Archive for February 2010

Bogus Facilitated Communication

February 23, 2010

In November, there was a well publicized news story that told of a man stuck in a coma for 23 years who began to communicate with his doctors. The stellar journalistic tome that is the Daily Mail gave the story the headline of “Man trapped in 23-year ‘coma’ reveals horror of being unable to tell doctors he was conscious“.

Oddly enough, in the entire length of the story, then never once reveal how he “talked” with doctors, alluding to some miracle computer system that allowed him to chat freely with the outside world. He had another tool they never mentions: a Facilitated communicator. This story corrects the error. The patient had never communicated.

Nobody wants anybody to be stuck in a coma forever , but what we really don’t want is to be lied to. If they story had been true, it would have been great. But, what we have is a John Edwards type charlatans, whether they knew it, or were convincing themselves they could do it. Double Blind testing is a must and is the very foundation of science.

The coma “miracle recovery” crowd is much like vaccination deniers: they are both so commited to proving their point, that they have lost sight of their goal, to find a solution. They instead spend all their time trying to convince themselves they are right, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Yes, we do need to know as much as we can about an individual’s state before we make decisions about their lives, but lying about it is about as wrong as anyone can get.


God of the Week: Ahriman

February 22, 2010

God of the Week 02/22/10: Ahriman
Ahriman (or Angra Mainyu) is the Zoroastrian devil, seen as an equal and opposite counterpart to the creator god Ahura Mazda.

This dualistic aspect of the Iranian religion is given credit for influencing the combatant nature of Satan and Yahweh in Judaism and Christianity. Before exposure Zoroastrianism during the Babylonian Exile, the character of Satan played a much more benign part, acting as more of an informant with no power of his own to do evil things. After exposure to Zoroastrianism, though, Satan became a more powerful evil counterpart to Yahweh.

Below is a description of the Zoroastrian hell, found in a pit under the Cinvat Bridge watched over by Ahriman:

There the souls of the wicked stand, as close as the ear to the eye, and as many as the hairs on the mane of a horse, and they also are submitted to various torments according to their different offences. At the very bottom of the abyss is Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), the Evil Spirit, who ridicules and mocks the wicked in hell, saying, “Why did you ever eat the bread of Ahura Mazda, and do my work and thought not of your own creator, but practised my will.”‘
-Mythology of All Races, Vol 6, Indian Iranian

God’s Top Ten Hissy Fits

February 17, 2010

Let’s face it, God occasionally acts a bit childish.

God’s Top Ten Hissy Fits

  1. Kicks Adam and Eve of the house
  2. The Flood: Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth. So he killed them (Genesis 6:5 to 9:29). Not everyone, though. He let a drunk and his kids live. Afterward, they all split ups “after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations”. But , half a chapter later they are of one language again. I guess nothing lasts. Noah was billed as the “first tiller of the soil (Genesis 9:20a RSV)”, leading Cain to say “hey, what about me?”
  3. Tower of Babel: In those days, the whole earth had one language … again. But, then some guys decided to build a tower, so he (it actually says they) “came down” and “confounded” their language. That’ll show ’em. Apparently none of the skyscrapers today bother him so much. (Genesis 11).
  4. Destroying Sodom: The men of Sodom were wicked, wicked I tell you! The women, on the other hand, were quite mild. So mild, in fact, that they had no problem being thrown to a mob to be raped in place of two strangers (their father generously telling the crowd, “you may do to them as you wish”-Genesis 19:8). As generous as the offer was, it just wasn’t enough: Kaboom! Dead, Baby! Yahweh rained brimstone down on Sodom … and Gomorrah, which wasn’t visited in the story but is, apparently, a suburb of some kind – Genesis 19.
  5. Moses is forever banned from the Holy Land for not following directions (Numbers 20:1-13)
  6. Snakes: While in the dessert, the Israelites complained. Boom! Venomous snakes, bitches! Numbers 21:4-9
  7. Kills the sons of Aaron, for mixing their incense wrong. Bam! Dead! Leviticus 10:1-2
  8. Smotes Uzza for touching the ark of the covenant, Kaboom, dead baby! 2 Samuel 6:3-7
  9. Gives hemorrhoids to Ashdod and the Philistines, 1 Samuel 5:5-7
  10. Kills his kid to prove a point (New Testament). He’s God, he can do anything he wants, I guess. But,  in no way was this necessary. An educational film about how bad we are would have worked.

Never Surrender

February 16, 2010

Lt. Hiroo Onoda was the Japanese soldier that proved that truth was stranger than fiction with his refusal to surrender for 29 years after the end of WWII. During his time hiding in the jungles of the Philippines, many attempts were made to contact Onoda and his battalion of 3 men. Notes that told them that the war was over, come down, were left for them to find. Onoda and his men did find the notes, but determined that they were a tricks meant to deceive them.

Today, like Onoda, Creationists refuse to accept any evidence contrary to their belief systems. Carbon dating, geologic stratification, fossils and their placement by complexity rather than size, DNA evidence like pseudo-genes and viral DNA, chromosomal similarities between humans and apes, developmental biology, astronomical dating of the universe, anatomical similarities between species and their ties to geological proximity rather than environmental niche, plate tectonics, bacterial resistance, race circles

Attempts to refute the evidence come down to misrepresentation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics or outright fabrications like “irreducible complexity”. But, in the end, it all comes down to one thing. A book written by ancient people, old information, says so. The people that wrote these writings didn’t know much about the Earth; why would they? They had only seen a very small portion of it and had no instruments in which to measure things. There is no fault to be found in the ancient Hebrews, the ancient Christians, or the ancient Muslims. But, we know more about the world now. And, anyone that refuses to listen to new information is destined to be left behind while the rest of the world marches forward.

Look Out, Gay Marriage Could Lead to Anal Sex

February 15, 2010

New Hampshire State Representative Nancy Elliott (R) is against gay marriage because … she thinks anal sex is icky! Yes, that’s right, she’s willing to deny civil rights to other human beings because of what her sexual preferences are.

Well, at least she’s honest and we finally get to hear that the entire marriage dispute is based on little kid arguments (sex is icky, you have cooties, ewwww). The outrageously ludicrous arguments that allowing homosexual couples to marry could “ruin marriage” or  that it somehow discriminates against the Christian religion were pretty weak it is pretty obvious that they were merely covers for people that were afraid to sound like outright bigots.  Luckily, Rep Elliott knows no fear.

God of the Week: Cronus

February 15, 2010

God of the Week 02/15/2010: Cronus (Saturn)

Cronus was the ancient Greek god of time. He is often represented with a scythe and an hour glass … which is probably symbolic of something ominous (you know those Greeks – full of drama). The Romans associated Cronus with their god, Saturn, because of their similarities.

Cronus was the god of time in its sense of eternal duration … Cronus, having an uneasy conscience, was afraid that his children might one day rise up against his authority, and thus verify the prediction of his father Uranus. In order, therefore, to render the prophecy impossible of [fulfillment], Cronus swallowed each child as soon as it was born … Zeus … dethroned his father Cronus, became supreme god in his stead, and was universally venerated as the great national god of the Greeks.

-E. M. Berens, The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Religion and Racism

February 12, 2010

An article at Science and Religion Today reveals that a link has been found between devout religious congregations and racism. Sadly, I’m not real surprised at this:

“The studies show there’s significantly less racism among people who don’t have strong religious beliefs, while highly devout religious communities exhibit more prejudice against people of other races (with seminaries showing the highest degree of racism).”

And, of course, the more conservative a person is, the more racist they tend to be, as well. Well, color me not surprised.

It appears that the highly religious instinctively put people into “us/them” categories: believer/nonbeliever, moral/immoral, good/bad, black/white, etc.

Link to more in depth write up.