Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Ghost of Dummies Yet To Come- I'm Sorry, Oh Wait...

Let me preface this by saying I’m sorry. Now, that I’ve said that, let me tell you that I’m not. I am NOT sorry.
(I just wanted to get your attention)
I’m not sorry for calling people who believe they’re vampires morons. I’m not sorry for insisting the term “skeptical community” is retarded and that anybody who refers to themselves as a member of that ‘community’ is an elitist twit searching for a place to belong because they’re antisocial, confused, quasi-pedagoguery is generally frowned upon by everyone. 
Everyone is sorry. The American ideal of freedom allows anyone to hold any view you like… as long as you feel bad about it.
There’s nothing really wrong with being sorry. When one makes an error, it’s perfectly acceptable to be contrite. The problem is that constant apologetics eventually distort reality. Why is it so wrong to hurt someone’s feelings? Aren’t some hurtful things true?
Aren’t some people fat? Or gross? Or habitual losers? Or wrong? Or stupid? Or banal?
While it’s doubtful you’ll win any citizenship awards, those criticisms can be perfectly valid in certain circumstances. There are fat people. There are losers. There are idiots and all other sorts of undesirable types of people.
(For those of you into fat acceptance, you may be offended by the fat that I implied fat people are ‘undesirable’. While I am aware of your plight, I simply don’t care, so don’t waste my time and your time complaining about it. After all, every second you waste bitching at me, is a second you could spend crying in the bathroom and  eating French fries.)
The problem with that inclusive thinking is that it makes everything acceptable when it shouldn‘t be.
In my college English class we were assigned the play Hamlet to read at home and discuss in class. In the end, we ended up explicating nearly the entire play because it was virtually unanimous that Shakespeare was ‘too hard’ to understand, and his vocabulary too obscure. The fact is, college is supposed to be hard. Assignments are meant to be challenging. But when the professor observed that ¾ of the class were not able to discuss the play, the conclusion he drew was that we needed to lower the standards and devote two weeks of class time to going over the play and receiving a line by line explanation of what Shakespeare meant.
I'd like to propose an alternate conclusion- maybe the people who can’t understand college level reading should just not be in a college literature class to begin with.
In the push to get everyone into college the fact that not everyone belongs there was overlooked. But rather than say “you’re too stupid to go to college” or simply allowing these people to fail, we devote two weeks to combing through Shakespeare so that the morons in the cheap seats understand that Hamlet died at the end.
Failure in school is a Darwinian mechanism of ensuring that only people who are marginally capable of understanding abstract concepts, performing basic math functions, and showing up at an appointed time occupy future positions in which those skills will feature prominently. 
The downside is failing anatomy may mean you won’t become a doctor- but on the plus side, it means you won’t become a doctor.
Allowing people to succeed when they shouldn’t destroys the only real method of ensuring competency.
One teacher summed this philosophy up when she told our class she wouldn’t allow anyone to fail- because that wouldn’t mean they had failed the class, it would mean she had failed them.
(Isn’t that precious?)
Unfortunately, life is not an after school special. People can (and should) fail because they’re lazy, or undisciplined, or just plain dumb- and letting them succeed is not a cure for those flaws.
(In fact, dumb really can’t be cured at all)
It doesn’t stop there. My daughter has attended birthday parties with games where no one wins and everybody gets participation ribbons. Soccer games where no one keeps score and everybody gets an MVP awards. Classes that banish use of the word ‘can’t’ in some strange endeavor to part with reality by implying that anyone can do anything. Plus size beauty pageants (hey those really have a HUGE impact on the 4 people who watch them!).  And classes where you grade yourself! Add to this, the fact that it’s naughty of us to tell people who think Jesus lives in their toast that they’re delusional, or to tell people who really believe that the ghost hunters are chasing disembodied entities through the halls of condemned building that they’re naive.
In a baffling backwards turn of events, we are responding to a world that is becoming more competitive by becoming less capable of competing in any meaningful way.
(Aha! It’s adapting- only the other way! Leave it to America to innovate an old concept...)
The good news is, by the time our country becomes obsolete, no one will know what the word obsolete means, which means no one’s self esteem will be hurt.
(And isn’t that a victory in and of itself? [No!])
If no one’s self esteem is hurt, then no one will need to apologize! Like my Mom always said… societal collapse means never having to say you’re sorry.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Ghost of Dummies Present- This Is A Blog Entry, Dammit!

My Mom, empress of the well-meaning, forwarded email, sent me a lovely peach of an chain letter that was innocuously titled ‘Christmas Tree’.  I opened it, and realized the prologue was very informative- it declared in bold letters This is a Christmas Tree.

(You can go right ahead and file that in the “No shit Sherlock” category of your mind).

Emboldened by new found knowledge of Xmas Trees, I read on. Beneath that sentence it showed a picture of yet another tree, and beneath it the writing told me that this as well was a Christmas Tree.

My mind groped blindly to try to comprehend the enormity of that fact. How could the first tree be a Christmas tree, if the second one was a Christmas tree too?! Not even a Christmas Tree can be in two pictures at once (or is that places?). I was so confused, yet as I read, the cryptic meaning became apparent.
There were numerous Christmas trees, an entire army, in fact and apparently everyone had taken photographs of them- but then there was a twist in the plot. I came to a tree, and instead of telling me what it was- IT PRECEDED TO TELL ME WHAT IT WASN’T (Genius!)
They were not Holiday Trees, Hanukkah Bushes, or Allah Plants.
(Yeah, because all those things are silly...and they forgot Kwanza)

 I reeled from the deception. Because who wants to sequentially toyed with near the holidays ? (Who?!)  My confusion sent me scurrying to the internet to look for more information (and video montages of fat people falling down the stairs).
But then I found a conflicting set of information. One group of people said that it doesn’t matter how you celebrate the holidays, or what name you call your celebration. This group of people told me that in spite of the fact that the religions were very different and unique, they were really EXACTLY the same- like the Christmas trees!
(So someone tell the extremist Muslims they misunderstood their religion- even when what we believe is very different, that doesn't have to mean that it isn't completely the same.)
They're the same because- all the religions teach LOVE (isn't that absolutely precious?)- which causes one to wonder why the authors of the Bible needed  181,253 words for that.
(That would make it one of the most obscenely verbose Valentine’s cards ever!)
The point of this is: In the spirit of complete ridiculousness, I have decided to call Christmas whatever the hell I want and I encourage you to do the same. 
Allow me to recommend Allahanukwanzitheisticmas.
God sent his only son, Santa Claus, to Earth riding on Comet where he settled in the North Pole. Every Dec. 21st he flies around the world with his reindeer and fills childrens' stockings with virgins... and candy. Then we sacrifice the reindeer to make Chinese food.
The end. If my idea catches, and I have absolutely no faith that it will, I will never have to receive another chain letter email again... or at least until Easter.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Ghost of Dummies Past- The Fallacy of Skepticism

          Let me get this out of the way first- there’s no such thing as a “skeptic community”, so stop using the term.  What constitutes a skeptic? And skeptical in who’s estimation? The people who identify wit the delusion of a skeptical community seem to forget that everybody is skeptical about something, and even the most skeptical person can’t be skeptical about everything. So how skeptical do you need to be to call yourself a member of the “skeptic community”? And more importantly, what do you have to be skeptical about? It’s important to remember that there is a flipside to every argument- ghost hunters are skeptical about scientific explanations of their spooky phenomenon. Conspiracy theorists are skeptical about government undertakings. Creationists are skeptical about evolution- that doesn’t mean they’d blend well at the next Skeptic Society mixer.
(I’ve had this argument before and the counterargument is that ‘skeptic’ as used by the people who consider themselves members of the ‘skeptic community’ may be taken to mean ‘critical thinker’. Which begs the question “why not simply call yourself a “critical thinking community?”)
          It would be great if all the skeptics in the skeptic community were critical thinkers, but apparently there are major caveats about what skeptics are skeptical about. Skeptics can be skeptical about ghosts but not quarks. They can be skeptical of new aged medicine, but not anthropogenic global warming.
(I happen to believe in quarks, not ghosts, and AGW, not New Age Medicine, but that’s beside the point.)
          My point is that few of these “skeptics” can articulate why they believe in the things they do. Viewing the comments on the entry called “The Climategate Fiasco”  there seems to be a general agreement that these “skeptics” believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming, but very little indication as to why. Many people freely admit that they “don’t understand the data”, yet nonetheless they uncritically defend the author of the post and the scientists whose emails were published.
          If you don’t understand the data how can you possibly know whether or not you agree with it?
This comment from a reader called Kostas sums it up great when he says (capitalization and spacing errors theirs) - “That said i believe AGW is a reality just because credible people whose judgment i trust (that would be you) seem to think so.Not to mention that if the right opposes it its probably true (thats being said only half jokingly)”
(Wow… well that just  answers all my questions! I just need to figure out who’s credible and believe what they tell me! And here I was doing all this thinking for nothing! )
          The phenomenon extends well beyond a single post. For every post there seems to be general accolades and agreement for the poster, but only vague hints as to why the audience agrees. In most cases it amounts to a simple restatement of what the poster just said.
          Another great example of this is the recent post “Young Earth Creationism = Darwinism?”. The author was essentially discussing the macroevolution/microevolution debate (if you don’t know what that is then google it)- but everyone who read it and commented seemed to be completely unaware that these arguments were old hat.
          I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to applaud science, even if you lack the capacity to understand it, but if you’re applauding something you don’t understand and calling yourself a  “skeptic” while you do then I’d have to say you’re deluding yourself.
          Believing in something because someone else told you it’s true is not skeptical. They have a word for that, it’s called faith. Many of the skeptic’s have faith that what the other skeptics are telling them, but they don’t know and have no ability to find out.
(This is, ironically the very same attitude that religious supporters are frequently chastised for- them being members of the “non-skeptical community” in the eyes of the skeptic camp.)
          It’s more than that though. A necessary component for critical thinking is to separate a claim from what evidence can be demonstrated and proven to be real. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be scientific proof, a critical thinker should dissemble an idea and see if it makes sense in context. Ideas that don’t, are left on the cutting room floor.
          But I am skeptical about how well they keep to this ideology.
          Daniel Loxton’s Twitter is an excellent source for tidbits:
“Skeptics don't like being together, vilified, called names and dismissed- so (this ain’t rocket science) we shouldn’t do that either.”
You know what else isn’t rocket science? Realizing that, in spite of the fact that Loxton just pointed out that Skeptics don’t like to be lumped together, her lumped them together by calling them skeptics and ascribing a set of preferences.
That isn’t really important- the real problem is that ignores one crucial fact- almost no one likes being called names or vilified. But it also assumes that there are no valid names to be called and no one who deserves to vilified.
He explains that later though:
“It’s off-putting to hear your cherished beliefs mocked, of course, but more than that:  most pseudoscientific beliefs are wrong- NOT stupid.”
While being wrong doesn’t always mean being stupid (to err is human), but sometimes it does. If pseudoscientific aren’t stupid then what is stupid?
Nothing? If ’stupid’, as a word, described nothing, then it wouldn’t be in common use- but it. So surely something must be stupid.
Moreover, stupid is in the eye of the beholder.  Deciding whether something is or isn’t stupid is not a decree handed down from on high- it’s an individual value judgment.
Then there is a whole list of things that skeptics should do or explanations about what skepticism is about- never fully acknowledging that he is only describing what skepticism is for him, and that there are no experts on what a “skeptic” does or doesn’t believe.
Finally, there are statements that tell us skeptics shouldn’t use slang or pejoratives to describe opposing forces, though the exact reason why is not clear. The statement implies that no insults are ever true (if they were then why would we abstain from using them?). No one is ever stupid (even if they are), or obtuse (even when they’re obtuse), or dim-witted, or insipid… even when they are.
It seems like a blatant and deliberate effort to overrule reality in order to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.
Loxton even mentions how Shermer was dubbed an “accomodationist” and Loxton calls it “probably the lamest thing ever to happen to atheist activism” … since the invention of the term atheist activism, that is. There seems to be an arbitrary standard for what types of euphemisms are permissible.
By all means, look for yourself.
          In fairness, Loxton is not the only one guilty of doing this. It is becoming an increasingly popular attitude espoused within the “community”. and it only calls into question the assertion that skeptics care about finding the truth. 
          I made this entry The Ghost of Dummies past for a reason- we’ve all heard this before. There is another kind of social group that tends to believe what it’s leader say uncritically, make broad moral prescriptions about what it’s members should and should not do, and then makes blanket value judgments based on absolutely nothing- it’s called religion.

Friday, November 27, 2009

1st Place- The 2012 Turkey of Doom

I had to pick one single idea that qualified as the dumbest funking thing I’ve heard recently, and I knew immediately what to pick. It is an idea so monumental in it’s inanity that it transcended simple stupidity- it’s Super Stupid, and it’s 2012!
Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate the brigade of 2012 Doomsayers. The sheer ubiquity of 2012-Mayan-Doomsday-Apocalypse pisses me off. I can’t swing a moron without hitting another moron who’s talking on his iphone about 2012.
I do want to say one thing. I got several emails telling me how mean I am. They criticized me , essentially saying that while I’m free to express my disbelief in 2012 prophecy, it isn’t necessary for me to call believers morons. Or to refer to the morons ideas as being ‘stupid’. They felt that I could express my ideas on the subject without meanness…
Where’s the fun in that?
In all seriousness, where do we draw the line? Aren’t some ideas simply so stupid that there’s no other term to describe them? At some point, we have to decide that some notions are not worth entertaining and some ideas just don’t deserve serious consideration.
Their beliefs are not more deserving than alien abductees or big foot watchers (in fact, they feature a lot of similar components). No one would seriously demand that the lunatic fringe be treated as serious people, so why is it when a fringe idea takes root in the common imagination I am asked to treat it gingerly?
A line has to be drawn somewhere, and at some point nonsense has to be called what it is. What happens when we fail to draw a line demarcating what is and is not ridiculous is… well… what happens is the 2012 phenomenon.
I’ve already discussed how you don’t need to be an astrophysicist to understand that the events that will allegedly take place on Dec. 21st, 2012 are implausible (and that’s my nice word for it). All you need to do is a spin a ball and watch how it behaves. The ball will spin, wobbling on it’s axis, and as it slows down it will start to tip over and go ‘funny’. The earth just doesn’t slow down enough to flip over and go ‘funny’, so that scenario isn’t viable.
Also take note of the fact that the spinning ball doesn’t start spinning backwards for no reason. In order to spin the ball ‘backwards’ the ball would have to stop and then would need to be spun again, only this time going the other way. DO TRY THIS AT HOME KIDS. Try it again and again and again. The ball will behave the same when placed in the same conditions and subjected to the same application of force.
There is no event anticipated that will change the basic way our ball (the planet) behaves.
Which brings me to the final Doomsday scenario I hear again and again. We will be hit by another planet in 2012. The Mayans, first class astronomers, predicted it.
Yeah, tell me another one. There is no way that the Mayans knew we would get hit by a planet in 2012, and I don’t care how impressive their knowledge of the stars may have been- and here’s why.
Because we haven’t seen this planet yet. 2012 believers can go on and on about the Mayan’s advanced knowledge of astronomy, but when it comes down to it, the Mayans had no way to perceive a planet a trillion light years away. If they “saw” this planet it would mean that somehow their astronomical equipment rivaled NASA and it didn’t.
In order to believe that the Mayans foresaw a planet crashing into Earth, you’d have to believe that the Mayans were not only great astronomers, but that they were actually psychic. And they weren’t. Neither am I. Neither are you. And neither are the people who are selling you books about surviving the Apocalypse.
(For those of you who are afraid that the world will end in 2012, who’s really insulting your intelligence? The people who take your money and sell you fantasies, or me who thinks you’re smart enough to know better?)
I think America may be uniquely vulnerable to ideas like these. Our country was founded by Puritans and in order to be a Puritan you have to be willing to accept ideas that have no basis in fact. It’s a requirement for any religious belief. Faith, by definition, is believing in something that has no logical proof.
Though America has eschewed its puritanical heritage the tendency to believe in ideas that defy logical remains.
Well, that’s all folks. I’ve said enough about 2012 for now. I will see you again in December… provided of course that the world doesn’t flip inside out first.

Monday, November 23, 2009

2nd Place- Bill Maher *Hearts* Woo

The problem is that I like Bill Maher and I think that (most of the time) he’s hilarious. That said, his recent comments have struck some, myself among them, as more than a little kooky.
I am specifically referring to his rather bizarre blog post in response to his response to Michael Shermer’s open letter (HuffPo open letter).
The post starts of congenial enough- “While America is still in the grips of swine flu mania, let me use this opportunity to clear up a few things about my beliefs concerning the flu shot, vaccines, and health in general.” Bill Maher's Blog Response

(Great Bill. We’d love nothing better.)

He then goes on to say that many people are expressing private “skepticism” regarding vaccines and that he feels responsible for representing these peoples views.

(Privately? Isn’t that convenient? I mean about how no one can disapprove Maher claims because no ethical person would dare reveal the name of private supporter.)

Then he informs us of how put upon he is and attempts some sort of wacky conciliatory argument “But I don't want the job. I agree with my critics who say there are far more qualified people than me -- its just that mainstream media rarely interviews doctors and scientists who present an alternative point of view.”

One might be inclined to say “Don’t take the job then Bill.”

No one drug Maher from his home and tortured him until he admitted his unconventional views on vaccinations. He had ample opportunity to simply shut his mouth. Yet he didn’t. The moment he decided to open his mouth and exercise his free speech he became culpable for what he said. Hence, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that he got the job. After all, he applied for it when he expressed his views on national television. Presenting himself as a martyr in order to elicit sympathy from his critics should be beneath him. Ah, but there more. Maher tells us there’s a movement to silence those who would object to the horrid tyranny of vaccines.

For one moment Maher sounds exactly like the senseless individuals he routinely skewers. There’s a movement, though the only people who seem to see this movement are Maher and his get. Why would that be? Well, a movement that’s hidden from everyone else sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy, doesn’t it?

And once again Maher plays the sympathy card. Here he is, just a humble comedian, who is out there fighting those who would silence people who are asking vital questions concerning OUR health! Those bastards! How dare you immunize me!

(He’s Super Maher, mild mannered comedian by day- but by night he battles his archenemy The Man to save us all from HEALTH CARE! It’s a bird… it’s a plane…it‘s a jackass!)
In case that fails to impress you Maher tries ad populum to woo us: “The British Medical Journal from August 25 says half the doctors and medical workers in the U.K. are not taking the flu shot -- are they all crazy too? Sixty-five percent of French people don't want it. Maybe its not as simple as the medical establishment wants to paint it.”

I’m not going to bother trying to deflate the statistics- instead I’m going to point out the contradiction in using them. Maher concludes his sentence with saying “Maybe its not as simple as the medical establishment wants to paint it.” Which medical establishment? In the sentence before, Maher asked “half the doctors and medical workers in the U.K. are not taking the flu shot -- are they all crazy too?” Why is the medical establishment in the U.S, simplifying the issue, but the UK medical professionals are beyond scrutiny? If one set of doctors and specialists are too dense to comprehend the complexity issue, how can we trust another set of doctors just because they happen to be across the pond?

And what do the French have to do with anything? Being French doesn’t equate being reasonable.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Biggest Turkey- 3rd Place

3rd Place- Organophiles and Foodaphobes Boy oh boy I am sick of hearing the following lamentations: Our food is killing us with chemicals. There’s a conspiracy to put addictive additives in our snack cakes. We’re being force fed sugar, or worse, high fructose corn syrup. It’s no small irony that these complaints tend to come from people 50lbs overweight who are shoveling Little Debbies into their pie holes so quickly they nearly choke.

The Chemical Fallacy- The bottom line is all foods contain chemicals. There are no exceptions to that rule, but fear not. The prevalent idea is that chemicals are bad (most of these people conjure up bizarre images of scientists in lab coats hunkered over glowing ooze) and indicative of ‘tampering’ with the food supply. They claim that food companies add these naughty chemical to their food to: a) give them cancer because they’re in cahoots with Big Pharma and the Government b) make their consumers addicted to their product, a process that is facilitated by the Government c) because the makers of food products are too dimwitted to comprehend what they are putting in their products, yet a high school dropout with an eco-freak book or a weird hippy with an organic garden can do so competently.
Idiots cite proof like this bit of stupid: “margarine and plastic are only one molecule away from each other.”
I can only guess this is an attempt to make a paranoid fantasy sound legitimate by tossing in a word like molecule. Would you like a glass H2O2- of course you wouldn’t because that’s hydrogen peroxide. Simply by removing a single oxygen atom we produce water (H20)- a necessity of life. Similar chemical structures do not imply that two substances will have remotely the same effect in the human body.
There are, after all, only 118 things on the planet that anything can be made from (consult the periodic table of elements) and it’s only reasonable to assume that there will be a little overlap.

The Cancer Fallacy- Secondly, in spite of what any one doctor or single study says, the overall picture is a trend towards living longer. If preservatives in food were that big of a deal we would have seen a sharp drop in lifespan. The most convincing evidence cited to support this argument is a rise in cancer rates. At first it seems to indicate that we are getting ‘sicker’ in some numerically impossible way since we’re living longer and the population keeps increasing. But the rise of cancer rates is a deceptive statistic.
Most cancers don’t begin until much later in life. According to the American Cancer Society, the greatest likelihood for developing cancer is in the age group of 70 and older (according to their statistics 37.74% of men will develop cancer and 26.17% of women in that age group). That means the probability of developing this illness more that doubles between the 60-69 age group ( male probability is 15.71 and female is 10.23) and the 70+ group.
Our cancer rates have increased because the percentage of our population who live long enough to develop the disease has increased. To put that into context, the average life expectancy for a US citizen didn’t break 70 (the time when most cancers begin) until 1970, when the average life expectancy was 70.8. (
Another problem with cancer statistics is that diagnosis of cancer has become much more accurate. It’s likely that in eras past, cancer was simply misdiagnosed and treated as a different illness. Needless to say, most of these unfortunate suffers died- making it impossible for them to pass on their genetic material. With better treatment, survival rates have increased dramatically , and with those the likelihood that survivors will pass on their genetic legacy has increased. Since cancer has a strong genetic component, it’s difficult to imagine that passing on ones’ genes would have no impact on the health of the subsequent generations.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Conspiracy Theorists

I think it's important to say something about conspiracy theories. They're very difficult for rational people to disprove because conspiracy theories are based on the absence of evidence. When dealing with normal, run-of-the-mill nonsense the argument can be disassembled by discrediting the evidence, but in a conspiracy theory THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO BE DISCREDITED!
In fact, the lack of evidence is proof that the conspirators are very clever and wily.
To those people, however, I'd like to point out that not being able to prove a conspiracy theory wrong does not necessarily imply that the theory has merit.
For example, someone could say that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are plotting to kill Cupid and no one could prove them wrong- I could point out that in spite of that, they are completely lacking in any objective evidence to substantiate their claim.

Sticking It To Organiphiles (And Not In A Good Way)

In the plague of asinine ideas and individuals that have captured the imagination (and dollars) of the American public one stands head and shoulders above all the others- the organiphiles. ‘Organiphile’ is my pet term for an individual who is preoccupied with the consumption of organic goods- regardless of objective quality or pragmatism.
(P.S. I am well aware of the fact that I made fun of Michael Shermer for his liberal, spontaneous genesis of words so don’t waste your energy sending me scathing emails pointing out my hypocrisy. My words are FUNNY! So there!)
The pervasive idea behind this dumbness is that somehow organic food is substantially “better” for you (though often times better is an amorphous euphemism for ‘more expensive’) and ‘better’ for the planet. One website that hocks organic food and products even claims “Organic food is known to contain 50% more nutrients, minerals and vitamins than produce that has been intensively farmed.” (Organic Food Info).
Known by who? The people who have a substantial financial stake in the organic food market?
There’s a link that says ‘Read More About This Here’, but when clicked it takes you to a page selling a books. (Whoever would have suspected! Gasp!) Among the literature advertised is a book called Healthy Urban Kitchen that is written by certified fitness trainer.
Unfortunately folks, a certified fitness trainer is not a dietitian, doctor, biologist, or chemist. Understanding nutrition is not a requirement for becoming certified as a personal trainer (Certified). I looked. You can too.
Another book featured on this website tells you that the chemicals on yucky store bought food can cause conditions ranging from little to no motivation to low energy levels (My Organic) . (Which to the uninitiated, or anyone not suffering from mild retardation, those two conditions may sound a lot like the exact same thing.)
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that there is no evidence to support the claim that organic food has greater nutritional value than its’ traditional supermarket counterpart (Science Daily). Initial results indicated that organic foods may have greater nutritional content, but the most recent studies have discredited those early findings.
In some ways, organic food actually poses a greater risk to the public health than conventional produce. The likelihood of bacterial contamination is greater for organic crops. Cow manure, a favorite ‘natural fertilizer’, is an excellent source of E. Coli (The Skeptic‘s Dictionary).
(Remember the Black Plague was organic too, but that didn’t make it fabulous, now did it?)
Nor is organic food necessarily better for the environment. Organic bananas from the dark side of the moon are still going to have an enormous carbon footprint.
The Organic Food Info website says: “In the rush to produce more and more crops to satisfy growing demand producers have had to resort to using a lethal cocktail of pesticides to control disease and insect attack. Good news for their bank balances perhaps but not good news for your health, this is why you need to be informed of the advantages of organic food.”
Well, they seem to be presenting two ideas contradictory ideas. In the first sentence, the producers are responding to a demands for more crops. Why would we need more food? Obviously- because there’s more people. So the producers grow more. But that’s good news for their ‘bank balances’? Isn’t it also good news for all the people who… I don’t know…have food to eat? The demand for more crops was caused by a swelling population that demanded more food. If that demand wasn’t met, those people would have died.
Do people really believe that farmers masterminded a scheme to use chemicals (which cost money) to grow more food that they wouldn’t sell? How that be beneficial for their ’bank balances’? Someone would have to be buying it, and if someone was buying it, then it stands to reason that someone is eating it. The alternative is that people are buying produce to let it rot, in which buying organic produce wouldn’t matter because no one would be eating it in the first place.
This is just a hypothesis, but I would wager a human would die a lot faster from starvation than from the alleged ‘poisoning’ caused by ‘toxic’ chemicals.
All available evidence contradicts the idea that we’re being poisoned by our food. If the claim that the nutritional value of our food has declined since the advent of modern farming techniques came into vogue, then why would our life expectancy continue to rise?
The idea contradicts all available evidence: a population that is being ‘poisoned’ simply does not live longer than it did before. If it did, then it really wouldn’t be being poisoned, now would it (Life Expectancy)?
They have all sorts of answers to this questions. For example, medicine has offset the “deadly” chemicals. (We’ll forget for an instant that the same people who tend to be organic farming most ardent supporters also tend to denounce Big Pharma.) Unfortunately, medicine ultimately employs the same tactics as agriculture, so the argument that medicine has saved us from our food is dubious at best.
The organiphiles also overlook one inconvenient piece of reality: if organic farming was able to support the population, it probably would have. The agriculture revolution happened in response to a population that didn’t have enough food.
I believe some people who purchase organic produce simply because it’s organic have the best interests of their families and others at heart. But more are simply ignorant food snobs, who are attracted to the organic movement because of the elitism it supports. They eat organic food because they’re better than you. You can spot these people eating bags of “organic chocolate chips” or organic deep fried onion rings (made in genuine organic lard!). It sets them apart from the common, pedestrian populace eating common “regular” food.
There’s also a healthy number of conspiracy nuts in the organiphile camps who think mainstream anything is a scheme to kill your goldfish and eat your children. Attempting to critique the moronic logic of conspiracy nuts is too great an endeavor for this particular post, however.
So- it’s a good thing to want to be healthy. It creates a problem when you’re purchasing something based on inaccurate information. In the case of organic food, that error in judgment can get you paying as much as three times the amount for a non-organic product. With that kind of money at stake, it’s good idea to make sure you’re getting three times the value. And in most cases, you just aren’t.
And for those of you who think you’ve found a way to stick it to big business- I have some news for you. According to the Organic Trade Association sales from organic food and beverages totaled $16.7 billion. (I wonder how many precious, precious trees would be used to print 16.7 billion dollars? Would the OTA only use money made from the finest organic trees? I doubt it.) It’s hardly Mom & Pop revenue, and the people peddling organic food are hardly Mom & Pop companies. Wal-Mart now carries organic produce.
Remember the organiphiles don’t mind selling you a load of shit, so long as the shit’s organic.

Works Cited

Certified Fitness Trainer-

Life Expectancy-

My Organic Food Garden-

Organic Food Info-

Science Daily-

The Skeptic’s Dictionary-

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dystonia Cheerleader Update

I'm sure everyone has heard the heart-wrenching story of the poor, poor Dystonia cheerleader by now. She's the girl who allegedly developed Dystonia after receiving a routine flu shot. Experts doubted how genuine her affliction was, and now she's been miraculously cured by the urine guru.
This really isn't my story to tell. ScienceBlogs does it best. Follow the link:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Twitter Hypocrisy- Should We Be Thankful For Cyber-Censors?

We Americans live in a nation that was founded by Puritans (respectively), a fact which isn’t a secret since we celebrate Thanksgiving round about this time of year to honor our Puritan forefathers. It could be argued that we’ve come a long way since then.
If we were discussing advances in the field of medicine or technology I would be inclined to agree, but the ridiculous and irrational mindset that spawned the Puritans is very much alive.
On Twitter, anyone who has nudity on their profile is punished by having their profile suspended. This rule applies to spammers as well- the bots that automatically follows active accounts to sell a product or promote a website. It would be reasonable to assume that most Twitter users have been added by one or all of those bots at some time, and when you are added you find that their accounts are often suspended by the time you have an opportunity to view whoever followed you in the first place.
That may seem like a small, reassuring victory for ethics and morals online. After all, the cyber-censors protect us from porn and SPAM and that’s good. But has anyone bothered to ask whether or not these are the things we need to be protected from? Is that really the most offensive type of content out there?
At the same time several SPAM accounts were being suspended a Twitter user by the name of JRilla1879 was busy posting these gems on Twitter:




Or my personal favorite…


He also goes on to say…


So what is it we’re supposed to take away from this? The idea that it’s acceptable to threatened people with AK-47s and switchblades, so long as your nipple aren’t showing when you do?
The most frightening thing is not that these people exist, but the fact that they manage to live their everyday lives beneath the radar. If this guy had a naked pic as his profile photo his account would have been suspended within the week but, in spite of his belligerent threats, he has been allowed to amass 3,457 tweets as of the time this post was written.
How protected do you feel now?
The sheer number of Tweets means either Twitter has ignored objections to his posts, or there haven’t been any objections. Either option is scary.
It also is somewhat troubling that there’s a link to report SPAM, but not felony threats. If those aren’t ass-backwards priorities, I don’t know what would be.
So in America in the year 2009, you might have your life threatened with switchblades… but at least no one will try to show you naughty pictures. Thank goodness for cyber-censors…

Anyone wanting to visit JRilla1879's profile on Twitter can click on this link:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Halloween- Have Fun

HALLOWEEN IS ALMOST HERE! I've discussed many spooky incarnations of dumbness- but now I want to have some fun. The following are some of my favorites:

The Perennial Favorite- The Scary Maze Game:

If you're looking for spooky stories this is a good website:

Halloween Recipes:

Halloween Party Games For All Ages:

Online Halloween Games:

Have a Happy Halloween You Guys! See You In November!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Botched Circumcision

This is a really good example of how dangerous religion can be:

It's a link to a news blurb about a man who attempted to circumcise his 4-year old son, and botched it. That isn't even the alarming part- before botching his son's circumcision, he botched his own circumcision.

Real Witches...

I had a very difficult time deciphering precisely what it is Wiccans believe. Unfortunately so do the Wiccans. Witches are real, but they call themselves Wiccans. Unless they don’t. Then they’re called Witches or Warlocks, unless they find those terms offensive. Then you just call them “Hey you over there!”. Typically, they believe in two Gods; a God and a Goddess. Unless, they don’t. Then they might believe in a God called ‘The One’ (the God and Goddess are sometimes- but not always- viewed as incarnations of the God’s dual aspect), or no God at all. They have no scripture (and how could they? Could you imagine trying to read that book?) but they generally follow the Wiccan Rede: "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"(1). Although there is no specific definition given, even in the Rede’s full version, of precisely what constitutes ‘harm‘. They practice witchcraft, except when they don‘t.
It’s like a mix-and-match theology grab bag. There are a few common denominators, however. As I said, Wiccans generally follow the Wiccan Rede and have a reverence for the natural world. But the Rede is vague at best. Even the origins of the Rede are somewhat convoluted. In spite of it’s awkward and antiquated wording, there is no record that the Rede existed prior to a speech given by Doreen Valiente in 1964 (2). Even sources within the religion acknowledge that their principle code of ethics (the complete version of the Wiccan Rede) didn’t appear until the 1970’s (3). The Rede isn’t the only thing that’s new about the supposedly ancient religion.
In spite of Wicca’s attempt to poach credibility by implying it’s longevity, it is actually a new religion. Wicca was ‘invented’ in the 1950’s, following England’s repeal of laws prohibiting witchcraft, by a man named Gerald Gardner. Gardner worked as a customs officer before retiring after he was “initiated” into a coven 1939. In 1949 he wrote a fictional book about witches called High Magick's Aid (under the pen name Scire) before publishing the “non-fictional” work Witchcraft Today in 1954 (4).
Modern witches try as best they can to give validity to their religion by linking it to the religion of the ancients Celts, who seem to be idolized by modern pagans (5). But the idea that Wicca is founded on beliefs that originated in “Ireland, Scotland, and Wales” is offensive. It assumes that there are no meaningful cultural differences between the Welsh, the Scottish, and the Irish. The mythology of one, in Wiccan thinking, can simply be substituted for the mythology of another. The Celts were notorious for infighting, so many Celtic tribes were often at odds with one another, each advocating different beliefs and sometimes completely different Gods. It would be difficult to make a statement about what the Irish uniformly believed at any given time. Let alone, reconciling what the Irish believed with what the Welsh believed, and reconciling those two with the Scots. Though geographically close, the beliefs of different Celtic peoples were not necessarily more similar to one another than they were to other pagan cultures. Oddly, on the very next page… it talks about Chakras. Go fig…
As to the practice of magick (spelled with a K for extra kookiness), do I really need to say it? The best definition of how magick works is this: “Magick is the ability to make changes in the physical world through manipulating the spiritual world. How this is accomplished can be described by many words - Mind over matter, blind faith, will power are but a few - and all give a good description.” (Apparently, magick can alter the physical world but it can’t help you spell correctly. Willpower is a compound word guys!) But the description doesn’t get any clearer than that. There are statements that one needs to believe in a “spiritual world” and harness our spiritual energy. The basic essence of the Rede is restated, and the author of the page points out how “Karmic return works in mysterious, yet undeniable ways”(6). Although karma is a Hindu concept, not a Celtic one.
There seems to be chanting and candles and occasionally odd ingredients involved in most spells. In other words… it’s like a birthday party only sometimes you’re naked and there’s no cake. Well… it’s a lot like my birthday party at least. Only there’s no cake and my cousin Rory isn‘t yelling “Why are you out of beer?”…
C’mon. If were supposed to believe magick works then why were the original witches stomped out in the first place? If you can magickly affect the physical world don’t you think saving yourself from extinction would kinda be near the top of your priority list? We’re discussing a religion that lost out to free wine and crackers. How all powerful were these mages? I don’t see a strong historical argument that persuades me to take “magick” seriously.
The claim is that the Romans terrified everyone so much that they gave in and converted to Christianity out of fear, but that only proves that ancient magick had no real power. If the spells were real then it stands to reason that no one would have needed to be afraid of the Romans because they had magickal protection.
Even if we forgive Wicca for it’s ridiculous hocus pocus, which is an insult to the intelligence of any thinking person, we’re still left with their shaky ideology. Harm none. I stated before that Wicca’s only real rule is pretty much open to interpretation. The best definition of how a Wiccan might interpret the “harm none” credo was given by Patti Wigington from “While there are a few different interpretation of what actually constitutes harm, most Wiccans follow the concept that no harm should intentionally be done to another individual” (7). That really doesn’t define what harm means, it simply explains that however you define harm, you probably shouldn’t do it to others on purpose.
It’s a shortcut, an easy way to getting what one desires without doing the legwork, which shortchanges the people who come by what they have honestly. Doesn’t that constitute harm?
In fact, there isn’t a spell you cast that you can be absolutely certain won’t hurt anyone. Ignorance doesn’t excuse transgression if you are intentionally tinkering with the universe. You have to be somewhat more responsible…
But, fear not. You too can reap the benefits of universal tinkering… for a nominal fee. For the low, low price of $39.99 you can have a direct spell cast on your behalf! The website prompts you to “Chose from areas listed , most common are Money, Retun a Lover, Break em up and Make em love me, Quit Addictions, and Hex Removal and Hexes.” (Wouldn’t at least two of those count as harm? Oh, yes, that spelling error “Retun“ is on the website. It isn‘t mine.) Apparently, that’s just the tip of the ice burg folks! There’s another witch who offers even more spells, like the “make them bald or fat hex” and “TAKE YOUR HUSBANDS OR BOYFRIENDS MONEY”. Call me nutsy, but that sounds a little like harm too (8). Maybe the should change the Rede so that it says, “Harm none, unless you’re making $39.99”.
In the end, Wicca is not a religion about Celts, a Rede, or magick. It’s a religion about feeling good- the theological equivalent of a one night stand. There are no real standards or restrictions on behavior- no bothersome requirements to adhere to. Best of all, it lets you feel special and powerful. It’s good to feel more powerful than the people around you, but it’s GREAT to convince other people to buy into your delusion…and even better to charge them for it.

Works Cited

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Psychic Vampires

Vampires are perhaps on of the most ubiquitous folklore monsters that have ever existed. The earliest vampires in folklore that bear any resemblance to the conventional idea of vampires seem to have arisen to explain problems with childbirth and infant death. Examples of creatures from this tradition are the langsuyar of Malaysia and the Lamiai of Greece (Melton; 505). Lilith in Hebrew myth also conforms to this archetype. She was said to attack human babies, and steal the souls of children (Melton; 422). The idea of a romantic vampire was an outgrowth of the Victorian era, a time where the undead were given new life in literature. Like every good idea, it occasionally undergoes a makeover to keep it relevant in a new era. (Anyone wanting to argue can take a look at Twilight). If the updates to vampire mythology was kept between the pages or saved for campfire tales, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But apparently, according to some people who should know better, we do need to be afraid of vampires. Very afraid.
Psychic vampires are an update on the oldest incarnations of the vampire. They drain your energy, a concept I have a real hard time distinguishing from stealing a soul. According to Joe H. Slate, Ph.D.,
“Psychic vampirism is alive and flourishing in the world today. As consumers of energy rather than blood, vampires of the psychic kind exist in many guises but with one common trait--their own inadequate energy system compels them to tap into and feed upon the energies of unsuspecting host victims.” (Slate).
Well thanks for letting me know, doc! Just when I thought it was safe to dangle my tootsies over the edge of the bed and turn out my closet light I receive this juicy tidbit of info. Damn it all to hell!
Even Slate acknowledges the uncanny resemblance of psychic vampirism to the origins of the vampire in folklore. He cites the example of Delilah vampirizing Samson when she cut off his hair the “source of his energy”. He even suggests the Jesus was the victim of a vampire attack when a woman touched the hem of his garment.
This, of course, is evidence proving that psychic vamprism is a real threat, with an established history of harming innocent victims. But is it? Last time I checked, the story of Samson and Delilah was considered fictional by all but the most out there fundamentalists. Even if we assume that the story of Samson and Delilah is true, then why did Delilah need to take Samson’s hair? There’s no mention of hair taking as an MO of modern psychic vampires, so why would the aforementioned Delilah feel compelled to defile Samson’s ‘do to suck his energy? Supposedly, these dangerous psychic vampires perform their dastardly energy sucking with their victims none the wiser. It differs from the Jesus/Woman encounter too, which also diverges from modern accounts of psychic vampirism.
So apparently, according to Slate at least, a psychic vampire could be anyone doing anything! Beware your hairdresser kiddies.
Slate even cites odd examples, like God fashioning Eve from Adam’s rib, and giving Adam the “breath of life”. What is that supposed to be? Divine Reverse Vampirism?
Though the ‘vampires’ he describes follow no set pattern, the symptoms of vampirism do. Apparently, you could be the victim of psychic vampirism if you “suddenly feel emotionally or mentally depleted, you may be under attack by a psychic vampire. The unfortunate effects of prolonged energy loss are damage to the energy system itself and in some instances, serious illness.”
Aren’t there a lot of other reasons to feel tired? Like, not getting enough sleep? Or working too hard? Or having mono? Emotionally depleted? If you were attempting to treat and diagnose victims of a psychic vampire attack the question wouldn’t be who suffers from these symptoms, but instead “who doesn’t”. Everyone, including myself, has felt these symptoms at one point or another (bad breakups… that’s all I’m saying). Does that mean everybody has been the victim of a psychic vampire? If everybody has felt this way, then that means that psychic vampires have felt that way too (they’re part of ‘everybody’) and does that mean that psychic vampires vampirize each other?
Slate goes on to cite “proof” that psychic vampires do exist. He said in his study, which was allegedly funded by U.S. Army Missile Research and Development Command, he discovered that couples that had positive interactions “energized” one another’s’ aura, and those who had negative interactions caused the aura to contract. When a person’s aura was in this state they experienced such adverse effects as slowed intellectual faculties (perhaps Slate is the victim of a psychic vampire himself), impaired short-term memory, and a decrease in physical strength by up to 50%.
That raises all sorts of neat questions like how did they measure someone’s physical strength in order to determine that it dropped by 50%? The answer may seem fairly simple. They had test subjects lift weights to determine what maximum weight could by lifted, or at least that’s one scenario. But if that was the case, did they first interact positively then lift weights, followed immediately by negative interactions and more weight lifting? If that was the case, then how could researchers tell the difference between fatigue and a decrease in strength related to psychic vampirism? Even if the segments of the experiment were conducted on different days how could Slate and his researchers be certain that the only variable affecting the max weight lifted was negative interactions? Furthermore, how could Slate be sure that the “constrictions” in his test subjects’ aura were not merely another symptom of some other condition?
I don’t know, and neither will you, because Slate doesn’t care to enlighten us further. There are some photos that are supposed to illuminate the idea, but fail completely. One can only assume that these are supposed to be auras of test subjects, yet there is no specific information indicating such. There is also no mention of how these auras were observed, though Slate says “direct observations of the aura as well as aura photographs taken before and after a psychic vampire interaction”. Psychics? Kirlian photography? Those would be the two most likely methods. The only problem is that Kirlian photography means the test subject had to be “placed on a photographic emulsion within an apparatus that generates a high-voltage (15,000 to 100,000 volts), low-amperage, high-frequency electric current.” (Barrett).
Does this sound like a procedure that would be conducted whilst the test subject lifted weights? Furthermore, it has been proven that Kirlian photography does not photograph “auras”, and that these images are more impacted by factors like voltage and barometric pressure (Skeptic‘s).
It leaves me wondering exactly how Slate managed to get his results. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any peer-reviewed literature on the study, which complicates any evaluation of the study’s methodology.
Fear not though, good people, for Dr. Slate has some techniques that can help you combat psychic vampirism. According to Slate, one of the most effective techniques for combating psychic vampires is called “The Finger Interlock Technique” (it was developed in the lab by golly!). You push fingers together to form two interlocking circles, envision yourself surrounded by a “sphere of impenetrable energy”, and then affirm “I am now energized and fully protected”. And you thought it was going to be something ludicrous… you silly goose.
The Finger Interlock technique also helps you overcome stage fright, improve memory, and promote positive social interactions! Though there is absolutely no explanation given as to why.
Should that fail (how could a foolproof technique like touching your fingers together possibly fail?) you can always use a quartz crystal. If you need help using any of these techniques, Slate never fails to point in the direction of one of his many books. On that webpage alone, three of Slate’s books are advertised.
If you needed any persuasion to believe in psychic vampires (and who would?), then this should do the trick: psychic vampires even have their own support group!
I really wish I was kidding, but I’m not. The site is real enough (so are the spelling errors on it!).
The psychic vampire support group, however, alleges that no everyone can become a psychic vampire. You must be born a psychic vampire (Psychic Vampires).
If Slate read that would his aura constrict? Are they vampirizing him?
I would like to pitch everyone my idea for a new kind of vampire. They don’t drain your blood or your energy, they drain your money. They write books, like Slate does, that appeal to people with problems in their life and no meaningful connection to reality. They perpetuate their own existence by taking advantage of others’ misfortune.
I’m not saying that this description fits Slate, but if the cape fits…
Works Cited
Barrett, Stephen M.D. “Kirlian Photography”. Quackwatch. 2 June, 2001. Retrieved on 10 Oct. 2009.
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Encyclopedia. Farmington Hills, Mi; Visible Ink Press. 1999.
Psychic Vampires. “Frequently Asked Questions”. Retrieved on 10 Oct., 2009.
Skeptic’s Dictionary. “Kirlian Photography”. 23 Feb., 2009. Retrieved on 10 Oct. 2009.
Slate, Joe H. “Psychic Vampire”. LLEWELLYN JOURNAL Retrieved 10 Oct. 2009.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kirk Cameron Scares Me

This may not actually be a Halloween post, but it is definitely frightening. It’s scarier than Dracula, and more terrifying than the wolf-man. It’s Kirk Cameron.
I won’t bother paraphrasing the recent Youtube video: I’ll just give you the link.
The most obvious problem is the idea, as Cameron put that “nothing created everything”. Over and over again proponents of intelligent design and creationism make that argument; some how it’s illogical to believe that nothing created everything. In other words, complexity must have a source, a designer to conceive of its’ intricate system.
That’s a fine argument… until you ask yourself the obvious question. If we find a watch and we have to assume that a watchmaker made it, then who made the watchmaker? It’s only logical to assume that the designer is as complex as its design. But if complexity cannot be spontaneously generated, then that must mean that the designer itself had to be designed.
Some people tap dance back forever to protoGods or aliens (why is it always aliens) but eventually they have to acknowledge that someone had to have created themselves. If they concede that a God could make itself, then why not a universe?
There answer is a resounding “Because I said so!”
They are still basically saying that nothing created everything, only they’ve incorporated a needless intermediary. The creator of everything sprang from nothing, then created everything. That’s only a problem because their entire argument lies squarely on the idea that it’s irrational to believe that.
Clearly not bothered by the contradictions in their own theory, the assault on our collective intelligence went on.
As far as Hitler and Darwin is concerned… Charles Darwin died April 19th, 1882, approximately 23 years after the publication of “Origin of the Species (About Adolph Hitler wasn’t born until April 20th 1889, 7 years after Darwin was already dead. It’s impossible that Hitler and Charles Darwin ever new one another personally. Thus, we must assume that the clip on YouTube suggests that Hitler was a follower of Charles Darwin’s works.
The supposed link between Hitler and Darwin is this: Hitler believed the Aryan race was a master race, and that the master race was destined to prevail over “inferior races”- a sort of ethnic natural selection. Because of this, that makes Darwin (in the eyes of Comfort and Cameron at least) responsible for the holocaust. What the claim insinuates is that anyone who believes in or supports Darwin’s theory is somehow a Nazi.
What if Darwin had never come along? Is it possible that Hitler would have been crazy anyways? Would someone else have proposed Darwin’s theory of natural selection? History suggests that twisted madmen existed long before Darwin, and long after Hitler.
There are plenty of other madmen, who never mentioned Darwin’s theories. In fact, I think Christianity also has a little blood on its hands… remember that thing called the Crusades? The Inquisition? The Protestant/Catholic conflict in Ireland? Hitler himself was a Catholic (
(Wasn’t there some guy who said something to the effect of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? Was it Mick Jagger?)
Does that mean that Christians are all ruthless murders, and that Catholics in particular played a role in the Holocaust simply because Hitler was raised a Catholic? Of course not. That idea would be ludicrous.
The idea espoused by Cameron and Comfort is irresponsible at best, and morally repugnant at worse. It should offend everyone because it attempts to brand an innocent man (Darwin) with a moral role in some of the worst crimes imaginable for the sole purpose of winning supporters over to Comfort and Cameron’s cause.
It would be roughly the equivalent of blaming Einstein for the casualties of the atomic bomb. It would actually be easier to assert that Einstein was responsible for the atomic bomb, because Einstein was at least associated directly with its creation. Darwin, however, was long dead by the time Adolph Hitler produced his warped philosophy.
As to transitory forms… well that depends on what you would consider transitory forms. In the minds of thinking, rational people there are many examples of transitional or intermediate forms. Creationists say “prove it”, but short of the second coming of Lucy, there is no way to offer definite proof. The best science can do is tell you what is most likely and most probable, what the objective evidence would suggest. No single scientific fact is iron clad.
It is the precise opposite of a religion, which posits that it knows everything about everything beyond the boundaries of what fact can prove. Science has to acknowledge what it doesn’t know, along with what it does, and has to take seriously the possibility that it could be wrong.
We now have even better evidence of evolution. With sonogram technology, images from inside the wombs of marine mammals, like dolphins, reveal embryos with distinct limbs. The limbs vanish approximately 2 weeks after developing, but the mere presence of the vestigial limbs hints that something more is going on (
If God created dolphins in their fixed forms, then what purpose do those little legs serve? Is a private joke between God and Dolphin? If so, then I think the dolphins got the short end of the stick. After all, growth requires an expenditure of energy that’s ultimately wasted, since the limbs are completely useless and have to be reabsorbed anyways.
The most confusing and useless assertions concern Darwin’s alleged misogyny and racism. Darwin probably was a misogynist racist by today’s standards, but who wasn’t?
Charles Darwin should not be characterized as the secular version of Jesus Christ. He was a product of his time, as much as any other historical figure. And he was a naturalist, not a saint. Darwin’s subjective morality is not relevant to his theories, because we aren’t accepting the idea of natural selection based on the strength of Darwin’s character.
Racism and misogyny were the standard of the 1800’s, and I would imagine that anyone traveling back in time would be mortified at the casual attitudes towards sexism and racism that existed at that time. To put it in perspective, slavery wasn’t abolished in the United States until 1865. Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859.
To put Darwin’s “misogynistic” views into context- women were not granted the right to vote in the United States until 1920.
And misogynist compared to what? Has Mr. Cameron read the Bible? Can Mr. Cameron read at all? Inquiring minds want to know…. Perhaps they’ll answer that question in their next YouTube video. That might actually get me to say “Hallelujah, it’s a miracle!” But I doubt it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

With Liberty and Ice Cream For All

In this case... the picture really is worth a thousand words... but one of them is 'yummy'.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's The End Of TheWorld (or maybe not).

I have had no less than a dozen people tell me the poles would shift, or the world would end in 2012. I do intend to one day write an entry on it, but until that time, let's see what our friends at NASA think.
Check it out.

Homo Religousosity

Homo Religious. It’s a short post by Dr. Michael Shermer on the reasons why man is inclined to believe in God and/or practice religion. The essay begins by asking, “Did humans evolve to be religious and believe in God?” Then it answers: “In the most general sense, yes we did.” Then Shermer informs us that he’s gonna let us know how it all went down- “Here’s what happened.” (Homo Religious)
He continues on, summarizing the basic ideas he will present. Shermer says, “Humans evolved to find meaningful causal patterns in nature to make sense of the world, and infuse many of those patterns with intentional agency, some of which became animistic spirits and powerful gods”. Then he says that because we’re a social species of primate, we evolved social organizations to ‘promote group cohesiveness’ and, of course, ‘to enforce social rules’.
Now this, my dearies, is the problem with pop science. It utilizes enough facts to make it true, but these facts are inevitably rearranged into a kind of propaganda. In Shermer’s theory, it’s true that animistic beliefs and religions have their root in the same human inclination. But his theory makes a leap of logic; a non-sequitor (does not follow). IF we accept that seeking to make sense of the natural world was the reason for inventing animistic spirits, it STILL doesn’t explain why those spirits have anything to do with morality. What prompted early man to connect the two? Why choose this way to promote group cohesiveness? Aren’t there many groups that promote group cohesiveness? Unions. Political parties. Clubs. Special interest group. Clans. Families. Countries. Counties.
Every individual, at any given time, will most likely identify with several groups. What unique need does religion fill that has caused it to persist so universally? Well, Shermer says, to explain the natural world! But if religion were merely a mechanism to explain connections between point A and point B, then wouldn’t religion have gone the way of the dinosaurs when science came along? After all, there are much better explanations for the connections from point A to point B.
Then, Shermer states his thesis: “People believe in God because we are pattern-seeking primates.” If people believe in God because they see patterns that only the existence of a ‘God’ would explain, then what do atheists see? I think it could be assumed with reasonable certainty that atheists see patterns as well. If atheists attribute the patterns they observe to ‘logical causes;, does that make everyone who believes in God some sort of twit? That would be a drastic, statistically improbable statement. What of agnostics? Maybe they saw a pattern, but weren’t sure.
The best is yet to come. According to Shermer, sometimes the human species has errors in it’s thinking (like religion?) and creates a false pattern. He gives a rather ingenuous example. If our primitive ancestors heard as rustle in the grass, they would have to decide whether it was the wind or a dangerous predator. If one of our ancestors decided it was the wind, and it wasn’t, then he or she would be in for a world of hurt and most likely removed from the gene pool. Hence, natural selection would favor those primitive alarmists who assumed everything was a predator. (Can somebody get one of those primitive alarmists? I need one to explain to me how assuming a breeze on the African plain is a lion and assuming that it’s raining because it’s god are equally valuable survival tools. I need a monkey… STAT!) He called this phenomenon patternicity. (No, I’m not kidding. “Patternicity“, tell your friends. It’s the other, other, other white meat…)
The ‘patternicity’ explanation (a word which, when employed in a written from yields many red squiggly lines) would be completely brilliant IF…and this is a big if… if it didn’t absolutely every other animal on the planet. Every animal on this planet would, at some point in its life, have to decide if a given stimuli constituted a threat or a more innocuous occurrence. A rabbit who heard a rustle in the grass would have to decide if that rustle was a dog or a refreshing summers’ breeze. Hence, the same selective pressures would favor rabbits who responded the same way as our primitive ancestors. That same principle applies across the board.
A more likely explanation for the origins of a belief in God stem not from the observance of natural patterns, but from the understanding that all effects need a cause. It’s far more reasonable to picture our ancestors accidentally overturning a water jug and realizing that his action (cause) led to the jug turning over (effect). It is a possibility that the logic would extend to natural phenomenon. If it’s raining then something had to cause it. If a volcano erupts, there must be a reason. There weren’t any seismologists or vulcanologists in Africa at the dawn of man, so one could assume that they worked with what they had.
Even this alone cannot account for the existence of religion, nor explain why people believe in God. Why did our ancestors choose the explanations that they did? There had to have been more than one idea.
And beliefs in animistic spirits and more impersonal supernatural forces, all though they precede religion, are not the same as a religion. It’s the equivalent of saying that rocks and heat-seeking missiles are the same thing (they’re both weapons, right?). It would be a true statement, but not necessarily accurate. A religion is a vastly more complicated belief system.
Shermer was right about two things. Religions do promote cohesiveness and reinforce societal rules, but that’s not all religions do. In fact, as I pointed out, there are numerous groups that ‘promote cohesiveness’ or enforce ‘rules’. Religion is the only one that provides comfort. People are afraid to die. Believing that there’s some deity that waits for you one the other side relieves some of that anxiety. Shermer’s theory discounts how desperate people are to avoid coping with their own mortality. So desperate in fact, that many times, they’ll believe in ideas that contradict common sense and well-established cause-and-effect relationships.
This explains much of how religions actually are. In order to really, truly believe in a religion nowadays you to discount most of what science teaches. There are those who would argue, but ultimately the core of science is that the only thing that’s real is the thing, which can be proven. Nothing else counts in science, except what you can prove. Since a religion can’t be proven, you would have to throw out the principle of believing only in proven things in order to believe in something beyond proof. If you really believed Jesus died, and then got better, you would have to believe that in the face of well-known facts. The same can be said of parting the Red Sea (which science, history, and common sense tell us didn’t happen). Noah’s Ark. Riding on a comet. None of these fit neatly into the idea of ‘patternicity’. (Precisely what kind of natural phenomenon led the Hebrews to create a story about Moses parting the Red Sea?)
This kind of thinking creates problems. It reduces an entire segment of the population to mindless dupes who are indoctrinated into a system they haven’t bothered to evaluate. In the eyes of Shermer and his ilk, people who believe in religion are befuddled morons stumbling blindly through life, with a nary a care in the world, never bothering to ask themselves if their beliefs make sense.
In my experience, people aren’t that simple. Some religious individuals I’ve met are blind followers, but not because of religion. These individuals tend to be conformists in general, and it would be unreasonable to religion made them that. I’ve met many people who have evaluated their religious beliefs and arrived a tenuous peace between what their religion teaches and what science can prove. Reducing them to the rank of muddled-monkey is a disservice.
I myself detest religion personally, but I accept that there are other valid viewpoints. Accepting Shermer’s views would mean discounting personal experience as a factor in developing one’s personal beliefs.
There are many factors that contribute to a human beings predilection for religious conviction. And sorry, but Shermer didn’t crack the code in his blog. Some pieces of information are correct, but as a whole, the theory is so grossly oversimplified that it ceases to have value. And, none of these ideas are new. Shermer didn’t invent or discover these concepts. These basic ideas have been known academically for quite some time. In fact, an introductory anthropology textbook cites the need to understand the natural world, reversion to childhood feelings, anxiety and uncertainty, and need for community as the most likely factors that led to a belief in God. (Anthropology) None of those are simply “People believe in God because we are pattern-seeking primates.”

Works Cited
Homo Religious. Michael Shermer. 18 Aug. 2009.

Ember, Carol R. Ember, Melvin. Peregrine, Peter. Anthropology. “Religion and Magic”. Prentice Hall. Jan. 2007. Pg. 462, 463

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Interesting Stuff

This is one of the most interesting discussions I've ever read online. I hope everyone will enjoy it.

The (Approximately) Quarterly Moron Report

Hey guys… just in time for back to school.
I’ve been wondering, is it something in the water? I really want to believe that the system works. I want to believe that white collar professionals are not morons. I want to believe that college students have to be smart (or at least show more measurable brain activity than a coma patient on Quaaludes), but time and time again my ability to believe that is deeply shaken.
A girl I know was examining a hundred dollar bill, and she asked what number president Benjamin Franklin was. (No, wait, there’s more.) I tried explaining that Benjamin Franklin wasn’t a president, but she adamantly insisted that he was because a) he was on the hundred dollar bill and b) she learned about his presidency in high school. The argument continued, and in order to convince her that Benjamin Franklin was not a president, I had to print up a list of the United States presidents off the internet. I showed her the list, and she smacked herself on the forehead (thank god someone did) and laughed. “Oh my God!” she said. “I totally had him confused with this guy.” The name she pointed to was Franklin Roosevelt. She had actually managed to confuse Franklin Roosevelt with Benjamin Franklin, in spite of the two centuries between them.
That isn’t the punch line either. The punch line is that she’s studying to be a high school teacher. She is currently in college and receiving above average passing grades. You can say, “Well maybe it wasn’t her day,” or maybe that “history may not be her subject” (Duh! Boy, is that one hell of an understatement.), but no. It doesn’t end there. This girl also didn’t know that there was water in coffee, or that Canada and Europe have a postal system.
It gets worse. This girl will be studying abroad in Germany, which means she will be representing all of us on foreign soil. I can visualize her now at the U.S embassy saying “I don’t know how I ended up in Deutschland, but I was trying to get to Germany.” At which point I will seriously consider renouncing my citizenship and moving to Canada.
Here are some more highlights from the world of academia:
A Future Police Officer- In a discussion regarding the ingredients of Brisk Ice Tea vs. normal soda I asked “What do you think high fructose corn syrup is made out of?” She replied, “Maple?” This same future-Detroit’s-finest accidentally scheduled herself for night classes instead of day classes by some mistake that is as yet unknown. But that’s okay because at least she read that tanning can cause melanoma, which was a weight off her chest because Chaz had told her tanning can give you skin cancer. And she almost, like, um, totally believed him and stuff! LOL.
They might as well just start painting “To Protekct and Surv” on the cars right now.
An Architect in Training- I was picking out my classes for this semester, and I mentioned that it would be interesting to take a botany class, and that was when the Frank-Lloyd-Wright-to-be asked me what kind of robots I would be studying.
Why ones with lasers of course!
A Wannabe Vet Tech- “If America has a deficit, why don’t we just print more money? That‘s the easiest way to solve the problem.”
A Male Nursing Student- “Alchemy is easy. All you do is you take gold and tin and add some protons.” Oh my God! Why didn’t I think of that- oh wait… I remember… I didn’t think of that because it’s completely idiotic and even the smartest alchemists with the best equipment have failed. People make more money off meth labs than alchemy labs.
Go ahead and laugh, but this guy is going to be administering medical treatment to you or your loved ones. Each of these individuals could play a role that is vital to your life in some respect in the near future. They’ll be taking care of your pets, or designing your house, or maybe responding to an emergency call in a life threatening situation.
And that scares the shit out of me. All sarcasm aside, it’s simply scary.
It’s possible that the system will weed these individuals out before they are in a position to do any real damage, but think about this: they’ve already passed every standardized test the U.S. requires to enter the work force. They’ve managed to make it through college for at least a year. Theoretically, those are two hurdles that are put in place to keep people like this from leaving school in the first place. It’s the reason why school exists in the first place.
I this what our founding fathers’ had in mind when they signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1492? I don’t think so buster! When Jesus wrote in the Geneva Convention that all men are created equaled and are… incarcerated… by their creator with certain alienated rights and one of those rights is freedom of speech and the right to bare false witness against the accused, I’m sure he intended for people to be held accountable for the things they say.
I may not be a botanist, but I know when things are going to hell. Can I site any specific reasons or evidence for my beliefs? No!
But think about this… I read just the other day that there’s H2O in our water supply. In fact, did you know that you can’t even drink a glass of water from your tap without drinking H20? There’s even H2O in rain. Fish are breathing it, and we’re eating the fish. In fact, we consume so much H2O that our bodies are mainly made of it. H2O is a chemical compound, which means it could cause melanoma or even skin cancer.
On top of all this, we’re cutting down our beautiful oaks trees just for their maple sap so that we can make corn syrup for our sodas. Then we take the aluminum out of our ground to make cans, because the government doesn’t even realize that aluminum is made out of tin, and you can make tin into gold if we just added protons. If we turned all of our aluminum into gold then we could print more money so we have no homeless people and no deficit.
Our 400th president, Benjamin Franklin, must have had a promotion about the future when he said “a stitch in time is worth a pound of cure.” It’s even in the Bible. Look it up. Is this the kind of country you want to live in?
It’s funny, but it isn’t that far removed from reality. This is ultimately what happens in a country where you’re free to remain ignorant, and there is neither an expectation nor a demand for you to do otherwise. Laugh now, but when you get arrested by Officer Brainless five years from now, and your lawyer thinks habeas corpus is a metal band, don’t come crying to me.
Oh… and do you want to hear something really scary? One word… UFOlogist.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Refuting Type 1 Civilization Theory

Recently I read and commented on Michael Shermer’s entry about a Type 1 civilization. The core problem with the theory, as I see it, is that it presents the evolution of culture as a linear progression from simple to complex. The evolution of culture climaxes in the development of a type 1 civilization. The characteristics of a Type 1 civilization, as Shermer defined it, is as follows:
“Globalism that includes worldwide wireless internet access, all knowledge digitized and available to everyone anywhere any time, a global economy with complete open economic borders and free markets where anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from states or governments, and where all states are democracies in which everyone on the planet has the franchise.” (Type 1)
Of course, this Type 1 utopia only exists after society has progressed through all the stages. In Shermer’s model of civilization that means the progression of society from lower Paleolithic cultures, to hunter-gather societies, followed by the formation of tribes, then chiefdoms, states, and so on. The chronicle of actualized societies ends with a .9 society, (the theoretical stage that us Americans happen to be at) which Shermer defines as “Democratic-Capitalism, now spreading across the globe through democratic movements and free trade agreements.” (Type 1)
The first and most glaring problem with this theory is the astounding, mind-boggling, ethnocentric arrogance required to make such a generalization. The idea of a Type 1 civilization assumes that somehow the natural progression of human events culminates in a Western society, with Western values, that bares a rather strong resemblance to American ideas and values. Hence, any society that does not have these characteristics is somehow “less advanced” and ranking far lower on the evolutionary scale.
It is tempting to place oneself as the ego, and define ones’ own culture as the pinnacle of evolution, but are there facts to prove that Western societies are the best? Ultimately, cross-cultural study and analysis suggests that all societies (including tribal ones that would be considered primitive in Shermer’s classification scheme) are equally effective at meeting the particular needs of their members. All societies possess areas where they frequently struggle to meet the individual needs of their members, and areas where they excel at meeting a given need. One of the primary assumptions of anthropology is that culture is generally adaptive (Anthropology). This means that it is relatively safe to assume that cultures currently in existence possess adaptive traits particular to their circumstance- after all, if their culture were maladaptive, it would be extinct.
It is quite possible that many cultures might benefit from being more Western, but might is hardly a statement of fact. We don’t know how they would fair- and we cannot make a definitive statement in absence of evidence. Presuming an idea is true merely because we don’t know that it’s not is hasty at best. In fact, I can think of several examples where introduction of Western values and culture have been detrimental to other societies: the Aborigines of Australia whose acculturation left numerous in desperate poverty and with their own cultural heritage in tatters, the Samoans whose familiarity with Westerners introduced them to obesity and hypertension (Anthropology), and the American Indians whose unsolicited contact with Europeans left them a marginalized subgroup, ravaged by disease, and often living in poverty.
Is globalizing the world, and hence making everyone into a Westerner, really win-win? Unavoidably, someone must lose, just as many indigenous cultures already have. That is simply the obvious reality of that plan, and how Shermer could have overlooked it is beyond me.
Furthermore, Shermer frequently (and sometimes dubiously) asserts that science is on his side. This time he is simply wrong. The idea of a linear progression of society from simple to more complex was the popular notion of anthropologists in the early history of the discipline. Early Evolutionism, whose major proponents included Lewis Henry Morgan and Edward B. Tylor, proposed that all societies pass through the same basic stages of development. It was thought that simpler peoples had somehow failed to reach higher stages of development- but ultimately that all societies would end up with essentially the same form. However, their theories didn’t account for why some societies skipped stages, others regressed to simpler stages, and some simply failed to evolve at all or became extinct. (Anthropology)
In fact, another anthropologist known as Leslie A. White (often times referred to as a Neoevolutionist) even suggested that the amount of energy a culture could harness governed the evolution of culture, but ultimately it succumbed to the same basic failures as early Evolutionism. It could not account for why some cultures advanced, others did not, some regressed, and others went extinct. (Anthropology)
The bigger lesson here, outside of all the obvious, is that no one is immune to his or her own ego- not even Michael Shermer. It’s ironic that, as a champion of skepticism and destroyer of those who make unverified claims of the extraordinary, he would turn around and do precisely the same thing. Shermer should realize have access to information makes no difference if the information is simply bad (as is the case with many information source online). Written sources are only as useful as the person who writes them. Even access to good information is no guarantee that anyone will necessarily access the information. After all, how many non-fiction books have been written? When was the last time you heard of a rush on the library to get the latest taxonomy supplement? The internet has existed for quite sometime now, and the only thing people seem interested in accessing on it is porn. Why do we have a reason to believe that in some vague time in the not-too-distant-future people will be miraculously more enlightened?
It just goes to show that even on the internet (golly gaspy jeepers!) you can’t believe everything you read… so you might as well surf for pron!

Works Cited

Type 1 Civilization. Michael Shermer.

Ember, Carol R. Ember, Melvin. Peregrine, Peter. Anthropology. “Theoretical Approaches in Cultural Anthropology”. “Culture Change and Globalization”. Prentice Hall. Jan. 2007. pgs. 232, 236, 237, 504

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Type 1 Civilization

There is an interesting and thought-provoking discussion on the topic of a Type 1 Civilization underway at Anyone interested in participating should. I have recently added my comments. I am looking forward to participating in the discussion.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TAPS again... some more

It’s easy to write-off individuals who dispute the logic or validity of paranormal or religious phenomena as cynics who reject every scrap of evidence because they want to disbelief. Again, that assumes several points that aren’t proven. 1) the individuals who disbelief do so because they want to and 2) that anyone who disagrees with ‘evidence’ does so because they don’t believe (but a lot of these people aren’t really into proving things anyways so…) . I don’t necessarily disbelief in the idea of ghosts (I don‘t necessarily believe in them either). I haven’t arrogantly condemned it as impossible (it isn’t). My only real statement is that I see no evidence, as of yet, to persuade me to believe that ghosts are real and that the evidence (or lack of it) will ultimately inform my decision.
(The real definition of skepticism is “an attitude marked by a tendency to doubt what others accept to be true”. BTW: doubt is defined “to feel unconvinced or uncertain about something, or think that something is unlikely”. Neither of those definitions translate to the nigh-religious denial zeal that’s conjured up when ‘believers’ use the word skeptic. When somebody has absolutely no REAL evidence… well that’s not very convincing is it? So how could one help but feel uncertain?)
I take no particular joy in poking holes in other peoples theories. I don’t even object to the idea of paranormal investigation. What I object to is the notion of certainty when there isn’t any, and selling that certainty to others for a tidy profit. Everyone should be a skeptic where matters of the paranormal are concerned. That’s a sweeping statement, but think about it. All of the hypotheses advanced by TAPS are riddled with contradictions and errors in reasoning. Even if they weren’t riddled with flaws, they would still only be hypotheses.
( The definition of hypothesis is: “a tentative explanation for a phenomenon, used as a basis for further investigation”. A hypothesis is not a definitive conclusion.)
Personal experience is often sighted by ghost believers. “I know what I’ve seen.” But do you? Even if I had seen a ghost I couldn’t be 100% sure of what I’d seen. Anyone is capable of hallucinating, myself included. How could I possibly rule it out? If were 99.9% certain I had seen a ghost, some small marginal part of my psyche would have to acknowledge that, however unlikely, I may have hallucinated my experience. Even if someone else claimed to have the exact same experience/hallucination I had, how could I be sure? One of us would have to tell the other one detail or another first in order for it to be confirmed as the same experience. How could I be 100% sure they weren’t simply agreeing?
I have never seen a ghost, in spite of the fact that I’m quite enthusiastic about chasing them down. The going theory regarding why I am not able to see ghosts in locations where numerous other individuals have had encounters is because I don’t believe in ghosts. What are they now? Pixies? The fact is that the existence of real things is not contingent upon the belief of would-be spectators. Real things exist independently of belief and there is absolutely no reason to think ghosts would be an exception… unless, of course, they aren’t real.
(For those of you who are curious… real is defined as “1) having actual physical existence 2) verifiable as actual fact e.g. legally or scientifically 3) existing as fact, rather than as the product of dreams or the imagination”)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

TAPS, and EVP, and EMF (oh my!)

Hey Mom, this one’s for you! My Mom and my niece share a fascination with paranormal phenomenon and paranormal investigation. Both of these manifest as a fascination with the Sci-Fi show Ghost Hunters. For those of you who may not be familiar with the show the basic plot is that these two guys, Jason and Grant, head an organization called TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) that is dedicated to investigating paranormal phenomenon. Part of their appeal is that they’re just regular guys (who happen to have their own TV show) - they aren’t scientists or psychics. In fact, they’re so ordinary that they moonlight as plumbers (TAPS seems to be the central focus of their lives). By day mild mannered plumbers, by night the Ghost Hunters! Like Batman, these two ordinary guys go into allegedly haunted locations with all the coolest gadgets; EMF meters, digital voice recorders, thermal cameras, video cameras, walkie talkies, and cell phones.
In short they have the most scientific ghost hunting gear, which sounds like an oxymoron, I know. They make a big deal out of how scientific their endeavors are. If you have the DVD series, watch it for yourself. They say it again and again and again. The TAPS mantra seems to be that, since they use scientific equipment and all, that if they can’t recreate or explain any phenomenon that they record then they have confirmed the presence of an entity. Well, that seems perfectly reasonable at first glance, but when you really begin to evaluate the premise of their organization it quickly begins to unravel. The idea of hunting ghosts scientifically assumes to ideas which are unproven.
The first being that ghosts exist at all. There is no undeniable evidence that ghosts do exist, hence before you can hunt them you first have to demonstrate their existence. The second assumption is that the equipment they possess has the ability to detect ghosts at all. If no one has proven ghosts exist then how can any one have the slightest idea what kind of equipment would detect them?
First, is the EMF (electromagnetic field) meter. An electromagnetic field, for those of you who don’t know, is created by a moving electrical charge. The field is composed of electric and magnetic fields that are generated at right angles. The Earth has an electromagnetic field. So do people, cell phones, microwaves, video cameras, and much more. (What isEMF?)An EMF meter is designed to measure these electromagnetic fields, and occasionally they pick up anomalies. The TAPS (as well as others) believe that these anomalies are entities that are manifesting themselves.
In order to prove, however, that the anomalies are caused by ghosts they would first have to prove that they weren’t caused by anything else. The sheer number of uncontrolled variables (the cell phones they use in scene after scene, the camera man following the team, the power cables we watch them unroll at each location) ensure that any EMF reading they get will never be considered scientific. They seem entirely satisfied with their EMF technique however.
The basis of their argument seems to be the Law of Conservation of Energy which states that energy can never be created or destroyed. (Law) Since human beings are bioelectric machines, whose energy creates an electromagnetic field then (according to their theory) that energy is not destroyed. Instead it somehow maintains its viability. This energy is allegedly what they detect with their gadgets. But the notion of a ghost creating an EMF doesn’t make any sense when you think about it.
Imagine if you will the entire deceased human populous from now all the way back until time began. Think of how many people that would be. If all those people were roaming around in energy form we would all have three eyes from the constant exposure to high levels of electromagnetic radiation. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. In particularly established population centers like Egypt, Greece, and Rome you couldn’t swing a ghost buster without hitting an EMF spike.
Paranormal experts address this by saying only some entities produce an EMF when they are manifesting. Well what about when they’re not? The energy disperses into the atmosphere. But hold on a second! If the theory is that since humans produce an electromagnetic field which requires an electric charge, and an electric charge is energy, and energy can never be destroyed but instead goes on to become a ghost then what happens to the ghost when the electromagnetic field ceases to exist?
Do the ghosts die?
It happens all the time. One of the TAPS investigators detects an EMF spike then- POOF- it’s gone with the wind. Did the ghost stop being electromagnetic? Living things give off a consistent EMF reading- they aren’t inclined to start and stop giving off an electromagnetic field for no reason. Why would a ghost be any different?
Another unproven claim that’s advanced by TAPS and other paranormal organizations is that ghosts draw energy from other sources. Draining camera batteries. Leeching heat from the air. The standard spook bit. But if ghosts are energy, then why would they need to draw more? To make themselves manifest, of course!
But if that’s the case then ghosts are the most utterly ineffectual people I’ve ever heard of, because each episode someone’s batteries are drained or Donna feels an anomalous cold spot, but the ghosts can’t seem to muster enough energy to impact their surrounding in the least. So my question is: they’re gathering energy so they can manifest to do what precisely? Nothing? Kind of anticlimactic isn’t it?
Another quick question- what about animals? If anything that is bioelectric can become a ghost, then animals can as well. If you add the total of all the animals which have ever died to the total of all the humans that have ever died a picture begins to form of just how unlikely it is that the electromagnetic field of a dead entity would persist. For those of you who argue that animals don’t produce an electromagnetic field consider this- some animals, like sharks, have sensory equipment capable of detecting the electromagnetic fields created by a variety of animals. The shark’s sixth sense is made possible by the Ampullae of Lorenzini, which are jelly-filled pits lining the sharks’ snout. (The Six Senses)
Then there is EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). Essentially EVP is the recording of sounds which resemble human speech, and typically take the form of a single word or phrase. It’s very compelling because, unlike EMF, you can hear the ’otherworldly’ voices for yourself. In some cases I’ve heard what sounds like a voice very clearly, and other times it was a real stretch to call it a voice.
Typically, they play the alleged “message from beyond” in a sound byte where it’s separate from the other noise, amplified, and with a subtitle accompanying it just to make sure you understand what the ’voice’ is saying. The whole situation is designed like one of those optical illusions, only in this case, someone generously points out the hidden image. As anyone who has seen one of those optical illusions can tell you, it’s very difficult to unsee it. Each and every time you look at the picture, you can’t help but see the hidden image.
In fact, the phenomenon has a name. It’s called auditory pariedolia, which is defined as “interpreting random sounds as voices in their own language”. Some experts have dubbed the phenomenon “Rorschach audio”. (Electronic Voice Phenomenon)
It is odd that all the EVPs I’ve heard in real life have been in English. Given the rather bloody history that surrounds the founding of this nation, don’t you think it’s likely at least one EVP would capture the voice of a deceased American Indian speaking in his or her native dialect? If I were recording the voice of a real person, I may not understand the American Indian dialect, but I wouldn’t be inclined to think it was the wind either. What about the Creole language in the South? French? If I’m correct, there have been EVP’s captured in these languages in Louisiana, but unsurprisingly they were recorded by people who spoke these languages.
Other explanations of EVP exist outside of the Rorschach audio theory. One such explanation is called “RF injection”. RF injection occurs when a sufficient RF (radio frequency energy) is a recorded by a high-gain audio device resulting in a distorted version of baseband audio. (Possible Explanations)
What reason would a ghost have to manipulate white noise to create an EVP? Wouldn’t it simply make more sense to use that energy to manifest as a full-bodied apparition? So what does happen when the electromagnetic field created by an entity disperses and it loses its energy? Well, that depends on who you ask.
Some say the ghost flies to outer space, or it goes into another dimension, or it isn’t made of energy at all. Remember that the entire argument for using an EMF meter is that ghosts carry an electrical charge, and I thought the reason why ghosts were ghosts was because they couldn’t or wouldn’t go to another dimension? If ghosts are already in another dimension then just where do these investigators think they’re sending the ghosts when they help them “cross-over” or expel a malevolent spirit? It wouldn’t do much good to banish a malevolent spirit to a dimension that it’s already in when it has clearly demonstrated it can still interact with this dimension. Some proponents of this theory say there is yet another third dimension that ghosts go to when they cross-over. So what properties make this third dimension so special? If a spirit can go there, couldn’t it theoretically come back?
That is the heart of the issue. When you strip away the pretense of any scientific credibility, you’re left with dark ages explanations for things. Dimensions? Outer space? C’mon! These are the same answers spiritualists in the 19th and early 20th century had. These are the same answers given by mediums which are decried by organizations like TAPS. Having gadgets doesn’t make you a scientist, and there is something decidedly unethical about borrowing credibility that you haven’t earned.
If you enjoy watching shows like Ghost Hunters for the entertainment factor, more power to you, but don’t be fooled into thinking that what you’re seeing is anything more than a technologically advanced Ouija session. It seems like organizations patterned after TAPS are popping up like weeds, and typically they pander to the most vulnerable elements of society; people who have lost loved ones, the mentally ill, the rejected, or people seeking a genuine spiritual experience. Like a religion they comfort these individuals by offering acceptance and the promise of an afterlife- for a nominal fee.
I will admit that not all organizations charge for membership, but a lot do. This isn’t including all the entrepreneurs who earn a pretty penny hawking ghost hunting gear to the desperate.
Some people have cited physical evidence recorded by the TAPS crew. A door opening (even though there was a door on the other side), a lamp and tablecloth being pulled ever so slowly from some force out of frame, a chair moving. Well that’s all very nice… and terribly convenient. While I have no evidence to suggest that they faked it, it would be unreasonable to pretend that they couldn’t or that it’s impossible that they would. After all, I’d say human corruption is fairly well-documented… and you don’t need an EMF meter to detect it either.

Works Cited

WHO- What is EMF?-

The Law of Conservation of Energy-

The Six Senses-

Electronic Voice Phenomenon-

Possible Explanations For EVP-