Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Was I Going To Write About?

There's an interesting little article about a study having to do with "room amnesia" in the new Scientific American. It's always great when I can shift the blame for some brain SNAFU from myself onto something external like those damned doorways...
Check it out...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reason 101

I just found this video by Brian Dunning, the producer of the Skeptoid podcast and website:
If you are someone who thinks that scientific evidence-based reasoning is just one of several valid methods of finding truth please take the 40 minutes to watch this basic intro to critical thinking. When you start to realize how irrational and fallible your belief-generating methods are and start to feel uncomfortable with that idea, check out the Skeptoid podcast where he covers topics with a little more depth.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Still Faster Than A Speeding Photon?


According to a New York Times article I just read describing a paper on the results of a second experiment done by the OPERA project at CERN to verify the potentially universe-shaking results of an earlier experiment which observed neutrinos seemingly moving faster than the speed of light, they have been able to repeat the outcome after adjusting the experiment slightly to remove some potential causes of error.
Of course it hasn't been positively verified, yet, but neither has it been easily explained by some obvious and easily corrected mistake in the experiment's protocols, which I think most people probably expected to happen. Unexpected, theoretically impossible results like this send the mind reeling and it appears as though they will keep reeling for a while longer at least until the speed of the neutrinos can be positively verified.

Then again... maybe not. Just as I was about to post this I noticed this new article from Reuters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chicken Pox Lolipops


This anti-vaccine bullshit is getting out of control. I just heard a report about anti-vaccine parents swapping chicken pox infected lollipops through the mail so they could purposely infect their children with a potentially lethal virus. Considering the fact that there is a safe and effective vaccine in existence which protects against chicken-pox, it's my considered opinion that these parents should be prosecuted for criminal negligence and/or assault/child abuse. This kind of anti-science attitude seems to me to be almost a type of delusional thinking or mental illness in that it is a denial of reality which interferes with ones ability to make rational choices. The science denier, it seems to me, is just as big, if not bigger, a threat to the safety of their child than a paranoid schizophrenic or bipolar manic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reformed Epistemology

I just listened to episode 13 of the Fundamentally Flawed podcast which contains a debate between two of the atheist hosts debating two Christian presuppositional apologists including Sye TenBruggencate, the creator of the proofthatgodexists.org website. Mr. TenBruggencate is an adherent of the school of apologetics known as presuppositionalism or reformed epistemology. Basically, the argument goes that the fact that we are capable of knowing anything for certain can only be explained by the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient being who has revealed knowledge to us. Without God as the foundation for all rationality, logic, morality, etc. we have nothing to justify our belief in these things. So long as we admit that we do not know everything, there remains the possibility that what we do not know contradicts what we think we do know. Therefore, the presuppositionalist claims, the only way we can know anything is either if we know everything or if something is revealed to us by a being who does know everything. To any atheist who claims that their knowledge is based on the evidence of their senses, their reason and their memory the apologist will point out that you must appeal to these very things to justify their validity, a circular argument.
Although I've heard a couple debates between atheists and presuppositional apologists, I've yet to hear one where the atheist answers the argument satisfactorily. But it seems clear how to refute the argument. This argument is based on the foundation for absolute knowledge; the presuppositionalist claims that if God did not exist we could not know anything with absolute certainty. He argues that this is an argument in favor of God's existence because in our day-to-day life we all talk and act as if we know at least some things for certain. But I think it is actually a powerful argument against the existence of God because I think it is fairly obvious that nothing can be known with absolute certainty. At this point the apologist would say to me "Are you absolutely certain we can't know anything with absolute certainty?" To which I would respond "No, I am convinced to within a reasonable margin of error to base my behavior on the belief." Such is the nature of all knowledge, absolute certainty is not required nor is it obtained. Yet the apologist would take my admission as his victory, since he has shown that my beliefs are not certainties, while his, he believes, are, he takes this as evidence that his beliefs are truer than mine, but this does not follow. Those who are most certain about the truth of their beliefs are often the mad and fanatical, they are also most likely to be wrong. Certainty of belief is not positively correlated with likelihood of truth. Yet this fact is lost on the presuppositionalist. And his strange insistence on the necessity for certainty in order to claim knowledge is, I think, common among the typical religious believer. There is no end to the arguments the religious throw at the atheist but chief among their objections you will often find a deep-seated emotional aversion to uncertainty. This attitude is also common among the anti-scientific. Science, they complain, keeps changing. Theories are constantly being updated to better account for new data. How, they wonder, can anyone live with a world-view based on such a shifting foundation? It's much more sturdy to stand on a perfect book that has barely changed for 3000 years and is chock-full of certainties and absolutes.
The presuppositional apologists should realize that fervor does not indicate fact, and a little uncertainty can be good for you.

A Funny God Joke By Stephen Colbert

Tonight on The Colbert Report Stephen had Father Jim Martin on talking about humor's place in religion, he told this joke: A man kills himself and goes to Heaven, He meets God and he says "Wow, I never expected this, first of all I didn't believe in God, and second, I thought killing yourself damned you to hell." God says "No, it's a complex issue. At some point everybody thinks about ending it all, to tell you the truth, even I have thought about it." Surprised, the guy says "Really? Can I ask you why you ended up not doing it?" And God says to him "What if this is all there is?"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I, Robot: The Evidence For Determinism Is Mounting


The scientific evidence coming from the fields of neuropsychology and the other cognitive sciences continues to support the deterministic model of cognition and decision making behaviors. The latest is a study by Anita Eerland, a psychologist at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands and colleagues Tulio Guadalupe and Rolf Zwaan, which shows that how you are physically positioned can have effects on your cognition, specifically your estimates of quantities like sizes, numbers or percentages.
This study joins the already overwhelming, yet constantly growing, number of studies into phenomena such as psychological priming, which seem to indicate fairly conclusively that what we innately consider to be a rational and internally transparent process by which we make decisions based on known evidence and self-evident motivations is actually a much more irrational, emotional, complex, opaque and ultimately deterministic process.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Not Just Unintelligible Nonsense, But Indignant Unintelligible Nonsense

I think that the anti-intellectual movement in the republican party has turned into stupidity worship. Case in point: check out this clip of Herman Cain becoming indignant when interviewer John Stossel can't decipher his nonsensical self-contradictory babble.