More Nonsense Science

"Gravity: Doesn't exist. If items of mass had any impact of others, then mountains should have people orbiting them. Or the space shuttle in space should have the astronauts orbiting it. Of course, that's just the tip of the gravity myth. Think about it. Scientists want us to believe that the sun has a gravitation pull strong enough to keep a planet like neptune or pluto in orbit, but then it's not strong enough to keep the moon in orbit? Why is that? What I believe is going on here is this: These objects in space have yet to receive mans touch, and thus have no sin to weigh them down. This isn't the case for earth, where we see the impact of transfered sin to material objects. The more sin, the heavier something is. "

Well this is clearly a case of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Of all the scientific theories in existence why attack gravity? We have been able to describe it accurately for a long time now!

It's almost not worth doing, but I'm going to dissect it.

Firstly some background, gravity is associated with mass. The exact 'cause' of mass is still under investigation, but we expect it to be discovered in the next few years at CERN (try looking on google for Higgs Boson). We know that masses attract each other. This attraction is very small, and tiny compared to the electromagnetic force. We also know that the attraction weakens with distance (we know by how much too!).

Mountains are large, and do have a gravitational attraction to people (and vice versa), but it is swamped by the gravitational field of the Earth.

I guess it's worth explaining simply how gravity works in relation to orbits. The simplest way to think about this is to imagine throwing a ball in front of you. It follows a parabolic trajectory, falling to Earth because of gravity. But what happens if you are able to throw it far enough that the Earth's surface curves away beneath it. The gravitational field of the Earth still tries to pull it in, and it curves with the surface (unless you throw it fast enough to escape the gravitational field). So, if there is a small enough resistance to its motion (e.g. very thin or no atmosphere) it will keep falling in an orbit around the Earth.

The Earth's field even at the distance of shuttle operations is many, many times larger than the attraction between the shuttle and the astronauts. So small in fact it is safe to ignore it.

To attribute mass to sin is clearly bullshit.


Jesus Camp

I finally got round to watching this film in some free time I had this morning. For those of you who haven't seen or heard about it, it follows a few kids attending a 'Jesus Camp' run by a larger than life evangelical woman. It really does ram home the problem of religion.

Most of the kids are home-schooled, apparently on religious grounds. The lessons seem to make a complete mockery of science, evolution, and who knows what else. I wouldn't be surprised if the whole of history was rewritten to support the Bible.

The camp itself used evocative music, dance, speech, lighting, etc to enchant the children and draw them into the fold. These tactics wouldn't be out of place in the arsenal of many a dictator, and the conviction of the speaker, and her eagerness to convert the people to believe her world-view reminded me of Adolf Hitler than the biblical accounts of Jesus of Nazareth.

That made me angry, but the anger was overcome by sadness for the children. For those of you who doubted Richard Dawkins claim that this form of indoctrination is child abuse you need look no further. The children seem to be converted not just for their own good, but to be soldiers for the cause of evangelism.


The Atheists Nightmare

I try to avoid calling people I have never met stupid, or even ignorant. But sometimes I really have to restrain myself.

The (so called) Atheists' Nightmare is in fact a banana, and the video can be found here. I know this has been lurking around for a while, and it has been debunked many times. But I wanted to include it, and it makes for an interesting post.

Well, I concede that the banana has been designed. It has been selectively bred by humans for thousands of years. In fact a wild banana bears very little resemblance to what you find in the supermarket or green grocers today. Intelligent design? I would say so. Cultivated bananas are much nicer than wild ones. A triumph for Intelligent Design supporters, I'm afraid not (surprise, surprise).

Some of the YouTube guys had a field day with this. I've seen that despite the fact that banana may be well designed, the pineapple and coconut are clearly not.

The IDers came up with another triumph of stupidity. Apparently if evolution is true then every now and then life would spontaneously appear in jars of peanut butter.

I never knew that people could be that stupid.

Of course when this turned out to be nonsense Roy Comfort (the creator of the banana myth) conceded the argument. But why put it out there in the first place?

Ken Miller

I thought I'd post this video of Ken Miller talking about evolution and intelligent design, as some people have asked me about how things like the bacteria flagellum motor could arise by evolution. Miller has been a witness at several trials regarding the teaching of intelligent design in US schools.

I also found this video (a response to the one above) which seeks to remind us that evolution is a Hindu idea. I'm not acquainted with the Hindu literature, but I am pretty certain that if it does agree with evolution it does so by chance. Statistically I guess one religion was going to come up with it eventually. It will not however have come to it by a genuine, reasonable, scientific way.

British Centre for Science Education

I saw on another blog (sorry I forgot which one) about this guy David Anderson who has created a blog solely as an attempt to counteract the British Centre for Science Education, whose aim is to prevent creationism being taught in UK schools.

I must admit prior ignorance of this group, but I have read around their website and I agree with their aims, and have since registered for membership, which is currently free. I would encourage you all to do the same here. Perhaps we can make something positive has come out of David's blog after all.

Alternative Dinosaur Museum

I saw this today.

This is a step way across the line. Giving a religious explanation to accepted science on a scale like this, and presenting it as fact is repulsive on so many levels. The truth of the matter is we KNOW that dinosaurs became extinct millions of years ago, and never walked the Earth with humans. To say otherwise is a lie.

Here in the UK there would be an outcry at such a preposterous idea. But then we have a much greater freedom of belief, or lack of. I also doubt such funds could be raised for a similar venture here.

To me this has really bought home the fact that America is in a Dark Age. We have seen it in Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Within a few generations the architectural feats of the Romans were thought by many to be the work of some higher power. European culture was in a trough. This was a time that religion was a major force in the world, and the influence of the pope over kings led to numerous atrocities. I guess thanks to the Da Vinci Code and the ilk the most famous of these will be the horrendous genocide of the Cathars, and the murder of the Knights Templar.

The Dark Age came to an end with the enlightenment where people were once again able to think freely in the sciences, philosophy and the arts. The Church was however reluctant to give up its power, and we see a period of intellectual conflicts with the established power.

Ever since the enlightenment the power of religion has been waning, and with it the people have become less religious. The French revolution succeeded in separating church and state, and in other countries the influence of Rome over the leaderships reduced.

What America needs is an enlightenment, and it needs it soon before the few lights of the Dark Age have gone forever.


Elton John: "Ban Religion"

This post was originally going to be called "Leviticus: 2000 years of suppression in a nutshell" but then I saw this article where Elton John calls for organised religion to be banned. So I have sort of merged the two.

The focus is now on the Bible's teaching on homosexuality, and the suppression of women and other such horrors will come along in future posts.

Well, I took a look at Leviticus in the Good News (unless your homosexual) translation of the Bible. It appears that god "hates" it when a man has sex with another man. The punishment for this "disgusting thing" is death.

So why are we having debates about gay priests? Surely this will disgust god?

It's time to face facts. The apocalypse is coming, but not as it is told in Revelations. The horsemen of this apocalypse are reason, truth, science and acceptance.

Richard Dawkins Birthday

Happy (belated) Birthday to Richard Dawkins for yesterday. Dawkins is one of the greatest scientists, writers and orators defending reason. As a birthday present I would like to invite you to vote for The God Delusion in the British Book Awards.

Vote here

See birthday messages for Richard here


At Least Understand It

This is typical of posts I see on the internet:

Believe it or not, you were perfect when you were born. You were obviously healthy if you are posting here today, you hadn't sinned, and were making choices and using your free will, though they were small choices. Unfortunately, later in your life you made some bad choices and now you are a sinner, but remember, God MADE you perfect.

One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

From here.

Well, the bit about evolution breaking the Second Law is true, it could only happen if there was a giant energy source outside the Earth, supplying it with lots of energy.

Fortunately for the theory of evolution we have a huge external nuclear fusion based power source, and it is well known to scientists (and everyone else for that matter). It is called the Sun.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!


At Least Make Your Mind Up

I have met so many people who somehow manage to accept not only the history of the Earth being uncovered by science, but also manage to claim to be Christians. This is pure idiocy.

If you believe that the Bible is the word of a god, and you choose to believe and follow the teachings of that god, then surely it's all or nothing? Surely you can't pick and choose?

Well, apparently you can, because what they believe to be the divine word of god they feel free to interpret however they want. The Bible says, explicitly, that god "hates" homosexual men, yet we now have "gay priests". I'm all for equal rights, but equality for homosexuals and Christianity are mutually exclusive. It says it in the book, and the book comes from god.

Similarly I was recently told that the story of Adam and Eve was meant to be metaphorical. A metaphor for what exactly? Was it taken to be metaphorical when it was first written? The only real thing that has resulted from it is widespread misogyny.

Is it possible to combine rational belief with the book of Genesis (we'll ignore the rest for now)? Of course not. You can accept reason, or accept the doctrine. Is it reasonable to expect Noah to build an ark to carry two of every animal? No, and especially not given the dimensions. Is there sufficient water on the planet to cover the near-entirety of the Earth's surface? Obviously not.

There are even people who claim to be able to reconcile the existence of dinosaurs with Genesis, even claiming that they were on the ark. The top trump is yet to come, the dating of the bones by various scientific disciplines (which all agree) are a test of faith by their god.

Isn't this just getting desperate? Isn't their sufficient evidence already to show your holy book to be at best factually flawed?

I'd argue that the case was stronger than that. The Bible claims to be the true words of god. The fact that the words are now wrong surely implies that god was wrong. For a self-declared supreme being this is tragic indeed. RIP.

Some Comments on The Da Vinci Code

Well, first of all this blog is about reasoned arguments, and this book is a novel. The overlap of the two comes not from the novel itself, but from the discussion it has created.

I wont go into the plot, you've probably read it already, but one of the themes is that of a different description of the history of the church and mainstream Christianity. This seemed to awaken a number of sleeping giants in our society. Of course some people came out and denied it was true, and others said it was true without doubt. I expect most people who believe in the power of reason sit somewhere in the middle.

This book (and to a lesser extent several others previously and after) seemed to be a catalyst that encouraged an open debate about the origin of a major religion. All of a sudden millions of people were challenging the official history, in the process uncovering for themselves much of the contradiction, misogyny and violence committed by the church.

Is this a good thing? Of course. It has long been argued by people of reason that religion should be placed under the same scrutiny that we heap on the other disciplines; science, history, economics...

By being a catalyst for open debate, and showing that it is acceptable to challenge the doctrines of Christianity this book has made a not-insignificant stride in the name of reason. All we need now is for everybody to take this willingness to challenge an idea to heart.


How Can You Be Sure Christianity/Islam/(insert others here) Is Not The One True Religion?

I have been asked this on numerous occasions. It is clear to me that there is not one universal god, or one universal set of gods, for all of humanity.

The crux of this argument is the sheer number of different god-centric belief systems, that have been developed in parallel by cultures which for many centuries had no contact with each other. The Aboriginal Australians developed the concept of "dream time", the Native Americans came up with a complicated system of spirits and associated beliefs, the ancient societies of Greece, Italy and Egypt had a plethora of gods, and so on.

Are any of these concepts of "god(s)" mutually compatible. Well, some might be but many are totally beyond combination. The multi-god religion of the Romans is totally incompatible with the one-god teaching of Abrahamic religion. The spiritual unity of the natural world in many religions also clashes harshly with the Old Testament's insistence of the superiority of man over the animals.

Surely if there was only one god, or group of gods, then all religions would have a common focus, even if they were not all identical. Surely the natives of Australia should be as capable as any as following Jesus?

Or, just perhaps, the fact is that the inhabitants of the middle-East around 2000 years ago (and their favourite imaginary friends) didn't know about Australia at the time. It posed no threat to them and did not need to be controlled by the same rules - enforced through the promise of eternity in paradise, or hell.

The sheer number of mutually exclusive belief systems that claim to be the only way to salvation should make the followers of any of them question their beliefs. The strength of their belief is equalled by other believers who believe in a different system that also offers the only way to eternity in paradise.

It wouldn't be half as bad if they just got on with life, but how many times in history has one of these belief systems launched an attack on another? How many millions have died? What a waste of human life and potential!

But the worst is yet to come, these people who stand by an organisation that has committed genocide, murder, robbery and countless other crimes on people who have the audacity to believe in a different fairytale then tell me, as an atheist, that I have no morals.

Well thankfully I live in a society where it is generally acceptable for people of intellect, rather than men in robes, to come up a set of rules to live our lives by. Although that doesn't stop the 'robies' trying to interfere with anything they can get their hands on.

Did We Land On The Moon?

Well, I thought I'd trot this one out early one.

There have been many responses to the conspiracy theorists, who seem to doubt that the Americans made it to the lunar surface. The conspiracy theorists case more often than not revolves around alleged problems with the photographs.

Do they really think that if an organisation with the technical expertise and budget of NASA would make mistakes if they forged photographs? They do, after all, have some pretty impressive brains to put together to come up with something.

The nail in the coffin, for me at least, is a comment that was made by a Space Shuttle pilot I had the privilege of meeting. I summarise it here, he was much more eloquent than my paraphrasing.

We must remember that this was at the height of the Cold War 'Space Race,' which saw the USA and the USSR fighting to a number of space travel firsts. Do you really believe that if the USSR had even the slightest doubt that the Americans had landed on the surface of the Moon that they would have kept quiet? Thought not.


Religion Has A Place In School Science

If we go back in time to the first concept of creation we would find that it would today be put into the category of spiritual or religious.

However the title for most accurate description is not dished out on a first come first served basis. Since that time our knowledge of science has grown from a simple curiosity about the world around us to broad, wide-reaching theories governing not only our everyday lives, but also the behaviour of the very large, the very small, the very slow and the very fast (on scales that are often almost, if not totally, impossible to grasp).

As we have learned more by observing what actually happens, we lessen our need to 'fill the gaps' of our knowledge with tales that if told often enough and believed strongly enough provide some sort of spiritual comfort.

Are these first attempts at explanation truly scientific? Well they could be. A scientific theory has to describe the relevant criteria already discovered, and from it we can make predictions that we can test to see if this theory really does describe the phenomena concerned. In a world with very little knowledge of science a story, however much like a fairytale, could be a scientific theory. Admittedly one incapable of running the gauntlet of experimental evidence to the present day, but a theory nevertheless.

Should this be taught in schools. I would say so, and in science lessons too. Anything that elucidates the application of the scientific method to a given problem has merit. Would the students have the inclination (or perhaps, in many religious countries, the bravery) to extend the application of the idea to modern day religious doctrines? I can only hope so.

The Flat Earth Society

If you think that Creationism (or Intelligent(!?) Design) should be taught in science lessons then you should also be up for the Flat Earth Society.

Yes, before you go on I do understand that it is a joke. It's a parody of the fact that many people think religion has a right to be taught in science lessons. (It does in some situations, I will expand tomorrow.)

The Scientific Method

The methods of science are somewhat unique, and a stark contrast to those used as a foundation by religion.

Religious beliefs generally focus around some agreed framework. Christian belief is controlled by whatever translation and version their sect favours at any point in time. They seek guidance from this framework when living their lives and, most important in this discussion, when searching for evidence of our creation. The framework is there, and neither hell nor high water will change their minds. In fact often external sources of evidence are discounted purely because they do not agree with this framework.

In science an idea, belief or theory is there to be challenged. Scientists do not worship what is 'known', but challenge it. Each challenge (or experiment), assuming the experiment does not fail, either discredit the theory, or let it live to fight another challenge. Discredited theories are either discarded as nonsense, or modified in some way so that they now pass this latest challenge (and, essentially, all previous challenges). A theory can never be proved.

Hopefully this will go some way to discredit those who seem to think that scientists are almost fanatically religious about their theories, a comment made most often about evolution. Evolution in its current state has passed every single challenge thrown at it. It has survived an intense gauntlet for decade after decade. Although we can never know with 100% certainty it is correct, the fact it has survived the gauntlet thus far gives us a great deal of confidence in its correctness. In contrast many contenders, notably Lamarckism, have been destroyed by a challenge along the way, and join the increasingly huge library of failed theories in the history books. If you could show (rigorously) that there was a theory that explained the diversity of life in a different way you would not be shunned from the scientific community as many religious fanatics claim. You would be held up as a hero.


Over the next few weeks, months and years I plan to post short articles in defence of reasoned arguments, and in defiance of nonsense. The targets will be many and varied but will, at least at the start, focus on religion and conspiracy (and not always in a mutually exclusive way).

Make of this what you will. I hope that most people will find the commentary, thought processes and ideas interesting. More importantly I hope that readers will understand that reason, and in particular the scientific method are the only way by which we can even begin to comprehend our world.