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Posts Tagged with ‘skepticism’


Snake handlers! Satanic football! Feminist dispatches from Kolob!

June 1st, 2012 by

God watches over Moe.

A lot of religious claims and justifications that persist down through the generations do so because they’ve managed to escape empirical testing. So if you ask most religious people if they believe in the power of demonic possession in the straightforward literal sense embraced by the faithful in past centuries, most of them will probably say they don’t. We’ve found better explanations for floods and droughts and other things that used to be blamed on demons. The superstitions that haven’t been filtered out of religion with scientific rigor just becomes what we call religion today.

But even still, lots of superstitions remain intact despite them being proven demonstrably wrong. So for example we have this, from Luke 10:19

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Immortal Cyborgs! Amish Smoke Detecting Demons! Reagan Blood 4 Sale! And More!

May 25th, 2012 by

I have a feeling that writing a weekly column about people saying and doing crazy things is going to get a lot easier now that it’s getting warmer. The heat seems to drive normal people nuts and sends the ones who were already a little off into Francis E Dec territory. At least that’s the explanation I gave myself when I tried to narrow down all the weird news stories to summarize this week. And that’s probably a self-serving explanation because the alternative – that this is part of a larger downward spiral into universal lunacy – is just too depressing.

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Under this plan, even gay Republicans like Bryan Fischer would be imprisoned.

LGBT activist preacher¬†Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina has this plan, everyone! The point of it is to “get rid of all the lesbians and queers.” So non-queer lesbians, beware! Charles L Worley will “get rid” of you, too.

Stop me if you’ve heard of this “get rid of all the lesbians and queers” idea before. So we all build this huge fenced in area, right? We make sure the fences are electrified. And we put all the lesbians in there. I guess they would be transported by trains because, hey, we might as well. Then we build another huge fenced in area, and coral all the “queers¬†and the homosexuals” in that one. It’s very important that we get both queers and¬†homosexuals. Now they’re in separate fun ‘camps,’ of sorts, and they won’t be able to reproduce and get their Gay all over the next generation. So then “in a few years, they’ll die out,” according to Worley.

It’s hard to know even where to start with this one. At the risk of sounding like a non-homophobic Alex Jones, the Holocaust overtones are pretty ominous. It’s a good thing this guy has no power except over the minds of his deluded¬†parishioners.¬†¬†Then you’ve got the idea lurking behind here that you need to separate the gay dudes from the gay ladies or else they will have sexytime with each other, which will lead to gay kids. And they’d do that because… Well, probably just to spite Baptists.

And then of course Worley seems to believe that as long as we build some North Korean prison camp for the gays and separate them from the rest of society, there won’t be any gay people anymore. It’s as if he really believes that guys are just convinced in to sticking their wangs up other dudes’ butts by persuasion. That really reveals the fragility of Worley’s own sexuality (I’m saying he’s definitely a closet case for those who can’t read between the lines).

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In the future, cyborgs will know what a tortoise is.

RT is a government-funded English language Russian news outlet. They have Alex Jones on from time to time but also broadcast a Thom Hartmann show. So it’s kind of like a mix between the old Soviet Pravda and the Huffington Post. There are a few diamonds in the rough, but there’s a lot of nonsense.

So it’s not very surprising that you’d find a story like this, which gives credence to the pipe dream of some Russian businessman with too much money who wants to inspire scientists to fulfill the more outlandish aspects of Singularity theory as predicted by Ray Kurzweil. The end result would be the construction of avatars – as in the movie Avatar – which can be used to store living human consciousnesses via some kind of digital upload.

The first step required to do this is to reverse engineer the brain. For an explanation for why even this one step is wildly implausible and maybe even not possible I’d recommend a series of detailed blog posts by PZ Myers on the subject which begins here. And that’s just the first step towards this goal. Of course it’s a bad idea to discourage advances in science and technology, but what RT and the subject of this report is suggesting just doesn’t jive with how science works. There are a lot more baby steps than there huge jumps.

So don’t get too excited. If you’re reading this any time close to when it gets posted, you’re probably going to die and won’t have to deal with the moral complexities of having your brain in a robot body.

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An immigrant, seen here, defiling American values.

The Eagle Forum is a real conservative organization and not a parody. They were founded by this woman named Phyllis Schlafly. You might recognize that last name because her son is the founder of Conservapedia, which is also definitely a serious thing and not a parody site despite what you will suspect if you choose to do serious scholarly research using Conservapedia.

So the Eagle Forum is upset about the recent NY Times article on how Honky McPalefaces now account for under 50% of US births. They complain that immigrants “do not share American values, so it is a good bet that they will not be voting Republican when they start voting in large numbers.” They also complained, incredibly, that immigrants have high rates of illiteracy. As if being illiterate ever stopped someone from voting Republican. Just a word of advice for the Eagle Forum: You really don’t want anyone looking into the correlations between illiteracy and conservatism.

Another really annoying part of this comment is the how casually conservatives will collapse “American values” with voting Republican, as if the two go together naturally. Maybe it’s time to start casually suggesting the opposite. If liberal pundits had the same kind of fortitude, they’d be tossing around statements about how the elections are about battles between Americans and Republicans and that if Americans aren’t careful the Republicans will take over. You won’t hear that on the Sunday morning shows though.

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Housefires may be the only way the Amish have to shave their beards.

Some Amish people are being obnoxious again. This time they’ve got bugs up their asses about smoke detectors. They had a similar issue recently when it came to putting the required orange stickers on the backs of their buggies. They had a victory in that instance in Kentucky, which passed a law exempting the Amish from using the same safety protocol by which everyone else has to abide.

It looks like they’re trying to do the same thing here in New York State when it comes to requirements that homes have smoke detectors installed. They refused to pay a fine, arguing that that would be a concession of NY State law’s supremacy over Yahweh Law.

What I honestly don’t understand is if they were to pay the fine, would that then allow them to continue living in these smoke detector-free houses? Because these guys seem to really not like smoke detectors. Like a lot.

‚ÄúI use this,‚ÄĚ he said pointing at his nose, ‚Äúor him,‚ÄĚ and his finger pointed upwards. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt need a devil on the wall to tell me if my house is burning.‚ÄĚ

Dude thinks smoke detectors are devils. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

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An auction is selling vials of Ronald Reagan’s blood. At least, that’s what they say. I don’t know how it’s possible it’s taken this long for this to catch on. It seems like a natural fit. Reagan was one of them Hollyweirdos. He and Nancy were even into astrology and consulted an astrologer to plan their days. Seriously. You thought the Star Wars “defense” system and probable Alzheimer’s were bad? These people were getting advice from people who basically thought they could talk to planets.

So it makes perfect sense that we’d now be seeing this play out. For some reason Reagan’s son Michael is simultaneously both outraged and convinced that it could not be his father’s blood. He knows this because, I don’t know, Saturn is in its “third house” or something.

And besides, this is capitalism at work. What do these outraged conservatives want? Do they want a boycott, like those effete snobs who wouldn’t buy tuna for a few years? Do they want the government to intervene on this free market exchange? Look, if ReaganBlood (trademark pending, I’m sure) isn’t a product the public wants, then its price will deflate until the product is no longer viable. Any other approach is totally communism.

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Well that’s it for now. If my theory about the summer heat and news of this sort holds up, this column space should be getting even longer in the next few months. That or I’ll be in the throws of madness myself and will have to cover my own insanity and point out why I’m wrong. At that point I think this column would collapse into a black hole of meta. So we have that to look forward to.

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Kino: The Winged Beatle

May 23rd, 2012 by

These two guys don’t look alike at all!!1

Constellations never made any sense to me. The stars are just randomly plotted around the night sky and it always seemed arbitrary to me to say that certain stars make up one constellation while others are separate. And all the shapes they were mean to represent were never apparent to me, even when other people tried to point them out and connect the dots.

The Winged Beatle reminded me of how I can be astrologically challenged in that sense. It’s a documentary which promotes the conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966 and has now been replaced by a doppelganger. This is “proved” by a series of unrelated anomalies and “clues” mostly hidden in Beatles music and the album artwork.

The reason I say this is like astrology is that the film avoids making any definitive conclusion like the plague. Like the astrologers, the filmmakers behind this leave it to their audience to connect most of the dots. This must be satisfying to the believers since it allows for a sense of interactivity with the movie.

This is demonstrated early on when the film gets close to making some kind of claim about The Beatles trying to establish themselves at the helm of a new religion. At first I had trouble figuring out of the filmmakers were complaining about this or just “exposing” a fun new facet to this band they loved, probably because I apparently live in some kind of atheist bubble and sometimes have trouble telling what’s offensive to religious people.

After poking around a few reviews and the comment sections that followed, it looks like those who buy into this stuff aren’t very happy about it. These people are so backwards that they’re still into this idea that normal rock music is part of Satan’s evil plan. They haven’t even caught up with the ignorant hicks who think punk, metal, and hip hop are Satanic plots to get kids to cast spells on their parents.

The details aren’t quite clear, but the basic gist of what they say happened is this: Paul McCartney died in a car accident. Instead of cashing in on the tragedy the way pretty much every other band that lost a member too early would, the Beatles hushed it up. They replaced Paul with someone else. Probably Billy Shears. The band would publicly deny this any time it came up during interviews or other public appearances, but would also leave maddeningly incomplete “hints.” According to those behind TWB, The Beatles were basically trolling their fans.

I think most of the “evidence” presented in the film can be lumped into two categories, and I’m going to illustrate the categories by using two examples. First would be some supposed backwards messages in the music, especially a bit in Strawberry Fields Forever which is supposed to be John Lennon saying “I buried Paul.” The Official Story from the Beatles is that he was actually saying “cranberry sauce.” Of course when this excerpt is played in the movie, the audience is primed with a caption suggesting that Lennon was saying that he buried McCartney.

This, along with another instance where someone close to the band said that Paul “isn’t the same guy” – a seemingly obvious reference to a sudden change in McCartney’s character – I think falls under the category of deception on the part of those spreading the idea that Paul is dead. Either they’ve fooled themselves or they’re consciously fooling others. And they do it by cherry-picking and misrepresenting evidence so that it fits with their theory.

The other category of evidence presented in TWB involves when I think the Beatles were trolling their more gullible fans as part of a marketing gimmick. I don’t have evidence to support this but what this interpretation has over the alternative (i.e. that McCartney really is dead) is that it involves less scheming and intense secrecy.

So let’s say you’re in a rock band and some people mistakenly believe your bassist died. This adds intrigue to your group and intrigue means money. So you feed into that by, say, using some death imagery in some of your album artwork. Like the flowers arranged in the shape of a bass at the lower left-hand corner of the Sgt. Pepper album cover, which is supposed to represent a grave.

Lots of bands have done this kind of thing since the sixties and it’s gotten to the point where it can all be very blatant and over-the-top. One of my favorite bands growing up was called the Mephiskapheles, whose debut album was called God Bless Satan. Lots of punk and heavy metal bands embraced Satanic and death imagery back in the 80s. Fans appreciated it when their favorite bands directly confronted the religious right’s hysteria over the supposedly degrading culture in that way.

To be sure, I’m not saying I have some secret memo from the Beatles manager where he pitched these ideas to the band. But this is just a simpler explanation for the data points TWB brings up that aren’t intentionally deceptive.¬†So if you take out all the evidence TWB brings up that is deceitful and misrepresentative, and then you take out everything that would be better explained by simple opportunism on the band’s part, you’re left with, well, nothing at all.

But really what’s most frustrating about this stuff is in how so many questions are left unanswered. Why would the band give away this secret? What’s the point of that? The only thing close to an explanation is that Alesteir Crowley wrote a couple of sentences about how he liked backwards writing and backwards speech in one of his books once.

The Winged Beatle doesn’t deal with any of the obvious follow-up questions. It only focuses on pattern recognition, and we as a species are very¬†susceptible¬†to false positives when it comes to perceiving patterns where none exist. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Back when we lived outside and slept under the stars, we invented constellations. Now that we live indoors and fall asleep watching TV, we make nonsensical patterns with our pop culture.

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God's PR Squad Lies Again! Alex Jones! Stoned Angels Ordering Pizza!

May 18th, 2012 by

STOP THE PRESSES: Alex Jones is being stupid again, you guys! He has exposed the secret atheist agenda, and can you guess what it is? You get one guess. If your guess was a mishmash of Jonesian buzzwords like “New World Order,” “conspiracy,” “Luciferian,” and “occult,” then you win!

Alex Jones does this “research,” OK? He doesn’t ever cite any sources because usually his research involves just making shit up. But according to his research, everyone funding atheist groups are secretly occultist Luciferians, like pretty much everyone else who doesn’t believe everything published on InfoWars.

See, these rich occultists try to turn everyone into other occultists, somehow in some invisible way. Probably with magic. Anyway, it usually doesn’t work, so they just try to “make everyone atheist.” Because that’s so much easier given how trust-worthy and well-accepted atheists are in American society.

As usual, this is all part of some plot to advance the cause of eugenics. There’s a pretty despicable trick he plays with that word. Most of us think of eugenics and associate it with pseudoscience, racism, and the¬†Holocaust. But that’s not what he’s really referring to. He really means abortion, and by abortion, I mean laws making abortion legal. But to Jones, legalizing abortion and Auschwitz are all the same thing because he has no morals and no sense of¬†proportion¬†at all.

Jones started out as an anti-abortion conservative radio guy. He quickly “discovered” the New World Order and found his niche there, but he’s held onto this weird fetish for the government forcing unwanted pregnancies throughout his career, for FREEDOM.

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Angels rush in for the lunch special.

A pizza shop owner Bob Usner¬†found an angel on his surveillance video. Admittedly I’m pretty bad with aesthetics overall but it took me a few minutes of staring at this picture to see the “angel.” And I’m still not 100% sure I’m seeing the same one as the pizza shop owner.

But if we’re perceiving the same thing here, the angel is doing a what Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter 2 refer to as the Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku spinning kick¬†towards the left side of the frame. The right side of the vague blur is one of the angel’s wings and the left side of the blur would be the other. The slightly less blurred black space in between the two is supposed to be the head, which would be facing left, blocking the full view of the wing on the angel’s right side with its silhouette.

I found this story via r/skeptic and some of the commenters there seemed to think it was probably a pigeon. I guess I can see that in the same unconvincing way I can see the angel. But since there are around 400 million pigeons in the world (most of them live at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus or with Mike Tyson in Brooklyn) and there are exactly zero cases of actual angel appearances, it’s a lot more likely this is a pigeon.

To most of our audience that goes without saying. But look at how easily a true believer like Usner can warp the probability of supernatural events based on past experiences:

“When asked if there could another explanation for the image, maybe a spider web or a lens flare, Usner said the camera has never captured anything like this.”

So there’s no way it can be a spider web because his camera never captured ANYTHING LIKE THAT before. Does that mean that his camera regularly picks up pictures of spirits and ghosts and demons? Is that why he could identify this blur as his dead father in angel form? And is this some kind of special camera? Maybe it’s a demonic surveillance camera straight from the pit of hell! Let’s burn it!

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Rick Perry, seen here, beating the heat

Remember last year when there was a drought in Texas and its Governor Rick Perry was all like, “Hey dudes! Maybe if we wave our hands around and mumble to ourselves, it’ll start raining!” It was a combination of The Secret and a rain dance.

So they prayed and prayed, but forgot to fill out the proper paperwork. So their Prophet Mohammed God set large portions of the state on fire.

But now in an Orwellian re-writing of history, Christian activist Rick Scarborough and science fiction alternative history author David Barton are claiming that prayer actually stopped the wildfires. It would be easier to make a case for the opposite, although that would still involve claiming that prayer is magical.

But because it eventually rained at some point in the future – who’da thunk it, right? – Scarborough calls it a “fresh illustration of how God honors prayer.” To which Barton responded:

“Yeah, that’s one of those many things that historians will looks back upon and say ‘look at the correlation.’”

See, this is how miracle stories can start. We’re seeing it happen right in front of our eyes. This is why you can’t take ancient historical accounts with lots of mythical elements seriously. The people who are interested in spreading this kind of nonsense will just flat out lie. And they’ll do it boldly and without any shame at all.

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Secret Communist Subliminal Messages! Supermoons! God Lives in Ohio! And More!

May 4th, 2012 by

“It’s a Supermoon, dicknose!”

Tomorrow there will be a full moon, and it’s going to be the biggest one of the year. It’s one of those Supermoons. And it’ll be on May 5th, 2012 (5/5!!). Does this mean the Moon will grow so much that it will reverse the Earth’s magnetic poles, causing massive earthquakes and tsunamis which will then awaken the sleeping Mayan god¬†Quetzalcoatl? And will¬†Quetzalcoatl then destroy the world in accordance with the unwritten ancient prophecies? Probably!

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Republican Race Wars! Muslims Invade Asia! Antivaccine Airlines! Breatharianism!

April 27th, 2012 by

His misspelled sign burned in the fire before the photo was taken.

A group of religious fundamentalists were protesting the expansion of a mosque in their area. They said it was being built on land that was sacred to them and they did not approve. They said they would destroy it unless the¬†construction¬†site were moved. When they found that a worship site of yet another religion was already in the area, they then demanded that that site be moved as well. (more…)

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BEASTcast 28: Sanal Edamaruku

April 15th, 2012 by

Sanal Edamaruku is the founder-president of Rationalist International and our first repeat BEASTcast guest. We talk about how he recently debunked a Catholic miracle claim in Mumbai and the blasphemy charges against him that ensued. You can donate to the Sanal Edamaruku Defence Fund and support free expression in India here. Music is by Pigface and is used with permission. You can subscribe to the BEASTcast here or rate and/or leave a review in iTunes.

n.b. Contrary to what I said introducing him, Sanal Edamaruku has not been arrested for blasphemy. There are charges against him, but as of the time I’m writing this those charges have not yet resulted in an arrest.¬† (more…)

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Know Your Right-Wing Homeopaths

April 13th, 2012 by

LOL WHAW

World Homeopathy Awareness Week started this past Tuesday, probably because Tuesday is an infinitely diluted Monday. It’s kind of like Breast Cancer Awareness Week in that the thing we’re supposed to be more aware of suffers a major PR blow from all that awareness. But they’re different in that homeopaths are perversely proud of their special week while cancerous cells tend to not promote theirs.¬† (more…)

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