Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 11

Ah, the Tower of Babel. And the inconsistencies start with the very first line of chapter 11.

Verse one:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. (GEN 11:1)
 And here the confusion begins because chapter 10 implies that the descendants of Noah's sons all had their own languages. Chapter 11 also states it was God who scattered the tribes of Noah's sons around the world (GEN 11:9), but chapter 10 implies that they just spread that way - no mention of God doing the scattering is made in chapter 10. Bit of an oversight. There also seems to be some confusion over whether the clans had many languages (GEN 10) or just one (GEN 11). I guess being kind we can say that they started with one language and then ended up with many - but that doesn't deal with the confusion that chapter 10 implies the clans developed their own language and chapter 11 clearly states God simply confused the one language into many.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jimmy's Rants: Complementary/alternative/quack medicine

Let me make one thing clear right before I start - this is not meant to be a fair or scientific appraisal of complementary, alternative, holistic, whatever new age term people use for non-science based, medicine. There's so much of that out there it is frankly baffling that people still try it or claim it works. Try looking on Pub Med or any of the many skeptical and critical thinking websites (Steven Novella's NeuroLogica blog, Science Based Medicine and Orac's Respectful Insolence being some of the best) that have over many years carefully demolished the claims of the alt-med crowd.

This is just me, ranting about alt-med nonsense.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No really. Your thoughts don't guide, control or create the Universe

There are people out there who think that astronomical objects control or create their destiny and/or personalities. There are people out there who think their thoughts shape the Universe. There are people out there who think that what they experience is created (not 'percieved' or 'interpreted', 'created') by their thoughts. There are people out there who think that their thoughts somehow guide or control what happens in the Universe. There are even people who think that the Universe will align with their thoughts and desires and give them what they want. There are people out there who treat the Universe like it is some sort of sentient being that pays attention to them. There are people out there that think a combination or variation of all of these things. Most of them can be found believing in any form of astrology, The Secret or the Law of Attraction, or all of them, or something resembling any of them.

They're all idiots. Well alright. I'll concede that some of them might just be nuts. Fine, I might even concede that some of them might just be really uninformed. Maybe even just guilty of lacking imagination.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jimmy's Rants: Is modern society really so ridiculous?

So a person who plays golf for a living and endorses a few products has been found to be knobbing a few women who weren't his wife. Who cares? Well, everyone. If the media is anything to go by.

So I have to ask, is modern society really so pointless that the sexual goings on of a guy who hits small balls around fields for a living seems to be earth shatteringly important? Because I am quite sure there are much more important things we should be concerned about. Yet here we are, three weeks later, still hearing about Tiger Woods.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just some randomness

Just wanted to point everyone who might read this over to a mate's blog. I think you might like it.

Notes from the Right Side of the Bed

Also wanted to bring to the attention of anyone who leads a sheltered internet life the existence of the awesomeness (it's my blog, I'll invent words if I want to) that is Where the Hell is Matt? If you haven't seen this yet, why the hell not? I defy you not to smile when watching his videos. If you don't, then yes everyone is right. You are a humourless uptight tool.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Justice, politics or bollocks?

OK, now the media furore has died down and this has slipped back beneath the short attention span of the American population I wanted to bring this up, the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others in New York.

Is it just me that thinks this is nothing more than political grand standing by President Obama's administration? This strikes me as more of a sop to the 'liberal' side of American life and politics than anything else. It seems like an attempt to look like the current administration is making amends for the fuck ups of the previous one but without actually doing that much.

Blogging the Bible part 10

Genesis chapter 10 now, The Table of Nations. Basically a worthless chapter, unless you like stuff about the made up origins of tribes and cities. There are a few things worth commenting on however.

GEN 10:2 begins "The sons of Japheth:" but we are also told in the footnotes that 'sons' could also be 'descendants', 'successors' or 'nations' in this and many of the other verses of this chapter. Now call me a dirty unbeliever if you will, but when one pretty insignificant word can be interpreted or translated in such a wide way, in fact so widely that the meaning of the sentence can be utterly different with every differing interpretation, how is one supposed to take something in the Bible literally and not look like a drooling idiot?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Responding to Skeptico - on what rights should be/are

Apart from the length of time this has taken to write, I’ve been delaying this because I wasn’t sure whether to post it or not. I could have just let the Guns and Skeptics flame war rest where it did and let it die even though Skeptico’s closing comments were, almost completely, absolute bull shit. But then I decided I would be damned if I was going to let him have the last word.

He had his say and now it’s my turn. I apologise for the length of this post – it is easier to talk crap than it is to explain why what was said is crap.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Critical thinking and social issues

I've made my feelings known about how many alleged critical thinkers and skeptics abandon their critical thinking (or at least don't apply it stringently) when it comes to social and political issues, and then I saw this interesting article when browsing Pharyngula this morning. It's a good read. I didn't realise that not only is Bill Maher an insufferably smug, arrogant and anti-science tool it seems probable he's a sexist ass too (I avoid everything he films or writes after sitting through some of his shows and reading other articles about him, so I reserve the right to be shown he is definitely a sexist ass throughout the entirety of his material before I remove the 'probable' - I wouldn't want to be accused of quote mining afer all...). That Christopher Hitchens certainly seems to be too was a disappointment, and a surprise I have to confess - I certainly expected better from someone of his intelligence.

Anyway, the article stresses one of the things I was getting at in the flame war on that other post that will remain nameless - we claim to be skeptical, we claim to be critical thinkers, but often times only when it suits us to do so. Here's the money quote for me:
Should't being completely sexist be grounds for calling someones skeptical cred into question? Or is it more likely that when people say they are 'skeptics' they are referring to critical thought aimed toward a very specific set of beliefs rather than the world in general? It seems a lot more likely to be the former than the latter.

My thoughts exactly. And no doubt Skeptico is on his way over to Skeptifem as I write to excoriate another blogger for setting themselves up as a 'True Skeptic' for daring to question other critical thinkers' skeptical credentials when it comes to their opinions on social issues.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This week Oi 'ave been mostly working on ... nothing

No blogging for a while because I've had plenty of stuff to do recently, but there is stuff in the pipeline so bear with me!

There's a long reply to the bullshit that Skeptico left on the 'Guns and Skeptics' post that I've decided to turn into a blog post rather than muck around with Blogger's comment limit. I plan on going back to Conservapedia to start ripping apart their history lessons. I've a rant in progress about the 'God can't lose' principle and the whole indifference of gods if we for a moment assume they do exist. I should probably get around to saying something about healthcare too. And there's always the Bible to blog about.

I'm working on it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not YOUR religion, ALL religion

The subject of this post may seem a little obvious to many people, but apparently some others still don't get it.

A friend of mine got into an argument on Facebook about Obama and how Christian he wasn't - the evidence for this was, apparently, that he wouldn't allow Christian prayer in schools and he had held a Ramadan break fast at the White House. Leaving aside the fact that, as my friend pointed out, Bush held plenty of Iftars and no right wing nuts complained about him not being Christian, I want to vent my spleen about the whole prayer in school thing.

Nothing new to anyone who reads atheist blogs I know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 9

OK, so on to Genesis chapter 9, and there's not much going on here I'll be honest.

God blesses Noah and his sons (why not the wives? Can anyone say "ancient patriarchal society"?) and tells them to be fruitful and increase in numbers and fill the earth. (GEN 9:1) Then he tells Noah and his sons that he has put the fear of man into all animals and gives them all to Noah and his boys. Then God says that "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you." (GEN 9:3) So, God condones cannibalism. Interesting that Christian missionaries used to get so wound up about it then, really.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Holy Scripture not working for you? Then re-write it!

Just when you think that the ultra conservative right wing hardcore religious inhabitants of this planet couldn't possibly extend and expand their capacity for preposterousness you will find yourself, as I recently did, running across the simpletons and buffoons that inhabit the world of Conservapedia. There apparently really is no depth of intellectual absurdity to which these imbeciles will not sink, and here is the proof. In case you haven't heard, Conservapedia are re-writing the Bible to remove, astonishingly, its liberal bias!

Wait, what now? Yes you read that right, translations of the Bible are apparently too liberal for ultra-conservatives. Just exactly how delusional or detached from any real connection with reality do you have to be to consider any translation of the Bible as liberal? For crying out loud, Hitler was more liberal than any translation of the Bible ever was. At least he was a vegetarian.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Moved away, Jimmy Blue?

Ha, you wish!

No I haven't given up on blogging and nor did I run away to sulk in a corner with my tail between my legs over recent heated arguments (which I'm not done with yet but will be putting my final say to shortly by the way). First, some unexpected events in Real Life™ forced me to miss putting a note on the blog to say I was going back to Blighty on holiday, and then I went on said holiday and had far more enjoyable things to do than argue with people who aren't listening or won't hear, or who appear to be absolutely convinced that they are only ever right.

So I am back and normal service is hopefully about to be resumed whether you like it or not and whether I've pissed off my one or two readers or not.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Days of infamy part 4 - the end?

OK, after a long break and some unpleasantness it's time to finish what I started all those weeks ago!

So, we've looked in detail at the circumstances surrounding the actual attack on Pearl Harbor and the details of the global political situation before the attack - and we examined what these things meant for the conspiracy theory. Now we're going to return in detail to the list of factors I mentioned in the first post.

Here I am going to flesh out the details, repeat some stuff and wrap it all up!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Of Guns and Skeptics

OK. Despite the specifics of the title, this is going to be a fairly wide ranging and rambling post (no sniggering at the back). I've been talking over at Bronze Dog's place about gun control and a couple of things struck me. That and my responses were about to exceed the Blogger comment limit and I thought "Hey if only I had a neglected and half-arsed space on the Internet where people could see my thoughts manifested as text on a computer screen." So I decided to do a blog post instead.

I apologise (especially to Bronze Dog) for initiating a game of blog tag.

And for those who have read my posts in the past, be warned. I treat unsupported or poorly presented gun control arguments with the same contempt I have for woo arguments. Just saying.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 8

Well, after a short break it is back to the unfettered absurdities of the Bible!

Genesis, chapter 8.

For a much more detailed look at the absurdities of the flood story, check here.

So, here in verse 1 we have God remembering Noah and his Ark full of impossibilities. You have to admit, it was nice of him to remember. It had been forty days and nights after all. So, all those animals (and remember there is some confusion over just how many there are onboard) had to have food for 40 days and 40 nights. And there had to be food for Noah and his family too. That's a big ass ship.

So, God remembers and he sends a wind over the earth and the waters receded. Why send the wind? Does that blow the water away? Where does it blow it to? Where, precisely, does the water that covered the Earth go to? How did the Ark handle the wind?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Big Meadows Trip

So, as you can tell we got back from the trip OK and there were no major dramas. Everyone had a good time and the Little Nippers and The Wife have enjoyed their first backpacking trip.

Did learn a few things and was reminded of some others though:
  1. I still pack too much food when backpacking.
  2. I need to work harder on travelling lighter.
  3. SteriPENs are not in the least bit reliable for backcountry work, but they sound great at first.
  4. Grand Pizza in Grand Lake, CO makes some of the best pizza I have ever tasted.
  5. And the beer is good.
  6. Don't pitch your tent across the slope, on even the mildest slope, if it can be avoided.
  7. Don't then sleep on the downhill side of the tent if you can't avoid it.
  8. Everyone rolls downhill when sleeping in a tent on a slight slope.
  9. Backpackers Pantry dried food is better than most Mountain House dried food.

To advertise or not?

So, I'm thinking about adding AdSense to the blog but I'm undecided.

Part of me wants to cost woos money by having their adverts on the blog and encouraging people to click on them. The rest of me doesn't want woo adverts on the blog but likes money. See the dilemma?

Would you click on an advert for a woo product just so you can cost them money? Is it ethical for a skeptical blog to allow adverts for woo products? Is it worth it? Should we start encouraging skeptics to click on these sites in order to cost companies selling woo money? Is it right for a skeptical blog to make money off woos? Is this even how AdSense works?

I'm full of questions today, but no answers. What do you chaps and chappesses think?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Days of infamy part 3.2

Earlier parts in this series can be found here, here and here.

In this part we're going to look at the actual attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and how that shows that there was no grand conspiracy to bring the USA into World War II by provoking a Japanese attack, specifically an attack on the US base at Pearl Harbor.

Again, I rely on Hughes-Wilson's book, my own knowledge and the Internet, particularly the Wikipedia page.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Some thoughts on atheism

I've mentioned my position on my particular brand of atheism before (here) and I've been ruminating on it again today and wanted to put something down before the blogging dries up for this week. This is an idea that is still not fully formed for me so I'd ask that you give some feedback on it and excuse the disjointed nature of this post as well.

As I stated in my earlier post I think that there is no more reason to believe in gods than there is to believe in Sauron or Badger, Toad, Ratty and Mole. That's the reason why I say I think I know there are no gods - since there is no evidence for the existence of gods that can be scientifically verified or tested, or that is independent of the myths in which they appear I think that there are no gods just like I think that there are no Blue Meanies.

Blogging slowdown

Just a housekeeping notice to let my hoards of faithful readers (all six of you) know that there'll be a slowdown in my obviously prolific blogging for the next week or so - meatspace is interfering with blogging!

I haven't forgotten I have to hurry up and get to the point with my series on Pearl Harbor, and there's plenty of Bible left to blog, and I have a couple of other ideas I'm working on - but the next 10 days might be a bit sparse - taking the kids and wifey camping next week too, first time for all of them so I'll be without internet access obviously!

If you're interested, check out Google Earth - we'll be here on the 8th and 9th:
40 18 37.72 N 105 48 30 W

That little copse of trees is the group spot for Big Meadows campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park - and it is freaking awesome up there. Of course it's going to rain the whole time and I'm taking two handy bear size snacks with me, but it should be fun.

Anyway, don't mess the place up while I'm gone.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 7

So here we are, almost eight weeks gone by and only up to chapter 7 of Genesis - but this one is interesting from a literalist's point of view because we start getting into the contradictions in the Flood story.

And yes, there are plenty.

Next time you are out on the social cocktail circuit (that is what the young 'uns are still doing, isn't it?) and someone mentions the truth of the Flood story try this fun game - ask them 'Which one?". And point out that by 'Which one?' you mean which version of the Genesis flood story. Not which of the Jewish (Genesis), Sumerian, Babylonian, Greek, Hindu, Islamic, Chinese, Lao, Indian, Andaman Islands, Indonesian, Australian Aboriginal, Maori, Malaysian, Norse, Irish, Finnish, Aztec, Incan, Mayan, Hopi, Caddo, Menominee, Mi'kmaq, and Polynesian flood stories is true.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Don't upgrade to IE8 - at least if you're me

Well, not much blogging this week because I've spent a large part of it trying to get my internet browsers working again!

Here's a piece of advice for everyone - Don't upgrade to Internet Explorer 8!

The story starts with our hero deciding to remove ESRI's ArcGIS student version - only the uninstall function won't work because some of the files are corrupt so instead I have to do a manual delete since I can no longer find the disk to fix the files either. And that means using some registry cleaner tools to remove all the references to ArcGIS so my registry isn't filled with junk. And hey it is probably filled with junk anyway. So I did.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Days of infamy part 3.1

Parts 1 and 2 of this series of blog posts are worth reading first, to give you an idea what this is all about. The long and the short of it is this: I once argued with some maroon calling himself RedPill who claimed the 9/11 attacks were linked to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 - and both were part of US government conspiracies and allowed to happen. This is, to put it simply, bollocks.

By showing how the Pearl Harbor attack was more to do with intelligence (in the military information collection and analysis sense as well as the more literal sense) failures, I hope to illustrate that firstly there is no New World Order conspiracy dating back to the Second World War and second, to show that these enormous world changing events can happen without us being ready for them and without us expecting them - they're called surprises for a reason.

Friday, July 17, 2009

115th Skeptic's Circle up at Effort Sisyphus

The 115th meeting of the Skeptic's Circle is up over at Techskeptic's place so go on over and take your guided tour aboard the vessel Skeptica.

And he says some very nice things about yours truly. So of course I have no ulterior motive.

Check out the best from the skeptical blogoshpere from the last two weeks, pay close attention to the moving writings of the inhabitants of Sirius and the facilities of the Skeptica.

And don't forget to give a hearty congratulations to the captain of the Skeptica on the arrival of BabyTech.

Congrats to you and yours Tech - now the journey really begins!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 6

Getting to some of the good stuff now - get ready for Chapter 6 - The Flood. Wait, that's not right...

Men, we are told, began to increase in numbers on the earth. They even had daughters born to them. Which, if taken literally, makes things interesting. Verse 1 clearly states that daughters were born to men. So, apparently early man could become pregnant and give birth. Come on literalists, you are taking the Bible literally after all, aren't you? Bear in mind also the questions we had before - since Genesis refrains from mentioning daughters up until Naamah is mentioned in GEN 5:22, and makes a point of mentioning daughters being born here - who did the male descendants of Adam lay with and marry? Why make a point of mentioning daughters here but not elsewhere?

These daughters are all fine apparently, at least to the sons of God. Wait, who are these sons of God? Taken literally after all this means God had relations with at least one woman, right? Why aren't they mentioned until now? The first man was Adam, and he was made from dust wasn't he? And then subsequent men in the story are the sons of Adam and his sons etc. So, who are the sons of God? Anyway, these sons of God marry any of the daughters of men they choose to. It isn't clear here if these are forced marriages, but the implication is certainly that the sons of God get to marry who they want whether or not the women like it or desire it. I guess being the offspring of a deity has its benefits.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Days of infamy part 2

Part 1 of this series can be found here, and if you haven't read it yet you should before continuing here.

In this second part of the series we're going to look at the historic background to the attack on Pearl Harbor, stretching back to Japanese actions in the 1930s. This is an area that Paranoid Conspiracy Theorists mistakenly ignore. Most PCTs focus only on the year or two before the Japanese attack, because taking events in isolation like that it could be argued that the US was deliberately provoking the Japanese into a confrontation.

You just have to ignore the events of the previous 10 years to argue so.

Pay attention, here comes a history bit. For the sake of brevity this is a grossly oversimplified account, but there is plenty of easily accessible information out there if you're interested.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

For the love of dog, learn to drive!


I've been here for over 3 years now and after almost being killed on my bike by a stupid fat brain dead moron driving a car for the umpteenth time today there is something I want to get off my chest. You may very well be offended, it depends on how much you resemble these guys and whether or not you are a humourless git. If you actually do any of the things listed below on a regular basis - this post is aimed at you. If you don't, then read through safe in the knowledge that my considerable ire over this subject is not directed at you. And for the record, yes I know that most of this also happens in other countries but one would expect that in a country renowned for inventing the mass produced motor vehicle and for its reliance on it in all its guises people might actually be able to handle them with a degree of competence beyond "Is this here one of them there new fangled iron horses hyuk yuk?"

Americans (at least the 95% of you who this will apply to) - why the fuck can't you drive properly? Don't tell me it is just coincidence that there has only ever been one American born Formula 1 world champion (and that back in 1961) and that most NASCAR races involve corners all going in one direction! I mean, I took driving lessons for 6 months in the UK and then took a very strict driving test that involved performing a set number of a wide range of driving maneuvers within certain tolerances to get my license. Here, I drove round the block and took an easy written test. It doesn't matter what state that license plate says you are from, I can almost guarantee with a degree of certainty that rivals any psychic that at some point in the few minutes I share a portion of the road with you, you will try to kill me.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Days of infamy part 1

A few years ago I got in to an online argument about 9/11 conspiracy theories with someone calling himself RedPill, on the BBC's 606 football forums of all places. He was a hardcore proponent of the Loose Change view in particular. He also linked the events of 9/11 with the assassination of JFK and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor - all down to the New World Order of course. He very firmly believed that the events of 7 December 1941 were a precursor and inspiration to those of 11 September 2001. His belief was that both were perpetrated/ provoked by the US government or the mythical New World Order in order to allow the government to declare war. He believed he had all the evidence he needed. He believed he understood the history. He believed he knew how military operations were planned and how intelligence services and intelligence gathering worked.

He was wrong. Very wrong.

Blogging the Bible part 5

Thanks to spending far to much time than I care for on The Secret this past week part 5 in our exciting series is late. So sue me. Maybe we'll try for a double whammy today to get back on track.

Genesis, Chapter 5 - From Adam to Noah. And to be honest, there's not much to this one.

This is, as the first line says, the written account of Adam's line. So, when God created man he did so in the likeness of God, as we already know but the authors of Genesis apparently think they need to reiterate. He created male and female and called them both 'man'. Which is a little confusing, let's be honest. (GEN 5:1-2)

Now, Adam had been alive for 130 years. Yes, that's right, 130 years. Who needs modern medical science? Apparently lifespans dropped considerably as time went on and are only now recovering. And here's an interesting observation on this - the more religious society became after Adam and Eve, the lower lifespans got. Religious belief is lessening now and guess what? Lifespans are going up. Coincidence? You be the judge. Am I being facetious? You be the judge.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yes, The Secret DOES blame the victim

OK, this is getting to get a little foamy.

I know I only just posted about this, but I found myself over at Ryan's place and followed a link to a Slate article about The Secret, which led me to a Daily Mail article about it, which was surprisingly good for a Daily Mail article.

Anyway, the Daily Mail article makes explicit what I have always argued The Secret and the LOA say, and what most Secret followers deny they do - that the victim is to blame. And this is confirmed by both Rhonda Byrne and Bob Proctor.

It's straight from the horses mouth people.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Secret? It's drivel

The other day at work I found myself in my first real skeptical argument with some friends. There I was innocently reading The Onion when someone started to talk about this great new philosophy book they were reading. A book that talks about how you can get the Universe to align with your thoughts and give you what you want by thinking positively and optimistically. The Secret.

Inwardly I groaned because I knew this wasn't going to end well. So everyone else in the room starts to talk about positive thinking, how it's awesome, how they know people who think positively and not negatively and how they never get parking tickets as a result etc. Finally I could take it no longer.

"If you ask me it's a crock of shit. What does it mean for rape victims? It says they bring it on themselves, that they are to blame for being raped."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 4

OK, part 4. And you don't have to tell me that this is already taking a while.

Hopefully later books in the Bible won't take this long to examine - but given the central role that Genesis plays in Christian mythology I think it's worth the effort examining each chapter one at a time.

So, chapter 4, Cain and Abel. Adam lays with his wife and she becomes pregnant and gives birth to Cain. She makes the strange pronouncement:

With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man. (GEN 4:1)

So, God can also include midwifery on his resume alongside creator of the Universe. Now, taken literally what does this mean exactly? That Cain was born an adult and not a child? For that matter, how old were Adam and Eve when they were created? Were they created as children? Teenagers? Adults? Or is Eve saying that without the Lord's help she would have given birth to a woman (or girl, which is it literalists?) - and that this is not as worthy of celebration? I'm starting to get that patriarchal vibe again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Intelligent Design evidence?

OK. So, supporters of Intelligent Design and Creationism are (at least in their own minds) chock full of reasons why they think evolution by natural selection doesn't explain the possible origins and the subsequent development of life on Earth. If you've spent any time at all reading skeptical, scientific or atheist blogs you will have no doubt heard all sorts of tripe from ID proponents and Creationists about the missing link, transitional fossils, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, geological folding, evolution not being able to create information, natural selection being random, natural selection not explaining X (when usually it does, and very well), the eye can't have evolved, irreducible complexity, ID is not Creationism, ID is not religion but science, objects being designed if they look like they could have been designed, evolution is a faith, there is no evidence for evolution, the Big Bang and evolution are the same theory. And that's just a small dose of the usual canards that they roll out.

What you almost certainly will not hear from your average Intelligent Design proponent or Creationist is what the evidence for Intelligent Design or Creationism is.

You'll hear that real peer reviewed science for ID is just around the corner. You'll hear that mainstream science is repressing and covering up the science behind ID. You'll hear assertions that only ID can explain certain things that evolution cannot. You'll hear lots of poorly argued examples of what evolution allegedly can't explain (most of which rely heavily on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of evolution anyway), you'll have a whole host of quote mines thrown your way to make it look like some famous person or another disagreed with evolution or thought it wrong. Amongst other things.

So, here's a challenge for any ID proponent or Creationist who runs across this blog:

Cite the evidence for your theory. Arguments against evolution do not count as arguments for your theory. I want clearly explained evidence and conclusions. I want to know what your theory explains that cannot be explained by another alternative theory. I want to know what predictions your theory makes. I want to know how your theory can be falsified. I want to know what evidence would convince you that your theory was wrong. I want to know what your theory tells us about life. I want to know how your theory can be applied in medicine or biology. Where your theory contradicts known evidence or current theories I want to know why and how your theory trumps these things.

Here's a list of arguments or rhetorical techniques that you should avoid using or assuming, as well as some things you should avoid doing if you want to be taken seriously:
  1. Evolution does not equal Big Bang theory - don't conflate the two.
  2. EDITED 29th June 2010 to add: Abiogenesis and the Theory of Evolution are not the same thing, don't confuse them. 
  3. Assertions are not evidence, don't pretend they are.
  4. If evolution does not explain X the only alternative is not automatically your theory - there could be many alternatives that we aren't even aware of yet.
  5. Evidence against one theory is not automatically evidence for another.
  6. Biblical citations are not evidence for a scientific theory.
  7. Quote mining is the same as lying - that's a sin, remember?
  8. Don't misrepresent evolutionary theory - you should understand what you are talking about.
  9. Avoid logical fallacies.
  10. Threatening me with damnation is not evidence for your theory.
  11. Well known hoaxes or fakes cited as evidence will get you laughed at and mocked - don't use them.

Put your money where your mouth is - if I shouldn't accept evolutionary theory why should I accept Intelligent Design or Creationism?

What's your evidence?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 3

Sorry for the late arrival of this week's installment, real life got in the way!

As a taster for what we have in store this week, take some time to watch this first:

Genesis according to Ricky Gervais.

So, chapter 3: The Fall of Man.

So we're introduced to the villain of the piece - the Serpent. More crafty than any other wild animal apparently. Given what is about to happen, that does seem an oversight on God's part. Like the man said, if God knows he is going to be trouble (and he must do, right?) then why did he make the serpent crafty in the first place? Why not make serpents the animal equivalent of the village idiot instead? But then I suppose God would have had to find a new role for sheep. So along comes the serpent and he asks Eve what God said about the tree of knowledge of good and evil (he doesn't start that way, but you know what he is getting at). Which is strange, because she wasn't there when God told Adam not to eat it. I mean, why not go straight to the source? Why it's almost like some male dominated society was trying to invent a mythology that justifies their mistreatment of women.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No, the government isn't watching you

When writing about conspiracy theories a few weeks ago I mentioned that one of the characteristics of conspiracy theorists and their proponents is that they often rely on or assume the existence of technology that is far in excess of current capabilities or they get their ideas of the capabilities of available technology from television or cinema - in other words, they are way off the mark.

One thing in particular they often take as granted is the government's ability to track personal movements or individuals by remote sensing - usually via the all seeing eye in the sky. This form of surveillance is well entrenched in popular culture now, from novels, television and movies to crap annoying songs ("There are Cameras in the sky, Lasers in our Living rooms").

This post is my two pence worth of poking a hole in the myth perpetuated by popular culture that the government can use satellites, aircraft mounted cameras or CCTV to keep track of individuals on a daily or regular basis.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 2

OK, part 2 of what will hopefully be a series that sees me blog about the Bible, from cover to cover.

This does not purport to be an in depth scholarly study. It is merely my own response to Biblical Literalism, as I pointed out in part 1.

I also want to point out that no, I won't be going back to the original Greek or Hebrew or whatever other languages the earliest surviving manuscripts happen to be written in. The reason why is simple - the average Christian (and certainly your average Biblical literalist) doesn't. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that most Christians don't and can't read these languages either. They read the translations. So that is what I will do.

So, objecting that there may be a wrong translation of a particular Hebrew or Greek word is not a problem for my criticism - it's a problem for the Biblical literalist. If the Bible is inerrant, then there can't be a mistranslation or ambiguity about words and meaning, right?

So, if the NIV Bible I am using is wrong, it isn't my problem. I don't think it is the inerrant word of a god.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Compulsory Vaccination

Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy put up an interesting post on Wednesday about compulsory vaccinations. What interested me more than the question was the pattern of responses to it in the comments. The responses interested me more because the question is not that exciting or controversial to me and I agree completely with Phil - yes, vaccines should probably be mandatory. I can't believe people would actually find the idea controversial, and you'll see why as this post goes on (and on and on probably).

First, some preempting of some potential and probable responses:
  • Yes, I do have children.
  • Yes, they are fully vaccinated for their age.
  • No, they have not suffered any side effects other than mild fever shortly after the vaccinations.
  • No, they are not autistic.
  • Yes, I do know an autistic child.
  • No, the autism was not caused by vaccines.
  • No, I do not work for any government, Big Pharma organisation, health insurance provider or health care provider.
  • Yes, my wife does work as a medical assistant at an obstetrics clinic.
  • No, vaccines do not cause autism.
  • No, mercury does not cause autism.
  • No, Thimerasol does not cause autism.
  • No, the vaccine schedule does not cause autism.
  • Yes, if you don't vaccinate your child you are an idiot (unless there's a medical reason).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On conspiracy theories

The problem with being late to the blogosphere is that almost everywhere I tread someone has been before and no matter what I post it is likely that someone posted something similar already, hopefully once I get into a groove I'll be able to tread some new ground - so bear with me if any of this is familiar and apologies to those whose material or ideas I may have read and inadvertently included. Feel free to add an "I made this" in the comments! For instance, Tom Foss has already covered some of this ground.

Anyway - I've long been interested in conspiracy theories, first (unfortunately) as a believer - JFK and UFOs at least - and now as a skeptic and critical thinker. I've spent more time than I care to debunking conspiracies from the fairly well argued to the piss poor nonsensical (Debra at The Bronze Blog being a good example of the latter). I've run into more people than I would have thought likely who believe this stuff - many intelligent and well read, not just fringe nutters as we would often expect - just the other day I heard a colleague at work talking about how the government was behind 9/11 and the swine flu outbreak (something about every sample having the exact same DNA and no mutations proving it was from one source distributed with purpose)!

So I've been thinking about conspiracy theories for the last few days and wanted to put some thoughts into writing on the subject so that you know what to expect and what to look for (not that most of you reading this won't already know).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Questions for astrologers

Just in case you thought this was going to turn solely into a rabid anti-religion blog I'm going to throw in some questions about astrology that I have never really seen satisfactorily answered by the astrologers or astrology believers that I have come into contact with, in the hope that some might stop by.

  1. Define what you believe astrology to be and what uses you think it has.
  2. Whether you believe that celestial bodies directly influence and affect events or personalities, or whether you believe that they merely correspond to the occurrence of events, what mechanism connects life on Earth with these celestial bodies to the extent you believe?
  3. Which event is more important astrologically - a person's birth or a person's conception? Why?
  4. At what point are you considered 'born' in your system of astrology? Why?
  5. Does your system of astrology take into account precession? Why or why not?
  6. Do you use tropical or sidereal forms of astrology? Why?
  7. Was your system affected by the change from Julian to Gregorian calendar? Why or why not?
  8. If you believe in horoscopes, do you believe that the only worthwhile horoscopes are prepared for individuals or do you believe generic ones (such as the daily overviews given in newspapers, magazines and on serve a useful purpose? Why or why not?
  9. Does astrology only work on the Earth, or would it work for an alien life form standing on another planet across the galaxy? Would it be exactly the same?
  10. How have you discounted cognitive bias from your conclusion that astrology works?
  11. What would it take to persuade you that astrology does not work as claimed?
  12. The astrology challenge: If I provide you with the time and place of my birth, could you write an astrological prediction for me for the year 2006 as if you were writing it on January 1st of that year? If not, why not?

This last one is very important. As yet I have issued this challenge to some half a dozen astrologers (mostly over at Skeptico's blog) who were absolutely convinced of the power of astrology. The only one who accepted was one who practised astrology as a hobby, and the results were pretty poor. The others all, without fail, simply never responded again. Funny how these people often don't have courage in their convictions when faced with a challenge that might actually result in failure.

Astrology is bunk. Horoscopes are bunk. I submit that many professional astrologers know this and are simply liars, cheats and frauds. The rest are simply deluded.

If you're an astrologer, why don't you prove us skeptics wrong? Answer the questions, take the challenge.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Silence is the enemy

Just doing my bit:

I don't have anything to add that hasn't been said elsewhere.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blogging the Bible Part 1

OK OK, I know this is not new territory to be covered by an atheist blog.

I know that there is already the awesome Skeptics Annotated Bible.

I know that Tom over at Dubito Ergo Sum has already talked about interpretations, and when talking about the Bible it is all about interpretation and mine might not be entirely fair to the original intent.

But I can't help myself.

I'm going to read the Bible. From cover to cover. And you're coming with me.

I've already read large tracts of the Bible before, focusing mostly on the canonical Gospels (Catholic school will do that to you), but I've never gone cover to cover. It's going to take some time. It's going to be tedious and frustrating. But boy will it help shut believers up. In response to the question "Have you ever even read the Bible?" I'll be able to say "Yes, have you?" and swagger off into the sunset knowing my foe was suitably humbled. Or something like that.

We'll be reading the New International Version, Red Letter Edition, published 1989 by Zondervan. I won't be doing a line by line critique for the most part, but I'll pick out the bits that are of interest to me - and I'll be talking about the text as if in response to a Biblical Literalist, not some wishy-washy liberal Christian who interprets the Bible how they want in order to ignore the nasty bits (and those people will be the subject of future posts I'm sure).

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Why I think I know there are no gods

Believers often like to characterise atheism as a religion, I'm sure it makes them feel comfortable to tell themselves that we atheists just simply must have a religion too. There are plenty of serious and funny rebuttals to this point ('Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby' is one of my favourites), one of the more common rebuttals is to point out that atheism isn't really a belief system but a lack of a belief - a belief in gods. At the same time that believers throw this tired argument out they will often trot out the old 'You must have faith to believe there is no God.' Or 'Well you can't say there is no God because there is no evidence there isn't.' A variation I heard myself was 'You haven't been everywhere so you can't know there is no God.' Sorry, no prizes for being able to rebut that one.

Often the differences in various types of atheism have to be explained - implicit, explicit, weak or strong. The common responses from atheists shy away from the strongest assertion of atheism though - I know gods don't exist.

Friday, May 29, 2009

These things I believe

I hope to turn this into a blogging meme that spreads throughout the skeptical blogosphere (hey, I can be ambitious if I want) but if someone else came up with this idea great, otherwise I claim full credit for it.

Skepticism, critical thinking and the promotion of science is often criticised as being negative by the horde of woos and religious believers when nothing could be further from the truth. Asking questions is empowering and science has the ability to fill us with awe and wonder if properly understood. Sometimes the accusation is levelled that skeptics or atheists don't believe in anything.

This post is my statement of belief, my affirmation of my skepticism and my declaration that science is inspiring, enlightening and fulfilling. I call upon the skeptics of the blogosphere to proudly and boldly state their beliefs.

Jimmy_Blue gets his own place

Well, this is it.

I finally got round to making my own blog.

For a few years now I've haunted the blogosphere as Jimmy_Blue complete with lengthy comments, barely contained rage, finely targetted insults, painstakingly researched citations and hopefully a little humour. But it has always been at someone else's place. I'm like the guest who makes himself at home when told to but is always worried about outstaying his welcome.

No more.

This is my place. Come on in, pull up a chair, fix yourself a drink and relax.

This might be fun.

Please excuse the decor though, I only just moved in.