was the measure of reality. Ghosts, like alien abductions, are because we fall asleep?

This guy obviously has no interest in facts, or reading the entire entry he’s commenting about. Ghosts, alien abductions and the like can be explained by sleep paralysis, not “because we fall asleep.” Nice try, though.

Now comes some real nonsense for you…

Belief in things makes things real. For some, God is real because of religion. For others, vodoo can inflict real pain and hurt. Others, believe in ghosts.

Wow. This guy is really detached from reality. And he’s trying to tell me logic and science aren’t the measure of reality? I believe that gas only costs $1.00 per gallon. Guess what? That didn’t work.

This guy has absolutely no critical thinking skills, whatsoever. What would make him think that belief in something makes it real? Does he really believe this? How deluded must one be to think this way?

And just how easy is it to test this idea? Well, there some very simple ways to disprove it right here.

People used to believe Thor caused lightning. Nope, that’s not real. There are countless religions in the world. They can’t all be right. They, for the most part, all make contradictory claims. Christianity and Islam can’t both be true.

Why is this kind of thought process detached from reality? Because he’s created for himself a paradigm where nothing can be proven incorrect. Unfalsifiable. Nothing is open to testing. If you believe it, it’s true and that’s all there is to it – regardless of evidence to the contrary. That is a chaotic existence that I would want no part of.

If what he was saying were true, what could be said about paranoid schizophrenics? They would make our world a living hell with all of the things they believe! Imagine if every delusion any person had became reality!

The psychic can be powerful from the intuition or instict that makes children afraid of natural dangers such as spiders, through to the inner power that enables small women lift heavy cars to free a trapped child.

Again, wow. What exactly is he trying to say? That being afraid of spiders makes one psychic? Children don’t become afraid of spiders until you tell them that they bite. And as far as “small women lift heavy cars,” I’d like him to state his sources. Judging from his earlier statements, I can’t give him enough credit (benefit of the doubt) to assume he’s not just making this up in order to advance his ideology.

In theory, if you build a big enough telescope you will be able to catch up with the light emitted from planet earth and view history being played out in real time.

Now he’s trying to play the part of the physicist. The problem here is that he knows nothing about physics, apparently. Unbelievable. You cannot “catch up” with light emitted from earth. When you perceive light, it is travelling in your direction, entering your eyes. And I’m not just making this up. I’ll even cite my sources. Reality-based, scientific sources. Here’s the study.

And by the way, what exactly does this have to do with being “psychic?” He seems to be making an excuse, or at least a scientific explanation for psychic ability. Do psychics actually just have really big telescopes or something? But then, you can’t catch up with light from the future, right? Maybe in this guy’s mind, you can.

He believes it. Therefore, it’s real.

Ghosts, real? Trapped energy? Psychic imprints? Dunno. But, you cannot tell me that what I have personally experienced was not real. Your logic may tell you so but you have no theory to give me an alternative cause of what I have seen, felt and heard.

I’m not exactly sure why he says that “you cannot tell me that what I have personally experienced was not real.” I mean, judging from his apparently delusional nature, I think I’ve got more than sufficient evidence to think that what he’s “seen” is not real.

Ghosts, trapped energy and psychic imprints. I’m wondering if he even knows what he’s talking about.

As far as not having an alternative cause for what he’s allegedly seen, I wasn’t there. So I have no idea. The possibilities are endless. I could speculate, but I won’t.

I’ll just conclude by saying that, strangely, I love being berated by delusional individuals. I mean, it gives me great material to write about. It also gives my “Bullshit Detector” a thorough workout. Dissecting these little trinkets is a great exercise in skepticism. I fully appreciate all the help I get with that.

So, thanks for reading. Read a book.

What Is Your Standard Of Proof?

Wednesday March 26, 2008 9 comments

At work, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. That’s not to say that I’m not busy. I should say I’ve got a lot of “thinking time” on my hands. Recently, as my mind’s been wandering, I’d been pondering… perseverating, maybe, on standards of proof.

What is your standard of proof? This could apply to anything. What is your standard of proof for accepting any particular proposition? Do you have a high standard of proof? Low? Any standard? Does it depend on the proposition?

I suppose the reason I pose this question is because I get frustrated when people use false logic in order to add steam to nonsensical beliefs. They may not even realize they are doing it. I think my pet peeve, as far as logical fallacies are concerned, is the post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. Basically, it’s when an event (A) occurs, followed by another event (B), and it is assumed that A is the cause of B. There are examples of these types of fallacies if you follow the link. They are excellent examples, but there’s one in particular that really gets my goat…

Let’s just say, for example, someone gets injured. Hypothetically speaking, that is. Let us also suppose that, again hypothetically, this person visits the doctor and the news is given that surgery is not required. The injury should heal on its own.

Now let’s suppose, again hypothetically, that a separate party, upon hearing this news, says, “I was praying for you.” Suppose this other party claims that surgery was not required because of the prayers they had previously offered up to God. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. After it, therefore, because of it. Because B happened after A, it is assumed that A  was caused by B. It is automatically assumed that the prayers were the reason for not needing surgery.

Here’s another example from Infidels.org:

“I was healed from cancer.”

“Praise the Lord, then. He is your healer.”

“So, will He heal others who have cancer?”

“Er… The ways of God are mysterious.”

It makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever. If you were to follow this line of logic consistently, you could arbitrarily apply random causes to anything, and it would make just as much sense.

This thermometer goes up to 100 degrees Celsius, therefore water will boil at 100 degrees Celsius. Why does the light turn on when I flip the switch? Oh, because the sun went down first. And for a final example, why hasn’t God ever healed an amputee? Because, since the beginning of the Earth, the sun has always risen in the East and set in the West.

Here’s an important point to be made about this logic from Why Won’t God Heal Amputees:

No matter how many people pray, no matter how often they pray, no matter how sincere they are, no matter how much they believe, no matter how deserving the amputee, what we know is that prayers do not inspire God to regenerate amputated legs. This happens despite what Jesus promises us in Matthew 21:21, John 14:14, Mark 11:24, etc.

The bottom line is in the question what is your standard of proof? Would you accept an ad hoc logical fallacy as genuine proof of something? Do you simply accept anecdotes as proof? Stories and personal accounts? If this is your standard of proof, then you probably do not have a truly firm grasp of reality. You would find yourself in a constant state of delusion. You would find yourself constantly rationalizing your beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary of those beliefs. Constantly seeking ways to discount or ignore that evidence. Arguing emotionally instead of rationally or scientifically.

Again, I stress the importance of science. And even more than that, simple logic and reason. There are ideas in this world that persist despite being completely unsubstantiated. In fact, they persist despite evidence proving the exact opposite of what these ideas claim. ESP, telekinesis, homeopathy, psychic powers, dowsing, ghosts, etc. All of these, and many more, have contradicting evidence that would, to a rational thinking person, completely disprove them all. Yet, the standard of proof for most people is very low.

In many cases, all it takes is someone to simply make the claim that they are psychic in order for people to believe and completely accept it. If the average person exercised even a modest amount of critical thinking concerning these claims, they would no longer proliferate in our society. Montel Williams wouldn’t make Sylvia Browne a permanent guest on his program each week. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see someone with a scientific education on a talk show once in a while?

I think that, for the most part, people accept things based on how it makes them feel. If an idea makes them feel good, then they “believe in it.” The thought of ghosts existing makes people feel good about there being an afterlife. The idea of God makes people feel good about having a purpose or goal in life. Critical thinking is simply tossed out the window.

Sincerity is another basis for proof for a lot of people. Does the person who’s telling the story seem honest? Sincere? Then it must be true.

I respond to this by asking how much more precious is life without God? To know that this is the only life we’ve got? Wouldn’t you want to make the best of it? Doesn’t it make you feel lucky to be alive? Scientifically speaking, the odds of you existing in this point and time (or at all, at any point in time) are astronomically small. And yet, here you are. What more hope, joy and inspiration do you need?

God cheapens the deal. According to basically any religion, this life doesn’t matter. In fact, the Bible tells us that this life is something we have to live through until we get to “Heaven.” We are taught, as Christians, to revile this life, our bodies of filth and sin. We are taught that we are worthless and have nothing to look forward to except death. Only then will we see “Heaven.” How wretched…

Anyone who’s ever gazed through a telescope can testify that they’ve seen “Heaven.” Even looking up at the night sky with the naked eye is awe inspiring. To know that the light you’re seeing from those distant stars is thousands, if not millions, of years old is enough to fill one with awe and wonder. To realize how small of a piece of space we occupy. It is more humbling than any Bible verse telling me that God created me out of sand, or a blood clot, or any other nonsense.

I didn’t really want to get too deep into this just because I’d never stop writing. The basic point I wanted to make was that we need to up our standard of proof. We need to exercise critical thinking. To stop thinking of science as a bad thing, or that it’s just another way out of a myriad of ways you can “prove” something (it’s the only way). Or, thinking that it’s too hard to look for evidence of something. To think that it’s easier instead to just accept it.

I’ve come to revile the word “Faith.” When someone says, “Just have faith,” all I hear is, “Stop thinking about it and just accept it, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. You won’t get anywhere in this life by thinking. You need to just believe everything you’re told… especially if it’s in the Bible. Just believe any kind of woo-woo nonsense people throw at you.”

I usually end with the standard “Read a book,” but this time I’d just like to close with a quote from one of the greatest teachers of all time, the late Dr. Carl Sagan…

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Conversations With A “True Believer” [Part I]

Tuesday March 4, 2008 1 comment

I think the majority of people who read what I write are pretty well aware of the fact that there is no scientific evidence for paranormal activity. None whatsoever.

With that being said, I’d like to present you with a series of email exchanges I’ve had with someone who I’d classify as being a “True Believer.” Someone who believes something regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

I’d received the first email from the person in question around the end of December of 2007 (12/18/2007). She had apparently been reading a few of my entries concerning ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon.

When paranormal activities occur you can’t say science doesn’t permit it. It’s obviously that is it something that the human mind does not have knowledge of, nor can we understand how it is possible. I have seen objects manifest before me and crash down to the ground, with 5 other people in a closed room and we all saw it. We can’t all be crazy. This happens daily in a house that I have investigated and is still happening to this day. I have it on my voice recorder, but did not have a video going at the time. There are sciences and afterlife that we just don’t know about. 100 years ago we probably would think computers were not possible. But as we learn and understand.. it’s not impossible.

I just wish we could find a way to get rid of this spirit or demon. We have tried everything. It is physically harming this family.

Before supplying you with my response, I’d just like to point out the logical problems with this email. The main problem is that this person is arguing from ignorance. There are things that happen which we cannot “understand how it is possible.” Because we don’t understand it, then this means that it is paranormal? This doesn’t make logical sense.

Here’s my response:

Hello,

Thanks for taking the time to write to me.

I just wanted to clear a few things up about what you suppose my thoughts are on “paranormal activity.” (I’m also assuming you’ve gotten these impressions from what you’ve read on my blog; godkillzyou.wordpress.com.)

First of all, I’ve never said that science “does not permit” paranormal activity. Any time I’ve written about ESP, Ghosts, or anything Paranormal, I’ve always said that there is no scientific evidence of it. If there were, than I’d be more than happy to accept it as truth that these things do, in fact, exist.

Think of it this way. If what you’re saying is true, then humans couldn’t rely on anything. No laws of physics, no science whatsoever. What good is a law of Gravity if a ghost can make things rise into the air? Randomly? There would be no way of constructing a reliable experiment of any kind. “A ghost messed with the results.” It’s like saying the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the Universe, and He keeps us from finding out the truth because he modifies the results whenever we try to carbon date something. There’s no logic behind it.

If what you’re saying is true, and you have all of this evidence of ghostly activity, why then isn’t there a video camera running 24/7 in this house? A web cam? Wouldn’t you want to be the first person ever on Earth to prove that ghost do, in fact, exist? It just seems strange that whenever someone claims that they have ghost activity, there is never a video camera around. Only very questionable audio. Nothing reliable.

In terms of standards of proof, you wouldn’t take the type of evidence you’re offering from a pharmaceutical company. “The scientific community hasn’t actually studied this medicine, but 5 people we know said it works really well and you won’t die from taking it. Five people can’t be wrong.” I wouldn’t bet my life on that kind of proof.

As far as objects manifesting themselves out of nowhere, I find it very hard to believe. As, I think, it should be. How does one accept a statement like that when everything one knows about life contradicts everything that statement claims? It’s fundamentally a horrible idea to blindly accept anything (everything) you’re told. You’d end up believing that politicians told the truth.

As far as your analogy about computers, it isn’t really accurate in this situation. In fact, it speaks totally against what you’re trying to convince me of. Computers came about because of scientific study. Research and ideas based on a solid scientific foundation. Computers didn’t exist in some strange dimension in which we brought them out of by “detecting them,” or using strange devices to “prove they exist.” What you’re claiming goes against EVERY solid scientific idea known to man. You’re proposing something that goes against hundreds of years of solid scientific discovery. Scientific theories and laws that apply to every single possible situation in life… except when it comes to ghosts. There, as you seem to think, science has it all wrong. You saying that matter is spontaneously generating itself (manifesting, as you say). If that was true, we’d have our energy crisis solved. We could spontaneously manifest crude oil in this family’s house and pay $1.00 per gallon of gas again!

We know how matter and energy work. Objects are made of atoms. They reflect light and that’s how we see them. Atoms do not “manifest.” Newton’s law applies here. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For matter to spontaneously generate, it would, logically, spontaneously destruct/disappear/implode… whatever you want to call it. And the amount of energy required to create matter would be so tremendous that the Earth would no longer exist. Einstein’s equation E=MC^2 spells this out. Written in its original form, M=E/C^2 tells you, theoretically, the amount of energy required to create a mass. (I’m doing actual science here.) Suppose we wanted to create a glass plate that weighs, modestly, about 5 grams. This would require 449,377,589,368,408,820 joules of energy. Put another way, this is the amount of energy capable of accelerating 990,707,999,000,000,000 lbs of weight (495,353,999,500,000 tons!!!) at a speed of 1 meter per second, per second. This amount of energy “manifesting itself” in someone’s house would destroy the planet, and probably anything within a few light years of us.

I’m sure that you do sincerely believe what you’re telling me. But, when looked at under a scrutinizing light, nothing that you’re proposing makes any kind of sense. It’s easy to take something that is “yet to be explained” and claim that it is “unexplainable.” It just hasn’t been explained yet. Before lightning was explained, it was thought to be the work of “God,” the paranormal explanation. Now we know that static electricity causes lightning, through the discoveries of science.

My overall point is that science has been a tool for mankind for as long as man has been able to reason. Anything that has stood the test of scientific scrutiny has always been what human society has thrived on, because of its truth. Because it works! Anything that doesn’t stand up to the test of science falls by the way-side. Into the “paranormal,” or, as the word indicates, that which is not normal. Accepted. It is anomalous phenomenon. And anomalies are just that; anomalies. Things that are perceived as strange because of a lack of information. Science is the “normalizing” factor. If a proposition can’t stand up to accepted scientific knowledge, then we know that it can’t be true. There must be additional unknown information that needs to be discovered.

That’s the beauty of science. It isn’t set in stone. It’s only “accepted” if it works. If it doesn’t, then it changes. Our laws of physics are laws because they apply in every situation. And if someone claims something that goes against those laws, they have the burden of proof on their shoulders, because that one claim has to “out-prove” every bit of knowledge that has been acquired throughout human history. For you, your ghost activity has to “out-prove” pretty much every law of physics known to man. That’s a heavy burden. It would take a tremendous amount of documented proof before it would be accepted as reality. Remember, the same standard of proof as a pharmaceutical company. I’d have to trust my life with the evidence you provide.

Ok, so this ended up being a little long (-winded). But, I think you understand where I’m coming from now. Remember, I don’t rule out the possibility of the existence of ghosts. I just say that the probability that they do exist is infinitely small. Each day that there isn’t solid proof makes that probability even smaller. Just like every day that someone doesn’t find Bigfoot makes it even less likely that there is such a creature.

Thanks for writing.

David (AKA GodKillzYou)
No Special Qualifications
I Just Read Books And Study Reality
I Have Enhanced Looking Skills

A bit long-winded, but I feel that I got my point across. And yet, the next email continued with the same type of logical fallacies. Arguing from ignorance…

We have set up cameras in an investigation where the whole family had to move out for the night including 6 children. We cannot keep cameras going 24/7. The family has to live their lives and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is just to have an EVP session with the voice recorders. I never believed in a lot of this stuff, but regardless of what science is since the beginning of time….I think there is a lot of spiritual (don’t know if that is the right term) things that billions of people don’t have a clue about that is out there. You would have to be there, standing with a group of people and see a cup come from nowhere, like a flash of light, and just crash down on the floor smack in the middle of the five people who are talking about getting rid of this thing.

I used to watch shows on TV and think they were all made up for good TV, even when they said based on a true story, until now. I know what you are saying, it is impossible according to the laws of physics and years of scientific studies, but it happened.

Thanks for writing back. I am frustrated that I can’t figure this out…I am a private investigator.

It must be a pretty well-kept secret if billions of people don’t know about it. And that is part of the point I made in my final email reply.

I guess that is exactly what I don’t understand. If there is something out there, something that is solidly provable out there, how is it possible that, as you say, “billions of people” don’t know about it? It’s the same with Bigfoot and aliens and the like. For Bigfoot to even be alive, there has to be a sustainable population of them, in order for them to reproduce successfully. And yet, in a world of billions of people, not ONE of those people can provide even a single strand of concrete evidence that they exist.

Like I said, I don’t doubt that you believe what you saw, or that it was certainly compelling. I have a strong tendency to believe, though, that possibly you may have misinterpreted what you saw, or you were mislead. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but our laws of physics govern everything, every action that takes place. Magicians like David Blaine and James Randi, as well as Penn & Teller are capable of mystifying feats. One might even question the reality of what they saw. But, as with what we know about the scam artist Uri Geller and his “spoon bending” fiasco, the human mind is easily deceived. All it takes is a little understanding of human psychology.

I think what might even be more appropriate in this situation is to design some experiments to prove that what you’re witnessing is NOT, in fact, ghost activity. That would fall more in line with the scientific method. It’s important to exhaust all options, every possible scenario before looking to the supernatural explanation. If it’s cups that are appearing in a room, remove all cups from the room, place them in a secure location, lock all the doors leaving only yourself and a few trusted colleagues in the room. Check for trap doors and lighting equipment that may be hidden in the ceiling or lighting fixtures. No one from the family should be in the room, as they may have some type of motive to convince you of this activity. Maybe they’re looking to make some money off a book or movie deal?

I would always question motive above anything. What can this person gain by trying to convince people that there are ghosts in a house? But, being a person with your qualifications, I’m sure you understand all of this. And I’m hoping you understand where I’m coming from.

Anyway, I appreciate your correspondence and I hope you had a Merry Christmas.

David

The most important thing thing when “investigating” paranormal phenomenon is to be truly scientific about what you’re doing. If you go into a situation looking to prove that ghosts do exist, then your investigation is already tainted. If you’ve got an emotional investment in the results, then you will, more than likely, slant the outcome.

Hi David:

I have a Merry Christmas as you I hope. I just want to say that you had to be there.

We had the room secured and I saw a flash come out of the wall up near the ceiling and as it hit the wooden floor and crashed the realization that it was one of her coffee cups that was in the dishwasher 30 minutes prior, 30 feet away and behind closed doors. Other things happened when I was there, but not in front of me. This was the convincing factor. I have EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) of more than one voice responding to my questions. The first thing we try to do is disprove it, but there are many recordings that we cannot debunk. These people DO NOT want anyone to know about this so I know they do not want a movie deal. They signed papers saying so. They just want help. There have been cups and glasses that manifested and crashed that were packed in newspaper in the basement and one that was packed in a box in the bedroom closet and they just come out of nowhere. One incident that I experienced was we were all talking and a bulb blew out in the chandelier in the foyer, so we thought, but I turned and looked immediately and saw a screwdriver falling from the chandelier and hitting the stone floor. I inspected the house when I went in and there were no screwdrivers in the living room which is where the screwdriver came from. The other side of the living room wall is the garage, but I didn’t think it was possible to come thru the wall, until I saw the cup manifest in the bedroom in front of me. I wish there was something else we could do to try to figure this out..but we are a small group with little equipment. Do you know of any scientist or universities that may be able to help us? What state are you in?

We also do this on a volunteer basis and don’t get paid so we have to do this when we all have the time and we aren’t working.

Thanks for all your advice. Let me know if you think of someone I can contact.

To Be (Possibly) Continued…

What Does Skepticism Mean To Me?

Sunday December 23, 2007 Leave a comment

What does it mean to be a Skeptic? More importantly, what does it mean to me to be a Skeptic?

For me, it’s a pretty general thing. Basically, I don’t take anything at face value. I don’t just accept things that I’m told without some kind of reasonable proof. I place a very high value on science. It’s the only way we, as human beings, can know anything. And this goes hand-in-hand with my thoughts on faith.

Faith is, basically, an artificial reasoning process. It’s a method of convincing one’s self of something when there is no reason to believe in it otherwise. There’s no reasonable proof of the idea, and so it requires faith to accept it. I do not put faith in anything as far as religion, or philosophical thought is concerned. Again, reasonable proof is the key element.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have any “faith” whatsoever. There are many things that I have faith in. Maybe I should put it a different way. There are many things that I have trust in. I trust that my kids love me. That their mother, the woman that I love, loves me. I trust that when I hold a ball in my hand, before I even let go of it, I know that it will fall toward the ground. I would bet my life on it. I trust that when I put “1+1=” in my calculator, when I press Enter, the number 2 will follow as the result. These previous examples are things that are tangible. Things that have been demonstrated to me. The mathematical examples follow certain laws, things that we’ve learned from science to be true under all conditions. The other two examples are a bit more complicated, but you see my point.

There is a tendency, though, in Skepticism, of being almost dogmatic with it. There is a tendency to become almost mechanical in one’s thinking. And this, it might be thought, may be the reasoning behind why religious believers claim that the theory of Evolution is a “religion.” It’s not necessarily the facts that they’re calling into question. Perhaps, even subconsciously, their reasoning may come from the attitude of the guy claiming that Evolution is fact. His “science is the only answer” attitude.

Science is the only answer when it comes to observational proof. But, when it comes to matters of religion and faith, believers argue and debate more on the level of emotion, and on that of being human – imperfect. When a Skeptic approaches these people in a mechanical manner of thought, reciting facts and such, it doesn’t sound any different than when believers argue from the Bible – citing scripture. In that way, we Skeptics are doing the same thing we’re complaining about. We think science has all the answers, and the believers think the Bible has all the answers. We both use a model of reasoning that rubs against the grain of the opposing party.

Science is not infallible. It is, after all, based on human observation. And this is why, in the beginning of this post, I stated that I only accept things that have reasonable proof. In a deceptive manner, anyone can make anything seem like there is “proof” to support it. You can lie with statistics. You can argue from authority – some guy with a Ph.d in Physics claims that Evolutionary Biology is completely incorrect. How would this guy know? Yes, he has a Ph.d, but not in Evolutionary Biology. So this, to me, would not be reasonable proof. Even more than this, a prominent Theologist could claim that Evolution is wrong, and people would believe him just because of his position – not because of any specific proof or evidence that he offers. In fact, he will probably not offer any physical proof whatsoever. He will, more than likely, try to simply appeal to the emotions of those around him. This is the typical method of reasoning for people of faith.

The main difference, then, is a standard of proof. Believers require some type of allegorical proof. Something that stirs the emotions. They totally distrust science (possibly a “tool of the Devil”). Skeptics, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. Only scientific evidence is accepted. Emotions and allegorical proof is never trusted.

In objective reality, scientific evidence of anything is more reliable than allegorical stories or emotional statements. So, you might say that the real difference between the two groups might be that of education. This, and the fact that there are different ways of perceiving the world. Those who are more “fantasy prone” tend to accept what they are told. They rationalize proof into situations that would otherwise have no proof. Manufactured proof. Emotion plays a large role in how they think. If it feels true, then it probably is. Feeling is the standard of proof.

But I got a little off topic here. I guess my reasoning for going off on that tangent was to talk about what Skepticism means to me, what I want out of the Skeptical philosophy. Why I am a Skeptic.

Skepticism, to me, seems to be the most logical way of looking at life. Religion answers no questions about the world. It only creates confusion. It goes against everything we know about reality. Miracles, supernatural phenomenon and the idea of psychics (prophets). There is no physical evidence of any of these. The texts themselves are morally reprehensible. The death penalty is demanded for the slightest offenses. Rebellious teenagers, women who are married and found not be be virgins, those who work on the Sabbath. All these are punishable by death. And this is where people get their “morals?” And Christians actually have the audacity to ask where morals come from if not from the Bible? The 10 Commandments are supposedly the foundation for all of these “morals?” And what happened before the 10 Commandments? People could just kill, rape and steal all they wanted? Not that they didn’t, because there’s plenty of evidence of that in the Bible as well – all at the command of the Almighty God.

No, morals come from somewhere else. It comes from instinct. And more than that, it’s simple common sense. You don’t need a Bible to know that killing another person is wrong. And anyone who says otherwise is a lying fool. Or they’re trying to deceive themselves, to rationalize their beliefs. I don’t need a God to tell me what’s right and wrong. Christians make up nearly 80% of America’s prison population. Atheists make up .2%. (This study is far from perfect – but there is, nevertheless, a stark contrast between those who claim to be religious and those who don’t as far as prison population is concerned.)

So, if you were going to base morality on what religion someone was, Atheists seem to be the most moral of all religions. Or, at least the most moral when it comes to punishable crimes. In fact, you could probably conclude from this study that believing in God made you more likely to be arrested and sent to jail. I suppose that throws out the whole idea of morals “coming from God.”

As far as what I don’t want from Skepticism, I don’t want to be mechanically minded. I don’t want to be perceived as someone who thinks they’re greater than others because he values science. I’m an Atheist, but I don’t hate people of faith, and I think that is a common misconception. I’m a person, a human being. I’m not perfect, and neither is science. I just have a lot more “faith” in science than I do in religion. Religion, to me, is on the same level as Greek Mythology. Science has a lot more to offer than a 2,000 year old book that has never had a revision to keep up with modern times. 2,000 year old philosophy grounded in bloodthirsty revenge and bigotry.

I feel that since abandoning Christianity and becoming a Skeptic, my life has improved 100%. I no longer feel guilt over thoughts that I’ve had, or for listening to the “wrong music,” or for simply thinking for myself. Having my own philosophies about life. Worrying about whether or not I’m “really saved.” Whether or not I’m following the “right brand” of Christianity.

No more. I now know, from accepting ideas like basic logic and reasonable proof, that there is a better explanation for how life came to be. It doesn’t involve magic. It involves natural processes that we know took place because we can see them taking place today. It’s a liberating feeling.

Being tied down to superstition is a horrible way to live life, and I realize that now after experiencing what it’s like not to have it. I now understand that everything happens for a reason… and that reason is called cause and effect (AKA: The laws of physics or biological processes). Natural phenomenon causes things to happen.

There’s nothing mystical that happens when you get a raise at work. No ghost controlling your boss’ mind. Nothing magical when you find a dollar on the ground. It only seems that way because we don’t see the entire process. We only see the end reseult. Actually, what happened was, someone was walking down the street counting their money and just happened to drop a dollar due to an inadequate grip on the bill, causing it to fall (notice all the physics involved – no magic spells) to the ground. You just happened to be walking in the same area as him. No magic involved. But then again, some people are prone to accept magical explanations – they are fantasy prone, and almost prefer the magical/supernatural explanation over the ordinary/scientific explanation. Maybe it makes life more interesting for them?

To conclude this extra-long post, I’d just like to say that I’m happy and proud to be a Skeptic and an Atheist. I wouldn’t live my life any other way – providing that the evidence supports it.

Read a book.

God Of The Gaps [How Bees Fly]

Wednesday August 1, 2007 Leave a comment

Throughout history (more specifically, religious history), God has always played an important role in human society. Not just the Christian God, but any being categorized under the word “God.” God’s purpose has always been to explain things we don’t understand. This holds especially true with natural phenomenon.

If we don’t understand what causes something, or we don’t understand how it works, then that means God does it through his Divine Magical Powers. And this is how it has always been. Where science is lacking in knowledge, God takes over, for the time being. This, also, has always been true. And this idea, that God is the cause of anything we don’t understand; this is the “God Of The Gaps.” God lives between the gaps of knowledge that science hasn’t filled in yet.

Science has come so far in the past 150 years (only mention Darwin or Einstein and Christians cringe). Because of this, God must be feeling quite a squeeze as of late. There are really very few places God has left to hide. The gaps are filling up quickly. The only place left for God, for now, is in the theory of Evolution. And there’s a good reason for that. Evolution is such a vast and complicated set of ideas that science cannot possibly fill in every single gap in the knowledge of the subject – especially for being such a relatively young idea.

Even so, Evolution is still very much a FACT. It is provable. What Fundamentalist Christians do is take a very small piece of information that science does not yet understand, and they say, “There!! Look! Science is WRONG! God created us!”

There is a huge difference between being wrong, and not yet having all of the information in order to formulate a conclusion. There is such a vast amount of information that proves that Evolution is fact, that these small gaps in information are more like the paint job on a new car – not the engine that makes it run.

That being said, science has filled in yet another gap. The flight of the bumblebee. Even though it was an urban legend, many Christians would wholeheartedly argue that God created the universe, and evidence for that lied in the fact that it is (allegedly) physically impossible for bees to fly. Basically, they took their lack of understanding of aerodynamics and used it against those who were ignorant enough to listen. Their basic claim is that the bumblebee is too heavy to fly, that it cannot physically generate enough lift with the size of its wings. And, here we go again, the only reason bees can fly is because God is making them fly with “Magical Powers.”

Well, now we can take all that garbage to the landfill. Bees can fly, and now we know how. And guess what? Surprise, surprise. It’s not with God’s “Magical Abilities.” No, it’s much more simple than that. The basic idea is that they control their flight not with an increase or decrease in the rate at which they flap their wings, but in changing the degree (larger or smaller) at which their wings flap. Shorter or longer strokes of the wings.

Now, for those of you who are visual learners, here’s a video from that study:

Simply amazing. And so, another gap closes, and God’s house is one room smaller. Oh, and forget about the Pearly Gates. Maybe He can get a fancy door knocker for that one bedroom apartment.

Read a book.