Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Twisting, Tumbling and Rapidly Expanding Space-Time

This is the sort of news that excites me.  It's when there's a huge revelation towards advances in science that shows some hard progress.  It's the sort of thing that, when I read it, makes me think humanity isn't entirely 120% doomed.  I mean, this coupled with the additional pleasant news that Fred Phelps won't likely be alive that much longer (fingers crossed for Pat Robertson to follow along next)...  it's like there is some reason to get up in the morning and not feel unbounded shame for being considered part of the species Homo Sapiens.  I'm talking about the news regarding the direct evidence of the Inflation hypothesis.

I will warn you, that as a science geek, I'm going to get a little involved here, but I'm going to avoid getting all too technical, as I am merely a geek, and not an actual student of astrophysics.  My level of understanding of the actual mathematics down to its nitty-gritty details is nowhere near that of someone who is actually in the field.  That said, I am more aiming to take it down to some level of detail in the interest of putting those details out in a way that should be somewhat understandable to a novice.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dialogues with Hopeless Delusional Idiots ep. 3

This is a little switch from the prior entries in the series, but still fitting in the theme.  My previous two episodes involved religion and religious beliefs as the core topics of discussion.  This one is more on the alt-med end of the spectrum, mainly regarding anti-vaccine and autism-related nuttery.  Nonetheless, I'm still dealing with a hopeless delusional idiot here.  Let that be a reminder that idiocy of this scale is not limited to religion alone, and that this blog is about all kinds of stupidity.  It's things like this that make it bear mentioning that the moniker of "grumpy anti-theist" isn't enough by itself.  I'm "anti-" all kinds of insufferable stupidity.

There are several sub-movements within the set of alternative "medicine" believers, with a relatively minor amount of crossover between them.  It's not necessarily the case that someone who is anti-vaccine is also a believer in Ayurveda, or that someone who buys into homeopathy is also a reiki healing fanatic.  That's not to say, though, that such people don't exist.  In this case, I'm dealing with one such person.  It is pretty clear as things carry on that this person wasn't drawn to alternative "medicine" (read : quackery) because he really found them believable on their own terms, but because he was so staunchly opposed to real medicine that anything that was different was inherently better.

This conversation was taking place on an online forum for a site that is ostensibly about video games (one for which I was formerly a contributing editor for their press outlet back when I was still working in the games industry), but like many forums, they have sections dedicated to "off-topic" or "general" discussion, and topics like politics, current events, "new cool stuff" was always going around.  While I'm no longer super-active with this forum or the site that owns it, I still appear now and then.  This one started with a guy who was posting a lot of anti-medicine nonsense shortly after Steve Jobs died...  I ignored it for a while, and the thread carried on, but after a few posts in, it also started including some anti-vaccine and all the vaccines-cause-autism bullcrap that rested on the outlandish idea that a former Playboy bunny knows more about human biochemistry than all medical doctors in the world combined.

Friday, February 14, 2014

If This is How You Question Darwin...

After the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate that showed just how clearly Ham has no hope of ever being considered scientifically-minded to any degree, there's been a lot of stressing the point.  All over the web, there's a lot of harping about the most important moments of the debate, and most of all, the Q&A where Bill gives examples of evidence that would change his position, while Ken Ham says flatly that nothing would ever change his mind.  The biggest thing about this is that it completely shatters Ham's contention that science is closed-minded and locked on to philosophical naturalism, while simultaneously showing that it is he who is indisputably closed-minded.  It's amazing how clear-cut he makes it for us.

Well, not long afterwards, HBO aired a documentary that featured Ham as well as plenty more incredibly closed-minded people who think...  uuhhh...  well, maybe "think" is the wrong word...  approach reality with the same fractured intellectual modality as Ken Ham and his ilk.  Doing the rounds through the atheist blogosphere are clips from the film, specifically of die-hard creationists and fideists who make even Chuck Missler (Mr. "Comets-aren't-made-of-ice-because-ice-cubes-don't-form-a-tail!") look almost sane.

See the video on Gawker for yourself, and read my thoughts below the jump --

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Transcendental Mental Masturbation

People who straddle their primitive belief system with all that science and engineering and logic have put forth have always put up a sort of wall between the reasoning skills that guide them towards acceptance of scientific facts and the shameless elimination of reason that guides them to believe in the supernatural.  Without some sort of barrier, you end up with a sort of universal cognitive dissonance.  Often times, it's the margins of scientific knowledge that give one room to erect a barrier, but this is also the route that creates a lot of dishonesty.  If your god exists in the margins of science, you end up with a need to make those margins appear wide, and whatever inane mental gymnastics you do to convince yourself of that only means you're sabotaging your capacity to think.

So another avenue you've probably all heard is this whole "transcendence" bollocks.  This tries to erect the mental barrier between brilliance and bullshit by creating this alternative context that is largely unexplored by any rational system of thought because it isn't rational in the first place.  This is exemplified by the quote posted here in the G+ Anti-theists community --

I should add that the original poster is merely quoting someone else and asking us how we'd respond to a thesis like that.  Below the jump is my response.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bill Nye vs Ken Ham : Post-Debate Review

So I, like many of you out there in the atheist blogosphere, watched the big debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Answers in Genesis' Ken Ham.  Going into it, I was expecting not too much from Bill and pretty much the same old same old from Ken Ham.  Mainly why I wasn't expecting much from Bill had not to do with his scientific understanding (which is quite considerable), but because of tactical practices that are part of the process of formal debate. The problem with the practice of debate with its rules put in force is that it is less about what is true and more about who argues well, and how you lay traps and keep someone from really being able to make the actual point.  Simultaneously, if you can get someone into a trap, you never have to actually make a point of your own or provide any real reason for your position.  This is why people like Duane Gish or William Lane Craig are generally successful in debates.

WLC likes to strawman and lie about his opponent's positions and lie about science.  The lies about science are obscure enough that it would take some serious effort or existing knowledge of a subject in order to uncover them.  The lies about the opponent's position are designed to rouse ire and goad the opponent into wasting time reprimanding WLC for his crime.  Gish, on the other hand, takes the tactic of rapid-fire switching between subtopics, ensuring that people can only really respond to a fraction of the questions posed (note that because creationists set up this false dichotomy, they assume that if a given question isn't adequately answered by their adversary, they win by default).  This latter is the primary tactic that Ken Ham used in his opening statement.  From there on, it was a lot of the usual fallacies of "historical science vs. experimental science" and a lot of "you weren't there" and "the Bible is automatically true" bullcrap.  The most cringeworthy example of this for me was during the Q&A where Bill was asked about the origin of matter, and in Ham's response to Bill's answer, he said "there's a book out there that actually tells us where matter came from."  Ugh...  right, the book says so, therefore it's the right answer.  He did it again with the "where did consciousness come from" question as well.  I really felt like wringing Ken Ham's neck right there.