Monday, July 31, 2006

Doggerel #30: "You Need to Think Outside the Box!"

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

Many of the woos out there like to think that we skeptics are extremely limited in our thought patterns. Like many of their arguments, I wonder if it's a case of projection, but I'll get to that later.

When skeptics see something unusual going on, we try to use existing explanations to account for it. Why bother considering a fanciful, previously unknown explanation when the ones you've got will suffice?

Take, for instance, John Edward. Those he does readings for claim that only psychic powers could account for the information he receives. Unfortunately for the woos out there, there are plenty of known methods John Edward could employ: He could use simple cold reading. He could have looked up the person online. He could have read the local obituraries before the show. He could have plants in the audience relaying information about the other people present. He could make educated guesses based on the person's age, expressions, clothing, etcetera. He could be sticking with generalities. He could be spraying out random guesses and letting the person forget the misses. He could be emulating Peter Popoff with a hidden method of technological communication. He could be using any combination of the above, as well as a few tricks I haven't thought of, yet. Human beings put out a wealth of information that a perceptive, or at least persistent person could exploit. That's eight perfectly mundane explanations right off the bat, versus one fantastical pseudoexplanation.

Like the Tendas' dinosaur "cage," my "box" is quite expansive and unrestrictive. Even if I don't know an explanation for something (like that probably-simple card reading thing Randi did at Princeton), there's plenty of room for one. That's why there have to be controls: There are so many possible explanations, you have to try to eliminate them all before you can consider any others. If you want to convince me that John Edwards is using a completely unknown method of gathering information, you have to prevent him from using known methods. Randi intends to do just that, but JE won't submit to any such conditions.

In contrast, woos are entirely too willing to move to a collection of essentially identical explanations that boil down to one word: Magic. Simple conjuring tricks are inflated to divine status. Everyday coincidences are attributed to fate, synchronicity, or whatever. They typically reach this conclusion because they can't think of a materialist explanation: Their "box" is limited to their immediate knowledge and magic. If something doesn't fit their knowledge of the material world, it's immediately relegated to magic.

A skeptic knows that his knowledge of the material world is limited. No one is perfect. Humanity as a whole isn't perfect. Placing everything we don't understand in a box labelled "magic" is defeatism. Woos can glorify that defeatism all they like with words like "faith" and "open-mindedness," but that doesn't change the fact that they give up too quickly.

I don't see how such a worldview can expand.

Here there be dragons.


Doggerel Index


Hitler's animate corpse returns. Godwin's law once again verified.

*According to Free Translation Online: German for "Braaaaains!"

Gone to the Dogs #1.1

Just found out about this via Infophile. "UFO" is on the list for Doggerel entry ideas, and I should probably get around to it, since there are a lot of people out there who don't seem to understand what the U means.

Phil goes in-depth here.

"I just talked to Buzz Aldrin on the phone, and he notes that the quotations were taken out of context and did not convey the intended meaning. After the Apollo 11 crew verified that the object they were seeing was not the SIVB upper stage, which was about 6000 miles away at that time, they concluded that they were probably seeing one of the panels from the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage. These panels were not tracked from Earth and were likely much closer to the Apollo spacecraft. They chose not to discuss this on the open communications channel since they were concerned that their comments might be misinterpreted (as they are being now). Apparently all of this discussion about the panels was cut from the broadcast interview, thus giving the impression that they had seen a UFO." -Dave Morrison

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Someday... We Will All Have Mecha

Someday is getting a lot closer. The theistically inclined may wish to pray that I don't get one before them.

Forgive me if this doesn't work out. It's my first YouTube thingamabobber:

(Via VGCats)

One More Place to Send Cretinists

The Angry Astronomer covers some of the common misconceptions about the Big Bang. Haven't been to his place before, but I like him already.

(Via PZ.)

Meanwhile, other stuff:

Enjoy this sign. Change it to the singular and put it on my front door.

Enjoy the stupidity. (Also via PZ.) Suppose next this guy'll whine that they'll never be able to prove that squares are square.

More stupidity.

Comment Policy Update

Since I got a bit more than the third-banana job I originally expected when I signed onto the Ramblings, I'm going to try to elaborate a bit more than Ryan did a while back. These policies only apply to comments on my posts.

Though I'm flexible, these are likely to get you deleted right away:

1. Commercial spam.

2. Comments consisting of nothing but foul language, unless I'm in the mood to once again point out the stereotypical nature of these comments: So far, they're the norm among people who disagree.

3. Beyond the ones that are already up: Posts by Fore Sam / John Best that don't contain links or direct references to relevant documents and studies. I doubt he'll make an exception, because he's into doing us the service of interpreting studies for us... or at least passing on some other guy's interpretations of studies. Personally, I prefer to do my own interpretation when a study comes from a woo. For those of you unfamiliar with Fore Sam, you won't be missing much: The only thing that separates him from the stereotypical altie scaremonger is that he gets personal with me.

4. Completely irrelevant and off-topic posts. See #3, above. My motivations are always irrelevant and off-topic, unless otherwise noted. Exception: If you have a proof that my motivation alters the laws of nature, please tell me about it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Forgive Me, FSM, For I Have Sinned

Today, I had intended to bring my camera along to get some better photos of the miracle. I forgot, and the FSM punished me with a tire blow-out. My +3 flaming anti-vaxxer bane tire iron got to see some action, but alas, I was unable to record any of it. The blow-out stranded me next to the residence of some fire ants, and because they obviously possess the fire subtype and supported preventative medication, neither the flaming nor the anti-vaxxer bane attributes of my tire iron were of any use. Yet another problem was that the donut in my car's trunk was under-inflated. But the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a merciful deity, so my dad was not far away with his air compressor.

Drooling Testimonial: Got a nice new set of tires at ExpertTire after the FSM aged my current set into oblivion. Rodger was very helpful, and even took me to Popeye's while my car was being worked on. I was short on change, and he donated a dollar to the cause of satisfying my hunger. Also had a nice bit of conversation where we demonstrated some of our obscure vocabulary knowledge. "Defenestrate" was my word of choice. He told me a couple of long-winded ways of saying "I don't know" and "No" that I wish I remembered. I contributed "Do you have the audacity to doubt my veracity and to insinuate that I would prevaricate when I am as pure and undefiled as the temples of Diana?" as a substitute for "You callin' me a liar?!"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

At Least Someone in the Game Industry is Listening

Sterling McGarvey at GameSpy peers into my hopes and dreams for the PSP. When the PSP and DS were new, that little USB port and PC-friendly (at least to my PCs) memory stick caused me to coin a phrase: "The DS is a toy. PSP is a way of life."

I thought for sure that there'd be homebrew out the wazoo (until I foolishly went along with the firmware upgrades, cutting me off from that world, at least until they get a 7.1 downgrader), countless USB attachments, and easily downloadable content of all kinds. (Sony, try slimming down the clutter on your PSP page.)

Some stuff I'd like to see in the PSP's future:

A cellphone attachment. N-Gage had their whole approach backwards. The PSP already has a powerful (at least on the scales I'm used to) processor and a decent display. If it can be done on a cell phone, you should be able to do it better on PSP.

PDA functionality. Can't be too hard to write the software. Would go well with a USB keyboard attachment.

My Office Has Been Touched...

His Divine His Noodly Appendage. A rubber band under an office mat has shaped itself into the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The odds of this happening are so low, it must be divine intervention.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Perfectly Routine Smackdown!

MarkCC takes on a guy making cookie-cutter anti-evolution arguments. Said guy was ripped to shreds and we ate his heart to feast on his virtually non-existent courage. His delicious courage...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Doggerel #29: "Chemicals"

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

One of the favorite scare words that alties like to use is "chemicals." It's a very vague term, just the way the dishonest ones like it. Strictly speaking, a chemical is anything made of atoms, ions, and molecules:
Edward Elric: Water, 35 liters. Carbon, 20 kilograms. Ammonia, 4 liters. Lime, 1.5 kilograms. Phosphorous, 800 grams. Salt, 250 grams. Saltpeter, 100 grams. Sulfur, 80 grams. Fluorine, 7.5, iron, 5, silicon, 3 grams, and trace amounts of 15 other elements.
Rose: What's that?
Edward Elric: It's all the ingredients of the average adult human body, right down to the last specks of protein in your eyelashes...

-Fullmetal Alchemist, Episode 1: To Challenge the Sun.
I don't know about Ed's accuracy (though bear in mind he lives in a world where chemical bonds are easy to overcome with chalk circles), but the point should be clear: Even your own body is made of chemicals. Because of that, there's no way for us to avoid them as a whole.

The tricky part comes from avoiding the bad chemicals. First, it doesn't matter if the chemical is natural or artificial: Dihydrogen monoxide is dihydrogen monoxide, whether it's made in a plant or in a lab. Second, any chemical, even the ones we need to live can be poisonous in large amounts: Drinking too much water can lead to hyponatremia as it flushes out our electrolytes. Oxygen in large enough amounts can kill: Scuba divers learned that the hard way back when they used pure oxygen in their tanks. As we skeptics like to say, the dose makes the poison.

One thing I like to do when faced with a scaremonger abusing the term is to replace the word "chemical" with "stuff." It takes the sting out of it all, doesn't it? If you're in an argument with such a person, request that they specify which chemicals they're talking about, as well as the doses at which they become harmful.


Doggerel Index

Drugs Are Bad, M'Kay?

Got a bit of comment spam advertising for herbal stuff, best paraphrased as, "drugs are just bad, so get some herbs!" as if there was a difference. Of course, they're probably talking about pharmaceutical products as "drugs" in this case, which are probably better for the following reasons:

1. When you buy a pill from a pharmaceutical company, you know exactly what's in it. When you buy an herb, you don't know: There's a lot of natural variation in the plants, since they don't consistently produce their active ingredients in the same amounts. Or even any amount. They also contain lots of extraneous chemicals, many of which can be dangerous. Many contain heavy metals.

2. Most herbs have never been properly tested. The manufacturers aren't obligated to test them, like the pharmaceutical companies are: Label anything a "suppliment" and you can innuendo advertise the FDA "not poison to most people" approval as evidence of effectiveness.

3. Herbs aren't exactly "green," despite the environmentalist goals that are often associated with the people who sell them: The majority of herbs are harvested from the wild, not farmed. The growth of herbal suppliment sales risks farming potentially useful herbs into extinction for applications where their usefulness is questionable at best.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dog Treats #2: Zero

It's been a while since my first "Dog Treats" post. Just haven't been in the mood for a general informative ramble. So I paid someone: A while back, MarkCC was offering to write articles for people who donated to a Scienceblogs DonorsChoose challenge. I dropped a little piece of my bank account in there, and requested he post a little something about the number zero. He's going to add more, later, but judging from his start, he's going to be talking about zero in greater depth than I could hope for.

I doubt he'll be doing some of the irrelevant tangents I'd put in, though.

EDIT: Fixed a link, since none of you lazy [hineys] told me it didn't lead to Good Math, Bad Math. ;)

Please Clicky!

Neurodiversity isn't one of my regular blogs, but it probably should be. Here's a series that tells you something about the "heroes" of the mercury brigade.

Significant Misrepresentations: Mark Geier, David Geier & the Evolution of the Lupron Protocol:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven

I find it entertaining that much of what the Geiers have been doing matches exactly what quacks like to say teh bIg pHARMa CoNsPiRaCy is up to.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ranging Out Rith Rooby Roo!

Reptics' Rircle #39 is Rere!

Okay, I'm done with that. Open post: Leave a comment on whatever the [heck] you feel like. Make fun of my bracketed self-censoring. Tell me about your favorite RPG. Whatever. Just don't you DARE tell me that Kirk was a better captain than Picard.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dain Bramage

Bumped into a commentary of Orac's on this Darth Misha character earlier, but I didn't go as deep as PZ did. He bumped into this one juicy gem of anti-wisdom:
If any two species chosen at random share a common ancestor, would that not imply that every living creature today was ultimately derived from one singular "Mother-Beast"? Just what did this creature look like (I imagine a bulbous sphere, fourteen stories in diameter, with various heads sticking out all over: cow, porcupine, squid, human, etc. Most are confused; none are happy.)
I wonder if this guy learned about evolution by playing Jade Cocoon backwards. Maybe not. Even in that game, the critters had something resembling HOX genes.

Doggerel #28: "They Laughed at [Real Scientist], Too!"

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

One of the favorite cards pseudoscientists like to play is a comparison between themselves and a real scientist or innovator who was ridiculed, persecuted, or whatever. One well-known example of this is the Galileo Gambit. The same tactic is also used with Pasteur, Copernicus, the Wright Brothers, and pretty much everyone who overcame adversity and contributed something we now take for granted.
"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." -Carl Sagan
The key problem with this argument is that the people being laughed at when this bit of Doggerel is brought up are typically woos: They've presented a hypothesis and don't have good evidence to back it up. Typically, their arguments consist of other forms of Doggerel intended to cover up their lack of evidence.

Ridicule, though often depicted as pointless, can serve a purpose: Humorous exaggeration and analogies, for example, often amplify a person's logical fallacies so that people can see them more easily. That's the purpose behind the Flying Spaghetti Monster: An exaggeration of Intelligent Design's single-minded pursuit of respect in the public relations front instead of scientific research. Unfortunately, the woos seldom respond to this exposure, often complaining that exposing their logical fallacies (which they don't admit to) is a form of persecution.

Sometimes, however, we aren't ridiculing them: Every once in a while, I post a problem with a woo hypothesis with a straight, text book-style response, and I'm still accused of ridicule.

I have a right to laugh when you look like you're doing something foolish. If you can show me that it actually works, I'll apologize. Until then, thank me for my negativity.


Doggerel Index

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Foamin' at the Mouth #2: Another Atrocity

It's happened again. Autism Diva and Prometheus have the details, and I have a few things to say that I'd rather not publish here.

Sit! Stay! Good Blog. #2

As you may have noticed, I've been feeling a compulsion to read the blogs of commentors (it's only fair, since they read mine and leave good comments. I like comments), and Infophile is the most recent read of mine.

Since he's a newcomer with some cogent thoughts, I'll help him out by sending some traffic his way. His blog is Infophilia. I wonder if he's going to post some pictures of books seductively shedding their jackets. Until then, a dark closet will have to do. Oh, and while you're there, watch your grammar!

Sit! Stay! Good blog.

I'm As Mad As [Heck]...

...and I'm not going to take it anymore!

Overall, I've been kind of lukewarm towards the current gaming atmosphere. For the next generation of systems, I see a lot of potential, though, like this guy, I'm worried they aren't going to use it. I've been finding myself gravitating towards portables lately, since they more often fit within the style of the olden days, when content separated your 1 (or 32) megabit RPG from the other guy's 1 (or 32) megabit RPG.

It's been a while since I've played an old style RPG. Kept myself sated for a while with the Mario & Luigi games, but I think I need something that harkens back to the days of Final Fantasy 4-6, Chrono Trigger, that sort of thing. Adventure games along the lines of Zelda, Enix's various old games, puzzle dungeons, yadda-yadda.

Wish they'd make versions I could play online with multiple people. And I mean that in a way that doesn't involve simply hanging around with people who happen to be hacking at the same collection of monsters to get up to level 99.

(Via The Brummell)

Divided We Stand

Been hanging around my specific list of blogs too long. Missed this great piece by An Anonymous Coward.
So if there is some moral to be gained from the Tacoma Narrows bridge, it's not that disunity leads to collapse. It's that unity can lead to collapse, if it's the wrong kind of unity. This isn't to say that people shouldn't work together, of course, or that arguments and infighting are good things. But it's important to be united in the right ways and for the right reasons--and to know when it might not be a good idea for everyone to go in the same direction. Sometimes it's better not to be completely united--it's better to examine what you're being asked to go along with, and consider whether it's really a good idea for everyone to follow it, or whether if everyone keeps moving that way it's ultimately going to end in disaster. You have to make sure you're united to the right cause.
Science functions because of its disunity: Every idea can be challenged. Every idea has to withstand great scrutiny of scientists, as well as that of nature, in the form of experiments. Ideally, the greatest skeptic of a hypothesis is the person who proposed it, but just in case someone doesn't live up to that standard, we have the peer-review process and critical thinking so others can fill in any shortcomings.

As a result of this process, I'm able to type on a screen full of glowing phosphors or liquid crystals, send a signal though a super-duper-high-speed telegraph, sometimes without a wire connecting me to the telegraph, where you receive it, and have a collection of symbols roughly representing my thoughts displayed on your screen.

Herd mentality can't produce what science has. Black sheep who prove their worth get Nobel Prizes in this business.

Monday, July 17, 2006

If You're Wondering How He Eats and Breathes...

...And other science facts,
Just repeat to yourself "It's just a show,
I should really just relax
For Mystery Science Theater 3000."
Was watching the latter half of an episode of Star Trek: TNG: "When the Bough Breaks" It was one of the early episodes, so I suppose some things can be forgiven, but I noticed a gaping plot hole that undermines the whole premise of the episode: It features a planet called Aldea populated by artsy people who set up their society so that machines would take care of the mundane, non-artsy details in life. They've got the super-technology more fitting for the helpless-except-for-guile Federation from the days of yore, when every alien race out there was hundreds of millions of years old and ultra-powerful, except for possibly the Big Mistake they made so that Kirk would have something to throw red shirts at and make logs about.

Where was I? Oh, yeah: Aldea has a cloaking device. A monster one that hides the whole planet. Kept it in the realm of legend alongside Atlantis and all that until they revealed themselves to the Enterprise.

PROBLEM: Yeah, you can make the planet invisible in terms of electromagnetism... But what about gravity? If I recall correctly, Neptune was discovered in part thanks to its gravity influencing the orbit of Uranus. (Stop sniggering!) Wouldn't a Star Trek-quality ship with advanced sensors and computers be able to notice the invisible planet, cloaked or not?

Oh well. It's just a show, I really should just relax.

Doggerel #27: "Educated"

"An education doesn't make you smarter. It only makes you educated."
Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. This edition brought to you courtesy of a 130 dB, 18,000 Hz troll (or at least that's how the text reads to me) who stopped by Ryan's first post.

Education is probably the greatest feature of the human species. We can communicate ideas to younger generations, who in turn build on those ideas, refining the ones that work, and getting rid of (or at least marginalizing) those that don't. Unfortunately, the latter part of the process is quite difficult: Humankind has become successful enough that we can survive the burden of silly notions. This burden, however, inhibits our "higher" forms of successes.

Many people seem to exist under the assumption that having magical letters after your name means that your arguments and opinions are inherently superior to anyone else's. Just because Dr. Bob has a PhD from CGNU doesn't mean that he isn't a fool. Doctors, scientists, engineers, etc. are still monkeys: They can make mistakes. They can be dishonest. They can even be idiots when it comes to a certain field, or even their own field.

One example that comes to mind involves some scientists testing out a "psychic" who could apparently lift a book of matches off the back of his hand with his mind. They had exposed the matches to all sorts of "scientific" tests, including infrared scanning lasers, yadda, yadda. They couldn't figure out how he did it. They called Randi, expressing concern for the prize money of his. Randi sent them a children's magic book: The guy was pinching a bit of the skin on the back of his hand into one of the folds of the match box. When he clenched his hand, it moved the match box.

The scientists thought that they would be able to see any deception. Randi is a magician. His expertise is in deception and trickery. Thankfully, he uses his knowledge of the trade to teach us to see through deception, the flaws in our perceptive abilities, and other such things that can be used to fool us (not to mention entertain us).

Often, woos like to use the authority of "educated" people in place of real arguments, often to said authority's dismay.

For example, one commonly cited authority is Sir Isaac Newton. "Newton believed in God." "Newton believed in alchemy." This, however, is unimportant: What matters is the argument. Why did Newton believe in God? Why did he believe in alchemy? Tossing a big name around is meaningless unless that person had good arguments to support the conclusion. Of course, the necessity of good arguments eliminates the need for name dropping. In a sense, scientists are irrelevant to the science they do.

Talking about the people presenting an argument is little more than ego-stroking. Either an argument is sound, or it isn't. An honest person discusses the strengths and weaknesses of an argument being made. A dishonest person distracts people from that argument, like the previously mentioned troll did. Thank you, Mr./Mrs. Anonymous for the demonstration of the world's worst arguer to date.


Doggerel Index

Serious Cartooning

These cartoons got posted over on the Millenium Project recently, and I'm showing my support.

You just know that someone is going to seriously claim that beer is a better treatment than evidence-based medicine.

I don't know anything about ISM, but it reminds me of homeopaths who claim that X cures Y, and then whine that treatments have to be individualized when X fails a DBT to determine if it cures Y.

Peter's favorite, and mine, too, for reasons that should be obvious.

EDIT: Had to deal some weird stuff. Apologies for the lower quality, since Blogger seems uninterested in letting me upload copies in their original formats, or showing a direct image link to Peter's copies.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Speaking of Geekdom...

If I ever get like this, whack me as hard as you can with a rolled-up JREF Challenge Application.

Touched By the Broader Geek Demographic.

Noticed sitemeter's showing me some links coming from the Wizards of the Coast website, leading to my Doggerel entry on "Closed-Minded." I tried searching for the reference, since I couldn't get it directly: They have a little disclaimer page for off-site links, and that shows up as the referral. Couldn't find the original link, so if anyone hanging around over at the Wizards' forum, or whatever, knows the context of the troll slapdown that was surely going on, I'd really appreciate it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Quote of the Time Being #3

Sorry, Reverend, but Blake Stacey posted an entertaining thought I'm surprised never occurred to me over on Good Math, Bad Math:
OK, say the cosmological parameters of the Universe were "fine-tuned". Then, the argument goes, there had to be a Fine Tuner. But the Fine Tuner does not --- indeed, cannot --- live within the Universe we know. Ergo, intelligence can exist in a realm which is not at all like our Universe. Yet the whole argument was based on the idea that all the peculiarities of our Universe are essential for intelligent life! All fall down.
Of course, in order for a Fine Tuner to exist in the exact manner he does, he must have been fined tuned by a Fine Fine Tuner Tuner. I know he can tune a piano, but can he tune a fish, like they claim?

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Well, Gigantor is back on Adult Swim. For those not in the know (and I'm still learning), Gigantor is the first giant robot anime, featuring Tetsujin (Iron Man)-28, a colossus of destruction with next to no ranged combat ability. It's kind of interesting to watch this primordial anime, especially since all these events supposedly occurred six years ago.

I may be a teetotaler, but I think I have a good idea for a Gigantor drinking game. Try some playtesting, but take countermeasures against alcohol poisoning. This might be a bit much.

1. Whenever someone says "secret base" or "time bomb," take a drink.

2. Whenever someone says, "I know, we'll use Gigantor!" as if that's an original idea, or the solution to everything, take a drink. (When all you have is a hammer...)

3. Whenever Jimmy shouts commands to Gigantor, take a drink.

4. Whenever Gigantor flexes needlessly, take a drink. (Assume activation doesn't count.)

5. Whenever Gigantor and the enemy robot of the day face off using flexing and/or activation sound effects, take another drink.

6. Whenever someone says "our country" when they obviously mean Japan, take a drink.

7. Whenever Bob Brilliant spontaneously gains expertise in a field other than engineering or robotics, take a drink.

8. Whenever the regular cast is surprised at the idea of the giant animals/monsters turning out to be robots, take a drink.

9. Whenever the military proves to be completely ineffective against robots, take a drink. (You'd think they'd dump the entire national budget into anti-robot weaponry since this happens, what, like every week?)

10. Whenever Jimmy Sparks gives all the credit to the mindless hulk, despite his mad skillz with the remote control, take a drink.

11. Whenever Jimmy kills someone with Gigantor or by his own hands, take a drink. (How much blood is on that kid's hands?... Is he really a kid? He has a gun, a car, and everything. You won't see any parachutes edited in after the destruction of an enemy jet fighter.)

12. When Jimmy torments the villains at the end with Gigantor, take a drink. (He's supposed to be the hero?)

...Maybe you should just grab a whole keg for each episode.

Doggerel #26: "It's Only a Theory!"

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

"Theory" is a word that common usage has been butchering, lately. When you have an explanation for some events that can lead to predictions, you have a hypothesis. If your hypothesis has lots of good evidence supporting it, then it becomes a theory. Evolution, the Big Bang, gravity, thermodynamics, relativity, and all that good stuff qualify.

Common usage, however, places "theory" at the level of any crackpottery, or vice versa. Intelligent Design, for example, is not a theory. It's not even a hypothesis: It doesn't explain anything, nor does it make predictions.

Evolution, on the other hand, can make predictions accurately enough for use in practical applications. Just ask Dr. Adrian Thompson about his voice recognition chip.

The Big Bang predicted a uniform background of microwave radiation. We found it.

If you want to overturn an existing theory, you have to come up with a theory that makes even more accurate predictions (Like relativity did to Newtonian physics, though they're still accurate enough to remain useful for our low-speed purposes) and accounts for the existing data.

Of course, your hypothesis has to be falsifiable. ID doesn't explain anything because it could be used to explain everything: Design flaws are attributed to imperfections, higher purposes we can't comprehend, etcetera. Anything to excuse the designer from all the monkey wrenches that end up in our internal works.

Psychic hypotheses often fall into this trap, too: Successes are explained by nebulous powers, and failures are explained with equally nebulous forms of interference that usually can't be detected until after the failure.

Scientific theories have done a gosh-darn good job explaining the world and making our lives easier (sometimes). I'm not going to pretend they're at the same level as some random net kook's repeatedly ad hocked ravings.


Doggerel Index

Stupid God Tricks #3: Divine Easter Graffiti

Seems Allah is taking further steps to run the Easter Bunny out of a job. Wish Reuters brought their camera with them, so that I could pareidolia my way into pop culture references.

So, you think GoldenPalaceCasino would be interested in it?

Anyone want to take bets on its abilty to stay preserved across the ages?

Via JREF forums.

Quote of the Time Being #2

In response to a YEC screed about "properly interpreting" evidence:
"Yes if my ex-girlfriend during college had properly interprested the woman she found in my bed we would have all been better off." -Rev. bigdumbchimp

Martial Arts Woo: It's Been Localized For the NA/EU Region

Found this via the JREF forums. So, how long do you think it'll be before one of these described nuts tells us that fencers focus their humors into their rapier, or that Roman gladiators fought by getting in tune with their eidolons?

As per Shygetz's suggestion, here's an excerpt I was particularly fond of, describing the problem behind the idea unbroken lines of teachers passing down the One True Fencing Technique:
For some reason it never occurs to people that at some point in recent history all these Western fencing masters stopped actually teaching how to fight and kill with real weapons and instead started teaching how to score points with light, flexible, rubber-tip practice ones. Not only that, but even earlier than this occurred, they had all ceased fighting and dueling as they had in earlier generations and stopped learning those methods of swordplay. Now, there may be continual transmission of underlying ideas, principles, and concepts, for sure, but it’s a big difference between fighting with a back-sword or a long rapier in a dark alley, and playing touch-touch with your colleague down at the Y.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thoughts From the Splendiforous Dr. Adequate

The New Age Is A Paper Tiger


Finally Caught a Bit of Negative Attention

Seems someone's claiming to have found fault with my Doggerel entry on "Faith." Looks to me like it could be a case of simply over-interpreting mixed with denial of the existence of religious forum trolls. Feel free to drop a comment over at his place to defend my honor or whatever.

Update: I've updated the "Faith" entry to cover some of the apparent confusion Dave had. He's been mostly civil (and some of the small bits of incivility I might perceive have a fair chance of involving misinterpretations on either/both sides), so he doesn't qualify as malicious, unlike some people we probably hate in equal measure. So, bottom line: Probably motive misreading.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Would You Like to Take a Survey?

I feel a compulsion to openly ask for some feedback. Sitemeter doesn't tell me everything. Answer the questions however you feel. Try to pretend the cameras aren't there.

1. When you read my entries, do you commonly laugh, cry, nod in approval, shout obscenities, other?
2. If you laugh, how loud? Light chuckles? Actual LOL level? Loud enough to disrupt the cube farm? Have you ever ruptured an organ while doing so?
3. Got any ideas you'd like to share with me? (I can always use suggestions. I don't get much email.)
4. How often do I offend you? How can I increase the frequency of this while maintaining your readership?
5. Do you miss Ryan?
6. Do you know who Ryan is?
7. Got any ideas for non-Doggerel posts?
8. Do you think this looks infected?
9. Know any woos in need of an arch enemy?
10. Anyone thought of a new name for the blog?
11. Do you miss the pointless Homestar Runner links from the days of yore?
12. Will the Lone Ranger be dashed to pieces by the jagged rocks below?

This Might Be a Time Saver

Via the JREF Forums, it's the quack-o-meter! Seems it looks for key words and phrases that serve as warning signs for medical quackery or something on websites, and measures the result in canards, the SI unit for quackery. I gave it a couple tests. Seems to be working fine.

They're currently beta-testing a name search version, too. Gave it a couple tests, as well. Well... they're probably still ironing out some bugs.


Those of you who've followed my comments on other blogs may have been wondering why I don't regularly post about autism-thimerosal nuts. Well, it's hard to top people like Orac and Autism Diva, who know a lot more about the issue. At least I can cut through the Doggerel of people like Fore Sam. It also feels weird for me to make a post about someone else's post.

But I'll do just a little of that, since we may have gotten the equivalent of the Dover case on this issue.

Prometheus, Orac, and Autism Diva have the juicy details. Probably a lot of other people covering it, too.

Hopefully, "Results-oriented testimony" will get as big a hold as "breath-taking inanity" among the skeptical community.

Doggerel #25: "Science is Just Another Religion!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. This edition is brought to you by suggestion of jess, combined with the nonsense Ann Coulter was apparently up to while I was busy saving the Mushroom Kingdom this weekend.

Many woos out there like to claim that science is just another religion. This is, of course, complete nonsense: Unlike religion, Science is an inherently self-correcting enterprise. When facts contradict theory, the theory is modified to fit the facts. Since experiments continuously generate new facts to deal with, our scientific knowledge is always changing and updating.

Many theories, however, don't need large overhauls to fit facts. The modern theory of evolution and the Big Bang are good examples of this: Most new facts revealed by experimentation fit in nicely. They aren't held in high esteem because they're dogma our worldview depends on: They're held in high esteem because we've continuously failed in our best efforts to prove them wrong. They have no problems surviving our worst efforts, either.

As I've said many times, the quick and dirty of science is this: 1) Form a falsifiable hypothesis. 2) Do everything you can think of to prove that hypothesis wrong. Whatever remains standing after all our attempts is probably true. There's no certainty in science, so all such conclusions are tenative. This cannot be said for religion: They'll typically ad hoc their hypotheses until they're unfalsifiable, rather than admit to being wrong.

Putting aside the disparity of science and religion, this "argument" is likely an attempt to lead people into a relativist fallacy. Even if the body of knowledge commonly referred to as "science" was religiously derived instead of scientifically discovered, science would still be a valid tool for learning, and it's be able to debunk religiously derived dogma, just like reality did for Lysenko.

Thankfully, unlike Lysenko, we probably don't have to worry about reality raining on our parade: Our knowledge works, and the fact that you're reading this blog entry is one such anecdotal demonstration.


Doggerel Index

Friday, July 07, 2006

Doggerel #24: "Arrogant"

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

Skeptics are often accused of being "arrogant," as if that changes the facts at hand. Just like the accusation of "jealousy," it's an evasion of the arguments. Facts are facts, regardless of the emotional state of the person who says them.

Often, the complaint comes from pseudo-moderates when we mention the weakness of the opposing side's arguments. It's not arrogant to favor the side that has the most (or even all) evidence going for it.

In fact, the woos are more often the arrogant ones:

Their arguments often rely on the assumption that all the existing scientific data is wrong, and/or incorrectly obtained.

They often post one "magic argument" that they seem to think we've never addressed. This is especially true in Creationism. When the flaws in the argument are addressed, they usually ignore such responses, pretending they've debunked skepticism.

The woos often seem to think that they're in on some secret, and that it's because they're smarter than any of us. The same can often be said for skepticism, but at least we have demonstrable progress, unlike them.

They often claim that they have a special way of knowing that doesn't have to actually demonstrate its effectiveness.

Another common variation is a claim that our "arrogance" will distract people from our arguments. Such a claim is, however, is often a deliberate attempt to distract. An additional problem with this is that, these days, any statement of knowledge that disagrees with a woo is "arrogant." Uncompromising honesty has become a sin. We shouldn't have to patronize them by inserting faux respect into our writing.


Doggerel Index

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Skeptics' Circle #38

This time, the Skeptics' Circle is located in your nearest convenience store. Sit back and enjoy a cold one. Strong Bad has some good math about those. MarkCC can't beat that!

[Appeal_to_Ridicule] #3.0: A Slight Twist on a Birthday Wish

Inspired by an anonymous commenter in the first entry.


Police officer: Sylvia Browne, you're under arrest for fraud! Your mass email campaign from Nigeria appears to be a scam to cheat investors out of money! You have the right to remain silent...

Sylvia Browne: You can't prove that investors didn't make money!

Police officer: That's not the problem. The problem is that you can't prove there was a legitimate business model behind the whole thing. There's even some evidence to suggest you used a few tricks to inflate stock prices and fudge the books. You'll get off if you can prove otherwise.

Sylvia Browne: But I donated some of the money I took in to charity!

Police officer: Trying to ease you conscience? You still lied to get that money, and you still spent some to selfishly improve your quality of life. Donating to charity just means you're slightly less evil than the purely selfish con artists who keep all their ill-gotten gains.

Sylvia Browne: Stop being so negative! I gave people hopes and dreams, just like those guys who sell X-ray specs to kids so that for six-to-eight weeks, they'll have hopes and dreams of being able to see through walls... and other things.

Police officer: And you think that's a GOOD thing? Giving people false hopes so that they can live in denial? You're one sick puppy. I hope they lock you up for a looooong time.



The Big Sylvia Browne Thread

Doggerel #23: "Negativity"

Welcome to a special birthday edition of "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. The inspiration for this one comes from an anonymous and venomous troll who dropped a comment in the first post by Ryan.

A lot of woos like to complain about us skeptics being "negative," as if that's a bad thing. Science involves a lot of this "negativity." Scientists aren't allowed to coddle a hypothesis. They have to test their ideas under stricter and stricter conditions designed in every way imaginable to produce negative results. If a hypothesis continually survives with positive results, it becomes a theory. This is the quick and dirty of science: 1. Form a falsifiable hypothesis. 2. Do everything you can think of to prove that hypothesis wrong.

Compare that to woo: They coddle ideas and make endless excuses for its failures. Not surprisingly, these excuses are seldom consistent: They excuse failures, but they don't prevent apparent successes. Welcome to Moonside!

When a scientist is the target of "negativity" they respond by collecting evidence to counteract that negativity. In fact, the ideal scientist is most negative towards himself.

When a woo is the target, they complain and do nothing else. They complain about the possibility that someone thinks that they could be wrong.

One of these approaches has altered the nature of society. The other sat idle.

Knowledge is like a child: If you don't discipline it and force it to acheive in the face of adversity, it'll become a useless, spoiled brat.

Be a productive member of society: Be more "negative."


Doggerel Index

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dogfight #2: The Homsarmy

Since PZ's getting spammed by the Homsarmy, I might as well get on the battlefield and help out. Not that he needs it. I just feel the need to have some fun, as well as inflict some pain on my brain.

This particular email caught my attention thanks to the sheer thickness of the irony involved.

To: PZ Myers biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Mr Meyers, Godless Atheist

And all of your fraternity of Godless Atheists :

I didn't join a frat in college, but I suppose I'll do.
Have you ever heard of Stephen Hawkins? How about the big bang theory, ever hear about that?
I went to a lecture of his. Had to settle for a live feed in another room, since the first room got sold out within 24 hours of the announcement. The Big Bang's quite nifty, and thus far, apparently quite true.
Do you understand it? Do you understand Physics? What part of "Beginning" don't you quite Grasp?
Yup. As for "beginning," I fail to see what that has to do with anything, especially since the Big Bang is arguably evidence that there is no such thing, time being "wrap-around" like the other 9+ dimensions, last time I checked.
Are you aware of Albert Einstein?
Yup. And according to my coolometer, he registered at 500 megaFonzies.
Are you aware of any acknowledged greater minds in the history of the world than these two Gentlemen?
Define "greater." Then we can get to work on building a greatometer.
Ever heard the Joke about a group of Scientists challenging God because they had created life in a test tube? You God gathers his dust to create another man, and the scientists start gathering their dust. God tells the group of scientists, Whoa. Wait a minute fellows, create your own dust!
No. Doesn't strike me as particularly funny, except for the absurd premises it relies on.
I am always amazed at people like you, you firmly and whole heartedly believe that what we know as the universe, came into being by some big whoops of nothing. That absolutely Nothing had anything to do with creation accept some unlimited number of coincidences, and yet you believe that a belief in an intelligent creator somehow endows total stupidity. May God strike me with the Stupidity of Einstein and Hawkins and lots of it.
I'm not a Creationist. I don't believe in creation ex nihilo. I'm very confident in the Big Bang, and M-theory sounds promising, based on my layman knowledge.
Bring on the National Academy Of Science, all of the Non-believers, and evolutionists with their phoney theories which Darwin manufactured and lied about from the beginning. Talk about Faith! If anyone can accept all of the assumptions and maybes taught by these intellectually deprived Godless people of Science, their faith in an accidental whoops creation surpasses most Christian's faith in God.
Evolution and the Big Bang rely on fewer assumptions that Creationism. Science requires only the assumptions any non-solipcist follows. Creationism involves those plus many others, including non-falsifiable ones. Faith is not involved in science.
100 years ago this year, Albert Einstein published three papers that rocked the world. These papers proved the existence of the atom, introduced the theory of relativity, and described quantum mechanics and all of this at age 26.
I'm told it's 101, Mr. Copy & Paste. And indeed, those papers were quite nifty.
His equations for relativity indicated that the universe was expanding. This bothered him, because if it was expanding, it must have had a beginning and a beginner. Since neither of these appealed to him, Einstein introduced a 'fudge factor' that ensured a 'steady state' universe, one that had no beginning or end.
Stop that, that's silly! The expansion of the universe does not imply, much less require a beginning or a beginner. It implied a singularity. Nothing more.
But in 1929, Edwin Hubble showed that the furthest galaxies were fleeing away from each other, just as the Big Bang model predicted. So in 1931, Einstein embraced what would later be known as the Big Bang theory, saying, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened." He referred to the 'fudge factor' to achieve a steady-state universe as the biggest blunder of his career.
Einstein goofed. At least he later admitted it.

Einstein's theories have been thoroughly proved and verified by experiments and measurements. But there's an even more important implication of Einstein's discovery.

Not only does the universe have a beginning, but time itself, our own dimension of cause and effect, began with the Big Bang.

Time didn't begin with the Big Bang. The Big Bang was an expansion of time and space.
That's right -- time itself does not exist before then. The very line of time begins with that creation event. Matter, energy, time and space were created in an instant by some intelligence existing outside of space and time.
1. That's wrong. "Before" is a meaningless term outside of time. I suppose next, you'll be telling us that the absence of anything north of the north pole proves geocentrism.
2. Non-sequitur. Your "facts" are uncoordinated. Even if time operated as you describe, there's nothing in there that implies, much less proves the existence of an "intelligence."
About this intelligence, Albert Einstein wrote in his book "The World As I See It" that the harmony of natural law "Reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
If Einstein said and meant it as you describe, that qualifies as another goof. You won't get me with an argument from authority.
To quote Ann Coulter,---
Cutting you off. She doesn't know anything about evolution or liberalism, or anything she goes on about. If she does, she's one of the world's biggest liars, since she continues to use century-old canards.
The Big Bang theory was totally rejected at first. But those who supported it had predicted that the ignition of the Big Bang would have left behind a 'hot flash' of radiation.
Yup. Strictly speaking, all scientific theories should be tenatively rejected until they get proof. And that's what the Big Bang theorists did: They got evidence. You know, that little thing that evolution has piles and piles of.
If a big black wood stove produces heat that you can feel, then in a similar manner, the Big Bang should produce its own kind of heat that would echo throughout the universe.
Yup. The cosmic microwave background radiation jiggy.
In 1965, without looking for it, two physicists at Bell Labs in New Jersey found it. At first, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were bothered because, while trying to refine the world's most sensitive radio antenna, they couldn't eliminate a bothersome source of noise.They picked up this noise everywhere they pointed the antenna.

At first they thought it was bird droppings. The antenna was so sensitive it could pick up the heat of bird droppings (which certainly are warm when they're brand new) but even after cleaning off the antenna, they still picked up this noise.

This noise had actually been predicted in detail by other astronomers, and after a year of checking and re-checking the data, they arrived at a conclusion: The Big Bang theory really was correct.

And scientists all over the world broke out the champaigne. The really good champaigne.

In an interview, Penzias was asked why there was so much resistance to the Big Bang theory.

He said, "Most physicists would rather attempt to describe the universe in ways which require no explanation. And since science can't *explain* anything - it can only *describe* things - that's perfectly sensible. If you have a universe which has always been there, you don't explain it, right?

"Somebody asks you, "Why are all the secretaries in your company are women?" You can say, 'Well, it's always been that way.' That's a way of not having to explain it. So in the same way, theories which don't require explanation tend to be the ones accepted by science, which is perfectly acceptable and the best way to make science work."

But on the older theory that the universe was eternal, he explains: "It turned out to be so ugly that people dismissed it. What we find - the simplest theory - is a creation out of nothing, the appearance out of nothing of the universe."

He needs to work on his method of expression. There was never a nothing for the universe to come from. Until that radiation was found, a steady state universe seemed parsimonious (even though it wasn't, false cosmological constant and all).

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Considering that there's no evidence I'm yet aware of of a "beginning" for time, much less that the Big Bang was this "beginning," I fail to see what this has to do with anything. Especially since God hasn't been established, either.
Penzias and his partner, Robert Wilson, won the Nobel Prize for their discovery of this radiation. The Big Bang theory is now one of the most thoroughly validated theories in all of science.
They deserved it, and that's right: The Big Bang is right up there with evolution.
Remember, Liberal Mythology teaches Darwinism, or Evolution by CHANCE!
You know someone's losing an argument when he makes shit up.
While I admit that I am stupid (less intelligent than Liberals and non-Believers) in my stupidity I choose to believe in an Intelligent Creator,...GOD!
At least he admits it.
In your kitchen cabinet, you probably have a spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle. If you twist the nozzle one way, it sprays a fine mist into the air. You twist the nozzle the other way, it squirts a jet of water in a straight line. You turn that nozzle to the exact position you want so you can wash a mirror, clean up a spill, or whatever.
I was raised by a cup of coffee.
If the universe had expanded a little faster, the matter would have sprayed out into space like fine mist from a water bottle - so fast that a gazillion particles of dust would speed into infinity and never even form a single star.
I'd need to see the math, but that sounds reasonable.
If the universe had expanded just a little slower, the material would have dribbled out like big drops of water, then collapsed back where it came from by the force of gravity.
Also sounds reasonable.
A little too fast, and you get a meaningless spray of fine dust. A little too slow, and the whole universe collapses back into one big black hole.
Get to the point.
The surprising thing is just how narrow the difference is. To strike the perfect balance between too fast and too slow, the force, something that physicists call "the Dark Energy Term" had to be accurate to one part in ten with 120 zeros.
Again, I'd need to see the math, but get to the point. And it'd better not be Texas Sharpshooter.
In their paper "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant" two atheist scientists from Stanford University stated that the existence of this dark energy term "Would have required a miracle...An external agent, external to space and time, intervened in cosmic history for reasons of its own."
Someone's been dipping into the reification a little too much. I have no philosophical troubles with other membranes or whatever messing with our universe. I'd have to study M-theory more to get something resembling an understanding, though.
Just for comparison, the best human engineering example is the Gravity Wave Telescope, which was built with a precision of accuracy to one part in ten with 23 zeros. The Designer, this "external agent" that created our universe must possess an intellect, knowledge, creativity and power trillions and trillions of times greater than we humans have.
You presume this designer without evidence.
Now a person who doesn't believe in God has to find some way to explain all of this. One of the more common explanations seems to be "There was an infinite number of universes, so it was inevitable that things would have turned out right in at least one of them."
Weird, but not unreasonable, given where physics seems to be going.
Assuming of course that the "Right Universe" is referring to our Universe.
If it wasn't, we wouldn't be here to care about it. Our counterparts in the "right universe" would be.
The "infinite universes" theory is truly an amazing theory. Just think about it, if there is an infinite number of universes, then absolutely everything is not only possible...It's actually happened, or is happening! That to me is even more amazing than a single Universe Theory, but to the Non-believer, this sorta, kinda, maybe says ...... CHANCE, or that there is no intelligent designer we may refer to as GOD!
Did the English-speaking part of your brain experience a stroke?

Some people believe in God with a capital G.

And some folks believe in Chance with a Capital C. This is perfect idiocy, accurate to one part in ten with 120 zeros.

And I agree. Chance isn't that important in the scheme of things. Glad I believe in evolution, and not that idocy.
America, please come back to God, he will accept you and forgive you with open arms. God is certainly aware of how tough it is here, but don't blame God for so many turning to evil. God did not force Eve to accept Satan's temptation. God does not force each of us to accept Satan's plan and not God's plan of Redemption.
"Come back" implies that America left. America was founded as a secular nation. Of course, as the fairy tale goes, God designed Eve, so he knew she would accept temptation, and yet, somehow, it's her fault. And, of course, every bit of evidence supports what this guy's implying is "Satan's Plan" so God, by planting all this evidence all over the universe is at least giving up compelling arguments for an atheistic universe.

Those of us who are Believers in God and his plan of salvation through Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, and those of us who read his word the Holy Bible, know and have heard these words expressed many times:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

There's a big difference between expressing and proving.
The message contained within these few simple words in John 1:1 are absolute proof of the existence of God the creator of all that there is, was, or ever shall be. People who may have dozens of degrees through education after there names, are themselves proof that God exists simply because of that education.
Someone stop the circular argument, I want to get off.

Skipping ahead...
"Messages, languages and coded information never, ever come from anything else besides a mind. No one has ever produced a single example of a message that did not come from a mind."
Lots of people get hundreds a day. I'm one of the lucky few, probably because I don't give out my email to doinks like this guy.
Nature can create fascinating patterns - snowflakes, sand dunes, crystals, stalagmites and stalagtites. Tornados and turbulence and cloud formations. But non-living things cannot create language. They *cannot* create codes. Rocks cannot think and they cannot talk. And they cannot create information. Not without God's help of course!
Living things can create information, and if all those abiogenesis experiments are any indication, non-living things can indeed become living things. Of course, there are probably lots of abuses of the term "information" here. MarkCC can handle those, if he likes.

It is believed and taught by many that life on planet earth arose naturally from the "primordial soup," the early ocean which produced enzymes and eventually RNA, DNA, and primitive cells.

But there is still a problem with this theory: It fails to answer the question, 'Where did the information come from originally?

Nice of you to change definitions, Humpty Dumpty. Randomness/chance played some of the role in creating information of this type.

Skipping to the end:
As simple as this question is, neither you and certainly not one of your so-called highly educated Godless cohorts are able to explain where the information came from. This riddle is "So simple any child can understand, yet so complex, not one unbeliever or atheist can solve it."
No, it's not simple. You're deluding yourself by ignoring a lot of stuff, and making up other stuff. Come back when you feel like being honest.

So, to summarize this guy's non-arguments, "Science is right! Therefore, science is wrong!" Followed by a LOT of disinformation about information theory.

I need to spend some more quality time with my rednelb to get my brain back to its normal state.

AaAaAaAaAaAaA! I Think I've Won the Powerball!

This guy : Behe :: Homsar : Homestar Runner.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy B, America!

Well, it's the Fourth of July. Orac posts a few good thoughts. I might post a few of my own, though it'll be hard to top the respectfully insolent one. Pharyngula posts about something that should have every American's blood boiling. But it'll probably get adopted along with a phrase on our monies and a prayer I was coerced into every morning. Because, you know, turning our government ever so slowly into a theocracy will protect us from people who'd want to turn us into a theocracy of a trivially different sort.

Sorry if some of those links are as rambly as I am, but hey, that's what this blog is named... For now, at least.

Well, in the meantime, celebrate the hopefully not-posthumous birthday of your/our secular nation by blowing up a small piece of it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Orac Pushes Me Over the Edge

Slogan generator, courtesy of Orac pushing the meme to critical mass.

Only The Crumbliest, Flakiest Bronze Dog.

I'm not a flake! Okay, maybe I am. But I definitely don't crumble.

Doggerel #22: "Persecution"

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

When skeptics criticize woo beliefs, a common complaint is that we're "persecuting" them, as if criticism was a form of persecution. Typically, they turn around and complain that we're closed-minded, shills for the evil atheist conspiracy, or whatever, without evidence. Welcome to Moonside!

Freedom of speech protects my right to say your speech is idiotic. If it didn't, would be illegal. If I can list many fallacies in a manner that demonstrates the hows and whys of your idiocy, all the better. It's not persecution unless I'm preventing you from speaking, or punishing you for speaking.

One example from the JREF forums was the troll known as Kilik. He would post lots of new threads, fill his posts with lots of pointless images, and would seldom respond to comments. He also employed a lot of copy/paste. I wasn't around at the time, but apparently all his suspensions led to an eventual banning. What did he post about? I mostly recall stuff about Atlantis, pyrimidiocy, and something about Jesus being a martial artist. I agree with the ban. Not because of what he posted about, but because of the uncivilized manner of his posting.

I'm perfectly willing to let people talk about whatever they want, so you won't get any persecution from me, or most any other skeptic, for that matter. But that doesn't mean I'll just smile and nod politely. That attitude is one thing that's destroying society: Woos, the media, and so forth are more interested in the veneer of civility than they are about finding the truth.

Many politicians claiming to be Christian often say they're being persecuted, yet they're currently running the US. When was the last time we had an atheist for President? Lincoln, maybe?

You have the right, as a private citizen, to say "Jesus" and "Merry Christmas" here in the US. That doesn't take away my right to call you an idiot or whatever when you do.


Doggerel Index

Doonesbury Repeats a Goodie

You've probably seen it before. If not, be sure to click before it vanishes from Yahoo. I'm not certain how copyright applies.

Doggerel #21: "Why Do You Have to Complicate Things?"

Click for a better viewWelcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

The problem with this rhetorical question is that, irony of ironies, it's employed by people who have a habit of unnecessarily multiplying pluralities. In other words, they violate Occam's razor.

Take, for example, the topic of a psychic, like John Edward, who reportedly researches his victims before his sessions, and a woo who insists he's psychic. Which situation is more complicated?: The one where JE uses Google, obituaries, information-extracting accomplices, and cold reading techniques in addition to the previously stated hot reading ones, or that he uses psychic powers?

Well, if someone's directed you to this Doggerel in response to post or comment of yours, the answer may be surprising: The psychic power scenario is actually more complicated: We know that Google exists. We know that obituaries exist. We know that some people use accomplices to extract information. We know cold reading exists. (It's detailed in some stage magic books.) Any one of these may be able to suffice. Psychic powers are, at best, in dispute, and unnecessary to explain JE's performances.

That's why the tests like Randi's are important: Eliminate the known explanations, so that psychic explanations and the like become necessary to explain the results.

Of course, if psychic powers and other woo things do exist, it becomes necessary to explain why no one has been able to pass a genuine test using them. It also becomes necessary to explain why paranormal research has made zero progress.

All of this applies pretty equally to all woo: They all posit entities that would easily pass some tests, but such tests always end in failure, and are typically avoided. Whether it's the alleged link between thimerosal and autism or Bigfoot, they all have to explain the evasions and failures, often citing an even more absurd entity: A conspiracy of millions that works perfectly.


Doggerel Index

Sunday, July 02, 2006