Monday, July 30, 2007

But can they heal my irony gland?

A group calling itself Invincible America Assembly has claimed responsibility for the record high Dow Jones of last week (and say they will guarantee it’ll hit 17,000 this year thanks to them, too) and for North Korea shutting down their nuclear reactor projects.How do they do this? Why, by meditation, of course!

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Mars wont' be as big as a full moon...get over it

For those who believe that nonsensical email about Mars being as large at the full moon, think again. Phil Plait once again shows how popular bad science can be...and thoroughly debunks it.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Derrick Kirk has passed away

It's a bit after three, 3:14pm to be exact. I just received a call from my friend Chris letting me know that about 11AM today, Derrick died. He had been sick with cancer for about two years. They thought it was beat, but it just came back with a vengeance. It really is a death sentence isn't it.

I don't believe in god, so I know I'll never see him again. It's a bit surreal right now as I've never lost a friend like this. Maybe we all need to start giving to cancer research centers. Maybe we need to get off our morale high horses and say yes to stem cell research. Maybe we can prevent another Derrick.

I'll miss you.

Psychics are all fakes

I know I've said it 1,000 times, but psychics are all frauds; there is no such thing, and if you think you've found one, stop, repeat the fact that there is no such thing as a psychic, and then ask what they really told you. How much did you tell them? Can they sit and look at you and tell you all about your life, or do they put forth vague statements which could apply to anyone? Did they say they sense cancer in the family, or did they say your uncle Morte is sick with pancreatic cancer? Think!!!

So how do we test a psychic since their BS is so vague? Easy...use it against them. The procedure is actually quite easy. You take ten individuals and let the psychic "read" them, but the psychic must write down their "findings" on paper; the psychic and the person being read can't speak to each other (why should they, I mean, the spirit does the talking, right?). When the session is over, the paper is handed to a third party who then marks the paper to indicate the person for whom the reading was done. The psychic and the person being read are unaware of the coding system in that they do not know what their particular code may be. You do this for ten people and one psychic.

After the reading is over, you lay all ten "readings" on a table and bring in the participants one at a time; you ask them to choose their reading, the one which could only, only apply to them. Once they have chosen, they leave the room, and the next participant enters. Once it is all said and done, each person should have chosen a different reading.

Now, what would happen if two people chose the same reading? What if no one chose their own reading? Well, would pretty much prove that the readings were so vague as to be able to apply to anyone in there, and not specific enough to target any particular person. In fact, this test has been done many times, and in every single case, it has been an absolute utter failure for the psychic.

This is why I don't believe in psychics. It is due to skepticism. You must prove something to me before I will accept it, I won't take your word for it. You have to prove it. Unfortunately, there is no proof because, well, there just don't seem to be any psychics.

BTW, any psychic out there can freely email me and I will arrange for such a test to be conducted. Be aware it will be televised and publicized, so weigh the odds of being caught (very high) with your need to swindle your income from those you dupe. Oh, and if you email me and decide to blast me for my "closed mind", be aware I will publicly go after you and your "abilities".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Newton was a *creationist*? Good heavens!

Monday, the Boston Globe ran an editorial that I found very irritating. The writer, Jeff Jacoby, points out that perhaps the greatest scientific mind of all time, Isaac Newton, was not only very religious, but was a young-Earth creationist. For Jacoby, this shows that science and religion can work hand in hand

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Georgia School Board steps up against "theories"

This little number goes along with yesterday's posting of the actual definitions of theory and law; it shows how ignorant some people really are when it comes to science. In this spoof article, we see that Georgia has banned the teaching of the Theory of Math; they now require that teachers instruct students that there are many explanations for how numbers change and that Math is just one of them. The students should make up their own mind.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

But evolution is just a theory!

Yup, and that's such a good thing. I want to thank Dr. Phil Plait for pointing out this wonderful site on his blog over at A theory is as good as it gets in science, because in science, the word theory has a completely different meaning. Remember, science can NEVER prove anything, it can only craft theories which are as close to proven as possible. Why can science never prove anything? Because we are smart enough to know that we don't know everything; we may never have every single piece of the puzzle, but that doesn't mean we can't see the picture.

You need to read this page about the use of the words theory and law. If you ignore it, you're stupid.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Types of trials

Wikipedia is not a valid source...period. However, it is good for generalized information to a degree. This piece on randomized trials, single-, double-, and triple-blind tests, is actually pretty accurate. I suggest anyone interested read this to get an idea of what we have to go through to prove something. Oh wait, no, proofs are for math, in science we CAN NEVER PROVE ANYTHING! We only show that with a certain level of confidence, what we have found is very likely to be the truth as we understand it (usually 95% certain and do not ask me to explain).

In our ivory towers

You know, one common attack I hear about us scientists (yes, I am one, albeit a computer scientist) live in Ivory Towers. We are told how we look down on others from above, about how arrogant we are, and of course how wrong we are about so many other things that everybody else just "knows" is true, such as belief in god. This is exactly why we choose to live high above.

How many of you reading this have a specialized job, such as in electronics, auto mechanics, something of that nature. Have you ever had to argue something with someone who is not in your field about something you've done 1,000 times before? For instance, do you think I want to sit and debate the impact of quantum computing with someone who's a short order cook? I study quantum computing, so any opinion put forth on the technical merits of such a field by someone outside of the field has no value to me; what does the cook know about quantum computing that I don't?

This is also true for critical thinking; some of us can think critically. We take skeptical approaches, we study, we observe, we gather data and analyze results. If we find that the claim has merit, we can begin to explore further, since this whole process adds knowledge to what we already know (knowledge creation, look it up). We question everything because WE WANT THE TRUTH! Belief systems have no place in science; as I've said before, you can believe all you want, doesn't make it so. It is also why even after we do all of that work, we still submit our findings for peer review (look that up too). Something which is not peer reviewed, such as the creationists new "academic journal" (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!), has no value.

How many of you read in high school about the study with flatworms and "eating knowledge". A study was conducted whereby flatworms were exposed to light and an electric shock at the same time; what happened was Pavlovian in that the worms would associate light with an electric shock and would respond as such, even when no shock was administered.

The worms were then ground up and fed to other flatworms; the results? These worms associated the light with a shock much more quickly...or so the researcher said...

What really happened? Researcher bias. The researcher was so convinced that this would work, that he actually believed it did. In reality, the worms likely responded the same way over the same period of time, which was evident after this was reproduced by other researchers in a proper manner. We often talk about double blind tests; in this scenario, we control for the placebo effect and researcher bias. A simple single blind test would have been sufficient I believe (and likely the only logical one possible); in this scenario, there would be two sets of worms, one fed the ground up set of worms and the other not fed them. The researcher would not know which group was fed the ground up worms and would be expected to record the amount of time it took for each group to learn to associate light with the shock. Of course one experiment isn't enough, you need hundreds if not thousands to even begin to find causality.

So what am I getting at? At the level of education researcher have, we know quite a bit about how to think, analyze, and draw conclusions. It is hard to deal with people who have little if any education who want to argue with us about things which we know are simply flawed in their logic. Religion is ripe with flawed logic, inconsistencies, and of course die hard supporters of nonsense. This is why we live in ivory towers; to avoid the peons.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why religion sucks

So it's really of no surprise to anyone who actually reads this that I'm an atheist; I don't believe in a supreme being or any other sort of supernatural, superstitious nonsense. Sometimes I take rather angry swings at the church and the Bush administration for it's dogmatic politics and suppression of science. But why am I so angry? Time for another rant, so sit back and shut the fuck up for a bit :)

Religion is the ultimate form of ignorance; religious dogma dictates that there is no questioning, you simply take the ideology at face value and defend it violently. There is no critical thinking within any church; simple analysis of the bible shows how foolish it really is, how inconsistent, and how open to interpretation it can be. This subjectivity is exactly why there are many denominations; even the faithful can not agree on what the bible actually teaches.

Myself, I'm a very skeptical person; if you make a claim, esp. one which has some sort of "science" to it, you damn well better have some evidence. No evidence, no belief. To date, the church has provided absolutely 0 evidence of some god dancing around on the clouds and tossing lightning bolts. Instead, they put forth philosophical statements, ripe with logical fallacies, as to why there just has to be a creator. Really, it comes down to our basic inabilities to fully grasp reality on the micro and macro levels.

The micro level is often relegated to quantum mechanics; and believe me, there is some fucked up stuff going on down there. But really, beyond the atom, these affects become meaningless and have no real impact on reality. For example, does the entanglement of two ions affect your odds of winning the lottery? Some would say yes, and would start to fish for quantum phenomena which may help further their nonsense. Problem is, beyond the atom, the affects are inconsequential. Some fools such as the Deepak guy make a living off of misrepresenting reality; the church is the same way in that these types of extraordinary claims, such as that cleverly packaged toilet paper know as the Secret, require extraordinary evidence. To date, the church has provided nothing in terms of evidence save for their philosophical arguments. Unfortunately, philosophy doesn't really have an affect; you can believe all you want, it doesn't make it true.

The macro level is really where the church comes into play; the universe is so large, humans are so complex, that we just HAD to have been designed. The problem is, this non sequitur, or "it does not follow." Specifically, this is a slippery slope; if we accept that the universe is large and that humans are complex, we can easily fall down the slope to the conclusion that a creator had to have been responsible. Truth be told, there is no reason to believe that or to even consider it as a possibility (I have not).

Complex organisms deriving from more simple life forms (evolution) is much more logical, has a lot of evidence, and is accepted by mainstream scientists; it's the nutjobs who don't accept it and lend their "credentials" to back up their arguments. Unfortunately, their arguments are pseudoscience at best and outright lies at worst. There is a reason we all have DNA; it is a self replicating molecule and is what started it all. I can believe that I am special, that I am the creation of some divine being, but it doesn't make it true. I want the truth, regardless of what it may be.

The church represents the worst of the worst; they are responsible for wars, oppression, slavery, all of the bad things in this world. If it were up to the church, we'd all be worshiping on our flat earth in a geocentric, fixed universe. The church has provided NOTHING to us.

All diseases for which cures and treatments exist are courtesy of science.

The computer you are using to read this blog is brought to you by science.

The fact that you can go to a doctor or a hospital is courtesy of science; not only medicine, but I'm referring to the car, helicopter, plane, or ambulance which took your ass there.

I would challenge anyone to name something of value provided by the church. Witch hunts, stake burnings, child molestation, wars, exorcisms, and rhetoric, while all fun, are not candidates.