Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chiropractic "Care"

(Note: this is the infamous article on chiropractic that got Simon Singh sued. It is being reposted all over the web today by multiple blogs and online magazines. I am reposting this from PZ's post at Pharyngula.)

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results - and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that "99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae". In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying - even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: "Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck."

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict

Da Bomb from Pilgrimage Blog asked me to review these videos of the truthfulness of the New Testament. They are composed by Josh McDowell, who is selling a book. These videos are supposed to be a small part of the book.

First the man on the street thing is not an accurate representation of what is being done in Textual Criticism. It is not even an accurate view of what most people think, just of the people they interviewed and used in the video.

The first video, he really says nothing. He makes a claim about what young people say but that is still not evidence.

The second video. It starts out talking about papyrus and its fragile nature. This is true. It is a plant and without the proper treatment, which they didn't have at the time of its use, it will rot and decay. He then references a story about an archeologist finding a book of the Bible and holding it to the light where it is destroyed. Well who is the archeologist? It is a neat story but what kind of archeologist is stupid enough to not take care of papyrus when they find it. That is very amateurish.

He keeps using the phrase bibliographic test, I tried looking this up and it only comes up on Christian websites. What he describes are part of the process used in textual criticism but not all of it.

Comparing classical literature to religious documents is comparing apples to oranges. Religious documents are more important to the followers than other forms of literature. Also he claims that we have copies from 50-60CE, but he does not cite what they are. Instead he cites documents from 125CE and later. Codex Sinaiticus is known to be written in the 4th Century or in the 300CE. Notice he didn't mention when it was written. The same goes with Codex Vaticanus, again 4th century. Here is a list on Wiki of each source and when it is dated. Notice there is very little in the early years, it is not until the 9th century and later do the large numbers show up.

He also seems to be making the claim the original documents were written during Jesus' time. I have never heard anyone say that. Again the beginning of Luke it admits that is a story handed down to the writer. Plus how many of the Disciples could read and write? At best one, more than likely zero.

Josh is talking about the number of documents. All the copies have errors, every single one of them. He makes the claim that we know we have the originals because we have a bunch of copies with errors. Well that is just false. The Wiki list, I cited earlier, also notes that we have between 200,000 to 300,000 variations of the New Testament alone. We can't know that we have it exactly like the original. A good example is that scholars believed the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus in the book of John was part of the original for a long time. In recent years some older texts were found, some around 200CE, that showed the story was not in John originally. Yet it is still placed in most Bibles. So without having originals we can't know for certain we have good copies. Instead all we know is we have the majority consensus on what was taught at the time of the last big group of copies.

He goes back to comparing apples and oranges. People put a greater emphasis on the Bible because of its claims. If Caesar had claimed he was the son of Jupiter and he died and came back to life, then yes there would be a lot more scrutiny as to its truthfulness. Caesar does not make this claim. Plus we have archeological evidence that Rome conquered Europe. I have walked down streets built by the Romans in England, and have touched the pavement stones they used in the streets. There is more to it than just the one book about Caesar and the Gallic War.

He is still comparing apples and oranges, there is more to it than just manuscripts and how close they are to the source. Also the claims of each are far different than the Bible.

Video 3: He talks of the early church fathers about copying of scriptures. This is true. Those also contradict with some of the copies we have found. Also the writings of the early church fathers are considered as part of the source for the New Testament. Notice also those early church fathers were before the Council of Nicaea in 325CE where it was voted on what the church should teach. The first official Bible was pieced together from the various writings circulating in 382CE.

Josh again makes the claim that what we have is what was written down originally. He does not know that, nor can he know that.

He skips over that the earliest copy of a Gospel we have is 200CE and that is a single fragmentary copy of John. Most of them the oldest we have is around 250CE.

He is now claiming the Truthfulness of the Gospel. At least he is not claiming Luke is an eyewitness, but he is claiming that the others are. He is claiming Theophilus hired Luke. notice he does not cover who Theophilus is. Theophilus is a title, it just means friend of God, it in no way tells us if it was an eyewitness or not. Luke, like Matthew, copies a lot from Mark. Luke was also written around 60CE, this is known because Luke did not write about the death of James in 62CE or the fall of the temple in 70CE.

Josh starts to just making assertions without evidence. He is claiming that the early church people knew Jesus, so that any story that came out that was not true would be called out on. Where does he get this idea? Matthew makes the claim that people rose from the grave when Jesus died and that these people were seen by many. Where is this recorded anywhere else? Where are Jesus' miracles recorded anywhere else? If something like that happened, it wouldn't be in just one book. It would be something talked about by everyone, yet it seems confined to one book, and really only one book of the Bible.

He admits that Mark is not an eyewitness. First off, we don't know who wrote Mark. The name was given to it, because people thought it was Mark the evangelist that wrote it. Now there is some evidence that it was a disciple of Peter that wrote Mark. It is still unknown. Josh is making the comment that it was written by someone scribing for Peter. If that is true, then Peter would have signed off on it and it would be known as Peter. Letters written by Paul were transcribed, but Paul signed them and sent them to the churches. Most of the oldest manuscripts from the Bible are Paulian letters. We attribute these writings to Paul not the scribe.

Next he talks of an attorney that wrote a book, and claimed that Mark would be considered an eye witness. Without reading her book, I can only make guesses as to what her standard of evidence was on who wrote Mark. I would venture the guess that she makes the claim as Josh does here that he was a scribe for Peter. There is no evidence for this. At best the writer of Mark may have been a disciple of Peter.

Josh proceeds to quote 1 John to verify the truth of the Bible. Quoting the Bible to prove the Bible, I believe that is circular reasoning. 1 John is traditionally attributed to John and it seems to be the same writer as the Gospel of John, 2 John and 3 John. It was written around 100-110CE. If it was written by John he would have been very old. Again we actually do not know who wrote it.

Again he uses the Bible to prove the Bible in referencing 2 Peter. Really, Peter denies that they made up stories, shocking. I am sure Mohammad denied making up stories also. I know Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, claimed he did not make anything up.

Josh knows it was the truth because the disciples died for it. Do of Heaven's Gate cult died for the story he made up. Joseph Smith of the Mormons was also martyred for his beliefs. Just because they died for it, does not make it true.

I love his theatrics, like he is trying to recall the verse off the top of his head instead of this all being scripted. He now quotes John 20:30-31, where it talks of the many other signs. These signs are never recorded by anyone, other than in the Bible. Why would no one else write about these things? That just does not make sense. Technically these other signs aren't even recorded in the Bible. John just states they existed.

Video 4. This starts off with another man on the street style interviews about whether religion could be proven in a court of law. Even though I agree with the people, are any of them lawyers? Are any of them textual critics? I am going to guess possibly to the first. No to the second question. This proves or disproves nothing.

The first thing Josh says is that all the evidence for the Bible can be found in the Bible. Corroborating evidence is what most people rely on. Josh still claims that the Gospels are eyewitnesses. Notice he lays no proof out for this, just makes the claim. He has said nothing about Matthew or John. In fact all he has done is pointed out that Luke and Mark are not eyewitnesses. He then proceeds to quote the writer of Luke, who also wrote Acts, in Acts about how the disciples saw Jesus for 40 days after he had arisen. That Jesus performed miracles for them. Yeah, that would fly in court, that is not hearsay at all. Josh again claims that Luke recorded an eyewitness account. That cannot ever be confirmed. Luke even says he just looked at the reports from eyewitnesses, not that he even talked to eyewitnesses. Let's go back and actually look at Luke 1:1-4

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

First note the [a]. This is the NIV translation. The word fulfilled could easily be translated as 'been surely believed'. So he starts out saying, 'Hey, this is what we believe' not 'what happened'.

Next he says as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. What he is saying is these are stories passed down mainly orally to them. It does not say he is getting these directly from eye witnesses.

Then it says he is writing them for Theophilus, not scribing them like Josh claims, but writing them down so that he will have an account. There is nothing in here that allows you to claim Luke was scribing for an eyewitness.

Now Josh is claiming that they presented this before people that knew Jesus personally. I don't know where he is getting that from. There is no evidence for this. In fact these stories were not written to be part of the same book. Instead they were written to help spread the faith, so that others could learn of Jesus. These were the equivalent of gospel tracks today.

Acts 2 is the story of the Day of Pentecost and the first anointing of the Holy Spirit, according to the Bible. This says nothing to validity of what is written. There is no evidence that the person that wrote Luke even talked to eye witnesses. Josh is just stating this is all facts because they are eye witnesses yet he has done nothing to prove they are. So his whole premise, is that it is an eye witness and because of that then it must be true. Since it is true, then people must have known of the miracles, although no one else wrote of miracles. He is being semi-logical based on his premise, but his premise is wrong. He has not shown sufficient evidence that Luke/Acts is an eye witness account and not just a story that was passed down.

Video 5: Again using Acts 26, he is still not proving his premise that Acts is an eye witness.

Josh states that he believes what is written in the Bible is what Jesus said and did. Awesome, you can believe whatever you want, that does not make true. Nor does really wishing and hoping make it true. He is claiming the community was there for these miracles, but were they? There is no evidence of that. Josh keeps making this claim and does not back it up with anything. This is really starting to annoy me. If he could prove that these are the same people that supposedly followed Jesus, now some 30 to 80 years after his death then he has something. Just stating it over and over again does not make it true.

He now references Paul statement that Christ appeared to over 500 people after his death and that the majority of them were alive during Paul's time. Okay, who were they? Paul gives no names or where to find any of them. Paul just makes this assertion and goes on. This is not evidence. I can claim over 1,000,000 people witnessed my friend Steve walk on water. That makes it true. Wait, no it doesn't, you would want the names of these people and where it happened to see if I am telling the truth. Apparently, Josh thinks we should just take Paul's word on it.

Now he is claiming dieing as a martyr makes what you said true. I hope that Josh will convert to the cult of Heaven's Gate, David Koresh's cult, the People's Temple or in the very least the Mormon church. As all their leaders were martyred or killed themselves for their beliefs. This is why the martyr card doesn't work.

He just used an appeal to authority, citing Robert Greenleaf a philosopher, saying that the apostles suffered the most painful death without denying their stance. I am not even going to look up whether Greenleaf said it or not, because it doesn't matter. Greenleaf is not an expert on religious history or torture history. His opinions are just that his opinions, what Greenleaf and Josh need to do is prove the statement. But even then it is not proof that the apostles were telling the truth.

Josh uses another false analogy, when comparing Watergate and the idea the disciples made everything up. With Watergate, what was being covered up was nasty and the lies to cover up hurt a lot of people. Christianity on the other hand makes most people feel good about themselves. People are less inclined to question something they agree with and feel good about than they are something that does not. Plus the changes in technology between Watergate and the writing of the Bible are more than just significantly different.

Wait, he is now pointing out that a lot of people have died for a lie. He is saying that those people that died for a lie thought it was the truth. Well no shit, you can say the same about the disciples. You can convince yourself of your own lies. Again I will point to Do, David Koresh, Jim Jones and Joseph Smith. All these men died for lies they themselves made up.

More man on the street interviews, these serve no purpose.

Video 6. Josh is just making a straw man. Jews do not believe the messiah will die, that is one of the many reasons they reject Jesus. Now he is claiming that the leaders declared Israel itself was the messiah, again that holds no water, because there is a very specific check list for the messiah. Jesus, at best, fulfilled the line of David requirement and that is it. You can question that as the two differing lines are both from Joseph (Yes, I know the claim is one is from Mary, but where is the evidence for that? Plus the two stories were not written to be side by side, they were stories for new churches and fliers for new believers.) Rabbi Shraga Simmons points out all this on his About page, Ask the Rabbi. Covered in that is what Josh is trying to explain, the suffering servant.

Christianity claims that Isaiah chapter 53 refers to Jesus, as the "suffering servant."
In actuality, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular form because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit. The Torah is filled with examples of the Jewish nation referred to with a singular pronoun.
Ironically, Isaiah's prophecies of persecution refer in part to the 11th century when Jews were tortured and killed by Crusaders who acted in the name of Jesus.
From where did these mistranslations stem? St. Gregory, 4th century Bishop of Nanianzus, wrote: "A little jargon is all that is necessary to impose on the people. The less they comprehend, the more they admire."

Josh is still beating away on his strawman. Claiming that Jews believe they as whole took the sins of the world on them, utter bullshit. If that was true there would be no need for atonement of sins as the Jews still practice (Teshuvah).

Cool, this video turns into a smut film with some scenes of Jesus death.

Josh is still quoting the New Testament like it was truth, then using that to prove it is true.

Sorry Da Bomb, I am still not convinced, because I don't stand by his premise that the Gospels are eye witnesses and perfect eye witness accounts at that. Which is what everything he said hinges on. He does nothing to prove the premise. I am not paying to get proof of the "Truth". If my soul is truly in peril and he has the answer he should be giving it away not making money off of it. This sounds similar to selling animals for offerings in the temple. I believe that was frowned upon in the stories contained in his "Truth"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

TAM7 Day 1

I first want to say, I should have taken notes. So bear with me as I go through my memory.

I arrived in Las Vegas Wednesday night at 11pm. I didn't get to the Hotel until after midnight Vegas time, which is around 2am my time. I woke up that morning around 6am, so I was tired.

First impression of the hotel, it was clean and simple. The main gambling floor is just a giant box, unlike the mazes on the strip. The hotel is way south of town, you have to take a taxi to get anywhere. I would say that is the only drawback, albeit a major one. When I got home I found out that one of my co-workers daughter-in-law was the lead construction manager on this hotel.

The room was very nice. Big comfortable bed, nice large bathroom with a separate room that housed the toilet and shower. The only thing missing was a whirlpool style bathtub but I am sure that is offered in the higher priced rooms. Internet was offered at 13 dollars for 24 hours.

I woke up Thursday morning, went to the buffet. The price of the buffet was only 6.99, very good price. I was wearing a "Teach the Controversy" shirt that day. I started to notice all the atheist and pro-evolution shirts being worn. That is when it really set in that I was around a lot of like-minded individuals.

After breakfast, I went upstairs to the conference area to register. They gave us a t-shirt and sharpie with the TAM7/JREF logo on it. Nothing started until noon the first day and they were extra shops you had to pay for. I only signed up for one of them. After leaving registration, I headed back down stairs to mess around (lose money) and ran into Matt Dillahunty from the Atheist Community of Austin, the Non-Prophets and the Atheist Experience TV Show. We talked for a bit. I had met him before when I went to a taping of the show. He actually remembered me, not my name but our talk before.

The first Workshop I attended was "Science, Magic and Skepticism: A Natural Relationship" by D.J. Grothe and Jamy Ian Swiss. They covered the history of Skepticism and Magic and how they intertwine. Not that all magicians are skeptics or even good skeptics but that both often work together. As Jamy put it, 'Magicians are only know one thing, but they know a lot about it and that is deception.' Jamy did a couple of mentalist tricks, one that Uri Geller did to "prove" he was psychic. The speech was really good. Interestingly enough, the first time in English that a trick was written down on how it was done, was in a book on why witches being punished by the church were not witches. In other words a skeptical book.

I didn't go to the second workshop that day, instead I met up with my girlfriend. She took a nap during the first one. That night they had a change in magicians for the show, you had to pay extra for. If I had known Mac King was going to perform, we would have went instead I didn't know until after it was sold out. Mac King is genius, you should see him if you ever go to Vegas.

That night, we went to the strip and it was fucking crowded. We knew that UFC 100 was in town. What we learned was that the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour were going on the same weekend also.

That ended Day 1. Very exciting I know.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

City Hall Come As You Are

"City Hall/I Believe/Malibu Nights", Tenacious D, Tenacious D
"Civilian Ways", Rancid, Let The Dominoes Fall
"Clampdown", The Clash, Story Of The Clash
"Clash City Rockers", The Clash, Story Of The Clash
"Close But No Cigar", Weird Al Yankovic, Straight Outta Lynwood
"Close To Me", The Get Up Kids, Before You Were Punk, Vol. 2
"Cocktails", Rancid, Life Won't Wait
"Coffee Mug", Descendents, Punk-O-Rama Vol. 2
"Cold Streets", MXPX, Panic
"Come As You Are", Nirvana, Nevermind

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Historical Revisionists

This has become my new pet peeve. In America it seems to revolve around the idea that America is a Christian nation, besides all the evidence to the contrary. A new low has been crossed. One group is now intentionally making up phrases and attributing them to Founding Fathers. They have even admitted to doing so. This is beyond disgusting. These actions are called lying.

This was brought to my attention by the blog Computing Intelligence and his post entitled "Well, he could have said it...".

There is a recent article in the St. Petersburg Times over some new billboards in the area. The article, "Christian group's billboards denounce separation of church, state", contains the following comment from one of the activists, Terry Kemple, involved in making the billboards.

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

"I don't believe there's a document in Washington's handwriting that has those words in that specific form," Kemple said. "However, if you look at Washington's quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there's no question he could have said those exact words."

I cannot find the words to express my utter disgust and contempt for people like Mr. Kemple. Not only is he lying, he knows he is lying.

Mr. Kemple's organization, Community Issues Council (of which Mr. Kemple is the only employee in Tampa), has this statement as one of their goals.

America's government was made only for people who are moral and religious.

Personally, I do not believe that lying is immoral in all situations. Fundamentalist Christians, like Mr. Kemple, always tell me otherwise. In this situation, lying to further one's personal agenda at the expense of others, I think Mr. Kemple is acting immoral. So by his own standards, Mr. Kemple needs to GTFO! Buh-bye, sayonara, adios, hasta luego, bon voyage, seriously get the fuck out of the United States now.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Discovery Institute and History

The Discovery Institute is a self described think tank. Yet it seems in a current article on their website, not a lot of thought was put into it. The article, "Jefferson's Support for Intelligent Design" is about what Thomas Jefferson would think about Intelligent Design and Evolution. It is also one big Appeal to Authority in attempt to get Intelligent Design (ID) taught in Public Schools.

I am citing Fair Use in the copying of the article.

This article is by Stephen C. Meyer and was first printed in the Boston Globe.

IN THE battle over how to teach evolution in public schools, Thomas Jefferson’s demand for a “separation between church and state’’ has been cited countless times.

This sentence is just factually incorrect. When the phrase "separation between church and state" is used, it has nothing to do with evolution. This is because evolution is not a religious idea. So there is no church.

Many argue that the controversial alternative to Darwinian evolution, intelligent design, is an exclusively religious idea and therefore cannot be discussed under the Constitution.

Not just "many", the courts ruled that intelligent design was a religious idea and not science. The judge further wrote that "ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism." Kitzmiller v. Dover.

By invoking Jefferson’s principle of separation, many critics of intelligent design assume that this visionary Founding Father would agree with them.

Yes and no. They are saying he would agree that religion has no place in government and that includes public schools. His thoughts on creationism or ID are irrelevant to that point.

But would he? For too long, an aspect of Jefferson’s visionary thought has been ignored, hidden away as too uncomfortable for public discussion - his support for intelligent design.

So what? He could have believed anything he wanted. In fact, he was a deist and believed in a creator god. This god was nothing like the Christian God. Jefferson was a critic of all religions.

In 1823, when materialist evolutionary ideas had long been circulating,

I am stopping in mid sentence here. This is partially true. The idea of animals evolving had been around. The main idea at the time was Lamarckian Evolution. Lamarckism was the idea that an organism could pass on traits, it picked up during its life, to its offspring. The idea was that an animal could change itself and pass those changes to its offspring. This is markedly different than the current Theory of Evolution. The Theory of Evolution by means of Natural Selection was not introduced until 1859, 36 years after this letter was written and 33 years after Jefferson's death. Lamarck's work never had the support that Darwin's did and still does to this day. To say that evolution had been around is confusing the meaning of evolution and the Theory of Evolution. To do so with that purpose in mind is lying.

Jefferson wrote to John Adams and insisted that the scientific evidence of design in nature was clear: “I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.’’ It was on empirical grounds, not religious ones, that he took this view.

Of course, it was empirical grounds. The evidence for Lamarckism was scant and it didn't satisfy the science community. It wasn't until Darwin's idea of Natural Selection in 1895, 36 years later, did Evolution have good evidence. It still took several years and many tests before Darwin's idea was accepted.

This is still an appeal to authority. So Jefferson did not agree with Lamarckism. So what? How does this help the argument for ID? Was Jefferson a scientist with knowledge of the current Theory of Evolution? Well, no, he couldn't be, as the current theory is nothing like the hypothesis of his time. So what does that mean? Absolutely nothing. Can anyone say what Jefferson would believe now, with a completely different view of evolution and the scientific support for it? No. All we can do is interpret the law as it is. Which was done in Kitzmiller v. Dover and ID was deemed a religious idea. Thus it can't be taught in school.

There is no reason to carry on with this article, but Stephen wrote a lot more.

Contemplating everything from the heavenly bodies down to the creaturely bodies of men and animals, he argued: “It is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion.’’

Again so what? Jefferson did not know of the current Theory of Evolution. Jefferson was not a scientist or naturalist (as they were called at the time). Jefferson was a politician, lawyer and a yeoman farmer (yes, he did some paleontology and archeology but that was not even close to the bulk of his life work).

The “ultimate cause’’ and “fabricator of all things’’ that Jefferson invoked was also responsible for the “design’’ of life’s endlessly diverse forms as well as the manifestly special endowments of human beings. Moreover, because the evidence of “Nature’s God’’ was publicly accessible to all and did not depend upon a special appeal to religious authority, Jefferson believed that it provided a basis in reason for the protection of individual liberty. Thus, the Declaration of Independence asserted that humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.’’

This is the same as his last comment. It is meaningless today. What does it matter what Jefferson thought of Lamarckism. Lamarckism has nothing to do with the current Theory of Evolution and Jefferson is not a scientist. What if my Senator, Jim Inhofe, came out and said something like, 'global warming is not real'. Oh wait, he did say something like that. Does that make it true? No, it is ignoring a mountain of evidence, which is just shameful. For Jefferson the evidence was not there, at least.

Of course, many people assume that Jefferson’s views, having been written before Darwin’s “Origin of Species,’’ are now scientifically obsolete.

Assume? How could they be up to date, when he didn't have the same information we do? That is like saying, we assume someone from the 1800's idea of 'we would never travel to the moon' as being obsolete. It isn't assumed, it is true.

But Jefferson has been vindicated by modern scientific discoveries that Darwin could not have anticipated. For example, in 1953 when Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule, they made a startling discovery.

Actually, if you read On the Origin of Species, you would see that Darwin suggests that there is something in all living things that accounts for evolution. Darwin was so close to the idea of DNA. DNA just further solidified the Theory of Evolution.

The structure of DNA allows it to store information in the form of a four-character digital code. Strings of precisely sequenced chemicals called nucleotide bases store and transmit the assembly instructions - the information - for building the crucial protein molecules and machines the cell needs to survive. Francis Crick later developed this idea with his famous “sequence hypothesis,’’ according to which the chemical constituents in DNA function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. As Bill Gates has noted, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.’’

Look, another appeal to authority. Bill Gates does not have a degree in molecular biology or any biology. His ideas on DNA are just from what he has picked up as a lay person and are meaningless. In fact that is not exactly what Gates said. This is called a quote mine. Here is Bill Gates quote in its entirety:

We have all had teachers who made a difference. I had a great chemistry teacher in high school who made his subject immensely interesting. Chemistry seemed enthralling compared to biology. In biology, we were dissecting frogs - just hacking them to pieces, actually - and our teacher didn't explain why. My chemistry teacher sensationalized his subject a bit and promised that it would help us understand the world. When I was in my twenties, I read James D. Watson's "Molecular Biology of the Gene" and decided my high school experience had misled me. The understanding of life is a great subject. Biological information is the most important information we can discover, because over the next several decades it will revolutionize medicine. Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created. It seems amazing to me now that one great teacher made chemistry endlessly fascinating while I found biology totally boring. (Gates, The Road Ahead, Penguin: London, Revised, 1996 p. 228)

Again this is Bill Gates' idea of DNA from his recollection of it from High School and his 20s. The story is more about the importance of good teachers. To quote John Pieret from Talk Origins, "Gates may well know a lot about software, but he is in no position to assess how much DNA is, if at all, like a computer program. In point of fact, anyone who read the above passage would doubt that Gates had even a high school level understanding of biology and anyone interested in honesty would make that clear if they still wanted to use the quote."

This discovery has made acute a longstanding scientific mystery that Darwin never addressed or solved: the mystery of how the very first life on earth arose.

Well, Darwin never tried to solve how life arose. It is stated in On the Origin of Species that evolution is the process that takes place after life has arisen. Anyone who has read the book would understand that. DNA also says nothing of how life arose, so I really don't know what Mr. Meyer is trying to say here. Abiogenesis is the study of how life on Earth can arise from inanimate matter.

To date no theory of undirected chemical evolution has explained the origin of the digital information in DNA needed to build the first living cell on earth.

Maybe because no one believes that DNA contains digital information. This is just nonsense and an attempt to make the Bill Gates' quote meaningful.

Abiogenesis has had some incredible breakthroughs in the last few months. John Sutherland and other researchers were able to synthesize RNA in conditions resembling early earth. RNA is a self replicating molecule and precursor to DNA. Wired has an excellent article on it entitled "Life’s First Spark Re-Created in the Laboratory".

Yet modern scientists who argue for intelligent design do not do so merely because natural processes have failed to explain the origin of the information in cells. Instead, they argue for design because systems possessing these features invariably arise from intelligent causes.

Obviously, Mr. Meyer has not kept up with Abiogenesis and RNA world or is just being willfully ignorant. He has also not demonstrated that "systems possessing these features invariably arise from intelligent causes." He is just asserting this with no evidence to back up the claim.

DNA functions like a software program. We know that software comes from programmers. Information - whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in a radio signal - always arises from an intelligent source. So the discovery of digital code in DNA provides a strong scientific reason for concluding that the information in DNA also had an intelligent source.

DNA does not function like a software program. The only person that has said this is Bill Gates and he is not a molecular biologist. I have a degree in Management Information Systems and have written software programs. If I wrote a program with lots of steps that did nothing, ie Junk DNA, it would be a waste of time and energy. This would not be intelligent on my part. To say that DNA has an intelligent source, is highly questionable with inclusion of Junk DNA. This is not even mentioning negative mutations in DNA which cause suffering, very intelligent.

Heiroglyphics, books and radio signals all have a source that we can look up. Even if that source has expired. They are also not self replicating. To compare them to self replicating biological functions is naive at best and lying at worst.

Design is an inference from biological data, not a deduction from religious authority. Jefferson said just that, and based his political thinking on it.

The courts disagree with you. As well does the Discovery Institute for which you work and wrote this article. Also Mr. Meyer's acknowledged the Wedge Document, which speaks of broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to "defeat [scientific] materialism" represented by evolution, "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions" and to "affirm the reality of God" by the Discovery Institute. So which is it, Mr. Meyer?

The evidence for what he presciently called “Nature’s God’’ is stronger than ever.

Yet, you provide no evidence.

Our nation’s existence, with its guarantee to protect each person’s “inalienable rights,’’ may be counted among the fruits of Jefferson’s belief in intelligent design.

This is a total non-sequitur. The beliefs of Jefferson in founding the nation have nothing to do with ID being taught in schools. Even if Jefferson would support ID, it does not matter when it comes to the legality of it. ID was given its day in court and it lost. Kitzmiller v. Dover is the final word. Making fallacious appeals to authority are meaningless.

Edit: I just found the rest of the quote from Jefferson that Meyer is leaving out, in other words quote mining.

The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and cent. metal forces; the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters, and atmosphere; animals and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutes” particles; insects, mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organized as man or mammoth; the mineral substances, their generation and uses; it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe, that there is in all of this, design, cause, and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a Fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their Preserver and Regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regeneration into new and other forms.

Emphasis mine. It seems Jefferson accepted some form of evolution, albeit this is still no endorsement one way or the other.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Child to Citizen C.I.A.

I promise to get a TAM7 post up, but I am still unpacking. In the mean time, here is the music post I missed from Thursday.

"A Child And His Lawnmower", The Dead Kennedys, Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death
"Chocolate Salty Balls (P.S. I Love You)", Chef, South Park: Chef Aid
"Chop Shop", MXPX, Secret Weapon
"Christians Inferno", Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown
"Christie Road", Green Day, Kerplunk!
"Christmas In Heaven", Monty Python, Monty Python Sings
"Christmas In Hollis", Run-DMC, A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 1
"Chump", Green Day, Dookie
"Circumstance", MXPX, Let It Happen
"Citizen C.I.A.", Dropkick Murphys, The Warrior's Code

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Physics - Bruce Malone Is Doing It Wrong

Creation Science Evangelism is the company started by convicted felon Kent Hovind. It is currently being run by Kent's son Eric Hovind. One of the current articles, on the web site, is "Physics Show That Six Day Creation is Possible" by Bruce Malone. In this article Bruce makes some pretty amazing claims on the Theory of Relativity. In particular, the idea of Time Dilation.

Before I continue, I want it to be known that I am copying this article under Fair Use and abiding by all the laws thereof. It is sad I have to state that but Creation Science Evangelism (CSE) has attempted to silence its critics in the past.

Exodus 20:11 makes one of the most unbelievable statements of the Bible: "In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day." It is hard to imagine a clearer statement defining how long God took in creating the entire universe. However, this simple statement has presented a seemingly impossible dilemma for Christians. On one hand, modern cosmology teaches that the universe has taken billions of years to form. On the other hand, if this clear and straightforward statement of the Bible can not be trusted to mean what it says, how can we know that any statement of the Bible can be trusted to mean what it says?

Well that is not the only place in the Bible where it makes that claim. Most people reference Genesis Chapter 1 and the first few verses of Chapter 2. It also really isn't that seemingly impossible dilemma for Christians, just for those that believe in an errant Bible and special creation.

Also there is the assumption that the word ~wy or yowm means a 24 hour period. In reality it can mean day, time, or year. This is the word used in Genesis and Exodus when describing creation.

This is all just scratching the surface of what is wrong with the first creation story presented in Genesis. Things like light being created before the sun. The earth being created before the sun. Birds being created before land animals. Water being above the sky. Water not being created just God suddenly dividing it, where did it come from? None of that is covered in this article, so continuing on.

This was the dilemma which Dr. Russell Humphreys (physicist at Sandia National Laboratory) set out to solve as he studied what the Bible had to say about the formation of our universe. Most people have been taught that the universe is the result of a gigantic explosion called the "Big Bang".

Sorry, I am stopping him here. He has just created a straw man. No one who understands the Big Bang Theory claim the universe is the result of a gigantic explosion. What the real belief is that the universe experienced rapid expansion, like when you blow up a balloon. There was no explosion. As a matter of fact, with the right instruments we can still observe the expansion of the universe to this day as it is ongoing.

During this explosive expansion, all the matter of the universe supposedly expanded outward from a tiny pinpoint. All modern cosmological models start with the assumption that the universe has neither a center nor an edge. When these assumptions are plugged into Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the result is an expanding universe which is billions of years old at every location.

Again, it was not an explosion. Pinpoint is too big, it was far smaller than that. Yes, there is no center of the Universe. To go back to the balloon analogy, the universe would be more akin to the skin of the balloon. It is expanding but where does the expansion start for the skin of the balloon? For a more detailed explanation you can read the Usenet Physics FAQ by Don Koks with this particular article being written by Philip Gibbs in 1997. To claim that there is a center to the Universe is absurd and shows a complete lack of understanding in Cosmology and Physics. The edge of the Universe is similar. There is no physical edge, but gravity creates a type of edge. According to Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which is supposedly what this article is about, gravity curves space. It is possible that there is so much mass in the Universe that gravity curves the Universe around back onto itself. Again like the balloon analogy, find the edge of the balloon. You can't, it just goes around and around (ignoring where you blow the balloon up at). What the article is asking you to do is to find the edge of the Earth, and then claiming because you can't the Earth must be infinite in size. Again a basic misunderstanding of Cosmology and Relativity. As you can see from the University of Michigan's website Windows to the Universe this question is asked by a 9, 12 and 13 year old. One would think a physicist at Sandia National Laboratory would understand the universe a bit better.

Rather than start with these arbitrary assumptions (a universe having no center and no edge), Dr. Humphreys decided to take the most apparent meaning of the Biblical text and see what model of the universe developed. He reasoned that if the Bible was inspired by God, as it claims to be, it should not have to be twisted to be understood. It should have the same straight forward meaning for a "man on the street", a brilliant physicist, or a theologian.

Again, these are not arbitrary assumptions, these are observable facts. This is just another straw man.

So, Dr. Humphreys decides to throw out facts and starts to build an imaginary universe based on the Bible. The rest of it, I could not agree more with. If the Bible was inspired by a creator god, then it should be accurate in every detail of that creation. It is just those pesky facts keep getting in the way. Things like the Earth revolves around the Sun, the Moon is not a source of light, sunlight couldn't exist without the Sun, you know things like that.

The Bible clearly indicates three things about God's formation of the universe. First, the earth is the center of God's attention in the universe. By implication, the earth may also be located near the center-perhaps so man can see the glory of God's creation in every direction. Second, the universe (both matter and space itself) has been "stretched out". Third, the universe has a boundary, and therefore it must have a center.

Okay, now we have something that is testable. This so far looks like good science. If any of these things is not true then the Bible is wrong about the Universe and about creation. Which, according to Bruce at the beginning of this article, means that we cannot trust anything the Bible says. ("...if this clear and straightforward statement of the Bible can not be trusted to mean what it says, how can we know that any statement of the Bible can be trusted to mean what it says?")

Well, as I pointed out earlier there is no center of the Universe. In fact quoting the article by Philip Gibbs that I posted earlier.

In 1929 Edwin Hubble announced that he had measured the speed of galaxies at different distances from us, and had discovered that the farther they were, the faster they were receding. This might suggest that we are at the centre of the expanding universe, but in fact if the universe is expanding uniformly according to Hubble's law, then it will appear to do so from any vantage point.

If we see a galaxy B receding from us at 10,000 km/s, an alien in galaxy B will see our galaxy A receding from it at 10,000 km/s in the opposite direction. Another galaxy C twice as far away in the same direction as B will be seen by us as receding at 20,000 km/s. The alien will see it receding at 10,000 km/s:

From A 0 km/s 10,000 km/s 20,000 km/s
From B -10,000 km/s 0 km/s 10,000 km/s

So from the point of view of the alien at B, everything is expanding away from it, whichever direction it looks in, just the same as it does for us.

The universe is expanding at a uniform rate and observation from any point will seem like that point is the center, because there is no center. Find the center of the skin on a balloon or find the center of the surface of the earth. These things are nonsensical. Point 1 is wrong and the Bible cannot be trusted because of this according to Bruce Malone.

Point 2 is partially correct. The Universe is expanding, but matter is not. That would mean that everyone and everything was expanding, this is just a weird silly statement and I don't know where it comes from. The Usenet Physics FAQ covers this idea of Expanding Atoms originally written by Michael Weiss (yes it is out of date, but the article admits that and the basic concepts are right). Analysis, part of Point 2 is incorrect and thus the Bible is untrustworthy.

Point 3 is wrong. Find the boundary of the surface of the Earth or the skin of a balloon. Obviously both are finite, yet neither have a boundary. The same goes for the Universe. Something can be finite and yet have no boundary. Why is this so hard to grasp for someone who is a physicist at Sandia National Laboratory. Point 3 is wrong and so the Bible is untrustworthy.

Well there you have it, Dr. Russell Humphreys gave us three testable ideas for the trustworthiness of the Bible and failed in 2.5 of them. So the Bible is untrustworthy. Thank you Creation Science Evangelism for pointing this out. Oh, they have more.

If these three assumptions are plugged into the currently accepted formulas of physics, and the mathematical crank is turned, we live in a universe in which clocks tick at different rates depending on your location.

What? This sentence is in English, yet I can't parse it. Okay, so they take the three assumptions, that are proven wrong, and add them to physics, which is descriptions of the real world and how it works. Then they do some sort of undefined math and voila clocks run at different times. Huh? How does this come close to making any kind of sense?

Physics is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the world and universe behave. If you take made up stuff and throw it into formulas based on real observations, you end up with made up stuff. This is like trying to take comic book heroes and use physics to explain how they do their things. In the end you still have make believe. It can be used to gain an interest in physics, as with the popular Science of the Watchmen, but what you derive from it is completely useless.

After this abysmal attempt at science, now Bruce is going to try and explain what Time Dilation is and how it matters to his argument.

Furthermore, the time dilation effect would be magnified tremendously as the universe was originally expanding. As the universe expanded, there was a point at which time was moving very rapidly at the outer edge and essentially stopped near the center. At this point in the expansion of the universe, only days were passing near the center, while billions of years were passing in the heavens. This is the inevitable conclusion based on our current knowledge of physics and starting with Biblical assumptions instead of arbitrary ones.

First that is not how Time Dilation or the Universe works. Time dilation is the phenomenon whereby an observer finds that another's clock, which is physically identical to their own, is ticking at a slower rate as measured by their own clock. This is often interpreted as time "slowing down" for the other clock, but that is only true in the context of the observer's frame of reference. Locally (i.e., from the perspective of any observer within the same frame of reference, without reference to another frame of reference), time always passes at the same rate. Time dilation is affected by speed and gravity. Since the Universe is expanding at the same constant rate at all points, there would be no time dilation due to speed.

Second, let me say this loudly as he seems not to understand, THERE IS NO CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE!

Third, making up arbitrary assumptions is what Dr. Humphreys did, not what cosmologists do. Instead cosmologists look at the facts and determine what is happening according to the facts, not the other way around. Dr. Humphreys instead made assumptions and then shoehorned physics into agreeing with him.

Albert Einstein rejected the idea that the Bible could be literally true. He wrote that, "Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the convictions that many of the stories in the Bible could not be true." How ironic that the most ridiculed Biblical story (about a recent, literal, six day creation of the universe) is exactly the story which Albert Einstein’s work has shown to be entirely possible. A comprehensive explanation of Dr. Humphreys work, can be found in his book.

Well I am thankful they didn't quote mine Einstein into looking like a believer, like some other creationists. *coughRayComfortcough* It is not ironic because Bruce and Dr. Humphreys have failed miserably to show that it is "entirely possible". All they did was take make believe plug into to formulas based on the real world. Then claimed that those answers, which are still make believe, prove the original make believe is possible. Which it would be if we lived in the make believe world they started with. Never let facts get in the way of your make believe world.

Addendum: I knew I was missing something on Time Dilation and my friend Stan, from the blog Cabbagery, pointed it out. Dr. Humphreys has Time Dilation backwards. If Earth was the slower moving object and the "outer edge" (which is still meaningless) was moving faster. Then time would appear to slow down for the outer edge if your point of reference was the Earth.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Morality and Ray Comfort

I am starting off with an easy debunking, Ray Comfort.

In his latest post called What's Wrong With a Bit of Cussing? Ray says:

If you are an atheist, you can’t say anything is morally "wrong." Is rape wrong? If you answer "Yes," I ask you "Who says?" If you say "Society," then if society deemed rape morally okay, does it become right? What about murder? Is that right or wrong? What say society says it’s right, just for getting rid of Jews and blacks? Is it then right? Is it morally okay to kill children in the womb? You say again, "If society says so." How about men marrying men? If society says so. Is pedophilia wrong? Same scenario.

First off, Ray's weird use of quotes around wrong. I understand what he is doing. He is trying to say that atheists cannot know what wrong means. So immediately he is dismissing any argument against his own.

Second, shouldn't we define what we are talking about? Without definitions then we could definitely be talking about different things using the same word. Since this is about morality. The word we should define is morality. I am going to use the Wikipedia definitions of Morality (shortened versions).

Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") has three principal meanings.

In its first, descriptive usage, morality means a code of conduct or belief which is held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong. Morals are arbitrarily created and subjectively defined by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience. An example of the descriptive usage could be "common conceptions of morality have changed significantly over time."

In its second, normative and universal sense, morality refers to an ideal code of belief and conduct, one which would be espoused in preference to other alternatives by the sane "moral" person, under specified conditions. In this "prescriptive" sense , moral value judgments such as "murder is immoral" are made.

In its third usage, 'morality' is synonymous with ethics. Ethics is the systematic philosophical study of the moral domain.

As we look again at the first sentence, "If you are an atheist, you can’t say anything is morally 'wrong.'" Ray is making the assertion that atheists cannot know what morals or what wrong means. Evidence points to the fact that atheists are less likely to break laws of society. In 1997, Rod Swift requested the religious status of Prisoners to compare percentage of incarceration rates among beliefs. Rod posted the results at his website, Holy Smoke. Now one person investigating or one study a pattern does not make. So at the Skeptic Files, they have organized all the studies on this subject. They all point to the same conclusion (one can verify this by looking up each study). Less than 1/10th of 1% of incoming prisoners are atheists. While atheists compose of 10-16% of the population as a whole (depending on which study you look at). If atheists have no morals then why are there not more atheists in prison? Why are atheist under represented in prisons?

Next Ray backs up his initial assertion with his form of "evidence". "Is rape wrong? If you answer 'Yes,' I ask you 'Who says?' If you say 'Society,' then if society deemed rape morally okay, does it become right? What about murder? Is that right or wrong? What say society says it’s right, just for getting rid of Jews and blacks? Is it then right? Is it morally okay to kill children in the womb? You say again, 'If society says so.' How about men marrying men? If society says so. Is pedophilia wrong? Same scenario." Here is Ray's strawman laid out. Atheists only get their morals from society. If we go back and look at the definition of morals, it paints a more full picture. "Morals are arbitrarily created and subjectively defined by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience." (emphasis mine) As you can see there is far more to morals than just societal pressures. Philosophy, religion, and individual conscience make up an individuals personal morality system. Most would say it is also based on empathy or how one feels toward people within their community.

One rule that has permeated all societies is the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This idea has appeared in all regions where man has appeared. It was around well before it was written in the New Testament, of which the Kings James translation is the what I quoted. Another name for it is the ethic of reciprocity. It is generally considered to be the basics for human rights. This is part of where we get that it is generally not okay to rape or murder (someone can always come up with a situation where it would be better to rape or murder than another single alternative, usually some form of genocide), as we would not want to have these actions done to us. The golden rule has updated to the platinum and double platinum rule, "treat others the way they want to be treated" and "treat others the way they don’t even know they want to be treated."

To actually answer Ray's questions, as facetious as they are, I would say:

1. Yes, rape in 99.9999999% of cases is wrong.
2. I say, so does society, so does the moral zeitgeist, so does the Platinum Rule, and so does empathy. I am sorry you lack empathy and don't understand that.
3. I didn't say just society, and if things were different they would be different. What you suggest overturns millions of years of evolution, thus it is nigh impossible to happen.
4. To me, I would still say no, but this is based on the society I grew up in, so my judgment could be different IF (that is a huge fucking if) we evolved differently, but we didn't so the point is mute.
5. I say it is wrong, most people on the planet agree with me, even ones who don't prescribe to your bible, Ray.
6. Well since the Christians did say that in recent history, I would disagree with them and their absolute morals.
7. To me, no. But obviously the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, the KKK (a christian organization) and the Nazis (Gott Mit Uns) all thought it was okay, and backed up their beliefs with bible verses.
8. I want to know how a child got in the womb in the first place. Child - a human being between the stages of birth and puberty. Fetus - a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate, after the embryonic stage and before birth. Embryo - a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division, in humans, it is called an embryo until about eight weeks after fertilization. Now if you mean Embryos then no, I have no problem with it. Most abortions are done within the first 12 weeks or pregnancy. Very few and only in extreme cases are done after that.
9. I think people should be allowed to marry whomever they want. I am intrigued that you only reduced it to men marrying men, I think there may be some homosexual underpinnings in your life Ray.
10. Pedophilia is wrong. The main reason for that is the harm it causes the child, who cannot ever give consent. If you can't understand that and require some old book to tell you this then you have serious issues.

I too notice that again Ray dodged the question asked. This is a standard tactic used by Ray Comfort. I will finish this with a quote from Eric Cartman.

What's the big fucking deal, bitch? It's not like it hurts anyone. Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck.

Changes, They is a Comin'

I still feel the energy of TAM7 running through me body. I think I want to take my blog down more of the skeptic debunking angle. There is a lot of bunk out there and not enough voices saying "Bullshit". So I have decided to step up and do my part. I am going to make skeptical analysis of woo more prominent here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Vegas and TAM7

I am still in Vegas but waiting on my plane. TAM was truly amazing, as cliched as that is. I will post more when I get home and post some great pictures, including the Amaz!ng Randi and myself. If you ever get a chance to go, go. TAM8 will be at the same hotel next year and the weekend after the 4th of July again.

Right now I am listening to someone complain because they missed their plane by 30 seconds. They are blaming everyone but themselves. It is greatness.

UPDATE: Now I am stuck in the Denver International Airport. My plane is delayed an hour and it is going to be after midnight before I get home.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Carry On Chica Me Tipo

"Carry On", Goldfinger, Stomping Ground
"Cash, Culture and Violence", Rancid, Life Won't Wait
"Cashed In", Pulley, Punk-O-Rama Vol. 2
"Champs Elysées", NOFX, So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes
"Charlie Brown", Voodoo Glow Skulls, Firme
"Chelsea Dagger", The Fratellis, Costello Music
"Chemical Warfare", Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
"Cherry Poppin' Daddy Strut", Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Zoot Suit Riot
"Chick Magnet", MXPX, Life In General
"Chica Me Tipo", Sublime, 40 Oz. To Freedom

Two songs in different languages, fun. :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Learning is always good and yesterday I learned a little more about my family background. My dad's grandmother was a Shiflet before she married. I had asked my dad about them and he really didn't know a lot. We know she donated some land to Oklahoma State University and her marriage was the last one in the old Student Union. A picture of her marriage is in the museum at the old Student Union. His dad only ever told him they were from Texas. Well that really doesn't help. So I finally thought, hey we live in the Age of Information surely I can find out something from her last name. We weren't even sure what nationality it was.

As it turns out, I was able to find something. Shiflet (shif-let) is an Americanized version of the name Chifflet (shif-lay). So neat I have some French heritage. That means my ancestry is a real war, English, Irish, Scottish, and French. Here is one of the sites I found that has some interesting stuff on the Chifflets.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Revisionist History Part 3

This is really starting to become a pet peeve of mine. As some of the readers know, I still work the sound board for my parent's church once a month (because of a promise I made a few years ago before I fully deconverted). I always do the first Sunday of the month. The service around July 4th is always great for some revisionist history.

The actual sermon was secular, there was no mention of God, and I quite enjoyed it. One of the local doctors, who has served in the Navy and retired as a 2 star Admiral, gave a speech on the lives of each of the men who hoisted the flag at Iwo Jima and why it was important for America and World War II.

My issue was a little 3 minute video, played during the song service. You can find the video here. I didn't have a chance to go through each of the quotes while there but have gone through them now.

First quote is Alexander Hamilton.

"I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man."

This quote is real. Hamilton made this claim. I would love to see the evidence he speaks of though.

Second quote is James Madison.

"The future and success of America is not in this Constitution, but in the laws of God upon which this Constitution is founded."

This quote is without citation or any record. It is similar to another quote made up by Christian revisionists and seems to be part of that. It is well dissected here.

Third quote is Thomas Jefferson. (Yeah Jefferson supporting Christianity, you already know it is fake.)

"The reason Christianity is the best friend for government is because Christianity deals with the heart."

There is no record of Jefferson every writing or saying anything like this (here).

Fourth quote is Andrew Jackson.

"The Bible is the Rock on which this Republic rests."

This quote is real. So what? Jackson had nothing to do with the founding of this country. It just shows that Christian Theocrats have been trying to take over the country for awhile now.

Fifth quote is Patrick Henry. (It is a longer quote than what I post but you can get the gist.)

"This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians"

Another spurious quotation. These words appear nowhere in the writings or recorded utterances of Patrick Henry. You can read about it here, along with quotes used by Sally Kern in her recent revisionist history here in Oklahoma. Patrick Henry was a believer, so making up quotes is just odd. You can find support for Christianity from him easily, but you can't find support for America being founded as a Christian nation.

Sixth quote is Daniel Webster.

"If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."

I honestly can't find anything about this quote, except a lot of Christians use it. Again so what? Webster had as much to do with the founding of this country as Jackson.

Seventh and final quote is Woodrow Wilson.

"America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scriptures. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a very simple thing to ask of you. I ask of every man and woman in this audience that from this night on they will realize that part of the destiny of America lies in their daily perusal of this great book of revelations. That if they would see America free and pure they will make their own spirits free and pure by this baptism of the Holy Scripture."

Wilson said it. Again, so what? Wilson obviously had no clue about the founding fathers.

So let's tally up the quotes.

Real quotes: 4
Fake quotes: 3

Of the real quotes, how many were founding fathers? 1.

Lying for Jesus is fun.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Flowers and Insects

Just a couple of pictures of flowers with insects that I took outside my condo, today.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Call In Sick Carousel

"Call In Sick", MXPX, Panic
"Can't Make Love", Pansy Division W/ Tr'e Cool, Generations 1
"Can't See Not Saying", MXPX, Let It Happen
"Can't Stand It", The Pietasters, Give 'Em The Boot II
"Can't Wait", Hepcat, Give 'Em The Boot
"Canadian Idiot", Weird Al Yankovic, Straight Outta Lynwood
"Captain Hampton And The Midget Pirates", Aquabats, The Fury Of The Aquabats!
"Captain Kelley's Kitchen", Dropkick Murphys, The Warrior's Code
"Carlita", Goldfinger, Hang-Ups
"Carousel", Blink-182, Cheshire Cat

When I saw Hepcat in concert, there were a bunch of SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) there. They were of course drunk and two of them grabbed me and a friend of mine. They were singing and basically grabbed us to sing along with them. Their beer was spilling over the both of us, but there was no way in hell we were telling them to stop. If you don't know SHARPs, they are just as violent as regular skinheads.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

1 Week to TAM7

I am extremely excited already. My work day is almost done here, so that leaves only 4 more work days to go. If I forget my camera my girlfriend already promised to kill me. The hotel called me the other day to confirm my reservations. I am just too excited for words really.