Posts Tagged ‘pseudoscience’

And we wonder why we have such terrible politicians

April 5, 2011

It’s because stupid people elect them.

So if you’re in a line at the bank or something like that, and if the people with you in line are representative of this poll, then chances are that either the person in front of you or the person behind you doesn’t know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. And if you include the next person in line behind / in front of them in that group, chances are that one of them thinks the Earth has a hollow core, or that it’s frozen or some crazy shit like that.

In fact, usually you do have to wait in line when you go to vote. So think about that:  people who go to vote to elect people to make incredibly important decisions which affect all of us (by that I mean humans and not just Americans) can’t even grasp the very basic reality of our situation here on Earth. 41% think astrology is scientific? That’s just barely more than the percentage of eligible voters who turned out to vote in 2010.

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Please buy our useless junk so you can find nothing

October 26, 2010

Last year around this time of year I made fun of a Sun article which was essentially an advertisement for a theme park which was allegedly “haunted” by the “spirit world.” Since I am apparently very un-creative, I am going to do pretty much the same thing again this year.

But there’s a twist! This year’s Advertisement For Ghost-Related Business Disguised As A News Article (AFGRBDAANA) is from what’s supposed to be a more reputable newspaper, the Boston Globe.  The first problem here is with the headline:

So the obvious question here is this: Why do these gadgets only seem to work for those who already believe in wandering spirits? If they really did reveal evidence of ghosts, then they should help both believers and skeptics alike to find them. The fact that the headline needed to be qualified to apply only to believers implies that these gadgets only provide rationalizations for what the ghost hunters already decided to believe instead of real evidence which would then inform a belief one way or the other.

In the evolution-creationism “debate,” no scientist offers evidence for evolution on the condition that the audience already believe in evolution. The same is true for any other similar controversy. The evidence is supposed to be the basis for belief, not something you search for only after founding an opinion based on emotional whims.

Amateur ghost hunters hope these gadgets, which typically cost less than $100 each, will help them spot ghosts in haunted houses.

Gosh, they’re “typically” less than $100? What a bargain!

That quote above is factually accurate. People who call themselves amateur ghost hunters (as opposed to the really seriously professional ones) really do hope that the equipment will help them spot ghosts. But it’s still another example of a journalist not investigating far enough for fear of appearing “biased.” The job of an actual reporter assigned to a story like this should be to actually find out whether or not the products do as they claim. When Mark Baard puts that question aside, as he does in this article, he steps outside of journalism and into the field of advertising.

“I don’t believe that they detect ghosts, per se,”’ said Belanger… “But they might detect something that’s happened before, during or after a paranormal event.”

Really? How do you distinguish between the two, Mr. Salesman? Baard fails to follow up on this distinction. He just uncritically accepts it at face value. But seriously, why hold back here? Is he seriously trying to inject nuances into his ghost hunting business? I mean, come one, let’s not be ridiculous and claim that we’re detecting ghosts here. That would be nuts! But yeah, sure, events leave paranormal evidence behind which my products can detect. Everyone knows that, right?

Astrology-based politics

October 19, 2010

The 2010 mid-term elections has been a massive coming-out party for all kinds of crackpots. HIV deniers, creationists, anti-condom activists, and every other brand of conspiracy theorist have been nominated by their party to run for alarmingly high public offices. Journalists usually try to use reasonable methods to understand this unreasonable trend. At the very least, they try to make it sound like that’s what they’re doing.

But the innovative folks at AOLNews are taking a different path in their political reporting today. A guy who works there (I’m deliberately not calling him a reporter) talked to an astrologer named Shelley Ackerman about the elections and called it an article. Here’s how it begins:

Some swear by astrology. Others scoff at it.

That’s the beginning and end of Barry Weintraub’s investigation into the validity of astrology. It’s not like it’s his job to find out whether or not astrology actually works. That would be biased.

But here’s what’s not biased, for some reason: Pretending that an astrologer’s opinion of US politics is newsworthy.

Traditionally astrologers look to the lunation just before we go to the polls on Nov. 2 (in this case, the Oct. 22 full moon) to determine which party will fare better. And it’s no surprise that the elevation of Jupiter in the chart cast for Washington at 9:37 p.m. favors gains for the GOP, but how many?

Who among us didn’t know that the elevation of Jupiter means a Republican-controlled House? If you raised your hand just now, stop reading this now – for you are ignorant in the ways of astrology. It’s like the first rule: Most gas giants are very conservative. Those of us who were following this last election cycle may recall Saturn’s 2008 racist gaffe on CNN with Wolf Blitzer which many expert astrologers say cost John McCain the presidential election.

Ackerman later turns her focus to the Connecticut Senate race:

I’m having second thoughts about this one. Blumenthal (b. Feb. 13, 1946) was practically a shoo-in before he fibbed about serving in Vietnam. Bad move.

But why didn’t the stars tell her that this was going to happen? I thought this was the whole point of having professional astrologers in the first place. I am shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU that this astrologer only discovered this by reading it in the news instead of reading it from Neptune’s magical aura.

Will Neptune give Blumenthal the same magical aura that it provided for Palin in 2008, or will Saturn in Libra deliver the victory that McMahon has earned (and/or paid for)? It’s Blumenthal’s to lose: One false move and he will.

Come on, Ackerman! Don’t keep us in suspense! I really want to know about that magical aura’s political leanings. Maybe the entry on Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin will provide better information:

Astrologically aligned with the United States’ Aquarian moon, and buoyed by Neptune’s transit in Aquarius since 1998, will their popularity wane when Neptune enters Pisces for the first time (since 1860) in April 2011, or will their influence hold through the presidential election of 2012?

That’s where that entry ends. And then she goes on to another issue. She wouldn’t risk all of her well-deserved credibility on the election. But what else can you expect from a Libra?

REPOST: Epistemology

September 15, 2010

Orac at Respectful Insolence had a great post a month or so ago which really nailed some basic problems with accepting pseudoscience. Here’s a relevant excerpt:

Of course, even within New Age, skepticism seems to be without a basis. After all, if you accept astrology and fairies, really, on what possible basis can you reject channeling the dead?… Unfortunately, this is a completely predictable result. When one leaves science, rationality, and reason behind, there is no reliable way to differentiate one woo from another, one pseudoscience from another, one faith-based belief from another. When anything goes, nothing goes, and nothing can be included or excluded based on evidence. Everything is fair game.

This is something that inevitably comes up pretty much every time I try to talk to one of these believer people. It just seems obvious to them that their own beliefs – say, that homeopathy works – are somehow beyond testing and experimentation, or that there’s a massive conspiracy to cover up all the successful tests, or some other lame excuse. But when others use the exact same arguments to support beliefs which are even crazier – like that reptilian aliens have infiltrated human society up to the highest levels of government – somehow to them it is just as obvious that they are suddenly the crazy ones. But that’s hypocritical since they’ve already abandoned the idea of ruling out beliefs altogether in order to support their own.

It reminds me a lot of how some fundamentalist Christians will say that it’s crazy for Muslims to believe that Mohammed flew up into the sky on a horse, but it’s perfectly reasonable for them to assume that Jesus rose from the dead, hung out for 40 days, and then flew up into the sky without a horse. Or you can reverse that if you like, it’s all the same absurd double standard.

And whenever I talk to these people, I always think that if I can only show them how they can rule out pseudoscientific ideas which are just a little bit too crazy for them, they will have some “A-ha!” moment and realize how skeptics come to reject their ideas and the attempted justifications. And that they in fact use the pretty much the same methodology we are using when they dismiss ideas that seem too crazy, even to them. But that rarely happens.

People who are into woo generally just don’t like the idea of having some kind of epistemological foundation for belief, and they like even less that it is science that has proven to get us closer to the truth than any other proposed foundation so far. It would be pretty amazing if we as a civilization had reduced disease, extended life expectancy and increased quality of life by proposing that ideas be tested on the basis of whoever simply says “That’s what I believe,” but strangely enough that didn’t happen. And it probably won’t work in the future, either.

Russian creationists

June 15, 2010

New Scientist has this article about something an Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church said about how evolution “should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories too.” They’re pointing out that this is a lot like the “Teach the controversy” approach creationists here in America advocate as part of their “wedge strategy” and how that contrasts with the history of the godless commies of the Soviet Union.

But here’s the thing: Russians being wrong about evolution is not a new phenomenon. It’s not even necessarily a religious or post-Cold War one, either.

Way back around the early 19th century, there was this French naturalist called Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. His view was that species evolved, but since they didn’t know shit about genes back then he was completely wrong about how that happened. Lamarck thought traits acquired throughout an individual’s lifetime could be passed on to future generations along with traits which were originally inherited when the individual’s parents reproduced. So a crude way of putting it is that if you have a rat born with large eyes whom for some reason had its tail cut off, according to Lamarck the rat’s progeny should have large eyes and short tails. Also giraffes apparently got their long necks by stretching for food in tall trees, and then passing that stretchiness on to their offspring, according to Lamarck. To be fair, Darwin didn’t know shit about genes either and he was wrong about how units of heredity worked too, but in less significant ways.

Anyway, by the early 20th century Mendel‘s theory of genetics merged with Darwin’s theory on the origin of species and that’s kind of the founding of modern biology. But – and this is where we get back to Russia – at the same time a “geneticist” called Trofim Lysenko starting reviving a hyper-politicized version of Lamackism in the Soviet Union. He managed to convince the political leadership that the accepted theory of genetics was wrong. And he did that not with scientific evidence, but by appealing to its consistency with the prevalent political philosophy of the country.

Funnily enough, if you read the Wedge Document, you’ll see that that’s exactly the approach creationists at the Discovery Institute are now using. Instead of basing theories on facts, they want to base theories on ideologies. For the Discovery Institute, their problem with Darwinian evolution is that it’s too materialistic. For Stalin and Lysenko, their problem with Darwinian evolution was that it wasn’t advocating the exact right kind of materialism. Both camps care(d) more about the implications of scientific theories than about whether or not they were true.

Another weird similarity between modern creationists and Stalin-era pseudoscientists is this weird tendency to try very hard to associate complex issues with a single person. So for creationists, evolutionary biology isn’t just that; it’s DARWINISM. And for Lysenko, genetics wasn’t just genetics, it was “Mendelism-Weissmanism-Morganism.” But then again, you get that with lots of issues which attract kooks – health care reform is “Obamacare,” global warming is really all about Al Gore, etc…

Anyway, even though it apparently helps to spread pseudoscience if you wear funny costumes and have religious beliefs, it’s not completely necessary. The right dichotomy here is between following evidence and following ideology. A lot of times religion has something to do with it, but that’s not the beginning and end of the problem with attacks on science.

Hypnotist sexually assaults patient

February 1, 2010

So Stephen Barker is a “hypnotherapist” and one day he had a patient who came to him with weight loss issues. So naturally, he decided to go with the tried and tested Grab Her Boobs method of treatment.

I know you’re probably thinking that this guy looks so normal and definitely not like a creepy British version of Freddy Krueger or anything like that. But you’ll probably change your opinion of him when you read this (cue bow-chicka-bow-wow music):

‘He told her it was for her own good and asked her to touch her own breasts.
‘She refused and he then used his left hand to stroke her breast and held it there for over a minute.
‘He told her “Yes you like this. Does it feel nice?”.
‘He then used his free hand to remove her trousers and knickers and began to rub her.’
Barker then told her ‘relax, open your legs, enjoy it’ before she snapped out of her hypnotised state and realised what was happening.
He then said ‘we could have had sex but I wanted to keep it professional at the moment’ before she fled the scene.

It’s so heartwarming that he kept it professional that way. That’s one classy hypnotherapist. Anyway, he’ll probably have opportunity to be told “Yes, you like this” many times over his 10 months in prison, although I don’t know if his cellmate will be as professional as he was to his patient.

Have you ever stared at the back of a dollar bill… on South African vulture brains?

January 4, 2010

Vultures in South Africa are in danger of going extinct because gamblers are smoking their brains. They believe doing this will give them visions of the future – like lottery numbers and the outcomes of sporting events.

This is one of those crackpot ideas that should have a short shelf life. If people were rational, they’d see that the people they know who smoke vulture brains then (probably) don’t win the lottery – and then stop smoking vulture brains. But it seems to have become an obsession on its own, kind of like how gambling itself can to some people. Just… a few… more… vulture brains….

From the Guardian article:

Andre Botha, manager of the birds of prey working group at the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa, said: “People believe it’s foresight and this finds fertile ground in people’s imagination. If it worked for the lottery, everyone would use it and we’d have a lot of millionaires walking around today.
“There is a lot of betting in South Africa. So we may see an increase connected to gambling around the 2010 World Cup.”

For some reason the Guardian is calling people who do this “traditional healers” instead of more appropriate terms, like quack. It’s not objective to refer to this as “traditional,” it’s just enabling.

There are parallels to this around the world. The vulture brain story is just the one to become a news story recently. Another problematic area in “traditional healing” is the use of ground-up Rhinoceroses’ horns in China as an antidote to poisons, devil posessions, to keep away evil spirits, to cure typhoid, headaches, fever, dysentery, smallpox, and pretty much everything else. Similar use waste of tiger bones in China has led to their demise in that part of the world.

So people who are interested in preserving a diversity of animal species on Earth are left with what some might approach as a dilemma. They want to protect endangered species, but many of those same people have a misguided but well-intentioned desire to preserve marginalized human cultures – and never mind what those human cultures happen to be doing, even if it’s in direct conflict with the goal of protecting endangered species.

So the obvious solution, at least it’s obvious to me, is to not worry so much about how “OMG IT’S THEIR CULTURE” when that involves doing unnecessary harm. Otherwise you’ll have no reason to use that same principle to defend witch hunts and human sacrifices in the interests of communities which do that sort of thing.

Anyway, the important thing to remember about all of this is that smoking vulture brains will let you see the future.

Psychic predictions for 2010

December 14, 2009

So it’s almost the time of year when “psychics” make their predictions for the next 12 months. It is too bad that most people who actually read these predictions will forget what they’ve read before even flushing the toilet. Although it can’t be said that they’re always wrong, they’re most definitely all bullshit. There are a few different varieties of bullshit in psychic predictions, so I’m going to walk you through them and while doing so I will predict some things at you. And I expect them to be at least more accurate than those of the “psychics,” since I am a Capricorn which means that I am a perfectionist. Also I apparently like antiques, now.

The Inevitable

One of the most important aspects of pretending to have supernatural powers is the ability to make very general predictions or “readings” which appear to be very specific on the surface. This depends on a psychological phenomenon known as the Forer Effect, which is what happens when people interpret generally human characteristics as exclusive to them personally. For example, people who hear something like the following will identify with it, thinking that whoever is making this kind of “reading” has a deep understanding of them:

“You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
Forer study, 1948

“Psychics” can and do use the Forer effect to to their advantage by “predicting” current trends to simply continue. So I predict that Buffalo sports teams will disappoint the Western New York area, earthquakes will strike Japan and California, explosions which kill innocent people will occur in Central Asia, and catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes will hurt the poor the most.

The Ongoing

This is done more often than you might expect. If something has been happening for a while, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that it will continue. For example, I predict that Australia will experience a drought in 2010 which could exacerbate the effects of possible wildfires. The problem with this prediction is that Australia has been in a drought since around 2000, so this is not something new. Some of the fires they experienced over the past year constituted a national emergency. Nevertheless, I stand by my prediction and if it remains true, I will have COMPLETELY PROVED MY MAGIC POWERS.

And if the drought yields, well, then I can count on people either confusing the 2009 drought with the 2010 prediction or forgetting it altogether.

The constellations are also telling me that American military presence in Afghanistan will sharply increase. Sure, maybe I just read about that in the news, but it’s more fun to imagine that I figured it out with magic. NOW GIMME ALL UR MONEY PLZ. Er, I mean, I will be accepting your kind donations in exchange for, uh, spiritual guidance, or something.

Actual predictions

If this were the only kinds of predictions “psychics” made, they would be ignored. Of course the danger with making specific predictions is that most of them will end up being wrong. However, you can depend on confirmation bias in your audience. The people who will be reading your predictions will want you to be right – otherwise they probably wouldn’t be reading it in the first place. So they can be counted on to forget all your failures and over-hype any possible successes. For example, around this time last year SkepChick founder Rebecca Watson predicted that Michael Jackson would die in 2009. Pretty impressive, huh? It doesn’t matter that she made other predictions which failed since that one happened to succeed. Well, at least that’s how it would go if predictions like that one weren’t made in jest by a skeptic.

So with that mind, here are some more predictions of this type: 100 new exoplanets will be discovered, Oprah Winfrey will collapse of a heart attack, there will be a great breakthrough in interspecies communication between humans and dolphins, and a South American political leader will be assassinated.

Non-predictions

I saved my favorite category for last. These are just random mixes of “spiritual” sounding words to give the impression that the business of pretending to be psychic has some realm of expertise, even though it doesn’t. That being the case, the non-predictions necessarily have to be New Age gobbledygook. People all over the world will need to achieve quantum consciousness in order to live their best life ever. Science is just another narrative where certain people invent their own reality. Matter doesn’t exist. That kind of thing. Is it giving you a headache yet? Yeah, me too.

So I hope you will all use these helpful hints in order to fool credulous people into devoting their life and savings to you so that you can start your own hedonistic sex cult.

Prince Charles urges EU medical deregulation

December 3, 2009

England’s most famous welfare queen – besides the actual queen – is meeting with the UK’s health secretary to get him to cancel proposed EU medical regulations which would “crack down” (words of the Telegraph) on people who practice medicine without being registered to do so.

Imagine that! It’s like the EU wants to enter the 20th century already in this regard.

Prince Charles has been outspoken in his advocacy of certain antiscientific positions. For example, he’s opposed to so-called genetically modified crops because to do otherwise would be to take us into “realms that belong to God and God alone.” Apparently he doesn’t understand that crops have been genetically modified by humans ever since there were such things as crops, during the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago.

Likewise, he doesn’t seem to understand the importance of regulating medicine, which is funny for what’s supposed to be the “nanny state” of the UK where regulation is taken a bit too far. He sees the deregulation of medical practices as protecting the “alternative medicine” industry, of which he has long been a strong supporter from promoting coffee “cures” for cancer to homeopathy and herbal remedies which has angered actual doctors who understand medicine. Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst even dedicate a chunk of their book to countering Charlie’s claims about such “medicine.”

It’s often said that there’s this word for “alternative medicine” that’s been proven to work: It’s “medicine.” So alternative medicine by definition either has yet to have been shown to work, or has been shown not to work. If you want your remedies and magic potions to be considered medicine, why not test them and have them join the rest of medicine? After all, it’s not like this is a foreign concept. Lots of medicine was once in the same category as herbal remedies, but then it was tested and shown to work. If it can’t pass those tests, then there are good reasons to regulate them and point out clearly that the results of such testing are consistent with them not working at all.

That’s what Charles would be doing if he actually cared about showing that his quackery works. But he doesn’t. He just wants more money poured into the multi-billion dollar industries he favors for his own personal, ideological reasons.

Similar:

The Men Who Stare At Goats

November 12, 2009

Here is my review:

OK, the thing with making a journalistic book into a movie is that usually you need to construct some kind of narrative around it that was never in the original story. Plus, it doesn’t really work well in film to have 50 different character appearances to impart information to the journalist. All these stories that go into the larger picture in the book form need to be collapsed so that you have one actor representing things said or done or referred to by several different actual people.

But the added narrative, even if it’s invented, should have some kind of vague thematic connection with the original work. In this movie, it doesn’t. I would think that even people unfamiliar with Ronson’s book would find the whole journalist’s-wife-leaving-him-for-his-editor-so-he-tries-to-prove-himself-by-going-to-a-war-zone thing contrived.

Same goes for the ending as well, which just seemed like a last minute dog-ate-my-homework addition in order to inject some conflict and tension into the storyline, such as it existed. But really, these kinds of books which are largely just exposes, huge extensions of a feature story for a magazine, don’t translate into film very well. So maybe this was just a bad idea and doomed from the start.

Charlene Werner and Homeopathy

November 5, 2009

I try not to write about stuff that’s been dealt with by PZ Myers on his blog Pharyngula, simply because it’s the most popular blog dealing with science and atheism since, like, ever. But the subject of this post probably should be duplicated as much as possible for reasons which should become obvious soon.

About a week ago, this video started being circulated around skeptical circles. It’s a person called Charlene Werner trying to explain homeopathy.

“Do you know what H2O is? Do you know who Einstein was? Do you know who Stephen Hawkings [sic] is?”

Yeah. Wow. Depending on my mood, it’s either hilarious or painful to me.

So it looks like this Charlene Werner person decided to contact the original poster of this video with a sort of threatening letter, claiming that it is copyrighted material. But this isn’t about her trying to make money off of this footage, this is about her being embarrassed about being called names (and rightfully so) on the internet. It seems like Charlene Werner and the king of Thailand both need to learn about the Streisand effect. And they’ve apparently decided to take that lesson the hard way.

Vaccines will kill us all

October 20, 2009

Louis Farrakhan has joined the party with his fellow medical professionals Bill Maher and Jenny McCarthy in trying to scare people into not getting the swine flu vaccine:

“The Earth can’t take 6.5 billion people. We just can’t feed that many. So what are you going to do? Kill as many as you can. We have to develop a science that kills them and makes it look as though they died from some disease,” Farrakhan said, adding that many wise people won’t take the vaccine.

Farrakhan doesn’t seem aware that “science” is a method, not a vaccine or a poison. But I do agree that there are many wise people who won’t take it. Lots of wise people are dead, so that would prevent them from getting it. I don’t think that’s what Farrakhan meant, though.

Anyway, here is a good summary of how we really know that these people are wrong. And here are some more search engine terms which have led people here, for your amusement.

  1. david attenborough naked
  2. demons in h1n1 vaccine
  3. does god want me to get h1n1 immunizatio
  4. mind-controlling nanobots flu shot
  5. banana man ray

I am really not sure which is less sane – wanting to see a naked David Attenborough or worrying about demons and mind-controlling nanobots in a flu shot.

Stupid theme park management is stupid, even by those standards.

October 16, 2009

I think I’ve been somehow sent back in time to the 12th century, except it’s in a different possible past since this one appears to have things like working computers which erroneously report the current year as 2009. It can’t possibly be 2009, because of this:

“SPOOKED bosses at a theme park have suspended six members of staff and called in an exorcist after a late night seance on their top horror ride sparked a string of ghostly happenings.”

It’s like a Monty Python skit. OH NO YOU EVIL ONES HAVE SUMMONED SPIRITS ONTO THIS PLACE, BEGONE YE, THOU ART BANISHED WITHOUT PAY. QUICKLY, FETCH THE EXORCIST SO THAT WE MIGHT ONCE AGAIN KNOW PEACE.

Here’s some of the alleged evidence collected by those fine journalistic minds at the Sun:

“Lights started to go on and off with no explanation”

Do lights going on and off ever explain themselves? Am I missing something?

OK, that was pretty lame, but seriously – “no explanation?” They might not know with absolute certainty, but surely there are explanations. Someone could be playing a prank. Or it could be that sometimes shit just happens. How’s that for an explanation? Nothing works perfectly, including lights. And in a scary place like Thorpe Park (you can tell it’s scary because the picture in this article has a guy in a mask apparently about to attack the photographer, and they used some green tint on it), it’s not surprising that people would make more of this sort of fuss about an electrical issue than in, say, an office workplace.

That quote above is attributed to “a Thorpe park insider.” They must protect this crucial informant’s identity. I don’t blame them, really. If it’s one of those suspended workers, their drooling, knuckle-dragging bosses might lock them up in the stockades.

I wish it ended there. But it doesn’t. Oh, the stupids, it burns so very badly:

“Thorpe Park in Surrey has now called in Rev Lionel Fanthorpe, the UK’s leading authority on the unexplained, who is currently examining the ride for evidence of paranormal activity.”

The bold print here is my own emphasis. How does someone become an authority on the unexplained? Doesn’t being an authority on a subject involve being able to explain it? Rev Lionel Fanthorpe is the leading authority on absolutely nothing, in the UK or anywhere else. That’s what the quote above really means. Because if he could explain the unexplained, it WOULDN’T BE UNEXPLAINED ANYMORE. But they’re claiming he has expertise on something when they say that. What could it be?

“[Ouija boards open] a gateway to another dimension and when people who are not experienced spiritualists play with Ouija boards, mischievous entities can get through as may have happened here.”
-Rev Lionel Fanthorpe

Here’s what this “authority on the unexplained” looks like:

Oh no, my bad. That’s actually his fellow GhostBuster Bill Murray.

There is a bit of a resemblance, though:

Oh and just in case you were wondering, these people are totally not doing it for the publicity or anything like that. They are taking the feedback “very seriously.” Not seriously enough to shut the place down though. Just seriously enough so that they can get what amounts to free advertising in the Sun. Oh and here, apparently, too, but I doubt anyone reading this would or could go there if they wanted to, and I hope they don’t.

Only half of American adults want H1N1 vaccine

September 24, 2009

The other half are just dumb, apparently. To be fair, this was an internet study so the results might be a bit biased.

But then I have to wonder about that, because it’s not like half of Americans read “Natural News” and other New Age crackpots. So where does this irrational fear come from?

Debbie Goddard at the Center For Inquiry might have an answer to that question. She received an email from some pastor about the role of the H1N1 vaccine in the “End Times.” He hilariously describes his “vision” showing him that, although he thought he was amongst sheep, they were really WOLVES IN DISGUISE!!!!!! Get it?  They looked like sheep, but they were really wolves in disguise. It’s almost as if they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.

After this revelation, God did that authorial intrusion thing it sometimes does:

Here, God spoke to me saying ‘my son, every person will be asked to compulsorily take immunization against the swine flu in the next few days. This is a disguise. They will in the process be infected with demons from the abyss; all who do not have my spirit and my seal upon them. Yes, it will be such that that they will receive a deadly spirit inoculated into them.

Two things occur to me:

  1. Did Mesac Damas get an advance version of the “deadly spirit” injection? Is that how the devil got him?
  2. God’s promise about every person being forced to vaccinate against H1N1 sounds like a testable claim. If this actually happens “in the next few days,” I will sell everything I own and become a mindless servant to this pastor. Actually, I’ll be generous and interpret “the next few days” as being until the end of flu season.

On that second point, I wonder if this pastor will admit he was mistaken in his “vision” if everyone is not forced to vaccinate. I guess we will have to wait and see. [UPDATE: Good debunking of H1N1 antivaccine fears here]

The Large Hadron Collider is going to destroy everything again. Really this time.

September 8, 2009

The Large Hadron Collider is being restarted again this month. So here are some reasons why the LHC = awesomeness:

It will tell us something about the fundamental particles of matter regardless of the outcome. For example, if they find the Higgs boson, it will confirm that theory and raise even deeper questions about physics which nobody can yet forsee. And if they don’t find it, then they’d have exchanged error for truth and have to go back to the drawing board with newer and better ideas, one of them having been falsified. The same goes for things like dark matter, dark energy, extra dimensions like suggested by string theory, and the possibility of a unified field theory.

Its findings will inspire future generations of physicists who will then find out even more about how the Universe works.

It will help teenagers get laid by inducing end of the world panic in people without understanding of what the LHC actually is.

The same fear-mongering will create internet joke fodder.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111111

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111111

Suicide cults will do their ‘cult suicide’ thing. Hilarity will ensue.

Creationists will either try to claim that the findings prove God created the Universe or that the findings are all part of a “Big Science” conspiracy a la Ben Stein. Hilarity will ensue.

Time travelers might show up. But probably not.

It will give nerdy musicians more inspiration for their craft: