Category : study

Every now and then I come across a bad science article. And I come across badly done science with disturbing regularity — but today I found both in an article at NewScience.com.

It’s a “study” about why people believe “crazy” things like creationism and intelligent design. The authors of both the article and the study have barely bothered to mask their contempt and disdain for those who believe in anything other than cold, hard science.

But the science and written logic they bring to the table can be described as mushy branflakes at best. Check out the article and see if you can taste the bias. Here’s a sampler:

People continued to agree with false teleological statements, particularly those that endorsed an Earth intended for life.

I was not aware the debate over the beginning of our world was settled. Good to know you can administer a simple true/false test and call people who believe the earth was made for life “wrong”.

This is supposed to be science? It seems to be based on more assumptions than religion! [new readers: I don't believe in religion, but I don't believe evolution's reality settles the debate over our origins -v]

Either they’re trying to use trick questions or they don’t understand the nuance of language. This, for instance, is one of their “false” statements:

Mites live on skin to consume dead skin cells

Well… don’t they? The mites are better off living there than anywhere else. Where else would mites rather be?

The supposed scientists may have been grasping for “Mites exist only to remove our dead skin cells” but they utterly failed. And these people are claiming to be able to accurately and fairly judge me, my logical abilities and the validity of my beliefs??!!

Reminds me of this, more accurate, study.

This is also shoddy, biased journalism. I expect more from a mainstream publication like NewScience. Pro-atheism cheerleading is fine and good, but there’s a time and a place, just like we expect reporters to keep their Christian, Hindu or whatever views out of newscasts, we should expect the journalists over at NewScience and other consumer science outlets to do the same.

This is not an article so much as an attack on teleological thought, a legitimate philosophy of thought. Here’s what Wikipedia currently says about teleology:

A teleological school of thought is one that holds all things to be designed for or directed toward a final result, that there is an inherent purpose or final cause for all that exists.

As a school of thought it can be contrasted with metaphysical naturalism, which views nature as having no design or purpose. Teleology would say that a person has eyes because he has the need of eyesight (form following function), while naturalism would say that a person has sight because he has eyes (function following form).

A classic debate. Y vs. X and yet these supposed scientists are ready to throw telelogical thought under the bus without even investigating whether it might be right. Instead they’ve decided to do a sort of test to see if you think like a commie–..uh, er… “teleologist” in the hopes of one day “curing” it.

A first round of experiments suggested that adults make more teleological mistakes when pressed for time than when not. Yet Kelemen and Rosset also noticed that no matter how much time they had, test subjects tended to endorse false statements implying that the Earth is designed and maintained for life. [emphasis mine]

This is some of the most biased reporting I’ve ever seen, but it could be Ewen Callaway is just regurgitating what he was told. Then it would piss-poor reporting. But even more offensive to me as a rational person is the implicit goal laid bare in this study, which is clearly to find a way to eradicate teleological thought.

That’s the same kind of thinking that led to the Spanish Inquisition. We don’t need any more of that crap. These “scientists” need to learn how to take on their ideological opponents in an intellectual field of battle and quit trying to find ways to cow the populace into submission. If they have proof that the teleological school of thought is wrong, then they should firstly present it, then defend it.

Instead they use mouthpieces like NewScience, which I thought was a reputable publication, but now seems to be nothing more than a bloodbath battlefield between believers and nonbelievers. Here are some recent articles (among the most popular):

I guess it’s all about the page-views and contentious article bring in visitors galore. But then why not try and keep an editorially even hand and write balanced articles? There’s a good reason spiritually-minded folks often sound defensive in those forums. They know they’re being taunted — or else they wouldn’t be there, trying to explain deeply held beliefs to this generation’s most vicious nihilists.

What’s even more disturbing is that the atheists rarely stand up and say, “Hey, I agree, but let’s keep things respectful and balanced here.” Opinion Editor Amanda Gefter is particularly over-the-top. Here’s a typical passage:

Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.

Free will has been debated for many millennia, but dear old Amanda won’t let us even consider the possibility that… what, quantum physics might be involved somehow? How the hell does she know? She clearly doesn’t because she chose ridicule over reason and neglected to back up her claims. If I print out the Wikipedia article on Free Will, it’s over 20 pages, but Ms. Gefter dismisses it with a warning: Beware!! Don’t read any further or you might turn into a commi- er, I mean “creationist!”

This is all about attacking the philosophical underpinnings of the opponents of strong-atheism, whom include religious folks, anti-religion/pro-metaphysics people like me, and many agnostics and weak-atheists.

It’s sad that people can’t find any common ground on this issue. It’s one of the most pressing of our times, especially with the growt
h of atheism in the young and urban. But it’s still a religious discussion and I remain somewhat aghast that a publication like NewScience would stoop to taking sides in the culture wars. Are they about to fold and need every page-view they can get?

I’d be more likely to read them in the future if they displayed a little more objectivity.

As for the “scientists” who are out to “cure” creationists or anybody who entertains metaphysical thoughts, well, I guess we’d better keep our eyes on them before they try to beat Religion’s high score in the killing game. Studying ways to eradicate thought that doesn’t conform with the scientific establishment’s is really beyond the pale.

I don’t think most atheists think this way. Certainly there is some bitterness about Christianity, the dominant religion in my culture, but few would actually seek to destroy it. They just don’t want fundamentalist Christians (like those that infested the Bush administration) enforcing prayer in schools, Intelligent Design in schools (ID should be in schools — the Philosophy Department) and various faith-based activities.

Totally understandable. But let’s make sure that we don’t end up with the mirror image as humanity gives up its superstitious beliefs. We don’t need fundamentalist atheists running amok any more than we need fundamentalist Muslims or Christians in charge. The extremists are the problem, and they hurt whichever side they are arguing for. Please, people, look for common ground in the culture wars!

Go in peace / Science be praised

Er… wait, was it “modest” or “obviously brilliant”?

Regardless, I have an idea, everyone! Stand back, place safety goggles over your eyes, make sure the lead-lined X-ray bib is securely fastened to your chest and that your boots tied up tight.

Some Background
Now, I may be an old-fashioned (young) guy, but I believe that fair is fair. And our tax code, ladies and gentlemen, is not fair.

For instance, did you know that:

Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.The study by the Government Accountability Office, expected to be released Tuesday, said about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period.

Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to GAO’s estimate.

What a sweet deal for them! They get to operate without having a huge tax burden weighing down on them, freeing them to make more investments and take more risks.

Of course, they have a shitload of capital, credit and resources to begin with. But this is America, goddammit! We don’t make corporations pay taxes no matter how much they fuck up the environment or make insane profits on the backs of their low-income workers.

But — and I’m getting to my ridiculously cool proposal — I can’t help but think that it’s not especially fair that multi-billion dollar companies don’t have to pay any taxes (ZERO fucking taxes) whereas, I, as a Regular Joe, have to pay about 30% of my income in taxes every year.

Perhaps I am just a whiner, not fit to lick the boots of a mighty multinational like Wal*mart. I know, I know. This is America. Corporations have more rights and resources than regular citizens. Yeah, “The Constitution guarantees…” blah blah blah… Obviously the Constitution don’t mean shit. Money talks and the Constitution was written on hemp paper by a bunch of proto-hippy revolutionaries who wore funny clothes and probably squealed like girls when tickled.

This is America, goddammit! We drive hummers and invade countries full of smelly brown people who are all determined to kill us (our Media assures us this; it must be true!) or even just because they looked at us funny. We don’t have time for “rules” or “equality” or what’s it called.. uh…. libraries? .. no… uh, — “Liberty!” Yeah, that’s it.

But what I want is not to return our country to the whole Constitution thing. I’m not that naive. However, I do think it would be freakin’ neat if we lived in a country where lawful citizens were counted as 3/5ths of a corporation. Currently, we’re about a zillionth of a corporation, so 3/5ths would be a vast improvement.

My Blindingly-Awesome Proposal
U.S. citizens, when paying their taxes, should be able to write off “overhead“. Only our “profits” should be taxed.

That means, no taxes should be administered until after the essentials of running a healthy body/mind have been accounted for.

What are the essentials? Food, water, shelter and clothing are a good start (no, a big screen TV is not an “essential”). That means I should be able to deduct all of the money I spend on food, rent/mortgage and clothes (within reason) before any other deductions. A healthy mind is important, too, so education costs, books and maybe even an internet connection should also be deductable.

Also, I have to have certain things in order to do my job — or even get to it — like a functioning car, gas, a bunch of hygienic equipment to look/smell nice, a cell phone and a computer. That’s all overhead; my paycheck is not “profit.” It’s revenue. I have to spend a big chunk of it just to stay alive and another chunk to fit into the corporate world. These are expenses and they are subtracted from revenue before you end up with profits — if you have any.

As you probably know, only corporate profits are taxable. Most overhead costs (the costs of running a business) are exempt. Wikipedia lists examples of overhead expenses as follows:

Overhead expenses include accounting fees, advertising, depreciation, indirect labor, insurance, interest, legal fees, rent, repairs, supplies, taxes, telephone bills, travel and utilities costs.

So I should be able to deduct my high-paid accountants as well. Then I can make sure, like most corporations, that I pay no income tax. Alternately, we could just leave gaping loopholes in the tax code so normal people don’t have to hire expensive accountants (and then deduct the costs of their services). Something like, “if you don’t feel like paying any income tax this year, check this box.”

So you see, my super-cool proposal just brings Joe Sixpack into the same league as the corporations, who already have incredible advantages in the economy because of their size and reach.

Corporate Welfare is Only for Wealthy Corporations
Small businesses generally take it up the rear as well since they can’t afford all those slippery accountants. Or maybe those small businesses just need to take a page from the criminals on Wall Street and learn how to privatize profits while socializing losses.

It doesn’t seem fair to me that the average guy/gal has to assume the vast majority of the tax burden when most of are making jack diddly squat compared to a major multinational. Fair is fair. Progressive income taxation is based on the idea that the rich should pay a greater portion of their income because they can afford it and because they owe it to society; especially since the rich people/corporations take advantage of the situation and pay their workers a pitance while making them work long hours in often-dangerous conditions. Meanwhile, the CEO gets his taxes paid for by the corporation via what is known as a “gross-up”.

Think it’s unfair of me to use the corporate tax code instead of the individual one? Well, like I said, fair is fair. Corporations are increasingly using the individual tax code:

An outside tax expert, Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, said increasing numbers of limited liability corporations and so-called “S” corporations pay taxes under individua
l tax codes.

“Half of all business income in the United States now ends up going through the individual tax code,” Edwards said.

Turnabout is fair play.

Even though my brilliant tax proposal seems like a total giveaway I could make it a reality. If I had high-powered corporate lobbyists at my disposal I could enact all sorts of people-friendly laws. I’d use my army of ninja-lobbyists to get a 28-hour work week and every Friday off, along with guaranteed overtime for salaried workers and an Economic Bill of Rights for all.

Instead, the already-rich corporations have the lobbyists and they use them to get ever-greater amounts corporate welfare. Then they rewrite the laws so that the managers pay a lesser percentage of tax than their secretaries do, as Warren Buffett pointed out:

Speaking at a $4,600-a-seat fundraiser in New York for Senator Hillary Clinton, Mr Buffett, who is worth an estimated $52 billion (£26 billion), said: “The 400 of us [here] pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter. If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”

Mr Buffett said that he was taxed at 17.7 per cent on the $46 million he made last year, without trying to avoid paying higher taxes, while his secretary, who earned $60,000, was taxed at 30 per cent.

Notice how he implies he could’ve made his effective tax rate much lower if he had bothered. But he didn’t. Badass. But most CEOs are not as cool as Warren… of course, he could probably stand to pay his secretary more than 60K a year if he’s making 46 million, don’t you think?

Anyway, the point is: The system is unfair. Let’s try to level the playing field a little bit.

My proposal is not to make humans equal to corporations. That’s crazy. I just want to make a person worth 3/5ths of a corporation. Is that too much to ask?

But where did the 12 crystal skulls come from and do we need to gather them by Dec. 12th, 2012 to stop the Earth from flipping over?!! Anybody know where the 13th skull can be found?! Paging Dr. Indiana Jones…

But though no crystal skull yet found at archaeological digs has proved to be authentic, the 12 located around the world continue to arouse interest and speculation.

Apart from the Paris, London and Smithsonian skulls, nine belong to private individuals — the skull of destiny, the Sha-Na-Ra skull, the synergy skull, the Max skull, the Maya skull, a so-called E.T. skull, the amethyst skull, the reliquary cross skull and the pink crystal skull.

Each skull was supposed to correspond to 12 worlds in which human life was present. They were brought by the Itza, the ancient people of Atlantis, to their civilisation in order to pass on their knowledge to man.

The 13th world, the land, also had its own crystal skull, and all 13 skulls were kept in a great pyramid by the Olmecs, the Mayas and ultimately the Aztecs.

The Aztecs are said to have been responsible for the dispersal and loss of the skulls, which when brought together possessed great powers, including being lined up on the last day of the Maya calendar — December 21, 2012 — to prevent the earth from tipping over.

Yes, this all may be a bunch of mumbo jumbo but I think it’s pretty fucking cool. After all, this is the stuff great movie plots are made from.

Wouldn’t it be cool to own one of these skulls? Imagine whipping it out at parties: “Yeah, this is an ancient Olmec skull that was brought to South America by the escapees from Atlantis. It needs to be gathered with the other skulls on December 21, 2012 or we’re all fucked. Pretty sweet, eh? I had to kill a bunch of Nazis to get it.”

Ah, true fiction. Chicks dig guys with ancient crystal skulls possessing mysterious powers… or so I’ve heard.

So yeah, I know this isn’t a big shocker to anybody with a functioning brain stem, but the Bush administration systematically lied its way into the Iraq War. A new study by the Center For Public Integrity has analyzed the public statements of administration officials in the run-up to the war and come up with 935 lies in a two-year span.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

Everybody makes mistakes. Accidents happen and people do stupid things… but 935 mistakes? No fucking way.

So Many Lies, So Little Time
This was an organized campaign of deception. It was a fraud perpetrated on the American people and, most especially, on the people of Iraq.

935 LIES! That’s 1.28 lies per day for 24 months straight by my calculations.

Take a look at the chart below (click for a larger version). You can see that the lies are concentrated around the pre-war and immediate post-invasion period. The peak lying period was the February before the invasion (which began on March 19, 2003). This was no accident.

This is not just a bunch of anonymous interns leaking statements to the press. The study concentrated on just 8 top officials:

President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements, followed by Wolfowitz (with 85), Rice (with 56), Cheney (with 48), and McClellan (with 14).

The study can only look at public statements, so we have no way of counting the many lies whispered into the ears of journalists. It’s interesting that Karl Rove was not included in this study, but he’s more of a behind-the-scenes operator. Also missing are gobs of military men, mid-level staffers, the whole pundit class on TV and many more folks who are not directly connected to the administration. These 935 lies are just a drop in the bucket, but they all originate from very high-ranking officials.

The Impeachment Fantasy
So now that we’ve got a study in the mainstream press clearly delineating the fact that George W. Bush made at least 260 false statements in just 24 months, that means the impeachment hearings are just around the corner, right?

Wrong.

The Democrats will wag their fingers and cluck their tongues and do…. nothing. The Republicans have long since sold their souls, but it’s the Democrats’ betrayal that really hurts America. We need a true opposition party more than ever, but we don’t have one.

If you’ve been reading this blog you probably know by now how Washington really works. Democracy, hearings, investigations, intelligence estimates, blah, blah, blah. It’s all just for show. The real power resides behind the scenes. The oligarchy, the establishment, the powers that be — whatever you want to call them — have decided that there will be no impeachment hearings. So there won’t be.

I don’t know what else to tell you. “Write your congressperson”? Fat lotta good that will do, but it doesn’t hurt to keep the pressure on.

The Oligarchs’ Dilemma
Just try not get too depressed. Yes, American “democracy” makes Pakistan look like an oasis of liberty, but it’s not all bad. I’ve got a feeling that there are some people in the establishment who want to change things. No doubt they’re biding their time, waiting for things to fall into place. But we don’t have much time. I don’t think the Bush team plans to leave office, ’cause if they do they’ll have to leave the country, too. Even the oligarchy can’t stop a limited investigation into the Bush regime by any successive Democratic administration. They have to continue the illusion of democracy, even if it hurts them in the short term. And that could mean a war crimes tribunal for Bush and crew.

Cheney knows this so it’s more likely that there will be another terrorist attack before or shortly after the elections (before inaugeration). Bush will declare martial law, lock down the nation, suspend the constitution and retain power “temporarily” until the emergency has passed. Of course, just like in Musharraf’s Pakistan, the emergency will never pass.

If there are any oligarchs still loyal to the constitution, they will have to move quickly. There’s a very small window (less than a year now) to execute their counter-coup. Bush will move to arrest the constitutional loyalists on trumped-up charges. Impeachment is the only remedy. We’ll need to take to the streets and camp out in every single senator’s office and demand justice.

If and when it does happen we’ll have to be ready. We need to stand up for democracy, no matter what the cost. The future of America hangs in the balance.

No, not cheapskates; they’re quite profligate with our money. I meant that as far as buying a politician’s support goes, they are well worth the money. I’m not just being my usual cynical self by saying that; studies back me up.

Companies that give money to political campaigns have better-performing stocks, according to a new study, than companies that don’t contribute. It’s no small gap, either. Corporations that give the most have beaten the market by 2.5 percentage points a year over the past 25 years.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” says Charles Gabriel, a longtime political analyst with Prudential Equity Group, a division of Prudential Financial. “Unfortunately, an investment in Washington pays off.”

What is surprising is how much companies get for so little money. The public companies that do give money, on average, fork out just $1,700 to $2,000 per campaign and support an average of 56 federal candidates in each two-year cycle.

For the low, low, low price of just $1999.99 you can walk away with a brand new Washington politician!!! Act now, before the good ones are taken! Don’t walk away from this deal, folks! Having a Congressperson in your pocket is always a safe investment! For less than 2 thousand dollars you can get a politician to write and vote for legislation that will bring your company millions of dollars of tax breaks and more! Act now! Supplies are limited!! [/infomercial pitchman]

Campaign contributions are just a form of legalized bribery. Anybody who tells you different is either a fool or complicit.

This is older and backdated, but I wanted to make sure I get this on here for future reference. Fascinating take on a deep philosophical problem.

Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

I think it’s quite likely that this universe is just an illusion. Even matter is mostly empty space. It seems like a projection, or a Matrix.

Wow, okay, my last post went over like a lead balloon on Reddit. I thought it was fair and coherent, but apparently people disagreed with my conclusions and downmodded it as a result.

However, one guy (it could be a girl. Perhaps I assume too much) was rational, calm and intelligent enough to discuss it with me without a flamewar erupting. He’s known as Strontium90 in the comments of that last post. He continued the discussion over on reddit but I want to make sure y’all read this because I think his points are good, even though I’ve refuted most of them. Here’s what he had to say:

I commented on your blog as Strontium90. Unfortunately, you seem to be confused about what a null hypothesis is, the concept of the burden of proof, and the nature of positive/negative claims. You also dismiss the subtle differences between agnosticism and atheism as mere semantics, while insisting that something as innocuous as a water-like substance could be discovered, which we would call god. This is a double standard.

You also seem to be under the impression that atheists do not believe in gods because they do not like them, which is why you brought up several examples of gods that atheists would likely find favorable (such as the love-goddess) as a counter-example. Unfortunately, the repulsiveness of deities is not what causes atheism; their implausibility does.

You also seem to be unable to grasp bobbincygna’s analogy. I will attempt to elucidate.

[[[For readers: When I implied atheism is a religion someone responded: "If Atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby." And then bobbincygna attempted to defend the analogy. -Vemrion]]]

On bobbincygna’s analogy:

Take the set of all hobbies out there. H = [hobbies]. This includes everything you would call a hobby, from collecting stamps to messing with telemarketers. Now, let us suppose that we take the (rather passive) activity of not collecting stamps. Is it reasonable to place it in that set? No, of course not. Someone who has no hobbies can call called an a [without] hobbyist [person who has a hobby or hobbies].

Now, take the set of all religions, from Buddhism to Scientology, call it R. All items in set R are characterized by various elements: the lionization of faith, the existence of holy books or scripture, the presence of some sort of supernatural elements, etc. Does a belief which simply consists of “I do not believe in the supernatural, I do not believe that books are holy, and I do not take extraordinary claims on faith” belong there? I don’t think so. It, like the lack of stamp collecting, is a lack of theistic belief. This is what atheism means – a [without] theism [belief in god].

Atheism, the most oft-displayed example of metaphysical naturalism, can be termed as a philosophy, or perhaps a meta-religious view (view about religion), but it certainly is not a religion. There are no holy texts, only books which effectively sum up the philosophical arguments against theism. There is no dogma among atheists, unless you count a lack of belief in gods. This does not really count though, because it is necessarily true that an atheist lacks belief in gods. And he certainly will not be excommunicated or disowned by his parents if he later professes theism. Faith is not celebrated, instead it is essentially abandoned in favor of reason. Leaders and followers do not exist: Richard Dawkins might be influencial, but I don’t consider his words to be gospel, and neither do most atheists. They happen to share a lot of his beliefs, though. There is no formalized ritual such as prayer, sacrifice, etc, which is another thing that sets atheists apart from theists.

Pretty well-reasoned, I thought. But I definitely want to challenge some of his assertions. Here is my response:

My apologies for the confusion over the water-diety. I didn’t make it clear, but I was referring to something similar to a water elemental — basically a spirit that is infused with one of the four elements (water is a compound, of course, but it’s also one of the classical elements), Fire, Earth, Air and Water (the Chinese add a 5th: Metal). It’s probably not a very good analogy since it’s completely hypothetical and imaginary, at least as far as science is concerned.

I grasp the stamp hobby analogy just fine. It’s a poor analogy, though, which you seem unable to grasp. Here’s why:

Collecting is an activity. Philately is a hobby. However, you could still be a philatelist and not actually collect anything. How? By knowing a heck of a lot about stamps, that’s how. Philately is the study of stamps, not the act of collecting them. You could be an expert in stamp lore without actually having a collection or wanting one.

Actually, maybe the analogy is not so poor, since once you learn how faulty it is you might be able to understand how atheism could be considered a religion. Of course, this does depend on semantics to an extent.

An extremely simple definition of religion is this: “A religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people.” Boom. You hold beliefs in common with other atheists (you refuse to worship “known” gods) and your practices are also similar in that you refuse to attend worship services (I assume. Personally, I make exceptions for weddings and funerals, but I don’t “worship”). It may be negative, but that doesn’t mean you can’t group it under religion.

For example, you’ve already admitted that atheism is a philosophy. Would you also consider it a theological perception? Just because the content of your theological perception attacks the underlying structure of most other theologies and even theism itself, that does not stop it from being classified as some form of theological outlook. Do they study atheism in theology classes? In many cases, yes (there might be some bias in many of them, of course).

As for dogma, yes I consider the lack of belief in gods to be a dogma among atheists. If someone claimed to be atheist, but continually made shrines to Buddha would you consider him a “real” atheist?

To take it even further, have you ever heard “The first rule is that there are no rules.” Is that a rule? Sure seems like it to me, even though its singular act is to bar all other rules. It may be recursive, negative and contradictory… But it’s still a rule.

Also, if you knew more about theology you’d know that there are several religions that are nontheist. They generally don’t deny the existence of gods, they just aren’t concerned with them, and don’t take a stance on them either way. Confucianism and other eastern religions are a perfect example. For this reason, many people like to call them philosophies rather than faiths or religions, but this is another semantic argument, one that is caused by the overwhelming prevalence of Christianity in the weltanschauung of westerners.

If you consider ritual a necessary part of the definition of religion, consider the scientific method. It’s also a dogma of sorts, and it prescribes a methodology for discovering and verifying knowledge in such a way as it will be acceptable to others in the sci
entific community. In much the same way that a priest prepares to consecrate bread and wine, a dutiful scientist will prepare for an experiment by controlling for variables and making predictions (hypotheses) before the experiment-ritual itself is performed.

As for proceeding from the assumption of the null hypothesis, that’s your business. It’s certainly a good idea in science, but in matters of faith things are not so cut and dried.

Also, please note that I am not calling you a religious person by stating atheism could be considered a religion. I’m just pointing out that atheism is quite similar to other religions, and as it grows there is a risk that it could be seized and exploited by charlatans. I believe there was a South Park episode about this. I am also sure you would see through the bullshit and hopefully refrain from any atheistic fundamentalism, but just remember that there are a lot of stupid people out there. In fact, some people are dumb as fuck!

Even as I’m drawing religion and science together, surely you’ll concede there is much that separates them. The problem is that the scientific method is not known to work for the business of discovering gods. I believe Scott Adams once compared this folly to using a metal detector to check for unicorns in one’s sock drawer. The fact of the matter is, we haven’t discovered a “god” (definitively, based on the scientific method) so how can we say we’re using the best tools for the job?

Perhaps a new method is called for. Of course, if I knew that method I’d present you with solid proof of the existence of god(s). But you could easily reject it by saying my method does not adhere to the principles of the scientific method. But what if my method was better, at least for discovering and identifying divine beings?

A question to ponder: Have your placed your faith in the scientific method?

Why am I obsessed with LOLcats?

It’s just a stupid internet meme, but it amuses me endlessly. Here’s one I made for Hedy:

Ahhh… the internet. Pretty soon there’s gonna be more pictures of cats on the web than (human) pornography. Kitty-porn, as it were, is winning.

I just can’t explain the attraction. Kitties are cute, no doubt, but it still seems odd. I wonder if there’s a 12-step program…

Jeepers, Ireland! Lay off the coke!

The BBC is reporting that 100% of Irish Euros were found to have traces of cocaine on them by a recent study.

Researchers used the latest forensic techniques that would detect even the tiniest fragments to study a batch of 45 used banknotes. The scientists at Dublin’s City University said they were “surprised by their findings”.

Some of the notes had such high levels of cocaine on them that it is thought they were used to snort the drug.

Others had much lower traces and may have been cross-contaminated, perhaps in the wallets or pockets of users.

Man, Ireland. Maybe it’s time to slow down, okay? I think you’ve had enough.

Since they studied with only 45 notes it’s quite possible that a percentage closer to 95% would result from a more randomized study including thousands of bills. Presumably a bank note fresh from the bank would be free of cocaine traces. … Presumably.

The study also found that higher value banknotes, such as 20 and 50 euros, were more likely to contain greater traces of the drug.

Hmm… so that means that rich people handle a lot of coke. (Presumably) Perhaps the rising cocaine usage rates in Ireland are the result of a burgeoning business class. They like to party you know, after a big sale or meeting or whatever. Lotsa 50s flyin’ around to pay for drinks and to stuff in a stripper’s outfit, I’m sure. But I’m sure this will be mostly blamed on the poor and destitute, some of whom may use coke or speed to stay awake so they can work two 8 hour shifts. I’m sure the cops will continue to hassle the lower class while the upper class gets away with everything. That’s the way it’s always been.

So put down the coke, Ireland. Chill. … Smoke a doobie if you need to calm down.

A new study reveals that taller people are smarter

As a tall person, I wholeheartedly endorse the findings in this study.

“As early as age three — before schooling has had a chance to play a role — and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests,” wrote Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Oh man, I have some short friends who would loooove to hear about this. :-)

“As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns,” wrote the researchers.

For both men and women in the United States and the United Kingdom, a height advantage of four inches equated with a 10 percent increase in wages.

But the researchers said the differences in performance crop up long before the tall people enter the job force. Prenatal care and the time between birth and the age of 3 are critical periods for determining future cognitive ability and height.

Since I’m 6′ 3″ I should ask for a raise! Of course, 4 inches is a lot of height for a 10% increase in salary. Man, if that’s the case, I wish I was 7′ 3″! Hahaha! Kidding of course; I know a guy who’s over 7 feet tall, and it doesn’t seem like that much fun. Sure, he has no problem seeing the stage at concerts, but anybody behind him is probably plotting his literal downfall.

It’s a short person’s world out there. I have to duck a lot. When I was looking for houses I had to pass on a couple simply because the top floor was only 6 feet high, leaving me a few inches too tall to stand up straight. Many of the houses I looked at were over 100 years old, which may have something to do with it. People must’ve been midgets back then! Well, as the study makes clear, a lot of my height advantage has to do with good nutrition, especially during the first 3 years.

You can find the full paper here.