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Showing posts with label Pseudoscience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pseudoscience. Show all posts

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I Am an Atheist

Got round to penning my story in response to PZ Myers' call to submit our reasons for being atheists. A more detailed account is still in the works. I haven't blogged much about my brush - oh, hell it was a goddamn scrub-down - with von Danikenism and it occurs to me that I should. Consider a series examining the Ancient Astronaut hypothesis in the works.

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Growing up in Zimbabwe presented many challenges. Calling anyone "middle class" was a joke - you were either filthy rich, struggled to make ends meet or were so poor words could not begin to describe it. My family was part of that second group - we lived comfortably, but only just. I'm an ex-fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist, which, considering that Adventism has been in Zimbabwe for about four generations is really something. One thing I can truly thank my parents for is that they never compromised on my education. My brothers and I always went to private school, even if it meant we had to cut back on a few luxuries to do so. I was also always very inquisitive, very much a nerd and had a deep love for science that my mother encouraged. I read a lot of books, particularly about physics, astronomy and dinosaurs so questions were inevitable. I was an introspective child, though, so I tended to keep those questions to myself and try to figure things out on my own.

At twelve I was baptised into the church. I think this was the turning point at which I began to come to terms with reality, because it forced me to examine what I believed and why I believed it, where previously I could just drift along and pretend there was no conflict between my faith and my aspirations to be a scientist. It wasn't an easy journey, but less than eight months later, I came to the conclusion that God as envisioned by any Earthly religion does not exist. I still thought a higher being of some kind was possible, and so became somewhat of an agnostic.

The biggest problem I had at this stage of my life was that I had nothing concrete to fill the gap my faith left behind. One practical upshot of my country and my family's financial state was that I had no access to the solid facts I needed - I had no access to the internet and what little I did know came from the now too vague books I could access from the kids' section of the library. I was growing ever more hungry for knowledge, and would gobble up any little morsel I could get, regardless of quality. In time, this led me to a brush with pseudoscience no better than the faith I had recently forsaken.

Rifling through some old books at my grandmother's house, I found a bunch by a certain fellow called Erich von Daniken. They had the words "stars" and "space" in them , so reading was a no-brainer. What I read had me instantly hooked. Soon, I was proclaiming to all my friends how aliens had visited us in ages past and imparted us with intelligence. I was rattling off every single piece of "evidence" E vD presented - the Piri Reis map, the Ica stones, the Nasca lines, Puma Punku - with the utmost confidence that I'd finally found the truth. E vD did an excellent job of pretending to have that which I had been looking for all along - good, solid facts. His book "Miracles of the Gods" also fit in with the pseudo-mystical approach I had taken, and this led into a brief but retrospectively embarrassing flirtation with the Law of Attraction.

It was this phase, in which I wholeheartedly accepted such nonsense as is contained in "The Secret" and "What the Bleep Do We Know" that led to me taking another deep look at my beliefs. I noticed that all my "positive thinking" and meditating on the things I desired was getting me nowhere, and I started really thinking about how this actually worked. I realised that all this talk of "qantum-this" and "quantum-that" was simply a different term for the magic I used to believe in when I was still Christian. It did not take long for the rest of my belief in the supernatural to disappear, and eventually any concession of the possibility of the existence of a deity went down the drain as well.

I remember the first time I ever referred to myself as an atheist. I had just moved to a new school in Botswana. We were in a class Guidance and Counselling session and the counsellor asked me what religion I belonged to. Right there and then, I realised - much as I had once reviled those who were so "close-minded" as to outright deny the existence of a god, I had become one of them. With newfound conviction in my voice, I proudly answered, "I'm atheist." This was early in 2009, and I was 16, going on 17.

Perhaps not very oddly enough, I still lent some credence to Erich von Daniken's hypotheses. I would think to myself, "Okay, maybe he got the metaphysics wrong, but some of his facts must be right." I was also very critical of vocal atheists, even once writing a letter bashing Richard Dawkins over his hope that creating a cross between a human and chimp would end religion to the South African edition of Popular Mechanics. The Internet changed both these things, however. The Skeptic's Dictionary in particular demolished von Daniken's hypotheses, while reading of all the abuses to freedom that religion continues to perpetrate underscored the importance of activism to me.

I take a pragmatic view of the circuitous route I took to becoming rational: if it weren't for it I wouldn't be who I am today. I wouldn't have experienced first hand how harmful and limiting believing in lies can be, and wouldn't be so passionate about eliminating them. It's not my lack of belief in gods that I count as my most important trait, though. I value being a rationalist because I choose to think, a skeptic because I choose to question, a humanist because I have compassion for my fellow man and have an unbridled love for the cosmos that drives me to achieve my dream of becoming an astrophysicist. It is from this dream that I draw the deepest meaning for my life: that of discovery, and questing to understand the universe we live in.

Jabu M
Botswana

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Laws of Creatodynamics

I'm not a very consistent blogger now, am I? I actually have quite a few ideas floating around my head, but hey, I'm a lazy bastard and just couldn't be arsed to commit them to words. Guess I'll never make it big in the bloggosphere, then.

Anyway, inspired by PZ Myers' recent commentary on the latest bit of brain poop to drop out of the Hovindverse, I give you the Laws of Creatodynamics, expressing the interplay between intelligence and stupidity in the Creatoverse (adapted from the real laws of thermodynamics).

  • Zeroth Law: When two individuals are as stupid as a third individual, they are as stupid as each other. (E.g. Eric Hovind is as stupid as Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron is as stupid as Ray Comfort, therefore Eric Hovind is as stupid as Kirk Cameron).

  • First Law: Intelligence can never be created, but is perpetually being destroyed. Similarly, Stupidity can never be destroyed but is perpetually being created. The reason for this situation is that as the Creationist movement is being assailed by ever increasing amounts of fact it is being driven to greater levels of absurdity to rationalise its position. The simple upshot of this is that Creationism is fast heading for the Stupidity Singularity, the point at which there is absolutely no intelligence left and pure, undiluted stupidity is all that remains. No one knows what will happen when this point is reached. Perhaps the movement will simply implode, leaving the rest of humanity to mop up and discard whatever is left of it. Perhaps the concentration of raw stupidity will strain the fabric of the universe, birth a god of unbridled stupidity in the immaterium while tearing reality a new asshole in the process.

  • Second Law: Intelligence cannot move from a stupider body to a more intelligent body.Makes sense, doesn't it? And it's also an observable effect: creationism has never produced anything of value to the scientific world, and it never will. Somewhat confusingly, the converse is also true: intelligence cannot move from a more intelligent body to a stupider body. Take a look at creationism in the 1900s and creationism today. There is practically no difference whatsoever between them. Pretty much the same arguments are still being used, no matter how often they have been addressed and debunked. The creationist movement learns nothing from the ever changing, ever expanding world of scientific knowledge. It only just keeps getting worse.

  • Third Law: Absolute zero intelligence is attainable. Take a look at what Hovind says again. 'Nuff said.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Adventist Review - La Sierra University Granted Window to Show its Faithfulness to Church’s Creation Belief

Three days ago, this article appeared on the site for the Adventist Review, "The flagship journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church". Some may remember the fracas over La Sierra University science faculty teaching science instead of church-endorsed myth that got a lot of people all heated up and ready to burn those evilutionist professors at the stake. Well, the university finally bowed to pressure and announced it would comply with the church's demands. The article I've linked to reports that the university has been given until the second quarter of next year to show its compliance with church dogma by the Adventist Accrediting Association.

I find it kind of ironic that people who clamor for science curricula to "teach the controversy" are so close minded themsselves when it comes to a scientific theory that has been studied, ratified and approved by the majority of biological scientists in the world. Church heads should never have the right to dictate what science professors teach in their lecture halls. Outside of church-affiliated organisations, I doubt La Sierra graduates are able to get a job anywhere.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reading Hercolubus

As I said earlier, I've been reading Hercolubus or Red Planet by V.M. Rabolu. I'd have finished it in less than an hour had I tried but I just had to take a long break to avoid bursting my sides with laughter. The book is just full of the most ludicrous and absurd New Agey and anti-science woo-woo man has ever seen. Or I've ever seen. I've kept my interaction with stupidity to a minimum since I became a skeptic.

Rabolu obviously has(or had - he's dead) something against "those we falsely call scientists" - and it shows: he has absolutely no scientific knowledge whatsoever. Take the section "Nuclear Tests And The Ocean". He talks about the sea being in contact with "the fire within the Earth" and causing cyclones and earthquakes. The consequence of this will be the Earth sinking into its ocean. How a planet sinks into its own ocean is beyond me. Maybe he's a flat-earther too? Somehow, getting cooked isn't the worst consequence of the boiling of the oceans, but darkness and planes not being able to fly is. Yah. And the sea is also apparently a living organism that breathes and contaminates our air.



Rabolu's description of the consequences of undersea nuclear testing (which was banned in 1996, by the way) sounds like he learnt it from The Simpsons... you know, the three eyed fish, laser vision squirrels and tentacled trees that live in Springfield? Apparently, something like that is happening in our own oceans. And Rabolu's sea monsters can't be destroyed by mere bullets. They "developed from atomic energy", therefore they are "atomic".

The real laughbucket of the book is the section on extraterrestrials. He apparently thinks sci-fi movies are in fact polemic documentaries produced by the despicable North Americans. He obviously knows better of course - he's actually been to Venus and Mars.



For some reason, the picture of physical perfection the Venusians possess sounds a lot like miniature versions of Hitler's Aryan race - blonde hair and blue eyes, only 1.3-1.4 metres tall. Rabolu's description of ET life contains some of the oddest, most useless details, from belts that flash like lighthouses to the fact that they grow trees on their house roofs. He also seems to think fish are not meat - take this quote about the Venusians' dietary habits:

From there, they go to machines, where the fish are pulverised and more natural vitamins are added [as opposed to artificial ones?]. This is another of their foods. The same is done with vegetables. No one eats any kind of meat there.



After this graphic description of the fishes' evisceration, we are told they do not eat meat of any kind? Lol.

The Venusians can also control weather with their thoughts. I'm wondering - everyone has different tastes of the weather, so how do they sort each other out? Do they take turns?

I guess what is meant to be the most important part of the book is the esoterica on death and astral projection that comes at the end. That's where the mantras come in, and Rabolu instructs us on how we can do what he can too, and see Mars and Venus and the alien spaceships and the Red Planet itself. The cornerstone of his projection techniques are the mantras: La Ra S and Fa Ra On. I'm a bit surprised there were no drugs involved.


I did not at all take Hercolubus seriously - it's very difficult to, many may agree. Especially when I'm rhyming like I'm under an apple tree. The sad thing is that some people buy this stuff - obviously very rich people too, who are financing the whole free book thing (small wonder they don't ask for peoples' money like others of their ilk - they've already snagged some pretty big fish). In a few years, the whole 2012 catastrophism thing will have blown over and its sheep will have moved on to whatever new woo will be fashionable at the time. Unfortunately, the damage will already have been done and some well-meaning, philanthropical soul will already have had his money blown on some stupid piece of stupidity instead of giving their money to real world causes. I hope someone investigates the Alcione organisation, which is perpetuating all this nonsense and exposes them for the frauds they really are.

EDIT: You can still order the book for free from www.hercolubus.tv.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hercolubus or Red Planet

Got my copy in the mail yesterday evening.


Photobucket

It's a short book, and I'm already half way through it. What a lollercoster those chapters I've read have been. I'll post what I think about it when I'm done.

You can request a copy of the book here. It's free, so why not?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Earthquake & Elenin

News Story

The Elenin nuts are going to give me no end of pain...


Hope the death toll wasn't too high, but what with Japan being the most earthquake ready nation on Earth, I don't think it will.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

COMET ELENIN WILL HIT EARTH!

So here's the next thing that's gonna kill us:


It's called C/2010 X1, dubbed Elenin after its russian discoverer. It's going to be at it's closest with Earth sometime in October and we'll pass through it's orbit's intersection with ours later in November. Apparently, the media hasn't taken to it with enough enthusiasm, so it's probably the planet Nibiru and "they"(you know, them) don't want us to know about it(genius logic, I know). There is just so much wrong with these fellows' logic that I just had to demonstrate how bunk it is. Here's a rundown of their main points and explanation of just what's bloody wrong with them.

1. Initial calculations had it passing 8.8 AU from Earth, but they've been continually revised downwards to the current estimate of at least .15 AU. (http://reinep.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/comet-elenin-could-hit-earth/, para. 1)

Not amazing, really. As better data became available, the orbit got refined. Same thing happens with pretty much any moving astronomical object we find. Also, .15 AU is close on an astronomical scale, but still pretty far away on a human scale, 22,439,680 km away, 59 times the distance to the moon. But I guess their big point is...

2.The comet will pass through the Oort Belt (?), changing it's orbit (to hit Earth of course) (http://reinep.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/comet-elenin-could-hit-earth/, para. 1) or pulling asteroids with its gravity to pummel earth (http://alligatorfarm.wordpress.com/comet-elenin-c2010-x1/, para. 1)

The Oort belt? Maybe you mean the Oort Cloud? But still, that couldn't be because 1. the Oort cloud is(may be) 50,000 AU away and 2. it has never been directly observed - it is still quite hypothetical. Perhaps they mean the asteroid belt? Anyway, addressing the first issue. On an astronomical scale, Earth is a very tiny target. Veeeeeery tiny. About 0.00000000569 square astronomical units* tiny. Compare that with 0.0707AU^2, the area of the circle calculated using the closest approach distance of .15 AU, Earth is 0.0000000805 times that area! The odds of Elenin being deflected towards Earth are too minuscule to even consider.

Now as to the comet pulling asteroids out of their orbit...that's rubbish. Comets weigh in around 10^13 - 10^14 kg (compared with Earth's 5.97x10^24). That's really not much, and definitely not enough to have much gravitational effect on any objects in the asteroid belt. But then there's the objection that this is no comet...more on that later.

3. We'll be pummeled to death by the material in the comet's tail when we pass through it in November (http://reinep.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/comet-elenin-could-hit-earth/, para. 1)

Save for the comet disintegrating, I see no issue with the comet's tail. A comet's tail is composed of dust particles and perhaps small pebble-sized grains, definitely not enough to pose a serious threat to Earth.

But there's a whole lot more woo-woo associated with this...



tl;dw (crud like this is always tl): this vid says that when the comet, Earth and sun align sometime in March, the comet will magnetically interact with the Earth and make us flip over or something. I raised the objections I am about to share here on that video and was called a retard. Nice fellows, these catastrophist folks.

1. Magnetism is caused by iron. Comets do not have iron.

2. In-situ magnetic fields decay over time. The only reason Earth still possesses a magnetic field after 4.5 billion years is because of convection currents in its ferrous core. Comets, being cold objects cannot have molten iron. Any magnetic iron they might have had would have decayed long ago.

3.March is *around* the time of the equinox. At that point, the Earth's axis is perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic. If there were any magnetic effect between the earth and the comet, you'd expect it to act on both poles simultaneously. Of course, Earth's magnetic field is slightly off center of the rotational axis, but not by much, and definitely not enough to be in alignment with the comet on the ecliptic.

4. Regarding the "3 degree shift in the south pole"...[apparently what caused the Chile earthquake last year] ??? Magnetic south? 'Cause that would have no effect whatsoever on the planet. If it were a literal shift in rotational axis we would definitely have seen muuuuch more damage. You haven't provided how long the shift took, but I can surmise it would have generated a respectable amount of radial velocity. The inertia experienced by the earth would have been *massive*, causing way more damage than just one little earthquake.

At this point, I saw the video poster's comment positing that Elenin is not just a comet, but something more. Some have said it is literally the Nibiru that has been long talked about. Some have even called it a brown dwarf. Well, there's something wrong with this. I don't think they (you know, them) could have hidden this from us. Something larger than Jupiter that far into the solar system would most definitely have thrown the orbits of all the planets into disarray. It would also be visible to the naked eye and we wouldn't need a frickin' telescope to see it.

Some suspicion seems to have been raised by the fact that the comet was discovered by an "amateur" on an 18-inch telescope and not by the larger observatories. People who raise this as an issue don't understand the workings of astronomy. Those larger observatories aren't sweeping the sky all willy-nilly looking for stuff. They are engaged in research, looking into specific corners of the sky, and are doing so for pretty much every moment of good observing time. Astronomical phenomena are being discovered by amateurs all the time - from asteroids to supernovae to - yes - comets, amateurs are nearly always at the forefront of discovery.

Another silly objetion is that the media have been too silent over this, therefore there is a conspiracy to keep knowledge of it away from us.



I don't think highly of conspiracy theories, but I'll grace this with a psy-ops agent worthy explanation. The comet will peak at magnitude 6-8...barely visible to the naked eye. So why should the media make a big hoopla about it? The media is always slow when picking up stuff like this anyway, so it may only be a matter of time. Unless, of course, they catch wind of this whole collision story, in which case they will be making quite the hoopla about it.


*(pi) x (radius of the earth in AU, approx. 0.0000426 AU)^2

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh the sneaky sons of bastards

So I was planning on refreshing my memory a little and searching for any new advances in astronomy, and so googled "big bang theory". Under the results for the (amazingly funny) sitcom and the Wikipedia article was a promising link: big-bang-theory.com. I click it. Read a bit...some things raise a few warning flags, but I read on...surely the science is still yet to come. Ah, finally, a link. But wait, it says "Does God Exist?". I click, but with a measure of trepidation. The site it leads to uses the domain "allaboutphilosophy.org". By this time my interest has been raised. What are they driving at? By the time I read their "Things to consider" section, I haven't a shadow of a doubt. These are Jesus-folk.

But I just gotta go on. Little to my surprise, the next section is "Holy Bible - God's Word". Obviouser and obviouser. It tries to pretend once again to be impartial and objective, but the fanboyishness becomes glaringly obvious. Nevertheless, I continue to the next section. Reading the title of its first subsection almost makes me gag. I can take no more. But I have a suspicion just where this is going. I keep skimming through each section, noting how each is drawing deeper and deeper into Jesustian lore(and refuting in my head each of the arguments I pick up). Finally, I reach the end, and my suspicions are confirmed. The title of the page? "Become A Christian" (The domain name is now "allaboutgod.org", having gone through "allabouttruth.org".

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this was not a scientific site, but an attempt to evangelise and proselytise. Really couldn't help but feel cheated of my valuable time and bandwidth.

This site is obviously misleading: it turns up fifth in the search page and is the first result which isn't a Wikipedia article or about the sitcom, so I'll bet it must get a lot of hits from people just out to discover more about the theory. And if the searcher isn't that well versed in the science of the theory, nor the dishonest arguments used by these fellows, they might leave deceived, or worse, they might be - *gasp!* converted!

I guess I should have heard the warning bells when they called my good buddy Bob Gentry's kookery an "attractive theory" (I'm currently conducting research on his claims with the aim of compiling a de-bunking of one of his videos. Watch this space) right there on the first page. But the prehistoric, recycled arguments in the "Things to consider" section of the next page are what revealed their true colours (idiotic probability calculations being among one of them). The third page, talking about the bible and all, goes on to proclaim the accuracy of the bible and straight out lying that ancient and more recent manuscripts agree with each other(see here). At the end of the jouney, when you click "No" to "Have we managed to suck your brains out yet?", they say "oh, man, we were just like you once, atheists and skeptics and all". That's inconsequential, but I find myself doubting the veracity of that statement.

All in all, a very sneaky, pretty clever ploy by the owners of the site. Still dishonest, though, and misleading, on top of using flawed arguments that have been debunked already at least a million times.