Archive for July, 2008

Not Loony, Just Human

Is it just me or is there some kind of cultural connection amongst humans between the moon and insanity? I first noticed it when I learned the phrase “esta en la luna” (in the moon) in Spanish which is a way of saying absent-minded. I then made the connection between “Luna” and “lunatic” and “loonies” and began to wonder. It’s not really something I’ve researched but maybe some sociologist or anthropologist out there knows what I’m talking about… or it could be pure coincidence.

Even so, I would find such a social connotation of the moon ironic when you take into account Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. On “Paranormal Schmaranormal” Stefano left this comment:

There are not only crazy Guys that are talking about the existence of UFOs.

And posted these two videos.

I get it. Edgar Mitchell believes in UFOs. That’s nice.

Now, I have great respect for all astronauts. It takes brains, it takes physical prowess, it takes hours of training, and it takes guts to strap yourself to a giant can of rocket fuel and blast yourself 384,000 km away from the Earth with faith in Newton to get you there safely.

I respect that.

But, just because you did all that doesn’t mean that you can say “there are pink dancing unicorns on Neptune” and have them pop into existence. If you (the astronaut) or you (the person believing the astronaut can do that) believe that authority makes it so then I don’t respect that.

And, on the other hand just because an authority says something which we think of as outrageous does not mean it is untrue. If the authority can point me to observations published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal which shows dancing pink unicorns and I can replicate the experiment on my own if I get access to a big enough telescope and swing it around to Neptune and see dancing pink unicorns then I’m convinced.

Where is Edgar Mitchell’s evidence? He says he believes. Again, that doesn’t make it true. He says he has eye-witness testimony, but eye-witnesses can be wrong.

I once saw three UFOs drifting above the buildings of my hometown on a warm, sunny morning. Visibility conditions were good. I wasn’t under the influence of drugs, caffeine, alcohol, catnip, or sleep deprivation. I suddenly noticed with excitement how they looked like saucers straight out of films like The Day the Earth Stood Still… that is until the saucers drifted into a better angle and I realized I had been viewing three jets flying in formation edge on.

I’m not crazy. I just live on the verge of madness because it’s more interesting. But, I was mistaken. If I hadn’t kept watching perhaps I would have remained mistaken.

Does Edgar Mitchell have anything else to offer other than Stefano’s assertion that he’s not senile?

No.

You don’t have to be a lunatic to be mistaken. You just have to be human. Just because you went to the moon doesn’t make you any less human, any less subject to believing something that is crazy. It just makes you kinda cooler than other humans in one regard.

Al Gore Remix

Alright, alright… so I have been neglecting my blog quite a bit. I’ve been out of town and I’ve been taking finals for my summer college classes and I haven’t changed Quote of the Week nor done Ignunt Fool of the Week.

I’m sorry*.

Anyway, I’m breaking the silence by posting a video of Al Gore challenging America to use 100% clean energy in 10 years to help fight Global Warming.

Seen at “wecansolveit.org”

As a skeptic, I’m skeptical of whether or not we can do this but as Bill Nye the Science Guy taught me…

Science rules.

Oh, and if there are any Global Warming deniers lurking in the shadows, remedial science classes rule too.

*Sorry should be pronounced with a Canadian accent because.

The Sky is Falling!

Now that PZ has successfullly desecrated his cracker piece of the body of Christ, I’ve received a message from the “Fire Paul Zachary Myers” Facebook group.

In His own words:

“Yes, the sad little cracker has met its undignified end, so stop pestering me. The cracker, the koran, and another surprise entry have been violated and are gone. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the details, what little of them there are. I must quickly apologize to all you good Catholics who were hoping to attend Mass, since you can’t anymore — I have been told many hundreds of times now that cracker abuse violates your right to practice your religion. I guess you’ll have to adapt. Secular humanism is a good alternative, if you aren’t already flocking to join the Mormons.”

They missed the best part of PZ’s post!

Anyway, I’ve got important things to do today. It’s my oldest son’s birthday, and I told him that as a gift to me him, I’d take myself him to see The Dark Knight. I sure hope the world doesn’t end before the movie does.

Paul Zachary Myers is a man after my own heart. Batman is completely awesome.

Anyway, the rest of the Facebook message…

Pray for him and please join me in making Friday a day of reparation. I would also encourage you to NOT email myers.

Oh! Oh! Maybe they’re learning their lesson!

Then again, maybe not…

Instaed contact civil authorities in MN.

Contact the civil authorities because PZ desecrated a cracker? What? Are we going to start calling 911 whenever somebody offends a plate of spaghetti? If only the Pastafarians didn’t have a loving religion.

I’m sorry, but this is a secular society. You can’t throw PZ Myers in jail for desecrating a cracker any more than you can stone homosexuals.

Do not rely on the hate speech argument alone, but also point out he is doing this on the taxpayers dime.

Um… Even if PZ had done the desecration of a cracker in his workplace, what if he had done it on a coffee break? His blog isn’t even run on the site of the university he works for. It’s on Science Blogs which as far as I know does not receive federal money.

I love America. People are free to offend whatever type of food they want.

CFI Convocation Highlights

Did I mention that I just got back from New York from the CFI Student Leadership Conference? Well I did! So, just a few highlights…

I spent the weekend hanging out with a bunch of other sexy student freethought campus group leaders and the best part is… I wasn’t the only high school student! There were three of us!

The existence of other splendid high school students was awesome by itself. But! But but but but but… I also got to meet a few of my personal heroes.

And you may be wondering about my quote of the week. We wanted to see The Dark Knight but all show times were sold out until 1am and most of us didn’t have cars. DJ Grothe was kind enough to give me and three other students a ride there and back. That’s when he said the most completely funniest thing of the whole conference…

“Make sure your mother knows that I’m gay. I don’t want her getting the wrong impression about me taking fifteen year-old girls to movie theatres at 1 am.”

DJ Grothe

Anyway, I believe I’ve name dropped enough in this post. I’m going to miss that convocation so terribly.

Is Richard Dawkins Related to Emma Watson?

That’s the title of a thread I stumbled upon in The Emma Watson forums with this picture:

Isnt that creepy, dude?

Isn't that creepy, dude?

Compare it to a picture of Emma Watson (which I went ahead and nabbed from the banner of the forum):

Hermione Granger! Yayz!

Hermione Granger! Yayz!

Hell, when I met Richard Dawkins the first thing to run through my head was not “he looks a lot like Emma Watson” but “he looks shorter in person” and he doesn’t look like that in my recollection but… they do look pretty similar in that picture. That’s creepy, dudettes and dudes!

So, I sent a link to the thread to my theistic evolutionist friend and we both had a good giggle. But guess what? My theistic evolutionist friend was more of a skeptic than I was! Like that nagging feeling in the back of my head had told me, that’s not what Richard Dawkins actually looks like:

That is still pretty hot, eh.

That is still pretty hot, eh.

See the difference? My theistic evolutionist friend pointed out that it seems that somebody took an image of Emma Watson and superimposed it on teh Dawk. I really have no idea why anybody would do that but it’s still pretty amusing.

Now that I’ve done all this, I’m not quite sure how it relates to skepticism other than…

  1. Deeper investigations are necessary more often than you’d think and…
  2. Theists can be good skeptics too.

Damn, street lamps seem to relate to skepticism more than Richard Dawkins does.

Paranormal Schmaranormal

Recently in a comment someone posted something particularly ignunt. Since it is my personal policy to exterminate all ignunce I spot, I shall respond with a toast. If only the commenter had been Catholic. That would have earned me quite a few points for Piss Off The Catholics Month.

“Stefano” wrote:

Compliment for your analytical s kills.
But that does not prove that there are no paranormal phenomena. Of course there are often possibilities of other explanations, but that don’t proves anything, too.

Why don’t you read a certain time paranormal books like the books from Jane Roberts? They are very psychologic and scientific, too. Only if you accept a certain time alternative theories, than you can speak about experience, otherwise your words are nothing than prejudices.

Greets from Germany
Stefano

PS: Maybe you respond me via e-mail?

I would imagine that this is a bit better than email, so I’ll use this (observe how “email” is beginning to look like a proper word, rather than a misspelling of “e-mail.” I’ll do a toast on this phenomenon soon.).

English is not his first language, so I won’t mock his spelling and grammar. What he is saying, however, is particularly ignunt.

When I do logical smackdowns, I like to go for elegant proofs over easy ones when possible. Using the burden of proof is simply too easy. It certainly does apply here, but I can’t make a 919 or 616 word post out of “Prove it”, can I?

Here’s the elegant proof: There are no paranormal phenomena because any “paranormal” phenomenon which is observed and have an effect on the universe is thus natural by definition. QED. Any philosophers reading this will likely feel obligated to respond to this using several times the word count and with half the content. I will say only that the idea of anything “paranormal” “existing” is absurd. Thus we have no reason to concern ourselves with “paranormal” phenomenon.

As to the statement that “Only if you accept a certain time alternative theories, than you can speak about experience, otherwise your words are nothing than prejudices.”, I say this: No, not really.

I should probably elaborate, though that’s certainly not necessary. Burden of proof strikes again. Nasty little thing, isn’t it? Regardless, I do not accept “alternative theories” because if they were anything more than bullshit, they would be theories, not “alternative”. “Alternative _______” is a creative way of saying “The mean Western scientists won’t believe that (insert claim here) is true despite the fact that it can’t survive logical scrutiny!”.

Homeopathy, ghosts, gods, and other “alternative theories” are all bunk. They are all based on the same premises as any other theory, but add some more, unfounded premises. Some examples of this are: “like cures like”, “spirits or souls can become trapped on Earth”, or “God created the universe”. These are added to the basic premise of science that the universe is objective and logical. Anyone trying to prove anything has to accept this premise, since logic is the way you go about proving things. If what you say is not logical, it’s wrong, simple as that.

For reasons I’ve detailed above, “paranormal” events are almost certainly nonexistent.

For some reason alien life is often grouped in with paranormal phenomena. Life on Earth is natural. Life on another planet would be just as natural. The idea of alien life visiting Earth is silly, but certainly less silly than the idea of houses being “haunted”, or god existing. If I had the capacity to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before, Earth would be the last place I’d visit.

It helps to remember that we are just a pale blue dot in a vast cosmic arena. Nothing of consequence happened today.

For anyone wondering about the recent lull in posting, a combination of recent events have kept Elles and I from the site. Posting will resume as normal now.

Unicorns are very difficult to find.

Bunnies.

Digg I Are On

Okay, so I just joined Digg because it seems like it would be a good way for people who aren’t normally searching for this kind of stuff to find what I write and maybe, just maybe, get interested in this strange thing I call “skepticism.” I just submitted my first article so it would be completely awesome if you guys helped “Digg” it if you have Digg. Kthnx.

“Strange” Rock

Look everybody! It’s a strange rock!

Well, folks. I suppose we were wrong about aliens. Roswell has been contacted by extraterrestrials again. The Roswell Daily Record is reporting that they’ve found a “strange rock” that is raising questions.

A strange rock with unusual magnetic properties – deeply scored, with what appears to be moon phases, a solar eclipse and the depiction of a supernova — has been unearthed on the outskirts of Roswell. Its discovery has startled researchers, scientists and all who have examined it.

If proven to be of extraterrestrial origin, it will mark the second time in less than a century that the Roswell area has received communications from outer space.

Roswell Mayor Sam D. LaGrone, who actually saw and touched the rock over the weekend, said, “It is a very strange looking rock…. I touched it, I felt it, and I just don’t see how it could have been produced.”

Well let’s see… Maybe somebody… carved it in there? Hell, a Google search for “carved rocks” yields a company that will carve rocks for you. That’s just a guess off the top of my head. Even if I hadn’t made a possible guess, “I just don’t see how it could have been produced” isn’t a very good argument. If I could say “I just don’t see how to solve this problem” on my Math homework I’m sure it’d get done a lot faster but I wouldn’t actually gain anything.

“It retains its magnetic polarity by which it will spin a compass needle and register its magnetic field on meters,” he said. The oval rock will also spin, depending on the position of a magnet over the image surface, he added.

You know… considering the fact that this rock is apparently made of iron makes that really unsurprising.

Priscilla Wolf, of Tijeras, a native American woman known to have “powers,” visited the site were the rock was found last weekend, and said she felt a vibration in her hands when she held the rock, and that “light came down from the skies” when the rock was deposited at the site.

First, I’m going to take issue with the wording of the first sentence. It says that she is “known” to have powers. There is a difference between saying “known” to have powers and “believed” to have powers. Knowledge is something that you can prove. Belief is something that you pretty much have faith in. Where is the proof that she has powers? If she had proof, wouldn’t she have won James Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge and shaken the foundations of physics?

Secondly, why should we take her word for it? She could just be saying stuff so that we don’t question her “powers.” Even if she is sincere in “feeling a vibration” that could be nothing more than a subjective experience. Human senses can be easily fooled. Phil linked to a bunch of optical illusions earlier today.

Who knows? It could just be the power of suggestion.

Once in the 8th grade we were learning how to identify different rocks. My friend picked up one which we were having quite a lot of trouble identifying and held it in her hand for a while. She reported that she felt a strange electric feeling after holding it for a while and based on that thought it was whatever they use to make batteries.

Turns out it was just galena. It may be considered insensitive to say “it’s all just in your head” but it’s something that happens to all of us. We shouldn’t feel bad about ourselves just for being human and inevitably feeling things that aren’t there. After all, that’s what skepticism is for. It’s there to help us see through the mists of illusion.

Thank you, Roswell, for the continuance of putting forth solid evidence for extraterrestrial visitation.

For the Record

This is just a comment which I left on Friendly Atheist which I feel summarizes my personal feelings about Thrawn’s “Piss Off the Catholics Month.”

Because of the whole co-author situation, there has been some confusion in the past over who was posting what on my blog. For the record, “Piss Off the Catholics Month” was Thrawn’s idea, not mine.

I believe that it is our right to offend people, however, I think that in this case offense should be caused indirectly. Instead of actively trying to insult Catholics directly we should just do what Atheists normally do and if that offends them then that’s their problem.

I do support the idea of obtaining communion wafers and not eating them if only to assert the fact that we do not have to bow to their dogma. During the Civil Rights movement, blacks had to go out of their way to break segregation laws to make a point about them. We may need to go out of our way to break laws which claim that taking a cracker and not eating it is a hate crime. If Atheists continue receiving death threats for that then our point is simply being made for us.

OUT Campaign!

I’ve been keeping a dirty secret from all of you… I’m an Atheist! I’m coming out as an Atheist!

Well, okay, I imagine y’all already know that so… my real reason for this sloppyish pasting together of pictures to illustrate everything that I’m saying in the narrative is because there’s the possibility of winning free RDF merchandise if you post a video of your own. But I thought I’d share it anyway.