Wednesday, November 16, 2005

no new blogs this week

This week I am not posting any new blogs as I am busy at work and am moving house out of work time. Moving house is a huge mission. Packing sux. But does anyone wanna come help me move at about midday on Sunday the 20th?

In the meantime, I suggest you read this blog (in case you don't already):,

Friday, November 11, 2005

more inteligense

Big shoutouts to the blogspam that hit me within minutes of my first post, very efficient of you spammer, thanks.

Anyway on with yesterday's rant. In a stroke of absolute genuis Pat Robertson (Mr. 700 club, aka wacko-thief from confused old people) has claimed that Pennsylvania may be struck by some form of natural disaster since voting God out of their city. (See yesterday's blog link re the Dover school board decision to oust the godly folk and vindicate biology.) has the fully story.

One of the coollest calls he makes follows:

"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."
This reveals a terrifying aspect of the nature of these religious freaks. The idea that we can call on this supernatural deity for help in times of crisis is an awful idea, for two reasons.

The first reason that calling on God in times of crisis is a really shitty one is that it won't work. When there ain't nothin there, there ain't gonna be any help coming. If the placebo effect helps you think positive, all very well. However, if reliance on God stops you from actually doing something to save your own arse you are stupid, and far more likely to die than a realist who attempts to say, find clean water and blankets.

Secondly, by implying that God is the one responsible for saving our arses, we shift the responsibility away from people that actually could do something to alleviate human suffering. Given a choice between George Bush II and God, I'd choose Georgie every time. Don't get me wrong, the guy's a moron, but at least he exists and has access to capital. Even the hideous mess that was the gov'ments New Orleans relief effort was better than God's contribution.

A pervasive theme I've noticed is that truth is truckloads better than lies. Truth is consistent, and it means you can actually achieve stuff. When you are transparent with people about your motivations, actions, and the nature of reality, you are covering your own arse. It's heaps easier to remember too: when you've got some people believing A and have told others B, its gets confusing pretty quickly.

The actual achievements part is the most important thing that happens when honesty occurs. For example, our recent realisation that weather is a natural phenomenon that conforms to laws of cause and effect has meant real achievements. We can tell when an extreme hurricane or similar is iminent, and evacuate people to minimise harm. If on the other hand we still believed that weather patterns reflected the whim of the gods, we wouldnt bother to note surrounding weather patterns, because we wouldn't know nearby weather would likely move toward us.

Another excellent example of fact-based decisions being way more helpful that superstition based decision is medicine. Give me chemicals and surgery a thousand times over before bringing a crystal or prayer near my cancer-racked body.

Pat Robertson and others of his ilk make some really lame calls, which they wouldn't if they based their assertions on fact rather than the authority of a deity. Such as the following:

feminism encourages women to"kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians".

In that I am for gender equality, I am a feminist, but the evidence shows that I have never done any of the above. Heck, I haven't even killed a foetus yet. Basing statements on fact makes them far more likely to benefit humanity.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

dem bible bashers is crazy

It seems to be decision time in the US for some school boards. Biology (and the scientific method) are under attack by the shrill fury of "intelligent design" advocates. And the decisions are going both ways, while a school board election in Dover, Pennsylvania kicked out the anti-science brigade, replacing them with supporters of evolution,,zeliger,69964,2.html other boards have shown far less wisdom. Such manifest stupidity should be a thing of the past, but http:// shows a Kansas school board oust the scientists and reward the christian lobby by endorsing pro "intelligent design" dogma.

My favourite irony about any religious group is when they call themselves advocates of truth, or claim to be simply presenting both sides of the argument, or such nonsense. Rational appraisal of competing theories is what good scientists and philosophers do. Scientists also test their theories against the evidence. The best theories are falsifiable: they are posed in such a way that if the theory is incorrect, we will be able to tell. This is called being falsifiable. Note the -able part at the end of the word: being falsifiable doesnt mean that a theory is a false, it means that if it is false, there will be a way of telling. In this case, the theory is falsified.

Critics of evolutionary theory claim that it as it is "just a theory", it holds no more weight than any other theory. (Say, for example, an omnipotent omnipresent but never seen supernatural being that created humanity and loves us - but is quite willing to damn us to hell.) But they're SO WRONG!

Evolutionary theory is falsifiable. Because of the way fossilisation occurs - in layers mon - species throughout the fossil record will, if evolutionary theory is true, be preserved in a very specific way. The oldest species should be lower down in the rocks, while species that emerged more recently will be higher up. If a single fossil was found in the wrong level of rock, strong suspicion would be cast on evolutionary theory. Because this would mean that theories central to evolution - that early and late species did not co-exist - would be falsified.

By contrast, religion is notoriously non-falsifiable. It is often "faith-based": that is, we have no reasons, believe it because god(s) said it. (Though how anyone knows what god(s) said is beyond me.) I'd be fascinated to know any examples of religious people posing any arguments that they consider to be falsifiable; to my knowledge it has not occurred so far.

More on this soon.