Ken Ring and earthquake clusters
Ken Ring claims he can predict when and where major earthquakes will occur, not just in NZ, but around the world. The reasons and method used is no different than he uses to predict the weather; he uses his astrology charts to see where the moon is.
For years now Ring has made some bold earthquake claims that should be very easy to prove. For example, regarding full moons and perigee:
Earthquakes cluster more around full moon times as is evidenced by most of the big ones in history. For example in our country the big Napier one happened on a full moon...
He's right, the 1931 Napier earthquake did happen on a full moon and a perigee, but did 'most of the big ones in history'?
On averages, it has been found that full moons are usually the most potent time for earthquakes.
perigees always bring increased earthquake activity
We have always wondered why Ring has never presented the evidence that major earthquakes cluster around full moons and/or perigee. We thought that he must have it or else how would he know this? Surely he's not just assuming (or hoping) that they do? He claims 'On averages, it has been found... ', implying that the calculations have been done, so why hasn't he fronted up with the data to silence skeptics like us? Sick of waiting for Ring, we decided to do his research for him.
Then, just as we were finishing running the data through our super computer, lo and behold, Ken puts out a list on his website (in this article: 'The ethics of warning') that purports to show a earthquake-moon correlation (I wonder if we have a corporate spy in our organisation?) In our last post we debunked one aspect of Ken's list, his unwarranted placement of wide earthquake windows that effectively allowed him to claim earthquakes that occurred on almost any day of the month. But we think you'll all agree that it is extremely difficult to visualise what the earthquake cluster pattern really looks like from Ken's list. The human mind has not evolved to intuitively grasp probabilities or statistics, but it has evolved to be very good at recognising patterns. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and so we had taken a different path to Ken. We turned the list into a graph.
We independently also got a list of the big ones in NZ history, and added a few more for good measure, giving us a total of 32 major NZ earthquakes (Source: GNS Science). We listed every one in relation to full moon, new moon, perigee and apogee. To make the graph easier to comprehend (we hope), we have lined up either the full moon or perigee dates down the middle, and the new moon or apogee off to either side. We then added the quakes (the blue squares) to see if they did indeed cluster around the full moon or perigee. The most powerful quake (mag 8.2, Wairarapa, January 23, 1855) is at the top and the least powerful (5.1, Waiotapu, December 15, 1983) is at the bottom. We haven't listed the quake names on our graphs since we're not interested in specific quakes, only whether there is a pattern. The list we used is at the bottom of this post, as is a link to a lunar calculator. Note that Ring's list included 6 quakes that we don't, while we include 10 quakes that his list doesn't. Since we produced our graphs before he issued his list we haven't included the 6 quakes he listed. If there is a pattern this omission shouldn't make any difference. We define a 'full moon week' etc as the full moon day +/- 3 days, ie 7 days. This is the same as Ring did for the full moon window in Feb as: 'Potential earthquake time... the 18th... +/- about 3 days'. To give you an idea of what Ring claims has already been proven, this fake graph is what the graphs should look like if astrology can predict earthquakes, with the quakes all falling around the vertical middle bar:
If Ring is correct, then a pattern should be very obvious in the real data. He claims that his list shows a clear pattern.
Plotting the real earthquakes (the blue squares) against the moon, this is what we got. The perigee is on the left graph, the full moon on the right. We're not scientists or statisticians, and we can't claim that our calculations are completely error free, but we can discern no obvious pattern for when quakes have occurred in relation to full moon, new moon, perigee or apogee.
We found that only two earthquakes fell precisely on the full moon, and only a total of four fell within the full moon week. This is to be expected, otherwise we would have to ask what is preventing quakes on a full moon? We should expect a random spread across the entire month. And as expected, the great majority, 28 of the 32 earthquakes, did not cluster around the full moon. Likewise only one earthquake fell precisely on perigee, and a total of six fell within the perigee week. Again, the great majority, 26 of the 32 earthquakes, did not cluster around perigee. There is no obvious clustering around new moon or apogee either. There is no obvious clustering full stop! This is the complete opposite to what Ring claims he found in his list. Also there doesn't appear to be any correlation between quake magnitude and the moon's position.
Also we believe it is rather devious to suggest that the moon at apogee is a strong cause of earthquakes and include this in your supporting data. Ring's argument is that the moon at perigee — closest to earth in it's orbit — will bring about increased tidal forces and this induces greater stress in the earth's crust, causing it to rip apart. If earthquakes are also probable when the moon is furthermost from earth at apogee as Ring claims, then they are logically also probable at every point in between. Ring has essentially said that no matter where the moon is in its orbit in relation to earth, we have an increased potential for earthquakes. Again Ring has subtly included every day of the month as a day we should stay away from work and cower under the table. He achieves this subterfuge by realising that the general public, and certainly his supporters, probably don't know what the terms apogee and perigee mean, and that's why he doesn't debate his method with experts.
So, Ring's repeated claims that 'Earthquakes cluster more around full moon times [and] perigees always bring increased earthquake activity' are in our opinion utterly bogus and unsupported by the evidence.
These were NZ's most powerful and most damaging earthquakes, and yet they took no notice of Ken's 'narrow force corridor from space' generated by the full moon, new moon, perigee and apogee. If an earthquake happens around these times it is quite obviously just a fluke, and only an astrologer will interpret it as being a celestial sign. Centuries ago astrologers used to fear comets, now Ring wants us to fear the full moon.
UPDATE: Tonight NZ time a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit near Japan, which also caused a 4 to 14 m tsunami to strike causing huge damage and a rising death toll.
Why was Ring unable to foresee this quake? Why did this massive quake not happen when he insists they do? The quake was one day off the midpoint between full moon and new moon, the times at which Ring claims quakes will not likely happen. It was nearly as far away from a full moon or new moon as it could be. And even though full moon and perigee coincides exactly on Mar 20, 2011, the time that Ring predicts a major earthquake will occur in NZ, the Japan quake actually happened closest to apogee, the very time when quakes should be least likely if the moon were the cause. This quake happened at the very time that Ring insists that people should be safe from quakes!!! What use are an astrologer's earthquake predictions if they can't foresee quakes of this magnitude? This very unfortunate event demonstrates with extreme clarity that Ken Ring has no idea when earthquakes will strike.
In his article 'How To Predict Earthquakes', Ring assured us: 'As this is an experiment, if I am incorrect in my dates then I am willing to bow my head in defeat and go back to the drawing boaed' [sic]. Be a man of your word Ken, bow your head in defeat, issue a public apology, and retreat from the public eye.
NOTE: For a more wide-ranging look at this scam, see our article: Ken Ring — Weather Forecasting by the Moon
List of 32 major NZ earthquakes (Source: GNS Science)
Lunar Perigee, Apogee and New, Full Moon Calculator
8.2, Wairarapa, January 23, 1855
7.8, Fiordland, July 15, 2009
7.8, Napier, February 3, 1931
7.8, Murchison, June 17, 1929
7.6, Pahiatua, March 5, 1934
7.5, Marlborough, October 16, 1848
7.5, Cape Farewell, October 19, 1868
7.5, Hawke's Bay, February 23,1863
7.3, Hawke's Bay, February 13, 1931
7.3, North Canterbury, September 1, 1888
7.3, Auckland Islands, September 30, 2007
7.2, Wairarapa I, June 24, 1942
7.2, Puysegur Trench, November 22, 2004
7.1, Arthur's Pass, March 9, 1929
7.1, Inangahua, May 24, 1968
7.1, Fiordland, August 22, 2003
7.1, Christchurch, Sept 4, 2010
7.0, Wairarapa II, August 2, 1942
7.0, East Cape, February 6, 1995
6.8, Gisborne, December 20, 2007
6.8, Secretary Island, August 10, 1993
6.7, George Sound, October 16, 2007
6.7, Te Anau, June 4, 1988
6.5, Edgecumbe, March 2, 1987
6.4, Weber II, May 13, 1990
6.3, Christchurch, Feb 22, 2011
5.9, Lake Tennyson, February 10, 1990
5.8, Seddon, April 23, 1966
5.6, Napier/Taradale, October 6, 1980
5.4, Lake Rotoma, July 18, 2004
5.1, Waikato, December 5, 1976
5.1, Waiotapu, December 15, 1983
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Mar, 2011 ~
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Comment by Carol, 11 Mar, 2011
8.8 magnitude quake in Japan — KR didn't see that coming.
Great post by the way.
I thought Joanne Black spoke some good sense in this week's Listener too. She describes KR as being our version of Paul the Octopus. Heh.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Mar, 2011
I must look up that Listener article. And it will be interesting to see how he explains away this Japan quake.
Comment by Carol, 11 Mar, 2011
It wasn't a full scale article, just part of Joanne Black's regular column on the inside back page. But still good to see that she took the opportunity.
My guess is that he won't even try to explain the Japan quake — he doesn't try to sell books over there — but is just keeping quiet and hoping people don't notice.
Here in Wellington, GNS and the Council recently painted blue lines on the roads at Island Bay to indicate a tsunami safe zone. There were lots of howls of outrage at the time with people fretting about effects on property values and saying that they were a stupid waste of time etc etc. I don't think anyone who saw the video of the tsunami in Japan washing away buildings could possibly say that now. It was extraordinary.
Comment by Andy, 11 Mar, 2011
Hello John, good coverage on our Lunar Expert so far!
Wondering if you saw:
Which is Canterbury University's plot with KR's arrows. He seems to have no concept of standard errors!
"The graph is a solid indication that moon events, namely F, N, P, A, V and especially combinations of 2 or more of these, represent earthquake-risk intervals."
Modelling noise is not good science.
And now an 7.9- 8.9 off Tokyo, moon at 34% full (waxing).
No correlation to anything lunar. No prediction from our friend. Perhaps he's too busy....
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Mar, 2011
As you'll be aware Andy, science is not Ken's forte.
Comment by Anonymous-1, 12 Mar, 2011
I enjoyed your post about Ken Ring's flawed theories.
I totally agree that his ideas are bogus, however I'd like to play devil's advocate here (if you will indulge me)...
#1: Increased risk at apogee and perigee is consistent
"If earthquakes are also probable when the moon is furthermost from earth at apogee as Ring claims, then they are logically also probable at every point in between."
... is somewhat flawed, I think.
Imagine holding a popsicle stick between the finger and thumb of your left hand, so that it is bending outwards (i.e. it is under a strain), but you are also pushing against the bend with the finger of your right hand, in such a way that the stick is stable.
The idea here is that if you remove your finger, you increase the chance of the stick breaking. Similarly, if you were to push really hard with that finger then you also increase the stick breaking.
What is keeping the stick stable is a moderate force — not to little, and not too much.
So similarly, it is feasible that at perigee (strongest force) and apogee (weakest force) the chance of an earthquake is greater than at the in-between positions.
In fact IF the moon's gravity WERE a significant factor then this would be precisely how it would work. The Earth's plates would be at their best equilibrium under moderate gravitational force, and they would be less stable at BOTH extremes (apogee and perigee).
Your statistics would suggest there is not a strong correlation between moon phase/position and earthquake risk, but you simply don't have a large enough sample to rule out a small to moderate correlation.
Don't worry, I don't believe Ken Ring is right. I just think your arguments are not as strong as perhaps they could be.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Mar, 2011
Thanks for your comments. We always welcome having our reasoning questioned in an intelligent manner (unlike the next comment).
Regarding Ring's view that quakes are most likely at perigee AND apogee, in your analogy you say that 'if you remove your finger, you increase the chance of the stick breaking'. We feel this analogy breaks down because 'the finger' — the moon's gravity — is never removed. From the very minute after the perigee point is passed, the tidal forces only slowly decrease until the apogee is reached. The difference between the tidal forces on the day of apogee is only very slightly different from the day before, and that day is only very slightly different from the day before, right back to the forces on perigee. The tidal forces are a continuum. The moon doesn't know that it is about to reach apogee — a distance which varies every month — and that it should therefore suddenly exert a greater affect on the crust for some reason. There is no special force applied at perigee and apogee that doesn't exist at every point of the moon's orbit. Only its magnitude varies, gradually.
We think a better analogy with your popsicle stick might be this. It is held between your finger and thumb, but it is not under any strain, it is not being pulled outwards. With the finger and thumb of your other hand, grip the stick at the centre and pull outwards to bend the stick slightly. This simulates the pull of the moon's gravity. If you pull slowly you may see the stick beginning to crack, threatening to break, but if you reduce the pull then the stick straightens and the stress reduces, as does the risk of it breaking. The more you pull the stick the more stress you place on it, and if you pull too far the stick will snap. If you stop pulling on the stick just before it breaks and slowly reduce your pull so it starts to straighten again, but then before it's straight you stop reducing the pull and start increasing it again. We can't see why there is more stress on the stick in this position than there was when the stick was bent much further, although still not near the maximum when it would snap. With your analogy the stick would be most likely to break when it is pulled to the maximum and also when the pull is removed completely, but not as likely when the pull is reducing and the stick straightening. Whereas we say the likelihood of the stick breaking reduces continuously as the pull reduces. The safest time for the stick would be at minimum pull, when the stick is closest to being straight, and as this pull again increases the stress increases continuously until it reaches maximum pull. The stress is not just present at maximum and minimum pull, it is at every point in between as well. Midway between minimum and maximum pull the stress will be greater than it is at minimum, and therefore the stick is more likely to break at the midpoint than it is at the minimum point.
We stand by our view that 'If earthquakes are also probable when the moon is furthermost from earth at apogee as Ring claims, then they are logically also probable at every point in between'. If the stick is likely to break when there is minimal pull exerted on it (as Ring claims), then that likelihood just increases as that pull increases.
You also make the assumption that the earth's crust is held in a stable condition when the moon's gravity is at mid strength, or between perigee and apogee, but we don't know why you can say this. You say that 'The Earth's plates would be at their best equilibrium under moderate gravitational force'. Why is it a 'moderate gravitational force' the day before apogee, and the next day, having reduced slightly, it's suddenly an earthquake causing force?
We also need to consider this important question: How could the moon's gravity plausibly cause the damage we see in major destructive earthquakes? To shake something violently requires a to and fro motion, but the moon's gravity is consistently 'pulling', it doesn't oscillate back and forth. To give a violent, short jolt requires a huge, sudden increase in 'pull' (or 'push'), and then a quick return to normal. Again, the moon's gravity is consistent, it doesn't make sudden jumps. Furthermore these movements are normally horizontal, whereas the moon's pull is vertical, so how would gravity do this? Likewise, to rip a street apart requires two forces working in opposite directions. Again, the moon's gravity is a single force, acting equally, in the same direction, on the entire street. Think of this analogy. To rip a sheet of paper in half we grasp it at the top with both hands, and then each hand moves in an opposing direction to tear the paper. If you move both hands in the same direction, even though the paper moves, no opposing stress is placed on it and the paper remains intact. Yes, the moon's tidal forces do cause the earth's crust to move up and down, but it all moves up and down together. That's why we don't notice the twice-daily tides in the earth's crust. Your side of the street doesn't go up while the other side goes down, or doesn't move at all. Ring believes that the moon's gravity causes earthquakes, and these 'Earthquakes cause fault lines, not vice versa'. That is, gravity rips the crust apart, not just gently up and then down twice each day. And how does this up and down motion push one field north and the neighbouring field south? Plate tectonics (which Ring doesn't believe) explains this motion, but the moon's gravity does not.
To be believable, Ring needs to explain why the moon's gravity can behave differently on opposite sides of a street, how it can shake buildings to and fro, and why it stops as quickly as it starts. Elsewhere Ring talks of a gravitational force operating 'through a narrow force corridor from space' that is 'unopposed by Earth's gravity'. While this 'force corridor' (if it were real) could perhaps explain the weird things that Ring claims the sun and moon's gravity does to the earth's crust, scientifically this idea is just nonsense. He might as well suggest it was goblins or evil aliens with a death ray.
Regarding our graphs, you state that 'you simply don't have a large enough sample to rule out a small to moderate correlation'. As you'll be aware, the onus is on Ring to do the studies and produce the evidence for his claims, not on us — or scientists really — to prove his claims false. But you're quite right, our list is relatively small, and as we've noted elsewhere, there is apparently a small correlation between the moon's gravity and minor earthquakes.
However, our argument was to counter Ring's claim that 'Earthquakes cluster more around full moon times as is evidenced by most of the big ones in history'. This we did. Luckily, the number of major NZ earthquakes is limited, so the sample size is necessarily limited. We insist that Ring's claims are 'unsupported by the evidence', not that there is no evidence, although neither Ring or anyone else has produced it.
Even if there were a 'small to moderate correlation', Ring is arguing that there is actually a large and obvious correlation that, importantly, can be used for accurate prediction of major earthquakes. This is what we disagree with, and Ring needs to show why we are wrong.
You're right that our 'arguments are not as strong as perhaps they could be', and no doubt scientists refuse to take us seriously, but our arguments only need to be strong enough to debunk Ring's claims. And since we are laypeople writing for laypeople, we must argue at a level that we both understand. And for Ring, even lower that level. Like debating aliens and creationism, many scientists think that any debate just gives these nutters free publicity, and often they are right. The flawed 'Campbell Live' interview gave Ring enormous publicity, bringing him supporters who had never heard of him previously. So it's up to skeptics, using information from scientists, to debunk Ring's ideas, and we'll only have to make our arguments more robust if Ring ups his game.
Comment by Anonymous-2, 12 Mar, 2011
Seems to me you should get a life far too much time on your hands to write so much bullshit . Looks like you wrote all the comments on your site so I will be surprised to see this go up on your website unedited. Your ignorance astounds me you are a dumbass. Many many years before a dick like you was conceived there was a race of people who survived and thrived using the exact same methods that Ken uses to determine the right time to plant and you only have to ask any avid gardener if this methodology works with thriving results. You could say well that race didn't last long so where are these clever people now , and my answer to that would be that all of the human race is subject to a thing called greed which is our biggest downfalls that they could well be here but anyhow I diverge when you consider that in our day to day life the moon has such a major impact controlling the tides that if the moon was to come into a closer orbit its power of attraction would be much greater especially when you remember that the crust does float on a swirling mass of conductive and therefore magnetic material could be pulled in such a manner as what occurs in the welding of steel using tig or mig which causes the pool of molten metal to be pulled towards the charge. So I read a couple of you stories and realised how so sad and close minded you appear in your website so I suggest that you get the fuck off your fat ass get a real job get in touch with nature and this will give far great happiness than fuck around doing this shit people are entitled to an opinion whether you agree or not> Remember man was once ignorant to the fact that the earth was round and that person is you
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Mar, 2011
Well at least you started politely. But like most of the vocal members of the Ken Ring Fan Club, and indeed Ring himself, you think you can settle a debate with rambling, incoherent insults. Instead your intolerant rant only highlights what all Ring's supporters are incapable of doing, and that is to clearly state reasons why we are wrong. We could be the most obnoxious people on the planet, but that doesn't mean we are wrong about Ken Ring. You could be a saint, although your language suggests otherwise, but that doesn't mean you're right. You may well worship the ground that soothsayer Ring walks on, but that doesn't mean he's right either. You need to provide reasons for your support of Ring, threatening us won't work.
Every time we get a comment like yours it just increases our confidence that we are correct about Ring and his views, since all our opponents can respond with is insults. And often even your insults show faulty logic: You insist that 'people are entitled to an opinion whether you agree or not', and yet seemingly one of your main points was to clearly stress that we aren't entitled to our opinion. Is this what counts as fair in your world? Also, if you seriously believe that we have written 'all the comments on your site', wouldn't that mean we have absolutely no support for our case? So why do you feel threatened if no one believes us? And of course there is no way to prove we haven't edited your comments, only you'll know that we haven't, so you can still tell your friends that we edited out a killer argument.
And why are we ignorant? You refuse to say exactly, but we assume it has to do with our disagreeing with an astrologer's views on earthquakes, or is it gardening?
Your only comment that appeared relevant to Ring and our criticism of his methods was this: 'if the moon was to come into a closer orbit its power of attraction would be much greater... and therefore magnetic material could be pulled in such a manner...' All very well except for the fact that magnetic material in the earth is not affected by the moon's gravity. Although don't feel too bad, as even Ring himself is confused on this matter, claiming more than once that the tides have a geomagnetic cause.
And for the record, since your research seems to have given you some bogus leads, we're not at all sad, we don't have fat asses and this website isn't our job at all. And we are quite partial to nature, having eaten a tasty piece of it for lunch. We even went skinny dipping in our youth, and you can't get more in touch with nature than that. Also, why do you believe we are ignorant to the fact that the world is round? Did Ken tell you that? Or is that just another insult to bolster your argument?
Comment by Ross, 12 Mar, 2011
Wow... Comment 8 ** 'Comment by Anonymous-2, 12 Mar, 2011' really told you huh!?
Did a little bit of research myself just out of interest after reading the following link...
China Earthquake predicted by relationship with lunar-tide cycles and other unusual activity
I went to the 'Thinkquest' link he provides... no mention of lunar influences
Extract: "In China on February 4, 1975, the people of Haicheng were successfully evacuated right before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit the school! The decision to evacuate the city was taken primarily because of the strange behavior of animals. Most of the city was destroyed but all of the people in the city were evacuated before the earthquake. Almost 90,000 lives were saved. A retired geologist from California, says that he can predict an earthquake just by counting missing pet ads in the newspaper and correlating this relationship to lunar-tide cycles. He claims to have 75% accuracy using this method. James has been saving and counting missing pet ads for many.**
Benefit of the doubt given, I tried again with a quick google search for 'china feb 4 1975 earthquake' which gave me a site of ...
Quite an interesting article but again... no mention of any lunar influences.
The Wikipedia link from my google search gives us this...
1975 Haicheng earthquake
(My bold in underlined/italics) because I think they say it all really. ONE day in advance, ONLY successful prediction in history, and it wasn't from lunar activity Maximum OR Minimum but tremors prior to the big one!
The 1975 Haicheng earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale occurred at 19:36 CST on February 4, 1975 in Haicheng, Liaoning, China, a city that at the time had approximately 1 million residents.
Seismologists sent out warnings about this earthquake a day before it took place and ordered evacuations.
This successful prediction saved many lives. This was the first and the only successful earthquake prediction in history.
In the days leading up to the event cats and other animals were thought to have acted strangely. Also snakes were reported to have been emerging from hibernation. There are some claims that this aided in the prediction of the earthquake. The validity and accuracy of these reports is questionable  as "It was the foreshock sequence that gave (Chinese officials) the solid prediction." 
One more time Ken... no mention of ANY lunar reference whatsoever! If he's going to link to sites you'd think he'd pick ones that actually backed up his claims wouldn't you?? Oh well, back to the celestial drawing board.
Maybe if I trawled through enough sites I could find something that supported him even if his linked ones don't, but I really couldn't be bothered doing his homework lol.
I have thought of borrowing his blanket coverage theory though and go to the Christchurch Casino. Everything I own on Red 7!! Give or take 3 or 4 numbers on the Roulette wheel. I wonder if they'd take my bet... or just my money?
Cheers guys, keep up the good work!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Mar, 2011
Excellent work Ross, doing something that Ring and his ilk eg psychics, hope you'll never do, and that is actually check out what he has claimed. He doesn't link to sites that back his bold claims because there aren't any it seems.
Comment by Bob, 13 Mar, 2011
'Christchurch earthquake: Sceptics take aim at Ken Ring'
I commend the Herald for publishing such a clear cut anti-nonsense article. I wish they would do it more often. Human beings haven't basically changed from the days when priests, shamans, astrologers, oracles and gurus held them in their grip. We badly need lessons in logic and scepticism in our schools. I suppose we all have fears about the unknown in the future. The trouble is charlatans like Ring and Webber exploit that.
You went to a lot of trouble with your article debunking Ring with graphs and figures. I don't think that was necessary to debunk earthquake theories. The moon does exert a substantial gravitational force on the earth. Water lying loosely on the earth's surface is free to flow anywhere as we well know. It is pulled by the moon but not by a great amount. For instance the tide around New Zealand on the 20th March will be greater than early in March due to the relative positions of the sun and moon. Even so the difference between low and high tide will only be of the order of 1.5 metres. The highest tide difference in the world appears to be in Nova Scotia with maximum of 17 metres between high and low tides. This is the position with a loose light material — sea water. Rocks are another matter. Rocks are solid many kilometres deep. If water is moved only a small amount how can rocks be pulled at all? Most rock movements causing earthquakes occur several kilometres underground. How can the moon possibly have any effect? What has a full moon got to do with it? Full and partial moons are an effect of light. When the moon is out in the clear we can see the total reflected sunlight of a full moon. When we see only part of the moon it is because the earth is shielding part of the light from us in our position.
Unfortunately the charlatan gets in first, influences people and makes money from nonsense then the rebuttals come late in the day. Unfortunately the media helps by treating sensational claims to front page coverage and the rebuttals to the inside page. I wish the media would talk to knowledgeable people before publishing the original articles. People are strained and upset enough in Christchurch without the likes of Ring exploiting them.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Mar, 2011
Thanks for the link to that Herald article Bob. As you say, we certainly do need the media to take a more skeptical stance on fringe beliefs like that of Ring's and perhaps then things wouldn't get out of hand with large numbers supporting him through ignorance. Unfortunately, as we all know, the media make a lot of money out of pushing sensationalist nonsense towards the gullible, all under their claim of being unbiased and balanced.
As for the moon's gravity having an affect on rocks kilometres underground, it actually does, just not to the same extent as the oceans. But there is just no evidence that this affect causes earthquakes. The gravity of the sun and moon distorts and stretches the entire planet, not just the oceans, and that is why there is a high tide on opposite sides of the planet at the same time, not just a high tide on the side under the moon. Full and new moons occur when the sun, earth and moon are in the same line, and so the sun's gravity and the moon's gravity both combine to stretch the earth and its oceans even more than normal. This combined influence causes higher tides than when the sun and moon are not 'working' in unison. Also, when we see only part of the moon it isn't because the earth is shielding part of the light, that would be a lunar eclipse, but because the moon is off to one side rather than in line as with a full moon. So Ring is right that the moon does move the solid earth and that this affect would increase at full moon, new moon and perigee (when the moon comes closest to the earth each month). However we must repeat that there is no evidence that this variation in influence causes major earthquakes. That is why our graphs were necessary, to show that there is no link between quakes and full moon etc. It is a plausible question worth considering, but it has been investigated and rejected. It's like saying, because the moon's gravity pulls the oceans, might it also be the reason that trees grow towards the moon? Plate tectonics cause earthquakes, not the movements of the moon, sun and planets.
Comment by Carol, 13 Mar, 2011
His home page seems to have been altered and some of the earthquake pages taken off it. He did leave in a paragraph asserting that seismic activity was going to quieten down after November — see below — perhaps he's forgotten he said that.
I had a go myself at doing some Ring-busting, on the SciBlogs website, in respose to a commenter who reckoned that Ken had predicted the Japan quake (er, hardly, it falls right into a window between all those king tides etc).
"Because the Moon is getting averagely (monthly) further from Earth whenever it is in perigee mode (time of Earth-Moon closest monthly distance), and will keep doing so until starting to come back closer in the second half of February 2011, so this current spate in activity should be mostly gone after November. The fact that about 2000 shakes have followed the big one is not unusual in a region after any large earthquake, but this fact is seldom reported by the media because most earthquakes are underwater and relatively few of the 41,000 shakes that get recorded each year around NZ affect built-up areas.
Because newspapers exist to sell newspapers and not to deliver news, and because most punters live in big cities, distant shakes are not particularly newsworthy, especially in tectonically-active NZ. How tiresome if every tremor under Rotorua made headlines in that region. If the 7.1-mag on 4 September happened off the Te Anau coast instead of central Christchurch, it may have reached a sidebar in a suburban tabloid if there was nothing more important to put there, like an ad for a secondhand fridge. Much of the fear Canterburians feel is because they have been led to believe that this spate of earthquake activity is something new. In the same way newspapers are in the business of selling newspapers, much of funded science these days is there to justify the further funding of science."
Comment by Andy, 13 Mar, 2011
Maybe I'm going on a tirade here, but these recent earthquakes have me keeping a close eye on all the developments.
I wondered if Ken Ring would post anything on his Predict Weather site regarding the Japan quake/tsunami on Friday. Lo and behold all of his earthquake posts from this year have disappeared! Plain as day, as seen in the Google Cache (screen shot images attached).
Regular website maintenance? Has he been told to remove them? Has he come to the conclusion that the moon can't be relied upon to predict strong earthquakes? Note: the Japanese had a full hour of warning of an impending quake/tsunami due to their well-equipped detection network.
Is this the last we'll hear from Ring, or do we expect a public statement of apology?
Science n+1, Pseudo-Science 0.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Mar, 2011
You're right Carol and Andy, Ring's website has mysteriously lost all its recent articles. The latest is now dated 13 Feb.
All these recent articles on earthquakes are gone:
The Ethics of Warning
Will they reappear subtly edited to reflect recent events, or have they been disposed of in a nearby river like a bloodied knife? And remember Ken, we have copies so we'll know if you change even a single word. In fact I already have two versions of your 'After the Interview' article. While we expect most people to correct articles if errors are revealed, you need to learn that you can't do the same with predictions!!
After the Interview
Is 20 March significant?
Earthquakes cause faultlines, not vice versa
Planets and Earthquakes
A smoking gun?
Earthquakes again in Christchurch?
Comment by Phaedra, 13 Mar, 2011
I bought one of his almanacs a few years ago, figured it was worth a few dollars to check for myself. At the end of the year I burned the bloody thing, he didn't get ONE SINGLE DAY right, NOT ONE DAY. No, the man, to steal a line from Clint Eastwood, is a legend in his own mind. If, as he claimed recently, he predicted the two Christchurch quakes, then he is nothing more than a heartless fool, why didn't he warn people if that was the case. What amazes me in all of this brouhaha is the number of truly gullible people we are living amongst.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Mar, 2011
Well, we hope you burnt it in a fireplace and at least received some benefit from it.
Comment by Ian, 14 Mar, 2011
This was forwarded to me:
Subject: UNCENSORED POST: JOHN CAMPBELL COVERUP
['Silly Beliefs' note: the article referred to has been deleted from Ken Ring's website!!]
John Cambell coverup!!!
KEN RING'S EARTHQUAKE WARNING FOR 20 MARCH 2011 IN NZ
If what Ken Ring says is true, the forecast catch includes Taupo and Auckland, which will affect the Waikato River, expecting 14 Dams within this catchment to collapse, which will flood out lowlands of Hamilton — Ngaruawahia — Huntly between 17-22 March 2011, and a month following this.
Read Ken Ring's article: 'After the Interview' on his website.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Mar, 2011
Wow Ian! Where do people get these ideas from? Reading a copy of that article we can see no mention of the areas this email mentions. Has the Japanese tsunami introduced this new fear of floods? Talk about creating panic! It just shows how Ring's predictions can get out of hand.
And to claim that John Campbell (and TV3, scientists, politicians etc) are deliberately covering up this information just demonstrates how deluded some of our neighbours are. As Phaedra implied, maybe we should think twice about letting our kids play with their kids?
Comment by Anonymous-3, 16 Mar, 2011
TOO MODERN MANKIND
Your the ones that are guilty of sensationalism and propaganda. Ken Ring is at least genuine and I agree that he does not make predictions he merely points out weather patterns and he's not far off the mark, you would have to be a god to get things on an exact date. Some people are just too modern and lazy to study the signs for themselves. His observations do make sense. What is wrong with you? Wake up get your head out of the sand. Be aware that other cultures such as India and other Asian countries laugh at our one size fits all weather forecasts, the ancients were more aware and tuned into lunar cycle weather patterns. Be careful remember what happened to Rome.
GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Mar, 2011
We're the ones 'guilty of sensationalism and propaganda'? Really? Are we appearing on TV predicting doom and spreading fear and panic? Are we advising Christchurch citizens to flee their city and Australians to avoid Canterbury this coming weekend?
You don't see yourself as perhaps being a little hypocritical do you? Praising the knowledge of the ancients and ridiculing modern knowledge and methods while at the same time using the internet? Aren't you being a little 'too modern and lazy'? We accept that astrologers 'study the signs for themselves', poring over their charts and noting the movement of the planets amongst the constellations, but only people like yourself and Ring believe that by retreating to the ignorance of the dark ages we might increase our knowledge of the world. We now live in the most advanced, knowledgable and safest period of all history, and we'd be fools to let it all slip away and once again start consulting astrologers, priests and witches.
And what's your reference to Rome mean? They were some of the ancients you look up to, and they looked to astrology and numerous gods for their wellbeing. Judging by your love of beliefs ancient and bogus, you're not getting your 'knowledge' from the bible are you?
And if Asian countries are laughing at our modern methods, why did Japan fail to see their latest disaster coming? Striking at a time which Ring insists was a safe period. Ken Ring is genuine alright, a genuine con man.
Comment by Bob, 17 Mar, 2011
Just as a matter of interest, NASA's take on the moon and natural disasters. I have a lot of respect for NASA, a lot more than for Ken Ring.
Comment by Anonymous-4, 17 Mar, 2011
Why do you wish to persecute this man? As far as I can tell he's doing his best to help people. He is merely using ancient arts and knowledge that he believes. He is not hurting you. Why the witch hunt? You cannot be absolutely sure he is wrong. Many truths are there, even if
you cannot see them.
Remain open minded and you will be surprised what you can discover, ...about yourself!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Mar, 2011
We are not persecuting Ken Ring, we are merely showing that he doesn't know what he's talking about regarding predicting the weather, earthquakes and whale strandings. Just because he believes in the ancient arts — like astrology, alchemy, and witchcraft — doesn't mean they work. You confuse belief with knowledge. And it's also not a witch hunt, he's an astrologer, not a witch, although we agree they are similar.
And no, Ring is not hurting us because we're not stupid or gullible enough to believe him, but he is hurting a lot of people in Christchurch emotionally due to his baseless and heartless scaremongering.
And should only boys that have been raped by a priest be able to challenge his behaviour, should only people that have been harmed by a doctor be allowed to expose his incompetence? Ring is entitled to his silly beliefs, but as soon as he started charging for his predictions, the public and his clients were entitled to analyse his claims and pass an opinion on their veracity. Just as you believe you can challenge our view, we believe we can challenge his. There is no law to our knowledge — although there once was — that prevents us from freely speaking out against those that preach superstitious beliefs.
Seemingly because we don't agree with you we are closed minded. It never fails to amaze us that those that believe in astrology, psychics, chakras, souls of the dead and other such nonsense are open minded and those that invented antibiotics, computers and landed rovers on Mars are the closed minded ones. Such 'open mindedness' will never discover anything because it is continually retreating into the distant past and embracing nonsense that was long ago rejected as false. If we were still looking to astrologers and their ilk for advice we would still be burning people at the stake and fearing the appearance of comets. No matter how much knowledge that science has amassed about the world, seemingly it is all for nothing, because according to you there are other truths out there that only astrologers and like minded people can see.
Like all of Ring's supporters your comments, insults aside, convey nothing. Please explain why our criticisms of Ring's method are flawed and where proof of his claims can be found.
Using your open mind we suggest you study some science and you will be surprised what you can discover, ...about reality!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Mar, 2011
We've been informed that there is now a Wikipedia entry for Ken Ring:
Ken Ring (astrologer)
However we doubt that it is giving him the exposure he craves.
Comment by Julian, 24 Mar, 2011
Hi, here is an exchange that I would appreciate your thoughts on:
Post subject: Re: Christchurch Earthquake
Posted: 22 Mar 2011, 07:55
I believe Silly Beliefs will answer the Ken Ring nonsense: http://www.sillybeliefs.com/ring.html
Post subject: Re: Christchurch Earthquake
Posted: 22 Mar 2011, 16:18
The so-called quake of 20th March was actually an aftershock of the 22nd Feb. earthquake. Ken Ring had predicted an over 7 magnitude earthquake.
He also had predicted increased risk of earthquake of 221 days of this year. That's not hard to have some success out of 365 days when there are earthquakes everyday in NZ, depends on location and magnitude. Unfortunately on the 22nd it hit the city at ChCh.at lunchtime with some obviously badly-constructed buildings.
Post subject: Re: Christchurch Earthquake
Posted: 22 Mar 2011, 21:51
"The so-called quake of 20th March was actually an aftershock of the 22nd Feb. earthquake. Ken Ring had predicted an over 7 magnitude earthquake."
Neither statement is correct.
Post subject: Re: Christchurch Earthquake
Posted: 23 Mar 2011, 06:48
Julian, the website you refer us to does not contain statistical testing of his predictions... only opinion of Ring's approach. Opinion is not proof. Testing is a pretty simple thing to do and a half-decent university student looking for a thesis subject could do it pretty quickly.
Post subject: Re: Christchurch Earthquake
Posted: 23 Mar 2011, 07:04
Sorry, however isn't this testing the theory rather than just opinion?: http://www.sillybeliefs.com/blog017.html#blog017-10
Post subject: Re: Christchurch Earthquake
Posted: 23 Mar 2011, 07:09
No it's not testing his forecast weather against the actual weather. The website is commenting on his theory that leads to his predictions. It's his predictions that are important. If they proove correct then one has to take his theory seriously... if not his theory can be dismissed.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Mar, 2011
Hi Julian, Viking claims that the Mar 20th shake was not an aftershock and that Ring never predicted a M7+ quake. In our view as non-seismologists, the M5.1 quake on Mar 20th was an aftershock. As we've already noted, aftershocks are earthquakes. My dictionary defines an aftershock as 'A quake of lesser magnitude, usually one of a series, following a large earthquake in the same area'. Technically this means that both the Feb 22 and Mar 20 quakes were aftershocks of the Sep quake, but of course aftershocks are still earthquakes. Every quake is a 'new' earthquake. They will all happen at a slightly different location and be of a different magnitude. You can't reset the crust like a mousetrap and have a repeat quake, so every quake will be unique and can be called an earthquake. However some earthquakes are called aftershocks to show their connection with a previous earthquake.
As for predicting a M7+ earthquake, Ring certainly did predict this, but prior to the Feb quake he also predicted that Christchurch would NOT be hit by another large earthquake, and certainly not one as large as M6. This is how Ring 'appears' to make correct predictions, he makes contradictory claims and no matter what happens, he trots out the claim that matches reality. Like the magician he is, he has the prediction 'black' in one hand and the prediction 'white' in the other, and opens the hand that matches whether you say black or white.
As for JD saying that our article 'does not contain statistical testing of his predictions... only opinion of Ring's approach', and 'it's not testing his forecast weather against the actual weather', this is only partially correct. It certainly is more an examination of Ring's method than statistical data, but we do give numerous examples of where his forecast weather doesn't match actual weather. Our article is not a university study, and furthermore, it is Ring's job to statistically prove his method works, not ours to prove it doesn't. And anyway, isn't this debate about earthquakes? We agree with you, that our blog on earthquake clusters was definitely testing the theory. Ring's 'theory' makes predictions: 'Earthquakes cluster more around full moon times [and] perigees always bring increased earthquake activity'. We showed that this prediction was not borne out in the data.
JD insists that: 'It's his predictions that are important. If they proove correct then one has to take his theory seriously... if not his theory can be dismissed'.
We agree, and since not Ring, JD nor any half-decent university student looking for a thesis subject has proved Ring's predictions correct, then there is no reason to take his theory seriously and it can be dismissed. End of story.
Ken Ring's earthquake blanket
Carol alerted us to a new bit of nonsense by Ken Ring — 'The ethics of warning' — in which he tries to defend his policy of terrifying the vulnerable, implying that we ordinary people should be grateful for 'information from a better educated person'. He again implies that he is a scientist, defending his actions by asking 'Should people in the sciences warn if they see cyclones coming? How about earthquakes?', although he negates this image with his admission that he doesn't deal in science: 'In the past the purpose of astrology... was to warn'. And Ring is carrying on that tradition. He even suggests that it is actually the media that he scaremongering, not him: 'At the end of the day it is important to... allow the sensationalist media to try to sell their Armageddons'.
But what really caught our eye was yet another claim by Ring that there is strong evidence for his earthquake prediction method, which reading between the lines means that we should indeed flee our cities on March 20th, and then again on April 18th. Just to be on the safe side. Think of the children. Not that you should be afraid though, it's just a warning. From an astrologer.
As for this evidence, Ring lists 28 major NZ earthquakes and states that 'in over 80% of cases' they fall within four days of a full moon, new moon, perigee or apogee. He asks: 'Does this not show some moon-correlation?' At first glance it does seem impressive, but when you think about it, as Ring obviously hasn't, or at least he doesn't want you to think about it, the argument fades like a mirage.
Ring wants people to think of months, those things that mostly have around 30 or 31 days in them. And if earthquakes are nearly always falling within 4 days of a lunar event, then there must be something going on, since to nearly always fall within a specific 4 days out of a choice of 31 is surely beyond chance? But this is where Ring, as an ex-maths teacher, is not as clear as he could, or should be. Ring lists four lunar events: full moon, new moon, perigee and apogee. Full moon and new moon occur roughly 14 days apart, every month, as do perigee and apogee. For each of these events Ring creates a window, extending their influence out four days on either side of the event. So a full moon actually covers 9 days, 2 days greater than a week. It's the same with the new moon, it also stretches out to cover a different 9 days. That's now 18 days covered, over half the month. By chance alone more earthquakes should occur during Ring's earthquake window. But we must also add perigee and apogee, which Ring also stretches out to two blocks of 9 days. The fortnightly full moon/new moon cycle sometimes matches the perigee/apogee cycle, but more often it doesn't. This means that there is often a different lunar event every week of the month, eg full moon, perigee, new moon, apogee. We have made a couple of graphs to illustrate this below. The top graph shows a month where Ring's lunar events are more equally spread out over a month (Jun 2011), and the bottom graph shows a month where full moon coincides with apogee, and new moon with perigee (Jan 1855).
Below the dates and the lunar events we have drawn in the 9 day (+/-4 days) earthquake windows that Ring claims earthquakes are more likely to occur in. You'll notice that in the top month there is only ONE DAY that is not claimed by Ring's earthquake blanket. Earthquakes have almost no choice but to fall in one of his prediction windows. Even in the bottom month, there are only 9 days that Ring doesn't immediately lay claim to, less than a third of the month. Ring has laid claim to so much of each month that by chance alone the majority of earthquakes will fall in one of his many windows. And of course he has many other factors that cause earthquakes — planets changing direction, declinations, the solar wind etc — so yet other windows will capture those few days that weren't included.
And what if an earthquake does occur on one of the rare days that aren't covered by his earthquake blanket? On 'Campbell Live' Ring admitted that the Christchurch February quake wasn't in his prediction window, that he was one day out. And yet Ring and his supporters still claim that it was a successful prediction. Even a miss counts as a hit. Because of Ring's blanket coverage of the month, he can never be more than 3 days out, which for most people, Ring included, will be close enough.
We might also ask why Ring picked a window of +/- 4 days to apply to his list? People generally talk of the week of the full moon, and Ring gave the full moon window in Feb as: 'Potential earthquake time... the 18th... +/- about 3 days'. That's 7 days or one week that we should expect earthquakes. Why the increase now? Has the moon's influence suddenly changed? Based on our own research into historical earthquakes, we believe Ring had to increase his window since so few earthquakes fall within his 7 day window. He extended his windows until he got the result he wanted.
Commenting on this Stuff website article in 2009 (see comment #23), Ring stated that 'Big earthquakes usually happen around new moons and full moons, and a week either side'. That window covers the entire month, every month. On 'Campbell Live' he unashamedly denied ever making these types of blanket claims. However this nonsense that earthquakes 'in over 80% of cases' fall within four days of a full moon, new moon, perigee or apogee, is just stating the same thing in a more obscure way.
Can Ring truly not see this huge flaw in his reasoning? Predicting that earthquakes usually happen sometime between the start and finish of a month is hardly a prediction, more like something the village idiot would utter as he jogs by on his imaginary dragon.
NOTE: For a more wide-ranging look at this scam, see our article: Ken Ring — Weather Forecasting by the Moon
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Mar, 2011 ~
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Comment by David, 19 Mar, 2010
Hi John, I enjoyed reading your "Sillybeliefs" blog. Thank you very much! :)
I am the original author of the chart that Ken Ring uses in his article "The Ethics of Warning". But he changed the 4th column and added "moon" data, which was great as far as I was concerned, because all he did was use my chart to confirm to everyone that he allows "+/- 4 days" from full moon, new moon, king tides, perigee and now also apogee.
If you haven't seen my Youtube video, I am sure you will enjoy it (sorry it is fuzzy).
I have been sending the info below to a number of worried people. They tell me they feel much better after seeing it. I will have to add your website to it as well.
I am aware of the fear that a lot of people are feeling right now because of the earthquakes and Ken Ring's "forecasts". Also, there is going to be a "supermoon perigee" on 20 March. This means that the moon will be the closest it has been since 8 March 1993 (18 years ago).
Many people are very scared about these events, especially in Christchurch.
ADDED: My Youtube video explains "What Is Wrong With Ken Ring's Forecast Charts":
Attached is a chart originally produced by Ken Ring. He has personally told me that you must allow " +/- 4 days " either side of the events on his chart. That includes full moon, new moon, perigee, and kingtides (which occur twice in some months). He has also confirmed this by the use of "+/- 4" in his charts (see below). I have modified Mr Ring's chart to show just how much of the month his "forecasts" actually cover - almost 80%. This makes a mockery of his forecasts.
I have also added a chart (that was originally produced by ME) that Ken Ring has used in one of his articles ("The Ethics of Warning"). In this chart, you will see his use of " +/- 4 days" (FM=4, FM-4, P+4, P-4) etc. (FM = Full Moon, NM = New Moon, P = Perigee (moon at it's closest), A = Apogee (moon at it's farthest), KT = King Tide (very high tide).
ADDED: I have added another a version of Ken Ring's forecast chart which includes his use of Apogees. You will see that by using apogees, his forecast chart covers 90% of the calendar (as can be seen in my Youtube video).
Please forward this chart to all of your friends who you think might be scared about the 20th.
BTW Mr Ring has shown the full moon on the 18th by mistake — it is in fact on the 20th NZT.
WAS THE 9.0 JAPAN QUAKE DUE TO THE APPROACHING “SUPERMOON”?
— NO IT WAS NOT!!! SO DON'T PANIC!!! :)
The moon was further away than it's midpoint.
It will not be “close” until around the 20th March.
The moon at its closest will be 356,577km away
the moon at it furthest will be 406,655km away
so half way between is 381,616km away (midpoint).
At the time of the Japan quake, the moon was about 396,500 km away (Further away than at the midpoint!).
(as at 6:46pm Friday evening NZT — the time of the quake)
So this earthquake was NOT because of the 'supermoon” or an approaching full moon. :)
BUT WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME THERE WAS A "SUPERMOON PERIGEE"?
There were no major earthquakes anywhere around the world at that time (8 March 1993)
In fact, there were very few large earthquakes anywhere in 1993.
Earthquakes happen around the world every day. It is normal.
There is currently a lot of hysteria, but by checking the history of past events shows that there is no connection.
Of 29 major earthquakes in NZ since 1843, only one COINCIDED with a fullmoon — Napier quake 3 Feb 1931.
Given that there are 29.5 days in the lunar month, one quake (out of 29) on a full moon is exactly what would be expected.
(Fiordland quake 10 August 1993 added to the attached chart of 28. It was not near a full moon).
Please let me know if you need more info...
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Mar, 2010
Thanks for that David. It's great to see that others are taking the time to expose Ring's flawed claims. And of course we knew he would have flogged those charts from someone, as he does with much of his information, and then edits them to suit his own agenda. Today is the 20th — E Day — and no news of disaster yet. Still, he's warned that if nothing happens in this period then the disaster moves to the 18th April, and then to the...
If he lives long enough, eventually he may fluke an earthquake!
And isn't it strange that he'd deleted all his earthquake prediction documents from his website? Has he suddenly lost faith in his powers?
Comment by Anonymous, 14 Nov, 2016
Who is all cr..p now, wellington & north canterberry
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Nov, 2016
I assume you meant to write the words 'crap' and 'Canterbury', and that your literary masterpiece refers to the 7.5 mag earthquake that occurred at 12:02am this morning, centred near Hanmer Springs. Your apparent delight over the deaths and damage suffered seems a little disturbing. Or is your poorly worded jibe meant to suggest, and no doubt prove, that if more people had listened to astrologer Ken Ring then the entire region would have been evacuated in the week before the quake? Of course this childish claim would only have some validity if the astrologer had indeed clearly predicted a 7.5 mag earthquake in that exact region at that exact time, which to our knowledge he did not. And I'm afraid that Ring's continual claims that the end is nigh and big quakes are a-coming don't count, since he's been making the same bogus claims every month for many years now. If you keep crying wolf, and you live long enough and spread your cries over the entire country, then eventually by mere chance alone the wolf will likely turn up. But only fools will think that you knew what you were talking about; intelligent, informed people will continue to see you as the village idiot.
Yet more reasons to ignore Ken Ring
Hopefully you don't need more reasons to ignore the predictions made by longrange weather, earthquake, volcano and whale stranding forcaster Ken Ring and that you haven't wasted $48 on his latest almanac. But perhaps some deluded relative gave you one for Xmas and you haven't been able to flog it off on Trade Me. Should you bother consulting it or should you just toss it in the recycling bin, along with horoscopes, bibles and the predicitions of Nostradamus? Does the moon really cause our weather, not to mention earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and whale strandings, and can Ken Ring use ancient astrology to predict these things 2, 20 or 200 years ahead? Listening to Ken you'd think he could, but the evidence says otherwise. How could nonsense predict the weather etc, and astrology is without doubt nonsense.
For those wanting more reasons to ignore Ken Ring's claims of foreknowledge, we've added several more sections to our Ken Ring article and made a few updates. They are all stand-alone arguments that tackle different claims made by Ring as he pushes his scam towards the gullible. Click here to go to the article's index, or click on one of the section titles at the end of this post. But before you do that, let's look at another couple of recent examples of Ring failing to deliver on his promises.
On Friday night, 28th Jan, 2011, Cyclone Wilma struck Northland, the Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty, causing massive flooding and destruction. Roads were closed, houses and busineses inundated and people had to be rescued. In the weather business this is called an extreme weather event, and Ken Ring has a section in his almanac devoted to 'Extreme Weather' and another entitled 'Cyclone Watch 2011'. So how did he fare, did he predict a destructive cyclone in that area at that time? As usual, no he didn't. Nothing was featured in the 'Extreme Weather' or 'Cyclone Watch' that even hinted of a cyclone, so what's the point of these sections? Not only did he not predict a cyclone with torrential rain causing flooding, here is his forecast for the 28th Jan:
"Auckland: Sunny, mild... Rain in the west of the south of the South Island, spreading to Taranaki, Manawatu and Wellington. Fine elsewhere."
Fine elsewhere. Honestly now, would that forecast make you batten down the hatches and start filling sandbags? Of course not. So what use is an astrologer — sorry, weather forecaster — that can't predict even extreme weather? Is it a shame that we've done away with the village square and its stocks?
On a more serious note, yesterday Christchurch suffered another major earthquake, this time resulting in many deaths and massive damage to buildings and infrastructure. We mention this since Ring has falsely claimed to have predicted Christchurch's Sept 2010 earthquake and one of the 4000+ aftershocks (Yes, only one aftershock. By guessing alone he should have got more than that.) Based on this bogus and after-the-fact claim, in the eyes of some gullible Cantabrians he took on the mantle of earthquake seer and comforter. With ongoing updates to his Christchurch earthquake webpage, he would warn Cantabrians if they needed to worry about another quake, until then they could rest easy in their beds. He states that 'Some find it [useful], that’s great, I do it with glad heart for them... I have much thank you mail from Canterburians for my ongoing article because it seems to have allayed some fears'. Ring insists that he is 'only trying [his] best and kindest way to forewarn'. But once again, did Ring predict and warn Christchurch residents about yesterday's quake? As usual, no he didn't, although we're sure that in the next few days Ring will, in hindsight, claim that all the signs were there. He'll claim that earthquakes often happen on the full moon, and lo and behold, there was a full moon in Feb. Just not on the 22nd though. But that's no problem, as Ring is on record claiming that 'Most earthquakes do occur around new or full moons, and near midnight, midday or early morning'. The Christchurch earthquake did occur just after midday, so there you go, Ring did predict it after all. But of course, if you say, and Ring will, that a full or new moon is normally thought of as lasting a week rather than a specific day, then that means that for half of each month we can expect earthquakes, and if we factor in a prediction window of another week either side as Ring insists we do, then we have now set aside the entire month — every month — where we can expect earthquakes. No matter what day of the year an earthquake might occur anywhere in the country, or indeed on the planet, Ring can claim that he predicted it, the signs were all there. And if you don't believe that the moon causes our earthquakes, don't worry, because Ring has another silly belief that you might swallow instead. He reckons, seemingly forgetting about his moon theory, or at least hoping that you have, that 'The solar wind... may be responsible for all forms of extreme weather, including earthquakes and volcanoes.' And since we are continuously impacted by the solar wind, again no matter when or where an earthquake occurs, the great seer Ring can claim he foresaw it. What, you don't believe the solar wind causes our earthquakes either? Well fear not, Ring has other 'theories' that might be more to your taste, claiming that to predict earthquakes 'A minute by minute analysis is what it takes, looking at all planetary angles and where they focus on the globe... I did it once, as I said, and it was very successful'. But still the people scoffed and would not listen.
And rightly did they scoff, for Ring is peddling nonsense.
Ken Ring's Amazing World of Contradictions
How accurate is Ken Ring's forecast method?
Are Ken Ring's weather forecasts specific?
Is Ken Ring a scientist?
Is Ken Ring's forecasting method scientific?
Is it climate or weather?
Are they predictions or just opinions?
Are long-range forecasts even possible?
How does Ken Ring respond to criticism?
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Feb, 2011 ~
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Comment by Alison, 23 Feb, 2011
Hi guys – we’re having a similar ‘discussion’ over at SciBlogs NZ:
Seemingly he did ‘predict’ Tuesday’s event after all. Spin is a wonderful thing.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Feb, 2011
Thanks for the link Alison. I'm a bit tied up at the moment but it looks like fascinating reading. I've only got to the first comment by Ring where he says: 'As to Silly Beliefs, they make money from dissing alternative practitioners, attracting a readership then selling book recommendations.'
If that is true, then I need to find out where they're sending all the cheques to, since it certainly isn't to us.
As for predicting the latest earthquake, Ring needs to explain why he suddenly changed his mind. See our comment here.
There is no evidence for Creationism
Yesterday we received the following email concerning our dismissive take on creationism, that primitive belief that a god or gods created the universe and life, and that some of them keep poking their noses (if they have noses) into its running:
To my surprise, this [blog post: Evolution verses Creationism] is the only mention of creation I could find on this website. And, not surprisingly, you dismiss the idea of Creationism as bullshit, yet offer no plausible alternative explanation. Evolution, by itself, doesn't cut it. It leaves too many questions unanswered. Is it not possible that God created living creatures and then natural selection and evolution developed? What irritates most people about atheists is the fact that they do not even acknowledge that something other than their beliefs could be true. There have been plenty of instances in human history where something was thought to be true, and yet later was proven otherwise by advances in science and reason. Is it not possible that God could be real and we just have not yet discovered the evidence needed to prove it?!
The dismissive quote Mario refers to is this: 'Intelligent Design isn't Science. It's Bullshit'. So has he presented a good argument for creationism? We don't believe so. Let's look at his points.
Mario says that we 'dismiss the idea of Creationism as bullshit, yet offer no plausible alternative explanation. Evolution, by itself, doesn't cut it. It leaves too many questions unanswered'. Of course he contradicts himself by then admitting that we do offer a plausible alternative explanation: evolution. And it certainly is plausible, accepted by the great majority of people that actually understand it: scientists, and even the majority of educated laypeople (excluding the USA). And it is the only explanation that provides strong evidence and support. Yes there are still questions to be resolved regarding the details, but almost no scientist denies that evolution is a fact. Creationism on the other hand leaves every question unanswered. 'God did it' is not an answer, it is a childish, primitive, naive belief that can only be supported by blind faith, not evidence. If the success of an explanation is based on the questions answered, then evolution has won hands down and is giving its victory speech. Creationism has left the building in tears.
Creationists also fall into the either/or trap. Either it was evolution or it was creationism. If we say evolution is bogus and the work of the devil, then that only leaves creationism. But that's as silly as saying you either had vanilla icecream or chocolate icecream for dessert. For we must also accept that you may have had neither flavour and perhaps had one of the many other flavours available. It's the same with evolution, even if it was falsified tomorrow, that doesn't mean that we are only left with creationism. Life on earth could have been due to experiments by advanced aliens or some other explanation that we haven't yet thought of. Think of all the explanations we have now in science that were completely unknown several centuries ago. Even if we can offer no explanation for some phenomena, we are not compelled to accept the god explanation. If I find my car missing and I laugh at the offered suggestion that gremlins took it, I don't have to give names and addresses of the real culprits or otherwise accept the gremlin explanation. I can simply say, I don't know who took it, I just don't believe it was gremlins. It is perfectly acceptable and reasonable to reject an explanation even if you can't provide the true explanation. For most of history people have argued that lightning and disease and eclipses must have been due to gods because people couldn't provide plausible alternative explanations, but, even as Mario admits, we now know they were wrong. I remember some years ago Chinese friends in Hong Kong remarked that I was surprisingly willing to say 'I don't know' when asked tricky questions. Perhaps more people should have admitted that they simply didn't know, rather than fall back on the old favourite: 'Well, it must have been god then'.
Going down that same well worn path, Mario, after claiming that 'Evolution, by itself, doesn't cut it', then suggests that, 'Is it not possible that God created living creatures and then natural selection and evolution developed?' Evidently if god isn't involved then evolution is crap and false, but if god actually created it then evolution is wonderful and true. So which is it, is evolution naturalistic or divine? From Mario's question it is unclear whether he believes his god invented evolution or whether he just created life and evolution was an unintended consequence. After all, if we look at books like the bible, their god was surprised by a lot of what happened in the early days that he hadn't planned or foreseen. And we must remember that many religious types are confused about evolution and life itself. Evolution is not about the creation of life, it is the description of how existing life evolves. The development of life from nonliving matter is called abiogenesis, not evolution. But anyway, it is a little ingenuous, if not blasphemous, to rubbish evolution and then go on to claim that it might well be your god's handiwork.
Of course placing evolution as part of god's plan only makes things far worse. Remember that Mario criticised evolution because it 'leaves too many questions unanswered'. Of course if he now tacks god onto evolution those many questions still remain unanswered, but worse still, we now have the many, many, many unanswered questions about god added to the mix. If the unanswered questions about evolution alone were enough to reject evolution then those same questions plus the multitude about god should definitely see god driven evolution thrown in the bin. Saying gods created evolution or created life without evolution doesn't answer any questions, it just creates an unanswerable mystery. You can't arrive at answers by appealing to a primitive, superstitious explanation that for thousands of years has failed to provide real answers, and in recent times has simply crumbled into dust.
To make things even worse, even if we did discern the possible tinkering of an intelligent tentacle in the fabric of the universe, whose wispy tentacle might it be? Note that Mario makes no specific mention of the Christian, Jewish or Islamic god, or Jesus (alternatively Jehovah's son or Jehovah in disguise), or of the Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Babylonian, Maya, Aztec, Viking, Maori, Inuit, Zulu, Apache gods etc. Evidently over the last 10,000 years humans have invented and discarded around 10,000 different religions and many more gods. Should we just assume that Mario means the Christian god? Even if he does, what evidence suggests that Jehovah would be responsible for the creation of the universe and life as opposed to Zeus or Thor or Osiris or Maui? Again it is the naive either/or argument. Christians falsely believe that if a god was involved, then naturally it had to be their god. There are no other options. Well sorry but there are thousands of other options, thousands of other gods who could have done the deed, and many are far more plausible than the Judeo-Christian god. Deism is the belief that some unknown, uncaring god created the universe and then left never to return. This is far more plausible than the Judeo-Christian god, since, for one, it could explain the existence of evil in the world, whereas babies drowning in floods and god's priests raping children is incompatible with a loving god. Christians need to realise that many religions believe in creationism, and none involve the Christian god, so even if creationism was deemed likely to have occurred, we would be no closer to determining which of thousands of gods might have carried out the project. Only religious arrogance allows believers to blindly assume that god means their god, and creation means at the hand of their god.
Mario states that 'What irritates most people about atheists is the fact that they do not even acknowledge that something other than their beliefs could be true'. If by 'people' Mario means Christians, do Christians acknowledge in their sermons that Islam or Hinduism or atheism could be true? Not in any church we've been in. Their belief is true, all others are false. End of story. Same with Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc. Actually what really irritates believers like Mario is that atheists show the same conviction that Christians do. He's annoyed that we won't appear indecisive or say that science is unsure about its conclusions or that Jesus could well be the son of god, or god himself (Christians are unsure on this point). He wants us to say that Christian beliefs could possibly be true, but surely this means in all fairness that we must also say that the beliefs of witches and homoeopaths and moon landing conspiracy theorists could be true? And they could be, only 'people' like Mario believe that we insist categorically that they couldn't be. What we base our views on is the likelihood of a certain claim being true. When we discount gods and witches as not being real, we're saying that the evidence for these views is so poor and the evidence against them so overwhelming that we can in all likelihood say they are not true. Just like Christians don't give Zeus or Thor a second thought.
In a warped attempt to show religion true and science false, Mario concludes by noting that 'There have been plenty of instances in human history where something was thought to be true, and yet later was proven otherwise by advances in science and reason'. He's so right! For thousands of years humans thought witches, fairies, leprechauns and gods were real and this 'was proven otherwise by advances in science and reason'. Every single explanation that was once attributed to gods and the supernatural has been exposed as false and gods now only cower in the shadowy recesses of believers' imagination, like sunlight adverse vampires, fearful of the glare of science and reason. Creationism is to evolution as astrology is to astronomy or alchemy to chemistry.
He goes on to ask: 'Is it not possible that God could be real and we just have not yet discovered the evidence needed to prove it?!' This is an empty statement and could be asked of any silly notion. Could fairies or unicorns be real but we just haven't — yet — discovered the evidence? After all, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, believed in fairies. Could dinosaurs still be roaming central Asia, but we just haven't noticed them yet? Could the British Royal Family really be shape-shifting reptilian aliens but 'we just have not yet discovered the evidence needed to prove it?!' Yes these things are all possible, but the likelihood of their being true is next to nil. Again, evidence for gods has evaporated over the centuries, not increased. It is not as though the alternative explanations have equal weight and the verdict could go either way with the next piece of evidence found. Saying that gods might be the right answer to everything and science explanations are wrong is as silly as hanging on to the hope that witchcraft is real and that your weight loss spell will work. Ask yourself who invented antibiotics and vaccines, MRI scanners and jet engines, who discovered DNA and plate tectonics, and who sent probes to Mars or the Marianas trench, scientists or priests? Science has an amazingly impressive track record, while religious answers have been wrong, wrong, wrong. What reason is there to believe that things are about to flip-flop?
There is also a different aspect to Mario's question that needs to be considered. When science is looking for evidence of DNA or plate tectonics they have to use considerable ingenuity to find it, it's not just going to knock on their door or turn up in the mail. But gods are different, they could knock on your door, and evidently in the distant past they used to. For centuries now scientists have been searching intently for evidence of how the universe works, and have discovered a myriad of amazing answers. And not one involves gods. Why is it that scientists can invent instruments that can view atoms and the far reaches of the observable universe and yet still not even stumble across the evidence for gods? Gods are sentient, intelligent, powerful beings, they could easily have placed incontrovertible evidence of their handiwork in the universe for scientists to discover, or even better, simply appear in person to claim ownership of life, the universe and everything. But not only are the gods quiet, not only do they appear to be hiding, they actually appear to have constructed the universe in such a way that all the evidence points to the conclusion that they don't exist. They make the earth a few thousand years ago but deviously plant fossils in it to give the false impression that it must be at least millions of years old. They mischievously create stars millions and billions of light years away that again suggests a universe billions of years old. They create life that evolves by natural selection — that changes on its own — to imply that gods don't need to be involved. They deliberately incorporate numerous design flaws into human bodies and the world around us, such as weak backs, viruses, earthquakes and cosmic radiation, so that scientists will proclaim: 'Well, no god would do that!' If there are gods out there, they are working their wispy tentacles off to ensure that we never find any evidence that they exist. What other explanation is there? They obviously have the power to reveal themselves and their handiwork. The fact that they haven't, and indeed they appear to be adverse to us discovering their involvement, would suggest that we will never find evidence of them. They have designed things that way. That, or they don't exist at all.
In closing we're pleased to see that Mario indirectly admits that regarding god's existence, we 'have not yet discovered the evidence needed to prove it'. Witches and alien abductees say the same thing. At least he's acknowledging that the tired old arguments for the existence of gods are no longer worth repeating, and that evidence for god cannot be found in a sunset or a baby's smile.
And for the record Mario, apart from our post Evolution verses Creationism, we also have the following blog posts on creationism: Creationism and Intelligent Design, Intelligent Design vs Charles Darwin, Of gods, fairies and leprechauns, Promoting Creationism, Creationists & those pesky dinosaurs, as well as our article debunking creationist Ian Wishart.
And by coincidence, on the day Mario sent his email the following quote featured on our homepage:
Spooky or what?
Evolution is a theory
Creationism is a story
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Feb, 2011 ~
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Comment by Lu, 06 Feb, 2011
I'll take Hokey Pokey any day J
Luv ya work
Comment by Mario, 06 Feb, 2011
Thank you for the response. It was exactly the kind of response I expected. Long, wordy and completely useless. You broke down each sentence of my email and attempted to disprove or at least point out flaws with each. Yet you failed to answer my main point. You briefly mentioned it...
He wants us to say that Christian beliefs could possibly be true, but surely this means in all fairness that we must also say that the beliefs of witches and homoeopaths and moon landing conspiracy theorists could be true? And they could be, only 'people' like Mario believe that we insist categorically that they couldn't be.
Really? So creating a website called Silly Beliefs and writing numerous articles and blogs belittling and berating religion and those with religious beliefs is different? I don't believe that aliens are real, but I do not go out of my way to make those who do feel stupid or naive. Some of them have had experiences which, to them, confirms their belief. Good for them. I acknowledge that aliens, indeed, could be real and be visiting us her on earth. I just choose not to and move on with my life and leave the alien believers to believe what they may. Atheists on the other hand seem to go out of their way to disprove religion. You portray yourselves as superior intelligent beings simply because you do not believe in something that the science or natural evidence does not support. But any mature intelligent person would at least acknowledge that something might be possible even if we do not see physical proof of it. Which you almost did...
but surely this means in all fairness that we must also say that the beliefs of witches and homoeopaths and moon landing conspiracy theorists could be true?
What is interesting about that statement is that you used the same thought process that you attacked believers for using in your response. The old either/or trap. Either God is real and so are all other mythical beings, or none of them are! I will admit that believers who use the same logic are equally naive. But certainly it is possible that a God could be real and not gremlins or leprechauns, right?
The other thing I want to respond to is your statements about which God I was referring to or which God I believe in. That is not needed for this debate. We are talking about whether it is possible or not for a God to be a reality. Just because there are different religions throughout the world, does not mean that one of them has to be right or they are all wrong (there's that either/or thing again). There are many similarities between the world religions. Most of them encourage good or moral behavior; life after death; a creator and origin of life; and the end of days, to name a few. Just because they differ in details does not dismiss their underlying main similarity, a God. When a natural disaster or other traumatic event happens, there are many different accounts of said event, but just because they differ does not mean the event did not happen. And yes, there have been many different beliefs over the years which have been discarded and/or reinvented. But could that not just be a result of better understanding of that belief? In medicine, there are many different ways to treat an infection. For thousands of years it was believed that blood-letting was necessary to rid the body of bad humors or ailments. Now we have a better understanding of things and do not practice that belief any longer. Insert rebuttal here of how science was used to 'prove' that blood-letting was wrong!
Arguing against the possibility of a God is futile. The nature and definition of a God prohibits it from being a tangible entity that can be proven with science. Creating a website to do so is indeed a Silly Belief! To conclude, I will state that the best proof that there is some sort of God out there is simply the number of people that share this belief. Over 5 Billion people claim to be part of a religion. Now, either there is something to that, or we are living in a world full of idiots and should 'pray' that the intelligent and rational people, like those here at Silly Beliefs, take charge in the world and lead us simple folks to a better way of life here on earth!
Btw....do you have any articles or blog postings on dark matter or dark energy? Just wondering if you limit the scope of your skepticism to only matters outside of the scientific realm.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Feb, 2011
We're sorry Mario that you thought our reply 'Long, wordy and completely useless'. You definitely won't like this one then. We've found that short replies often achieve little in complex debates that have raged for thousands of years, but for this response we'll supply both. The short answer is: Evolution is a fact. Deal with it. What follows is the longer answer for our other readers.
Evidently Mario's main point was this: 'Is it not possible that God could be real?' He says that we failed to answer this point, when in fact we did, we said: 'Yes these things are all possible, but the likelihood of their being true is next to nil... evidence for gods has evaporated over the centuries, not increased.'
Mario seems to believe that we dismiss religion, and created our website, simply because we refuse to acknowledge that gods are possible. As we've said, this is false. We dismiss religion and gods because of the lack of evidence. The Pope would, if pushed, no doubt admit that it is possible that no gods exist, but he would quickly add that he is quite confident that this possibility has not happened in this universe. We are the same, we admit that gods are possible but we see no evidence that this possibility has occurred. We live in this world, not in a possible world from someone's imagination.
Mario is like a farmer trying to get us to agree that it's possible that orange sheep could be real. Of course orange sheep are possible, but there is no evidence whatsoever that they exist in anything but the farmer's imagination. It is not about whether certain things are possible, it's about whether they are real. Mario appears to believe he will have won some major battle if we agree that gods are possible.
He asked us, 'Is it not possible that God could be real?' Mario should ask himself this, 'Is it not possible that the Muslim god could be real?' Based on his comments, and assuming he's not a hypocrite, he must surely answer yes. So is he praying five times a day to Allah, and if not why not? Might he reply that the Muslim god is possible but he doesn't think it's very likely? We would hope he wouldn't take that view since that is our argument. But he must also ask himself this, 'Is it not possible that the Hindu gods could be real?' Again the answer would be yes. And yes again for thousands of gods. So what does he do? Obviously he would want to worship the gods that were real, since they often punish non-believers, but logically nearly all of them are not real. If the Hindu gods created the universe then there is no Christian or Viking god. Our point is this, if you merely believe that it is possible that a 'god' exists, you can have no way of knowing who or what this god is or what he might require of you. Your simple belief that a god is possible is essentially meaningless since it tells you absolutely nothing about this god, not even whether he/she/it does actually exist. You can't say a Judeo-Christian god might be possible without including Egyptian and Greek gods. Saying it is possible that the Christian god created the universe is no more valid than saying that it is possible that a god worshiped by aliens on a distant planet created the universe. And of course Mario must also ask himself this, 'Is it not possible that no gods are real?' And of course the answer is yes! So again, what do you do? Most rational people would say that gods are possible, but this in itself doesn't get us very far. They would then go on and ask, well out of all these possible gods, which, if any, seems likely to exist? Which of all these possible gods do we have any good evidence that they actually exist? Forget about which gods might be possible, since the Egyptian god Ra is just as possible as the Viking god Odin, which gods do we actually have evidence of? Just as orange sheep and flying cats are possible, is there any evidence that they actually exist?
Living in the world of what might be possible quickly becomes meaningless. For example, is it possible that this communication we're having is not real? Might it all be a dream that you're having, or I'm having? Might it be possible that humans don't even exist and this 'dream' is being experienced by some alien on some distant planet? Of course it's possible. But is it likely? Would you walk in front of a bus on the notion that it's 'possible' that what you're experiencing is just a dream, or that it's 'possible' that the bus is just a hologram, or that it's 'possible' that a superhero will pluck you out of harm's way? You can't live your life based on what might be possible, you must live it on what is most likely. And how do you know what is most likely real? You utilise your intelligence and reason to examine the evidence. We should not confuse things that some people believe in with things that are true or factual.
And just for the record Mario, if you're talking about the Jewish/Christian/Muslim god, then no, it's not possible that he could be real. (Might we suggest you read, for example, 'The Six Ways of Atheism: New Logical Disproofs of the Existence of God' by Geoffrey Berg.) If you're talking about one of the thousands of gods from the thousands of other religions, then yes, some of those could theoretically be real. But only in the same sense that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Batman could be real too. Again the question is not could they be real, but are they real?
Mario says that we make the same reasoning error that we accused him of — either it's evolution or it's creationism — in that when we dismiss gods as well as witches, homoeopaths and moon landing conspiracy theorists, he believes we are saying that 'Either God is real and so are all other mythical beings, or none of them are!' For a start, homoeopaths and moon landing conspiracy theorists are not mythical beings, so this should show that we dismiss them because of the lack of supporting evidence. Likewise we dismiss gods, leprechauns, gremlins and other supernatural beings because of a lack of evidence for the supernatural. If the supernatural doesn't exist, then its imagined inhabitants don't exist. This is not flawed thinking, anymore than saying someone is either dead or alive. There are only two options. Flawed thinking arises when you pretend there are only two options when others exist, such as, if a freezer contain icecream, then it must be either vanilla or chocolate.
It is also revealing when Mario states: 'I just choose not to [believe in aliens] and move on with my life and leave the alien believers to believe what they may. Atheists on the other hand...' So Mario is perfectly content to let 'alien believers... believe what they may', but as regards atheists, he feels that he has to challenge our views. Why the difference in attitude? Why are atheists in his view not allowed to believe what we may? Is our website a threat to his god whereas alien believers' websites aren't?
Still on the 'possible' theme, Mario claims that 'any mature intelligent person would at least acknowledge that something might be possible even if we do not see physical proof of it'. We disagree. You would be a fool to say that something might be possible, without first knowing what that 'something' is. For example, a married bachelor is impossible, an ape the size of King Kong is impossible, stars falling to the earth are impossible, talking snakes are impossible, omnipotent, omniscient gods are impossible. If something has no evidence supporting it then you are silly to support it, even if it's theoretically possible. If you are believing in a god without evidence then you are being foolish. But we suspect Mario would say that he does have evidence, perhaps supernatural evidence, since he agrees that there is no natural evidence supporting gods. We say that evidence is evidence, if science and reason doesn't support your evidence then it's not evidence at all. It's just faith or hope or desire or delusion.
He also asks, 'But certainly it is possible that a God could be real and not gremlins or leprechauns, right?' Yes of course, but where does that get us? Equally one could say, 'But certainly it is possible that gremlins or leprechauns could be real and not a God, right?' Thinking up weird and wonderful things that could be possible is a fun but worthless exercise if you just leave it there. Scientists theorise over what might be possible but then they go on to try and discover which if any of those things might actually be real and which just exists in their imagination. Mario seems to be content just talking about what might be possible and not willing to look at what might be real.
Mario then states that 'Atheists on the other hand seem to go out of their way to disprove religion'. How is this different to us observing that religious believers seem to go out of their way to prove their religion? The world is swamped with churches, mosques, temples, religious schools, theological colleges, bible classes, religious festivals and holy days, apologetic websites, religious bookshops etc that are all going out of their way to prove their religion is true. Have you ever been accosted by a religious evangelist on a street corner or even on your own doorstep? Religions make enormous efforts to impress on us that their worldview is true. Even Mario has gone out of his way to discredit science and prove creationism by writing to us. We suggest that most atheists are indifferent to religion, uninterested in religion, and unable to disprove religion. They simply don't care about gods, Mario's or anyone else's, anymore than they care about leprechauns. A few atheists like us are interested in why it makes good sense to be atheists and are keen to tell others, but we are in the minority. Most atheists know little about religion, just as most Christians, Muslims or Hindus know little about atheism or the gods of the ancient Egyptians. All they know is that it's bullshit and they want nothing to do with it. Most atheists don't meet weekly to reinforce their lack of belief. Most atheists don't troll the internet seeking religious websites to challenge. Most atheists don't wear items to identify themselves to others, such as crosses, skullcaps or burkas. Has an atheist ever knocked on your door in the weekend pushing pamphlets on atheism? How many atheist groups/meeting places exist near where you live compared to churches etc? While you no doubt know people who are paid to push religion, eg priests, ministers, rabbis etc, how many do you know who are paid to push atheism? There will be schools near you that are religious, but how many are there that are atheistic? And we mean atheistic, not secular. There is a big difference. Again Mario's view seems to be one of annoyance that (a very small minority of) atheists are willing to present their views as confidently as the religious. Has he emailed the Pope and all his local priests, imams, rabbis etc to complain about this similar arrogance: 'Believers in gods seem to go out of their way to prove religion'. If atheists shouldn't attempt to demonstrate the validity of their view, then believers in gods shouldn't do so either. Or is it only atheists that must keep quiet and stay hidden?
Mario admits that 'there have been many different beliefs over the years which have been discarded and/or reinvented. But could that not just be a result of better understanding of that belief?' Yes we agree that those many different beliefs were discarded because of a better understanding, and that better understanding comes from science and reason, not religion and faith. For the same reason that no one today believes in Zeus or Ra as real gods, in the future few people will believe in Jehovah or Allah as real gods. Gods will go the way of leprechauns and fairies, believed in only by a deluded few.
Mario states that 'Just because there are different religions throughout the world, does not mean that one of them has to be right or they are all wrong (there's that either/or thing again)'. We agree, there is nothing that says one has to be right. In fact we believe they are all wrong. But what we think Mario means is that religions don't say that if one is right then the rest must be wrong. In fact many do say just that. Christianity quite clearly says there is only one god (or two if you count Jesus, three if you count the holy ghost, four if you count Satan etc), but in most of their literature they keep it simple, just one god. If Jehovah created the universe then there is no way that a Hindu god or a Maya god could have also have created it. It is actually either/or. Either a specific god did it or he didn't. If he did, then no other god did. It's simple logic. If there is only one universe then there can be only one creator god. Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Aztec can't all be right. One god did it, the rest didn't.
This notion that there are similarities among religions is just an admission that all religions were invented by humans with similar characteristics, desires and questions. To name just some modern main players, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs, they exist solely due to their differences in belief, not their similarity. Not one true adherent would ever think of changing religion if they moved to a new town where their religion wasn't represented. But why wouldn't they if they're all really worshiping the same god? Because they're not. It's funny how believers link hands with other faiths when religion in general is threatened, but soon retreat to their corners with weapons drawn when it is suggested they all serve they same god and should combine. True believers certainly don't think they will find their god in a strange temple. Many people even claim that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in the same god. They don't. This combined face of unity that Christians, Jews, Muslims etc occasionally show is just a defensive display, like a threatened puffer fish, a deceptive facade that is all smoke and mirrors. Once the atheist is scared off, they soon divide and skulk back to respective dens to cleanse themselves.
Near the end Mario notes that 'Arguing against the possibility of a God is futile. The nature and definition of a God prohibits it from being a tangible entity that can be proven with science. Creating a website to do so is indeed a Silly Belief!' We agree, it is futile, but again Mario continues to fixate on possibility. We don't argue against the possibility of gods, we argue against the likelihood of gods, which involves evidence and reason. Unfortunately Mario won't define the god he is really interested in, so the debate is futile in that sense. If debating the existence of gods is futile, then presumably devoting your life to this futile and flawed endeavour is silly, so creating a website to point this out is not a waste of our time. And of course if we change a few words in Mario's argument we get the following argument:
Arguing for the possibility of a God is futile. The nature and definition of a God prohibits it from being a tangible entity that can be proven or even understood. Creating a religion to do so is indeed a silly belief.
However he concludes with his 'best proof' (really, that's his best proof?), that old worn out and bogus argument for belief in gods: 'the best proof that there is some sort of God out there is simply the number of people that share this belief. Over 5 Billion people claim to be part of a religion. Now, either there is something to that, or we are living in a world full of idiots'.
As Anatole France said: "If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing". But let's give an example from Mario's very own argument that highlights just how silly this argument really is. Recall that Mario said that 'For thousands of years it was believed that blood-letting was necessary to rid the body of bad humors or ailments. Now we have a better understanding of things and do not practice that belief any longer'.
Let's look at how people like Mario could have, a few centuries ago, used his argument to 'prove' the validity of bloodletting: "the best proof that bloodletting works is simply the number of people that share this belief. Millions of people claim to use this treatment. Now, either there is something to that, or we are living in a world full of idiots".
So Mario's 'best proof' will 'prove' any old bogus claim you wish to make. And yes Mario, it was science and not religion that demonstrated that bloodletting was a bad idea. As Wikipedia states: 'In the overwhelming majority of cases, the historical use of bloodletting was harmful to patients'.
But there is another problem with this argument, in that it is phrased to suggest that all 5 billion people share essentially the same belief in the same gods and the same religion, which of course is false. It's like 200 hundred people chosen at random receiving an invite to a party that states 'favourite food will be served and favourite music played'. You would be naive to go along thinking that it will be your favourite food and music at the party. It might be, but it's very unlikely. The obvious question then is whose favourite food and music? Your favourites are obviously not going to match 200 other partygoers. To say that these partygoers will be united and all believe in the same favourite food and music is ridiculous. People may be expecting their favourite food and music and supporting each other, whereas in reality they are mostly in disagreement with each other. It's the same with gods, when they start talking with others they soon realise that the majority of the world's population are blasphemous pagans. Christians, Muslims and Hindus all have gods but to try and pretend to atheists that they are all the same religion and the same gods and they're just one happy family under different names is fooling no one. The fact is, no matter what god you believe in, the majority of the planet says you are deluded, and if you think they actually support you just because they believe in gods too, then that's just another delusion.
If the mere fact that religious believers outnumber atheists proves that gods exist, as Mario claims, then we can use the same logic to decide which god is real. At present there are more Christians than any other faith, so obviously Jehovah is the one real god since the majority of believers believe in him. However, Muslims are predicted to soon overtake the number of Christians, so logically when that happens Allah will become the one real god and Christianity a false belief. The numbers of believers it seems will cause one god to vanish and another to become real. Such is the reasoning of religious believers. And they wonder why we scoff at their beliefs.
PS No Mario, we don't have any articles where we are skeptical of dark matter or dark energy, since we aren't. There is evidence that these things exist, in the natural universe, although the details are very sketchy. Of course if we were told our destiny or salvation depended on our firm conviction that these things existed, then we would be skeptical.
Comment by Graeme, 16 Feb, 2011
Beautifully put, Silly Beliefs team.
Mario, I hope you do take time to read the lengthy reply to your post, and understand the arguments and reasoning therein. I get the impression you are interested in rigorous debate... so please engage.
All the best.
Comment by Bob, 16 Feb, 2011
I was interested with your debate with Mario. To get my facts exactly right I started off by looking at an exact definition of creationism. It is defined as a belief that the biblical account in genesis is absolute truth. In referring to evolution Mario says it is inadequate to explain the origin of life. Of course it isn't meant to. It takes life at a certain point and explains how it went from there to produce the creatures we know today. The problem of starting at the beginning is that the earth's surface was in constant turmoil with moving rocks crushing each other and destroying early evidence of life. Evolutionary theory was beyond Darwin. He worked out life forms must have kept altering through a natural process but didn't know how.
The fossil record was a start. A pattern of change could be seen in lines of extinct creatures. When the science of radio active dating became available that made it much easier to place fossils historically. Then the science of DNA testing made the relationships between different creatures more obvious. As fossils were found (there are now millions in museums around the world) individual fossils would appear older than any already known thus pushing life further and further back. Recently the oldest fossils found were stromalotites on the shore in Western Australia. They are dated back 3.5 billion years. Since then rocks dated 4.2 billion years containing organic molecules have been found. Life is made up of organic molecules. Organic molecules have been detected in space. That leads to a reasonable conclusion that life can appear anywhere in the universe where the conditions are right.
Mario suggests God made animals which evolved into the animals we know now. No, Mario, that can't be true. If it were then fossils would date only so far back and come to a full stop when we reached God's creations. The earliest fossils or remains of life scientists have are not animals as we know them but primitive life forms without bones. You can say scientists don't know how life started but the evidence so far gives a fair indication.
Scientific evidence keeps expanding leading to an evermore accurate picture of the early earth. Religion is fossilised with static beliefs.
I am an atheist but I can't say for sure there is no God. On the other hand I can't see any evidence that there is one. I would say 90% there isn't one and 10% there is possibly one. I say that only because of the difficulty of proving a negative. To put it in perspective I can't prove alien beings are not among us but strongly doubt it. I would like you or any Christian to prove a God exists. I would like to see strong irrefutable evidence. Most of the evidence quoted doesn't stand close scrutiny. Christians sometimes try to argue their case logically but usually end up quoting "beliefs" and "faith" and "hope".
I support atheists attacking religion because it is dangerous precisely because it is backward looking while science is forward looking. The Catholic Church wants to stop people in AIDS afflicted areas from using condoms. It wants to stop experiments on early embryos in spite of the promise of great new medical treatments. In America it is just about impossible to get into politics if you don't profess to being a Christian. In the past far sighted highly intelligent people like Galileo were stopped from expressing advanced scientific views because they conflicted with "beliefs". Historically fundamentalists have opposed medical advances such as heart transplants and recently face transplants as altering God's creations.
Mario, don't worry about getting upset with atheists. Examine your religious beliefs very carefully then study science.
Comment by James, 28 Feb, 2011
It must be nice to live in your total scientific world — no philosophy just science. Problem is that in this world nothing really matters — we are all just accidental arrangements of matter in a world that has come about through accident or chance. And what about a meaning to life — well there isn't one. There are no moral absolutes in fact everything including morality is relative so why care if someone gets ripped off or killed — we are just random chance happenings floating around on a small ball in a vast universe that science believes came from nothing — go figure — sounds fanciful to me.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Mar, 2011
James, it is you that is living in a fantasy world, naively inventing a life for us that is pathetic, worthless and amoral, the life that you feel you would be forced to live if you gave up your belief in imaginary beings. Why do you believe we have 'no philosophy just science'? Of course we have a philosophy, everyone does, just not one involving vengeful gods and demons. (See our page 'PHILOSOPHY: Recommended Books, TV & Movies'). How can you arrogantly say that to us 'nothing really matters', or that there is no 'meaning to life'? A great deal matters to us, including our family and friends and the wellbeing of the world and its citizens. And arguably we place much more meaning on life than do fantasy believers since we know that this life is the only one we get, whereas believers in a next life in paradise are merely counting time until they get admitted to their condo in the sky. We don't see this life as a dress rehearsal and make the most of every day, rather than spending it on our knees in front of a priest. As for your depraved moral code — you don't kill simply because your god tells you not to — this is quite frightening. You're admitting that if you suddenly lost your belief in your god then you would start killing people, because there's no one to stop you anymore. It's really quite insulting that you accuse us of a life that involves ripping off and even killing people, or at the very least not caring when this happens to other people. Do you seriously believe that it is atheists committing all the crimes in the world, and that our prisons are full of atheists? I think you'll find they're full of Christians, in NZ anyway, in the Middle East it will be Muslims. We behave ethically because we want to, not through fear of god's punishment.
As for your final comment, that 'a vast universe... came from nothing — go figure — sounds fanciful to me', you seem to forget that for most of our history Christians have insisted that the universe arose 'ex nihilo' — out of nothing. Which is more fanciful, that a hot ball of plasma arose from a quantum fluctuation, or that a god intelligent and powerful enough to design and build that ball of plasma popped into existence from nothing?
So yes, it is nice to live in a scientific world, where we can tell the difference between reality and fantasy, and do good because we want to, and to have no fear of a god waiting to torture us for all eternity.
Comment by Chris, 01 Mar, 2011
James's little diatribe reminds me of an ex-colleague of mine, a lapsed Catholic, and quite a cultured educated man, who just could not comprehend how anybody could behave in a moral fashion without Big Brother looking over their shoulder all the time. He just could not imagine why anybody would do the 'right thing' if they weren't forced to under threat. I thought I was a cynical person but that viewpoint really disturbed me. I should have pointed him at 'The Selfish Gene' (one of the most consistently misinterpreted phrases since Darwin coined 'survival of the fittest', by the way) for an explanation of altruism.
On a lighter note, when he first learned I was an atheist, he immediately assumed I spent the summer solstice dancing round a maypole with naked virgins. He couldn't seem to tell the difference between atheists and pagans. I think maybe he was just winding me up. He was dead serious about the morals thing, though.
Comment by James, 02 Mar, 2011
A quantum fluctuation in what?
What was the cause of this quantum fluctuation?
What was present prior to this event?
I find your total rant about my belief in God rather interesting, straight off you jump to the conclusion that I have such a belief — where did that come from?
I have no idea what you are on about regarding having fear of a god waiting to torture us for all eternity.
You jump to as many conclusions as you seem to want to berate me for doing — after all it seems that you imply that all atheists behave ethically, I guess you can choose to behave in opposite fashion also because you want to.
What is behaving ethically?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Mar, 2011
James, to very briefly answer your first questions: 'A quantum fluctuation in what?' A quantum vacuum. 'What was the cause of this quantum fluctuation?' In quantum mechanics things can happen without a cause. 'What was present prior to this event?' Unknown at this time. Of course you'll say that these answers just bring up more questions. What's a quantum vacuum, how can things happen without a cause etc. Of course we could ask near identical questions of you: A god arose from what? What was the cause of this god? What was present prior to this god event? Our point is that science is prepared to leave some questions unanswered rather than pretending they've solved the problem by wedging a god in the cracks. Saying that a god created the universe presents us with just as much a mystery as saying we don't know. Actually it's far worse. We no longer need to explain the existence of the universe — god did it —but we now have to explain the existence of a vastly more complicated god.
But of course that implies that you believe in a god creating the universe, and you now tell us that you are annoyed that we have assumed that you have such a belief. We apologise, but when someone is critical of our criticism concerning gods creating the universe, we assumed it was because you had a view different to ours. After all you said that 'It must be nice to live in your total scientific world - no philosophy just science', from which we inferred that if you don't live in our naturalistic world then you must live in one that includes the supernatural. You also talk about a world that isn't accidental, ie brought about by deliberate intent, by a god. You talk about a world where a 'meaning of life' has be given to you, again implying a god. You mention 'moral absolutes', and we only know this to exist in a religious context. Again we apologise, but we obviously misread your comments, and that's where our mention of god came from.
As for the fear of a god waiting to torture us for all eternity, that is a fear that Christians have (sorry, not you, our mistake). You see they believe in this place called Hell, run by a god called Satan and overseen by the head god called Jehovah and his son Jesus. Jehovah and Satan are a particularly sadistic pair. Get a hold of their book called the bible and read about the horrors they visited on an innocent guy called Job just to settle a bet. Jehovah even had his own son tortured and killed. Muslims also have a similar belief in possible punishment after death, and Hindus and Buddhists also have a belief system where things can get far worse when you die. We are surprised that you didn't know about this fear that religious people have, but anyway, we meant that being atheists has the advantage that we don't fear the bogeyman.
We didn't mean to imply that 'all atheists behave ethically', merely that we have the choice and that my atheist friends and I try to behave ethically. Of course we can behave in the opposite fashion, but what we're saying is that since we don't have moral absolutes foisted on us by some god, we get to decide how we will behave towards others. If we are good, we are good because we want to be, not because of orders. You ask 'What is behaving ethically?' We talk about ethics rather than morals since people with strong morals can be both good and evil. Ethics is the study of morals and discovering the principles of right conduct. Morals can simply be what some god tells you to do. For centuries good moral Christians burnt witches and tortured non-believers. Good moral Christians kept slaves and good moral Muslims became suicide bombers. We have today upright moral citizens persecuting homosexuals and those that have premarital sex. The Bible says that to obey the moral absolutes of their god its believers should kill homosexuals, mediums, atheists and children that talk back to their parents. Religious believers don't have the choice of deciding whether these morals are actually the right way to behave towards others, they are moral absolutes, they must be obeyed regardless. Paradoxically many believers are now picking and choosing which moral absolutes they will obey and which they won't. This suggests that they don't believe that they are really moral absolutes after all. The ones they like still are, the ones they don't it seems were merely suggestions. These people are on the path to adopting ethics rather than moral absolutes. They examine their morals and decide which are good and which to reject. They decide, not their god. Their slaves are set free.
But to make things clear James, since this post was on gods creating the universe, you know where we stand, perhaps you could tell us how you think it all came about?
The return of the psychics
Yesterday Bob sent us the following email that confirmed a nagging fear of ours:
In today's Herald on Sunday [23 Jan, 2011] there is an article to the effect that fans want Sensing Murder brought back. A petition drew huge support in just a few days. Sue Nicholson, one of the psychics, said there was interest from the other side. One victim (dead) spoke to her about being involved. Some idiot by the name of Craig Tristram organised the petition. He defended the psychics for not taking the $100,000 challenge. He also claimed more convictions would result if police stopped feeling silly about accepting psychic's evidence.
What is it with our world? Everything is going along swimmingly and then suddenly we get floods or earthquakes or threats of disease or, as in this case, an outbreak of psychics and their moronic supporters. Like fleas, bedbugs and vampires, you just can't get rid of the buggers. A couple of weeks ago we saw an advert for the return of bogus medium Jeanette Wilson. Two sessions, one where she will pass 'spirit messages' that 'give comfort, closure and inspiration', for $40 a ticket, and with little chance that you will be chosen to receive a message. And a second session where 'spirit surgeons' will heal members of the audience. Also $40 a ticket, and again with little chance that you will be chosen to be healed (and no chance that you will be healed even if chosen). When we saw this advert we wondered what had caused her to come out of the woodwork, when we have been relatively psychic free for some time now. Was it a simple lack of funds that has motivated her to take her begging bowl on the road again? Has her business sense advised her that the time is right, that moronic believers in psychics, mediums, souls and spooky bumps in the night are bereft of local stories to fuel their fantasies? The Herald on Sunday article suggests that our fear that psychics are attempting to make a comeback has substance. But why?
I was reminded by the article that the show was commercially successful drawing 200,000 viewers, twice winning the Qantas Media Awards. That's great for the organisers and those who pocket the profits. I despair at the thought of how gullible many people are.
We can understand why psychic mediums like Wilson and those from Sensing Murder want to raise their profile, perform shows, sell their books and make new TV shows, because that's their business, it's how they make money. For their scams to work they need a gullible public willing to hand over money. But why would the supporters of Sensing Murder want that silly, worthless TV show to be brought back? For all their many episodes investigating unsolved murders, not one single case was ever solved. Not one. Sensing Murder must be the most pathetic investigative show in TV history. And yet it should be the most successful, if it wasn't all a lie. The police struggle to solve murders because they are dealing with corpses, who in real life tell no tales, and sometimes with no body at all. They often have no murder weapon, no witnesses and no motive. They must use reason and crime scene evidence to piece together what happened, true detective work. And yet the psychic mediums don't need to be detectives, or even very bright at all. They don't need to work out what happened, they are simply told what happened by the best witness of all, the murder victim themselves. The location of the body isn't a mystery, the motive isn't a mystery, the murder weapon and its location isn't a mystery, the names of the people who helped conceal the crime isn't a mystery. The crime is an open book to psychic mediums, every detail no matter how minor is within their grasp, they only need ask.
And yet, for some strange reason, not one murder has been solved, not one body has been located, not one murder weapon has been found, not one motive has been substantiated, not one guilty accomplice has been identified and prosecuted. Not one positive line of inquiry has been identified that has advanced the investigations.
Why would Sensing Murder fans petition to get this worthless piece of crap back into production? Are they really that stupid, lacking in even the most basic of reasoning skills, people that would consistently and convincingly lose an argument with their own reflection in a mirror? It seems that they are.
The petition organiser Craig Tristram defended the psychics for not taking the $100,000 challenge, for being unwilling to have their abilities tested. We're not sure why supporters should defend this stance, but of course it makes perfect sense for the psychics themselves. Only an idiot would submit to testing and have their scam exposed. And the psychics themselves are often not as stupid as their supporters, after all there is no doubt that it takes skill to con people, to convince them that you're really talking to imaginary beings, and they're talking back. We've already argued here why it makes no sense not be tested, and earn a fortune in the process, unless you have something to hide.
Evidently Tristram 'also claimed more convictions would result if police stopped feeling silly about accepting psychic's evidence'. Bullshit. Saying the police should listen to psychics is like saying doctors should listen to witches. The fact is that you don't need the police to solve a murder, you only need them to prosecute the parties that are identified as being suspect. As has been pointed out numerous times, psychics could easily force the hand of police by consistently and reliably showing them where bodies, murder weapons and crucial evidence is hidden. Police will giggle if you say your dead aunt thinks the body might be near water, but they won't giggle if you actually produce a real body. And yet this is something that worldwide, psychics have never done. Of course sensible police officers feel silly listening to psychics, because they have never uttered anything but nonsense and outright lies. The police can't, as Tristam wishes they would, convict people based on the delusional fantasies offered by psychics. This would be akin to returning to the medieval witch trials, where thousands of innocent people were imprisoned, tortured and executed based solely on the demented beliefs of ignorant idiots.
That there is a handful of deluded psychic mediums out there who think they hear voices, and who want us to pay them to learn what they're saying, is bad enough, but that there are many, many more deluded supporters of these scammers is even worse. It just goes to show that for all the advances in knowledge in recent centuries, some people aren't having a bar of it. Better the ignorance they know. And a world where dear old Granddad and his mates from the war are watching us have sex.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jan, 2011 ~
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Silly New Year Resolutions
Once again we have had to endure that inane question from people around New Year, and that is, what New Year resolutions have you made? The most annoying was actually a few years ago that was only delivered so she could follow it with the insult: 'Oh I forgot, you're an atheist!' What this devout Christian thought New Year resolutions or even New Year itself had to do with God just demonstrates their ignorance. But I digress. What New Year resolutions might I have made?
None. Surely if something is important enough to warrant a life changing decision, then why would you wait until New Year to make the change?
If back in April or July you realised that you really needed to lose weight or give up smoking for health reasons, or to start budgeting because of your financial situation, or that you should stop beating your children, why would you postpone acting on this decision until New Year, many months later?
If you really wanted to do something, saw the need for it and were committed to it, then you would do it immediately, not wait for perhaps months before putting your plan into action.
New Year resolutions, more often than not announced when one has had a few drinks, are often only first thought of when someone asks what resolutions you're going to make. Most people just blurt old the old favourites that immediately pop into one's head — diet, exercise, travel, save more, spend less, reduce dependence on tobacco, alcohol, drugs and TV soap operas.
It is amazing that many people take these proclamations seriously, almost feeling guilty if they haven't got two or three resolutions sorted out when asked. Are they fearful that others will take their lack of resolutions as them arrogantly implying that they're perfect, that there are no changes they need to make? They're almost forced to find fault with their lives, to express dissatisfaction with the way things are, to think of things they hate about their bodies and lifestyle and to resolve to make changes. Perhaps we should answer the resolutions question with a question: Which of my faults do you think I should try and change this year?
Of course not all resolutions are designed to rectify flaws, such as a determination to travel or learn a new skill. But like diets and health changes, if they are just something that pops into your head at New Year, and you haven't already been slowly working towards these goals throughout the year, then it has to be said that there is very little enthusiasm and commitment on your part, and they are likely doomed to failure.
While there is no doubt that there are changes that we could all make that would enhance our lives and the lives of those around us, perhaps the intelligent move is to slowly implement these changes year round, slowing adopting a new lifestyle so that we can remain committed, rather than making massive changes around diet, exercise, finances, education, health, relationships etc in January that soon overwhelm even those with the best of intentions.
It's a similar case with Xmas gifts. When my parents ask me what I want for Xmas I always reply: nothing that you can afford. It's different for kids who have no discretionary income, but most adults don't sit around waiting for Xmas. If I really wanted something and could afford it, I would have already bought it ages ago. The things I want but can't afford, like a Lamborghini sports car, greatly surpass the accepted Xmas present threshold. If a new book or movie or Versace handbag comes on the market in June and these items are important to people, then they're not going to wait until Xmas to (maybe) get one as a gift. Like New Year resolutions, people who are serious about their desires will act on them when they strike, not wait for months. Xmas gifts and New Year resolutions have little importance in the scheme of things, and people put little effort into ensuring the success of something that is more fantasy than resolution.
Our suggestion for a New Year resolution? Don't make spur-of-the moment New Year resolutions that often fade long before the hangover and fake tan.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Jan, 2011 ~
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UFOs precede release of UFO files
This week we were told of the government release of old secret UFO files, and as if to acknowledge that nothing has changed, shown video of 'Ten UFOs travelling in convoy above the streets of Christchurch', the previous week. Before we consider the latest sighting, let's look at the old UFO files.
The NZ Defence Force has released over 2000 pages of previously secret eyewitness accounts of UFO sightings from the 1950s onward. However Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki of the Defence Force noted that 'We've just been a collection point for the information. We don't investigate or make reports, we haven't substantiated anything in them'. Without the resources to investigate these UFO sightings, it appears that their collection has been a complete waste of time and money. They are charging $150 for a copy of the files, so it looks as thought they are now trying to recoup some of their costs.
Prior to their release, the Defence Force went through the files removing all personal identification to comply with the Privacy Act. This also means that any legitimate researcher that wishes to investigate the sightings can't, if the Defence Force have done their job properly, contact the people who made the reports to gather further details that might have been innocently omitted at the time the report was made. Many if not most of the reports will no doubt be able to be dismissed as nonsense and misidentification, resulting from the public's ignorance of the night sky, and those that contain too little information to reach a conclusion will have to remain as curiosities. As we've already noted when the British released their UFO files, if the government has a secret about aliens that it wants to remain secret, it is not going to reveal it to anyone that asks for a mere $150.
Of course devout believers in alien visitation like Suzanne Hansen, the director of UFOCUS NZ, will pore over the files deep into the night, convinced that hidden in their pages will be the incontrovertible evidence that aliens are regularly visiting Earth. Aliens that are abducting us for sex and medical experiments, mutilating cattle, frightening simple rural folk, and/or trying to get us to stop our warlike ways and join a galactic alliance. Ufologists like Hansen have merely replaced an unfounded belief in powerful gods and demons with a belief in powerful aliens, some good, some bad. Furthermore they falsely claim that science supports their views, that scientists agree that alien life is possible, unlike gods. However ufologists, like the media and the public in general, fail to grasp that the notion of intelligent aliens visiting Earth and the possibility of alien life elsewhere in the universe is two different matters. It's a little like asking, do you believe that 1) President Barack Obama and his wife exist as real people in the USA, and 2) President Barack Obama and his wife are going with me to McDonalds for Xmas dinner? Any rational person would agree that the Obamas do exist, but would be reluctant to believe that they are visiting me at Xmas. Ufologists can't make this type of distinction. If aliens probably exist, then they are visiting us as well.
UFOCUS NZ misleadingly call themselves a research group, whereas they are more like a support group, like the Catholic Church or a Justin Bieber Fan Club, where the afflicted go to be among like-minded souls and where they can recount their fantasies without fear of giggles.
The latest UFO sighting was revealed on TV3 News last night, no doubt prompted by the news of the release of the UFO files. A reporter interviewed Jeannine Mander regarding the 'Ten UFOs travelling in convoy above the streets of Christchurch' that she, her family and neighbours saw last Wednesday. We were also shown a very brief video taken by Mander. We were left in no doubt that Mander believes that the UFOs she saw were alien spacecraft, and not merely lights or objects in the sky that she couldn't identify. She stated that 'I believe there's something out there, there has to be, we're here, so there's something out there. We can't be the only living form'.
This is nonsense. We — if by we she means humans — are not the only living form, we share the planet with millions of other life forms, and many, many more have gone extinct. If by we she means an intelligent species capable of building a civilisation, then you could equally claim that we can't be the only species on the planet that builds civilisations. Well, we are, so get used to it. As regards Earth, we are alone. We are unique on Earth, although there is no good reason why this had to be, and likewise we could be unique in the galaxy and the universe. Wishful thinking that there are intelligent aliens with a burning desire to visit Earth does not mean that there are. And even if there are aliens on distant planets, judging by our own planet, 99.9999% of life won't be bright enough to design a toothpick, let alone an interstellar spacecraft with in-flight entertainment.
But back to the convoy of ten UFOs over Christchurch. Imagine that you've travelled unimaginable distances to reach Earth and you dispatch ten scout craft to secretly observe the planet and its inhabitants. But instead of sending them to different parts of the world, to the USA, to Europe, to Africa, to South America, to Asia, to the Pacific, to the Antarctic, you send them all to NZ, and not all over NZ but just to Christchurch for some reason. You instruct all ten craft to fly one after another over a certain suburb of Christchurch, all following the same path, observing the same thing. And to leave all the cabin lights on so people can see you if they look up. Mission accomplished, you then leave. Are these aliens stupid or what?
But were we shown a video of this convoy of ten alien craft? No, we only ever see one bright light. We see nothing of the other nine. Weren't they worthy of a video? If only one light was observed at any one time crossing the sky, how do we know that the same object didn't just zip out of sight and loop back for another run across the sky, ten times? If there is video of the other lights, and they all look the same, might they not all be the same object rather than ten different objects?
The video footage showed one light, sometimes completely orange, sometimes orange in outline and white in the centre, flitting backwards and forward, up and down. It also doubled in size and then reduced and changed from circular to oblong to streak like. It appeared that the erratic movement was due solely to Mander being unable to hold the camera steady while filming at increased magnification. The camera's attempts at autofocus would explain the light increasing and decreasing in size. The sky was black and there were no natural objects visible apart from the bright light, so there was no obvious indication that this light was moving at all. All the apparent movement was down to Mander unintentionally shaking the camera. We weren't told what magnification the camera was set to so we have no idea how large the light might have been. Describing the objects, Mander said 'Big bright orange lights, with flicker in them'. Was she describing the magnified image in the video footage or what she saw with her naked eye? Stars flicker, appear larger and jump about under magnification. Was there anything notable in the sky on Wednesday, 15th Dec at 10pm? Mander indicated that she first saw the light 'Over into the east and followed it through, right over, and there was bit of cloud over there, but not a lot, but it didn't come out the other side. And it was like a convoy of them. And it was amazing'. Judging by where she was pointing the light moved from the east to the south, not that far above the horizon. Right where Mander pointed in the east at around 10pm we find Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Moving through to the south-east and up a little we find Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky. Continuing through to the south and back down again we find Alpha Centauri, another bright star. Could it be that Mander confused, as often happens, three stars with one object? Many people describe lights moving behind a cloud when in fact the light is a star and isn't moving at all, but the cloud is. The cloud then moves to reveal a different star and people think that it is the original light that has moved behind the cloud like a plane would. When that star is again obscured by black clouds they look around for it and often mistakenly latch onto yet another star, believing that their original light has moved position yet again. We are not told how long the light took to make its journey across the sky — seconds, minutes or longer — or how much time or distance separated the lights. It probably doesn't need to be stated but we will anyway. At no time did the light reveal itself to be a craft of any description, familiar or otherwise. It remained a fuzzy blob.
An obvious thing to try would be to video a known star such as Sirius and see if the footage resembles the UFO footage. But perhaps it really was a nearby physical object such as a helicopter. Does Mander or her family know what a helicopter flying at night looks like? Did they contact authorities to check flight plans or emergency flights etc? Might it have been helicopters firefighting, retracing the same path to fill up with water? What about rescue helicopters? What about someone test flying a model plane or helicopter or someone deliberately hoaxing a UFO sighting? What about Santa trying out some new sleigh modifications? Why do many people when the see an unfamiliar light in the sky late at night immediately think it must be aliens? When someone knocks on my door late at night, I don't think aliens and reach for a shotgun.
Also you have to wonder why has no one else reported this sighting of not one but ten UFOs? It was in Christchurch at 10pm after all, not some remote rural setting at 3am as usually preferred by alien flybys.
We've mentioned this before, about bright lights in the sky being attributed to secretive aliens, but it's worth repeating. Why do these people believe that alien spacecraft must glow and flicker like some well-endowed Xmas tree? Amazingly advanced aliens have the technology to cross hundreds or thousands of light years of deep space in little time, somehow circumventing relativity theory, and yet haven't figured out that leaving all their lights on is not the best way to fly about unnoticed in the night sky! They've evidently also developed technology that hides them from radar, most of the time anyway, but still haven't solved the bright light problem. Ufologists are like religious nutters. The beings they believe in are both super intelligent and super stupid at the same time. God can design and create the universe and life, but can't stop his priests from repeatedly raping little boys. The most he can do today is make a statue appear to weep. Aliens can traverse time and space, beam hillbillies from their beds and manipulate our DNA, yet can't find the light switch for their cabin lights. There is no doubt in our mind that belief in alien visitation and abductions is due in the most part by ignorance of how the universe works and the desire to have powerful, benign beings looking over us. It is just a modern variation of religion for people that can't bring themselves to believe in ancient gods and demons, heaven and hell. So instead they invent powerful aliens, both good and evil, their belief supported they believe by the respectability of science. As we have argued in an extended article on UFO sightings, science does not support alien visitation and the images of aliens and alien spacecraft are provided by the entertainment media, not science.
Unperturbed by reason and facts, the TV3 reporter finished her report on a supportive note: 'But Jeannine Mander believes UFOs do exist, and has the video to prove it'. Again they both fail to grasp that the existence of UFOs is not in contention. Mander's sighting certainly proves once again that UFOs exist, but it says nothing whatsoever about the existence of aliens. The sighting gives equal weight to Santa and his sleigh as it does to visiting aliens. And contrary to aliens, we know Santa actually exists. I saw him last week, up close and personal, and I have thousands of witnesses. I'm getting socks evidently.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Dec, 2010 ~
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Comment by Phill, 06 Jan, 2011
I have to admit it, when I was a teenager (in the 1970's) I believed! Yep there were alien spacecraft and they were orbiting the planet and conducting landings and everything. I read the books and use to get the mail order catalogue from a small bookshop in Wellington that specialised in science fiction, UFO's and the paranormal. I also regulalary read Fate & Fortune magazine which also covered all of this stuff until its sad demise at issue fourteen.
Of course age does funny things to you, education also has an impact and finally commonsense starts to creep into your thinking. Over time a long term interest in science and the discovery of the American skeptics (Martin Gardener - who only died a few months back) started to have an impact. As I got older it became harder to maintain a belief in flying saucers when one there is only eye witness accounts and no physical evidence, and the very best photographs are either blurry, or look like someone dangling something from a pole out of sight of the camera, or hot air balloons, or look like a light dancing around on screen. When I first saw the footage of the Kaikoura UFO (remember that one from the mid seventies) it reminded me of what a star looks like when you a viewing it through a hand held telescope (even if it was only a toy one with plastic lenses). What I found was that when I started treating the "evidence" more objectively I began to see what bullsh*t it was.
What I have found really interesting has been to compare what was then current UFO thinking back in the seventies with what is current now. Alien abduction for instance was very rare and the description of the aliens seen varied very dramatically from what are now called greys. Also you had the impression that serious UFO people did not want to really associate themselves with the fringe group that were abductees as though they were something untouchable.
My most interesting experience came with crop circles. Now back in the seventies there was absolutely no mention of crop circles in any of the current literature I was reading at the time. They just did not exist then. Yet when the phenomena occurred (let's be kind) you had all these wonderful explanations put forward, my favourite one was hedgehogs pounding down the wheat in some kind of mating ritual. You also got others suggesting that if was caused by some kind of vortex either from wind or some other mystical force. When I first heard about these theories my first reaction was, surely if it's wind or hedgehogs then you would have historical accounts of crop circles, so where are they? Of course there are none. Yet all the hype that was written about them at the time no one seemed to pay any attention to the fact that these things did not seem to have occurred in the past and were a recent phenomena. The believers jumped on the bandwagon and happily lapped up any nonsense, they spent time traipsing out to them taking photographs and doing all sorts of "research" but never once seem to have asked the basic questions like, why were they only appearing now. The answer a group of friends were going out on dark nights with a pole or two some string and having a merry time bending over wheat and creating these amazing and visually exciting bits of art and by all accounts having a bloody good laugh afterwards. My hat goes off to them and it's a pity they had to retire.
Over the years I have come to accept that there is in this world a type of person I call a True Believer (or TB for short.) We tend to recognise the religious TB's but you find them in other areas, for instance with UFO's could those lights in the sky being anything other than alien spacecraft, to the TB of course not and nothing is ever going to shake that confidence. The fact that the NZDF has released some old records is to the TB proof positive of a Government conspiracy to cover up the truth. What tends to surprise me about TB's is how hard working many of them are and how much research they do, and how little they understand of what they uncover. You will find them everywhere, delving into conspiracies, checking out astrology charts, consulting crystals, supporting the innocence of the wrongly convicted.
Occasionally they are forces for good, I have always thought of William Wilberforce, the man who fought against slavery in the British Empire as a TB. He was a man who knew slavery was wrong and no one could ever dissuade him otherwise. On the flip side you also have people like Himmler who never had any doubts about the concept of the master race and was determined to do all he could to protect it.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jan, 2011
All good points Phill, and you're right, there are True Believers out there on topics other than religion. We've met those who giggle at religious beliefs then seriously claim to have met aliens or say they use astrology to predict the weather. And yes it is astounding how little they often understand about their pet theories. They seem to prefer their fantasy world to reality, since I guess they can make up the rules to their fantasy world. I don't think I ever believed in visiting alien spacecraft, but for the record I did once believe in Santa and maybe even God. I'm a bit vague on that count. But like you I grew up, found education and my view of the universe changed for the better.
Comment by Chris, 13 Jan, 2011
As I recall it, in the sixties, UFOs were piloted by tall golden-haired people from Venus. Then the Russians crashed a probe on Venus and found the surface pressure was 1400psi, the temperature was hot enough to melt lead, and those fluffy white clouds were sulphuric acid, and the tall golden-haired Venusians stopped coming. Rather sad, really.
Talking of crop circles, a search on Google Images or a look at circlemakers.com shows some circles of staggering beauty and complexity. I
suppose, logically, the fact that some crop art (I call it that because much of it is not circular) is manifestly of human origin, doesn't prove that all
of it is. On the other hand, they're all far too regular and geometric to have been caused by energy fields or ionic vortices or what-have-you; so it's got to be either human or space aliens done it. (Just for the record, while it's impossible to prove logically that we aren't being visited by
aliens from some far more advanced civilisation, I think the probability is almost vanishingly small, though possibly slightly more probable than God).
Anyway, I'm pleased to have found your site - I found it quite by chance thanks to Ian Wishart (!) while Googling for reviews of his fantasy
novel 'Eve's Bite'.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Jan, 2011
You're right Chris, it does appear that our attempts at space exploration have alienated most alien tourists, and the popular visitors from past decades have stopped coming. And we like your term for crop circles — crop art. We think that is an apt description. We doubt aliens would travel immense distances just to draw a picture of a ten-speed bike or create an advert for a local beer.
Inventing Muslim science
Yesterday we received the following email from Richard bemoaning the willingness of many to falsify, exaggerate and distort facts and events from history, and he provides the example of a science museum exhibition that trumpets the contribution of Islam to modern society in regards to science and technology:
I am always astounded at how people are so ready to create their own reality, and try to convince others of it. So often I see parents who, if not just allow, actually encourage their children to "believe whatever they want", and if they "see the world differently", that's ok, that's their "world-view" and they are entitled to it — what hogwash!
We read the review of the "1001 Inventions" exhibition and agree with both Richard and the reviewer. We recommend you read the article, but in brief it claims that the exhibition:
I'm not talking about stifling innovation and lateral thinking, but there are just some (many, most?) things that are 'real' and 'fact', and no matter what "world view" you want to create, it does not change this reality.
There are still multitudes out there (as you have well documented on your website) who go beyond political posturing, and present biased lies and assumptions as historical and scientific fact. And what is worse is that "reputable institutions" buy into and promote these alternative realities as if they were fact, giving further "credibility" to junk science.
Anyway, none of this is news to you. Below is just another example of stifling of critical thought and blatant self promotion, through lies dressed up as facts, to promote further lies and a world view determined to prove that their Fairies are real and the other Fairies are false (and the false-fairy believers (including non-fairy believers) should suffer because of it).
I came across this good review of an exhibition "1001 Inventions", [at the] New York Hall of Science in Queens, on the NY Times website (I was looking out of interest at a site "Arts and Letters Daily" created by Professor Denis Dutton, who was recently awarded Canterbury Universities highest honor for research contribution (Philosophy)).
'is less a typical science exhibition than a typical "identity" exhibition... whose goal is "to popularize, spread and promote an accurate account of Muslim Heritage and its contribution." The show also tries to "instill confidence" and provide positive "role models" for young Muslims... The repeated suggestion is that Muslim scientists made discoveries later attributed to Westerners and that many Western institutions were shaped by Muslim contributions.'
The problem we all have is with the claim that it is 'an accurate account of Muslim Heritage'. In our view we do indeed have reasons to thank certain Arabs and Muslims for their contributions to science, medicine, philosophy etc., but why do people have to go on to create fictions to add to real achievements?
Ibn Warraq in his excellent book 'Why I Am Not A Muslim' wrote:
'Islamic science was founded on the works of the ancient Greeks, and the Muslims are important as the preservers and transmitters of Greek (and Hindu) learning that may have been lost otherwise. Although the Islamic scientists did not often improve substantially on the works of the Greeks, they did make original contributions to trigonometry... [and] optics... Much work was also done in medicine, algebra, arithmetic, geometry, mechanics, and astronomy.'
Warraq also debunked the myth that Islam encourages knowledge and science. Muslims claim that they are told to 'Seek knowledge...' and that 'The search after knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim'. But as Warraq points out, this knowledge is religious knowledge, not scientific. Islamic science consisted of religion and language, whereas the science of the ancients was seen as foreign science.
Warraq noted that true science developed for a while despite Islam. Among others, he provided this quote by scholar Ernest Renan:
'Science and philosophy flourished on Musalman soil during the first half of the middle ages; but it was not by reason of Islam, it was in spite of Islam. Not a Musalman philosopher or scholar escaped persecution. During the period just specified persecution is less powerful than the instinct of free enquiry, and the rationalist tradition is kept alive, then intolerance and fanaticism win the day. It is true that the Christian Church also cast great difficulties in the way of science in the middle ages; but she did not strangle it outright, as did the Musalman theology. To give Islam the credit of Averroes and so many other illustrious thinkers, who passed half their lives in prison, in forced hiding, in disgrace, whose books were burned and whose writing almost suppressed by theological authority, is as if one were to ascribe to the Inquisition the discoveries of Galileo, and a whole scientific development which it was not able to prevent.'
There is no doubt that some Muslims made valuable contributions to science, and like Galileo, paid the price, but while Islam once had the opportunity to continue forward into the realm of knowledge, they chose instead to close the door to science and retreated into the world of superstitious dogma. Thankfully Christianity was forced to experience historical periods of rational and scientific enquiry known as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, resulting in theologians initially sharing the stage with scientists and philosophers and eventually having the theologians shuffled off to a dingy backroom. Islam unfortunately has never experienced its own Enlightenment and remains locked in its primitive and barbaric fantasy world.
And now in an attempt to '"instill confidence" and provide positive "role models" for young Muslims', certain Muslims want to change history and falsely attribute discoveries and inventions to Muslims from the Middle Ages and even accuse Westerners of stealing their ideas as their own. Historical Islamic science was little different from Christian science, in the sense that much of it was contrary to how the theologians viewed the world, and many intellectuals suffered for their curiosity. Today Christian and atheist alike can be proud of what these thinkers achieved in ancient times without having to voice support for the theologians that were persecuting them. Muslims however feel that they must praise both the Muslim thinkers and Islam, that they are one and the same. Again this would be like Christians praising both Galileo and the Inquisition. Modern Muslims can be justifiably proud of certain achievements of Muslims in the past, and like Christians, deeply ashamed and embarrassed by other acts of their ancestors, but they need to undergo their own enlightenment, embrace reason and throw off the shackles of religion. Success in life will come by looking to the future, not to an invented past.
If self-confidence can only come from embracing lies about their ancestors, lies that make them angry and resentful towards Westerners, then they are rejecting the very quality that they are promoting and honouring in their Muslim ancestors, the honest intellectual search for the truth.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Dec, 2010 ~
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Comment by Phill, 07 Jan, 2011
After reading the review I have to agree to a point that the Exhibition tends to over do things. To make more of something than perhaps it should do. But given the current circumstances maybe this is necessary? I'm sure it must be a big surprise to many Americans to find out that there was a time when the Islamic world was it as far as science and civilization went (though possibly matched by China). That when most of the cities of the west were in major decline and civilization as it had been known was failing, Islam was building a vibrant culture and encouraging literature and science.
The trouble is, that the anti Islam version of history is even more absurd and in your face. Even here in New Zealand we seem to be absorbing the anti Islam hysteria. It's becoming harder to fight this idea that every Arab, and everyone who is a member is Islam is anti west and about to blow themselves up in your favourite restaurant. I personally can't help but feel that moderate Islam is being crushed between fundamentalist propaganda and Western bigotry. So I see anything which attempts to create a positive view of Islamic culture as not a bad thing.
I mean just an example of the blindness of the anti Islam tirades we are faced with, the reviewer from the NY Times asks:
What is peculiar too is that the current Hall of Science show presumes a long neglect of Muslim innovations, but try finding anything comparable about Western discoveries for American students. Where is a systematic historical survey of the West’s great ideas and inventions in contemporary science museums, many of which now seem to have very different preoccupations?
Now forgive me, but hasn't he bothered to try Google or wikipedia? What are these American students learning in their science classes? Come on guys the West is the dominant culture. The language of science is not Arab, or Mandarin, or Maori, its English. The discoveries that are taught in our schools are not those from Islam or China, they are the Western discoveries. As to the reviewers question where are the Western versions of its great discoveries in its science museums, well I have never been to New York so cannot talk about its Museum or in fact being to any science museum but I would have thought the Museum itself proclaims these discoveries.
Surely the idea of any museum is to introduce people to new ideas and thoughts and concepts. That it shows one exhibition which helps people understand that Islamic culture has a long a varied history, that it made a major contribution to Western thought by both preserving the literature and thinking of the ancient world, when it was lost by the Western scholars and that many of its discoveries and innovations helped spur on Western thinkers, philosophers, scholars, writers, and scientists cannot be but a good thing.
Now you say that Islam closed itself off to innovation and science, this is true, but you don't mention the reason. One of the greatest impacts on the Golden Age of Islam and one that saw its demise were the Mongol invasions of the 12th and 13th centuries. The Arab world was decimated it was said the Mongols built pyramids of Arab skulls. The West was also faced with these invasions, and by a fortunate chance of history missed them (the Mongol armies besieging Vienna went home to elect a new Khan and never returned.) An interesting counter factual would be to consider what the West might have been like if the Mongols had swept though and devastated Western Cities like Paris, as they did the Arab world. Maybe Western culture would have become more inward looking and less innovative. You could imagine the religious types going "See god has forsaken us because we did not pray hard enough or take the bible literally enough".
Yes I agree its wrong for people to attempt to create new myths when the truth is as interesting. But I also find it a bit much for a reviewer to beat their breast saying how terrible this is when in recent history we have seen myths (and lies) based on much shakier truths used to provide an excuse to invade another country and kill thousands of innocent people. But maybe the Americans (and perhaps the rest of us) need a bit of this over the top regime to help them get over their own more deadlier myths about Islam and Arabs.
Christian faith, lies and laminin
Every town, city and province seems to have them. Religious nutters who feel the need to write letters to their local paper pushing superstitious beliefs. It's unclear whether these people are merely naive and gullible, and thus sincerely pass on myths, nonsense and outright lies, or whether they are manipulative, deceptive and deceitful, knowingly spreading myths, nonsense and outright lies in the service of their god. We've all heard of Jews, Christians and Muslims, now and throughout history, that have been prepared to kill others to set people on the path to their god. So telling a few porkies in a letter to the editor might seem like the least they can do to expose non-believers to the glory of god and the promise of salvation.
In the last couple of months letters from Christian fundamentalists in one paper we read once again claimed that Darwin recanted his theory of evolution on his deathbed and turned to God (false). That after his death, the house of Voltaire, an outspoken critic of Christianity, was used as a Bible Society headquarters (false). We were told the story of a bible that wouldn't burn when thrown into a fire and of the pirates that couldn't capture a ship because it had praying missionaries onboard. We read of the bomb that didn't explode in Britain during WWII because it was next to a building containing a priceless bible manuscript. Evidently scientists couldn't explain why it didn't explode!
The lies about Darwin and Voltaire are just that, lies created by Christians in desperation to counter science and reason. But it wouldn't matter even if they were true. Even if Darwin did change his mind modern biologists wouldn't take one bit of notice. Evolution is accepted on evidence, not on one man's opinion. It's as silly as saying that scientists would throw out what they know about gravity if Newton had changed his mind on his deathbed. In fact much of what Newton said was wrong, but again gravity is accepted on the evidence, not on the view of one man. Likewise the lie about Voltaire. If a Bible Society taking over the house of one of their critics in the 19th century was proof that there is a God, and that he has a sense of irony, then the contemporary large scale closure and sale of churches to the public for use as private houses, art galleries, restaurants, movie theatres and other businesses is obvious proof that God is now dead. If God really saw Voltaire and Darwin as dangerous adversaries, then he would have had them killed well before their views set the public against religion. He wouldn't have waited until after the damage was done and religious belief mortally wounded before he acted. Simply storing a few Bibles in Voltaire's house decades after he died is hardly the brilliant move one expects from an all-powerful, all-knowing God. Even if it were true, it has made no difference to God's slip from power.
As for the stories about the bible that wouldn't burn, the pirates and the unexploded bomb, just how stupid do you have to be to believe that nonsense? It has been proven innumerable times that bibles are easily destroyed by fire, that pirates have no trouble capturing, and killing, Christian missionaries, and that there were many, many bombs in WWII that didn't explode as planned. Even today people are still unearthing unexploded munitions. And can you really imagine in the height of the blitz that authorities would rush scientists away from important work to determine why a bomb didn't explode? Again, we are dealing with very gullible people here that would accept these stories and retell them as proof of their God's handiwork. And what does it say of a loving and benevolent God that would go out of his way to protect an old bible manuscript, but wouldn't lift a wispy finger to stop the thousands of exploding bombs that were killing his devoted followers?
Raised in these letters to the editor was another silly story that we hadn't heard before. It's about a miraculous thing called laminin. Supporting biblical creation, the letter writer began by setting the scene with this old nonsense: 'I would encourage your readers to observe the world around us with an open mind and an open heart. An ancient Chinese saying is "the true organ of thinking is not the mind but the heart".'
Anyone that begins by suggesting that the heart is the seat of reason just demonstrates how ignorant and primitive his knowledge truly is. Isn't it also strange that a Christian has to seek 'wisdom' from the Chinese rather than finding it in his Bible? Did his God not know this pearl of 'wisdom'?
Anyway, he goes on to claim that the Bible says that 'creation speaks of Our God. Why even the very base elements that our bodies are made of, laminin, have the outline of the Cross as its chemical symbol.'
We'll profess our ignorance and admit we had never heard of laminin, but we were immediately suspicious of this claim. Surely 'the very base elements that our bodies are made of' are elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur, not laminin. We looked it up and laminin isn't an element at all, it's a protein molecule. Laminins are indeed vital to the functioning of our bodies, but then so too are thousands of other proteins, not to mention vitamins, minerals and neurotransmitters etc. So why pick out the laminin molecule for special mention? Well this is where the claim that laminin has 'the outline of the Cross as its chemical symbol' comes into play. Unfortunately like most of these silly stories, the writer got his facts slightly wrong. It is the shape of the laminin
molecule itself that is represented as being like a lower case t. There are elements with the chemical symbols S, U, V, W, but strangely no T. Although in real life the molecule often doesn't resemble that shown in textbooks (as the photo shows: click to view a larger image), it appears the only reason Christians are interested in telling us about laminin is because the molecule resembles a cross. Of course as this snopes.com article states, it also resembles a caduceus — the symbol used by the medical profession — and a sword. Also a plus sign, a telephone pole, the frame of a basic kite and a lower case t.
Yet Christians like this moron want us to believe that his God deliberately made the laminin molecule to resemble the cross that Jesus Christ was later crucified on, as a sign of his greatness. And he did this long, long before he even raped Mary to bring Jesus into existence. If true it shows you how long he had been planning the brutal torture and death of his own son. Of course until just recently no believer or non-believer even knew of the existence of the laminin molecule or that it resembled a cross, and most still aren't, so what was God thinking? What use is a sign that is very ambiguous and requires an electron microscope to view it? Blessed as he is with omnipotence and omniscience, does he not realise the limits of human vision, that we can't see what he sees? It's a good thing that God doesn't work in advertising.
It seems that laminin molecules are the shapes they are because that gives them the ability to bind to other molecules and hold tissues together. Their function dictates their shape. If S shaped molecules had evolved for that function then Christians would have ignored them. However they see the cross shaped molecules and connect it to this passage from the Bible: 'He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17)'. To them the molecule could have functioned no matter what its shape, but God deliberately made it cross shaped to remind us that he holds things together. But then what holds the molecules together, even smaller shaped crosses? And yet smaller crosses for the atoms and quarks? That some Christians scour the natural world for things that remind them of the supernatural and claim a connection is childish and ridiculous. To see the hand of God in nature is to be deluded. And note that while these idiots claim God's input to the laminin molecule, they give him no credit for the Ebola virus.
Also there is another obvious path the Christians could have taken with the laminin molecule, but haven't. As noted the molecule also resembles a sword. Could this be the sign that God actually wants us to see? Remember that Jesus said: 'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (MT 10:34)', and also 'But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one (LK 22:36)'. If the shape of the laminin molecule is a sign, then biblically there is more support that it represents a sword than a cross. It is a warning of things to come, of God's true nature and plans for us all. I own a sword, do you?
This silly notion of connecting God to certain things but not to others is silly and blasphemous. Didn't God say that he created everything? I repeat, everything? Sunsets and earthquakes, good and evil? Any fool can make up stories that appear to detect a sign from God. For example, all life on Earth is based on carbon, and we are known as carbon based life forms. There is speculation that life might also be possible based on silicon. So why did God go with carbon rather than silicon? Simple really, the chemical symbol for carbon is C, which is the first letter of the word Christ. Carbon is a sign from God. He didn't use silicon because its chemical symbol is S, which of course is the first letter of the word Satan. That's not a sign God wanted to send. How easy it is to invent nonsense and see things that aren't there.
Of course this desire of Christians to see the cross everywhere raises another disturbing point other than simple delusion. The cross is first and foremost an execution device, an instrument designed to create a public, drawn out, torturous death. Jesus, and paradoxically the God who had him killed, are portrayed as preaching love, and yet their ubiquitous symbol is an instrument of horrible death. Can you imagine another group whose leader was executed wearing a symbol of a firing squad rifle on a chain around their neck, or a guillotine, an electric chair, an executioner's axe or a vial of poison? Why this fascination with the horrendous, sadistic and unjust death of Jesus rather highlighting the good that Christians claim Jesus achieved in his life? The symbol for Christianity was at one time a fish, and they talk of Jesus being the lamb, wouldn't these have made better symbols than a cross? Why are young children exposed to (and no doubt traumatised by) the images of life-sized statues of a bloody and beaten Christ on a cross? Why do wankers like Mel Gibson make movies that show every blow of the whip in slow motion, every tear of flesh, every scream of pain and every moment of agony, and why do caring, loving, devout Christians insist their children watch every second of the death of their god? Or as we mentioned above regarding the sword, is a blood splattered cross actually quite fitting for what God and his son have in store for us all?
Even though we think it extremely sick of Christians to represent their religion with a bloody dead man nailed to a cross, we also wonder why they aren't concerned about the Ten Commandments. God clearly states, originally inscribed on stone tablets until the idiots misplaced them, that his followers were not to make images 'in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below'. And yet here they are making images and statues of God himself, dead, bloody, beaten and almost naked on the cross. Apart from the fact that this is strictly forbidden, punishable by death, do his followers really think that this is how God/Jesus wants to be remembered? Defeated, tortured and humiliated by his creations? Why do they think they can discern God's message in a laminin molecule and yet can't grasp his obvious message in the Ten Commandments?
Why do they do this? Why do most Christians ignore most of their God's Ten Commandments and instead spent their time spreading silly stories about laminin, Darwin recanting and bibles that won't burn? One reason could be desperation. They see a modern world where the explanation of nature has been taken out of the Bible's wrinkly, arthritic hands and given to science. And science has excelled in this endeavour, producing evidence and reason that was forever beyond the grasp of religion. They watch TV documentaries and movies and read books and magazines that talk of evolution and the Big Bang and that make no mention whatsoever of special creation and gods and disobedient naked women accepting apples from talking snakes. So in desperation devious Christians have decided they need their own evidence and their own explanations on how things work, and being unable to find any factual ones, have resorted to fabrications, falsehoods and lies as proof that their god exists. The embarrassing thing for Christians is that even if their arguments for believing in God were valid, they are once again disobeying their God in attempt to find this evidence and these reasons for belief. God has clearly told his followers that they should believe in him through faith alone, not through reason and evidence. In the Bible they are told to 'Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;... Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. (PR 3:5-7)'. Like their forbidden crucifixes, contrary again to their God's wishes Christians are living their lives the way they want to, and God be dammed. They are embarrassed that non-believers appear to have all the answers and are no doubt incapable of believing on faith alone. They may be gullible, but not gullible enough it seems. And even though they have been warned to fear the Lord's response to their doubt, disobedience and lack of faith, they make things worse by spreading lies and childish stories that only highlight their desperation over the failure of their silly belief.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Dec, 2010 ~
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Comment by Chris, 12 Jan, 2011
Isn't it ironic that Christians worship, as a symbol of their faith, a device used to torture to death tens of thousands of people by a barbaric military empire** in order to perpetuate its reign of terror? (**I'm talking about the Romans, of course). I find that rather nauseating. But then, nobody ever accused Christianity of having good taste.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Jan, 2011
Indeed Chris. As one of my fridge magnets says: 'I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a dead guy
nailed to two pieces of wood'.
Comment by Anonymous, 31 Mar, 2011
No sorry that's a pogo stick that was sent back in time by a subatomic species of amoeba that decided since they were now able to move around in every dimension at will to get rid of all useless modes of travel.
Jews and chicken burgers
Is a chicken burger or kebab tastier if the chicken is fully aware that it is being killed? Does denying the chicken a blindfold earn Jews more bonus points with their god? On the radio yesterday morning I first heard the word shechita. I'm guessing it's Hebrew, and it describes the manner in which the Bronze Age Hebrews naively thought they were required to slaughter their chickens so as to please their bloodthirsty, sacrifice-loving god. But rather than being just an embarrassing aspect of how some of our ancient ancestors viewed the world and their place in it, we learn that NZ has approved the continuation of this barbaric practice into the 21st century merely to appease a handful of conservative Jews. Before we had the chance to comment on this development we received the following from Bob:
The news this week under religion was the backdown by a government minister over the slaughtering of chickens by Shechita, which is part of Jewish law regarding food preparation. I was disappointed the government gave in. The method of slaughtering animals is determined by science, practical considerations and the need to do it as humanely as possible. Killing in line with shechita is not the most humane. Now we have New Zealand Jews complaining we don't respect their religious beliefs. To them animals have to be killed with full conscienceness by cutting their throats. They don't want them stunned beforehand. I would have told the Jews if they want to live in New Zealand they abide by New Zealand standards. If they don't like it tough luck.
Like Bob, and unlike the chickens, we were stunned by Agriculture Minister David Carter's decision. Amazingly the minister doesn't agree with shechita, doesn't think it is humane or appropriate, and yet for reasons that he couldn't explain he has decided to let conservative Jews legally continue with this primitive, superstitious and inhumane slaughter of chickens. He clearly said he was against it, saying that it was "frankly cruel", but in consultation with lobbying Jews he felt he had to let them have their way. Why? Were they holding his family hostage? Did they bring up the old Holocaust ploy and make him feel guilty? Did he not want to annoy them like the Americans did the Muslims and start another holy war?
We already slaughter animals according to Halal rules to appease Moslems. I remember years ago Iranian slaughtermen were used. It involved saying a short prayer facing Mecca as each animal is killed. Fortunately they have no objection to stunning. Their killing is in line with our practices.
I have no problem with accommodating other cultures religious beliefs when they don't really matter but not when it involves lowering our standards.
We need to tolerate — not necessarily respect, but tolerate — the views and beliefs of others, but only if they do no harm to innocent parties. Killing a chicken in a ritual manner that ignores modern humane methods is doing harm to the chicken, causing unnecessary pain and suffering, merely so that a non-existent god can hear it scream out in agony. It is unclear just what various animals experience in the way of pain and fear, but it is clear that these are not solely human attributes. We have developed ways of reducing if not removing unnecessary suffering, so it is our responsibility as caring humans to use these humane methods whenever possible. That we should allow Jews or any group to continue to slaughter or treat animals inhumanely is to become complicit in these barbaric rituals ourselves. And it demonstrates that we are willing to let the primitive superstitions of anyone with a loud voice or sharp knife override what we know is the correct ethical and legal stance.
And where does it stop, where do we draw the line? What other ancient religious traditions should we allow these conservative Jews to perform in NZ in the 21st century? Should we allow them to sell their daughters into slavery? It's no good saying, well of course not because slavery is illegal. So is being inhumane to animals, so their request to circumvent the law should have been denied. It's not rocket science. If Jews can slaughter their chickens without first stunning them, and you and I can't, why can't they sell their daughters if they can get a good price in these tough economic times, even though you and I can't? Either there is one law for everyone, or else we become an unequal, corrupt society where what you can get away with depends on who you are, what god you follow, who you know and how much you can pay. If your god doesn't like the way NZ society functions, then as Bob says, tough luck. Either reject your god, explain to him/her/it the error of torturing chickens, immigrate to Israel or build a time machine and travel back to the distant past where your ignorance and primitive ways will be accepted as normal. Our suggestion: grow up and stopping obeying the barbaric wishes of an invisible fairy with a blood lust. And enjoy your milk shake with your chicken burger, make-believe gods can't smite you.
As an aside, Bob mentioned Muslims and their rituals for animal slaughter. I'm reading Dan Barker's book 'Godless' at the moment and he observes that praying facing Mecca is based on the primitive flat Earth concept. Facing Mecca makes no sense now that we know the Earth is round. So for Muslims in NZ, the shortest route to Mecca for prayers to travel would actually be straight through the Earth, not out into space, into some sort of orbit then back down to Mecca. Neutrinos can zip straight through the planet, so I'm sure prayers can as well. Of course it also raises the problem of why prayers need to be aimed specifically at Mecca, isn't God everywhere?
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Dec, 2010 ~
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Comment by Keri, 07 Dec, 2010
I *loathe* cruelty to animals - whether it be to our own species, or the many others that inhabit our little planet. I cannot understand Carter's decision — but hey! this is a land where the production of veal & cheap pork is STILL reguarded as somehow meritorious... we'll learn differently... somewhen...
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