Tuesday, March 30, 2010


News recently of the arrest of several members of a 'christian militia' called the Hutaree. What the hell? I went to their website and sure enough there's a bible quote at the top right above a picture of a bunch of dumb asses in military garb. So if you're inclined to believe fundamentalist crazy talk you might be susceptible to falling into an organization like this. If you're a person who doesn't care for facts. If you're a person who likes tough talk. If you're a person who is under-educated.

I'm thinking, what would it take to get me to join some para-military group and go after policemen as these guys were planning to do. . . . (thinking) . . . There's no WAY! Without some nut spouting crazy as stuff from the bible to the susceptible there's no way to get people to join up for this sort of thing. You simply couldn't put a group of skeptics together in any kind of group this way. Skeptics ask too many annoying questions!

Would the world be a saner, safer and more peaceful place without religion? HELL YEAH!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


One of the qualities of the uneducated is holding on to beliefs that have no basis in fact. Or, holding on to a belief even after it has been shown to be untrue. I run into this commonly when trying to teach Newton's laws of motion. Nature tends to give us false clues as to what is fundamentally going on.

For example, it seems pretty obvious that it takes a force to keep something moving. If you stop peddling your bike the bike stops moving. If you take your foot of the gas the car stops. And yet, when I take away all frictional forces (on an air table for example) and ask, "What force keeps the puck moving?", consternation ensues. Words and hypothesis are bandied about until it finally dawns (as it did for Galileo and Newton) that once put in motion things keep going UNLESS a force stops them. It's our experience to almost always have some friction around that causes us to 'believe' in a different law.

To believe that all things naturally come to rest is to be slightly uneducated in physics. No big harm there but still it is what it is. To hang on to such a law in the face of examples to the contrary is to be ridiculously stubborn.

People used to think that when it lightninged and thundered that the gods were mad at them - that they were being punished for being sinful. As the work of reasonable investigators (Franklin, et. al.) proceeded, people slowly learned that lightning was a natural phenomena and disconnected from any godly intent. Well, most did.

To ignore the bushels of data and experiments that put lightning in the larger context of electrical phenomena and hang on to a godly explanation would be silly and one would just be showing their ignorance or their stubbornness.

So, how is it different when one chooses to ignore the bushels of data and experiments that confirm the general paradigm of evolution? How is this not considered just being silly and uneducated? Well it is considered just that by about anyone who has read a book about such things WITH AN OPEN MIND. If you have a personal ax to grind from the get go, well then no, you cannot be educated to see a bigger idea. You will remain uneducated.

And forced to live in Texas.

Now the closed minded theist will say that my belief in the experiment is just another religion. I choose to believe in science and he chooses to believe in a higher power. We all believe in something, right? There is a fatal flaw in that kind of thinking. The theist has no way to prove any of his assertions. His are truly pure belief or if you prefer, faith. I can have an idea and test it and people completely disconnected from me could run the same test. A theist could do it with the same results. A computer could analyze the data. When the results keep coming up the same no matter who runs the test then I think we've got something that is real and independent of whether I believe in it or not.

Mixing the two has always produced failure for the theist. Controlled test of prayer. Miracles at Lourdes. Mind readers. I could go on. More importantly, it seems for most theists conducting a rational experiment with, let's say prayer, sort of 'ruins' it. They might have a feeling in the back of their minds that 'this ain't going to work'. They know that prayer is not 'of the laboratory' and yet they desperately want it to somehow work too! This is the slippery slope that all believers in magical things have to walk. On one hand you want your beliefs to be of a higher plane than this old regular, boring world. On the other hand you want your magic to actually intersect this world when it suits you. That seems unthinking to me at the best and disingenuous at the worst.

If you pray because it gets you through the night or helps you get through tough times, well ok. But please try to not take that next step where you start thinking that what works for you should work for everyone or that it should be taught in school!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Death Sentence for Sorcery

Guess the country. . . CORRECT! Saudi Arabia. Our oil friends. Apparently some schmo used to have a TV show where he would predict the future for people. He got arrested by the 'religious police' for this act.

To get released the guy pictured above is going to have to cut him a break. That's King Abdullah. Does he look like he goes around passing out breaks?

From CNN: Ali Hussain Sibat, former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Sheherazade, a Beirut based satellite TV channel.

According to his lawyer, Sibat, who is 48 and has five children, would predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

He gets death for this? Wow. As an appeal why not have him do a controlled test and see if he really can predict the future. If he can't (and I'm guessing he can't do any better than random chance) then his verdict should be reversed. You're not practicing sorcery if it doesn't work are you? Funny, you CAN be a practicing Christian even though praying as been proven to not work.

Well, I don't suppose anyone in the 'religious police' could ever stoop to testing things in a reasonable way. They'd be out of work!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Devil Makes us Do It

From CNN, Father Gabriele (Gabe) Amworth is the top exorcist in the holy roman church. Follow the link to the whole (short) article. Some excerpts follow with my sarcastic (but witty) comments.

"It's not my opinion: I'm saying that if you believe in the Gospels, you believe in the existence of the devil, in the devil's power to possess people," he said in an interview with CNN.

Hey, hold on, believing in the Gospels is in itself an opinion so belief in the devil is too. Nice try!

Amorth, the founder of the International Association of Exorcists, has performed more than 70,000 exorcisms in his career, he estimates.

Ok, first off I want to attend one of their conventions. What kind of wacky things do they do at the hotel after the meetings? They already have the crazy hats to wear. What booths are set up to sell things - Holy water squirt guns? Vomit proof vestments?

Now to the numbers. . .70,000? Really? This guy is 85. Let's say he's been doing this for 50 years. That's 1400 a year or 3.8/day EVERY DAY. Wow the devil is really keeping this guy busy! Hardly leaves time to buy candy for the choir boys.

"I have carried out exorcisms on some priests who had been molested by the devil," he said, without going into details.

Now there's a nice twist. The devil molesting priests. He didn't go into details but perhaps he shared the photos.

Well, there you have it. To the faithful, this guy is employed by the church and that means when you drop money in the plate some of that goes to him. Praise the Lord!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Calamities of Nature, irreverent webcomics by Tony Piro
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