Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Night 2006

Well, I'm tending to the spooks since I'm not aware of any local costume parties worthy of my attention. (Being a geek probably figures into that.)

My brother, however, is going to such a party. He's dressed as a false dichotomy. Or something.

Anyway, while you're out, make sure to watch out for roving gangs of pumpkins. I'll be catching up with the JREF forums. Been a while. Might practice some thread necromancy.

Frightning Fundies! ...Maybe.

Since my latest Doggerel entry wasn't all that scary, here's some stuff from "Fundies Say the Darndest Things!" with some hopefully humorous commentary by me.

"If you are one of those that doubt the existence of the devil then let me start off by saying that the devil is real and he is sly... so slick that he has deceived you into doubting his existence! The devil is a deceiver and he is so smooth at shoving thoughts into our heads that a lost soul without God in his/her life will not be able to discern between their own thoughts, and those from the devil. I will show you what I have experienced and you will judge for yourself, the validity of the existence of the devil. If you conclude that the devil exist then you surely cannot doubt the existence of God. There is good and there is evil.
This right here is called logismoi. It is the process where your thoughts do not originate from you...they originate from the devil. The devil can put thoughts into your head and is always trying to tear you apart.
The devil hates you and he wants you to be depressed, down, sad, lonely, rejected...he wants you to always think that you cannot make it, you're unworthy, you're a reject, you're weak, you're hopeless, no one likes you....all these thoughts are from the devil!!!"

YourChild, Christian Forums

So, how does YourChild know that the thoughts posted didn't come from the devil? How does YourChild know that the idea that God filters out devilish thought didn't come from the devil? Someone stop the Cartesian Circle, I wanna get off.

Also... in the last paragraph, is this person saying that the Devil is a televangelist?

"freedom of what? our rights? YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO POT. true freedom is letting the people decide what your rights are. collective relativism= they negate each other nicely:)

[A productive culture would be one that is maximally expressive, rather than maximally constrictive. Pot being illegal is but one manner in which modern culture is constrictive.]

okay, let's do away with society and rape anyone we want.....not."

Ethan, Myspace

I wonder what this guy's stance on alcohol and tobacco is...

Anyway: Wanting to get high legally in the comfort of your own home -> Rape. Something tells me the park slide isn't as well-oiled as he thinks it is.

"[Non-sequitor Bible verses omitted for brevity]

The Pre-Adamites; Children of Satan; N.W.O. (New World Order)

I believe there were Pre-Adamites.

Pre-Adamites were angelic beings who inhabited not only the earth, but also a temperate Venus, Mars and Rahab. Lucifier was the archangel who ruled over these worlds. He became arrogant, however, and desired more power than that which was vested in him by the Lord.

Lucifer's rebellion was met with destruction. His home planet of Rahab, which existed between Mars and Jupiter, was completely annihilated. Rahab's existence was reduced to what we know today as the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is also likely God used pieces of the planet to pour out His wrath upon Venus, Earth and Mars. This would explain why evidence of catastrophe on these planets is so profound. Mars was clearly once a habitable planet; so was Venus, in all likelihood.

The Dragon is Lucifer. With his world destroyed, he and his minions were scattered. There, rebellious angels later engaged in sexual relations with the daughters of men. This resulted in a angel-human hybrid race. [...]

These fallen angels exist today as "aliens." It is my belief that these fallen beings possess technology greater than ours, including what we know as UFOs, and inhabit the inner crust of the earth. The earth is hollow. The crust of the earth is 800 to 1000 miles thick, and there is a small sun at the center of the earth. The inner-earth is (or at least was) a tropical paradise. It is quite possible Eden existed in the inner-earth. It is also quite possible Paradise (of which Jesus spoke on the Cross) is located within the earth.

The Bermuda Triangle is likely a portal into the inner-earth; this would explain the many disappearances, sightings of UFOs, and other strange occurences."

B®ent, Christian Forums

Maybe this guy is why Ethan is apparently so concerned about pot.

"fsdt is a communist cesspoll of far left liberals and other satanic worshipping people who enjoy nothing more than hurting the otherwise good image of Religious people who wish nothing more than to speak the truth. You can address my points here, but submiting my ideas to that fascist website does nothing more than raise a white flag of "I surrender, because I refuse to address the content of what you said". Please, take off your fantasy helmet for just a few moments and look over what I have said."

Trinidad & Tobago, CARM.org
Because we all know: Laughing at a guy for poisoning the well proves that he's right. And that Communists and Fascists are exactly the same thing.
"Imagine that you could listen to or talk face-to-face with satan about any subject that has to do with God.

Then bring to remembrance anything you've heard atheists say against God. (Or if you are an atheist, you know your own sentiments and thoughts).

Now, if you try, you will find that it is impossible to imagine satan expressing sentiments about God different than what atheists express. Satan certainly is not going to speak positively about God, and neither are atheists. So, what both think and verbalize is in complete harmony with one another.

Atheism is therefore a doctrine of demons, and in many, if not all cases, atheists are demon-possessed.

So it is quite possible that when you read the writings of atheists, or heard them speaking, all you heard was demons ranting against God."
Funny, I sometimes imagine a face-to-face talk with Lawful Evil D&D deities and what they say often syncs up exactly with what fundies say.

""You are guilty of mutation, but the power of Jesus can take it away"

When you mutate it is because you did not believe in Jesus, the One by whom all things exist and are created (John 1:3). If you had believed in Jesus you would be able to exist without needing to mutate. Neither would you attempt to mutate because you would be living as you were designed to live.

The bible records many cases where the power of Jesus overcame the results of mutations, even the very doubt associated with mutation.

Matthew 11:4-5 records Jesus saying "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; [...] the deaf hear [...]"

Matthew 12:13 records "Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other."

Matthew 15:30 records "Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them."

Only the Devil would want these people to remain disabled and less than the best that they could be. Only someone who rejected God's power to heal would say "those people should be deformed" and do nothing to help them.

The power of Jesus is there to be discovered by everyone. Jesus said in John 16:24 "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be complete". If you have mutations that you don't want, Jesus has made it possible to be rid of them!"

Gottservant, Christian Forums
Funny, I always thought some types of blindness, deafness, etcetera were a result of environment. I didn't know it was ALL genetic.

I also always thought that people who didn't believe in faith healing were into preventing blindness by vaccinating against diseases that often result in blindness, among other measures. I had no idea cataract surgery was the result of divine power.

"To whoever stole my children's bicycles: Let me guess: You've been taught that God isn't real, so you think you can do whatever you want."

Ticked Off!, Orlando Sentinel
No. They were likely fundy Christians taught that all they have to do to be forgiven is clap their hands together and mumble. Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, right?

Okay, so they weren't really all that scary, were they?

Doggerel #43: "You're Just Afraid of the Truth!"

Welcome to a vaguely Halloween edition of Doggerel, where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the favorite accusations woos, especially fundies, like to make about skeptics is that we're "afraid of the truth," even though they haven't demonstrated the "truth" in a convincing manner. It is essentially a subject change intended to turn the focus away from the arguments being made.

Whether or not I'm afraid of a claim turning out to be true is irrelevant to the validity of the claim. In some cases, however, fear is justified. Some fundy gods are very not-nice. For example, the concept of Hell full of everlasting torment is impossible for a moral person to bear, even if he's not going there himself.

Another example of something to be afraid of if it existed, though silly to believe in such, is the idea of a super-secret super-government that controls everyone and everything except you. The world is a big place and controlling it would be an administrative nightmare, also worthy of fear.

In other cases, the fear is nonexistent: I'd be jumping for joy if a psychic passed the Randi Challenge (well, I might wait until after an independent replication. Randi's not perfect). Telekinesis, among other things, would be really nifty. And suddenly worthy of a lot of research grants. I won't let hypothetical niftiness substitute for evidence, though: In such cases, my only fear is sloppiness.

Like many fallacies out there, this one is easily reversed: Atheists can argue that the religious are afraid to deal with a world without a benevolent magical creature in control. Those arguing against conspiracy theorists could say that they're afraid to admit that they can't handle a world where the government can simply screw up or a handful of individuals can perform attrocities without inside help. Those arguing with psychic woos can say that the woos are afraid to admit that they likely got fooled by magic tricks and so forth.

The reversals aren't any less fallacious, but they seem more likely to be (irrelevantly) true, at least to me.

So, go out there, and don't let fear or the accusation of fear distract you from making a point.


Doggerel Index

Monday, October 30, 2006

Molly Got Expensive (But Still Worth It)

Well, Molly's doing well for now. She's back home with some medication and a checkup on Wednesday. 700 bucks.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Maybe I Should Try My Hand at This

PZ's been collecting logos for atheism. A lot of really good ones, so far. I should probably break out Adobe Illustrator and see what I can come up with.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pointless, But Not Necessarily Mindless Fun

Just a few flash games I've been dinkering with:

Fracture: Asteroids made sweet, sweet love to Robotron. Fracture was the result.

flOw: Food is power! Heard they're making a more complete downloadable version for the PS3. I might not just wait for Armored Core 4 to get one. It's almost peaceful as you struggle not to get eaten yourself.

ComBots: Little tricky to learn, but here's the gist: Program a little cylindrical robot to pick up little yellow cubes and blow up other cylindrical robots. Sit back and watch with smug superiority as your minion crushes the competition. Or pull your hair out when you notice a fatal flaw in your program.

ultimate pie theft: Wee Bull takes on Weebl and friends. Pac-Man style!

Hope that Videlectrix releases Sundae Drivin' for my region, soon.

46th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at Left Brain / Right Brain.

Open thread as usual, except speaking in the manner of Senor Cardgage is FORBIDDEN! He's as annoying as Bubs.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Doggerel #42: "God"

Welcome to a special edition of "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. In this edition, I address something many people consider to be the answer to life, the universe, and everything:

One of the words out there that changes definitions quite often is "God." Are there more than one? Does it have effects on the natural world? Did it create the universe (a big natural effect)? Does it care about all the hominids scurrying around on a particular tiny rock?

Those are all questions that theists can't seem to agree on. Some can't even agree on whether or not they're answerable at all.

Moving along, there are plenty of varying definitions out there, so I'll try to cover as many as I can thnk of for the time being.

First, there's the falsifiable primitive deity. Plenty of these are in Greek mythology. Zeus, for example, hurled lightning bolts on his enemies. Apollo moved the sun across the sky via chariot, etcetera. These entities are falsifiable because we can come up with explanations for how those effects originate. We know something about how lightning works. We can control it via lightning rods. We can even make it to some extent. We know why the sun crosses the sky: The Earth rotates so that us surface dwellers perceive it as the sun's movement, instead of our own. No chariots involved.

These types of deities also have attributes assigned to them: Zeus can heal quickly after having his skull cracked open (to let out a suddenly fully-grown goddess). Balder is vulnerable to mistletoe. Bacchus is probably well over the legal limit. Osiris probably qualifies for the undead creature type. They all have powers of various descriptions.

Second, there's the Deist type of deity: One who created, but stopped right there. This kind isn't falsifiable (at least not yet), since our ability to extrapolate about the past has some limits, especially in the special case of "what the universe was like immediately after the Big Bang" when everything was super-dense, super-heated, and so forth. It's essentially a god in a really hard to fill gap. At least from my experience, Deists tend to be rather civil about it, and admit the shortcoming. I've been surprised before, though.

Third, there's the Intelligent Designer who's currently trying to push his way into the United States public school system, despite being a watered-down primitive deity: He's just been watered down into unfalsifiability. The Intelligent Design crowd just won't speak up about how he designed his stuff, and often won't address design flaws. What's up with that blind spot in our eyes?

Another problem is that when IDers attempt to define a method for detecting design, chances are there's someone out there who's already run an unintelligent evolutionary algorithm that's already addressed the issue. If IDers object to those, they're usually just shifting the goalposts away from evolution and back to cosmology. The other likely chance is that their definition includes absolutely anything as "designed" or falls into self-contradiction.

Fourth, there's the nebulous "fluff" god: An entity defined as undefinable. Not a terribly useful concept, is it? That's where a new -ism I've learned comes in: How can we form a conclusion on something when the conversation is rigged to guarantee no one knows what's being talked about?

Additional problems often occur with individual traits assigned to deities: Omnipotence, for example, is riddled with possible contradictions. Couple omnipotence with omnibenevolence, and you've got to deal with the old problem of evil, and why the existence of evil doesn't falsify one or both.

To add to the mess, a lot of people claim all sorts of things are impossible without gods hanging around. Morality is among the favorites, as if my compassion for my family, friends, and fellow residents of the universe would magically vanish and teamwork would stop being mutually beneficial if some cloudwalking guy in a toga wasn't around. Another concept allegedly made impossible by an absence of deities is free will (another topic altogether). That really strikes me as a non-sequitur. Can't say much beyond that, really.

This entry's likely going to face expansion as time goes on.


Doggerel Index

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Big Round Number

Unless you're working in some other number base.

The lucky 50K visitor is some guy in Ontario clicking over from Skeptico, last seen reading The Brick Testament.

For the sake of inflating my ego, note that I signed on in December. Most of March and April were a pair of front page Pharyngula links, though. October's not over, and I think I might have a slight increase over September, especially if I imply that I have something special planned for Halloween.

I don't, but I'll get to brainstorming.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cue "Imperial March"

My brother recently did a preemptive strike against a Bible verse he thought would come up, since some people out there (not just the one we're dealing with now) consider the hypothesis, "the sun will rise tomorrow" is "conjecture" or "faith."

Anyway, I Googled, came across the Skeptics' Annotated Bible, and from there, a link to The Brick Testament. They covered the chapter, and it's getting hard to go through it without Darth Vader's theme music going through my head. Of course, the fact that they seem to be using Lego Star Wars pieces probably contributes.

Later: Oh. Their. God. Halfway through Genesis in the Brick Testament, and eyebrow-twitchy from the "She's my sister" game they seem to be fond of playing on all the kings.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Not Good News

It's not quite the same as some other bad personal news out there, but Molly is terribly sick. My mother noticed that she was very lethargic today, and even refused to explore the house when given the chance. She took her to the vet, and she was very anemic. They gave her some iron injections, and she's still alive for the moment. If my mother hadn't intervened, Molly wouldn't be here, now. So, in the way-off chance that prayer or positive thinking will help, please focus your chakra into your keyboard. If it doesn't, at least your kind words will be appreciated, and we won't have wasted government money studying it. Just a few small amounts of time. (Please, no jokes relating to that slightly negative result from that one study.)

UPDATE: Seems Molly's started responding well to treatments. The vets think she'll make it out of this.

SUPER UPDATE: Molly's just fine, now. Blood parasite defeated by antibiotics.

Civilizing the Debate Table

I recently ran into this, via Matt.
The only “Christians” getting any media exposure these days always seem to be the extreme fundamentalists who are busy proclaiming “God hates fags” or promoting similar hate-speech. If it’s not that, they’re busy condemning our nation as wicked and predicting God’s wrath raining down upon us in the form of a natural disaster. The biggest churches in America are now promoting the “prosperity gospel” where followers are promised financial prosperity through faith, thus turning evangelizing into a form of bribery....

....We must ask ourselves why we let those who call themselves “Christian” do those same things. Why is no one standing up and proclaiming “Hey! That’s not right! That’s not what it means to be a Christian!”? I once heard a great story about a bag of Oreo cookies that nicely parallels our current situation. A husband and wife bought a box of snack-sized bags of Oreo cookies. When they arrived at home they decided to open up a bag for a snack. The bag looked like all of the other bags, but when they opened it there were no cookies inside! The bag contained nothing but air, so they threw it away and opened another one. Again, though the bag looked normal from the outside, they found no cookies inside the bag. The husband turned to his wife and asked “How many bags of cookies will you go through before you give up and assume they’re all empty?”

How many times does a nonbeliever have to get burned by someone claiming the mantle of Christ before they give up on Christianity altogether?
I often find myself trying to expose the fundamental immorality of fundy trolls when I find them. I spend too much time trying to get them to see their hypocracy and lies, I often wind up being unable to discuss the real issues out there.

If people like this Christian can marginallize the fundies into effective invisibility ("Oh, there goes that fake 'Christian' Jack Chick spouting off again! Let's all ignore his now-tiny cult and get back to the issue of finding a way to make Intelligent Design testable."), we can get on with our lives. Who knows, they may be able to find something that all the Jerry Falwells of the world have been distracting humanity from.

Once all the fundies are shoved into a dark theological corner, the debate table can become more civilized, and I won't have to just go by pattern recognition.

I doubt it'll happen soon, though, but I wish all the non-insano Christians the best in their efforts.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Well, I've been to the dentist. I'll have to readjust my metalurgical content (4.7% tin) to include a small percentage of gold, now, thanks to my crown.

Wanna see it?


Monday, October 16, 2006

You Know, I Hate Flooders

What's really annoying about them is that they essentially stifle threads by sheer volume. If one question manages to go by unnoticed, they start declaring victory. If you stop or slow the flood to focus on one thing at a time, they'll claim you're silencing them.

So, who's your most loved/hated flooder ever, and what sorts of things oozed barfly from their keyboards?

For me, I've got fond/painful memories of Kilik of the JREF forums, who posted loooooooooong posts featuring multi-genre woo and lots of colorful pictures, including an image of a Magic: The Gathering card as evidence of psi. Did you know that Jesus was a martial artist and used his skills to defeat and escape from Roman soldiers? The Bible needs more ninjas.

In unrelated news, I think I've got my 133t noodle skillz back.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Comment Moderation

For the first time, I've turned comment moderation on for the time being. Weapon of Mass "Instruction" has proven very uninstructive about the biggest questions I have. He's playing wordgames by redefining faith to pretty much include all knowledge. Sorry for the inconvenience.

EDIT: Comment moderation has been turned off.

[Appeal_to_Ridicule] #4.0

Got a new record for a comment thread's length, thanks to a troll. It featured a lot of posts that essentially amounted to claims that asking him to define meaningless words was a "semantics game," while he claimed that the terms are inherently undefinable, or provided definitions that covered absolutely everything that could possibly exist. He's also returned as I type this.

So, here we go:


IDiot: "I contend that there is a big whatsit that designed the universe!"

Skeptic: "What's your evidence?"

IDiot: "Everything's designed."

Skeptic: "What makes you think that?"

IDiot: "It's all flarschnikity!"

Skeptic: "What do you mean?"

IDiot: "It's in the dictionary."

Skeptic: "I see it, but it doesn't relate. It's also quite vague. Maybe you should define it."

IDiot: "Playing the semantics, game, huh? You just want to tie down my definition so that you can refute it."

Skeptic: "Well, it's not very productive to debate in the meaningless gibberish you're creating. Besides, if you've made your argument impossible to refute, there's no way to know if you're wrong. If an unfalsifiable hypothesis is wrong, you'd never be able to tell."

IDiot: "Why do you hate flarschnikit?!"

Skeptic: "Wha? How can I hate something I don't know anything about? You said it was undefinable. I might as well make up a word of my own and ask you why you hate it."

IDiot: "Well, your hypothesis about black holes is stupid! You've never seen a black hole! You've never seen gravity in action!"

Skeptic: "We have seen gravity in action. It's in all sorts of practical applications. We've also seen black holes exert gravity on nearby objects. Black holes have observable effects, and we're observing them."

IDiot: "You've never seen gravity in action!"

Skeptic: "Uh, yes I have. I see it all the time in the course of my regular activities."

IDiot: "You've never seen gravity in action!"

Skeptic: "Even if I didn't see it in everyday life, there is such a thing as evidence: I don't have to see a rock fall: I can see it higher up in one instance, and come back to see it lower. I can also set up controlled tests to verify."

IDiot: "So you admit you don't have to actually see stuff to know it's there! You have faith in air, even though you've got evidence, and no need for faith! I win by redefiinition!"


45th Skeptics' Circle and Open Thread

Hello, hello, hello.

This is my voice, -oice, -oice...

Having a little trouble listening to the mp3: My (new) PSP says it's corrupted, and I don't dare play the file at work on a computer without a working headphone slot. (Probably one in the back, but my cord doesn't stretch terribly far.) My brother submitted his voice late, so I don't know if he got in there, yet. (UPDATE: Yup. Complete with the blooper he told me about over the phone.)

Here's one entry I enjoyed, and I summarize it thus: Woo aims for Dawkins. Kills ID instead.

As is the tradition passed down by our blogfathers, this thread is open. Discussion on whether or not I'd be a good singer for Ryan's band is, however, FORBIDDEN!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

An Interesting Thought

PaulC made a comment over at Pharyngula that caught my attention.
I think that if you drill deeper on the ignorance of most Americans about biology, you'd find that they don't merely reject evolution, but don't really believe that life follows from the same natural laws governing non-living material....
But the process of development, unlike evolution, is something we can readily study in human time scales and repeat in the lab. That's the only reason that IDers are not stupid enough to challenge the entire basic of the life sciences and push some form of vitalism. It's certainly not because it is a less mysterious process than evolution.
Intelligent Design is pretty much an argument from ignorance. I suppose if we weren't as far along about learning what makes us tick, they'd still be positing magic like Deepak Chopra. You can't really make an argument from ignorance when you've got people lining up providing answers all the time. The thought isn't really that surprising, but it's an angle I didn't really think about as much.

Doggerel #41: "Energy"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the favorite words a lot of woos like to employ is "energy." Use it with just about any other word, and you've got a potential sciency-sounding Star Trek plot device. In the woo world, energy is typically non-physical, spiritual, and, in short, defined as immune to science. In the real world, however, energy is physical, and can even be made from matter. That's what E=mc2 is all about. Real world energy, unlike newage (rhymes with sewage) "energy," can be measured: We have joules, ergs, foot-pounds, and all those other units.

Woos have commonly cited conservation of energy as "evidence" of the afterlife, apparently assuming that the soul is made of the same kind of energy that real physicists talk about. The problem with this is that there's no proof of a dead body losing energy: If the soul is made of energy, we'd expect to see a loss as it flies off to wherever. Of course, there probably aren't that many good measurements out there, but if the woos want to assert that energy loss, they'll need to conduct good experiments.

On the altie front, there's no shortage of "energy" "medicine" out there, involving chi, qi, ki, chakras, prana, homeopathy, or whatever. The big problem these things face: Lack of good evidence. (As always, anecdotes don't count.) Though I suspect most actually believe they're doing something, I imagine the knowing frauds use the energy thing as a convenient way of avoiding causing harm: The wrong herbs can cause an allergic reaction or other problems, but waving your hands over someone typically can't hurt anyone... at least not in a positive harm way. (Negative harm comes if the "patient" drops real medicine.)

Yet another, slightly more mundane form of energy woo is the perpetual motion machine, now called a "free energy machine," probably because patent offices caught onto the former, which is supposed to violate the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy). They don't work. If they did work, they'd falsify thermodynamics and start a new revolution in physics. But for some reason, the people praising these devices seem to be quite reluctant to unplug them and let them run on their own.


Doggerel Index

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Before I Forget

Go over to my brother's place and wish him a happy B.

Under the Microscope #2: Sylvia Browne 9/27/2006

Well, I'm making another post about one of Sylvia Browne's appearances on Montel. Haven't started the recording yet, and as before, I'll be going somewhat stream of consciousness.


Well, after the lead-in, Montel makes a standard defeatist woo statement: "There are powers in the universe that are just too vast for us to understand." Of course, all us skeptics know the forces that are most likely going to be involved on this episode: Cold reading, self-deception, shoehorning, etcetera. Book plug.

Sylvia comes on, Montel says something about unspecified natural disasters and holiday travel. Sylvia says people shouldn't be too worried, but she does have concerns about trucks.*

She claims that everything has two levels in some kind of duality in the "seven upper levels" likening them to stages of growth. Talks some gibberish about religious versus spiritual and some kind of acceleration that woos are always promising.

Comments that some people don't ask if they're "on track," and sets a date on when mankind'll be wiped out: "95 years or so." It's a fairly safe bet: With all the nukes floating out there, there's some chance of it, though we can debate over the likelyhood. And if she's wrong, no one'll care by that time.

First guest and home movies: Murdered friend named Adrian. Didn't show up after a game, some team members went to their house, and Adrian's entire family was murdered: Strangulations, shooting, and all that horror for Sylvia to exploit. Over a year, no suspects.

Sylvia describes some unspecified person as a "ticking bomb" involving jealousy, turning the thing allegedly personal. Describes a heavy-set man, of course, since if it was one person, he'd probably have to be strong to subdue an entire family. Claims he lives nearby, but the guest shouldn't be concerned for herself. Of course. It's been a whole year.

Upcoming preview: Something about a haunted restaurant.

Sweet commercials.

My DVR has lost sound. Rewind and play brings it back. We're back, though.

Restaurant is described as one of the oldest buildings in Texas. Woman and little girl ghosts, supposedly. Tale of a bucket of water falling off a ladder. No mention of witnesses for that, yet, so my initial suspicion: Someone bumped into the ladder and snuck off, not wanting to take credit for the spill. Second thing mentioned: A closet that was clean, and then showed up with a dusty footprint. My guess: The footprint was there, just unnoticed the first time.

Witness stories: Kids singing ring around the rosy, moved lamp, depression in a bed like someone slept there.

Sylvia says it's one spirit named "Priscilla," supposedly a mistress. (How are they going to verify that?) Describes it as some kind of "energy imprint," unknowingly encouraging me to hurry up with a Doggerel entry for that word. She's describing it essentially as they described an "empathic echo" in an episode of Star Trek: Next Gen. Even sounds Star Trekky, so it must be science! Apologies to any sarcasmometers overloaded as a result of that last sentence. She also comments that she said "mistress" because she was sure the original owner was married, as if that was unusual. I think she said it because it'd be harder to verify, since people typically want to keep mistresses covered up. Says she was half-black/half-white. Extra incentive to cover it up, knowing those days.

Next woman wants to know about her marriage status: Sylvia claims she'll get married in a year.

Next guest: Wanted to know if her daughters were important in a past life. Sylvia plays the odds and says "no."

Next guest: Asks if she was an American Indian in a past life. Sylvia says yes. (How do we verify?)

Lovely commercials.

Next guest: Old lady wants to know where some silver bracelets are. Sylvia says they were given away. Don't think we'll be hearing about verification.

Next guest: Talking about her dead father-in-law. Sees her kid looking at unseen things, supposedly getting tickled. Sylvia's selling the psychic children thing, saying that he's seeing his grandfather. Reality: Sometimes kids act weird. Claims they'll have a daughter.

Commercial lead-in: Woman wanting to know more about Ouija Boards. Click here for everything you need to know.

I like commercials.

Next guest: Young blonde wants to know if her sick mother'll get better. Sylvia says something about people "programming themselves" into a life expectancy. Sylvia says she's "concerned about" her thyroid and adrenal glands. Will we hear anything about verification? Doubtful.

Next guest: Young woman wanting to know if there was foul play involved in her boyfriend's death. Sylvia makes general statements about stress in life convoluting things, as if stress wasn't a normal thing in a lot of people's lives.

Next guest: Woman with a supposed haunting. Doors close, lightbulbs break, voices. Says the ghost follows her daughter around. Ghost is supposedly a woman who committed suicide there, as suggested by the guest. Doors closing aren't unusual: I've had a few that were set not-level and tended to open themselves. Lightbulbs breaking: Call the electrician before you invoke magical entities like ghosts. Ghost sightings: Pareidolia. Shows a supposed ghost photo with a ghost's face appearing in one of those painted boards with the holes in it. Says she set the timer and tried to run behind with her daughter. My guess: There was a guy there, but she didn't notice him in her haste. Mentions of supposed ghost stranglings. Sylvia responds by saying that ghosts don't do that, and supposedly Warner Brothers wanted her to play something in the Amytiville Horror, but she refused. Quick Google search doesn't show any rumors that she was going to be involved. Says the suicidal girl needs to move on.

Next guest: First man: Looking for a medal or something (hard to make out what he's saying, despite three rewinds). Sylvia says he's lost it, and won't be able to find it. Suspect that's somewhat self-fulfilling.

Wonderful commercials.

Back. Next guest: Not speaking terribly loud, but Sylvia says that someone (apparently dead) wants to tell her, around Christmas time, that he's still around, and will make sure someone sends her a flower. Suspect that that wouldn't be an unusual event at all.

Next guest: Her dad and aunt died on New Year's. She says her dad called her 25 times that day. Really wanted to make sure she was going to show up. Got robbed, apparently after his death. Sylvia said that he had a suspicion that he wouldn't be there. No hints as to what he died from, so he might have known he wasn't doing well.

Next guest: This one about the Ouija board, showing the pointer absolutely flying across the board with their hands. Claimed that it was moving that fast on its own. Spelled out "choking" and apparently scared herself into experiencing that feeling. Sylvia says they're evil. Something made by Parker Brothers is very evil. Says it hooks up with deranged people. I wouldn't go as far as saying deranged, but it involves some people involved in magical thinking: The ones holding the pointer.

Truly great commercials.

Back. Next guest: Guy asking about a daughter who was stillborn. Sylvia says they don't "come in" because there's "no point".

Next guest: Asking about inheritance problems. Sylvia says she'll "prevail" after dealing with three people who'll "give her Hell." Think we'll get any verification?, Bronze Dog asked rhetorically.

Next guest: Asking about her father who died 14 years ago. Dreaming about him after a big move in her life. Asking for approval. Sylvia says he approves.

Next guest: Asking about her soulmate. Sylvia plays some word games on the term before applying the "true love" definition. Says it's a guy named Jack.

Rockin' commercials!

Next guest: Woman thinking her (presumably dead) mother is trying to contact her. Sylvia says she's just visiting, using flower scents.

Next guest: Woman asking about guardian angels. Sylvia says they don't talk, only guides talk. (Where do these rules come from?)

Next guest: Woman asking about a sibling of hers adopted at birth, if he/she is still alive, and if they'll meet. Sylvia says she's a female, and they'll meet in Cleveland, Ohio. Now we're getting specific, at least. I am, however, worried that this woman's going to end up paying for an unproductive trip.

Next guest: Woman asking about a house they're trying to sell. Sylvia tells them to get a hard-working real estate guy. As if that was paranormal advice.

Next guest: Guy asking about the 2008 elections. Sylvia takes the world's safest bet, and says that whoever it is will be better.

Funderful commercials.

Back. Next guest: Woman asking about facilitated communication. Claims it works. Sylvia says it taps into the spirit guides of the mentally/physically handicapped.

Book plug by Montel, followed by Sylvia mentioning her upcoming publications. It's over, and I certainly don't feel any more enlightened about the world. Maybe if Sylvia would put her powers to the test...

*Sylvia's concerns about trucks are likely moot nowadays: Large trucks (especially the ones that carry hazardous stuff) now often have GPS locators and remote control of their engines: If a truck goes off course, the driver would be notified, suspicions would arise, and that would lead to an engine cut-off.


The Big Sylvia Browne Thread

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Gather 'round Now, Children...

Here's a little story I feel compelled to pass on, passed to me by an immigrant from Taiwan:

Over there, the local Hell has 18 levels (Eat that, Dante!). If you only did one really bad thing in your life, you went to the first level. There, it's about a hundred degrees or so. (Unfortunately, he didn't specify Celsius or Fahrenheit, and that makes a big difference.) Things get nastier as you go to the lower levels. So, anyway, a truly horrible criminal finds himself on the 18th level, where he endures unspeakable torments. He makes a commitment that when he reincarnates, he'll never do anything to get himself back into the 18th level. When his time is about up, he hears a faint scream... coming from below. There's a 19th level! As the guard is escorting him back to the earthly realm, he asks, "Who's that on the 19th level? What did he do to get there?"

The guard replies, "He was an incompetent teacher."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Let's Talk About Intelligent Design... Again

My previous LTAID post apparently didn't get a lot of attention from IDers, so here's another, and I'll try to plug it more.

One of the funny/sad pseudoarguments I recently read from a troll using fire style copy/paste jutsu is that all us eeeee-ville "Darwinists" are trying to censor all the Intelligent Design evidence. Aside from being just as silly as all the other woo conspiracy theories, it's got another fatal flaw that I've never heard an IDer address. I'm quite surprised (apologies to any sarcasmometers damaged during this sentence) that IDers haven't bothered dealing with such a fundamental question:

What kind of evidence would support Intelligent Design?

I mean, really: It'd be kind of silly to try to suppress something that hasn't even been defined, yet. The last several times I checked, ID is unfalsifiable, so here's another fundamental question:

What kind of evidence would falsify Intelligent Design?

I predict that some troll will fail to do his homework and claim that evolution is unfalsifiable, despite it being pretty simple to come up with forms of falsification. Of course, evolution is a different topic altogether. This post and comment thread are about Intelligent Design.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bonus Rant! READY. GO!!

I don't think I'll be voting for Kinky Friedman.

I also suspect he's a fake atheist.
"The Ten Commandments being taken out of the public schools... I want them back, they belong there. Maybe I'll have to change their name to the Ten Suggestions, you know. But they were taken out, not by separation of church and state, but by political correctness gone awry. One atheist stands up and says, 'I don't like the Ten Commandments,' and suddenly out they go.
I fail to see how "political correctness" comes into the issue. It is immoral for an inherently compulsory institution like a government to endorse religion. Period. Especially in front of kids. Such profound ignorance about a fundamental aspect of our government should disqualify someone from office.
An, of course, we all know what happens to an atheist when he dies. His tombstone usually reads, 'All dressed up and no place to go.' ... Now, if that's comparing my self to Jesus, I don't really think it is. But, the Jesus in my heart is a Jesus with a sense of humor. And, personally, I think he's enjoyin' my campaign as much as anybody right now. I think he is. ... I'll tell you right now. I'm for prayer in school. I say what's wrong with a kid believing in something? I don't care if it's a tree or a rock or something, he should believe in something."
Like, maybe freedom of religion? Or truth? Logic, maybe? Maybe just good ol' fashion compassion, a value that necessitates a drive for all the previous suggestions.

There's also equivocation involved. Believing in something that you have good evidence for: Good. Believing in something without evidence: Bad. They're two different things.
Friedman foresees Texas schools having revolving prayer along the lines of "may the God of your choice bless you."

"But what if there is no God of your choice?" Ventura asked Monday.

"If there is no God," Friedman said, "the kids will find out sooner or later. But (for) the time being, let's let them believe in something."
That last sentence, in addition to continuing the equivocation mentioned earlier, dodges the issue: He's in favor of making kids perform a prayer in public schools. Also, though the actions he's proposing, he's not letting them believe in "something": He's going to be forcing kids to go through the motions of believing in "something."

I suspect he'd take offense to the idea of changing that prayer to something along the lines of "May the tree of your choice bless you." I'm not sure if there are any atreeists to be "offended" (as if offense was the issue).

Enemy Reinforcements Identified as a Ranking Rant

Well, we've got another nut ranting about evolution encouraging amoral behavior. This insanity really irritates me on multiple levels.

First, on the pure logic front, it's irrelevant: The (a/im)morality of an idea has nothing to do with its validity. Even if it was somehow immoral for 2 + 2 to equal 4, 2 + 2 would still equal 4.

Second, it demonstrates a lack of understanding between descriptive and proscriptive concepts. Evolution, like all of science, is descriptive: It describes how our world works, and what is likely to happen. Just because the "strong" (whatever that means) are going to be more successful than the "weak" (whatever that means), it doesn't mean that they should. Just because gravity pulls objects downward doesn't mean that a rock "should" roll down a hill in any sort of moral sense. We can expect the rock to roll down, but only because that's how gravity and rocks work.

Third, it demonstrates a very limited understanding of how evolution works. Personally, I find it telling that fundies seem to think that evolution favors violent, brute force solutions. In reality, such means are quite dangerous, especially for humans: Combat is a high-risk venture. For creatures like insects, who breed at a rate that puts rabbits to shame, it's an acceptable risk. For humans, it is not: Human beings have to invest a lot of time and effort into raising the few children they can produce over a lifetime. Going Columbine pretty much guarantees evolutionary failure: Violent children tend to die, or at least get locked away somewhere where they're unlikely to spend any time with members of the opposite sex.

This risk strikes me as a likely reason for the various posturing games animals play: Why take on a high risk of death, when you can take on a lesser risk, like neck and horn injury? Why risk death when you can merely risk being shown up by the guy with the bigger, shinier tail feathers? This game has taken hold in the human population as well: Why demonstrate your manliness by killing the guy who saw her first (risky, and women consider it "insensitive" nowadays), when you can get a Hummer or *gasp* be a considerate and productive individual?

Contrary to the simplistic model Cretinists like to portray, evolution can and does find nonviolent means to continue. As I said before, I find it telling that they seemingly jump to the conclusion that violence is the most effective means to solve the survival/reproductive problems a human encounters during his lifespan. Even if there are these hypothetical people acting violent because of a belief in evolution, that's an argument to strengthen, not weaken, the teaching of evolution: There are other ways to live besides brutish domination, and evolution's come up with plenty of examples. Like humans, a species of social animals who can't easily survive without cooperation from other humans.

Another annoyance of mine is the 'act like animals' pseudoargument. Which animals? The animal kingdom has a rather large variety of behaviors. Even members of an individual species can have a lot of variation. Additionally, not all animal behaviors are bad, like Cretinists like to imply. There are plenty of pets out there who get medals for behavior considered heroic by human standards. Yet another point: It's a false dichotomy. Humans do act like animals. We just have more complicated rituals than most for getting a meal or a date. Or evaluating the potential and quality of a date.

Despite what Cretinists would like you to believe, religion isn't a "higher" behavior or anything: It's like one tale I've read about a dog who barked at thunderstorms: He barked, the thunderstorm went away, so "obviously" the canomorphized thunderstorm ran off scared. Religion is pretty much a way of giving ourselves the comforting illusion of control.

This rant may be continued.