Sunday, July 30, 2006

A bottle of JP2 water please

A statue of the late John Paul 2 is miraculously gushing water.

Locals in Pope John Paul II's hometown of Wadowice, Poland, believed a miracle had happened when water began spouting from the base of the statue.

Word soon spread across the country with pilgrims travelling from all over to the tiny town to fill up bottles with the liquid.

But their belief in what they thought was a "Godly experience" was shattered by town mayor Eva Filipiak.

She admitted the local council had installed a pipe beneath the statue, reported daily Dziennik.

"We didn't mean anything by it, it was just supposed to make the statue look prettier," said Filipiak.

Now how many more gullible and credulous Catholics would've flocked to Wadowice, queued up to see the fountain, drawn and sipped the "holy" water, dabbed it on their sores, took vials of it back to their bedridden loved ones, and how many would've eventually effused about its miraculous powers and swore by its therapeutic efficacy, had the mayor and the council just stood back and kept the "secret" for several more months?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Homeopathic malarial treatment

How can these homeopaths get away with something like this?

Alice Tuff of Sense About Science posed as a customer preparing for a 10-week trek through malaria-ridden areas of Africa. She contacted 10 homeopathic practices in the London area offering malaria treatments. All of them offered the remedies without recommending conventional treatments or providing advice about additional precautions to avoid infection, such as using mosquito repellent and bed nets.

"To pretend that these pills will protect you against malaria strikes me as nothing short of criminal," says David Colquhoun of University College London, responding to the report when it was released on 14 July.

Ron Behrens, director of London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases travel clinic, accused the homeopaths of putting lives at risk. He says his clinic has previously had to treat people with malaria who thought they were protected by homeopathic remedies.

Even the British Faculty of Homeopathy, which represents homeopaths, condemned the trade. It remains legal because of a loophole that allows the sale of such remedies by anyone other than registered doctors.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

There's no end to it

What comes after 9-11? The end of the world!

Members of a religious sect in central Kenya are bracing themselves for a nuclear war predicted to take place no later than 12 September 2006.

I wonder why there's this religious obsession with end times.

Meanwhile, the end did come for another group just before Y2K:

Six years ago, neighbouring Ugandans were shocked by a tragic end to a doomsday prediction.

After the world failed to end in December 1999, as predicted by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, hundreds of the sect's followers were found murdered four months later.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Muslim Pareidolia

Since reality is an equal opportunity employer, Muslims are more than entitled to have their share of religious pareidolia.

Earlier this year a fish named Oscar became a celebrity when it was discovered that the markings on him seemed to spell out "Allah" and "Muhammad." (I wonder if Oscar faces Mecca when he prays)

Then last month a rabbit fish grabbed the limelight when it was seen sporting "Allah" on its belly. Unlike their American simulacra counterparts this fish never made it to the market.

Dubai's Allah fish will never be sold on eBay, however. It has been commandeered by the Dubai government and, after a visit to a taxidermist in Abu Dhabi, will be accorded a place of honour in a museum.

Ah! Immortality.

Now it's the chicken's turn. Well, actually it's the chicken's egg's turn.

A chicken in a Kazakh village [in Kazakhstan] has laid an egg with the word "Allah" inscribed on its shell, state media reported Thursday.

"Our mosque confirmed that it says 'Allah' in Arabic," Bites Amantayeva, a farmer from the village of Stepnoi in eastern Kazakhstan, told state news agency Kazinform.

"We'll keep this egg and we don't think it'll go bad."

(Via God is for Suckers)

Calling all Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Pastafarians, .... Send in your simulacra-pareidolia entries. Put your religion on the map!

Trudeau's secret

Via the Consumer Health Digest:

Kevin Trudeau's "secret" source revealed. Kevin Trudeau, whose "Natural Cures" books are filled with false claims, has published an explanation for his knowledge that is even more preposterous than the claims themselves. His most recent (third) book states that a "secret society" gave him "health secrets, access to the inner circles of the rich and powerful, and the ability to live a life of luxury." Page 11 states:
As a member of this secret society I have sat in private meetings with the heads of state from countries around the world. I have attended secret international business meetings where business leaders, politicians, and media moguls coerce together to create the new world order with global control over individual people everywhere. I have been shown and have seen with my own eyes secret government and corporate documents. I have heard with my own ears how BigPharma, the food industry, and the oil industry are working together with governments and media outlets around the world. I have been in over sixty countries, yet there are no stamps of evidence in any of my passports. I have been to Area 51 in Nevada. (This top secret military installation is still denied to exist by the U.S. government.) This is where much of our technology has been developed. Area 51 houses most extraterrestrial artifacts, including a working spacecraft and dead alien bodies. I've seen these things with my own two eyes. As a member of this secret society I was used in covert operations around the world.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Moons and loons

Until around half a millennium ago theologians in Europe believed that the universe their deity created was a reflection of its perfection--they believed that the earth was at the center of the universe (a pretty small universe at that), that the earth was fixed in space and that the other worlds (planets) revolved around it, that these orbits were perfectly circular, and that the earth's moon was a perfect sphere.

And then was born that gadfly named Galileo Galilei who just had to rock the boat with that thing called the telescope and find kinks in the neat and tidy cosmology of God's toadies. Thus among other things, when Galileo trained his 20x scope on the moon he discovered that instead of being smooth and perfectly round, the moon's surface was in fact pretty rough terrain, covered with what looked like mountains and valleys.

When he reported his various astronomical findings, the "perfectionists" of course at first didn't believe. Some even refused to peer through Galileo's telescope and see the evidence for themselves, declaring that the Devil could make anything appear through that contraption of his (mind you, there are still such kooky blokes around today attributing everything they won't have any of to maleficent supernatural entities). But of course they couldn't play the denial game forever. And so when they finally got around to swallowing their pride and accepting the observations, cognitive dissonance kicked in and the rationalization engine shifted into high gear. And thus was begotten a lame excuse to explain away the moon's jaggedness and apparent imperfection. The theologians told Galileo that while mountains do exist, there is a transparent crystalline material that fills in the valleys and crevices all the way to the top of the highest peaks; and thus this substance, like some invisible putty (of Noachian quantity), covers the entirety of the moon, making it perfectly spherical.

Not to be taken in by this ridiculous and obviously ad hoc rationalization concocted solely to save their theological belief, legend has it Galileo wryly told the nincompoops that on top of this smooth round crystalline material were even more mountains which, however, were made of the same invisible crystalline substance, mountains which of course they couldn't see and which telescopes wouldn't be able to pick up. And so the moon far from being perfectly round had all these invisible peaks jutting out. And because the theologians couldn't prove him wrong, Galileo's explanation had to be right!

Hey, two can play the game of absurdity. If those dogmatists could resort to illicit ad hocs, Galileo could as well lash back with an equally ludicrous hypothesis and whip out an argumentum ad ignorantiam to boot.

When religionists make empirical claims they better be ready to face the music when science turns up confuting evidence. But dogmatic fools like fundamentalists who still read the biblical creation myth and Noah's flood literally will stick to their delusions. And however much physical, chemical, microscopic evidence there may be to the contrary, the Catholic Church will forever go on believing that chanting magic words over crackers and fermented grape juice does turn them into the muscle cells and erythrocytes of some long dead idol of theirs. These deluded nutcases have already made up their minds what reality ought to be. They might as well have been born blind and deaf.



Copi, Irving M. and Carl Cohen. 1997. Introduction to Logic, 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 163, 566-567.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Faith" describes the believer not the belief

Vjack of Atheist Revolution tells us that,

... [M]any atheists do not accept faith as a valid way of knowing. I am such an atheist who also rejects the proposition that faith is a valid way of knowing. I believe that knowledge is derived through the senses and evaluated through reason.

For sure faith--belief without evidence--is not a valid way of knowing. To know is to be able to provide justification for one's belief. I can say I know that X exists if I provide good reasons and evidence to show and persuade others that X in fact exists. Faith, which is mere belief, in no way implies that what is believed in is true.

Schick and Vaughn explain this much more clearly than I can:

"Faith," as it is ordinarily understood, is "belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence." To believe something on faith is to believe it in spite of, or even because of, the fact that we have insufficient evidence for it.... In the case of faith, the gap between belief and evidence is filled by an act of will--we choose to believe something even though that belief isn't warranted by evidence. Can such a belief be a source of knowledge? No, for we cannot make something true by believing it to be true. The fact that we believe something doesn't justify our believing it. Faith, in the sense we are considering, is unquestioning, unjustified belief, and unjustified belief cannot constitute knowledge.

...To say that you believe something on faith is not to offer any justification for it; in fact, you are admitting that you have no justification. Since believing something on faith doesn't help us determine the plausibility of a proposition, faith can't be a source of knowledge. (p. 110-111)

... If belief is rational, there is some reason to hold it, and if there is some reason to hold it, there is some evidence in its favor. Since belief without evidence is not rational, faith is not rational....[O]nly rational belief can yield knowledge. So faith cannot be a source of knowledge. (p. 112-113, emphasis original)

(Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn. How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age, 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1999. )