20 January 2012

A Story of Angels and Heaven and Hell

I'm on my second day off of work for this week. My wife has gone to her job and my two youngest girls were probably at their school by now. My oldest, who's ten, was on the living room couch finishing her homework and I was in the kitchen fixing myself some coffee to start my day.

Yesterday I had noticed that my daughter had a story up on her computer that she was apparently working on. From what I glimpsed it was about a fallen angel working for hell. Seeing my daughter finish her assignment put me in mind of her story I had seen and I decided to talk with her about it.

"So that story you're working on, is that an assignment for school?" I asked from the kitchen as I measured out some coffee grounds.

"No, it's comprehension homework that I'm supposed to do with a parent," my daughter answered from the living room. It occurred to me that I hadn't been clear on what story I was referring too.

I paused a moment while I filled the reservoir of the coffee maker, turned it on and then continued, "Sorry muffin, I meant the story that you're writing on your laptop. Is that a homework assignment?"

As I walked over to the range to turn on one of the elements so I could fry myself an egg I saw my daughter shake her head, "No, it's just a story that I'm writing."

"What's it about?" I continued as I put the frying pan on the heating element. I heard my daughter get off the couch and walk over to my area of the kitchen. She stopped on the other side of the stove before she answered.

"It's about a guardian angel from heaven who went to hell and now tries to take people there," my daughter told me.

"Oh?" I replied as I scraped some coconut butter into the frying pan. (I don't know, my wife decided to get it and I have to admit it both smells nice and gives food a nice flavour.)

"Yeah, and there's these three other angels too that are trying to stop her. The snow angel, the wind angel and the water angel," my daughter said while grinning and watching me trying to scrape some coconut butter out of the jar. *

I looked up from my extraction efforts to peer at her curiously, "Really, snow, wind and water angels?"

My daughter nodded still smiling, "Yep, and the thing is," she continued excitedly, "If these three other angels stop her they might do something wrong!" She giggled at the cleverness of her story line. My wife and I have always agreed that this daughter had a gift for the dramatic.

I smiled back at my daughter, "Sounds like a very interesting story." I was done with the coconut butter so I put it away, "So what do you think of hell anyway?" I asked her.

"What do you mean?" my daughter asked with a puzzled expression on her face.

I chuckled, "What do you know about hell?"

My daughter scrunched her face in thought and shrugged, "I dunno, it's where bad people and people who don't love Jesus go."

"Hrm," I pondered, "So if you don't love Jesus you end up with the bad people in hell?"

My daughter shrugged again, "It's what the people at church say. It doesn't make much sense."

I smiled at her, "You're right, that doesn't make much sense," my kid was awesome. All this time I was worried that we were screwing our kids up in all the wrong ways, then my oldest produced this gem. We must be doing something right after all.

I reminded her that it's okay to question everything because it just means that you're using your brain. I told her that some people might get angry at her for asking questions, but never to let that discourage her. I let her know that she was a good, smart kid and that I was proud of her.

* I may have the elements associated with the angels wrong. If my daughter ever reads this post I hope she can forgive me for this error. back

18 January 2012

SOPA PIPA or A Day Off of teh IntraWebs

A lot of the Web Sites I normally go to are down so I decided to "take a break" from The Internet. Of course The Internet is a lot more than just the World Wide Web and I didn't truly get off of The Internet either.

Let's see:
  • I still corresponded by e-mail. This allowed me to post a reply to my dad on Facebook without logging on to Facebook.
  • I still read my newsgroups (No postings or follow-ups though).
  • My Twitter feed was up (I didn't post directly, but I still managed to post some Tweets.)
  • I uploaded some pictures to Photobucket.
  • I responded to an e-mailed Avaaz petition request. I used the Facebook and Twitter buttons to "spread the word" subsequently posting to both Facebook and Twitter.
  • I read a comment on a video I had uploaded to YouTube.
  • I read Undeadly and the FAQ on TalkOrigins.
  • I posted to my blog.
So, all-in-all, a rather failed attempt to not use The Internet for a day. Why is that I wonder? Am I truly so addicted to The Internet that I can't have a day where I don't use it and do something else that I've been putting off?

My girls were at home today because of a Snow Day due to extremely low temperatures. I could have spent time playing with them, but honestly I was thawing out my vehicle so I could salvage what was left of a mostly lost day. Still, I found time to do all the above. Perplexing, isn't it? Not really, but tomorrow the temperatures are still supposed to be low, but there's a good chance that they won't be as low as today and the buses will probably be running.

Lost opportunity? I'm afraid so. On the other hand, I do have a scheduled day off tomorrow and if tomorrow is declared another Snow Day then I've got some plans for a day with my girls. Still, that's counting on a lot of "if's" and is not certain. Counting on dumb luck just makes me dumb...unless of course the odds work in my favour, but I have no control of that. It'd be silly to think that I do, or that anybody else does.

Ah IntraWebs, if I could but have quit of thee!

It doesn't follow that things would necessarily be "better" though. I was quite an avid reader and I do continue to read. I'm reading the first book of the "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman at the same time I'm also reading "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer. In the meantime, I'm reviewing a bit of my Physics and Mathematics for some subbing I'm doing on Monday. So I suppose that if it weren't The 'Net there'd always be something else.

Hrm, I wonder if I have some time to check out a MUD?

14 January 2012

The Trails of Jessica Ahlquist

Recently a 16 year old girl from Rhode Island, by the name of Jessica Ahlquist, challenged and won her case against her school Cranston High School West. Apparently they had a banner on public display with a prayer addressed to the Christian God on it with the title "School Prayer". Now a prayer to the God of the Christians is not in and of itself a problem, neither is the fact that it had the title "School Prayer". The issue here was that this is in a public school, the law of the land (US of A) requires separation of church and state and the banner was in violation of this underlying principle by being on public display.

Perhaps this doesn't seem like a big deal, but consider that there were no other prayers to the Gods of other religions on display. This immediately creates an environment of exclusion in the school, children who aren't Christian will either feel ostracized or forced to conform to a religious culture they don't share. In fact, even they included a prayer from every religion in the school (which would probably be impractical to say the least) they would still be excluding those who don't practice any religion at all.

(Hypothetically, a prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster might suffice for atheists but then:
a) There's still the issue of practicality and
b) what'd be the point?)

The only real solution would be to have no school banners displaying any prayers from any religion. People who have religious convictions can still have their prayers at school though there are probably valid reasons to restrict public displays of prayer at specific school locations. The point is not to force others who do not share your religious convictions (assuming they have some) to go along with you and your group.

However, I don't think that the idea of having more than one religion's prayer on display would fly well with the dominate religious group at any school (though circumstances can make strange bedfellows at times). Consider what Cranston parents and students have been saying since Jessica won her case.

So This is Christian Love?

So This is Christian Love?

If by "Christian Love" you mean hatred & contempt

If by "Christian Love" you mean hatred & contempt

There are probably many Christians right now, should they be reading this, that are saying to themselves, "But that's not how a real Christian would act." Aside from pointing out the No True Scotsman Fallacy, I'd also state that many of my Christian readers thinking this are possibly "Liberal Christians" whose brand of Christianity doesn't take as much of The Bible literally as a more Fundamental/Evangelical Christians. Fundamental/Evangelical Christians are likely to see Liberal Christians at not "Real Christians" either (The No True Scotsman Fallacy can cut both ways) and many of them might even see the above actions of the parents and students as justifiable in defense of their faith.

These parents and students are behaving badly, I don't care if they Christian, Islamic, or even if they're atheist. Such poor behaviour toward someone who did the right thing to defend civil liberties is deplorable. While these parents and students may have their supporters, I hope that most of the American population see that the removal of the banner was correct and support Jessica.

The point I'm trying to make here is that I have a great deal of admiration for Jessica. At fifsixteen years of age she is confident, obviously intelligent and motivated to do what she has reasoned to be the right thing to do. I have three little girls myself and whether they end up being theist or atheist I hope that they have the courage, strength and critical thinking skills as young Jessica had.

05 January 2012

My Ill-informedness

wawei67 you claimed:
And who do you think I am-an anonymous trolling alien from outer space? Would you treat/doubt me the same way if I was in front of you and talking you through the evidence? Do you think I have nothing better to do (I'm NOT a homeopath btw) than 'convert' you? Do you think I'm self-deluded and/or a liar. These are the questions you really need to ask yourself before you are so sure about your illformed (by biased others, I might add) view of an incredibly effective medicine.
I don't know how you got that from this:
Regarding being even-handed, rational and progressive.

Objective != Even-handed. I do strive to be objective, rational and progressive. That said, I will argue on the side that I see as having the most supporting evidence. Ergo, I cannot be even-handed in such an unevenly divided debate.

Not all opinions are equal. The weight of an opinion is proportional to its supporting evidence and the expertise of the opiner.
Perhaps you could enlighten me in the comments section below, but I assume it stems from "Not all opinions are equal. The weight of an opinion is proportional to its supporting evidence and the expertise of the opiner." Is that correct, wawei67?

I'm not insulting you there. In the scheme of things the opinions of yourself and I are insignificant next to the scientists doing the research. The fact of the matter is that there is so much evidence that supports the efficacy of Modern Medicine (and I'm not just talking about Pharmaceutical drugs either) and there's really nothing that supports the efficacy of Homeopathy. This renders our debate rather one-sided unfortunately.

I'd also like to remind you that I did not begin by being rude to you, in fact I've been quite civil to you. You haven't practiced as much restraint, but then you are sixteen. I try not to take offense.

That said, you want to prove the efficacy of Homeopathy? Do you doubt that Modern Medicine is very effective? Good, doubt is always the first step in scientific inquiry! I would encourage you to persue a science education, get into medical research and try to falsify the claims of Modern Medicine.

I'm not mocking you wawei67, this is how science is done. In those clinical trials in the peer-reviewed literature, the researchers are trying to falsify the efficacy of the drug. The researchers are trying to demonstrate that the drug has no more efficacy than placebo. If the efficacy of the drug is not statistically significant from the placebo effect then the efficacy of the drug is considered inconclusive. If the efficacy of the drug is statistically significant from the placebo effect then the researchers have been unable to falsify it and the drug is considered to work.

Do I think that you have nothing better to do than convert me? I don't know, you seem to work pretty hard at convincing me I'm wrong though I question your methods. I'd find verifiable, peer-reviewed evidence much more convincing than trashing science, peer-review and scientists. In fact, that's what I've been asking you to do from the start; take me through the evidence you believe supports Homeopathy. I probably will look for flaws in your conclusions of what your evidence says, I may even try to find flaws in the evidence itself. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try as long as you've read the evidence that you're presenting yourself then you should at least have a ready answer to my questions if nothing else.

Self-deluded, you? Perhaps, but that's just Cognitive Dissonance. Interesting phenomena that Cognitive Dissonance, we're all subject to it, it's even a survival trait. Science is the only system we have that actually runs counter to Cognitive Dissonance as science's very existence is about questioning everything, even it's own conclusions.

Feel free to answer below. I think you'll find talking about this on the blog a better experience than trying to cram everything into a less-than 500 character limit text-box.

04 January 2012

Accusations of Sophistry

wawei67 You claimed:
I didn't post anything cause I"m tired of it all and don't believe your sophistry would accept anything regarding the proof of homeopathy's efficacy (I really don't!). You're 'analysis' of what I posted was entirely your point of view smothering the fraud that is peer-review studies (or any studies) of H. And DON'T STRIVE to BE anything!!! Just be open minded and OBSERVE the fucking world!!! Is that so hard to do with you people???
  1. Sophistry is a pretty serious charge to make. I don't take it lightly and neither should you make it lightly. If my logic has ever been in error, it was never deliberately so.
  2. You're "tired of it all". Well I'm not feeling all that refreshed either, but if you're going to make a claim, you've got to put the effort into backing it up with evidence. Forget anecdotal evidence though.
  3. I smothered the fraud that is peer-review? If you're referring to that article that RebornHammer posted as "proof" that peer-review was corrupt may I remind you of some small details:
    1. RebornHammer claimed the article made a certain claim.
    2. I read the article and said that it made a different claim.
    3. RebornHammer accused me of not even reading the article.
    4. I demonstrated that I did indeed read the article and that it said exactly what I claimed it said.
    5. RebornHammer admitted to not reading the article and even seem to think it was a point-of-pride to have not read it.
    6. The irony of RebornHammers actions was so poignant that I took a screenshot. Of the two of us it was RebornHammer, not I, that committed sophistry.
  4. "...DON'T STRIVE to BE anything!!!" Okay, I have no idea what you mean by that. Could you please be so kind as to explain in the comments section below when you answer?
  5. "Just be open minded and OBSERVE..." Right, simply observing is not doing science. What are you looking for? How will you know it when you see it? What can you do to make sure that you're seeing actual phenomena and are not just fooling yourself? Can others repeat your results or verify the observed phenomena in other settings? How can you relay your methodology and results to others? Who do you know that can check your work or figures? How do your results fit in with what we already know? etc.... These questions and more are what real scientists have to answer. If science were just all about observing it would never progress.
Here's a story I'd like to share with you now. I can't remember exactly how the story goes so I might get some of the details wrong. Perhaps you or another reader can provide a link to the original story.

"An elderly man in his late sixties decided that he wanted to make his contribution to science. Everyday at precisely 12:00 he'd sit himself down by the window of his apartment overlooking the busy street below. He'd record the number of people entering and leaving the stores, the time they did so, their sex, apparent age, apparent weight, etc.... The man continued doing this for next twenty odd years up till the day he got to weak to from infirmity to do so any more.

"On his deathbed the elderly man asked that it be put in his will that his contribution be given to the scientific community. After the elderly man's death the executor brought the elderly man's contribution to the local university and handed it to one of the head scientists. The head scientist looked through the contribution and give it back to the executor shaking her head sadly. "I'm sorry," said the scientist, "But there's nothing we can use in there. They're just lists of numbers and other data. This is not science.""

Now I ask you, why wasn't what the elderly man did science? Think about that and what I just discussed.

Falsely DMCA'd

Surprise, You've Been Flagged!

At approximately 08:00 am MST 04 January 2011 I got a notice from YouTube that Osho International had filed a Copyright Infringement complaint against me. It was over a video I was mirroring from Robert Lester where Robert was talking about common traits of various cult leaders. Robert used an image of Osho among other cult leaders as visual reference. Additionally Robert also mentioned that he is fighting the current DMCA flagging brought against him by Osho International.

Video: False DMCA Against Mirror about a False DMCA - Irony?


I've since filed an appeal. Osho International cares little about Fair-Dealings or Fair-Use and is trying to intimidate anybody who criticizes their organization. This kind of behaviour cannot be allowed.