Some problems with heaven and hell
In some recent personal correspondence, I made mention of how some Christians love to threaten atheists with an horrendous future in hell, and my correspondent agreed that it 'seems an awful, ridiculously harsh punishment'. They also added that they had read that some more caring Christians actually try to minimise the horror of hell by arguing that the Bible actually talks of Hades and hell, and that they are different places with different purposes. The implication was that there might be a way that non-believers can avoid God's supernatural concentration camp. Quoting from an email, evidently the
argument is that 'True believing Christians, so they are told, go to a place called heaven, non-believers to a place
called Hades... No one is in hell yet until the damned are thrown in there, which is referred to as the lake of fire, after god's final judgement... As I understand the argument, this life is your first and best chance to get to heaven and Hades is a second chance. Hades is likened to a holding cell at the police station... and near the end of this world... they supposedly will be brought before god for judgement. Hades will then be abandoned and it's then up to heaven or down to hell!!! Before Jesus came to Earth, all dead people, no matter how good, still went to Hades. From there they can confess from the heart that Jesus is lord. Rom 10:9 supposedly deals with this. The message is that repenting on earth in this life is far superior to waiting until you're dead. I guess it all comes down to what bits one believes in the bible'.
I wasn't aware of the specific use of Hades as a way station, although it sounds a lot like the place Catholics call purgatory. I had however read that according to the Bible (and contrary to what most Christians believe), heaven and hell are indeed empty at the moment. Well, empty that is apart from God, Jesus, Satan and a few angels and ex-angels all milling around... well... dusting I suppose, or perhaps relaxing in the hot tubs that have no guests in them. or maybe sharpening pitchforks, all waiting like the good Christians have been for the last 2,000 years for Jesus to get off his arse and kick the 'second coming' into gear. All waiting for the grand opening of heaven and hell. Paul clearly states in 1 Thessalonians that only when Jesus leaves heaven and returns to Earth will the dead rise from their graves to join him in the clouds. The final book of the Bible, Revelation, reaffirms this view, no one, either dead or alive, is going to heaven or hell until the end of times. It all seems very clear. And if we can't believe what the Bible says concerning death, won't accept what its authors tell us, knowing that it is our only source of knowledge about God and Jesus, then why should we believe anything it says? If Paul and the gospels writers were wrong about what happens when we die, then they were most likely wrong about God and Jesus too. But if the Bible is true, then the widespread view pushed by the Church (and by psychic mediums) that our deceased loved ones are in heaven watching over us and enjoying God's love is pure baloney. They're still in the ground where we left them. Stone cold dead, in various stages of decay. Think about it, even if heaven is a real place, it's completely devoid of guests at present and will remain so until Jesus and God get their act together, which judging by the last two millennia, isn't likely to be any day soon. On the bright side, hell is also empty, so no one is yet being tortured, the pitchforks and hot pokers are lying idle. But when you think about it, this is of little consolation for our loved ones who are eventually going there. Whether they died 5 or 500 years ago, taking a mere 5 or 500 years off an eternity of torture is a mere blink of an eye. After a thousand or a billion years of torture, the fact that it started 5 or 500 years later than it could have will be meaningless.
I guess this explains perfectly why no one, and I mean no one, who promised to come back and tell us what heaven was like ever has. It's not that they forgot or that heaven is so much fun that they can't find the time, it's that they haven't left the grave yet. An empty heaven also explains why psychic mediums are forced to make up inane conversations, there's simply no one there to talk to, so they're improvising.
When I think of the funerals I've attended over the years and the talk of death by religious people I've witnessed, either amongst people I know or in the media, the main consoling thought promulgated by priests and ministers and held by a believing public is the clear, unambiguous belief that the dearly departed are now in heaven, in the loving embrace of God, and occasionally even catching up with Jesus over brunch. They have been joyfully reunited with a deceased spouse or perhaps parents, siblings or children. And it is only this belief that they are safe and at peace and enjoying a promised afterlife in paradise that helps temper the grief felt by those left behind. Of course I've always thought that this was fanciful nonsense, but until recently, little did I realise that even the Bible authors would have agreed with me. If Paul or the gospel writers could somehow sit through a modern funeral service, they would be astounded at the lies being put forward as to what happens when one dies. 'No, no, no,' they would cry, 'Haven't you read your Bible? No one's going anywhere until the end of times'. Of course they would also be astounded and shocked that, 2,000 later, Jesus hasn't already returned. Both Paul and the gospel writers were convinced that he would soon return. In his excellent book 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back: Making Sense of the Bible', C J Werleman writes:
'Jesus told them that they would not be forewarned of the actual date of the end of the world, but he promised them this:
The clear — and embarrassing — fact here is that not only did those that jotted down the crucial bits of the New Testament get sucked into a 1st century scam, but the person who made the false promise was Jesus himself. Numerous times. Either he was lying or he was deluded, since what he claimed would happen didn't. (For the record I don't think it likely that Jesus even existed, meaning it was the gospel writers that were lying or deluded.) Christians claim that one of the reasons the Bible should be believed is because it makes many accurate prophecies, but even this prophecy from Jesus himself failed. Christians tend to skirt around this and other obvious failures when talking Biblical prophecies.
"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." (Luke 21:32 NIV)
This is not just an isolated narrative by Luke, as this promise of return before the current generation, those alive in 1AD, is made 37 times in the New Testament. This belief or promise is consistent with Jesus' teaching:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear." (Matthew 6:25 NIV)
In fact, Jesus tells his followers three times during his sermon on the Mount that they should not be concerned or anxious about the future, because the end of days is near, and they will be lifted into Heaven before their generation has passed.'
But anyway, the end times clearly haven't yet arrived, and probably won't until you finally pay off your mortgage, so when exactly in the distant past did the Church hierarchy decide that those in the pews were no longer happy that their loved ones were rotting in their graves and going nowhere, while Jesus dilly-dallied in heaven over the choice of wallpaper or some equally trivial item that has stopped it from opening to the public? Not willing to wait for Jesus, they took matters into their own hands and promised the people that their souls went up into God's loving embrace as soon as they died. And since most Christians get their limited Biblical knowledge from their priests and pastors and not their Bible, and this was especially so in the past when most couldn't read and for a time having a Bible was illegal anyway, clearly Christians readily accepted the false and comforting notion of immediate transfer to heaven on one's death, and even the more literate Christians of today still believe this falsehood.
I would suspect that this silly belief that their loved ones have immediately gone to paradise on their death, as will they when they die, is probably the main reason that believers find comfort in Christianity. It is the future, and specifically their death, that Christians look longingly towards, not the past or even the present. I mean seriously, what typical Christian really cares whether Adam and Eve were real, or whether the flood of Noah actually happened? They blissfully ignore God's commandments to stone homosexuals and atheists to death. Most can't even list half of the Ten Commandments, so can't claim to be living by them. Who among them would be worried if they discovered that the world wasn't actually flat, built on pillars and only 6,000 years old? Most would be overjoyed to learn that God didn't actually have a problem with them eating oysters or masturbating. They would even be rapt to learn that Hell was just an invention to keep people in line. There is a mountain of Biblical claims that could be shown to be false tomorrow (and actually already has) and Christians wouldn't lose a wink of sleep. But explain to them, as set out in the Bible, that not a single person in the last 50,000 or so years has risen from their grave and journeyed to heaven, and neither would they, until an event that is looking less and less likely to ever happen, happens, then I suspect Christians would desert the church in droves. Without the promise of a readily obtainable paradise, without the assurance that their loved ones are awaiting them in heaven, and with the cold realisation that millions have died falsely believing that their soul would soon be with God, then surely most Christians with a modicum of rationality would wonder whether this religion crap was worth the effort? Up until now Christians would have believed that they too could gain what their deceased loved ones have already gained, a comfy place in heaven and a reunion with family and friends. But now, when you read the fine print, it's clear that none of their deceased loved ones have gone anywhere. As the joke about the composer Beethoven goes, since his death he has been busy decomposing. And this makes sense, since if you believe the Bible, God formed man from dust and decreed, 'for dust you are and to dust you will return' (GE 3:19). No mention of heaven.
Belief in an idyllic afterlife in heaven is what attracts people to Christianity, and always has. Roman slaves and Medieval serfs saw no improvement in their lot on converting to Christianity, it was the promise of entry to paradise when they died that brought them on board. They weren't attracted by the Church's fearful view of sex or the possibility of going to hell. It was the guarantee of a better life when they died, nothing more, nothing less. If there is such a thing as a soul, they have all been trapped for perhaps hundreds or thousands of years with the body's final remains and going out of their 'mind' with boredom, waiting for a promised resurrection that is looking more and more like that promised cheque that is in the mail.
But returning to our starting point, that some Bibles talk of both Hades and Hell and the suggestion that they are different places. Personally I think that Christian talk of this nature is just a red herring. Modern people, both believers and non-believers, have realised that ANY place where babies are tortured for an eternity is an utterly unacceptable evil, no matter what name the Bible might give it. Some churches now even deny that hell exists at all, so abhorrent it is to their modern sensibilities. Although of course just saying something doesn't exist because you don't like it anymore is rather childish. Not believing in it doesn't see it disappear from the Bible, which we're told is God's word. Here's how one Christian website realistically sees hell:
'The lake of fire, mentioned only in Revelation 19:20 and 20:10, 14-15, is the final hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, both angelic and human (Matthew 25:41). It is described as a place of burning sulfur, and those in it experience eternal, unspeakable agony of an unrelenting nature (Luke 16:24; Mark 9:45-46). Those who have rejected Christ and are in the temporary abode of the dead in hades/sheol have the lake of fire as their final destination.'
The claim was that 'Before Jesus came to Earth, all dead people, no matter how good, still went to Hades', but I don't know of any actual mention of Hades being a holding cell (like purgatory). Since nearly all humans in history, perhaps some 100 billion, had never heard of Jesus when they died, I see it as merely a desperate attempt by the Church to argue that all these innocent people aren't actually being tortured in hell by their god simply because they were born at the wrong time or place. And let's remember that Hades is not a place, he's actually a Greek god who ruled the Greek underworld, and thus the authors of the most famous Bible, the King James (and others), chose to render Hades as 'Hell', arguing that the Bible shouldn't be naming hell after a Greek god (Strangely they didn't remove reference to the existence of other ancient gods). However passages like Rev 6:8 only make sense if Hades is a person: 'I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him'. Apart from in Revelation where Hades is spoken of as a person and not a place, Matthew contains the only other mention of Hades in the entire NIV Bible, and a footnote says Hades is merely another name for hell. Nowhere in the Bible can I find a mention of how Hades is a different place than hell, and used for a different purpose.
The Christian argument is that when in Hades people 'can confess from the heart that Jesus is lord. Rom 10:9 supposedly deals with this'. Looking it up, I read that Rom 10:9 says: 'That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved'. I have problems with this. One, there is no suggestion that Rom 10:9 is referring to people that are actually in Hades (or hell) and have a crucial decision to make, or that they are receiving a second chance at redemption. Two, I see no reason why devout believers in Zeus or Ra or Thor that were being held in Hades would have any idea who Jesus was, and even if they were told, like a door knocking evangelist telling me, why they would suddenly believe in their heart that this Jesus was real, and reject their own gods? Why would a Greek, on being told he was in Hades, and who believes in Hades as the god of the underworld, believe that it was actually run by some god he had never heard of? They wouldn't, so their sleepover in Hades would still see them all going to hell. Of course a Christian would now answer that Jesus would give them obvious evidence of his existence, but this contradicts what Christians tell me when I'm alive. They say God and Jesus won't prove their existence by miracles and such because then I would have no choice but to believe. They argue that God hides from me because I must come to believe in him through faith, I must believe on my terms, he can't just knock on my door and do tricks. So to be fair, Jesus mustn't make an appearance in Hades either, so most there will remain ignorant of him, will never believe in him and thus will go to hell. So nothing has been gained, Hades is just a place where time is wasted and hope is dashed. Lets' remember also that we're told that God knows everything. If my heartfelt belief in Jesus is the key to me getting a room in heaven, I don't have to travel to Hades and personally confess for him to already know that I believe his son is no more real than Darth Vader's. So what's the point? Hades is a waste of real estate. However Christians could argue that I have heard of Jesus, and if I suddenly found myself recently deceased and in a place called Hades run by a guy called Jesus, I would very quickly and honestly realise that I had been wrong and Jesus must be real, and I would confess. But God would have effectively forced this confession from me by showing me the reality of the supernatural world, and yet as I've said, Christians tell us that God stays hidden because he doesn't want to force us to worship him. If this is true, then Hades can't exist, since our very appearance there would force us to believe in God, a ploy that God won't stand for.
Of course as an aside, as you may have guessed, this argument that God is hiding because he doesn't want to force our hand is all bullshit too. It's simply a modern excuse to 'explain' why no one has seen God or Jesus or witnessed a true miracle in the last two millennia. As you'll know from reading the Bible, God, Jesus, angels and demons and untold miracles were seen all over the place when the Bible was being written. You couldn't even nip out for a coffee in those days without witnessing some supernatural event, and God wasn't at all concerned with unfairly influencing peoples' beliefs. He wanted you on his side and was more than willing to make the personal approach.
All this Christian debate over the specific purpose of Hades and hell and purgatory etc is merely a distraction to stop us wondering whether God is an evil bastard to have built such places at all. After all, no one today beyond neo-Nazis debates whether Hitler was right to have built his gas chambers and to have tortured and killed certain people, so why do Christians give God the benefit of the doubt? Why do despicable Christians say that God works in mysterious ways and must clearly have a good reason for torturing those day-old babies? I'd love to hear that reason, and unlike obsequious Christians, until I do hear it, I'm going to label their god a monster for his actions.
Why do Christians accept that their loving god might be torturing people in the weekend, and yet still keep worshiping in him? The comment was made, and I agree with it to a degree, that 'Christians are taught to read the bible daily and to believe everything in it. One must never disbelieve the written word of god despite all the anomalies and huge gaps in logic'. However this never happens in reality. Most Christians have never read the entire Bible, or even most of it, and they often don't understand the bits they do read. Even if they did, it is logically impossible 'to believe everything in it'. You can of course believe that bats are birds and rabbits chew their cud, that the sea is held back by doors and the Earth is built on pillars, that we shouldn't eat shellfish or wear cotton and polyester socks, and that God says we should kill disobedient children and homosexuals. If you are lacking in scientific knowledge and ethical considerations, you can logically believe all this. However there are in the Bible untold claims that clearly contradict other claims. Logically half of these claims MUST be false. For example, the Bible says that you can't see God and live: 'No man hath seen God at any time' (JOH 1:18), 'And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live' (EXO 33:20). And yet the Bible also says that people have seen God and lived: 'And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend' (EXO 33:11), 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved' (GEN 32:30). Clearly half of these claims must be false, and not even a good Christian can believe both to be true at the same time. Thus no one can believe 'everything' in the Bible, and therefore Christians are either lying or deluding themselves when they say they believe what the Bible says. What they really mean is that they believe in the bits they like, and they don't care about the rest. They believe in the bits where God and Jesus come across as nice and wilfully suppress the bits where they are complete bastards. It's like arguing that Jeffrey Dahmer was great with children, while ignoring the fact that he was also a serial killer that enjoyed necrophilia and dismemberment.
But like I say, I think debating things like Hades or hell is a red herring, encouraged by the Church so that good Christians don't think about the big questions and can console themselves that places like Hades are not as bad as a literal reading of the Bible would suggest. The reinterpreting of Bible passages to make them seem more humane are really just bandaids that hide the massive internal bleeding.
An analogy I like is of two kids who both believe in Santa arguing for months over whether Santa always wears his famous red suit or does he have casual wear as well? If I was asked to enter the debate, I would say that before I would waste time considering what clothes Santa might wear, I would first need to be convinced that Santa actually existed. Convince me that Santa is real and then we can move onto minor details such as his choice in clothing. I think any adult would agree that these two kids are wasting their time since they are arguing over silly details concerning something that likely isn't even real. Christians are like these two kids, debating trivial elements of their fantasy and failing to consider the bigger questions. First, does their god even exist, and secondly, if shown that he likely does, could this all-good god torture even one baby and not be called evil? How many babies could I torture before people would start calling me evil? Christians convincing me that some people MIGHT escape an eternity in hell by going through Hades is as futile as those kids forcing me to accept that Santa might wear casual clothes when not working. It goes nowhere towards getting me to agree that God or Santa might be real.
Christians will always be able to trip me up with debates over obscure Bible passages, just as kids can expose that I don't know the names of all of Santa's reindeer, but their small victories would be empty. I'm not an atheist because I think the Christian god is evil, after all, I think that Hitler and Stalin were evil but I don't deny that they were real. I'm not an atheist because the Bible is full of contradictions and nonsense, after all that would just dismiss the Christian god, not the Hindu gods or the ancient Greek gods. I'm an atheist because I think that all gods are mythical. I see no evidence of gods or need for gods. I'm not angry with the Christian god, so even if I were convinced that the god portrayed in the Bible was a really nice guy, I still wouldn't believe that he was real. It's like people that argue over which is better, 'Star Wars' or 'Star Trek', no matter which one you side with, neither of them are real. Argue all you want about Han Solo versus Captain Kirk, it won't make them real.
The Christian argument over Hades versus hell finished by saying that 'The message is that repenting on earth in this life is far superior to waiting until you're dead. I guess it all comes down to what bits one believes in the bible'. Repentance it seems will remove all stains bar one, repent and God will forgive you no matter what detestable and reprehensible things you may have done, over and over again, in your life. For some reason that even Christians can't comprehend, the one thing that God won't forgive is any insult towards the Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Holy Ghost or the least well known of the triplets that make up that confusing group called the Trinity. Jesus clearly explains that every sin will be forgiven except one:
'And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come'. (MT 12:31-32)
Of course there is a major catch in being forgiven, you first have to be a Christian. Of course I'm not and barring a frontal lobotomy that goes badly wrong, I can't see how I could ever become one. To honestly accept the existence of God I would need the one thing that I can't see either God or his followers ever providing: evidence. So I'm an atheist, and I consider myself a basically good person, certainly not perfect, but I haven't killed or raped or assaulted anyone. I'm law-abiding, I don't steal or (contrary to what Ken Ring says) defame people. I don't commit adultery, I respected my parents and I'm generally kind, compassionate and helpful to others. If God exists, he hides from me and he has deliberately given me the intellect and (false) evidence that he knows will lead me to conclude that he (along with other gods like Zeus and Thor) don't exist. So be it. What I can't understand is how Christians (like the ones behind the website I quoted above) believe deeply that their god is being fair and just and moral when he condemns me to hell to 'experience eternal, unspeakable agony of an unrelenting nature'. And yet people like Hitler that killed millions and priests that raped little boys day after day with no remorse and millions of others that have caused untold suffering to others while they were alive, are all welcomed into paradise simply because they repented. These are people that you and I (and even some Christians) would demand face justice and either be executed or imprisoned for life if we discovered what they were doing. And yet Christians insist that their god will praise and embrace these repentant villains when they die and will instead save his severe condemnation and torture chamber for good people whose only failure was that they wouldn't blindly worship something they couldn't see. I can understand why Christians think this is what will happen (the Bible says so), but I can't understand why Christians approve of it. I've even read of Christians who can't wait to die so they can sit around and watch us all being tortured by their god and his minions. And frankly, if the Christian god exists and this is what he has planned for innocent non-believers, on principle I will continue to stand with the condemned rather than be part of a loathsome rabble of Christians cheering gleefully as my mother is tortured.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Feb, 2015 ~
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Comment by Ted, 03 Feb, 2015
My problem with heaven and hell is, I am afraid, a good deal more fundamental. That is not to say I do not admire the thoughtful coherence of arguments dismantling religious myth and absurdity, whether they are yours or those of people like Hitchens; they are always a treat to read, and quite beyond my powers of construction. No, I simply cannot advance further than the enormous body of evidence, both researched, and in my own life, personally intuitive, that consciousness, the soul, is a property of the physical brain. Moreover, it seems to exist in a continuous spectrum of development from human beings down to tiniest life forms. Whatever it is, it is a truly amazing phenomenon, and one day we might understand more about how it works, how it creates itself and how it dies. At the same time I am not one of J.B. Priestley's "nothing but" men either. I enjoy mysticism as an underlying creative force in my art. Without it I would be less than a full human being, but I do not kid myself that it exists outside my own brain, or that it is more than a product of my imagination.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Feb, 2015
I quite agree Ted, like you I see no evidence whatsoever that souls exist, and much evidence that they don't. And that's why I say that Christians are deluding themselves by wanting to debate trivial elements of their fantasy while failing to consider the bigger questions. Like does their god even exist, or coming at it from the other direction, do we even have a soul that can leave the body and check into some sort of resort?
However the depressing reality is that many believers consider it so obvious that we have an immaterial soul (and that god exists) that they wouldn't waste time talking to anyone that thinks otherwise, thus it is often necessary to take the claims that they do want to discuss, like who goes to hell and why, and expose the serious flaws in these claims. If we can shake their confidence a little over whether their god is moral and just and worthy of worship, then perhaps we can get them thinking a little deeper and wondering what else they might have been mislead over.
Ken Ring: a new year but same ol' lies
It's almost February and Ken Ring's latest newsletter is out for our amusement. Included is a piece called, 'Opinion: Is Meterology Still Delivering The Goods?' First, let's quickly skip over the fact that this self-claimed weather expert can't spell meteorology, and that he's even including the word 'opinion' in the titles of his articles now, clearly suggesting to his readers that they are akin to what someone might tell you in the pub after a few beers. As Ring says in his disclaimer, opinion means nothing more than an educated guess. And we should remember that even graduating from kindergarten qualifies as education. Not that I'm suggesting that Ring graduated from kindergarten, I know I didn't.
To answer Ring's question, 'Is Meterology Still Delivering The Goods?', yes it certainly is, in fact I'd say it's more accurate than it's ever been. No it can't predict the weather 'up to a century onward', as Ring thinks it should, or even a month ahead, but by suggesting that it ever will is simply Ring not grasping the vital difference between weather and climate. Even his article's title says it's about meteorology, about the weather, but he immediately get into matters of climate.
Most of Ring's piece is his claim that only he is offering long range climate predictions, and that he is indeed the only one capable of making such predictions, and yet at the same time he criticises scientific talk of climate change. But what is this talk of climate change all about if it's not also making long range climate predictions? Ring may vehemently disagree with the predictions climatologists make, but he can't pretend that he's the only one making predictions of what the future might bring. Long term climate predictions are being made by scientists, Ring's problem is that he doesn't like what those predictions predict, and doesn't trust them because they weren't informed by astrology.
Of course I don't like many of the predictions either, but my emotions don't dictate whether I accept them or not, that must rest on the evidence. Ring on the other hand evidently doesn't want to scare the children with talk of climate change, he insists that, ' In short, alarmism is the real danger, to the human spirit'. He writes that the theme of his articles are 'that we can all live happy lives, and encourage our children to dance and sing as they used to do, knowing that compared to what there has already been in the past, there is: no threat to the planet...'
I don't want to scare children unnecessarily either, but the reality is that the world can be a scary place, and there are many things out there that could snuff out human life tomorrow or make it very unpleasant, and simply hiding this reality from children and even adults will not stop these things from happening. In fact ignorance might actually allow some nightmares to happen, whereas knowledge might help prevent them. But it's not just that Ring sees climate change talk as scary and unsettling, with the result that children aren't dancing and singing as they used to do, he sees it as a huge lie backed by a huge conspiracy. He doesn't view climate change scientists as honest people that might have misinterpreted the data and reached the wrong conclusion, he calls them, along with governments officials and the like, alarmists, which my dictionary defines as: 'A person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe'. In Ring's view scientists know that they are wrong, they know that they are pushing lies, and they are deliberately alarming people for nefarious reasons. And his reason for reaching this conclusion is simply that his astrology software doesn't predict that the climate is going to change any day soon, in fact it suggests it can't change at all. Thus anyone that says different, like climatologists, must be lying, that's the only reasonable explanation, because the astrology data clearly argues against climate change. Unfortunately Ring doesn't understand that while climatologists may be honestly mistaken, he's not going to influence their views, or mine, with a stance based on a belief in astrology. It's like a witch trying to convince doctors that Ebola isn't caused by a virus. Both Ring and the witch lose all credibility when they reveal that primitive nonsense is informing their views.
To prove to us how useless modern meteorology is, Ring tells us that 'In NZ the National Climate Office has a supercomputer called Fitzroy, installed in 2009 at a cost of $40m. ."Fitz" failed to detect and prewarn about any of the Christchurch earthquakes, nor of the drought of 2013...' Firstly, does Ring not understand that earthquakes are neither weather nor climate, and thus not something that a 'National Climate Office' would even be trying to predict? Because Ring foolishly believes that his astrology method can predict both weather and earthquakes, he clearly thinks that climatology should too. But if climatology studies earthquakes, then what does seismology do? And do we need to remind people that Ring didn't predict the Christchurch earthquakes either, even though he falsely claims he did. Secondly, the supercomputer called FitzRoy actually belongs to the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA), not the 'National Climate Office', which seems to exist only in Ring's imagination, it cost $12.7 million and not $40 million, and it became operational in 2010, not 2009. This again demonstrates how Ring refuses to research his claims, he simply makes up his own 'facts' to suit the tale he's spinning. Thirdly, Ring clearly implies that there was a drought in 2013, and that supercomputer FitzRoy missed predicting it, but he didn't. I don't know what FitzRoy said about drought in 2013, or if it was even looking at this, Ring always confuses weather with climate, but I do know what Ring said about the possibly of a drought in 2013: 'So the question being asked is whether or not a drought is imminent. The answer is no'. Ring was quite adamant that there would be no drought and even as it was occurring Ring was still arguing online that it wasn't real. And yet now in 2015 he is stating that there was indeed a drought and only he predicted it. This man lies and lies and lies, and yet his dewy-eyed followers believe he is a saint, blindly accepting his bullshit and defending him at the pub and on Internet forums.
In his final paragraph Ring tells readers that, 'Because it is little understood, longrange forecasting seems impossible. It is not recognised as solid science, only because it is not taught in local universities'. We would agree that using astrology to predict the weather and earthquakes, what Ring calls 'Astrometeorology', is certainly not science, solid or otherwise. However the inclusion of a subject at university is not what makes it a science. English is taught at university and yet it's still not a science, and I think we'd all agree that deciding to swap physics with witchcraft at university wouldn't suddenly make witchcraft a science and physics just silly nonsense.
Astrometeorology isn't taught in universities because it's a pseudoscience, long dismissed as primitive superstitious nonsense. Ring can give it a scientific sounding name, but this is what a pseudoscience does, it dons some nerd glasses and a lab coat and hides behind the respectability of real science. I mention this clear acknowledgment from Ring that Astrometeorology isn't taught at university because strangely enough in last month's newsletter he argued just the opposite. He stated in his 'Disclaimer' that: 'Astrometeorology includes Moon, Sun, planets, tides, cycles, recognisable patterns, and extrapolation based on repeatability of occurrences. This is all solid science, taught in a wide range of university departments'. The clear implication here is that Astrometeorology is indeed taught, although of course on having his duplicity exposed, Ring will now no doubt argue that he simply meant that things such as planets feature in astronomy, cycles feature in ecology and patterns feature in genetics. But using this dishonesty witches could also argue that witchcraft is taught, since zoology studies bats, something that witches also study to decide which sort would work best in their potions.
What changed over the month, what caused Ring to go from claiming that his silly belief was 'taught in a wide range of university departments' to the admission that 'it is not taught in local universities'? I think the real problem is that people that are pushing a scam are by necessity telling a lot of lies, and Ring either forgets what he has said previously or else thinks people simply won't remember if he contradicts himself. Probably elements of both. And unfortunately many if not all of Ring's acolytes are seemingly incapable of remembering what Ring has said previously. They will read his forecasts in this Feb newsletter but won't bother to look back at the predictions he made in his Jan newsletter to see if he was right. In January for example, Canterbury has been hot and very dry, and yet that's not how Ring saw it happening in his Jan newsletter: 'Canterbury — Wetter than average, cloudier, cooler than average...' Did he mean Canterbury in England perhaps? How can Ring get it so wrong and yet his supporters still rally around him? My belief is that they simply don't make the effort to check on his predictions. Ring tells them in his books and in the media that he's right most of the time, and certainly right more often than anyone else, and the fools simply believe him. They never discover the truth because they can't be bothered looking for it. They trust Ring, and you don't go checking up on people you trust.
Also I love the thought that because of his critics, every month Ring is forced to rethink how he might better reword his 'Disclaimer' so as not to come across as a fraud, and yet every month he fails at this endeavour.
Why is it that you and I and even astronomers can't see the spooky effect that the position of the Moon is having on our lives? Ring pushes the clearly false notion that ancient astrologers understood the Moon but modern science doesn't. He argues that 'The science of cycles which we all learned at school was what we quickly forgot when we left. The obvious, as usual is hidden in plain sight. The cyclical moon is above everyone's heads for all to see'. How childish on Ring's part to suggest that neither astronomers nor you and I realise that there is a cycle to the Moon's movement, that we evidently haven't noticed that it seems to repeat roughly every month. Ring goes on about tides and orbits, perigee and apogee, gravitational forces and the solar wind, and yet refuses to accept that it was astronomers that explained these things, not astrologers. Instead he asserts that we are quite ignorant about the Moon because 'astronomers are more intent on naming stars 2 billion light years away (after themselves) than investigating our nearest celestial neighbour. Men have been to the moon, stood on it and said "nothing but dead rocks here, guys, let's go home"'.
Oh such ignorance. Does Ring really think that this is what astronomers do, race around looking for a star to name? And considering that there are at least 100 billion stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, most of which haven't been named, why would astronomers be 'intent on naming stars 2 billion light years away (after themselves)', that is, stars well outside our galaxy? There are over 7 billion people on Earth, and most aren't astronomers, but even if we used all their names we still wouldn't have enough unique names to name even a fraction of the stars in just our galaxy. And there are billions of galaxies all containing billions of stars, so Ring's childish claim that astronomers spend their time desperately looking for a star to name is just ridiculous. That he can say such stupid things is amazing. Furthermore, the reality is that modern astronomers do not get to name stars (or galaxies or black holes etc) after themselves even if they wanted to. The authority responsible for naming astronomical bodies is the International Astronomical Union (IAU), and while there are a handful of stars named after their discoverer, such as Barnard's Star, of those stars that have been named, nearly all have boring names such as HD25443. There are private companies that claim that they can name a star after you, for a fee of course, and you will receive an official looking certificate to this effect, but it is all a con. You will have wasted your money on a worthless piece of paper, and no astronomer will ever know your star by the silly name you might have given it. And since all the visible stars have been catalogued already, your distant star will be one that you and almost no one else will likely ever see. And since you'll never be able to point out your star to friends, it might as well not be there, and may well not be.
And when men went to the Moon, according to Ring they said, 'nothing but dead rocks here, guys, let's go home'. Here was me thinking that they said things like, 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind', 'Houston, we have a problem', and, 'He's dead, Jim'. Or maybe I'm thinking of 'Star Trek'? Are we to believe that man went to the Moon nine times and landed and explored six times, even though they got bored and realised it was an utter waste of time and money the first time they stepped onto its surface? But the Moon Man is the expert, so please tell us Ken which astronaut said, 'nothing but dead rocks here, guys, let's go home', and even if you're paraphrasing, which astronaut still convinced NASA and astronomers worldwide to immediately cease 'investigating our nearest celestial neighbour'? I put it to you Ken that this is yet another blatant lie on your part. You simply made up that quote to support your conspiracy, that the powers that be are wilfully hiding the true effects of the Moon from us all. Mainly to put you out of business. LOL.
Of course readers might be surprised that an astrologer like Ring even believes that we actually went to the Moon, that it wasn't just a hoax. Considering the many claims of science and history that Ring doesn't believe in and some silly conspiracy theories that he does support, this just shows that once people show themselves willing to believe one silly thing, it can't be predicted what other things they might believe. Since they're capable of irrational thinking, we should expect them to have a mishmash of beliefs, some silly and some valid. It may seem strange that someone can believe in both primitive astrology and modern astronautics, but some minds just don't work as well as they could, while some know all too well that primitive astrology is bullshit, but they can't openly say so, since if they did no one would buy their books.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jan, 2015 ~
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Comment by Ron, 28 Jan, 2015
Hello John. If you check Ken Ring's January newsletter he clearly mentions that on the 22nd we here in Christchurch/Canterbury would be lashed by much rain, in fact from Kaikoura to Otago, with possible floods, all from the remnants of a tropical cyclone all the way from New Caledonia. Guess what? It never happened, not remotely close. Dry hot days and blazing sun dominated all thru with cloud but no rain only these last 3 days. My wife Maria wrote to Ken today challenging him on this big failure. She does not like Ken, what he does, the rubbish he writes and the majority of predictions (or whatever) that are totally or mostly wrong. She quoted to Ken the many dates in Jan he said we were likely to get rain but did not, except for 1 day, the 15th, when some heavy showers briefly hit central and eastern areas only. She asked Ken if he ever felt shame for this and all the other large failures and why would we or anyone else consider paying for his almanac. After all, these newsletter statements are excerpts from the almanac, right? His reply was here tonight and was classic confrontational Ken as he is well known for over the web. Here is the reply.
"Maria Ron. Not only do you seem to have an identity crisis but also a problem of being unable to read the newsletter properly. Weather is about potential always, nothing else. There was a potential for the cyclone, even Metservice had their eye on it, warning of a Jan. cyclone. The day rain came(ch.ch.) as I predicted for potential, was what you call a fluke. But that proves the case and me being 100% correct was clearly a hard day for you to get through. It says more about my work when you choose to receive something to be constantly critical of. I note this is your 5th silly letter. Simply unsubscribe. Fortunately there are 11,000 others who receive with no complaints and a similar number who purchase books. I would rather my almanac was purchased and read by someone who does not look for reasons to be a troublemaker, so please save your money."
Hey, Ken, we seriously never intended to, and never will send you any money for your rubbish. 100% correct? Are you serious? Because some rain fell on a day you just happened to mention? What about all the others you mentioned, you are quiet about those I note. No rain fell on them, not close even. You say you've had 5 silly letters from me. Ken, we know why you call them "silly" because they dare to criticize you and what you do and you hate that like poison, don't you. Judging by the loads of critical stuff on you out there you must receive very many "silly" letters. You insult my wife with your identity crisis comment, insinuating that I put her up to it, that she has no mind or opinions of her own? Yes, it does say a lot about your work Ken, but not the way you think. We cannot prove these figures Ring quotes re. subscribers and sucker clients. He is known for a propensity for mistruths and twisting facts and data to suit.
John, similar to you, Ken Ring depresses me. He says predictions mean opinion, guesses, not certainties yet my dictionary says prediction means to foretell the future, presumably accurately. With so many wrongs, surely he is just playing the odds.
Ken would be more accurate simply using historical averages. The clients he loves most, the farmers who he says form the bulk of his purchasers, how intelligent are most of them? I like to think they are smart but was it not long ago some were hiring people with a piece of wire to tell them where to drill for water. Perhaps some still do. As someone wrote a few yrs ago on the net, with Ken self-deception is a big thing, he cannot allow himself to admit his methods do not or cannot work. Also the mystery as to why people buy his almanacs with his shocking track record has been explained in one way that maybe many think by buying those almanacs they are privy to something unique the rest of the world is missing out on. I tend to agree with these ideas. Well John, Ken was easy on me. He only called me a troublemaker, not a woman hating, skinhead type, nazi jackbooted fascist stormtrooper.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Jan, 2015
Ron, you and your wife's perceptions of Ring's method, his ongoing failures and his combative and belligerent attitude are spot on. But since Ring has no arguments or evidence to support his empty claims, and since his scam is paying his bills, going on the offensive is all he can do. He's backed into the proverbial corner, and a scared, cornered beast is never a jovial beast.
Thanks to his email we now have it from Ring himself (although with no supporting evidence) that around 11,000 suckers purchase his almanac. If we believe him, that means his scam is bringing in over half a million dollars per year! No wonder he's reluctant to admit his method doesn't work. Of course he'll now say that his publisher takes the bulk of what his book makes, and he just gets by, but that would just show that Ring is a fool when it comes to financial matters as well, letting himself be ripped off when he does all the work.
I also had to giggle when Ring pleaded with you: 'I would rather my almanac was purchased and read by someone who does not look for reasons to be a troublemaker'. In other words, Ring most definitely doesn't want anyone reading his almanac who might be intelligent enough to find faults with it and then have the gumption to complain, either to him or to others. Ring wants a gullible client base, and mostly he has got his wish.
As for simply unsubscribing from his newsletter, where else are you going to get a free monthly handout to laugh over? Or if you don't find his ignorance funny, surely it makes you feel a little better attuned to modern society than some, like comparing yourself to a monkey trying to operate a power tool? Plus on a more serious note, the world needs to be reminded that the fight to banish ignorance and superstition is not yet won, not by a lot shot, and Ring's newsletter serves to highlight this, monthly.
Science says that 'God is Photon Light'
Have you heard that science has proved that unseen spiritual power is real, and that a god actually wrote the Bible? No? Oh good, because I hadn't either so at least I'm not alone in my ignorance. I was out of cell phone and media range for a while over the summer solstice break so was scared that I might have missed the scientific announcement of the century. I ask these questions because we've received an email that confidently informs us that science has finally got on board with religion. Evidently they're now holding hands skipping down the path towards a common destination, although to personally witness this unexpected scene you first have to gain the ability to experience 'weird stuff' (I think it's a psychological term). So, has there been a scientific discovery that we've missed and are we ignoring what the Bible really has to tell us? We thought it was an important question so what follows is that email, from someone named John, and our response to it. With such a great name I was initially tempted to believe him, but the others suggested caution, reminding me how disappointed I was after reading a gospel and then a book called Revelation, both written by someone called John.
"Silly Silly beliefs Yes, But the silly belief here is that you believe that unseen spiritual power is not real! I respect and appreciate people on the other side of the fence trying to either defend science or discredit spiritual power.
If we hung out for about a week while I explained the actual Proven Science behind most of the stuff here, first off you would actually deep down be happier inside by knowing that the world was not a bunch of tangible moving parts with no greater rhyme or reason (aka- Hope)
OK John, I'm assuming that you're wanting to share your newfound knowledge and you are genuinely seeking enlightenment, since you write, 'Email me sometime, I might learn something. Whos right or wrong doesn't matter to me, I just like the facts!'
And the reason I know this stuff for fact is that 3 years ago, I was hit by an unknowing massive spiritual awakening which caused by body to be able to have "out of body experiences" and other weird stuff. Since then, I have been relentless, putting in about 1-4 hours/night dedicated and hell bent on DISPROOVING any crevice of pseudoscience and the like! I didn't want to believe that what happened to me was real so I set out to Prove by science that it was all in my head and coincidences. Man, did I open up a pandoras box!
You are absolutely correct some things, BUT, when you follow science down into the Proven scientific realm of Quantum Physics, Well then my friend is when Proven Science and Spiritual Phenomenom become "The EXACT SAME Thing", simply labeled with different terms!! Fact!
Below I will give you scientific Proof that words in the bible (KJV) was definitely written by a god or spirit!
Let me plant a seed in you that will bother you more and more until you check it out for yourself.
And this is something that about 99% of Christians Don't Know.
I found this out after studying the works of the top Anti-Christian Theologians and top experts of the most ancient writings to where the bible info was taken from.
In a nutshell, here it is! The bible is written as a cover to cover metaphor to describe the inner workings of the literal brain, body & spirit and the mechanics of how they interact when working in harmony and or chaos. The so called Prophets who wrote the ancient writings were simply good enough to be able to channel messages from god or some spirit. But since back then, there was no understanding or terminology of neuroscience back then, so it was translated to the prophets as visions or inner voices which used common relationship interactions between "Objects", "stars & planets" and "people"!!
So all the debate over God killing this and that, and Rape here and there, are simply metaphors to describe all the Complex interactions of the Brain, Heart Etc. But the WHOLE reason that the bible HAD to be written that way was because the ONLY way to become "born again" or (aka- Spiritual Awakening) is to know the complex inner roadmap of HOW the mind works!
And the whole goal of God or Spirits (whoever is sending the info) is to teach all humans how to have a REAL Spiritual experience with that Realm, so we will be able to detach from the One thing that causes ALL pain, negativity and suffering, which is the EGO. or the belief that the world has all Separate Parts! When people experience first hand that when you strip away our Identity (EGO), you see that the world and all its parts are One giant living organism. This is why god in the bible seeks revenge and has no mercy on the nonbelievers, because Sin is like a metaphor for Cancer in the body. If its not in harmony, Cut it out as fast as you can!
But Its impossible for you to believe me or anyone else Until it happens inside you... I have not one negative judgement against you, because that would be like me getting mad at a baby for not walking. The baby just hasn't reached that stage of growth yet.
Ok, now for the proof that god sent at least these words to be written:
Science has proven that the description of God is Photon Light. In bible code, god tells us about a physical characteristic of him by the way of numbers. It has only been in the last hundred years or so that science has had the technology to figure out the EXACT Speed of Light.
which is the exact number of 186,400 miles/sec...
Wouldn't you find the mathematical odds to be astronomical that a passage in King James Version of "Numbers, chapter 2, verse 9 where god describes a metaphor of gods speed, and the numbers are 186,400 !!!
Side note (the numbers in the bible are meant to be literal but the meanings of the numbers are in code)
I dare you to watch a few videos from this guy on youtube. type in- "107 bible contradictions", by Bill Donahue.
Depending on how rooted you are against unseen forces, you could have a lot more fun discrediting people using this one concept. and even better, people could not prove you wrong.
I did want to say that yes, you have a lot of spiritual, psychic, paranormal, etc, stuff that is a complete crock
but if you want to be blown out of your seat with wonder and intrigue, just take a few nights on youtube and dig into a few of the subjects that I will list below.
"Water has memory"
"Gregg Braden, bladder cancer dissolves in less than 3 minutes" 14:39 long
I better get to bed, I cant believe its after 4am!
It was good to vent a little,
Email me sometime, I might learn something. Whos right or wrong doesn't matter to me, I just like the facts!
Well... if you want the facts, here is how we see them. And as you say, it is good to vent a little. You're absolutely right in that we 'believe that unseen spiritual power is not real!' Why not? Well as you say, this spiritual power you talk of is 'unseen', meaning that there is no evidence whatsoever that it exists. It's unseen in the same sense that leprechauns and gremlins are unseen. Might your spiritual power, along with leprechauns and gremlins, actually be real, and they're just really, really good at hiding from us? Yes of course, but the rational thing to assume is that unseen things, things for which there is no evidence, are unseen simply because they are not real. Once we agree, with no good evidence, to believe in one unseen thing, we are forced to believe in an infinity of unseen things. Gods such as Allah, Zeus and Thor, the Tooth Fairy, unicorns, Spiderman, trolls, Peter Rabbit, and on and on it goes. If you allow yourself to believe in one unseen thing, you can't then argue that the rest that you don't want to believe in are clearly imaginary because no one has ever seen them.
Of course you appear to go on to argue that there is evidence for your 'unseen spiritual power', and we would all believe if only you had time to explain 'the actual Proven Science'. This might be the most important thing that humans could ever learn but unfortunately you've got better things to do than explain where science went wrong. And your assertion that we'd be much happier if we only realised that your invisible 'god' was actually running the show, and that our independence is an illusion, that we are all mere pawns acting out a role in some spiritual drama. Well learning this would only make us deeply depressed and suicidal, certainly not happier.
Putting capital letters on your claim regarding 'the actual Proven Science' does nothing to aid your argument. We know a little about science, we try to keep up with the latest discoveries, and yet we have never heard of one iota of accepted scientific evidence that even hints that an 'unseen spiritual power' might exist, let alone proves that it's real. No science book, no university science course, no scientist and no TV science documentary makes any mention of this proven science regarding spiritual powers. So not only is your spiritual power unseen, so too is your proven science, and we can't believe that scientists simply can't be bothered to reveal this world changing discovery.
We don't doubt that you may have experienced some psychological upheaval 3 years ago. Many, many people over the years have experienced 'weird stuff' that they couldn't easily explain. From Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus to Scientologists and shaman in primitive tribes, many have claimed to have experienced what they describe as a spiritual awakening. With some it is a 'near-death' experience that sees them communing with spirits, and some also report an 'out-of-body' experience. Christians meet Jesus, Muslims meet Allah and the shaman meets a forest god. It's strange that Muslims never report having met Jesus, everyone meets the spirit that they believed in prior to the 'weird stuff' happening. You never hear of a Christian returning from a 'near-death' experience and exclaiming, 'OMG! We were wrong! I met Allah. Don't you see, the Muslims are right and we are wrong! We need to tell people'.
But again, there is no scientific evidence of one single person that has reported a 'near-death' experience ever having gone anywhere, let alone off to some hidden spiritual realm. Likewise with 'out-of-body' experiences, no evidence supports that a single person has ever flown around the room, let alone the world. There is plenty of evidence that suggests that these experiences are all in the mind. No one goes anywhere, except in their imagination. In experiments on 'out-of-body' experiences, not one subject has been able to describe objects that they should have seen had they really been floating on the ceiling as they claimed they were. Under certain circumstances the mind is perfectly capable of creating false memories and producing virtual experiences that are indistinguishable from real experiences. I have travelled to many parts of the world and watched lots of movies and travel documentaries, and now occasionally I see some familiar place on TV and I struggle to remember whether I've actually been there or just seen it on TV. But if you truly can leave your body and travel around the world John, then visit my home and describe to me what it looks like. You can get my address from your unseen spiritual power, it knows where I live.
I wonder why your 'massive spiritual awakening' sent you to the bible and taught you how to reinterpret it, because when a Muslim has a massive spiritual awakening, they say they got sent to the Koran, and Hindus on experiencing their spiritual awakening are told to seek out their own holy books. Why do you think it is that this god or spirit sends different believers to different books? Surely the Bible and Koran and Vedas are not all saying the exact same thing, if only we interpreted them correctly? Christians who have a spiritual awakening never suggest that we pick up the Koran if we don't have a bible because it also contains the truth. And if the only god that exists is connected with the bible, and only the bible, then who the hell is granting spiritual awakenings to Muslims and Hindus? Or might it all be in the mind, your religion doesn't matter, all you need to be is human for your neurons to create a weird experience between your ears?
'Proven Science and Spiritual Phenomenom', you then go on to claim, are '"The EXACT SAME Thing", simply labeled with different terms!! Fact!' But again this seems to be a 'fact' that no scientist is aware of. I'm not sure you know what it takes for something to be a fact or proven science. Everyone from religious and New Age folk to those pushing bogus health therapies like to embrace quantum physics because it's respectable science and they've heard scientists say that it makes weird claims. They then think, 'Well my god can walk on water and rise from the dead, that's certainly weird, and sleeping on a few powerful fridge magnets can cure cancer whereas the best doctors can't, that's weird too. OMG! Quantum physics and gods and healing magnets, they must all be the same thing! In our ignorance we just give them different names!'
I don't think so. Science and religion have different names because they are radically different, and the war between them doesn't continue simply because theologians and scientists are too stupid to realise that they have both reached the same answers regarding life, the universe and everything.
You say that the you have provided 'scientific Proof that words in the bible (KJV) was definitely written by a god or spirit!' And yet it is well known and well documented who commissioned the King James Bible, who published it, and while many of the names of the fifty or so scholars who actually wrote it are now forgotten, there is no evidence or even suggestion that any of them were gods or spirits. Its history is not obscured by the mists of time. Of course if you're referring to the original documents (none of which now exist) that were hobbled together to make up the bible, plenty of serious, documented research has shown that much of what is claimed in the bible, be it on matters of history or science, is clearly false. No scholar can consult the original words, they can only consult various translations, and considering how many different English translations there are today, clearly even the experts can't agree on what the original text really said. So if you can't trust the English translations that were definitely written by man and the originals no longer exist, what bible do you use to attempt to detect the fingerprints of a god? Maybe you're suggesting that the bible reveals scientific facts that ancient man couldn't have known, and yet the bible never clearly states a single piece of knowledge that wasn't known at the time, while embarrassingly stating many, many things that we now know are clearly false, but ancient man didn't know that then. The bible is not a science and history textbook, it is a book written by primitive people using their superstitious view of the world to support their racist view that they were special and deserved to rule the world, a flat world with corners, built on pillars, where the sea was held back by doors and bars and hail was kept in storerooms. The bible no more describes the real world than does a Dr. Seuss book.
But moving on, you claim that 'The bible is written as a cover to cover metaphor to describe the inner workings of the literal brain, body & spirit... But since back then, there was no understanding... it was translated to the prophets as visions or inner voices... So all the debate over God killing this and that, and Rape here and there, are simply metaphors to describe all the Complex interactions of the Brain, Heart Etc'. OK, so you say the bible isn't a story about some god and his many adventures with his favourite tribe in the Middle East as everyone thinks it is. It's actually a detailed textbook on human physiology, psychology and neuroscience, with some spooky stuff about communicating with gods thrown in. You also reveal that this is something that 'about 99% of Christians Don't Know'. I'd agree with you there, although I'd probably push for nearer 100%. But you then claim that 'the WHOLE reason that the bible HAD to be written that way was because the ONLY way to become "born again" or (aka- Spiritual Awakening) is to know the complex inner roadmap of HOW the mind works!' But if as you claim the bible is effectively written in a language that no one can understand, then or now, it is utterly useless and its message remains hidden. The gods or spirits that you believe are behind the bible are apparently pretty pathetic in getting their message out, since no one over thousands of years has been able decipher what those many stories of killing and rape really meant. They all took them literally. No one, not Christian nor neuroscientist, fully understands how the body and mind works, and most neuroscientists aren't even looking for a spirit. Thus no one has gained 'Spiritual Awakening'. The bible is a monumental failure. You argue that by interpreting the bible correctly we will discover that 'the whole goal of God or Spirits... is to teach all humans how to have a REAL Spiritual experience with that Realm', and yet since you also argue that no one is interpreting the bible correctly, I repeat, the bible is a monumental failure, as are its authors, your gods or spirits. On the other hand, since you're lucky enough to have had a 'massive spiritual awakening', doesn't this mean that you now understand 'the complex inner roadmap of HOW the mind works!', so why aren't you communicating this knowledge with neuroscientists and winning a Nobel Prize, or at least helping alleviate mental illness?
Regarding these claims of yours, you say that 'Its impossible for you to believe me or anyone else Until it happens inside you'. No, not impossible, but certainly highly improbable if I have to wait for some spooky feeling that destroys my reason and common sense. Believe me when I say I am perfectly willing to believe totally weird and amazing things if the evidence suggests they are real. I accept many, many outlandish and bizarre scientific claims, especially from quantum physics and relativity theories. The idea that before I can believe in a god, I'll have to wait for that god to get in touch with me, is no different to saying that I won't believe in fairies until the Fairy King decides to make himself known. So be it then. I shall wait. The ball is in your god's court.
We have no idea where you dredged the following claim from: 'Science has proven that the description of God is Photon Light'. But from wherever, it's as bogus and ridiculous as me claiming that 'Religion has proven that the description of Daffy Duck is Neutrino Gravity'. You may well believe that god is photon light, and that this claim even makes sense, but like your earlier scientific claims we have never encountered it. Perhaps you could reveal the scientist who made this momentous discovery, and a link to a scientific journal where his work is described? And I'm sure that any scientist that proved god was photon light must have won a Nobel Prize, so which year was that?
Let's now move to the one example of science that you offer that you say is revealed in the bible: 'the EXACT Speed of Light... which is the exact number of 186,400 miles/sec'. The only slight problem with this claim is that it's not true, for two reasons. First, it's not the EXACT speed of light, which is actually 186,282 miles per second. You might argue that it's quite close, but we're not talking 'quite close', we're talking 'EXACT' remember. If engineers and scientists used 186,400 miles per sec in their calculations, a lot of research would reach false conclusions and the likes of GPS wouldn't work. If you Google 'speed of light' and '186,400 miles/sec', the only websites that report this incorrect value are religious sites deviously arguing for the accuracy of the bible. Every science related site gives 186,282 miles per second. Even as a kid I knew (and committed to memory) that the speed of light was 186,282 miles per second, so why is it that I know more than the god that wrote the bible? The second reason that this claim is untrue is that nowhere in the bible does it clearly say, or even vaguely say, that the speed of light is 186,400 miles per sec. The quoted bible verse actually says: 'All the men assigned to the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, number 186,400. They will set out first. (NU 2:9)' No mention or even hint that we're talking science here, and specifically the value of the speed of light. I know you'll say that the verse is a metaphor, but pray tell, how do you interpret the number of Judah's men as actually meaning the speed of light? Worse still, this magical number is just one among many. If we take the bible and look at just NU 1:20 to 4:46, we find that the following numbers are mentioned:
46,500 — 59,300 — 45,650 — 74,600 — 54,400 — 57,400 — 40,500 — 32,200 — 35,400 — 62,700 — 41,500 — 53,400 — 603,550 — 74,600 — 54,400 — 57,400 — 186,400 — 46,500 — 59,300 — 45,650 — 151,450 — 40,500 — 32,200 — 35,400 — 108,100 — 62,700 — 41,500 — 53,400 — 157,600 — 603,550 — 7,500 — 8,600 — 6,200 — 22,000 — 22,273 — 1,365 — 2,750 — 2,630 — 3,200 — 8,580
In amongst these numbers I've highlighted the 'speed of light' in bold text. So why was this number picked over the rest? Clearly because it was the closest to the speed of light. Not exact, but it would have to do. So what scientific values do the other numbers stand for? The charge of an electron, the mass of a proton, the distance to Mars, the location of the prime meridian, the number of genes in the human genome? I'm sure if I could be bothered I could match these numbers up to some modern scientific knowledge, just as I could say that one number is the exact distance between two famous cities and another is what I paid in tax last year. How did the bible know that? Another problem with claiming that the bible really did mean 186,400 miles per sec, is that the units 'mile' and 'second' would have been utterly meaningless to bible readers throughout much of history, even if they did pull out this value. Like us wondering how long a cubit was, they would be even more mystified as to how long a mile was, since it hadn't yet been invented. And even now for modern and future bible readers it has again gone out of use for most of the world, since the speed of light is now usually recorded as 299,792,458 metres per sec. Why did this god write down the speed of light in units that would only be understood for a blink of an eye in historical terms? Can you imagine Joseph of Arimathea saying to a dinner guest that light travels at 186,400 miles per sec? The guest would say he has no idea how fast that is as he doesn't know what a mile or second is, and Joseph wouldn't be able help. It's like me saying my property is 20,000 square cubits. Is that big or not?
And maybe I misread here, but you say that 'God is Photon Light' and that the speed of light value is 'where god describes a metaphor of gods speed', to which I infer that this means that the speed of god is the speed of light. And yet some things can travel faster than the speed of light, thus they can travel faster than god can! The universe for example is expanding faster than the speed of light, so god could never reach many parts of the universe, he's limited like we are. I'm thinking that the bible says that god is all-powerful, that he can do anything, but this means he can't. But if you're correct and all these bold bible claims about omnipotence, omniscience and such are just metaphors, then nothing in the bible can be believed. Not even the claim that gods and spirits actually exist.
Sticking with this number thing, you say the bible talks in metaphors and that 'the meanings of the numbers are in code'. So why does the bible in 1Kings 7:23 quite clearly talk about pi, the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, and implies that it is equal to three, exactly? Any school kid knows that pi is not exactly equal to three, as did other civilisations in biblical times, and if you use this approximation you'll never get the correct answer. Using this bible verse fundamentalists in the US have even tried to legally change the value of pi from 3.141592654... to exactly 3. But why did your god or spirits explicitly reveal an approximate value of pi in terms that even the ancient Hebrews could understand and yet hide the approximate value of the speed of light? Or is this talk of pi another metaphor? Clearly it must be so what is the passage really talking about? To me it appears that bible believers stick with the literal meaning of a bible verse when it mentions an apparent fact, but when it's confusing, contradictory or clearly nonsensical then they say it's a metaphor or in code and actually means whatever their fertile imagination wants it to mean. But once you start ignoring what the text of the bible actually says and start replacing ancient claims and beliefs with modern knowledge and desires, then it's time to admit that you're not at all happy with the bible and feel that you could do much better. And will. And did you know that it's not just Christians and Jews that have bible codes, the Muslims also claim to have found Koran codes?
You say, 'Depending on how rooted you are against unseen forces...', which suggests that we have a thing against unseen forces. In fact we believe in many unseen forces, such as gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. It is not unseen forces that we are skeptical of, it is forces such as your 'unseen spiritual power' for which there is no evidence whatsoever. To us your 'unseen spiritual power' ranks alongside Harry Potter's magic, pixie dust and gods throwing lightning bolts from the clouds. We can believe in the unseen forces that hold quarks together because scientists have fronted up with good evidence for their existence, so it's time for your 'top Anti-Christian Theologians and top experts of the most ancient writings' to show their evidence to the world, and I don't mean by making a silly YouTube video.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Jan, 2015 ~
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Comment by Anonymous, 28 Jan, 2015
Hi John. An interest that I have is why someone holds onto what is very likely a false belief in the face of mounting evidence that their belief is very likely false.
I had been thinking that it comes down to a combination of the following.
Placebo effect (I prayed, then I felt better)
I like to think that given enough time, and the right approach, you can talk sense to most people. If not changing their mind, then perhaps seed some doubt in their belief.
Expectation bias (I believe I'm right, therefore evidence that proves me wrong is not credible.)
Confirmation bias (If you just look at this data and only this data and twist it a little bit it proves I'm right)
100%ers (There is no doubt in my mind therefore you are wrong. You just need to pray and truly believe and then you will also see.)
This is not a firm unshakable belief on my part, currently it is starting to look unlikely. I would say it was more of weak hypothesis.
I like to think this because false beliefs lead to the wrong actions being taken, and sometimes that affects everybody.
The email you received in this blog reminds me that there is another cause of faulty thinking that is near hopeless to reason with. Mental illness; the following quote makes me more than a little concerned of your correspondents mental health.
"I was hit by an unknowing massive spiritual awakening which caused by body to be able to have "out of body experiences" and other weird stuff"
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jan, 2015
I think you're right in that many things can contribute to someone holding onto a clearly false belief, from confirmation bias through to mental illness. Thus I don't think there's a quick, easy fix, no one size fits all. But like you I also 'like to think that given enough time, and the right approach, you can talk sense to most people'. Unfortunately one is seldom given that opportunity. Door knocking evangelists will quickly leave and friends and associates will change the subject when uncomfortable questions are raised. A friend's wife told me that she avoids conflict with others over her religious views by simply not talking about them. And if some degree of mental illness is involved in their belief, then you might as well debate with a banana.
But barring mental illness, I think it's important to at least try to debate these issues, since as you say, 'false beliefs lead to the wrong actions being taken, and sometimes that affects everybody'. How much safer the world would be if certain murderous Muslims had been shown how wrong their beliefs were.
Ghosts thought to exist in Southland
Oh the shame of it all! Humanity is well into the 21st century, we've recently landed a probe on a comet, researchers have just announced that they may have found a new antibiotic that could fight superbugs, and I've discovered a cheesecake with both white and dark chocolate. Things are seemingly progressing as they should, and then we read that a 'Ghostbusters' franchise has opened up in our own backyard. Oh crap!
In a society swamped with amazing new knowledge and technological advancements, suddenly we find a group still
mired in superstitious beliefs offering to help us out with things that go bump in the night.
According to an article entitled 'Ghostbusters out to tackle paranormal', which I read in a free weekly publication called 'The Eye' delivered to households in Invercargill and parts of Southland (and then published online at Stuff.co.nz), the group call their venture 'Spooky Southland'. This group we are told is 'looking to solve all of the ghostly mysteries people need solved'.
Personally we don't believe that there are any 'ghostly mysteries' in Southland to be solved. Mysteries yes, quite possibly, but not 'ghostly' mysteries, not strange goings-on that are caused by ghosts. Do these people not realise that the 'Ghostbusters' movie was a comedy, not based on real events and not to be taken seriously? Evidently not. This group made up of 11 ghost hunters and mediums think ghosts are real. No, really, they do.
The line preceding 'The Eye' article byline reads: 'Team always at the ready to go and explore what others find unexplainable'. Unexplainable ... really? It doesn't matter how often and how convincingly that 'others' do in fact explain these events as perfectly natural and nothing to do with an imaginary spooky realm, these true believers in Casper and his friends either dismiss the rational explanations or are completely ignorant of them. Apparently these ghostbusters can't bring themselves to believe that spirits aren't watching them in the shower and that they have nothing better to do than make a strange noise in the middle of night and then run away giggling (or should that be float away?) What a horror the afterlife is going to be if I am to spend eternity walking up and down someone's boring hallway rattling some chains, in the dark, and then quickly hiding if someone comes out to investigate the noise. Not looking forward to it at all!
I'm sure that these ghost hunters and mediums have watched every episode of TV's 'Sensing Murder' and similar programs featuring psychic mediums pretending to talk to dead people and programs exploring 'haunted' locations in search of ghosts. They will have attended shows of psychic mediums putting on their act and will have read all their silly books, especially those that promise to explain how to develop your own psychic abilities and get a feeling for spotting dead people in a crowd — Oh look, there's one now, standing right behind you! Oh no, you're not quick enough, he's gone now.
But what these believers in ghosts fail or refuse to understand is that the mediums in programs such as 'Sensing Murder' have never solved a single murder. Not one! And 'Sensing Murder' didn't just investigate unsolved cases in New Zealand and Australia. It also failed to solve murders in the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, Sweden and Norway. All these countries have their own show and their psychic detectives are just as pathetic as ours. But this clear, consistent and embarrassing failure doesn't seem to trouble believers at all. They watch these mediums pretend to talk to dead people and gush, 'Aren't they just amazing?' umm... no, no they're not. They are frauds, and they no more see dead people than I can see fairies at the bottom of my garden. There is a mountain of evidence of psychics caught cheating, and not one single piece of evidence worldwide of a single ghost or of some idiot talking to said ghost. And there would be a lot more evidence of psychic mediums cheating at their shows and on TV, except that they, like magicians, refuse to let skeptical people have full access to their performances. We understand why magicians won't let us look up their sleeves, after all they openly admit that what they do is just a trick, but why don't mediums welcome skeptics if their magic is real? What are they afraid that skeptics will discover, what are they hiding? It annoys us when a group like 'Spooky Southland' claim that they are 'ready to go and explore what others find unexplainable', since whenever skeptics show up at medium shows or confront ghost hunters in an attempt to 'explore what others find unexplainable', we are usually quickly shown the door. We are told that ghosts and spirits are scared of skeptics and flee, and mediums are left looking foolish with no one to talk to. No seriously, many mediums claim that the mere presence of a skeptic will screw up their supernatural abilities and make them look like frauds. Of course the reality is that the presence of a skeptic will expose their tricks and expose them as frauds. There are many good books and even TV documentaries that explain how psychic mediums perform their tricks and how ghost hunters are fooled by events that are actually explainable, contrary to what the ghost hunters think. But of course the believers in ghosts, spirits, demons and poltergeists never read these books or consult with skeptics. Sometimes the explanations are simple and sometimes they are a little more complex, requiring a little more scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills than learnt in primary school or from Hollywood movies. And sometimes a clear explanation won't be forthcoming, but we have seen no example where a failure to discover an exact cause has led intelligent, informed people to suggest that we might need to consider a ghostly cause. There is no good evidence that souls or spirits exist, any more than do leprechauns and unicorns, and thus no good reason to offer them as a potential explanation for hearing a bump in the night or suddenly feeling a cool breeze.
Think about this. Your boss calls your entire department to a meeting where he reveals that someone has released confidential information to the media, and he wants to know who it was. I doubt that even a member of 'Spooky Southland' would be silly enough to suggest, 'umm... maybe it was ghosts?' And yet in their private lives they do go with this ridiculous explanation and form a group to help equally deluded folk find those pesky ghosts — OK sir, where do you last remember seeing your car keys? Do you recall any mysterious noises or shadows before they went missing?
Shown in the photo on the right holding an EMF meter, we read that 'Team leader Stephanie Blomfield has never been a skeptic'. Well there's your problem right there. We're always peeved when people imply that being a skeptic is an unfortunate thing to be, like being poor. Who would willingly choose such a thing? But of course Blomfield is typical of people that make such a claim in that she clearly doesn't understand what skepticism is. And how I wouldn't swap it for the world. Let me quote from a book I'm reading at the moment, '50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God' by Guy P. Harrison. Though not talking about ghosts, his comments still apply if we think of Blomfield's belief that ghosts are real:
'Why question it? Why think? Just keep on believing. First of all, I would suggest that nothing should be off-limits to questioning... The safest policy is to leave everything in life open to skepticism and analysis. No matter how wonderful something may seem, shutting off one's mind is risky. Skepticism, by the way, is not the dirty word some believers seem to think it is. Skepticism simply means thinking once or twice before accepting anything as true. What can possibly be wrong with that? Skepticism is a positive attitude and being a skeptic is a smart way to navigate through life. It should never be confused with cynicism. A cynic may drip with negativity and scorn but a skeptic merely questions claims before believing. There's nothing negative about that.'
And like everyone that denies being a skeptic, Blomfield will actually be skeptical of many, many things, although not ghosts. I'm sure that she's highly skeptical that either Islam or Hinduism is true. I can almost guarantee that if I said to Blomfield that I have the original 'Mona Lisa' painting hanging in my lounge that she would be skeptical of this claim, even though she claims not to be a skeptic. She would have difficulty believing me, or at least I hope she would. She would wonder what evidence I could offer to support my surprising claim, and until then she would likely suspend her belief. She would in fact exhibit all the positive traits of being a skeptic. And I would commend her for her skepticism, for doubting my claim without better evidence, whereas she criticises skeptics for the same stance regarding ghosts.
So how does the 'Spooky Southland' team find these invisible, evasive ghosts? Typical of most ghost hunters they do it 'Using the EMF reader to detect unexplained electromagnetic fields, cameras to photograph the scene and the temperature gauge to detect fluctuations in temperature. When there is a spirit present the temperature becomes cold, Blomfield said. Once a spirit has been detected the mediums take over'. But again, there is not one single piece of scientific evidence that ghosts emit or affect electromagnetic fields, or that they have a certain temperature or that they will show up on film. All this is purely wishful thinking and guesswork on the part of ghost hunters. Certainly there are a lot of photographs of ghosts, especially old photos, but these are clearly all fakes, and it is utterly amazing that the people that first saw them, even though photography was new, could have been fooled by them. There is no accepted modern photo of a ghost, even though cameras are now ubiquitous in the likes of cell phones. People can and do photograph a fleeting glimpse of a celebrity without panties as she alights from a taxi or can capture the crucial moment of an assassination or terrorist bomb, but not a single person worldwide can capture a ghost on camera, even though there must be billions and billions of them roaming around. The only thing that people point to on photos these days are small glowing dots called orbs. It's really quite ridiculous to claim that what you saw as a shimmery figure wearing 17th century clothing and dragging chains behind them has been captured by the camera as a really small dot. Oh pleeeease. Just admit that no ghost has been photographed and stop making a fool of yourself by claiming that since the only unusual thing in the photo is that small dot off to the left, that must be Great Uncle Richard, when it's likely just a dust mote. Likewise with fluctuations in EMF or temperature, there is likely a rational, naturalistic explanation, even though the ghost hunter may not have the knowledge to find it. Sure you can make nonsense claims and say that an EMF or temperature change is caused by an invisible ghost, but I could equally argue that it was caused by aliens inside a cloaking field, or fairies made invisible by pixie dust, or Harry Potter wearing his cloak of invisibility. There is no good reason to explain strange instrument readings by evoking ghosts, anymore than aliens and fairies. And if 'When there is a spirit present the temperature becomes cold' as Blomfield claims, then my fridge is clearly haunted, absolutely chock full of ghosts, with even more in the freezer.
The article reported Blomfield saying that 'Compared to major cities, Invercargill had few hauntings. "I'm an Aucklander and Auckland is really haunted".' Or maybe we're just more skeptical and less gullible than JAFAs? Although that said, she did manage to get ten others, probably locals, to join her on her quest to find supernatural beings. I wonder if they might have watched movies like 'Paranormal Activity', 'Poltergeist', 'The Frighteners' and even 'The Lord of the Rings' too many times?
But why only 11 members in 'Spooky Southland' if ghosts are so obvious to the ghost hunters? Shouldn't we all be joining and helping rid Southland of haunted houses? According to the article, the problem is that 'Blomfield believed people would rather pretend nothing happened, or put it down to the wind, instead of allowing themselves to believe in the unbelievable. She was not 100 per cent sure why people denied the existence of spirits. "They're probably scared to think of the unknown, the afterlife".'
Of course the real answer is that people aren't pretending, because nothing did happen, and more often than not it was indeed just the wind that made that noise. Most people have sufficient confidence in science to realise that ghosts, as well as leprechauns, fairies, trolls and demons, don't exist, and were simply the fantasies of more primitive times. Whereas these believers in spirits, ghosts and souls, and one assumes, gods, see and hear things that they can't immediately explain, and like ignorant, medieval peasants, they, for no reason beyond belief in fairy tales, jump to a supernatural explanation. They're like small children afraid of the monsters under the bed or in the closet, unable to separate scary stories from reality. And I wonder what they tell their own kids who express these fears? Whereas we would reassure children that there are no such things as monsters and ghosts and they have nothing to fear, I suspect these believers would say, 'Well it's too late to do anything now, but we'll get a medium or priest in tomorrow to see if they can convince them to leave and not murder you as you sleep. Good night'.
As for Blomfield suggesting that those of us who deny the existence of spirits are 'probably scared to think of the unknown, the afterlife', clearly this view comes from ignorance on her part. We deny the existence of spirits (and gods and angels and trolls under bridges as well) because there is no evidence whatsoever that they exist, and of course there is no need to fear something that doesn't exist. If she is aware of the arguments informed skeptics actually offer, and someone in her position should be, she may not believe them, but she should at least acknowledge that these are the reasons why we deny the existence of spirits, and not because we are simply too scared to think about them.
My experience is that it is actually the believers in spirits (and gods, ghosts, mediums and souls) who exhibit a lack of real thought when it comes to the afterlife. Sure they think about it, but only superficially, not deeply and widely. They hear a bump in the night and think it must be a ghost rather than the cat. Or maybe it was aliens trying to get in to abduct them? Have they ever considered that possibility? Nah... they're probably skeptical about alien abductions. They think of the afterlife and naively wonder how their dead granny is settling in up there. They hear a voice in their head and believe a spirit is communicating with them, rather than thinking it's most likely just their own thoughts. They never stop to think why the talkative spirits only ever tell them stuff that they already knew or stuff so vague that it's meaningless, like a deceased loved one saying, 'I love you'. They never read and consider why informed skeptics dismiss ghosts as nonsense, they merely accept that we do, evidently because we're in denial.
And how might ordinary Jane or Joe Bloggs keep an eye out for spooky goings-on, or know that they have a ghost infestation and in need of the help of 'Spooky Southland'? Blomfield explains that 'If people experience fluxations in temperature, objects moving, strange lights or orbs, or shadows appearing in the corner of their eye they could be experiencing the paranormal'. Oh dear, I guess my house is haunted then! But seriously, that's it? That's all the indications that these ghost hunters have to work with? These everyday and easily explained events are all that these people have to argue that the paranormal is real? My house gets colder as night approaches. I thought it might have to do with the sun, but no, apparently it's ghosts coming home from work. It warms up the next morning as they apparently head back to work. It all makes sense now.
But I wonder why the spirits that psychic mediums claim to talk to are more than happy to communicate with us, desperate even, but all the spirits that ghost hunters claim to encounter are so wary, so careful to remain hidden, so diligent to blend in with the natural surroundings that only the use of modern technology can even hint that something might be there? Basically the claim seems to be that if you can't see, feel or hear anything definite, then you might have ghosts. And if you're like us, convinced that there is nothing strange at all happening in your house, then I'm afraid you've likely got professional ghosts, those highly experienced ghosts that have been hiding from us for centuries and that know all the tricks needed to circumvent our senses and petty instruments. If you hear a bump in the night then it's mostly likely an amateur, one fresh out of ghost school that hasn't yet perfected walking through walls silently.
The article also gives us a warning: 'Despite her interest in hunting down spirits, Blomfield did not believe people should be performing seances or using ouija boards to conjure spirits. The outcome could be dangerous, she said. "You just do not know who you are asking to come in, it could be good, it could be bad".'
Do people still hold seances and use ouija boards these days, it sounds so 19th century? Surely there's a smartphone app that can put us in touch with spirits that's quicker and cheaper? Spirits are going to find themselves on the outer with the youth of today and the adults of tomorrow if they don't embrace modern technology. But seriously, this religious nonsense that we can invite the spirit of great Aunt Agnes or Satan and his minions into our home is as laughable as believing in those monsters under the bed. And why do they apparently need permission to enter? Are demons really that polite? My understanding of ghosts and spirits was that they, like neutrinos, could float invisibly through your house whether you asked them in or not. These believers blindly adopt elements from religious myths, bogus TV shows and silly Hollywood movies and combine them to invent a fantasy so compelling that they then fool themselves into thinking it's real. So real that they form a group and go out looking for their fantasy beings. But like na´ve children waiting up to catch a glimpse of Santa, we are confident that their search will continue to be in vain, as it has been for centuries.
Of course Invercargill isn't the first city in NZ to get a ghostbusters franchise by any means. Many other ghost hunting groups have come and gone around the country over the years. And yet embarrassingly for all these intrepid ghost hunters, all the effort that they have put into finding spooks hasn't resulted in them finding a single ghost. Not one. There's no captured ghost languishing in some ghost containment device, such as shown in the 'Ghostbusters' movie. There is not a single photograph or video that independent experts agree is of a ghost. Likewise there is not a single recording from EMF meters, audio recorders or temperature sensors that experts attribute to spirits. And there is not a single transcript from any medium that suggests that they were really talking to a dead person. There's not a single article arguing for the existence of ghosts in scientific journals, and no serious mention of ghost sightings in the media except as humorous fluff pieces. Years and years of so-called research and not a thing to show for it that stands up to serious scrutiny. Nothing! Like leprechauns, fairies and gremlins before them, we think it's high time that ghost hunters started to consider the likely reality that spooks simply don't exist.
And on the bright side for you believers that come to accept a world without ghosts, while you may have lost your invisible friends, you can now shower in private.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2015 ~
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Comment by Phil, 20 Jan, 2015
You only have to look at Blomfield's picture to suspect some chromosonal challenges. No enlightenment coming.
Comment by Phill, 20 Jan, 2015
Hi John — missed the article but I am surprised that ghost hunters are still packing much the same equipment they have done since at least the 1950's and perhaps earlier. You would have thought that with modern developments there would have been advances to the field. Now I do have a confession to make, though I do not believe in ghosts I still relish the odd ghost story or two and will often dip into the odd Tom Slemen book for a bit of ghostly nonsense. Its a bit like watching Downton Abby, I'd describe it as my bit of psychic fluff (Slemen not Downton Abby which is my bit of soap opera fluff) it requires no thought and I find it entertaining.
However, I have been interested in cases where sightings of ghosts might be explained by our minds playing tricks — you will know this argument — that we don't see with our eyes but that our brains construct images from the signals sent in from the eyes and sometimes the brain gets it wrong. I have had my own experience of once seeing something that was not there. Over thirty years ago traveling in the backseat of a car heading towards Porirua I once saw Death on the road and by that I mean the traditional view of Death in a grey hooded garment down to his feet with the face hidden, though I cannot now recall if I saw either a scythe or skull. I remember conducting a number of visual tests by shutting my eyes and refocusing on the image and looking away and looking back and still saw the same thing. The only thing I did not do was discuss it with the other occupants of the car (I was young and shy at the time). Finally we passed the terrifying figure — and I got a better view, it was a young chap in a red checker swandry with the hood up (it was an overcast day) heading down the hill towards the road. Over the years I have mulled over this incident, my only explanation is that from the range I first saw him my eyes did not pick up all the detail and my brain filled in the blanks for me in this case by picking something out of my own mythology. It was a good experience for me in that it taught me that I cannot always believe what I see, and that this phenomena might explain other such sightings that I had read about or had been reported to me. Two or three years after this I discovered the American Sceptics and have never looked back.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Jan, 2015
I guess ghost hunters are still using the same tools Phill because the idea of what ghosts are is so vague that they don't really know what they're looking for. Until a ghost is found people have no idea what instruments might detect them. And all these current instruments are doing is slightly extending the reach of our own human senses, so essentially all the ghost hunters are doing is strolling in and having a look around, which of course is just what they've done throughout history, so things haven't really advanced much beyond being able to record their failures. Plus the only tools that the amateur can afford, understand how to use and obtain from their local shops is the likes of EMF meters, audio recorders, thermometers and cameras. I guess these flashy electronic devices lend a bit of sophistication to the ghost hunting team than if they simply turned up with a net and some duct tape.
Regarding their instruments, it was noted in the article that 'Spooky Southland team leader Stephanie Blomfield holds the EMF meter which detects unexplained fluctuation in electromagnetic fields'. We don't know if Blomfield said exactly that or whether this is the reporter's interpretation of what an EMF meter does. But of course the meters do not detect 'unexplained' fluctuations, they merely detect electromagnetic fields. It is up to the user to decide if the field is fluctuating and whether this fluctuation can be explained as being completely natural. Just because a ghost hunter can't explain a meter reading, and they are unlikely to have any expertise in this area, it doesn't allow them to jump to the unjustified conclusion that it's most likely a ghost. It's like someone saying that they don't understand how two cell phones can communicate without wires, so it must be magic. I've seen many examples of ghost hunters using 'strange' readings from their instruments to argue for ghosts that experts later explained away as being completely natural, but of course that testimony from experts didn't change the views of the ghost hunters in the slightest.
And I also agree Phill that sightings of ghosts (and UFOs as well) might be explained by our minds playing tricks. I could recount several examples where I thought I saw fantasy beings or flying saucers, but on every single occasion where I managed to get a better look, the object transmuted into something quite ordinary. Occasionally I didn't get a second look and didn't resolve what it was, but experience has taught me that my initial guess was likely a false identification on my part, since not once has my weird sighting of something unbelievable, or anyone else's for that matter, ever turned out to be true.
'Silly Beliefs' and Internet censorship
How embarrassing. We recently received a comment from a reader in Pakistan saying that he can access 'Silly Beliefs' and yet when he tries to access Amazon to check on a book we recommended, or visit Youtube and many other atheist sites, he finds that the state has banned access to them. Naturally we felt sorry for him (or her), and for those in other countries where the state and various organisations take it upon themselves to censor the Internet based on what they feel their citizens should be allowed to view and be made aware of.
I say embarrassing because now I learn that certain public access to 'Silly Beliefs' has been banned, not in Pakistan, but in public libraries in New Zealand! The Internet sites one is permitted to access from public libraries is evidently controlled by a government department called 'Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa'. The name 'People's Network' sounds more like what the government in North Korea would call their censorship bureau, and perhaps they do. Maybe this is where the NZ government got the idea from?
Isn't it strange, the Pakistani government doesn't object to their citizens accessing 'Silly Beliefs', even though we are openly critical of religion, including Islam, and yet a NZ government department decrees that its citizens shouldn't have access to a local skeptical site? In the privacy of your own home they grant access (perhaps reluctantly) to the views expressed by 'Silly Beliefs', but not in a public library, not in a place of learning and information! Heaven forbid that someone might read the argument that gods don't exist or that mediums can't talk to the dead or that astrologer Ken Ring can't predict the weather.
The 'People's Network' website says they ban 'objectionable material', but what is objectionable about our site? Attempting to reach 'Silly Beliefs' users receive the message that the site is banned due to 'adult content and/or nudity' (or some similarly worded comment). Well 'Silly Beliefs' isn't a porn site, and no one visits to see if we are showing those stolen nude photos of 'Hunger Games' actress Jennifer Lawrence (we're not), so that leaves 'adult content' as the reason we are banned. Certainly our content is aimed at adults, although we would have no worries and would even be pleased if children read our articles and tried to understand how something called critical thinking can banish all manner of silly beliefs. And if even by 'adult content' they mean content and themes that are more generally suitable for adults than children, every library has entire floors allocated to content for adults, so why isn't that all banned and off-limits to the public? Libraries have the books on atheism, science, skepticism and philosophy that we recommend and discuss on 'Silly Beliefs', so why isn't access to all these books banned if the ideas within them are considered 'adult content'?
So can anything in our articles exposing gods. psychics, astrologers and conspiracy theorists etc be deemed 'objectionable material'? Well, 'objectionable' is defined in my dictionary as 'Arousing disapproval; offensive', and 'offensive' is further defined as 'Causing anger, displeasure, resentment, or affront'. Might our comments have caused these feeling in certain people? If, for example, you were a religious fundamentalist, a psychic medium called Kelvin Cruickshank, an astrologer called Ken Ring or a chemtrail proponent like Claire Swinney, then we know by their comments directed at us that they have all felt anger, displeasure and resentment at the way we challenge their public claims. So yes, clearly certain people find our views objectionable. Both Ken Ring and Claire Swinney have even threatened legal action to silence us.
But of course, thankfully, New Zealand is not North Korea, Pakistan, China, Iran and other like countries where governments tell their citizens what they are to believe, how they are to behave and censor access to information to aid them in this tyrannical task. NZ is a free society with free speech where individual liberty is paramount. Of course we understand that our views will evoke disapproval and even anger from the religious nutters and weather astrologers, but offence works both ways. Intrusion of religion into our secular society evokes disapproval from us, and silly astrologers claiming that they can predict earthquakes evokes a silent anger within us. Both sides of a debate can claim that they are offended and that they find opposing views objectionable, so if a controlling body is to be just, like the 'People's Network', then not only should 'Silly Beliefs' (and other skeptical sites) be banned, but also all sites worldwide that support religion, psychics, alternative medicine, conspiracy theories, and of course Ken Ring's own site.
Section 13 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act states that:
'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and hold opinions without interference.'
Of course not everyone agrees with this freedom, Muslim radicals and Ken Ring immediately spring to mind, they feel that they should be allowed to freely push their message but woe betide if someone wants to challenge them. But the reality is, or should be, in NZ at least, that a site like 'Silly Beliefs' shouldn't be deemed as 'objectionable' simply because someone might disagree with its views and be banned from access in public libraries, for if it continues, a million other sites from both ends of the spectrum should likewise receive a ban. When presented with the option, It's either all or nothing, if we ban one site then we must ban all sites, then clearly every sane person would agree to grant free access to views from opposing sides and just hope that their arguments will carry the day. Again, this doesn't apply to Muslim radicals and Ken Ring.
And yes, the 'People's Network' have been contacted as to why 'Silly Beliefs' has been banned, but they refused to explain, saying that the particular library should be contacted (as if the ban only worked in one!) who of course quite rightly explained that they had no control over what Internet sites could be accessed, that would be the 'People's Network'. Actually this is not the first time the 'People's Network' has placed a ban on 'Silly Beliefs', it also happened a couple of years ago. On that occasion, contacting them brought an immediate apology, 'Silly Beliefs' was unblocked and the message ended: 'Thanks for letting us know and happy browsing'.
So what's changed this time? What or who has caused 'Silly Beliefs' to be banned by the 'People's Network', and why are they not helpful in reaching a resolution? Have we moved a small step closer to North Korea?
On the bright side, we've decided to let the reality of our site being placed on a list of forbidden access give us some cheer. It reminds us of the Christian Church's Index of Forbidden Books, a list that they maintained for centuries and that was only officially abandoned in 1966. Though it of course gave no joy to those who had their books banned, destroyed and placed on the list, in hindsight we can see that being banned was usually a sign that the ideas expressed in these books were radical, often brilliant and of course challenged the silly dogma of the Church. The Index of Forbidden Books was the Church's way of censoring dangerous ideas (dangerous to them) and of suppressing opposition and individual liberty. As philosopher A. C. Grayling has noted, 'most of Western culture in the last thousand years' terrified the Church and had found its way onto the list. OK, so of course we don't dare compare our ideas and writing with the likes of Galileo, Copernicus, Descartes, Voltaire, Hume or Kant, but it is nice to think (or fantasise) that perhaps something we have written has made someone feel so threatened that they have sought to have us banned. We must be doing something positive. Thankfully the usual next step, brutal execution, is now frowned upon in civilised society. Although no one can get that through to certain Muslims.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2015 ~
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Comment by Mike, 11 Jan, 2015
Hi guys, my local library hates me, well not me personally because they haven't caught me yet, but I guess that it is only a matter of time before they do. Just my only small protest about religion.
I keep randomly picking up religious books and placing them on the fiction shelves under the god or gods last name. i.e. Buddha goes under B etc.
I have been doing it for about 5 years and not on every time I visit. The Library has some filters on its search content but I regularly see kids surfing porn sites and places like Anonymous etc. Seems Libraries in Australia have a much more laid back criteria for blocking content than NZ has.
Keep up the good work.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2015
I'm glad to see I'm not the only devious person on the planet Mike. I haven't correctly shelved library books but I have moved books in books stores, such as putting both the Bible and Ken Ring's Predict Weather Almanac in the Fantasy section alongside LOTR where they belong.
Comment by Graeme, 11 Jan, 2015
Holy crap! This must not go unchallenged or unfixed. Who pray tell makes the decisions, and in this case why? Explanation please. Given the atmosphere surrounding freedom of speech at the moment this is a screeching howler, not that it wouldn't be otherwise. I suspect this post may not get the response it deserves because it doesn't affect the john doe at home, but it is hugely important.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2015
Thanks for your support Graeme. I'm hoping that rather than someone deliberating complaining to get our site banned, that the 'decision' was made by some unthinking piece of poorly designed software. It amazes me that so many people, thinking that computers are far brighter than they are and that they don't make mistakes, happily hand over important decisions to software that clearly isn't up to the task.
Comment by another Mike, 11 Jan, 2015
Sorry but I can't agree with the other Mike screwing up the library — whether fiction or not, religion is cataloged as such and should be in the appropriate place in the shelves! :p
I did write to the Whangarei Library telling them that Freland's book on HAARP, Chemtrails, etc (se https://chemtrailsnorthnz.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/ask-your-library-to-get-a-copy-of-chemtrails-haarp-the-full-spectrum-dominance-of-planet-earth/) is about a hoax — as per another book in their catalogue.....
As for Silly Beliefs being censored — many "web filtering" services automatically keep out "Activism" sites — I've had it happen with "Fortigard" at work. They do this automatically and you should try writing a polite note to them asking why, and suggesting it is over the top. I have actually had a few sites removed from the Fortigard list — perhaps it will work for 'Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa' too. And if not then a couple of well placed letters to the editor can sometimes get things moving.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2015
Hi Mike. A polite note to them asking why resulted in them referring us to the library in question, who correctly said it wasn't under their control, and referred us to the very people that had referred us to them. Stalemate.
Comment by another Mike, 12 Jan, 2015
john as per my email to you yesterday, I contacted "People's Network" asking about your site — and have ben given the answer below — It is as I expected — you shouldn't ascribe to malice what is explainable by oversight, incompetence or just plain "there's just too much to do on the web" :)
................ Forwarded message ................
To: Peoples Network
Subject: Content Filtering
Your intro says:
"Full internet access is available, restricted only by filtering for malicious content."
Can you please provide your definition of malicious content — apparently this site meets it: http://www.sillybeliefs.com/
................ Forwarded message ................
From: Peoples Network
Subject: RE: Content Filtering
We subscribe to a third party filtering service that has classified the site as: 'Adult & Nudity', which gets blocked on our network. This may be due to any content on the site showing nude images.
I can't see why the site has this classification so I have unblocked it for now and put a request through to the third party to reclassify it.
So http://www.sillybeliefs.com/ is now accessible — from 9.00 am today, Monday 12 Jan 2015. Thanks for letting us know.
The Help Desk
Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jan, 2015
Wow, thanks very much Mike. The helpful response you received from the People's Network is very similar to what we got a couple of years ago when they had banned 'Silly Beliefs'. I wonder why they couldn't have responded to our inquiry in that manner?
I notice that they say a ban 'may be due to any content on the site showing nude images'. So apparently some unthinking software or some prude is automatically banning sites if a nude image is found. So why isn't Wikipedia banned, there are lots of nude images on that site? The same with numerous news media sites that report on nude protests, skinny dipping record attempts etc. What about art sites that display nudes by famous artists? YouTube is overflowing with video of naked people, or so I've heard ;-), and yet it isn't banned.
In their FAQs section there is the question: 'Filtering — Is the internet filtered?', and their reply: 'Yes... websites containing pornography and malicious software are blocked'. Elsewhere they note: 'The People's Network offers a filtered Internet service. Where possible objectionable material and malicious software are blocked'. So it seems that their talk of 'Adult & Nudity' and 'objectionable material' are euphemisms for 'pornography'. But clearly as they hunt for sites 'showing nude images' they don't understand that 'nude images' are very often not pornographic. But let's remember that Facebook once banned images of women breastfeeding, so clearly many people struggle with the difference between innocent nudity and pornography, and the Internet will be policed accordingly.
But again, thanks for getting the ban lifted. I'll be in touch in the future when they will no doubt do it again.
Comment by Sam, 13 Jan, 2015
Just read that your site was classified as 'Adult & Nudity'. One possible explanation could be that the third party service uses image recognition software to determine if the site contains images with nudity. One analysis technique I've heard of uses colour signatures to determine nudity. The Silly Beliefs website colour scheme is quite close to skin tone, so it may have caused a false positive.
It's a bit of a long shot, but you never know.
Keep up the good work.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Jan, 2015
Hey Sam. Thanks for your thoughts and links. I've been wondering whether filtering software effected the ban or was it a complaint from a human unhappy with something we've written. Our site colour scheme hasn't changed of late, so if filtering software mistaking it as skin were the cause then, since unlike humans, software is blindly consistent, filters should have detected it ages ago. Unless of course they have recently changed their filter algorithms.
Looking at those two links on filtering methods, one talked of 'Nudity Detection' and the other 'presents a method for detecting pornography or nudity'. Again, people that are designing filtering software fail to grasp that pornography and nudity are not the same thing. The first link talks of software detecting 'skin-colored pixels in the image' which then goes on to 'Analyze the skin regions for clues of nudity or non-nudity'. The filter makes no attempt to detect pornography per se, clearly the assumption is that if nudity is detected then pornography has also been detected. The second link mentions 'detecting pornography or nudity' in the abstract but very quickly drops pornography and concentrates only on nudity: 'Basically, the decision is made from the probability, i.e., the picture with large areas of skin will be defined as Nudity'. But surely this means that a photo of a fat guy in shorts at the beach (Santa perhaps?) or a woman in a bikini, both showing large areas of skin, should both be detected as nudity and result in untold sites being banned?
This blind, sanctimonious online censoring is a little like a bookstore saying that they can't stop a child or easily offended Christian from innocently picking up a Playboy magazine or racy paperback and recoiling in shock, so they ban all such items from their shelves. The third party filtering service that the Peoples Network uses must have a humongous database that lists all the banned sites that they feel would be injurious to our mental health. They'd probably say that there is no need to thank them, they're just doing their job.
People rightly criticise the likes of North Korea and China for censoring what their citizens can view online, but we need to realise that we have folk in our own society feverishly toiling with righteous zeal over censoring software so that you and I can't see what offends them.
Comment by Phill, 19 Jan, 2015
Hi John — I never use the library computers so did not know about the ban — I wonder if it was triggered by the single half nude photo you have on your home page — given that most filtering software is notoriously broad and basic — eg "OMG boobs — must be a porn site" style of thing. I should point out that I have never found the image in question objectionable and generally don't object to nudity at all. One would have thought that given the amount of nudity now found in the media, one image of a half nude young woman shouldn't be considered bad (assuming of course that this was the reason for the ban).
I cannot believe that it has anything to do with content — after all apart from the odd occasional (well reasonably constant) critique of religious belief, you focus on the nonsense found in our society. I am sure they let through many religious sites which criticise science and atheism though I have never bothered to check — so it cannot be content related. Though it's also possible I'm just a naive optimist.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Jan, 2015
Hi Phill. Both times that the Peoples Network have banned our site they have seemingly been unable or unwilling to determine why it was banned: 'I can't see why the site has this classification so I have unblocked it'. One would assume that decent filtering software would produce a report that details exactly what element triggered a ban, and that the Peoples Network would consult this report before unblocking a site. But it seems not.
As you say, given the amount of nudity now found in the media, if some boobs are sufficient to bring about a ban, then a large respectable, non-pornographic proportion of the Internet, not to mention physical books and magazines, should be banned from our public libraries. As I've argued, nudity is not pornography, and even if that photo did cause the ban, they need to get away from boobs and focus on graphic sex. As I write this I hear two moronic radio DJs talking about the movie of the book 'Fifty Shades of Grey', so I've just checked and my local library has both the ordinary book on its selves as well as a talking book version. It's labelled 'Erotic fiction', which is just another way of saying pornography. So our libraries are being more than a little hypocritical in preventing their customers from spotting innocent nudity on the Internet and yet are perfectly happy to purchase multiple copies of pornographic books and hand them out to whom ever asks. And have you ever looked at some of those graphic novels — or comics as most of us call them — that many libraries now have large numbers of? Sure the nudity and sex depicted may only be pen and ink, but how does that really affect the storyline? And being comics, most adults think that only kids should be reading them, a view which kids are quite happy with.
As for our critique of religious belief, again the library has copies of books by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris all showing religion in a very bad light. So to remain consistent, an Internet ban shouldn't hobble our views while still keeping those books on their shelves. Who knows why our site was banned, twice, it might just be poor filtering software or perhaps some person annoyed with us, either way the Peoples Network seemingly aren't interested in why. And as long as there is unfettered access to our site, I guess we should let sleeping dogs lie.
Christians get an F in science class
We've landed men on the Moon, sequenced the human genome, rid ourselves of smallpox, built the Large Hadron Collider, detected radiation left over from the big bang, and invented a TV that works in the bathroom. Our civilisation would appear to have a fair grasp on the science of how the universe works, and one would expect that our schools would be on the frontline in communicating this knowledge to young children, to our future citizens.
But while this is generally the case, that most schools are at least attempting to teach modern science, there are some schools that are letting the team down rather badly.
Mikaere sent us an image of what is a test given to school kids labelled '4th Grade Science Quiz', with the subheading 'Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospel'. You can click on the two images for the larger image. Mikaere wrote:
'I came across this quiz on another site. I can't vouch for its authenticity but I wouldn't be surprised if it were from some American Bible-belt school. To label it a science quiz beggars belief. This is the sort of thing that could be part of the curriculum in future NZ charter schools, where "accountability" would only surface in a spelling test.'
My initial thought was that it was likely a joke, not because the questions were laughable, but because the quiz had been graded with '100 A+' written in red at the top, and yet not a single answer had a tick or cross next to it, which is how a typical teacher keeps track of correct answers and tallies them up at the end. But I did a little research and the school that gave the test has been identified and evidently it is a genuine test. The school was the Blue Ridge Christian Academy in South Carolina, USA, and the test was given, not in the late 1800s, but in March 2013. You can read more details on the Snopes site, which says that the school 'has since closed due to a lack of funding'.
The 'science' taught at this school maintains that the Earth is not billions of years old, dinosaurs are not millions of years old, man and dinosaurs lived together and that all animals, even those with pointy teeth like Tyrannosaurus Rex, only ate plants. Kids are taught that God made dinosaurs on the 6th day, that a global flood made all the fossils, and that they can believe all this because another question reaffirmed that (an invisible) God can always be trusted.
Reading about the school, we're told that they offer 'science lessons [that] are creation-based'. If the school's name didn't give it away, clearly this is a Christian fundamentalist school that teaches creationism, the false and childish belief that God created the world and life as described in that silly book the Bible. The kids at that school are no more learning science than I am by watching a 'Superman' movie.
Of course some will reply that this school was in the USA, not NZ, and it's closed down anyway. But as Mikaere noted, NZ is creating charter schools that are not only free to run identical Christian fundamentalist classes, but based on the several Christian fundamentalist organisations that have expressed interest in starting a charter school, this may soon be a reality and the world may soon be laughing at a NZ quiz as they laughed at the American quiz. The person that pushed these charter schools into law was Auckland politician and Christian fundamentalist John Banks, now an ex-MP and a convicted fraudster. Banks is on record affirming that he has no doubts that the first chapters of Genesis are true: 'That's what I believe', he told Radio Rhema. He believes God created everything in six days, including the world's first nudist colony, which unfortunately never grew beyond its first two members. The resort was closed and the couple evicted when God became enraged that the woman Eve had the insolence to try and improve her mind by seeking knowledge of the world. It's a sorry state of affairs that in the 21st century we are allowing primitive, superstitious, religious nonsense to be reintroduced into some schools and taught as fact. In NZ most intelligent people giggle and shake their heads in amazement at the religious nonsense observed in many American schools without realising that the contagion is quietly growing in NZ thanks to John Banks and charter schools.
We also have to remember that charter schools aside, Christian fundamentalists have been operating in NZ for years, a little bus runs past my place every school day transporting a handful of unfortunate kids to a Christian fundamentalist school on the other side of the city. They are already teaching this childish nonsense about a young Earth and man and dinosaurs walking hand in hand. Worse still there is a larger school just a block from my place that is far more common throughout the city and NZ that teaches a slightly watered down version of creationism. It's a Catholic school. Some people, especially Catholics, may argue that Catholics accept evolution not creationism. The fact is that every Catholic, and every Christian no matter what denomination, is a creationist. Every true Christian believes God created the universe and life, that God is the Creator, and every person who believes this is a creationist. Different faiths only differ by how exactly they believe God created life, not the fact that he created life. People who argue for Intelligent Design are creationists, as are Catholics. They're all arguing that intelligent design is behind the origin of life, and the source of that intelligence is God. Catholics can fool themselves into thinking that they accept evolution, but when you point out to them that evolution is naturalistic, that there is no god involved, not even at the start, they then put their god hat on and insist that something had to create evolution. They propose a creator, and thus they are creationists. They're certainly not as closed minded or as ignorant about science as your true Christian fundamentalist, but they need to admit that there are important, crucial claims made by science that even they don't accept. Even Catholic schools have a way to go before they can say they teach true science.
Another line of questioning that irks me about that quiz was the claim that the Bible is 'The History Book of the Universe', and that good Christians are taught that 'The next time someone says the earth is billions (or millions) of years old, what can you say?', the correct response to shut down debate is: 'Were you there?' This seems like such a childish response, and yet I've heard many adults use it, so for many it is obviously their first, and only, line of defence.
Just think about it, if this reasoning made sense, that we can know nothing about anything that we didn't personally experience, then it would destroy the religious claims as much as it would the scientific and historical claims. When some Christian argues that God created the world 6,000 years ago, I can quickly dismiss their claim by asking, 'How do you know that? Were you there?' If they insist that Jesus rose from the dead, again I can reply, 'Were you there?' Of course putting their blind faith in the 'The History Book of the Universe' they might reply, 'No, but God was', in which case I would answer, 'Well, let him come and tell me about what he did, not you. He knows where I live'. That Christians can fool little kids with this line of reasoning is not surprising, since Christians have had centuries of practice in brainwashing children, but that mature Christians still think they're being so smart by throwing this at scientists and historians is quite sad. Remember that it was adults that decided what the correct answers were to that quiz, not children.
As I've said before, every time I see Christians offering such pathetic arguments, it only increases my confidence that they certainly haven't got a powerful god helping them with their answers.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Aug, 2014 ~
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Comment by Anonymous-1, 27 Aug, 2014
Apparently the Answers in Genisis people are not too ashamed to identify the school —
Comment by Bob, 27 Aug, 2014
My only comment is that all schools should be forced to teach conventional science including evolution. The penalty for not doing so is not to recognise their exam results. In fact I thought this was the case. After all if a school does not follow education department direction it should not be registered. We can have specialist schools and charter schools with special programmes say for difficult to teach kids but they should have to follow basic educational programmes.
Some creationists who accept they can't win this argument try claims such as pupils should be taught both creationism and evolution and allowed to make up their own minds. My view is that primary school kids should not be subject to any religion because they tend to believe everything an authority figure tells them. From the age of say 14 or 15 they can be taught religion as a study of religions when they are capable of thinking and judging for themselves.
Finally I am puzzled why anybody believes in creationism and Noah's ark etc. Why doesn't everybody see these stories for what they are fairy tales with as much validity as Cinderella and the pumpkin coach?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Aug, 2014
What, what, what? Bob, are you saying that Cinderella and the pumpkin coach weren't real? I was relying on my fairy godmother appearing and helping me through my retirement years. Oh woe is me if you're right.
But this disagreement aside, I agree that institutions that are licensed as schools and that expect society to recognise their exam results and the qualifications they provide should be compelled to teach conventional science including evolution. As for the silly argument that 'pupils should be taught both creationism and evolution and allowed to make up their own minds', if this made sense then schools would also need to teach astronomy versus astrology, germ theory versus demonic possession, human reproduction versus the stork theory and untold other wacky ideas that challenge conventional science.
The problem is that all religious believers, not just the fundamentalists, realise that children must be indoctrinated young for the nonsense to be retained. Na´ve young children can't tell the difference between true stories and fairy tales and hence blindly believe in the likes of Noah's Ark. Having accepted these stories as true, on becoming adults they don't reconsider whether they might have been a little gullible. Most adult Christians wouldn't believe in their silly Bible stories if they looked at them seriously and honestly, but of course they never do that. We know that they are perfectly capable of recognising silly religious claims, since they will quickly point out the many flaws in Muslim or Hindu stories of how their god created the world. They maintain their own equally silly belief by steadfastly refusing to put their own stories under the same spotlight. As you say Bob, if people were only exposed to religious claims, from multiple religions, when they were able to critically examine them, then every religion would be seen as the nonsense they are.
Comment by Phill, 31 Aug, 2014
I have a real problem with Charter Schools as well, as it is my understanding that they will be entitled to Government money but do not have to teach the State curriculum. It has been Christian Fundamentalists who pushed for this and it now means that their schools will be entitled to more resources — at, I suspect, the expense of the State School system. As much as you might complain about Catholic schools, it is my understanding that they at least are required to teach the state curriculum and do so. Furthermore though Catholics may well believe in divinely inspired creation they still accept basic scientific tenets such as the big bang theory and Evolutionary theory. More importantly they keep their Christian teaching out of the school science classroom and in the school chapel, or priest's bedroom, where it belongs. However, this is not a defence about Catholic dogma. What Catholics believe or do not believe is of little concern to me accept as it relates to medieval history, a passion of mine. For the most part I can talk and argue with most Catholics, and they can talk and argue with me. My real fear is Fundamentalist Christianity.
My biggest concern with Fundamentalist Christians as opposed to other forms (such as the moderate Protestants and Catholics) are their inherently anti science anti intellectual bias and their real belief in the soon to arrive apocalypse. This is not a healthy state of mind for future leaders, we are currently watching the impossible in America where a major political party (once known for some genuinely progressive thought) has been captured by the looney right which is predominantly fundamentalist christian , and its effect of dragging the rest of the nation even the left, towards the looney fringe. I have real concerns that the right in New Zealand will start inheriting this kind nonsense, as they have always sort their ideas from the United States. To my mind Charter Schools are but the tip of the ice berg. We seem to be living in a time that lacks moderation. Instead of people finding the middle ground which would allow more of us to move forward, people are starting to take to the extremes. We see it in Islam where the past decade has done much to destroy Islamic moderates and leave us with different factions of fundamentalists.
Now you may well argue that you would prefer Fundamentalists to Moderates because at least Fundamentalists are true to their wacked out beliefs. However, I prefer dealing with Moderates, I can at least talk to a Moderate, and if I cannot completely bring them over to the dark side (us Atheists), then perhaps I can at least suggest a path that benefits us both — like accepting real science, like working towards dealing with climate change, like even trying something crazy like peace. You cannot do that with Fundamentalists, and their reaction causes an opposite reaction with our side, in that we have to start walking the extreme or be trampled underfoot. This is not healthy for any of us.
In part I became an atheist because dogma appalled me. To believe something just because you are instructed to do so, filled me with a real horror. When it then spilled over into morality and governed the way you were to interact with other people I knew in my heart I could never follow a set of religious teaching. Being an atheist has allowed me the liberty of dealing and interacting with people as I find them. It makes tolerance the default setting — then lets me take it from there. It has allowed me to seek to understand other peoples and cultures; to make my own decision on what is good and evil without imposing a bastardised moral view point derived from some desert peoples who live many centuries ago.
Of course you will argue about the inherent wrongness of indoctrinating children in these beliefs be they fundamentalist or moderate, after all the sky fairy is still the sky fairy whether he is the real bearded psycho of the fundy's or the more intellectual creation of the moderates. And I have to agree with you, I would rather not indoctrinate children yet it is something we do everyday. My own children have been influenced with my own atheism, they have asked myself and my wife questions and we have answered as honestly as we can. In our world view science and the reality of the material world dominates. We don't believe in god, gods, or fairies (though we did allow for the childish belief in Father Christmas and the tooth fairy — were we wrong in this?) They go (or in the case of my eldest went) to state schools and mixed with friends who come from all other walks of life including people of very different beliefs — my daughter was for a while friends with a little girl whose family was Morman (they shifted before the issue of religion became a problem for either of them). Yet if my eldest son is anything to go by even if they were to flirt with religion, that inherent atheism will finally shine through. Yet there is part of me that has to wonder if this not a form of indoctrination and is this not what every other parent does, we indoctrinate our children with the beliefs that we hold true. I would have resisted anyone else interfering with that, I would have struggled against those who might have demanded that I adhere to a particular belief system, so can I be the one to force it upon others. Yet, even with this argument I'm not convinced, what if we happen upon a family, that is teaching their children pure hatred of a particular group, for instance the Jews, at what point do we say no you cannot teach that, you cannot believe that, at what point do we intervene. The trouble is at the family level of indoctrination I think we walk on very thin ice and I am really not sure what the answer might be. On the other hand I have no problems with schools, the state should not be involved in religion and religion should not be involved in state activities — so its simple, keep religion out of our schools and we should keep the state out of their church. And any school that accepts state funding should be required to teach the state curriculum which includes the current state of scientific thought.
I guess this is the weakness of being a moderate, I'm willing to listen and perhaps too willing to question — even myself.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Sep, 2014
Hi Phill, I've been thinking about the interesting points that you raised. First, you may think I'm nit-picking, and in the important scheme of things I am, but I wanted to point out that EVERY religious person who believes in a god who created the universe and life is a creationist. I agree with the view taken by Victor J. Stenger in his recent book, 'God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion', where he writes that moderates 'view evolution as the process by which God achieves his purpose, and they believe that humans are central to that purpose. This is not evolution as it is understood by science'.
Religious moderates who say they accept evolution and the big bang are like a child that says she readily accepts that her parents actually buy her Xmas presents, so on the surface she appears to have matured, but if you dig a little deeper, she reveals that she believes her parents only buy the presents because Santa has retired, he's just too old to do it anymore and is now living happily in Florida. It's this sneaky dishonesty that annoys me with moderates, pretending, perhaps even to themselves, that they are world's apart from superstitious fundamentalists, and in their general behaviour they are, but in their core belief, that their god created the universe and life, they are identical. The only thing that the fundamentalists and moderates disagree with is how and when god did what he did. Moderates don't see themselves as fundamentalists, so they shrug off the creationist label as well, but if they don't believe in creationism, they are just atheists with an identity problem. I have yet to meet a moderate who on saying that they accept evolution will then agree with me that therefore no god is needed. Insisting on bringing god into evolution means that they don't accept naturalistic evolution at all. And let's remember that as far as science is concerned, it is naturalistic evolution, not divine evolution.
I agree with a view that others have stated, that although most religious people are moderates, their huge numbers and core belief — God is real — gives inordinate support, albeit unintentionally, to the fundamentalists. The fundamentalists are buoyed by the knowledge that there are millions upon millions that believe in the same god and holy book as they do. True, many of them have strayed a little from the correct path, but the fundamentalists believe that they can all be saved. The fundamentalists don't see themselves as following some nutty, fringe belief. Because of an army of followers who believe in god, they see themselves as the vanguard of a huge movement. They see themselves as the elite, as the guardians of the true religious knowledge that the plebs or moderates have forgotten over time. Their confidence stems partly from this huge base of fellow believers whom fundamentalists believe are desperately seeking god but are struggling to find their way.
A rough analogy as to how moderates can help fundamentalists might be politics. A few people that are fanatical about politics form political parties, help to promote their party and some even stand as political candidates. Think of these as the fundamentalists. But on their numbers alone they will never obtain power, they are too few. They need the moderates, the great majority of the population that generally support one political party over the others but would never think of becoming a party member or helping out during elections. At most they will vote for their party on election day, the rest of the time they think little about politics. But it's these moderates that can sweep the party with its few fundamentalists into power, it is these moderates that give the fundamentalists hope that they can succeed. The fundamentalists believe they are working for all the moderates who believe in the same basic ideals as they do. Without the huge base of moderates offering what the fundamentalists view as tacit support, the fundamentalists would be as insignificant as the Flat Earth Society. In NZ it is the thousands of voters that care little about politics but will still support National or Labour that maintain National and Labour as the dominant parties. Recall the claim that every vote counts, that it is the sum of all the moderates that elect a party, not the enthusiasm of a handful of fundamentalists. Without the moderates quietly keeping their message alive, the fundamentalist's cause would be lost.
It's the same with religious fundamentalists, without millions of Muslim and Christian moderates quietly keeping their message alive — recall that both moderate and fundamentalist cry, 'Praise the Lord', or in Arabic, 'Allahu Akbar' — without this shared belief in one god then the fundamentalist's cause would be lost, they wouldn't gain power and wouldn't be the clear threat that they are. For moderates to argue that their strong faith in god lends no support to the fundamentalists is na´ve and wrong. Of course it is the fundamentalists that must ultimately be held responsible for the atrocities they commit, but clearly moderates must take some moral responsibility for continuing to support the very god whose commandments the fundamentalists are merely obeying.
But of course you are right, the real threat, as it always has been, is fundamentalist Christianity, or more correctly, fundamentalist religion of any sort. As you say, it's very scary how much influence fundamentalist Christians have in the USA and how many hold positions of power, all with a 'real belief in the soon to arrive apocalypse'. Why worry about the environment or curing poverty and disease or stopping a world war when it is exactly those sorts of calamities that signal the second coming? The fundies love to see these signs as it tells them that the end is nigh. How many people think that the American fundamentalist Christians are supporting Israel because they want to help protect the Jews? The disgusting fact is that, following what is written in the Bible, Christians need to get all the Jews together in Israel so that those that won't convert to Christianity can be slaughtered by god, and this event must happen before Jesus the carpenter will return. And yes, NZ fundamentalists import their ideas and resources from the US, and have done for years. The books, pamphlets and DVDs pushing creationism and intelligent design that get sent to NZ schools are usually from US fundamentalist groups and churches.
And no, I most definitely would not argue that I 'prefer Fundamentalists to Moderates because at least Fundamentalists are true to their wacked out beliefs'. What I have said in the past is only that I have more respect for fundamentalists since they are more honest when it comes to their religious beliefs, that they are prepared to say what they believe and are prepared to live their religion. That doesn't mean I like them or want them around, I don't, but at least you know where you stand with them. I certainly don't respect their intelligence or ethics or behaviour in general. But in the coming out of the closet and proudly standing behind their god stakes, I have less respect for moderates who say they believe in god and his commandments, but not enough evidently to take it all that seriously. They're happy to rely on science and technology and only fall back on prayer when the likes of a tornado strikes.
But who would I prefer to share the world with, a god-believing hypocrite who embraces science and an atheistic lifestyle as much as I do, and who would never think of doing me harm, or an honest, sincere fundamentalist that thinks I'm evil and that his god desires that I be killed the first chance he gets? Trust me when I say I would be entirely happy if we could somehow rid ourselves of the dangerous fundamentalists, even if it meant being surrounded by the apathetic god-believing hypocrites. As you say, we can live and debate with the moderates, because the truth is that they no more want to get rid of the secular world with its cell phones and hospitals and revert to a Biblical lifestyle than do us atheists. The reality is that moderates are more like atheists than they care to admit. They ignore most all the Biblical commandments, of which there are 613, they 'accept' scientific theories rather than Biblical ones, they have homosexual friends and accept sexual equality, they don't keep slaves or stone disobedient children to death, most accept contraception, and many are willing to consider divorce, abortion, prostitution, euthanasia and stem cell research etc. Less and less are even going to church. It's easy to live and work with moderates because their belief in god is a little like my life insurance policy, I believe I have one somewhere, but I haven't looked at it for years.
Unfortunately the fundamentalists are very different, since they not only want to hold a silly belief, they want to force that belief onto the rest of us. There are fundamentalist Christians in the USA that want their country to become a theocracy, and are working towards that end. Of course the greatest threat to the world at present are the Islamists or Muslim fundamentalists, who as you say Phill, have 'done much to destroy Islamic moderates'. Unfortunately we do have to stand up to the changes fundamentalists want to implement 'or be trampled underfoot'. Islamists want to deny the right of atheists to criticise their beliefs or even discuss their religion. Of course this is just the start, they then want to tell us how to dress and act, and eventually they want us to submit to Islam on threat of death. Christian fundamentalists are not quite as threatening, although some are prepared to kill those they disagree with, such as abortion doctors. Most are simply and quietly trying to get creationism into science classes and evolution out, trying to ban movies such as 'The Da Vinci Code' and TV shows like 'South Park, attempting to make abortion, homosexuality and prostitution illegal, ensuring that Africans at threat of AIDS can't use condoms, and wondering how they might make the justice system take NZ's laws against blasphemy seriously. We need to prevent fundamentalists making inroads into our schools, communities and laws, because if they ever gain the numbers and power to carry out their divine agenda, society will quickly resemble ignorant, unjust and barbaric periods from our distant history, or parts of the present world where Muslim fundamentalists now hold sway, such as Iraq.
But moving on, you state Phill that you 'would rather not indoctrinate children yet it is something we do everyday. My own children have been influenced with my own atheism... is this not what every other parent does, we indoctrinate our children with the beliefs that we hold true'. I certainly understand your concern, but I think you are mistaken to suggest that 'indoctrinate' and 'influence' are one and the same.
To indoctrinate means 'to instruct in a body of doctrine or principles... To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view'. Were you really instructing your kids on atheism the way good Christians instruct their children from the moment they are born? Were they initiated (baptised) into your style of atheism — weak, strong, implicit, explicit — a label that they were later expected to write on the next census? Was there any compulsion placed on your kids to be atheists? Did you expect them be atheists just because you are? Did you say things like, 'We're all atheists in this household children, and I expect you behave like good atheists'. Did you ever threaten to disown them if they contemplated denying atheism? Did you read them bedtime stories that promoted disbelief in god? Were you dragging them to the atheist equivalent of church every Sunday where they had to sit through lectures, intoning 'It is true' (which is what 'Amen' means) at the end? Were they enrolled in the atheist equivalent of Sunday School where they heard stories about ancient Greek philosophers? Were they expected to hang an atheist symbol on their wall or around their neck? Did they recite a quote from a famous atheist before eating and before going to bed? Did you expect to always see them carrying around Richard Dawkins' book 'The God Delusion', and have it on their bedside table at night? Were you pushing your kids' school board to run 'Atheism in Schools' classes? When faced with one of life's decision, have you taught your kids to always ask themselves the atheist equivalent of 'What would Jesus do?' I know you didn't send your kids to an atheist school, since there aren't any, but perhaps you could have home-schooled them to really keep them focused on atheism. I could go on but I'm sure you get the point. These are all strategies the religious employ to indoctrinate their children and I doubt if you used any of them, so no, I don't believe you have indoctrinated your children at all. You will indeed have influenced them, but that is a million miles away from indoctrination, and if asked later in life how their parents influenced them, I doubt if your children will even think to mention that you didn't believe in gods.
As atheists we shouldn't be indoctrinating children, or adults, we shouldn't be dogmatically telling anyone that there are no gods and that they must believe us on this point. What we should be doing is showing people how to think critically, skeptically and rationally. We should be showing people how to ask for the evidence and how to consider the evidence, not just for gods but everything. Of course if I'm asked about the existence of gods I will say that I don't believe they exist, and I will say why I believe this, that I don't see any evidence for gods or need for gods. But I don't demand that you accept my view. It's a bit like when I'm asked if I liked 'The Lord of the Ring's' movies and I say no. I'm not dogmatically insisting that people adopt my view, I'm merely stating my stance. If asked to explain I may bring you around to accepting my view, but if you don't then that's fine, believe what you want. Christians generally don't give their children the option to believe as they wish. I feel that it's all about thinking about things. I'm a skeptic first and an atheist second, it was my skepticism that caused my atheism. No one told me to be an atheist. My parents' general indifference towards religion no doubt had an effect on me, but they certainly didn't make me an atheist in the way that my forced baptism made me a Christian. (Which I must remember to get revoked.)
You also wonder Phill that if parents are 'teaching their children pure hatred of a particular group, for instance the Jews... at what point do we intervene'? My view would be that intervention is called for when this teaching causes harm to innocent others. Our laws rightly let people believe whatever they wish, but prevent them from harming others. Of course you could argue that the parents' innocent children are being psychologically harmed, even if they don't ever go on to harm others outside the family. This is a difficult case, and while we do have laws that prevent parents from refusing their children life-saving medical intervention, we don't have laws that prevent parents from filling their children's heads with views that you and I would find offensive or simply bogus. And this is a good thing, since if there were such laws some group would have to decide what was legal to tell our children about and what was not. And since atheism is a minority view, albeit growing, and belief in god is clearly the view accepted by the majority, I fear that it would be atheism that was outlawed, not anti-Semitism. History certainly suggests that this would be the case. Some religious groups, take the present Islamists for example, think that the time to intervene is when we don't hate the same people that they do. The law, or those who happen to be in power, cannot decide on matters of freedom of thought and expression, and while this will mean that some people will be free to think, in my view, nasty things, it is a price we have to pay to allow you and I to be free to think as we choose. That some people will abuse this right and harm their children is something we have little control over. Perhaps all we can do is expose both the parents and children to alternative views and hope that minds are changed.
On a lighter note, you write that 'we did allow for the childish belief in Father Christmas and the tooth fairy — were we wrong in this?' I recently read a short piece by philosopher Louise Antony where she argues that if her child asked her if Santa was real she would tell her no. Another philosopher disagreed, but I agree with Antony, her essential argument being that we shouldn't be lying to kids. Young children don't have the skills or intellect or need to always be told the absolute truth, but when they are capable of grasping real explanations, we need to be as honest as we can be. I wouldn't go seeking out children to tell them Santa wasn't real, but if I now had a young kid, I wouldn't lie to them when they asked, just as my parents didn't lie to me when I confronted them. As a really young kid, if I had known the truth earlier I don't think it would have mattered to me. When I think back, it was all about the toys, not Santa. Meeting Santa in a department store I never inquired as to his health or how the elves were. I just wanted to make sure he knew what toys I wanted. Eventually learning that the toys were coming from my parents rather than Santa didn't upset me at all, and didn't ruin Xmas for me in the slightest. I think the important difference about lying to children over the likes of Santa and the tooth fairy is how far parents are prepared to take it. Would we support parents who tried to ensure that their children maintained a sincere belief in Santa and the tooth fairy for their entire life? I suspect few people would, and yet we are expected to respect parents that try to ensure by fair means and foul that their child's belief in imaginary gods extends into adulthood. If an older slow-witted child doesn't come to realise that Santa isn't real, I've yet to hear of parents that don't eventually sit him down and reveal the truth. No parent wants their child to go through life ridiculing themselves by maintaining a belief in childish imaginary beings such as Santa and the tooth fairy, and yet look how the majority of parents worldwide do just that, by neglecting to have the talk about childish imaginary beings such as Jehovah, Allah and Shiva.
Comment by Robert, 17 Sep, 2014
While I agree that Christians are generally about as unscientific as can be, I don't understand why you begin your article by accepting that "we've landed men on the Moon" as a given.
I've read and reread Dave McGowan's series Wagging the Moondoggie, and although I'm NEVER really certain of ANYTHING, I believe that Mr. McGowan makes a pretty good argument that not only could we could not have made it to the moon with 1969 technology, we couldn't make there with 2014 technology.
Although I think the bible is mostly a book of fairy tales, I wonder if you could explain how taking NASA's word for the moon landings is really any different than believing in say, the Flood of Noah.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Sep, 2014
You wonder 'how taking NASA's word for the moon landings is really any different than believing in say, the Flood of Noah'. Well, the simple answer is that we must look to the evidence put forward for any claim and rationally decide whether it stacks up with what we know about the world. Whether the claim is about the moon landings, the Flood of Noah, homeopathy, ghosts, Atlantis or alien abductions, we must examine the evidence. And regarding the moon landings and the Flood of Noah, clearly there is excellent and copious evidence supporting the moon landings and no good evidence whatsoever supporting the Flood of Noah. We have millions of living witnesses that watched the Apollo missions go to the moon, including myself, and huge numbers that worked on the missions, not one of which has ever come forward to admit that it was all a hoax. The missions didn't break any laws of physics, there is no scientific reason why they couldn't have happened, whereas Bible stories such as the Flood of Noah must break untold laws of physics to have happened, plus we have no reliable witnesses that the Flood of Noah did happen, it was only written about in a single book thousands of years ago, and other contemporary civilisations didn't notice that the entire world was flooded. We also have no physical evidence of a scientific nature that the Flood of Noah happened. Comparing an event such as the moon landings with the Flood of Noah is as silly as comparing World War II with the claim that the Greek god Zeus turned himself into a swan and had sex with Leda. Clearly the first happened and the second is just nonsense.
Also, for the moon landings to be a hoax then the Cold War must also have been a hoax, since the Soviets who were closely watching and racing the Americans didn't expose the 'fact' that Apollo never got near the moon. I've told people I've been to China, but no one challenges me on this claim by arguing that if I had really been to China, then why haven't I gone back? But this is the favourite response of conspiracy theorists, including Dave McGowan, to ask why if we landed on the moon we haven't gone back again? Of course we have gone back. Man has travelled to the moon 9 times and landed on the moon 6 times. Most people that believe in a moon hoax think that the claim is that Apollo only landed on the moon once (not McGowan though). The fact is that even during the later Apollo missions to the moon, after the famous Apollo 11 landing people started asking why are we going back again and again? We've walked on the moon, been there, done that! How many moon rocks do we need they asked? Apollo missions were planned to extend to Apollo 20 but were cancelled at Apollo 17. The US government and the public quickly lost interest in going back to the moon. What was to be gained, asked the man on the street? And that Luddite view exists today. Even last night I heard a radio announcer challenge an astronomer he was interviewing as to why we are wasting money on probes to Mars when there are still children starving in Africa. People naively believe that if the US government stopped funding NASA then all the money they saved would be given to the Save the Children Fund. Yeah right. The fact is that Americans spend more on the likes of printed T-shirts than they do on the space program, and all the money saved after Apollo was cancelled went into the likes of military and defence, not to ridding the world of poverty. Why aren't we still travelling to the moon? The reality is that the general public and conspiracy theorists alike both oppose their taxes going to anything that they can't see an immediate benefit in, and that most definitely includes going to the moon to do what they see as a bit of boring science.
Reading through Dave McGowan's 14 articles that promote the moon landing hoax he makes the same mistakes and bogus claims that all the conspiracy theorists make, and it would take ages to expose them all. But I'll give some examples just to give an idea of the errors he makes. For example, he writes that 'The total distance traveled during the alleged missions, including Earth and Moon orbits, ranged from 622,268 miles for Apollo 13 to 1,484,934 miles for Apollo 17. All on a single tank of gas'. The fact is that the Apollo spacecraft don't need a huge fuel tank since their propulsion systems are switched off during the entire journey to the Moon and return. Rockets are used in what's called a trans-lunar injection (TLI) to leave Earth orbit and set the spacecraft on a path towards the Moon, but from then on the spacecraft simply coasts to the Moon. Whether the Moon is close or far, no fuel is used on the journey bar the odd few second bursts of retro rockets for course corrections. If no fuel is used, no huge fuel tank is needed. McGowan doesn't understand about inertia and movement in a vacuum. McGowan then tries to plant doubt in the reader's mind with this silly statement about the 'multi-sectioned Saturn V rockets', arguing that 'There is, therefore, no way for the modern scientific community to determine whether all of that fancy 1960s technology was even close to being functional or whether it was all for show'. I've stood next to a Saturn V rocket, and I was very impressed, but McGowan is correct that I have no easy way of knowing if it would have ever worked. But he seems to forget the thousands of witnesses with no connection to NASA that did actually see many Saturn V rockets lift off and disappear from sight into the upper atmosphere. Were they all hallucinating or lying? Amazingly McGowan goes on to argue that all the witnesses, even those like me watching on TV, were high on drugs at the time and so can't be trusted. He asks: 'Could so many people have really been duped into believing such an outrageous lie, if that in fact was what it was? To answer that question, we have to keep in mind that we are talking about the summer of 1969 here. Those old enough to have been there will recall that they - along with the vast majority of politically active people in the country - spent that particular period of time primarily engaged in tripping on some really good acid... How hard then would it really have been to fool most of you?' How pathetic must he be to argue that all the witnesses to the moon landings, even a kid in NZ, were off our heads on drugs? One more silly claim. McGowan writes that Apollo spacecraft 'managed to make six perfect take-offs from the surface of the Moon! And understand here people that they did that, amazingly enough, with completely untested technology!' Rubbish. Are we really to believe that NASA took untested technology all the way to the lunar surface and never once thought to test if the rockets and other elements would actually work? Of course not. It is true that the rockets had never been tested on the lunar surface, but they had certainly tested that these rockets would work on Earth and would thus work on the moon with lower gravity. McGowan falsely argues that 'the ability of the modules to actually blast off from the Moon and fly was, at best, a theoretical concept'. It was not. NASA had already proved with an earlier unmanned probe that their rockets could launch a craft off the moon's surface. Furthermore, he talks of 'six perfect take-offs... with completely untested technology!' Even if this were technically true for the first take-off, it certainly wasn't for the next five take-offs, they were all using proven technology. All of McGowan's arguments are either misleading or outright wrong.
Also I've yet to read one of these conspiracy theorists explain when it was that NASA finally figured out how to get man into space. None argue that the space shuttles or the space station are hoaxes too, or that we didn't land rovers on Mars. None argue that we can't launch untold satellites into orbit for communications and GPS. And yet we can't get to the moon for some reason.
McGowan is a true conspiracy theorist, insisting that the US government is also lying about 9/11, the Kennedy assassinations and even the Lincoln assassination. He sees evil conspiracies wherever he looks. And generally people that accept the arguments from conspiracy theorists read only their flawed arguments, just as the religious only read their chosen holy book.
Comment by Robert, 03 Oct, 2014
Hello John, I see you've posted a response to my email, and not surprisingly, your so-called analysis of McGowan's work is exactly the sort of shallow, dismissive nonsense that apparently passes for critical thinking in your mind.
Your first mistake is claiming that "we have millions of living witnesses that watched the Apollo missions go to the moon." Uh, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but all "we" really have is millions of people who saw a TV show that supposedly broadcast from the moon - not a single person on Earth actually witnessed anything except for the launches from Cape Kennedy and the few who might have seen the capsule splash downs. And how about the fact that NASA conveniently "lost" all the original video and telemetry tapes? (Actually NASA now claims they recorded over those tapes because there was a "shortage" of video tape in the early 70s - yeah right, like there was something more important to record than the moon landings.)
As I said in a previous email, my father was an engineer and was involved in NASA's Gemini program - as McGowan correctly pointed out in Wagging the Moondoggie, the Gemini program was basically a series of giant failures. I was born in 1962 and really don't remember much about the time dad spent on the Gemini program, but I remember quite well the stress and long hours my dad later experienced just putting unmanned satellites into orbit. And I'm here to tell you that there is no way NASA could have maintained the launch schedule with all the complications of human life support that were required for Apollo.
In your response you completely fail to address even the most basic of McGowan's points, such as the impossibility of taking photos on the moon with film stock that would have melted at a far lower temperature than the 250 + degrees that the astronauts were supposedly subjected to, or the fact that their "space suits" clearly were NOT pressurized, or even the fact that they would have had to have had some sort of radiation protection. But your most glaring omission is the failure to examine the Lunar "Lander" itself - how could anyone believe we actually went to the moon in a "spacecraft" that was essentially made of 3 layers of aluminum foil, aluminum tent poles and popsicle sticks?
Here on earth even a lowly single engine Cesna has an aluminum skin about 1/8 inch thick, but men went to the moon with a skin about as thick as three layers of aluminum foil? Yeah, right! As for what McGowan supposedly said about the untested rocket engines, go back and read it again - all he said was that due to the corrosive nature of the fuel, there was no way of testing those rockets without destroying them - of course identical engines had been tested. But if you think NASA trusts any particular piece of equipment to work without testing it numerous times, you don't know anything about NASA.
By the way, I like the way you completely ignored Von Braun's statement at the beginning of Wagging the Moondoggie - the father of the entire Apollo program made perfectly clear that it would take 3 ships FAR bigger than Apollo to make it to the moon, but you blow him off like he's just another conspiracy kook. Nice! As for the
Russians, all they would be able to do is track an object headed to the moon - they would have absolutely no way of knowing if there were men inside it or whether or not it actually landed on the moon.
Your entire argument pretty much boils down to "we went to the moon because everybody says so and the Russians would've tattled on us if we didn't." If this is the best you can do, then it's really no wonder that you confine yourself to mostly picking on low hanging fruit like the Christian fundamentalists.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Oct, 2014
Hi Robert. I was being absolutely factual when I said 'we have millions of living witnesses that watched the Apollo missions go to the moon'. I said this in response to your query as to why 'taking NASA's word for the moon landings is really any different than believing in say, the Flood of Noah'. There are living witnesses to the Apollo missions but none whatsoever to the Flood of Noah, which is one reason why the NASA claim has more going for it than the Bible. Of course these witnesses didn't witness the moon landing first hand — how could they? — but then most of what rational people believe has happened historically was not personally witnessed. I never witnessed World War II or even the 9/11 attacks. I have been to New York and viewed the towers of the World Trade Centre and if I am not justified in believing the TV news broadcast from the USA then for all I know they might still be standing. What a 'witness' is justified in believing from TV broadcasts comes down to how reliable the source is, eg the American government, the American media and NASA. Do you believe the space shuttles were real, or the International Space Station, or the numerous satellites in orbit? I suspect you do, but did you ever witness a shuttle launch and personally follow one into space to verify what you saw on TV? Of course not, so why do you believe NASA and your government on these missions but not Apollo? I notice though that you do accept that the Apollo launches did happen, whereas McGowan is unsure, arguing that 'There is, therefore, no way for the modern scientific community to determine whether all of that fancy 1960s technology was even close to being functional or whether it was all for show'.
As for the missing video, if NASA was really attempting a cover-up why did they destroy all the video but keep all the still photographs and make them publicly available? But of course it's not quite true that all the video is missing, since it is this very video that conspiracy buffs use in their attempts to discredit the landings, eg the 'waving' flag. The original video might be gone but there are plenty of copies of the important footage which makes its way into documentaries of the moon landings. The Apollo video and photos are some of the most famous and familiar images known to modern man. As for keeping all that video, it's very easy in hindsight to say that people should have kept something that someone in the future might have found interesting, but that seldom happens. A grandson may wish that his grandfather had kept his first car or crystal radio, but these are normally all thrown away. People, and NASA, move on to bigger and better goals and seldom keep their trainer wheels. And I know that if the American taxpayer had been asked if millions should be spent on building special museums to store and maintain box after box of video tape of the Apollo missions, the answer would have been no. Hell, you conspiracy theorists argue that Apollo didn't even happen, and yet you seemingly want the hoaxers to have spent a fortune on storing fake tapes. Even if they had kept the originals you would have just made your usual claim: the video is all fake, made in a film studio. Either way the video would be dismissed as not offering any proof of a moon landing.
You claim that, 'As I said in a previous email, my father was an engineer and was involved in NASA's Gemini program'. Actually, no you didn't, (on the Chemtrails thread) you said that your engineer father 'refused to give me even the slightest idea what his job had been'. You made no mention of him working for NASA or on the Gemini program. You said you eventually found out — somehow — that he had been 'a fairly big boss in the Titan missile program with at least 25 engineers working for him. And do you know what all these people did? It's simple, they maintained the giant lead-acid submarine (as in U-boat) batteries that are used as a back-up power source during a Titan missile launch'. Even assuming that you've somehow managed to gain access to your father's top secret work history, maintaining submarine backup batteries is a world away from the yet to be invented Apollo human life support systems. And since you would have been only three or four years old when Gemini was operating, plus your father was hiding what he did from his family, any childhood memory of this time is worthless.
You claim that I 'completely fail to address even the most basic of McGowan's points'. Nonsense. I said that 'he makes the same mistakes and bogus claims that all the conspiracy theorists make, and it would take ages to expose them all.
But I'll give some examples just to give an idea of the errors he makes'. But of course you completely ignore McGowan's points that I did address and you gloss over the fact that McGowan wrote 14 articles and that I can't be expected to debunk them all. All the strongest criticisms that conspiracy buffs have offered have been soundly debunked by experts, for example as astronomer Philip C. Plait writes in his book 'Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"': 'they didn't have to worry about film melting; they had to insulate it to keep it from freezing'. I'm not going to write screeds exposing the rest, as no one would read it.
You say that my major problem is seemingly that I 'believe we actually went to the moon in a "spacecraft" that was essentially made of 3 layers of aluminum foil, aluminum tent poles and popsicle sticks?' But I don't believe that at all. I'd say that your major problem is that you actually believe the lunar module was essentially made from 'aluminum foil, aluminum tent poles and popsicle sticks'. Think about it, if as you claim the lunar module was a hoax and never had to go into space, never had to actually work, then NASA could have made it out of battleship steel and equipped it with a kitchen and bathroom. The inside could have looked as ridiculous as Doctor Who's Tardis and the outside could have been armed with phasers from the Starship Enterprise. If it didn't have to work then it didn't have to be light and compact. Why could NASA's engineers design and build the massive Saturn V rockets to make them look as though they were real and might actually work, but turned to tent poles and popsicle sticks to design and build the lunar module? Worse still, they didn't just 'pretend' to leave their silly creations on the moon, they put them in museums so everyone could see up-close how childish they were! Yeah right. So much for NASA trying to hide their hoax.
You make a typical mistake when you argue that 'Here on earth even a lowly single engine Cesna has an aluminum skin about 1/8 inch thick, but men went to the moon... '. There's your problem, thinking that the lunar module had to operate on Earth with its atmosphere and much higher gravity. Just because it wouldn't work on Earth doesn't mean it wouldn't work on the moon.
As for you supporting McGowan's assertion that 'there was no way of testing those rockets without destroying them', this assertion is deceptive, since he also states quite clearly that the rockets were 'completely untested technology!' This is bullshit, as even you acknowledge by adding, 'of course identical engines had been tested'. McGowan's assertion is as childish as arguing that American soldiers are sent into war with completely untested bullets and munitions. The actual bullets haven't been tested of course, but the concept has. Likewise I can test the brakes on my car a hundred times but I still don't know if they will work in an accident. But bullets and brakes are tested untold times before they are used for real. It is this extensive testing of identical items that give us the confidence that bullets and brakes will work when needed. McGowan falsely argues that 'You can't duplicate the conditions on the Moon here at home, you see, or even provide a rough approximation. And since no one had ever been to the Moon, they didn't know exactly what to replicate anyway, so this part of the mission was pretty much of a crapshoot'. Again this is bullshit. Man had been to the moon several times before Apollo, not in person but with unmanned craft, so they did know if their rocket design would work on the moon.
I ignored von Braun's statement just as I ignore all the statements made by 'experts' that have been proven to be utterly wrong. Why do you believe a single person belonging to 'our team of Nazi scientists', (as McGowan describes them), remembering that von Braun is the only person ever to make this claim, and yet you won't believe a single expert among thousands that say manned space flight with one ship is possible? It's like looking at a picture of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet and wondering whether it could actually fly, and thinking that the best way to decide was to read what the Wright Brothers had written about flight back in 1903. It's almost as silly as those conspiracy nuts that quote that scientist who claimed to prove that bumblebees can't fly because they're not aerodynamic. Nobody bothered to tell the bumblebee. Many famous scientists such as Einstein, Newton and Rutherford all made bold predictive claims like that of von Braun and all have since been shown to be utterly wrong. You are clearly siding with von Braun because his early beliefs would suggest Apollo was impossible. I read in David Whitehouse's book 'The Moon: A Biography' that in 1952 von Braun wrote an article where he predicted that the first moon landing would comprise fifty astronauts and that they'd stay on the moon for six weeks. And yet by 1961 he's quoted as saying that 'we have a sporting chance of sending a three man crew around the moon ahead of the Soviets' and 'an excellent chance of beating the Soviets to the first landing of a crew on the moon'. Both you and McGowan suppress his later views and you make no mention of the fact that he worked on the Apollo project and became the deputy associate administrator of NASA in 1970. Initially von Braun thought a trip to the moon would take 3 huge spaceships (note that he didn't argue that we couldn't get there, as you imply, merely that the design needed was a little different), but he later apparently thought that it could be and was indeed achieved by one small spacecraft. Clearly he was mistaken on one of these views, and his continued association with NASA would show that he accepted his earlier view was wrong. It's time you did also.
You also write that 'As for the Russians, all they would be able to do is track an object headed to the moon - they would have absolutely no way of knowing if there were men inside it or whether or not it actually landed on the moon'. I believe they would know whether it had landed or not. If they can track it going to and orbiting the moon, surely they can also detect if it stops its orbiting and starts transmitting from a stationary spot on the surface? As for proving whether there are astronauts inside, I agree this would be trickier, although perhaps by timing transmission delays of the voices of the astronauts and Earth mission control might determine how far the signal had travelled, ie direct from the moon or a fake communication relayed from the Earth to the moon and back to the Earth. But we must also remember that some conspiracy buffs claim that man never got to the moon at all, with either manned or unmanned craft. So in this case, what were the Soviets tracking?
Also, as I mentioned, you need to explain when NASA finally figured out how to get man into space. Or are the space shuttles and the space station hoaxes too? I suspect we would have conspiracy theorists insisting that submarines and jet aircraft were hoaxes too if they hadn't actually seen them doing their thing. Same with CAT scanners and phones that work without wires. All spooky, unbelievable stuff, but they accept they're real because they actually experience them in person. These things are no more amazing than a machine that can fly to the moon, but because these conspiracy theorists can't tag along and watch the machine land on the moon in person, they think it must be a hoax. After all, a machine that can fly to the moon, that's as unbelievable as some sort of 'smart' missile that can fly to it's target by itself, or a machine that can beat a man at chess.
You finish by claiming that my 'entire argument pretty much boils down to "we went to the moon because everybody says so and the Russians would've tattled on us if we didn't."'
No, no, no. For a start, not everyone says we went to the moon, for example you and McGowan don't, and he claims, and I agree, that a good proportion of people, especially in the US, believe it was a hoax. Hell, even my sister-in-law says it was hoax, so my argument would clearly fail right there if this is what I based it on. But of course it's not. My argument is that there is no good evidence that the moon landing was a hoax, and no good evidence that it needed to be hoaxed, that it was and still is impossible for man to go to the moon. All the arguments that I've seen arguing for a hoax, usually from people with no expertise, can be debunked and have been debunked by those with the necessary expertise.
Secondly, even if everybody did say we went to the moon, I am not the sort of person that is easily swayed by a popular belief, I do not feel the need to belong to the 'right' crowd and I certainly don't form my beliefs based simply on what 'everybody says'. I can prove this since even Christians have accused me of blindly accepting what 'everybody says', but I always see this accusation as a sign that people are struggling to think of a good response, so they simply say that I haven't actually thought about the argument and the evidence and that I'm merely following the crowd. Of course if this were true and I was indeed the lazy sort that simply believed in something 'because everybody says so', then I would be a Christian, not an atheist. To reiterate, my argument, whether it be on the moon landings, chemtrails or gods is formed on rational consideration of the evidence, not from what 'everybody says'. I am not out to make friends, but simply to discern the truth. Only evidence will sway me. Could the moon landing have been hoaxed? Of course it could have, but the evidence suggests it wasn't.
Comment by Mike, 03 Oct, 2014
Robert notes that von Braun said it would take 3 ships FAR bigger than Apollo to get to the moon, and perhaps he did. But I can't find the quote, and it is relatively common knowledge that the problem of making a rocket large enough to get to the moon WAS a serious problem in the 1950's and 60's. If a rocket was big enough to have enough fuel to get into and then break earth orbit it would be so massive as to possibly be unable to take off!!
And that is why the multi-stage rocket was developed. The rocket that got the craft into orbit did not go to the moon — that was the massive 1st stage. Other options had been considered — such as building a space station where a moon rocket would be assembled and launched from for example. This article by von Braun from 1952 is interesting in how they were thinking back then — https://falsesteps.wordpress.com/tag/wernher-von-braun/
Also of course the actual rockets that were used WERE massively bigger than Apollo!! :)
I haven't seen McGowan's work — but to characterise the Gemini programme as a series of massive failures seems odd. As far as I am aware it achieved all its objectives — it provided data on humans spending long periods in space, re-entry, EVA ("space walking"), rendezvous and docking in orbit and manoeuvring the combined craft were all achieved. There was 1 failure of the docking target craft to achieve orbit — the unmanned Aegina. But rendezvous were still achieved with another Gemini and with later Aegina lunches.
Perhaps Robert could give some more detail on what the "massive failures" were?? I was born in 1959 and stil have all my dad's old National Geographics that covered the Gemini missions — I used to pore over those space mission issues as a kid — even when Apollo was the big thing and Gemini a bit "old hat".
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Oct, 2014
Hi Mike. Thanks for the link, that Collier's Magazine article was the one I referred to re the fifty astronauts. The ships von Braun proposed to go to the moon are much bigger than the Apollo craft if we consider that only the small command module, service module and lunar module actually went to the moon. Plus in von Braun's plan there were to be three ships to make up one mission, two passenger ships and one cargo ship.
However I think the most telling comment you make is that his article showed 'how they were thinking back then'. It was not an iron-clad guarantee about how things were going to pan out in the future, but merely an educated guess, one that turned out to be wrong. If you were to take a hundred examples of modern technology, such as the iPhone and the Large Hadron Collider, and advances in science, such as dark matter and dark energy, and go back in time to the 1950s and mention them to contemporary experts, most if not all would have told you that you were talking nonsense. To me it seems utterly ridiculous that the conspiracy theorists decide if an idea might work by going back to learn what experts believed was possible decades before. For example, I should find it hard to believe that I'm typing this on a computer since when computers were first invented the experts argued that the entire world would only need five of them. Was I lucky enough to get one of those five computers, or were the experts so wrong it's not funny? It's actually laughable that people try and use an early view of von Braun to prove our reality is false, since to do so they must ignore all his later views and that of innumerable other experts who agree that their earlier views were wrong. We don't have hover cars and nuclear powered lawn mowers as they predicted, but we could actually reach the moon with far less than fifty astronauts and three ships.
Comment by Mike, 04 Oct, 2014
So you got one of those computers too?? I got one as well — what're the odds?? :D:D:D
Comment by Robert, 08 Oct, 2014
Hello again John. Boy do you ever come up with some long winded reponses - you just bury me in verbiage! Let's start over, and this time try to keep everything as brief as possible, okay?
First of all, millions of people did NOT see Apollo go to the moon - they saw tv broadcasts that purported to be moon landings - seeing something on tv is not actually witnessing it. One can see all sorts of things on TV and virtually none of it is true - arguing that a TV show is proof anything is just as silly as saying that whatever is written in the bible must be true.
Secondly, I did not gain access to my father's "top secret work history" - I always knew he was an engineer on the Titan program. However, the point I was trying to make was that he NEVER told me what he actually did as an engineer (or even what an engineer did in general) - long after dad died, my mom told me he and 20 or 30 engineers took care of submarine batteries. And the whole point of mentioning my dad's job was to show how dedicated people in the US space program are to keeping secrets - if they won't even tell their own families that their job was simply maintaining batteries, they certainly won't go to the media and tell any big secrets. (And mom only found out what dad did from someone who had worked with him and didn't think it a serious breach of security since the Titan program had already ended.)
As for your claim that NASA could've made the lander out of battleship steel, this is what I mean when I say your analysis is dismissive nonsense - even though the LEM was just a prop, it did have to be light enough to be lifted into orbit whether or not it actually went there on the Saturn 5 rocket - in other words, the fakery had to be at least superficially believable to all those "witnesses" who thought were seeing it land on the moon.
McGowan listed all the Gemini failures in Wagging the Moon Doggie - if anyone is interested they should go to his site because I'm not going to rehash them all here. McGowan also pointed out that the Russians were FAR ahead of the US in every aspect of space exploration right up until 1969 - since you conveniently ignored this fact, why don't you try to explain how it's possible that we not only beat Russia to the moon, but that the Ruskies never even tried to land one of their cosmonauts there. Surely if it were actually doable, the commies would have done it just to prove they were as good as us, right? Or maybe the claim that the Russians calculated lead shielding several feet thick was necessary to keep humans from being fried by radiation wasn't just another conspiracy theory.
At first I was going to try to rebutt all your points, but you throw so much bullshit into your posts I'd have to write a book to do that, so I'll just point out two more things you can't explain away:
A) When you claim photography is the most convincing evidence of the landings, you're being willfully blind - what part of 'the film would have melted in the heat of direct sunlight on the moon' do you not understand? Then there's problem of hard radiation on the moon ruining the film even if it didn't melt - the fact is that photography on the moon using emulsion film is IMPOSSIBLE. THE PICTURES WERE FAKED, PERIOD!
B) The so-called "space suits" prove beyond any doubt that the astronauts in that Apollo TV show were NOT on the moon. The suits were supposedly pressurized at 4.7 PSI - I don't care what kind of material you make an impermeable suit out of, if it has a gas in it at 4.7 PSI and you put it in the vacuum of space, it will inflate like balloon - as anyone who's not completely blind can see, the astronaut's space suits are wrinkly and saggy and clearly not inflated, which means they were not pressurized. Furthermore, if the suits had been pressurized, the "astronauts" would not have been able to bend their knees or elbows which would have made all those things they supposedly did on the moon impossible. Like I said, what you and I and millions of others saw in 1969 was nothing but a tv show.
Comment by Robert, 09 Oct, 2014
Hello John, after sending my last email it occurred to me that since you approach every subject with preconcieved notions instead of an open mind ,it's probably useless for someone like me to point out your logical fallacies - you KNOW we went to the moon because you "witnessed" it on "live" tv, and no so-called conspiracy theorist is going to change your mind.
For someone who claims to be devoted to debunking silly beliefs, that is an extremely unscientific attitude. Anyway, maybe this article will convince you that if NASA openly admits that it did not have the technology required to reach the moon in 2010, that surely it did NOT have such technology in 1969.
Is There Any Hope for a Moon Base?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Oct, 2014
Hi Robert. You keep referring to a guy that wrote 14 articles 'debunking' the moon landings and the points that he made, plus his fellow conspiracy buffs wrote entire books and there are untold websites, and yet when you challenge me to explain away their claims you insist that I must 'try to keep everything as brief as possible, okay?' That's like saying to a physicist, 'Please explain Einstein's theories of relativity to me... in a couple of sentences or less, and don't confuse me with any of that science stuff, like evidence and such'. You can't be bothered to read a detailed response from me, although you apparently read all 14 articles from McGowan and that article by Phil Kouts. You clearly won't accept brief assurances or explanations from scientists supporting the moon landings, so you appear to be saying that the only thing you really want to read is an admission that the hoax was real. Sorry, but I try to deal in facts, and if reading about those facts is too tiring or confusing for you, then well, I apologise now for what is to follow.
Regarding the millions of witnesses of the Apollo missions, again I must repeat that I was trying to answer your first query as to what was significantly different between a belief in Apollo and a belief in the Flood of Noah. And my point was that there are millions of living witnesses of the 'attempt' to land a man on the moon, whereas there is not a single living witness to the Flood of Noah. There is solid reliable evidence that the Apollo launches that millions watched on TV actually happened, and there are thousands of people that will assert that they played a real part in those launches. Unlike the Bible stories which have no supporting evidence, we don't just have the TV reports, we have all the physical evidence that lead to the TV reports. We can visit NASA and view a Saturn V rocket, we can't visit the Garden of Eden and talk with a snake. And yes, of course there are no actual first hand witnesses to man ever landing on the moon, if as you appear to insist, those witnesses had to be already standing on the moon and had watched the lunar module land and saw Neil Armstrong step onto the surface. Even if there had been, or if the Soviets had filmed the landing from an orbiting probe, you would just call that evidence fake and ask if there were any witnesses that saw the Soviet probe watch the moon landing.
But let's ignore even those witnesses that actually saw the Apollo launches. A fact that you fail to mention is that there were 27 real witnesses that personally witnessed man going all the way to the moon, including 12 that personally witnessed a man walking on the moon. They weren't watching a TV broadcast, they were actually there. But you don't believe them either, so your talk of how many witnesses there might have been is a red herring. If 27 real witnesses of nine different missions are not enough for you to believe, if you won't believe any of them no matter how sincere or knowledgeable they might be, then it wouldn't matter to you if millions had witnessed the moon landing first hand. You have decided it couldn't have happened and it was all a truly massive hoax just to beat the 'Ruskies' to the moon, even though you also argue that they 'never even tried to land' on the moon. Not only was the landing a hoax, the race to the moon was too.
You falsely assert that my 'witnessing' the landing on the TV is the main reason I believe it happened. This is clearly false as I've also seen David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty 'disappear' on live TV and Mr Spock beam down to a planet, but I don't believe either of those things really happened. Unlike you, I believe I have a very reliable way of deciding what I see on TV is likely real and what is fictional. I certainly agree that some of what I KNOW I did indeed learn from TV and that I didn't personally witness it. I admit I have never seen any American president on anything but TV. I never witnessed the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and I have not seen an F16 fighter jet. I didn't witness Hurricane Katrina flooding New Orleans and nor did I witness Elvis Presley die in his bathroom. So why should I believe these things are real and not just more hoaxes spread by American TV and your media in general?
Dismissing news reports of the moon landing, you argue that 'One can see all sorts of things on TV and virtually none of it is true - arguing that a TV show is proof anything is just as silly as saying that whatever is written in the bible must be true'. But if I am to discount most of what I've seen on the TV news and in the media, then this also means I must discount what I've read in factual books, since they generally support the TV news. Also I must ignore what most people tell me, since they of course likely got their information from books and the media. Without this knowledge from books and the media my worldview collapses. I would have no idea what was real and what wasn't and what might have happened and what didn't. Moscow might be a real city, it might not, Einstein might have been a real scientist, he might not. I agree that many if not most TV shows are indeed fictional, but you surprise me by classing TV news reports as 'nothing but a tv show'.
Can you really not grasp that items on the TV news are real events, rather than just second-rate actors reading a hastily written script in a poorly made studio set? Are we to believe that the Vietnam War didn't happen, it was just a Hollywood made mini-series? Are we to believe that you Americans blew up, or pretended to blow up, that federal building in Oklahoma or that compound in Waco, Texas, just to create some fake items for your nightly news? Can you seriously not tell the difference when you switch between an old episode of 'Star Trek' or 'The Simpsons' and a news broadcast? Seriously? When you see a TV news broadcast of an American soldier getting killed by an IED in Afghanistan, do you seriously exclaim, 'It's just a TV show, it's not proof of anything. Frankly I doubt if any American has ever set foot in Afghanistan. And surely you can see that those desert scenes are the same as those used in one of the 'Terminator' movies?' Do you think the current Ebola outbreak is 'nothing but a tv show'? I suppose you do. You apparently believe that we have no justification in accepting what we see on TV news broadcasts as being real, confusing what you see on the TV news with fictional TV shows.
And yet strangely you do appear to accept that the shuttle missions and the International Space Station are real, that the TV news broadcasts about them are genuine. Why the difference? You appear to be a real hypocrite, perfectly willing to accept all manner of TV news broadcasts on innumerable topics as being factual but then you dismiss a handful as bogus simply because you don't want them to be true or don't understand how they could be true. You won't believe the TV news but you'll immediately believe conspiracy theories that you read on the Internet written by unqualified nobodies and even people that won't reveal who they are. You'll believe these people but you won't believe what thousands of scientists, NASA employees, private contractors, government officials, investigative reporters etc tell us on the TV news, in documentaries, in books and in person. I think your main problem is that you trust the wrong people. The reality is that we generally have good reason and evidence to accept what we see on the TV news, since it is quickly backed up by independent verification by others and often supported by numerous real witnesses. When this isn't the case it is just as quickly exposed as mistaken news and the correct story is told.
Do you not worry that it might be you that is mistaken? Do you not question why thousands of scientists and experts, not just in the US, but in Europe, Russia, Japan, India and China etc are all willing to hide the 'fact' that we never went to the moon? And please don't say that they have been fooled by the hoax. If unqualified nobodies like you and those that you quote can quickly and confidently see why space travel is impossible then all these experts can too. After all, it is their expertise that you use to cry hoax. So why is the entire world of experts willing to keep the secret, why Robert?
And why Robert, since these countries and space agencies must clearly all know that space travel is futile, why are they all continuing the hoax that the shuttle missions and the International Space Station are real? And why are several space agencies planning manned missions back to the moon and to Mars if it's all impossible? Maybe NASA could fool most Americans, by why are all the other countries fooled too, when even you, with no qualifications, can see it would never work?
As for using your father to show that secrets are real, you first said that said your father 'maintained the giant lead-acid submarine (as in U-boat) batteries that are used as a back-up power source during a Titan missile launch'. You then said he 'was involved in NASA's Gemini program' and you then said he was involved in 'just putting unmanned satellites into orbit'. You're now back at saying his 'job was simply maintaining batteries', but if your father did indeed maintain submarine batteries that powered Titan missiles, then he worked for the military, not NASA as you also claimed, which was a civilian organisation and to my knowledge didn't operate a fleet of nuclear armed submarines. Of course the military do keep secrets, as do many organisations and individuals, but the fact that some secrets exist does not in any way support this moon landing hoax nonsense. It's as silly as arguing that because the military keep secrets, then President Obama might be an android and that secret is being kept from us.
Why do you say the lunar module (LM) had to be light enough to be lifted into orbit? If it was never going to the moon then why put it into orbit? No one was up there to notice. If they could fake the video of the moon landing, why couldn't they fake the orbit video? Why waste billions putting a craft into orbit that was never going to go anywhere? You argue that the real LM went into orbit, but in the article that you referred me to by Phil Kouts PhD (not his real name, and hence possibly not a real PhD either), he writes that 'the Saturn V allegedly used to take up... a payload of approximately 120 tons', where his use of the word 'allegedly' implies that he is doubtful that the LM was aboard. This is a huge problem you conspiracy buffs have, you can't decide and agree where the hoax stops and starts, what was real and what wasn't. You argue that the gullible NASA experts, those that evidently weren't in on the hoax, knew that the LM had to be real light to be lifted into orbit, but at the same time were too stupid to realise that a LM made from 'aluminum foil, aluminum tent poles and popsicle sticks' wouldn't be robust enough. You say that 'the fakery had to be at least superficially believable', but clearly it wasn't believable if even someone like you can see it would never work. You argue that there are all these things that would never work, it's impossible, and yet even when you explain these problems to the experts, they can't grasp your argument. Again, why is it still 'superficially believable' to the experts when an unqualified nobody can see a huge problem? Is most everyone in on this conspiracy Robert? I read on this 'NASA Masonic Conpsiracy' website from one of your conspiracy cohorts that 'Every Apollo mission was carefully rehearsed and then filmed in large sound stages at the Atomic Energy Commissions Top Secret test site in the Nevada Desert and in a secured and guarded sound stage at the Walt Disney Studios within which was a huge scale mock-up of the moon'. I at least thought we could trust Mickey Mouse, but it seems not. The more you conspiracy buffs write about this nonsense the sillier it all gets.
You write, 'why don't you try to explain... [why] the Ruskies never even tried to land one of their cosmonauts there'. There's nothing to explain since they did try, they just didn't succeed. Do you not understand why it was called the Cold War race to land a man on the moon? Who do you think you Americans were competing against? Right up to the moment that Apollo 11 landed on the moon the Soviets were planning on getting there first, but poor organisation and rocket failures saw them lose the race, although they still hoped to have a manned mission in the 1970s, although eventually even this was cancelled and they moved onto other projects. Once the race was over, both the Soviets and the Americans and the people that paid for these missions lost interest in the moon. And as you say, up until the moon landing the Soviets had beaten America at every milestone. Are you seriously arguing that they then decided to give up on a manned moon landing and graciously let you Americans be the first nation to step onto another world? Yeah right! Read some history, it's bullshit that the Soviets never even tried to land on the moon. But of course you'll just argue that the history of Soviet space exploration is all part of the hoax, that they happily went along with NASA's hoax, and that the Cold War was just part of a greater hoax.
As for your claim that 'the Russians calculated lead shielding several feet thick was necessary to keep humans from being fried by radiation', this is as mistaken as your argument that Von Braun claimed 'that it would take 3 ships FAR bigger than Apollo to make it to the moon'. They were wrong. Yes radiation such as solar flares is a major risk if you were to set up a base on the moon, you would need shielding to spend time on the surface, but this radiation is not continuous. The Apollo astronauts spent little time on the moon and thankfully no solar flares occurred while they were there. The astronauts certainly were at a much higher risk from radiation than people on Earth, just as airline pilots expose themselves to more x-rays than most people, but the short exposure was not fatal. If a solar flare had struck them while they were exposed then they would have died, but they took that low risk and survived. There is no doubt that the Apollo missions were very dangerous, and you may argue that rational people wouldn't take such high risks with their lives, but when we see people climbing Mt Everest, base jumping and driving race cars, clearly some people are very willing to risk their lives in new and dangerous endeavours.
You finish by saying, 'I'll just point out two more things you can't explain away'. Sorry, but you're wrong again. Might I suggest you do some research that doesn't just involve reading the delusions of your fellow conspiracy buffs. Here's a site — DID WE LAND ON THE MOON? — that debunks both your film and spacesuit claims. To reach the relevant section search for the following:
There can't be any pictures taken on the Moon because the film would melt in the 250░ temperatures.
Another website also debunks your spacesuit claim, and notes that 'According to the hoax supporters all these missions that include spacewalks by Russia, Britain, USA, Canada, and now China... are all fake because they claim spacesuits will not allow an astronaut to work outside in a vacuum — they would puff up!' As I've argued, you conspiracy buffs get a little confused as to what's real and what's a hoax. As regards space exploration, perhaps you could explain where the science ends and the fantasy begins Robert? Is the Hubble Telescope real and is there a rover driving around on Mars, or are they both just in sound stages at Walt Disney Studios?
The pressure inside a spacesuit was greater than inside a football. The astronauts should have been puffed out like the Michelin Man, but were seen freely bending their joints.
I suggest you read both pages in their entirety while you're there, lest you're tempted to raise other things that experts can't explain.
As for your linked article that argues 'that if NASA openly admits that it did not have the technology required to reach the moon in 2010, that surely it did NOT have such technology in 1969', if you read it carefully you will note that NASA is NOT admitting, not even hinting, that the moon landings were hoaxes. My reading is that the comments from various documents are taken out of context and used to reach false and misleading conclusions. Based on the reasoning in this article, I suspect that in 40 years there will be a new generation of conspiracy theorists who will argue that the space shuttles were a hoax too since NASA never followed them up with bigger and better shuttles and they freely admit that they can't easily get them up and running again. Just like I can't plug my old floppy disks into my smart phone. But just because some people today might be ignorant of how a floppy disk might work, that doesn't mean that the machines they once worked with were fictional. Apollo modules, floppy disks and space shuttles are now all museum pieces. It's a shame that knowledge of how they worked, and even if they did work, is being lost.
I also notice that of the three authors who host the site supporting a moon landing hoax and the above article, we're told that 'Mary Bennett has developed the PSI abilities that have been with her since childhood, among which is the natural gift of remote viewing. This skill has provided valuable additional insights and checks on the astonishing information unearthed during the research for this in-depth analysis of the Apollo record'. So we're asked to believe that Bennett has verified that the moon landing was a hoax through her spooky paranormal abilities. That's reassuring. And yet you say Robert, on linking to this site, that I have 'an extremely unscientific attitude'!! David S Percy, the second author, believes that we can't get to the moon, let alone Mars, but at the same time believes that Martians have clearly travelled to Earth in the distant past. The third author, Stan Gooch, has been dead for several years, but mention of his research on paranormal influences and Neanderthal culture give me little reason to take him serious either. The one thing that all three have in common is that none have any expertise or qualifications in the science and technology of astronautics. It's usually a fact with conspiracy theorists that if you scratch the surface you soon discover that their pet conspiracy and silly belief is only one of many.
Comment by Mikaere, 13 Oct, 2014
Hi John. It must be a hugely frustrating experience trying to argue against conspiracy-believers. Obviously robust evidence for moon landings carries no weight with people who would rather latch on to somebody's poorly-researched opinion and treat it as gospel. Confirmation bias dominates all their 'thinking.' They must actively seek out the latest rant against the landings and assimilate it into their belief system, no matter how flimsy it may be.
If they were asked to state what would constitute proof of the Apollo missions, I wonder if they would actually come up with anything, or would they even want to? Even when future lunar expeditions visit earlier landing sites and show Apollo artifacts, I can imagine they would still insist they were fakes.
Coincidentally, I found this article today:
New photographs released to silence conspiracy theory that Moon landings were a massive Nasa hoax
I can imagine the conspiracy-believers' reactions.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Oct, 2014
Hi Mikaere. Arguing against conspiracy-believers would be frustrating if I thought they might listen to reason and then much later I discovered they wouldn't. But of course I consider their arguments for my benefit, not theirs, since I want to be confident that my view is the right one. It's a little like religious believers, I like to think about their arguments for gods to ensure that they really are flawed, with little expectation that I might change their minds. And your question as to what might constitute proof of the Apollo missions is similar to that asked of religious believers, what might shake their belief, and the answer for both camps is 'Nothing'.
And thanks for that 'Daily Mail' link which reveals that 'Nasa's Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO) has taken new photographs of the surface that clearly show astronaut footprints, the lunar rover and spacecraft scorch marks'. But as you correctly point out, the conspiracy buffs will just say they're more fakes. Even if you kidnapped one of these turkeys and flew them to the moon in a secret spacecraft from Area 51, they would still probably say that you had just drugged them and it was all a virtual reality simulation run by the Freemasons at a studio in Disney World.
Comment by Paul, 14 Oct, 2014
Hi John. I have been reading your interaction with Robert regarding the moon landing conspiracy. It has inspired me to go and look at the Journal of the Apollo landings. I have been reading the Apollo 15 surface journal at http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/a15.html, listening to the mp3 files, and watching the TV footage. It is great so thanks for the inspiration.
There was one image that was linked to on the genesis rock page that I thought was interesting in regard to the moon conspiracy theory — http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/ap15-S71-42195.jpg. It shows David Scott on the recovery ship giving a post mission talk. Note the fingers on his hand holding the microphone. The damage was caused by having to move his hands in the gloves of his pressurised space suit. I was imagining the conversation that must have happened if the conspiracy people are correct.
Director- OK Dave now it is time for the Manicurist.
Also That Mitchell and Webb Look do a great sketch along the lines of conversation that must have happened if the conspiracy people are correct — That Mitchell and Webb Look — Moon Landing Sketch
Dave- Umm. Why does she have that hammer and angle grinder.
Director- Then we are going to move you into the radiation chamber. Don't worry nothing fatal. Just enough radiation to give you a higher statistical likelihood of getting cancer in 20 years. That will fox those scientists writing medical journals in 30 years. LOL
Dave- This won't affect my future children will it? Oww. Shit she almost took my entire fingernail off.
Director- Maybe. But that is the price you pay for realism.
Dave- What is LOL?
Director- Just something I hear the reptilians say. It seemed appropriate.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Oct, 2014
Hi Paul. Thanks for the links, loved the 'Mitchell and Webb' sketch. It's just amazing the effort NASA and 'The Powers That Be' went to to fake the moon landing, even down to mangling David Scott's fingernails to explain the pressurised space suit. And yet the conspiracy buffs argue that they were too stupid to know to put stars in their photos or to stop the flag waving in the wind. I even read one account the other day of a nutter who watched the first moon landing live in Australia and claims he saw one astronaut kick a Coke can out of the way. Of course when he told his friends to watch for it on the TV replays the devious NASA nerds had evidently noticed it too and had edited out that piece of video footage. Some of these conspiracy buffs are truly too stupid for words. And of course your humorous dialogue exposes a problem that conspiracy buffs overlook, the huge number of insignificant people such as your manicurist that were in on the hoax and yet not one of them has spilled the beans. Or did NASA tie up all these potential leaks and do they now all sleep with the fishes? But then why hasn't anyone, their families at least, noticed these mysterious deaths of NASA's low level employees? It just gets sillier and sillier, not that the conspiracy buffs notice though. LOL.
Comment by Anonymous-2, 09 Nov, 2014
I am fascinated by people who go through life disbelieving every event (moon landings, 9/11, Sandy Hook, etc). These same people attribute sinister connotations to other events (vaccinations, fluoride and chemtrails are part of mind control, Ebola is an invented disease for population control). There is a guy called John Hamer who has written a bizarre book The Falsification of History in which he 'debunks' every historical event from the Battle of Hastings to the present day. We have a nutter called David Icke who is firmly convinced that the British royal family are alien lizards. The Internet appears to be littered with these lunatics. Enter Ebola into Google and you get a couple of academic articles followed by 100s of the conspiracy theories.
I feel like drawing to the attention of all these alternative history merchants Occam's Razor but wonder whether it worth the effort.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Nov, 2014
You could mention Occam's Razor to these alternative history merchants, but they'd probably think it was some new smartphone app for women to deal with their bikini line. My limited experience with people that believe in various conspiracy theories (and even religion) is that they normally know next to nothing about their pet belief, let alone some rule of science for choosing between competing theories. Like a kid believing in the Tooth Fairy, they have given next to no thought as to whether their belief actually makes sense. Presented with some glib claim, they simply believe on a whim. If they do read anything about their belief, it will only be material that supports it. Of course the guys that write the conspiracy websites and books do often know more about the arguments for their specific conspiracy or belief, but even they are usually woefully ignorant about the real science, history and evidence stacked against them. Just the other day a visiting Jehovah's Witness told me that the Earth would last forever, peopled by true believers, but when I explained that the Sun is crucial for life on Earth and it will eventually run out of fuel, meaning that life on Earth will die, she replied: 'Wow... I didn't know that. No one has ever told me that before'. It's the same with the moon landing hoax, 9/11 or alien abductions, if you get a chance to really discuss the problems with these conspiracies with honest people, then the response is usually: 'Wow... I didn't know that'.
Of course for true nutters such as David Icke, or the pope, trying to show them the error in their arguments is as futile as teaching quantum mechanics to a parrot.
Comment by Anonymous-3, 11 Nov, 2014
Hey come on — that's unfair to parrots — at least they'll be able to repeat what you tell them!!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Nov, 2014
That's true, and I'm sure they would be much better company.
Comment by Mikaere, 11 Nov, 2014
Hi John. Loved the Occam's Razor/bikini line comment.
You may have seen this guy delivering a technical debunking of the faked moon landing rubbish:
Moon Landings Faked? Filmmaker Says Not!
He's worth watching for the dryness of his humour, let alone showing that faking the landing would have been impossible. His conclusion is a classic, hinting that the creation of such conspiracy 'theories' is actually a conspiracy in itself.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Nov, 2014
I finally found time to watch the above video you recommended Mikaere, and yes, it was worth it. Very droll as well as enlightening.
Comment by Robert, 17 Nov, 2014
Dear John, I haven't been back to your site till just now because it was pretty obvious that you are not the least bit interested in seeking the truth of ANYTHING, In fact, it seems to me that you're not only uninterested in the truth, but actually appear devoted to propping up silly beliefs, just so as long as their YOUR silly beliefs.
Anyway, I was bored today so just out of curiosity I visited your site, and I didn't need to read any farther than the paragraph quoted below to see that you really are determined to completely misrepresent everything I say, no matter how clear I try to make it:
"As for using your father to show that secrets are real, you first said that said your father 'maintained the giant lead-acid submarine (as in U-boat) batteries that are used as a back-up power source during a Titan missile launch'. You then said he 'was involved in NASA's Gemini program' and you then said he was involved in 'just putting unmanned satellites into orbit'. You're now back at saying his 'job was simply maintaining batteries', but if your father did indeed maintain submarine batteries that powered Titan missiles, then he worked for the military, not NASA as you also claimed, which was a civilian organisation and to my knowledge didn't operate a fleet of nuclear armed submarines. Of course the military do keep secrets, as do many organisations and individuals, but the fact that some secrets exist does not in any way support this moon landing hoax nonsense. It's as silly as arguing that because the military keep secrets, then President Obama might be an android and that secret is being kept from us."
First of all, I never said my father's willingness to keep secrets was proof of anything except that it's easy for an agency like NASA and its private contractors to keep secrets when its employee's lively-hoods and careers depend on it (and after their employment ends, their pensions too). And the reason I said his job was simply taking care of batteries is that you want to pretend that someone with a real secret (like we never actually landed men on the moon) would've gone public long ago. (I really shouldn't have to explain this, but you have such a talent when it comes to acting like a jackass, I feel have no choice but to explain every detail so you won't try to misconstrue anything - even that probably isn't enough - next, you'll probably tell me that I actually said my father was engineer in the Russian space program.) Anyway, I really am disgusted by your constant attempts to put words in my mouth and misrepresent everything I've ever said about my father, so to set the record straight once and for all, here are the basic facts of my dad's aerospace career:
1. My father spent his entire career as an electrical engineer with Martin-Marietta Corp. (now known as Lockheed-Martin).
2. I'm not certain of the date he hired on, but as far back as 1959 he was employed by the civilian contractor (Martin-Marietta) that launched Titan missiles at cape Kennedy and worked on the Gemini program insofar as Titan missiles were used to launch the Gemini capsules into orbit.
3. In 1968, Martin Marietta Corp. transferred my father to Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB).
4. After transferring to VAFB, my father spent the remainder of his career working on the Titan program launching unmanned satellites.
5. My father's main area of responsibility was lead-acid batteries - I think he was probably responsible for the entire backup power system including all the wiring, but I don't know that for sure.
6. My father was NEVER a NASA employee.
7. Except for 2 a year enlistment in the US Air Force during the Korean war, my father was NEVER an employee of the US military, and NEVER had ANYTHING to do with submarines except for his work with the batteries used in the Titan program. (Are you really so incredibly ignorant that you don't get that the Air Force used an off-the-shelf item like submarine batteries for a purpose other than submarines? If so, just to give you a clue, the Titan was originally designed to be a nuclear ICBM launched from an underground silo [not a submarine], so it makes perfect sense to use lead acid batteries as a backup power source considering that a missile silo is a sealed system similar to a submarine - my guess is that submarine batteries were chosen because they were probably the biggest most powerful batteries readily available.)
It is verifiable fact that lead-acid submarine batteries were used as a backup power source for land-based Titan missile launches, so I have absolutely no idea how or why anyone with a normally functioning brain would conclude that the mere fact submarine batteries were used as an emergency back up power source would require NASA to operate a fleet of "nuclear armed submarines"... unless they're so desperate to discredit me that they will just say anything, no matter how stupid it sounds. (Diesel generators were also part of the back up power system but don't seem to have been as important to civilian space launches as the batteries were, so don't waste your time trying to make an issue of that.)
In any case, I NEVER said my father was employed by NASA - I still have copies of all the emails I've ever sent you, and I NEVER even suggested he worked for NASA - that is a conclusion you jumped to all by yourself. Furthermore, I certainly never said anything that would indicate my father worked for the military, and for you to conclude that his involvement with submarine batteries means that he must have worked for the military is proof that you have absolutely no understanding of how the aerospace industry actually operates - even when NASA or the Air Force is in charge of a launch, private contractors do virtually all the real work, and always have.
I mentioned my father's career as evidence that even the most mundane secrets can easily be kept, and also as evidence that just putting unmanned satellites in orbit is exceedingly difficult and subjected him to a lot of stress and long hours. Are those 2 simple concepts really so hard for you to understand? People like you always claim that there's no way NASA could keep a real secret, but the fact is that you simply don't know what you're talking about - you have absolutely no idea what it means to have a top secret clearance or the consequences of failing to maintain operational security and violating private or government non-disclosure agreements. You are utterly clueless about the lengths the US goes to keep its secrets.
Now, considering all the effort I've had to put into just clarifying my father's record, I really don't know why I even bother with someone who pretends that the news reported on TV really IS the honest truth, and therefor the moon landings must be also be true. Seriously? The entire Viet Nam war was premised on a lie - the US Navy was not attacked by Vietnamese patrol boats in the gulf of Tonkin. The war in Afghanistan was also based on a lie - the FBI has publicly admitted that it does not, and never did have ANY evidence that Bin Laden was in any way involved in the 9/11 attacks (nor is there any evidence that the attacks were planned by anyone in Afghanistan). The Iraq war was also premised on a lie - Saddam Hussein did not have WMDs and never had ANY involvement with Al Qaeda whatsoever. So exactly how many times would the US government have to be caught red-handed to convince you that virtually everything it says, is a blatant lie? As for why more scientists don't question the moon landings, it really doesn't make any difference to me how many support the moon hoax, all that matters is that there is a huge amount of evidence that NASA's so-called proof doesn't withstand any serious scrutiny. (As for my claim about the spacesuits being debunked, nonsense - the suits NASA uses on the ISS have virtually no mobility in the legs, and the pressure has to be reduced to 1.3 PSI for the suit to have any mobility at all in the arms and hands when an astronaut is space walking - the claimed operating pressure of suits on the moon was 4.7 PSI, which would have made them as hard as a football, end of story. But like Dave McGowan said, NASA had all kinds of magic technology back in the 60s that somehow got "lost".)
I think I've made my point about the news, so getting back to the Apollo program, anyone who actually understands how science and engineering is done (as opposed to just believing whatever they see on TV) knows that it did NOT did not follow the normal procedure for developing a launch vehicle, and at the very least would be considered reckless to the point of criminal negligence as far as manned space flight is concerned if it were done the same way today.
As proof of this, one only need look at the number of Titan launches before the first manned Gemini capsule was ever sent into space - there were literally dozens of test launches of Titan II missiles, and many were failures - no manned Gemini capsule was launched until the system was perfected (if you don't believe me, Wikipedia has a list of all Titan launches). Now, considering that although there were only 2 unmanned test launches of the Saturn 5 rocket, the second of which failed to even achieve low Earth orbit, only the most gullible idiot would actually believe that the third launch of a Saturn 5 would even be manned, never mind sending men all the way to orbit the moon as Apollo 8 supposedly did.
Only someone who's completely clueless would believe that there were 6 flawless Saturn 5 launches bracketed by an unmanned failure (Apollo 6) to begin with, and an unmanned near failure(Skylab) at the end. The pogo effect caused Apollo 6 to fail, and the obvious conclusion is that the six (supposedly) manned launches were throttled down to much less than full power with little or no actual payload, but when Skylab was launched NASA tried to use the full thrust of the Saturn 5 and the pogo effect nearly destroyed Skylab - it's so obvious that even a child could figure out what was going on, but not you, John.
I bet you didn't even know that Skylab was the last Saturn 5 launch and that Skylab was nearly destroyed by vibration (the pogo effect) during that launch, until I sent you that Aulis article - but you're certain Saturn 5 rockets sent men to the moon? You probably don't know a damn thing about the Saturn 5 or the Apollo program except what you've seen on TV, otherwise you wouldn't be so sure men went to the moon. So instead of citing a bunch of nonsense like Viet Nam and the TV news as "proof" that men landed on the moon, why don't you read the articles on Aulis.com and see that at the very least, the moon landing photos are unquestionably phony? Never mind that the heat and radiation would've ruined the film, the fact that even professional photographers could not have taken the number of photos in the allotted amount of time and had virtually every single one come out perfect is unexplainable by its self, but the idea of them being taken by astronauts using cameras strapped to their chests that didn't even have view finders, is just impossible - there's no way ANYONE can perfectly frame, focus, and set the exposure using a camera with NO view finder - IT CAN'T BE DONE - THEREFOR, THE PICTURES ARE AN IMPOSSIBILITY!
If you actually spend any time researching the details of the Apollo program, it would be obvious to you that there is something very wrong with the way it was developed. Furthermore, there's no logical explanation for why the supposedly largest and most powerful rocket in history (Saturn 5) would suddenly be abandoned and a system that cost three times as much per launch (the shuttle) with less payload would be adopted as its replacement. People with far more education and qualifications than you have analyzed the Apollo launches and determined that they did NOT reach the required speed to put a spacecraft in low Earth orbit, and also concluded that the Saturn 5 rockets were throttled back because the pogo effect would have destroyed the rocket at full power. And if the Saturn 5 was not launched with full thrust, there's no way it could have put the claimed payload into orbit, and therefor there's simply no way Apollo could've reached the moon. (And seriously, of course it matters that the LEM was light enough to actually be put into orbit, even if it never got there - serious doubts that the Saturn 5 could've actually put the claimed payload into orbit exist, but "battleship steel" would've been just a little too obvious.)
If you were interested in getting at the truth of the space program, you'd have to wonder why after spending $10 billion dollars on the Orion program, President Obama would decide to cancel the program and opt instead to pursue a far more difficult manned mission to Mars - "Duh, if we cant return to the moon in 15 years, lets scrap the program we just wasted $10 billion on and kick the can down the road another 30 years so we can attempt something far more impossible than just going 'back' to the moon." (Of course, there will NEVER be a manned mission to Mars - at least not by NASA anyway, because 30 years from now the USA will have been long bankrupted by pointless wars and probably won't even have the money to put a monkey in Earth orbit.)
You and everyone else who believes men actually landed on the moon insist that the fact that we've never been back means nothing. But it does mean something when you consider that NASA spent $10 billion dollars on planning a return and concluded that it could not be done in the allotted 15 year timetable - it wasn't just that NASA didn't have the technology in 2010, it was that NASA didn't even know how to create the technology that it supposedly mastered back in 1969. (And instead of just implying that your fellow New Zealander isn't really a PhD, why don't you email him and start a dialogue? if you're anywhere near as smart as you seem to think you are, it should be easy to make him look silly.)
I would ask you to explain why NASA can't do in 15 years what it supposedly did in half that time more than 40 years ago, but since I know you have no logical explanation, all I'm likely to get from you is a bunch of twaddle about Obama being an android and how my father must've been in the Navy or similar nonsense - I really am fascinated by your mental contortions and can't wait to see what kind of words you'll try to put in my mouth next. I would love to have rational conversation, but up to this point all you've shown me is a willingness to misrepresent everything I say, play "gotcha" and go off on tangents that have absolutely nothing to do with the moon landings - is that really the best you can do? Really? (I get the feeling that you're going out of your way to be a smart-ass because you don't believe my father was actually an engineer who worked on the Titan program, if that's the case, you're WAY wrong - I have some of my dad's space memorabilia and would send you some as proof if I thought it would convince you, but I'm sure you'd just go into jackass mode and deny everything.)
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Nov, 2014
The basic problem I have with your comments Robert is that if I am to believe you, then paradoxically I have to reach the conclusion that I can't believe anything you say. If what you claim is true, then clearly the USA, both its government and many of its ordinary citizens, including you, cannot be trusted in anything they say. In your worldview, the only real difference between the USA and the likes of North Korea, Iran, Syria and the now defunct Soviet Union is that the world is being mislead on a massive scale regarding the integrity of the USA and its citizens. We all know that North Korea is lying to its citizens, but most of us don't realise that the USA is apparently just as dishonest, devious and corrupt. More so actually, since while North Korea only fools its own citizens, you Americans have hoodwinked the entire world. The moon landing never happened, the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan were all blatant acts of American aggression, your own President and fellow loyal Americans orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, killing thousands of your own citizens, and planted the blame on innocent, nice guy Osama bin Laden. Your country is hiding evidence of alien civilisations on Mars and visiting alien craft in Area 51, you're secretly spraying the world with toxic chemtrails and are apparently in league with the reptilian aliens that have infiltrated the British royal family, etc. etc. (And of course I don't know that any of these wars or the 9/11 attacks even happened, since I only saw them reported on US TV news reports.)
Let's remember that you said 'I really don't know why I even bother with someone who pretends that the news reported on TV really IS the honest truth... You are utterly clueless about the lengths the US goes to keep its secrets... exactly how many times would the US government have to be caught red-handed to convince you that virtually everything it says, is a blatant lie?' But of course it's not just the US government that is lying to us all, it's ordinary American citizens that are lying to the world. You argued, and I agree, that 'even when NASA or the Air Force is in charge of a launch, private contractors do virtually all the real work, and always have'. Lies put out by NASA or the government are only believed if the private contractors, people like your father, are willing to support those lies.
And this is where it all falls apart, when thousands of people are all telling lies to hide a raft of secrets, eventually contradictory stories surface. You said that 'I mentioned my father's career as evidence that even the most mundane secrets can easily be kept', and yet you had earlier said that your father 'refused to give me even the slightest idea what his job had been', but now you destroy this argument by saying, 'here are the basic facts of my dad's aerospace career... [and] I have some of my dad's space memorabilia and would send you some as proof if I thought it would convince you'. So clearly your father's mundane secret has not been kept, and worse still, he was even taking top secret stuff home as souvenirs! And since your argument is that the government, NASA and its private contractors are all lying, we have no good reason to believe any claim regarding your father's employment with Martin-Marietta Corp, a private contractor to NASA. Can't you see that you can't sincerely trust Martin-Marietta Corp while at the same time distrusting all the private contractors that your father didn't work for? For the hoax to succeed everyone must be part of the lie, that includes Martin-Marietta Corp and your father. You seem to want it both ways, to implicitly trust those that agree with you and immediately distrust those that don't. You even flip-flop over your father's connection with NASA, angrily saying that 'I NEVER even suggested he worked for NASA - that is a conclusion you jumped to all by yourself', which contradicts the implication you raised earlier: 'As I said in a previous email, my father was an engineer and was involved in NASA's Gemini program'. You are spitting hairs if you insist that your father was employed by one of NASA's private contractors and not NASA directly. As you argued, 'private contractors do virtually all the real work' for NASA, so for all intents and purposes your father worked for NASA and towards NASA's goal of putting a man on the moon. And strangely I don't understand why your father even felt he had to lie to you when you would have been only three or four years old when Gemini was operating. After all, he only looked after big batteries, something I also did at one time and government non-disclosure agreements I had signed didn't stop me revealing the fact that I maintained batteries at work. And at the same time your government was happily telling us in NZ about the Gemini program. Why were they hiding it from a child in the USA?
I'll finish with a revealing statement that you made: 'As for why more scientists don't question the moon landings, it really doesn't make any difference to me how many support the moon hoax, all that matters is that there is a huge amount of evidence that NASA's so-called proof doesn't withstand any serious scrutiny'.
Your willingness to readily ignore what the world's scientists believe while naively accepting what a handful of unqualified conspiracy theorists dreamt up is the sign of someone that wants the world to be the way they comprehend it to be, not the way it is. Don't you see the problem with your argument here? If there truly was a huge amount of evidence that the moon landing was a hoax, then scientists would indeed be questioning the claims. They're not so clearly that evidence doesn't exist. It should make a difference to you, it should concern and worry you that the world's scientists that aren't being controlled by your evil government still aren't dubious of the moon landing. Hell, even last week the European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet, or was that a hoax landing too, forced on the European scientists by the US to divert attention from your moon landing hoax?
Comment by Mike, 20 Nov, 2014
Robert posted — "I would ask you to explain why NASA can't do in 15 years what it supposedly did in half that time more than 40 years ago, but since I know you have no logical explanation,..." — I certainly have a logical explanation Robert — it is because NASA is funded by the government, and the government didn't want to spend all that money any more. There is plenty of opportunity to spend bucketloads of money in Earth orbit, and no pressing need (such as the cold war) to go to the moon. Sorry if you can't grasp that idea, but it is pretty well documented.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Nov, 2014
Yes indeed Mike. The romance and the challenge of the race is gone. Ask anyone on the street today and they'll almost all say that spending money on space is a huge waste when there are people starving in Africa or whatever. All space programs would be cancelled tomorrow if most people had their way. And yet conspiracy theorists like Robert still can't grasp why governments struggle to fund and make some headway with their space programs. Robert would argue that not a single taxpayer cent should go to NASA but will then ask why they're not achieving much these days.
Comment by Mikaere, 22 Nov, 2014
Hi John. Such great arguments from conspiracy 'theorists' (non sequitur, half-truths and rambling minutiae rule) have changed my mind. Myth Busters, Moon Base Clavius and your own cogent rebuttals can't compete. Just examine Kubrick's 'The Shining' for final proof of the Moon Hoax.
I can't wait for the Chinese to get to the Moon first and find The Sea of Tranquility and other alleged Apollo sites empty of landers, laser reflectors, rover tracks and footprints. Oh yes, those scheming Americans will finally be shown up. Hold on, the CIA will most likely bribe PRC astronauts to show U.S space artifacts up there. So it goes...
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Nov, 2014
Unfortunately Mikaere I'm one of the handful of people on the planet that haven't seen the 'The Shining', so I'll have to take your word that it is final proof of the Moon Hoax. But regarding the Chinese, if their spacecraft manages to break Earth orbit (highly unlikely), the deadly radiation will kill their astronauts just as it would have killed the Apollo astronauts if they had really got that far. Also it's unbelievable that a nation that until just a couple of decades ago viewed high technology as a bicycle with a bell can now have independently developed computers and spacecraft that greatly surpass what the rest of the world has managed to develop.
And China already has an unfortunate reputation of censorship and state secrecy, of promulgating falsehoods to boost their world standing and a desperate need to compete with the USA. They are the new Soviet Union in that regard, so while I agree that we will in the near future see (on TV) the Chinese land on the moon, it must logically be just another hoax. It is depressing but inescapable that humans are ordained to spend our entirety on Earth. The dinosaurs existed for millions of years and never got anywhere near even a suborbital flight. We are simply not destined to explore and colonise the galaxy. God put his unimaginably huge and enticing universe out there just to frustrate us and make us feel impotent and puny. He hates the arrogance of those that dream that they might break Earth's bonds and those that make hoax videos to pretend they already have, and he welcomes those that assert meekly and ignorantly that going into space is not only immensely difficult and dangerous, it's downright impossible.
Landing on the moon is like regaining your virginity, some of us may wish we could do it but as you say Mikaere, the great arguments from conspiracy 'theorists' show it's never going to happen. We were fools to ever believe the scientists when we should have been listening to the intellectually challenged amongst us. Now I must go and take a homeopathic potion for my cold and resume looking for those pesky gremlins who have nicked my car keys, or it could have been ghosts, I'm still undecided as the evidence is pointing both ways.
Comment by Mikaere, 22 Nov, 2014
Hi John. Being a wettish day here, I've been perusing some conspiracy postings and discussions, hence the reference to 'The Shining'. There are several posts and youtube videos mocking the suggestion that Kubrick was so troubled by faking the landings that he inserted symbolism in this movie as a sort of confession. The link below shows most of the crazy thinking:
Come to think of it, being such a perfectionist, Kubrick would have done a far better job of making a fake movie.
Thanks for pushing the stone up the hill with these guys. Interesting how they usually lace their comments with insults — surely doesn't enhance their arguments.
Appreciate your hard work — loved your reply to my posting. Actually my keys are missing too. Another conspiracy...
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Nov, 2014
Thanks for your comments Mikaere. I shouldn't be, but I just can't help being stunned when yet another example of gullibility and ignorance is thrust in front of me. I read your link about Kubrick's movie 'The Shining' and was left shaking my head in amazement that people can write and believe this level of bullshit. Today we (even the idiots) wonder how the likes of medieval folk could have been so stupid as to believe that their neighbour was a witch that cursed their crops and was having orgies with Satan, but naively believing in these ridiculous modern conspiracies is really no different. We've gained centuries of knowledge and reliable ways of looking at the world but it is all for naught for these 21st century citizens with their medieval mindsets. I fear that we will never return to the Moon, let alone go to Mars and onto the stars, when such a huge proportion of the population are still mired in primitive, ignorant beliefs. Look at that NZ Green MP Steffan Browning that recently suggested that the world could combat the Ebola crisis with homeopathic remedies, and the school boards that still push for Bible in Schools. It's not just the school drop-outs and New Age nutters, these silly beliefs are found in every strata of society and their ready acceptance over complex knowledge is hindering our progress. It's going to be an uphill battle where the outcome is far from certain.
Comment by Ben, 06 Dec, 2014
I wonder whether Columbus had this problem when returning from the New World. "Hey, Chris, you can't fool us. We know you were hiding on a offshore island for the last five years."
In the 15th century, no doubt there were those who claimed that such a voyage was a physical impossibility. I actually have no proof that America was ever discovered.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Dec, 2014
Interesting idea Ben, and I'm sure you're right. It was probably known as the New World landing hoax, that was secretly devised over a few ales in the local cantina. We all know that ships would fall off the edge of the world long before they got to some New World, that is if the dragons didn't get them first (the 15th century equivalent of deadly radiation).
The nonsense behind cellular memory
Recently we received the following query from Justin who had been reading about cellular memory. That's the unsupported belief that human memories are stored in every cell in the body, not just the brain, leading to the nonsense that unresolved traumatic memories in these cells may cause disease. Justin then read our article on a silly documentary called 'Transplanting Memories', which argued that organ transplant recipients receive the memories of the organ donor because of these cellular memories.
'Hi my name is justin and I came across this article on transplanting memories because of wanting to know what other people thought about all of this cellular memory stuff. Now I do believe I have ocd lol. So I'm just forewarning you lol. I recently came across a website called heartmath that claimed to have scientific evidence that our hearts think and even other organs in our bodies have brains. Now I was able to control my ocd when I researched that, it was just fear mostly made up in my mind (head brain), but when I came across all of the heartmath stuff I started back having compulsions. The reason being is because no one tells you how to control thoughts in your heart or gut lol. So I started thinking like are my thoughts coming from other parts of my body and how can I control them etc. So i contacted a guy by the name Steven Novella. And he told me that other organs are a part of autonomic function and he believes its misleading to say they are brains. So I believed him but then I came accross this whole cellular memory phenomenon stuff. And I tried to ask him about it but got no response and I can understand no one wants to deal with a quack like me, but by me not having any experience in the medical field it is very easy for me to take what I hear from people like Paul Pearsall, Gary Schwartz, and a guy by the name of Dr. Armour as being the truth because of their labels. So I ran across your blog which is an incredible read and I promise I'm not just ass kissing lol it really is great. But I wanted to ask you a question so I can have some closure. Is there really no medical proof that our body cells can store memories? And if not why are these people always being used as "proof" by these doctors on this subject? Did any of these transplants really even happen? Any of your feedback will be greatly appreciated. And I promise I won't hound you or bombard you with questions lol, it's just I really want to know why would these so called doctors do this?'
So in this post we'll look at whether there's any good reason to take cellular memory seriously, but more importantly, we'll also consider another concern that Justin raises. Rather than it being nutty astrologers and flaky psychic healers
arguing with scientists and doctors, when it's actually scientists and doctors arguing with each other over cellular memory, with both sides holding impressive qualifications, how might we decide which side to believe? This concern is important since it plays out across untold topics that anyone might be skeptical of, not just cellular memory.
The problem is that no matter what silly belief you come across, you'll always be able to find an academic with letters after their name who argues that it is true. There are astronomers that believe God created the universe a few thousand years ago, biologists that think God created humans, palaeontologists that believe man lived alongside the dinosaurs, physicists that argue aliens are visiting us, archaeologists that think that an ancient civilisation disappeared with Atlantis, historians who reckon that aliens built the pyramids, and doctors that think an imbalance in chakra energy causes disease. So when, for example, one scientist says God created the universe and another says that's just laughable, rather than simply saying their PhDs cancel out and creates a stalemate, how do we choose which claim is likely true and which is the silly belief? There is a rational way to decide and we'll look at that shortly, but first, is there anything to cellular memory?
Let's start with one of the experts Justin mentioned, Dr. J. Andrew Armour, MD, PhD. Most websites that quote him actually quote what his publisher said about a pamphlet he wrote called 'Anatomical and Functional Principles' where he mentions the 'heart brain'. I read a much more detailed article by Armour in the Feb 2007 issue of the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, entitled 'The little brain on the heart'. He writes that:
The cardiac neuronal hierarchy can be represented as a massively parallel and, for the most part, stochastic control system such that stable cardiac control occurs in the absence of obvious cause and effect (ie, it displays emergent properties). This hierarchy displays robust external behavior while matching cardiac output to whole-body blood flow demands. Its target organ component, the "little brain on the heart," transduces centripetal and centrifugal inputs in the
coordination of regional cardiac electrical and mechanical indices.
Take from that what you can, and unfortunately much of the article is not for the layperson, with sentences such as this: 'The somata of parasympathetic efferent preganglionic neurons that synapse with cholinergic efferent postganglionic neurons on the heart are located primarily in the ventral lateral region of the nucleus ambiguous of the medulla'.
I feel that Armour muddies the water when he refers to 'The little brain on the heart', since while other scientists will understand what he's really talking about, the layperson generally doesn't and only connects with that phrase, which I don't believe should be taken literally. I can say I have a little car, and it will generally perform as well as a larger car that I also own in getting me to work and the supermarket. But I don't believe Armour is suggesting that his little brain on the heart and his big brain in his head are comparable in the way my two cars are. Either car will get me to work, but I doubt if Armour would switch off his big brain and work with his little brain. This careless talk is confusing. It's like atheistic scientists who when they're talking to the media misleadingly say that through their research they are trying to read the mind of God, or when they call the Higgs boson the God Particle. The scientists know that the Higgs boson has nothing to do with God and that they're not trying to understand God's handiwork at all, but the public hear the word God and wrongly but understandably assume that the scientists are really talking about God. With Armour's unfortunate simplification, the layperson takes the few words that they understand and twist them to support a personal view that I don't believe Armour ever intended. For example, this article entitled 'Yes, the Heart Really Can "Think" and Have Emotions! Amazing New Scientific Evidence Corroborates Biblical Teaching Yet Again!', references the 'The Work of Dr Andrew Armour and Others...', including Paul Pearsall, and concludes that 'This means that the biblical concept that the heart is the seat of one's soul, intellect and character can no longer be taken as a purely poetic/romantic writing idiom'. Of course Armour doesn't claim that the heart can think or have emotions at all, let alone that it is 'the seat of one's soul, intellect and character'. But the article does note that 'Pearsall is now convinced that the heart has its own form of intelligence', that it communicates with 'the body and the outside world through an "info-energetic code"... What's more, he believes that the soul, at least in part, is a set of cellular memories that is carried largely by our hearts... [and] that the heart "thinks," cells remember, and communication can therefore transcend the boundaries of time and space'. The writer tries to imply that that Armour's research supports Pearsall's view, when it does nothing of the sort. Pearsall's view is pure pseudoscience, phrases like 'info-energetic code' and 'communication can therefore transcend the boundaries of time and space' are just nonsense. Claims like this might seem believable in a silly 'Dr Who' episode, but they have no place in real science. Another article quotes the same info regarding Armour and Pearsall, where the author writes: 'I submit this under the category of fascinating, or maybe science catching up with the bible?' Of course it's not just Christians indecently grasping science when they think it supports their faith, Muslims claim it actually supports their faith as well, as this article shows: 'Today, researchers confirm that there is a brain inside heart which can think, understand and feel. The question: Are there any signs in Qur'an about heart and its role in understanding and realizing? Let us read...'
It's strange that the religious want to embrace the idea that we think we our heart, since the Bible says:
'For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man "unclean".' MK 7:21-23
I wasn't aware of the website mentioned by Justin called 'HeartMath', but a quick look revealed it to be just another quack site pushing a worthless product onto a gullible public. It spoke of 'empowering heart-based living' which it described as follows:
'When all of our intentions and actions in daily life originate from the intuitive wisdom of our hearts, when we feel and act with sincere appreciation, caring and kindness for others — all qualities of the heart — and when we can observe the world around us without the preset judgments of the mind, but rather with the compassion in our hearts, then we will truly be living life from the heart.'
What primitive sounding claptrap. They then assured us that:
'You'll learn about the heart as control tower of the body's systems and health, and the techniques will show you how to deepen your heart qualities of wisdom, compassion, strength and joy and increase your intuitive, creative and heart-centered aspects.'
It almost feels as though they're quoting from some medieval text, certainly not the Bible though. But why does this major discrepancy exist? If these people, unlike me, can truly sense the reality of a thinking heart, why aren't they all describing the same qualities? Why are Christians sensing pure evil such as murder, greed, malice, deceit and lewdness, and yet the HeartMath turkeys are sensing qualities such as wisdom, joy, caring and kindness for others? Clearly this shows that their descriptions are nothing but a fiction, nothing but delusions created in that brain between their ears that they are strangely desperate to subvert. When I hear people say things like, I know in my heart, I believe with every fibre of my being, I've searched the depths of my soul, well, my brain is telling me that you're an idiot. The HeartMath site also gave a list of 'esteemed best-selling authors' that have mentioned their method, none of whom I recognised except the spiritualist Deepak Chopra, which just makes me more suspicious if he's supporting it.
Another article called 'Memory transference in organ transplant recipients' starts by noting, without any supporting evidence, that 'There is a physical side and an occult side to everything'. After describing a few cases, the article notes that 'Various theories have been proposed to explain this notion of 'cellular memory'', and the first they offer is again Dr Armour's 'concept of a functional "heart brain". His analysis revealed that the heart has an intrinsic nervous system of its own, containing around 40,000 neurons'. The writer argues that 'The heart acts independently of the brain, sending and receiving meaningful messages of its own through the autonomic nervous system. It is possible that this newly discovered centre of intelligence is responsible for the memory transfer'. Note that he claims that the heart is 'sending and receiving meaningful messages' and that it is a 'newly discovered centre of intelligence'. I don't believe that there is any support from Armour's actual research for these claims, that the heart isn't just sending signals, but 'meaningful messages' from a ' centre of intelligence'. The writer also notes that Armour states that the heart contains 'around 40,000 neurons', and I suppose for most people, having 40,000 of something seems like an enormous amount, supposedly making one very intelligent, but when we're talking about neurons it's a pathetic amount. The human body has around one hundred trillion cells, and of these cells, the brain has around a hundred billion neurons. Suggesting that a mere 40,000 neurons in the heart are doing the same job as the hundred billion neurons in the brain is deceptive, although in reality the writers probably have no idea how different the heart and brain really are. In his book 'The Brain: A Very Short Introduction', Michael O'Shea writes that 'Brains of the most advanced insects (honey bees) have about one million neurons, snails about 20,000... Contrast these numbers with the hundred billion or so that are required for human levels of intelligence'. He notes that 'There is unquestionably an enormous gulf between human and insect intelligence... [and yet] ...Insect neurons are as complex and display as much diversity as neurons in the human cortex'. Recall that the cellular memory proponents argue that because the human heart has 40,000 neurons it 'Really Can "Think" and Have Emotions!' and that it is 'the seat of one's soul, intellect and character'. Another claimed that 'researchers confirm that there is a brain inside heart which can think, understand and feel'. So if our heart is truly thinking, just like our brain is, with just 40,000 neurons, this suggests that honey bees, with their one million neurons, must be around 25 times more intelligent than people who think with their heart. Perhaps this does explain something, in that people that think cellular memory makes sense are truly using their heart to think with instead of their brain, giving them the cognitive skills of a severely intellectually handicapped bee or a really bright snail.
Furthermore, what we refer to as intelligence in humans requires our mind to be conscious and self-aware. So for the heart to be a centre of intelligence, to be thinking, to be storing and recalling memories and experiencing emotions, requires that the heart also be conscious and self-aware. That would mean that we all have two minds, although for most of us the mind in our brain is apparently hiding this fact from us, and has locked up our heart brain in the cellar. In the past many people did believe that thoughts originated in the heart rather than the head, but at no time did they think they had two minds that were competing. The question was not whether we had more than one mind, but simply where this single mind resided, head or heart? But of course the evidence for this other mind is zilch. Between parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister, we all have real experiences of two minds, two intelligences, communicating, but what single person outside a dementia ward has believable experience of two independent minds communicating within their own body? No one.
And if this nonsense were real, Justin naturally wonders how one might access and control the thoughts that are going on in our heart or gut. Well you're in luck, since there are people out there, fraudulent people, who claim to be able to teach you how to access and manipulate these cellular memories, just as there are fraudsters that claim that they can teach you how to levitate, how to cast spells, how to contact your guardian angel, how to avoid being abducted by aliens, and how and when to have sex so that you don't offend your god. One such fraudster is Brandon Bays who invented the bogus healing method known as 'The Journey' in order that people could believe they were accessing and manipulating their cellular memories, and so she could make lots of money through books, DVDs and courses teaching this bogus method.
But of course there is no need to waste time and money learning how to access the memories that your big toe might have recorded, since cellular memory is all bullshit. To answer to your question Justin, there is no evidence that our body cells can store memories, in fact not even neurons can store memories. The reality is that many neurons in the brain in association with other neurons are needed to store memories. A single neuron can't store a memory, or do anything useful at all by itself. There is clear evidence that memory is associated solely with the brain and not with our heart or liver or big toe. When someone has a limb amputated they don't lose any memories, but when a brain is damaged memories can disappear or be corrupted. Sufferers of Alzheimer's disease lose their memory when their brain deteriorates, not when they have a heart attack or have a kidney or their tonsils removed.
On one website I read a claim that is typical of those that support cellular memory: 'Dr Schwartz says that our history is stored inside each cell in our body'. So how might this be achieved? As I explained in our piece about 'The Journey', an alternative therapy that utilises a belief in cellular memory, the practitioner informed us that every emotion that you have rewrites the DNA in our cells, of which our body has around one hundred trillion. Of course I can't see why the body would evolve the need to duplicate our memories, first a copy in the neuron connections of our brain, then another hundred trillion copies into our cells. It would indicate that the brain is a terribly inefficient way of storing memories. The brain has around a hundred billion neurons, it is absolutely gigantic compared to a single cell which can't even be seen normally. Why bother with a huge brain which can only hold a single copy of our memories, when you can store them all in a single microscopic cell? The brain is the most energy intensive organ in our body, so why waste all this energy storing memories when they're also being stored in my finger tips? Also, as anyone that has been involved with computer backups knows, a backup is only valuable and of any use if it up-to-date and will actually work to restore all the information back to the original memory. The cellular memory proponents argue that our brain has a hundred trillion memory backups, but clear experience over millions of years shows that when the brain's memory fails, either partially or totally, not once has the brain fallen back on one of these hundred trillion memory backups. Why not? What's the point of all these memory backups evolving if the body has no way of accessing them? Of course some cellular memory proponents may well argue, without any evidence, that ancient man could access his cellular memories, and that modern man has lost this skill, but this is no different to arguing that ancient man could communicate with the forest gods and the trolls that lived under bridges.
And of course science knows of no way that memories could be stored in a single cell. As I've said, not even a single neuron can store a memory, it requires an ensemble of neurons. The argument that was given above, that memories are continually rewriting the DNA in our cells is just nonsense. Scientists have mapped the human genome, they've compared DNA between an enormous number of humans, and it is essentially all the same. That's what makes us a single species and why we all look and act the same way. If memories and emotions were rewriting our DNA it would clearly show up on DNA tests since individual DNA would all be vastly different since we all have vastly different memories and experiences. Also we know what DNA does, it contains the base instructions to run our bodies and to create new humans. If our memories were overwriting these instructions then our DNA would become so corrupted that we would die and be unable to reproduce. Our species should have gone extinct as soon as this cellular memory mutation arose. Think of the analogy of a cake recipe, and make just one change to the instructions, changing the word 'sugar' to 'salt' and see how well the cake turns out. One change ruins a cake, and yet cellular memory proponents argue that the vital instructions in our cells are being randomly changed every second of every day, and yet amazingly our body doesn't notice these fatal changes.
Justin asks whether any of these organ transplant cases that argue for cellular memory actually happened, and 'why are these people always being used as "proof" by these doctors on this subject'. The transplants most likely happened, the doubtful aspect is the way people interpreted the behaviour of the recipients after the transplant. If you look at the people pushing this, they all quote the same handful of well known transplant recipients that felt they were acting differently after their operation. But if this really happens, that organ recipients inherit the memories of the organ donors, then why are the same few cases reported over and over again? I don't know the numbers, but there must have been millions of transplants performed over the years, so there should be millions of people reporting confusing memories after their transplant operation. And then we have the even far more common blood transfusions, which also transfer cells from other people. And why don't we receive chicken memories when we eat at KFC? So why are there only a handful of people having problems with foreign memories? Isn't it more likely that this handful of people are perhaps struggling to understand their new found health and a sudden desire to do things that they couldn't before, or perhaps the immunosuppressant drugs they're now on are affecting their thoughts? Clearly the medical fraternity and most every transplant patient can see no evidence that donor memories are being transferred, so if a handful are having behavioural problems it is most likely psychological rather than physiological. These few appear to be struggling to comprehend new feelings, and have fallen back on the primitive belief in sympathetic magic. A perfect example would be where ignorant people thought that consuming the heart of a powerful enemy warrior would give them his strength and bravery. What is this if not cellular memory at work? We can excuse our distant ancestors for thinking like this, but it's worrying that people in the 21st century still believe such nonsense.
Justin admits that 'it is very easy for me to take what I hear from people like Paul Pearsall, Gary Schwartz, and a guy by the name of Dr. Armour as being the truth because of their labels'. I agree that it is easy to be a little intimidated by experts with impressive letters after their names, since we feel we should be able to trust their professional claims.
So how can we decide which experts we should trust? When people are debating, you may have heard some dismissing a claim by insisting that it is merely an 'appeal to authority', where they usually argue that we shouldn't automatically believe something just because some authority figure or authoritative group such as a government makes the claim. But there is more to it than this. As Jill LeBlanc points out in her book 'Thinking Clearly: A Guide to Critical Reasoning', no one can know everything about everything, and so what is meant by 'an authority is someone who possesses expert knowledge on a particular subject'. In this case it does not mean someone that we are compelled to obey or believe, like a policeman ordering you to stop or the government making you pay your taxes. We must all make an 'appeal to authority' when we are dealing with the likes of doctors, lawyers, engineers and even plumbers, any professional that possesses specialist knowledge that most of us lack. But this doesn't mean that we should automatically accept whatever someone with a qualification claims. LeBlanc lists the following 'Criteria for judging acceptability for authority:'
The authority must be identified
She notes that 'An appeal to authority that contravenes one of these conditions is a fallacious appeal to authority'. So it's not the appeal to authority that we should be watching out for, but the 'fallacious' appeal to authority.
The authority must be respectable
The matter must be in this authority's field of expertise
The matter must be one on which there is a consensus of experts
So should we be blindly accepting of the claims made by experts of the likes of Pearsall and Schwartz? They both fulfil the first three criteria, they are identified, they are respectable, that is they have the likes of a Phd or MD, and they are commenting on their general field of expertise. But they both fail the last criteria, in that their view is not one held by the scientific community, there is no consensus of experts, these two scientists are mavericks, and thus any use of Pearsall's and Schwartz's claims is a fallacious appeal to authority. Pearsall and Schwartz cannot be pointed to as authorities, it can't be argued that we should believe their claims because they're experts and we're not. But clearly this is what websites and alternative therapists pushing cellular memory are doing, implying that Pearsall and Schwartz are the experts that we need to defer to, they are authoritative. They are not. They are merely stating a view that has little or no evidence to support it in the mainstream view. To change this state of affairs they must find this evidence and sway the other experts, they cannot rely simply on the PhD after their names to convince people. This is not to say that someone that disagrees with a consensus of their fellow experts is wrong, only that they cannot claim to be authoritative, and nor can others suggest that we should defer to their authority.
As Justin realised, two scientists, eg Steven Novella and Gary Schwartz, can have completely opposing views, so who do we believe? With both supporting their view with relevant academic degrees, we need to consider the argument offered and the supporting evidence presented by both sides. Is the argument reasonable, and is it accepted by the majority of experts in that field? If their claims were true, would we expect to see their theories expressed in society. For example, if a scientist claims that X-rays can see into the body, might we expect this technology to be used hospitals, or if a scientist claims that dinosaurs once existed, might we expect to find their fossils? In both these examples the answer is yes, and we do, so a reasonable question regarding cellular memories might be, if it's real, do we see surgeons testing for memory, gender and personality compatibility prior to an organ transplant as they do for tissue and blood compatibility? The answer is no, so what does this suggest? That the scientific consensus is that cellular memory is pseudoscience. We also need to consider any potential bias, do they have a conflict of interest that might be pushing them to make certain claims? For example, have they got a religion that they're trying to prove true or a book, product or therapy to sell?
For example, scientists arguing for creationism aren't looking for the truth since they believe they've already found it: God did it! They are now simply looking for evidence that supports their silly story, and ignoring any that doesn't help. An honest scientist however is simply looking for the truth, trying to understand how the universe works, and will go where the evidence points, whether it is quantum mechanics or gods or pixies. Of course a real scientist has an expectation of what the likely answer could be, but they will also reject an accepted view if the evidence shows it to be wrong and will set off on another path. For example, not so long ago cosmologists thought that the universe was static, then they decided it was expanding but slowing down. Now they agree that the expansion is actually accelerating. A religious scientist never changes their mind, the answer always has been and always will be: God did it! Likewise a scientist that has a book, product or therapy to sell that is based on some controversial and unsupported idea that he devised is never seen admitting that further research has shown his idea was wrong, and thus his book, product or therapy is worthless and perhaps even harmful. We should always be very suspicious of scientists and academics that promote their controversial and unsupported ideas to the uninformed person on the street through popular books, websites and appearances on daytime TV talk shows. They target a credulous public while deliberately ignoring and avoiding the experts that are qualified to judge their claims. They have plenty of time to write several books but evidently no time to write a single article for peer-reviewed science journals. Even in NZ we have fools like Ken Ring who promotes his claim that astrology can be used to predict the weather, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the stranding of whales, along with promoting his silly ideas on ancient history, arguing that 'ancient maps, said to be 120 million years old have been recently discovered, which points to the possibility that man may have been living in societies for that length of time'. The public needs to ask themselves why these people love to explain their ideas to people that don't understand science but are too afraid to debate their ideas with real experts? Do they really think they've found the truth, or merely a simple way of making money from gullible people?
If, as we maintain, there is no evidence for cellular memory, then why do respected, educated people promote the idea, or as Justin asks, 'I really want to know why would these so called doctors do this?' As we've already noted, clearly there are many people out there, from highly qualified scientists and doctors to unsophisticated psychic mediums and astrologers, that promote belief in silly things, not just cellular memory. No doubt a minority will be utterly convinced that their silly belief is true and will be utterly blind to any evidence or reasoning that speaks against it. They will be sincere in their claims, but wrong nonetheless. It's a little like a child when they say they fully expect a certain toy from Santa Claus. They're not lying to us, they are simply mistaken. Others however know full well that their claims are bogus or are most likely false, or at the very least, know that there is no evidence to support them, contrary to what they say. These are the ones that have a book, product or therapy to sell, and they aren't going to let the facts get in the way of their income. They are quite simply, dishonest. They are fraudsters, con artists, cheats, snake oil salesmen, sharks and hustlers. Some of them may have a PhD or MD after their name, but there is plenty of evidence that highly educated people with respectable careers are just as capable of dishonesty as uneducated people. And perhaps I'm cynical, but some evidence would even suggest that the more money some rich people make, the more they want, often resorting to dishonesty, or at the very least, charging exorbitant fees. We need to look past the labels people use, such as Doctor or PhD, and consider their actions and words. Far too many people put unwarranted trust in labels, happily letting the experts tell them what to think, naively accepting whatever they say. Many people think that we should be able to blindly trust doctors, unlike politicians for some reason, but then they also think they should be able to trust their local priest or minister, and look at the bullshit they've put in trusting heads over the years. Again, we must stop being intimidated by people claiming to be experts. Yes we need to listen to them, but we must carefully consider what they say rather than just accepting it blindly. Even a good doctor will recommend that we get a second opinion. Most of the time we are justified in accepting expert opinion, but we still need to be wary of the odd expert that is looking out for their own interests and not ours.
These devious experts should be easy to spot, they're the ones trying to sell us on their outlandish ideas, having failed to convince their fellow experts. That their argument can't stand up to expert scrutiny but they still insist that they're right should make us very suspicious of them. But far too many people flock to the wacky ideas that even a fool can grasp because they seem to make sense. For example the world does look flat, although I assure you it's not. Science is difficult and complex, and it takes effort to understand it even on a basic level, let alone comprehend it at an expert level. Because of this, many people opt instead for explanations that are simple and/or that present a world that works the way they would like it to work. For example, a world where a god or karma punishes bad deeds, where mediums can keep us in touch with loved ones, and where cancer can be cured by simply ridding yourself of bad childhood memories. Ignorance makes it rather easy to believe in nonsense, and fraudsters promoting their ideas to the public rather than the experts take full advantage of this.
As for me, I trust that group of scientists who when they say something should be the case, it clearly is the case. When they say that microscopic bacteria exist, they can show them to me. When they predict a solar eclipse, it happens exactly as predicted. When they say that white light is made up of many colours, they can demonstrate this. When they say they can put a satellite into orbit, they do just that and I can see it. I don't trust those scientists, thankfully very few in number, that make surprising claims but who never show us that crashed alien spacecraft they worked on, that never show us human and dinosaur fossils together in the same rock strata, that never show us the evidence that the universe is only 6,000 years old, and that offer no evidence that homeopathy works or that silly mediums are doing anything but fooling gullible people. These scientists are no different from a child saying sincerely, 'Santa Claus really does exit. Trust me on this'. No one would believe the child, but make her an adult and put a PhD after her name, and I'm sure she would suddenly have quite a few supporters. It worked for cellular memory.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Aug, 2014 ~
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Comment by Justin, 29 Aug, 2014
Thank you so much for that article man! I feel like I have been healed lol But in all seriousness you really have cleared up my confusion and I appreciate it. Not only that but the article was very entertaining as well man I really enjoyed reading. For now on I won't just take what certain "scientists" or "experts" say as a final word you know. I forget that just because they might have a label like phd or md doesn't mean they aren't human. And us humans love money. So much to the point that some of us would lie to the gullible public for it. But anyway man thanks again this article was cool and the way you broke down everything was excellent. Now I know if I run into anymore things that might confuse me regarding science and stuff, I know where to come to get answers!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Aug, 2014
Hi Justin, I'm glad you found it helpful. I'm certainly no expert, but a favourite thing I like to ask people when they make a surprising claim is, 'What's your evidence for that?' Too often I find that people often sound very sure about some belief, be it cellular memory, religion or alien abductions, but when you ask them to defend it, it transpires that they know next to nothing about it. They've just blindly accepted some belief they liked the sound of.
Comment by Justin, 29 Aug, 2014
That is the the truth you are absolutely right. But I just wish they would explain things in detail for people like me. I admit I am a layperson lol but I just think that it is very important for them to explain things fully because someone like me getting a hold of info like the whole heart brain thing is terrible. I also find it weird that even though they are putting info out to gullible people who don't know any better they still use words that only their peers would understand. That's just cruel. And even on another site when they were talking about this topic someone said that it would be bad if a layperson got a hold of info like that lol. Now when you used the term I had to look it up and after doing so and coming across it again on another site I realised that layperson is exactly what I am lol. when they put out these theories they should have a regular version, and a layperson version lol. but like I said before man thanks. I downloaded the article because I do plan on reading it again and I also bookmarked your site.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Aug, 2014
You are quite correct Justin that these people 'are putting info out to gullible people who don't know any better'. They don't want gullible people to know any better, since if they did know better they wouldn't buy their product. They want to keep their client base ignorant. That's how scams work. People promoting the likes of cellular memory are not at all interested in explaining things in detail (and couldn't even if they wanted to). Just as I can't explain how a crystal ball works, because it doesn't, they can't explain their version of nonsense either. The best they can do, and want to do, is confuse their potential clients. They work on two levels. First they offer very simplistic explanations, such as saying our cells store our memories (or a crystal ball shows us the future), ideas which anyone can grasp but which tells us nothing about how this might work or even if it does work. On a second level they then pepper their simplistic explanations with pseudoscience, which is the use of scientific sounding phrases that are in fact just nonsense but which sound impressive to the unscientific ear. Remember Pearsall's use of phrases such as 'info-energetic code' and that 'communication can therefore transcend the boundaries of time and space'? Nothing but bullshit. To support this nonsense they might also link to scientific articles by real scientists on the pretence that these articles offer evidence for their claims. But they know that most people will never look at these articles, and even if a few do, most people will fail to understand what are generally complex, dense, abstruse and obscure scientific reports meant for scientists, not the man on the street. As I've said, these fraudsters don't want you to try and understand the science behind their claims, they simply want you to trust them. They've got the PhD, they've done the thinking for you. Remember, they're trying to sell you something, not teach you some science. Just as the Nigerian bank scammers don't want you asking too many questions, neither do these people.
You say that when people 'put out these theories they should have a regular version, and a layperson version'. Many real scientists do in fact do this. They write their 'regular version' as scientific articles for their fellow scientists, and if their research and conclusions are confirmed, some then also write 'a layperson version' as a popular science book for you and me. But the odd scientist pushing nonsense like cellular memory never bothers with the research and scientific articles that might allow their fellow scientists to confirm, or dismiss, their claims. They go straight to the popular book as a way to promote their claims to the general public. The real scientist's book, while it discuses a simplified science, is clearly built on complex science that has been conducted and that can be verified. The bogus scientist's book however has no such foundation. Its claims cannot be verified, but of course its author is very careful to hide this fact. The main goal of popular science books written by real scientists about real science is simply to educate the public, to let us glimpse some of the details behind various things that make the universe tick. Having read many of these books, not once has any author tried to sell me something at the end of it. They simply wanted to give me knowledge of reality, they didn't want me buy a mini particle accelerator, pocket gene sequencer or DIY quantum computer that they had invented and were selling on their website. The goal of the bogus scientist's book however is to give me as little information as possible while still convincing me to purchase their product or therapy. The only thing that the bogus scientist has discovered is a way to legally suck money from gullible humans, and they aren't concerned about the ethics of what they're doing, just how much income it can generate.
Comment by Robert, 19 Sep, 2014
Hello John, the original purpose of this email was to comment on your cellular memory post, but since I don't really care whether or not memories can be transplanted along with organs, I've decided instead to ask that you use your writing talent and blog about that is important to me - the ugly reality of the organ transplant industry.
I don't know about New Zealand, but in the USA there is no easy way for people to prevent the taking of their organs without their consent. What we have is a system that allows people to register as organ donors, but there is no registry for those who do not want their body parts removed and sold for profit. The people who run the transplant industry have done this intentionally so that the family members of unconscious trauma victims can be coerced into donating organs and tissue. (The CEO of the organ procurement network in my state (California) has even record as opposing an 'opt out' registry because "people will make inappropriate decisions." How arrogant do you have to be to claim it's inappropriate for people to have control over their own bodies?)
Why is this a problem? Well, first of all, there are lots of people who for various reasons should not become organ donors. For example, I lived and Germany in the mid 80s and the Red Cross will not allow me to donate blood because I may have been exposed to 'Mad Cow' disease - if I can't donate blood, then surely it wouldn't be appropriate to transplant any part of my body into another person. The transplant industry is supposed to screen out cancer patients and people who've been exposed to communicable disease, but there are numerous cases where it has failed to do so, and for that reason alone there should be a registry for non-donors.
But what really concerns me is that there is considerable evidence people are being declared brain dead so that their organs can be taken. A former transplant coordinator in New York says that 1 in 5 organ donors he evaluated were NOT brain dead and could have recovered and had a life worth living - he was fired by the "nonprofit" he worked for because he refused to pressure doctors into declaring patients brain dead. Below is a link to an article about his lawsuit.
Organs taken from patients that doctors were pressured to declare brain dead: suit
Every hospital in the USA now has an organ procurement coordinator - these people are not hospital employees, they work for organ procurement networks, and every person brought to hospital in a state of unconsciousness is evaluated and monitored by these ghouls in the hope that they will eventually become an organ or tissue donor. I don't know about you, but I'm appalled by the idea of someone who is not only not involved in helping patients recover, but actively pressures doctors to declare them brain dead as soon as possible being allowed full access to their medical records. Before it has even been determined what a patient's chances of recovery might be, these transplant ghouls make contact with the family to discuss possible organ donation.
Since your blog is devoted to debunking silly beliefs, especially when they are promoted for profit, I hope you will look into this and write an article warning people that the transplant industry is run by ghouls who only do it for the huge salaries they are paid. I think it's disgraceful that so-called nonprofit organizations are allowed to take advantage of kind hearted people in order to make piles of money, and urge you to spread the word.
PS: If you google 'organ donors not really dead' there are lots of articles, but many are on christian websites so I have linked to a few articles on sites with more credibility.
Patient Presumed Dead Wakes Up Moments Before Organ Donation Surgery
Why you should not become an organ donor
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Sep, 2014
Hi Robert. In NZ we don't appear to have the problem of hospitals coercing people to donate organs in haste, just the opposite in fact, if anything, people struggle to donate their organs. Many people here officially record on their Driver's Licence their personal wish to donate their organs if they die. However legally any spouse or family member can override this personal wish of another person, so the person dies believing their organs might benefit someone in need and yet some family member denies this request and the organs stay in the body, to be buried or cremated and wasted. This apparently happens more often than not. Also, in NZ at least, of all the people that die either naturally or in accidents, evidently only a very small proportion of cases are technically eligible to have their organs transplanted, even if they have labelled themselves an organ donor. Most organ donors will keep their organs on death. Even if every family member involved agrees, the hospital will still refuse nearly all organs based on specific medical conditions not being met.
Personally I agree with organ donation, I think it is a great waste if offered organs that could restore someone's health are simply discarded on someone's death. But of course it's up to each individual to decide what happens to their body on death, as you say, we should all have control over our own bodies. I may not agree with someone's stance, but it is their choice over what they do with their own body. My problem is when people want to tell others what they can do with their body, as in the case of sex, abortion, voluntary euthanasia or even masturbation.
As for the US cases that you're talking about, where doctors are arguing over whether a patient is brain dead and if their organs can be transplanted, I would think that if the patient is so close to inevitable death then the ethical thing to do would be to let them die naturally and to take the organs if the patient wished this, or the family agrees. I believe it is cruel and unethical to artificially maintain a person in a vegetative state for months and years, just so some selfish family member or religious doctor can say, 'No, no, they're still hanging in there, still alive, well... technically still alive'.
You say that in the USA 'there is considerable evidence people are being declared brain dead so that their organs can be taken', that 'Every hospital in the USA now has an organ procurement coordinator... [who] work for organ procurement networks, and every person brought to hospital in a state of unconsciousness is evaluated and monitored by these ghouls in the hope that they will eventually become an organ or tissue donor.... [and they] actively pressure doctors to declare them brain dead'. I seriously doubt that any reputable doctor would consider diagnosing the great majority of unconsciousness patients as brain dead, or that their family would believe them. But frankly, if the prognosis is so dire that experts suspect brain death has or will soon occur, then if I were that patient, I would want them to pull the plug, declare me dead, and use my organs while they can so at least someone can have a better future. After all, how many people come back to live a normal, happy, productive life after being declared brain dead? We must also remember that there is a very narrow window in which organs can be transplanted after death. So I suspect that if the authorities waited to do the paper work and get family permission until after the death had occurred, that transplant window would likely have closed by the time approval was granted. Like a will and life insurance, discussing organ transplants may seem ghoulish but it needs to be done before the person dies.
Did God make a bacon & egg pie?
Are you good, or bad, because you want to be, or is God pulling your strings, making you behave as you do? And is someone's mere attendance at church every Sunday one of the causes of the deadly Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Although phrased differently, this is what we were asked recently:
'In regards to God being omnipotent — is your view point of this that he is in control of us, of our daily lives in a micro-managing way, did he just help me make a bacon & egg pie?
These are interesting questions. Looking at the first one, well clearly I don't believe God is controlling us since I don't believe he exists, but I assume they wonder whether I think Christians believe this, or at least, should believe this.
Also, surely such simple things as going to church on Sundays is not harmful? I have read your blog post on 'Simple religion does no harm', but my mother gets companionship and support from her church, where is the harm in that? I believe that the incident you cited, of the teen contemplating suicide as a way to see her mother again, is quite an extreme example. Please note — I am a weak atheist, and my mother is a believer.
I guess what I'm really trying to say is this: Not every person who is religious is as fundamentalist as Ian Wishart, and surely that common level of religion is harmless?'
First, if God were omnipotent this wouldn't by itself mean that he was controlling us, you can have the power to do something but still decide not to. The argument normally is that it is God's omniscience rather than his omnipotence that means he is controlling us. Since he knows everything, including exactly what we will all do in the future means that we have no choice but to act in a way that matches the future that he already has in his mind, thus we have no free will to act as we wish and upset his vision of the future.
Contrary to some atheists, I think it is possible (as a thought experiment) to somehow know the future, to know how people will act, without actually having forced them to act in that way. Think of time traveller Dr Who gaining knowledge of the future but not actually having caused it, or think of the analogy of a movie, after watching it I know how it will end, but I had no part in deciding how it ended. So I think a god could know the future, know what we will do, but still play no part in influencing what we do.
The question now is, does the Christian God take a hands-off approach with our future? Does he simply know it or does he cause it? Unfortunately, like any question you ask of God and the Bible, you can find the answer you want to hear and ignore those that you don't like. Me, I think the Biblical evidence points towards God deliberately creating the universe that he wants. If our future is predestined by God, if we're told certain things will happen no matter what we do, such as the Apocalypse playing out as the Bible describes, then we have no control over our lives, we are merely playing a very minor role in God's theatrical piece. And the Bible is replete with examples of God interfering in people's lives, of controlling their behaviour and dictating what they must do.
We're left in no doubt that God has a purpose, a grand plan for the universe and us, and thus logically we must be forced to behave in such a way that his plan comes to fruition. Think of human plans and goals, they almost never turn out as desired if we don't manipulate and interfere with the world around us.
How might God manipulate and interfere with our behaviour to keep us on track? Well, one way is through fear and blind obedience, where Christians desperately seek to learn of God's plan and willingly change their behaviour to ensure it will happen. Christians often lament that they don't know what God wants them to do, that they don't grasp what purpose he has created them for, they plead for guidance on how they should act so that their life fulfils the meaning that God intended for them. Clearly they have no problem with being controlled for whatever purpose God sees fit for them — How should I serve thee Lord, what do you wish of me? Truly it's a master-slave relationship where their sole purpose is to help God fulfil his master plan. Christians have argued that even a slave is still free to disobey his master, thus he still has free will, but I find this an extremely weak argument. Threatening someone with certain, horrific punishment if they disobey you, as God does, and then saying, 'But it's your choice what you do', is not in my view anything like a free choice. Technically they still have free will, but God is still controlling their behaviour regardless.
But God doesn't just rely on his followers voluntarily controlling their own behaviour to match his desires, he deliberately interferes and forces believers and non-believers alike to do his bidding, turning them into automatons that aren't even aware that God is manipulating their behaviour.
As I mentioned in an earlier post — What could be seen as proof of God? — God has admitted that he will deceive and harm people to carry out his secret schemes. Let me repeat my argument. We read in the Bible that God is not beyond taking away a person's free will and forcing them to act as his pawns, to believe as he wishes. For example, in the infamous ten plagues of Egypt episode in Exodus, where God goes on a murderous rampage of innocent people and animals, every time the Egyptian Pharaoh freely and sensibly decided to let the Hebrews leave the country, God manipulates the Pharaoh's mind and forces him unknowingly to change his mind. In God's words: 'I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go... I will harden Pharaoh's heart... he will not listen to you'. In the Bible we are also told that it doesn't matter whether we are good or bad, before we are born God has already decided what part we shall play in the world. Of Jacob and Esau we read that 'before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God's purpose in election might stand... [God had already] ...written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."' Clearly we are all being manipulated, designed to play a role of God's choosing, not our own. It goes on to reaffirm this view: 'It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, `Why did you make me like this?' " Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?' (RO 9:11-21)
Even back then people could see that it was totally unjust for God to create someone to be the bad guy, to force this behaviour on him, and then to punish him for acting in a way that he had no option but to behave. How could they hope to triumph over God's will, they ask? It's like me designing and building a toaster, and then when it makes perfect toast as planned, I smash it to bits, angrily screaming, 'How dare you be a toaster!'
And look at how they respond to the question of divine justice: Who are you to question God, you're just a piece of dirt that God is playing with, if he makes you into a heart surgeon or a serial killer you must act out this role. So clearly, if the Bible is to be believed, God has made me an atheist and has hardened my heart so that it is impossible for me to glimpse any evidence of his existence. And yet I'm still going to burn in Hell for something that I had no choice in or knowledge of. So this whole 'harden his heart' thing clearly shows that God is indeed controlling people's actions. Not all the time, he's probably not manipulating 'our daily lives in a micro-managing way', since most of what we do is trivial in the grand scheme of things, but whenever our behaviour deviates from what God wants to achieve in his overarching plan, then God interferes, whether we know it or not.
Beyond threats and mental manipulation, God also interferes physically in the world through miracles (eg what we na´ve atheists call natural disasters) in an attempt to force a certain behaviour or outcome onto the survivors. If he doesn't like the way something is going, then he'll simply destroy it, think of the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the flood of Noah and the upcoming Apocalypse. We also have modern Christians insisting that Hurricane Katrina flooding New Orleans was brought by God in response to the general wickedness of society, such as acceptance of homosexuality and premarital sex. Others said the same thing about Christchurch's earthquakes. When deadly tornados strike, Christians insist that it is down to God's will who lives and who dies. If they're right, then nothing Billy Bob does as he hides in his trailer park will save him, God is in control. When George Bush went to war in his crusade against the Muslims, he said he was simply doing God's will. Others use the same argument to explain why they recovered from illness, won the lottery or were blessed with cute kids, God had decreed that this would happen, he was in control. It wasn't the skill of a surgeon, good luck, hard work or good genes, it was God's will. The world is simply playing out as he has planned.
So yes, if the Bible is true, then God is in control, manipulating and interfering with the actions of humans and the world around us, killing some and rewarding others, all to serve the purpose for which he designed and created us, to blindly worship him. But what a petty and insecure god he would be, to put such immense effort in over billions of years and billions of light years and to cause such suffering and death just so that a handful of brainwashed individuals on a speck of a planet will cry, 'Praise the Lord', or in Arabic, 'Allahu Akbar'.
So how should good Christians respond to this realisation, and do they? Clearly the fundamentalists often do accept that they are God's pawns, having little or no control over their lives, and blindly and slavishly do what they believe their God is willing them to do. Thus they persecute homosexuals, heathens and atheists and untold others that they feel aren't following the script. They argue to get creationism taught in schools, to get abortion made illegal and to get blasphemous movies and TV shows banned, knowing with all their heart that this is what God wants. But your typical Christian does none of this. They may have friends who are homosexual and may even be homosexual themselves, they support evolution over creationism, many support a woman's right to abortion and most enjoyed 'The Da Vinci Code'. Rather than being puppets, they feel that they are in full control of their lives, not simply reading lines provided by God. They achieve this apparent autonomy from their god by not reading the Bible and understanding why God created them in the first place. So was making that bacon & egg pie mentioned in the question part of God's plan? Maybe, but who really knows, since God works in mysterious ways. All we can say is that it clearly didn't hinder his plan or else he would have prevented its creation.
Now to the second question, 'surely such simple things as going to church on Sundays is not harmful... my mother gets companionship and support from her church... surely that common level of religion is harmless?'
Firstly though, regarding real physical harm, it was felt that 'the teen contemplating suicide as a way to see her mother again, is quite an extreme example'. Yes it is extreme in that thankfully most religious people refuse, strangely, to take their religion all that seriously, but if they're not willing to take belief in God seriously, I truly don't understand why these people bother to take it at all. But unfortunately belief in God and a peachy afterlife does result in numerous deliberate deaths every year, although small compared to the number of believers. But of course we could ask, how many children would you be willing to lose to suicide before we should start to explain to kids that you don't go to a better place when you die? I would say one is one too many. If religion causes just one death then surely that loss far outweighs keeping religion just so people can gain companionship and support? After all, companionship and support can be easily found in numerous other spheres, we don't need a group where membership carries a risk of suicide.
Now, if we look solely at the 'companionship and support' a woman gains by simply going to church on Sundays, then yes, this level of religion would appear to be quite harmless. But unfortunately it's not that simple. This woman's church doesn't just support her, she in turn also supports the church and by extension Christianity and religion in general. So it's not just this woman chatting to her friends on Sunday that we must consider, but what the greater church that she supports does, and by extension allows them to do. It's about whether religion itself might be harmful, and whether this woman, knowingly or not, contributes to that harm by her involvement with her church.
It's not just one woman and a few friends gaining companionship and support from their shared belief, there are millions just in NZ alone pushing belief in God, and billions when we include the whole world. So it's not just what harm one woman might cause as an individual, but what harm the combined belief of billions might cause. And united they do indeed cause harm. It is only the combined power of Christians that sees our secular Parliament opening with a prayer to Jesus, that sees 'Bible in Schools' classes all over the country, and that sees churches on what seems like nearly every second street corner. It was only the combined power of Christians that saw them almost ban some art from our national museum and 'South Park' from our TV screens. If isolated and few in numbers, Christians would indeed wield little influence, but an infrastructure of nationwide churches and weekly meetings gives churches immense influence, all maintained by counting a parishioner here and a parishioner there.
I know that there will be some who argue that if someone wants to believe in nonsense then that's their right, their choice, and they won't see it as being harmful. I agree that they won't view it as harm, but I do, and the question was how I might view their actions. No matter what one believes, Christian or atheist or Wiccan, I think we would all be very annoyed if after strongly espousing a belief for years we then discovered that we had been badly mislead. I would feel I had been harmed by those I trusted to tell me the truth. I would also be annoyed, and embarrassed, thinking of all the people that I might have falsely influenced over the years. I see it as harmful if someone isn't in possession of the truth, and is living their life and influencing others based on a falsehood. Rather than being a Christian going to church every Sunday, let's pretend that a person is a racist and going to neo-Nazi meetings every week instead. Even if they don't do anything beyond gathering and ranting at their meetings, I would still view this weekly get together as harmful as this person couldn't but help have her racist views spill over into her normal life, influencing family, friends, colleagues and how she reacted to various issues in society. I view racism as a harmful worldview, one that can't help but have a negative effect on society and progress. Likewise I view religious belief as a harmful worldview that we could well do without.
A person in Gaza at the moment might ask a similar question — What harm is there in my Muslim mother going to the mosque every Friday for companionship and support? Over a thousand dead and counting, that's what harm has resulted. If fanatical belief in Islam and Judaism no longer existed there would be no conflict and no grieving families, but as long as people of faith see no harm in continuing to frequent their mosque, synagogue or church, then the conflict will continue worldwide. As long as each faith keeps reinforcing to the rest of us that their God is the only true god, then conflict will continue, from arguing about Bible in Schools to terrorist bombs in crowded markets.
But again, people might think it is being extreme to compare Christians in NZ and Muslims in the Middle East, so let's quickly consider the relationship between some non-religious groups and one of their lesser members. Can the tea lady for her local Klu Klux Klan group argue she does no harm because, while believing totally in their cause, she never does more than make their tea? Can a minor member of a criminal group deny harming anyone during a bank robbery, where a teller was killer, because they merely helped prepare the getaway car? Can the family of those belonging to a neo-Nazi group claim no responsibility for the group's hate speech even though they drive them to their meetings? And returning to religion, can the mother of an Islamist terrorist absolve herself of any blame because she made no contribution to a terrorist bombing, even though she knew what was planned?
I would argue that in every case people involved even in a minor role in these groups must take some responsibility in the acts carried out by these groups. They may see themselves as a very small cog in a large machine, perhaps a machine they care little about, but they are nevertheless helping that machine fulfil its purpose. Likewise people that blindly keep their religion alive just by going along on Sunday to see their friends are allowing that religion to carry out it wider objectives, many of which I believe cause harm in society.
Historically religion has done massive harm, Christianity alone is infamous for its inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, religious wars and persecution of witches, homosexuals, atheists, unwed mothers etc. Aztec religion saw them sacrifice thousands of people to their gods, Jewish history as documented in the Old Testament has them committing genocide and other deplorable acts on numerous occasions, all in the name of religion. There will be no civilisation or tribe from history that has not done harm in the name of religion. Even with the lessons from history, unfortunately religion continues to do harm today. As I write we have deadly conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Israel and Gaza, all of which wouldn't be happening if not for religion, and only recently has the violence in Northern Ireland abated. Then we have the ongoing abhorrent sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy, the persecution of homosexuals and abortion clinics, Christians in Africa abusing and killing children accused of witchcraft, the prohibition on using condoms to prevent AIDS and the denial of sexual equality. We have religious campaigns against stem cell research, prostitution, euthanasia, evolution and even many movies and books. We even have religious evangelists in our schools corrupting the minds of na´ve children. This is perhaps the most insidious harm of all, the continued promotion of religious belief over scientific evidence and secular ethics.
Of course your typical Christian will no doubt say that they are as appalled by the harm caused by these historical and contemporary acts as I am, but unlike them, I don't still support those that continue to do harm. In her book 'Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless', here's how Greta Christina expressed her anger over how the religious let their comfort override their morality:
'I'm angry that so many Catholics are so willing to defend the Catholic Church's behavior in the child rape scandal. I'm angry that they're letting their fear of eternal punishment in Hell, their desire for eternal reward in Heaven, or simply the comfort they take from the soothing rituals and traditions of the Church, take priority over taking the most obvious moral position a person could take — namely, that people and institutions should not protect child rapists. I'm angry that if their softball league, their charity group, their children's school, did what the Catholic Church did and continues to do, they'd almost certainly quit in outrage... but because it's their church, they stay in it, and defend the blatantly indefensible.'
The fact is that even if believers are disgusted by how the Catholic Church is behaving, or angry that their church sends out mixed messages about homosexuality or female bishops, or disagree with its stance on contraception or abortion, or believe in evolution over creationism, their continued support of their church by turning up every Sunday and donating time and money to its maintenance sees the continued propagation of the very views that they have a problem with. They lend credibility to their church and its public stance on various issues by just turning up and keeping it going. If their church is hiding child rapists or pushing creationism in schools or denying women equality, then it matters not that they disagree with these acts, since their church is still doing them regardless. I view all these acts as harmful, and the churches that perform them as committing harm, and anyone that offers even the most minor support to these churches is contributing to this ongoing harm.
I also want to comment on the statement that 'Not every person who is religious is as fundamentalist as Ian Wishart'. The implication here is that Christian fundamentalists clearly are causing real harm, but your typical churchgoer isn't. I agree that your typical churchgoer is not at all interested in pushing religion to the forefront in society whereas your typical fundamentalist is, and therefore fundamentalists do more harm. But there is still a level of harm from your typical churchgoer, the difference is that fundamentalists are in your face, at your door and approaching our schools, whereas harm emanating from your typical churchgoer is more subtle, influencing family, friends, colleagues and voting patterns. I find that regarding the tenets of their faith, your typical Christian churchgoer is ambivalent, apathetic and ignorant, far more concerned with the social aspects of their church than understanding or defending the religious aspects. But that said, they still make it clear to all and sundry that they believe in God. Asserting that God is real and that the Bible is literally true is the stamp of the fundamentalist and publicly making this stand causes real harm in society, but being a wishy-washy, weekend Christian more concerned with real relationships than pushing the God bits still lends support to the fundamentalists. It is only the large number of wishy-washy, weekend Christians in NZ that give the fundamentalists the confidence to push their beliefs. Think about it, when was the last time a Muslim or Hindu evangelist knocked on your door?
I view even the most liberal, progressive and moderate of religions as doing harm, since even if the only thing that they insist on is that their gods exist, and that this belief provides comfort, they are still convincing people to believe in a fantasy. They are asking people to reject a reality that is well supported by reason and evidence and replace it with blind faith in unseen things from our primitive past. To delude people, especially na´ve children, is to do them harm. And religions, because of their huge following, have it in their power to do massive harm, from convincing people to believe in imaginary sky fairies to killing those that don't believe in the same sky fairy. Everyone that helps keep their religion alive, by merely filling the pews on Sunday or going further and joining the clergy, helps to ensure that religious nonsense continues to do real harm in the world.
Of course I agree that companionship and support is important, but this is another harm that religions commit, convincing their followers that these relationships can't be found elsewhere. I'm forever amazed when I hear of people staying in their church even after losing their belief in god, solely to maintain that companionship and support. If someone goes to church and sincerely believes in God, the harm here is that this person believes in a fantasy for no good reason. If someone stays in their church for the companionship and pretends to still believe in God, the harm here is that this person believes that it is better to live a lie and keep some friends on false pretences, rather than live an honest life and make genuine friends. Either way, living a fantasy or a lie, shielded from the real world, religion has harmed this person. And everyone this person influences with their sincere or false religious claims, from family to friends, is harmed in turn.
I believe that people should do things because they sincerely believe that they are the right things to do, not simply because they bring comfort, or 'companionship and support'. Surely the right answer to why someone is religious is that they sincerely believe that their god exists, not that they simply enjoy going to church? Surely to explain one's church attendance in terms of companionship and support is almost to imply that it's not that important whether God is real or not?
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Jul, 2014 ~
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Of gods and Pascal's Wager
Yesterday I received the following email that challenged my atheism:
Well, thanks for your advice and concern dear reader, but I remain unconvinced. This argument in favour of belief in god is known as Pascal's Wager, after the 17th century French scientist and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal. It's very weak and has long since been dismissed, but it is still a favourite of Christians, and clearly one of yours.
Our worldviews are different. You deny the existence of God. I believe in the God of creation as described in the Bible. Both of us can't be right. If you are right I am deceived and we both disappear into oblivion when we die. If I am right you and I are both accountable to God. I lose nothing if you are right. If I am right you have to face the God you deny exists. That is not a wise choice.
Let's look at some reasons why it fails, and then why it is still offered as an argument.
First, let's say that you're right, that it does make sense for me to embrace god. This raises some problems. You are implying that god is going to judge me for my actions, and it is likely to turn out badly for me if I maintain my disbelief. So if I now decide it is wise to change sides, then clearly I will be professing belief based on a real fear of what your god is promising to do to me with hot pokers. I would not be rejecting my atheism and embracing god because I suddenly see that my atheistic arguments are wrong and I now see that there is clear evidence for god's existence. I would be submitting simply because of fear of horrific punishment, not because I believe my worldview is mistaken. And god would know that I honestly still don't believe he exists, and that it's actually abject terror that has driven me to wimp out.
So, do you think I should start pretending that I believe in your god? I may easily fool you, but your god would know that I was just faking it simply to get a prime spot in heaven. Would he approve of my deception, that I was merely working the odds to avoid torture? Is this an attribute your god likes in his followers, that lying is acceptable to get things you want? Do you — or your god — think it is right for me to lie to women, saying I love them, merely to get sex from them? Should I pretend to agree with racist neighbours with a history of violence because that is the 'wise choice'? I could argue with them and hope to change their views, but they are rabid in their views so surely the 'wise choice' is to pretend to support them? Their threats against perceived opponents, if they carry them out, would harm me far more than my pretence of supporting them and being friendly. So again, should I pretend to support views that I personally disagree with based solely on fear for my wellbeing? You appear to be arguing that if I was in Nazi Germany the 'wise choice' would have been for me to join the Nazi Party rather than risk facing the Fuhrer and express my disagreement with his tactics. Is this what you would have done? If not, why do you nevertheless argue that I should take this submissive stance with your god?
You may argue that I must sincerely believe in god, not just pretend to, since of course god would know the difference and punish me accordingly. But if I could sincerely believe in god I already would. I already have a sincere believe, it's atheism. A person can only sincerely believe in something if he thinks he possesses clear reasons and evidence to support his belief, and at the same time is utterly confident that no contradictory evidence exists. If he has any doubt regarding god's existence, created say by scientific arguments or the problem of evil, then god will know this. His god will know that he is simply hedging his bet, that he is merely choosing belief in god because this would reap the best return. He is not choosing god because he has an unshakeable faith that god is real, but merely because he gains more if god is real. He's just gambling for personal gain, and apparently god approves of this?
For me to sincerely believe in god, and to be seen by god as a person worthy of saving, I would need to see reasons and evidence that would convince me that my atheistic view is badly flawed. God would then know that I truly believed in him, not that I'm just lying to my friends to get the major prize. Without this new evidence of god's existence, my honesty and integrity prevents me from lying about a belief in god to the person that really matters: god. As much as some people might want to believe in god, they can never hide their doubts from him. So while I may fool those around me, clearly it is impossible for me to hide my real motive from god. And if I'm not going to fool god, then what's the point of wasting my life just to fool his followers?
Pascal's argument was that if you immersed yourself into your 'fake' belief long enough you would eventually come to fool even yourself. I doubt this could work with a normal mind. As an intelligent adult and fully aware of all the debunking arguments, do you think that you could convince yourself beyond a shadow of a doubt that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy existed after all? But let's assume it could work with weak-minded individual, someone truly desperate to believe. While you might eventually brainwash yourself and effectively develop a sincere belief, god would still know of the tricks that you used to reach this self-delusion, and the reason you had to resort to this deception. Imagine someone tricking you into believing in the Muslim god or a Hindu god, surely you'd view this as devious, underhanded behaviour, and would argue that your belief was not fairly arrived at, but in Pascal's case it's not someone else doing the tricking, you'd be doing it to yourself, deliberately and knowingly! To me this is little different to forging a winning lottery ticket to falsely claim a major prize. There is nothing genuine in this, it's cheating clear and simple. Just as you never bought the winning ticket, you never truly came to believe in god's existence by fair means, you forced your mind to reach this conclusion to win god's favour, and god knows it. Is this truly how god wants to gain followers, by people fooling themselves into believing in him? Why don't Christians just invent a psychoactive drug that forces people to believe in god if god is happy with this type of believer?
Also, think about what happens to people in real life who pretend to have false views merely to ingratiate themselves into some earthly group. These people are called moles or double agents or undercover cops, and if their deception is found out by the group they have infiltrated, they aren't rewarded for their pretence. If anything, they are treated far worse than those that are honest in their opposition. Why do you think god would reward people that join his group professing beliefs that they don't truly hold?
OK, let's move on to another major problem if I were to agree that it does make sense for me to embrace god. Which god should I pretend to believe in?
You have chosen 'the God of creation as described in the Bible', but a Jew or Muslim offering the identical argument that you have, would argue that I should choose Yahweh or Allah respectively. The three of you would all argue that the 'wise choice' is for me to choose your personal god, while ignoring the silly belief that I should consider one of those other gods. And of course there isn't just a choice of three gods, there are thousands to chose from. If your argument is valid and the 'wise choice' is indeed to get on side with a god that is going to punish me for picking the wrong side, how do I decide which god to choose? Of course as a Christian you will insist that there is only one god, the rest are just fantasies, so the choice is clear, but again, Christians, Jews and Muslims all argue this way, so we are no closer to deciding which to follow.
You are arguing that I should chose to believe in god to ensure a great afterlife, but you give no reason whatsoever why I should believe in the Christian god rather than some other god. Maybe I would prefer to believe in Odin and spend eternity in Valhalla feasting with warriors and buxom maidens. Or perhaps I should be rational about my choice and chose the god, who if he were real would torture me the worst. Of course the problem with the god of Jewish, Christian and Muslim belief is that all three gods are based on the same holy text in which this god is revealed as a nasty piece of work. Be it Jewish, Christian or Muslim beliefs, I have broken so many of god's silly commandments that no matter which one I chose there is no doubt that I already have a place reserved for me in Hell. All three gods are going to punish me, so I can't see how I can choose one from the other, they are all equally terrifying. And no matter which I choose the odds are that I have chosen the wrong god. And when we bring all the other gods into the mix, the odds that anyone can confidently choose the one true god from a choice of thousands of gods is very, very small. Anyone that offers Pascal's Wager must clearly go on to provide convincing reasons why their god is real, and the only god to worry about, otherwise the choice of gods available to wannabe believers is enormous, and the argument worthless.
And in reality, even amongst believers, almost no one ever makes a choice, almost no one ever seriously considers the many gods on offer and selects the one that they think it makes most sense to believe in. Clearly the evidence shows that most people never choose one god over all the others, they are simply given the local god by their parents and community and no thought whatsoever has gone into wondering whether it might be more sensible to follow the god of some other community or country. Hence most Afghanis have blindly accepted that Allah is the god to believe in, most Israelis have stuck with Yahweh, most Americans have gone with Jehovah, and most Indians have gone with their multitude of gods. The argument that it is a 'wise choice' for me to believe in a god goes nowhere when that argument can't rationally point to which god that should be.
If you still don't accept my criticism, let me repeat your argument where I've changed the god concerned, and perhaps this will more clearly show how weak your argument is:
'You deny the existence of gods. I believe in Zeus, the god described by the ancient Greeks. Both of us can't be right.
If I am right you and I are both accountable to Zeus. I lose nothing if you are right. If I am right you have to face the god you deny exists. That is not a wise choice.'
Do you still think it is a wise choice to swing my support behind Zeus? And if the argument doesn't work for Zeus, how does changing the god's name change the logic?
You also say that if there is no god then 'we both disappear into oblivion when we die'. I think you make it sound worse than it is by talking about oblivion, which means 'the condition or quality of being completely forgotten'. I have known many people personally who have died and they have not been completely forgotten, and I know of untold more dead people from history whose exploits are still remembered. But even if you fear that your family and friends will immediately forget about you when you die, the remote chance that you might suddenly find yourself in Heaven won't change this fact. To them you are still dead and gone, they have no idea whether your view or my view of death is the correct one. For all intents and purposes my atheistic view might as well be true because no one ever dies and comes back to say it's not. As far as the real world is concerned, whether there is a god or not, the dead do indeed disappear for good.
It also amazes me that religious folk apparently see yourselves as so important that you must live forever. Once you're born, you seemingly become so indispensable that you can never be allowed to die. But how important is your typical Christian to the world? And more importantly, how do they contribute to the wellbeing of the world once they die? Look at it this way, before they were born the world managed for an eternity (from a god perspective) without them, it got by without their input, we still invented the wheel and the cheesecake even though they didn't get a say. So why do they think it will be any different when they die? Do they seriously think that progress will stop, that the world will grind to a halt and retreat into anarchy if they die? And seriously, what did they do when they were alive that made them so indispensable? And even if they were one of the rare individuals that made great contributions when they were alive, that all stops when they die. Even if they are now lounging around the pool in Heaven, we on Earth never hear from them again, so how is this any different from them really being dead? The only person that can know that there is life after death is the person residing in Heaven or Hell, and they never get in touch. The dead make no contribution whatsoever to the world, and they surely aren't needed in a Heaven run by an all-powerful and all-knowing god, so clearly there is no good reason for them to live forever. And as I've argued elsewhere, even if you got to Heaven, eternal life would very quickly turn into hell and madness would ensue. I'm forever amazed at how quickly people get bored and waste their real lives, and yet many want an eternity to relive their boredom over and over again. Christians wanting everlasting life clearly don't think about it any deeper than a child saying they want a pony.
By choosing to follow your god rather than taking my view that there are no gods you say that 'I lose nothing if you are right'. I disagree. You're correct that my worldview doesn't see you being tortured for all eternity, or even judged in any way, which is definitely a positive outcome and not a loss. With the atheistic view, unlike the Christian one, you certainly don't have anything to fear at death, since you will no longer exist and will be unable to think or regret what could have been. But, as a Christian, if you could think for a short time as the brain shut down, you would realise that you have lost your dream of immortality, of meeting family and friends in Heaven, and of being able to praise god for all eternity. You would feel embarrassment that you had been fooled into living your life immersed in a lie. You would realise that you have lost an understanding of the universe as it really is. The universe is a vast, amazing, mysterious, exciting place and you will have wasted your only chance to truly explore it. You will have failed to really grasp why sunsets are beautiful and why bad things can happen to good people. You will have wasted untold days, especially Sundays, on your knees praying to an invisible fairy that was never there. You will have spent fruitless hours reading religious texts that were all spinning fantasies as truth. You will have missed out on experiences that your god condemns, such as eating various forbidden foods, strolling carefree along a nudist beach or enjoying the company of people of different beliefs, such as atheists, homosexuals and Muslims. You will have missed out on the peace that one experiences knowing that death is not to be feared, that there is no horned guy with a pitchfork waiting for you if your post-death judgement goes wrong.
You will, consciously or otherwise, have not put as much effort in getting the most out of this life since you believed you had a much better one to come. It is a clear loss to not live life to the full. You will have lied to your children, put falsehoods in their mind that they will then pass on to their children. And now being dead, you can't tell them that you were wrong. You will have bequeathed them a belief in a fantasy world. And if as you say, I am right, and they discover the truth of atheism you will have lost their respect. If there is no god, every minute and every action of your life that was hijacked by religion is a loss and time that you will never get back.
Ask yourself, if you were to be absolutely convinced tomorrow that there is no god, are there things in your life that you would now change and things you would have done differently in the past? Of course there are, and if there is no god these are all things that you lose out on by keeping your belief in god. So it's not true that you lose nothing if there is no god. As I've said, if you would live your life any differently on becoming an atheist, then these are the things you have lost on dying and 'discovering' that you should have been an atheist.
And finally, why do many Christians continue to present failed arguments to atheists? Assuming they are sincere, clearly they must believe in them, and believe that we will be as taken by them as they are, and that the argument will go on to instil some doubt into our worldview. My experience is that authors of religious books and articles repeatedly present long dismissed arguments for their faith while neglecting to reveal to their readers why they fail. I guess this is not surprising, since while there have been untold arguments offered over the centuries to promote belief in gods, none have stood the test of time. So if they're going to present an argument, it will have to be a failed one, but worded such that it's flaws are not too obvious to the faithful. I've also discovered that the religious flock tend to only read books that support their faith, and avoid books critical of religion like the plague. Many will have read books critical of Richard Dawkins and his book 'The God Delusion', but few will have actually read the book in question. You've only got to recall various Christian leaders trying to stop their followers from reading 'The Da Vinci Code' or 'Harry Potter' or watching the movies, and of course years ago Christians boycotted and protested outside the Monty Python movie 'Life of Brian'. Church leaders are not keen on their followers being exposed to opposing ideas, fearful that they might see some logic to them. I truly do find that many Christians, especially those that knock on my door, live in a kind of cloistered world, shut off not from the physical world, but certainly from 21st century knowledge. Not long ago visiting evangelists argued with me that recent earthquakes are a sign that the end is nigh, because such devastating earthquakes never happened in the past! This demonstrates how sheltered they are from history and science, from reality, living in their own little bubble of silly religious arguments.
But in one sense I love being challenged with these failed arguments, since it increases my confidence that there are no good arguments for belief. If there were, wouldn't they use them, rather than falling back on one from the 17th century? I often have to stop myself from asking incredulously, 'Really, that's it, that's the argument you're going with?'
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jul, 2014 ~
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Comment by Ted, 03 Aug, 2014
Hi John, I think Rowan Atkinson neatly highlighted the stupidity of this proposition in that delightful Mr Bean sketch. "Christians over here please. Sorry Christians, the Jews were right, off you go to hell." The fact is that Pascal's entreaty is not "playing safe" at all. If we must debate complete fantasies, then the converse hypothesis, that the wicked go to heaven and the virtuous to hell, is just as likely. Actually, the idea of God as an evil trickster, given the history of the world, is much more emotionally believable, but that is another matter.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Aug, 2014
I haven't seen that Rowan Atkinson sketch Ted, but of course you're right, the number of options we would have to debate in a futile attempt to determine the 'right' one is enormous.
What could be seen as proof of God?
Today I received an email from Francis who noted that they had 'read both sides of the evidence for and against' the Shroud of Turin, the claimed burial cloth of Jesus. Francis then asked:
I am curious to know something.
Well Francis, that's a very interesting question, one that I have already considered, and my answer is no, there is nothing I can think of that would convince me 'without any doubt' of his existence. Of course I am willing to listen to reasons why I might be mistaken. I will go where the evidence points.
If it's possible for you, try to suspend your disbelief for a moment and "pretend" there is a God.
If he was to decide that tomorrow, he would prove to you that he existed, can you think of one or more things he could do that would convince you without any doubt of his existence?
I'd be very interested to know.
But for a start, I'm always disappointed that many people think atheists are likely incapable of imagining that there might be a god. You ask me to 'try to suspend your disbelief for a moment and "pretend" there is a God', but you add, 'If it's possible for you'. Many informed atheists are fans of science fiction, do you really think that we can't suspend our disbelief for a time and enjoy a movie about aliens or vampires or the exploits of Wile E. Coyote? Do you think we probably didn't understand the issues raised in 'The Matrix' movie because we couldn't consider anything that wasn't actually real?
We can actually imagine alternative realities any time we choose, and that's one of the main reasons I am an atheist. I think to myself, if there were a god, as the holy books describe him, then this is what we should see happening in the world. I then ask, do we see these things, do we see the fingerprints of God? And my answer is no, so I conclude that there isn't a god. I can do the same with Santa Claus. I can think to myself, if he existed and his elves make all the toys, then why do we need toy factories and why do parents buy their kids toys when they could get them free from Santa? And if there is a Santa, why does he give the best toys to the kids from rich families? Since the rational world acts as if Santa doesn't exist, and Santa does nothing to contradict this view, it's reasonable to conclude that Santa is a fantasy held by immature minds. Much of philosophy, especially the arguments against God's existence, rest on the ability to imagine 'what if' scenarios. If anything, I suspect that it is actually the religious that spend little time considering how the universe would appear if their god was real and active in our lives. I've heard many devout believers affirm that they simply couldn't imagine a world without God, whereas I can easily imagine a world both with and without gods. And I prefer it to be without gods.
OK, now to my reason why there is nothing that would convince me 'without any doubt' of God's existence. First I think I need to define what I mean by 'God'. I mean the god described in the Christian Bible, and since your question arises from the burial shroud of Jesus, I assume you also mean this god. You talk of God, not just some god or gods.
In our article on 'Agnostics', there is a section entitled 'Why we can't prove God', and I wrote:
What about the old claim, "Well, what if God turned up on your front lawn, you'd have to believe then. That would be the ultimate proof." Well, no it wouldn't.
In the original series of 'Star Trek', advanced aliens with supernatural-like abilities and dressed in togas tried to convince Captain Kirk and his crew that they were Greek gods, and in the 'Stargate' movie and TV series advanced aliens enslave much of the galaxy under the guise that they are gods. No doubt you have heard of the matter transporter that they used in 'Star Trek' to beam from their ship to the planet surface. Imagine now if some devious advanced alien were to suddenly materialise in my lounge, looking exactly like what Christians believe Jesus looked like, and actually claiming he was Jesus. How could we 'prove' if this being really was Jesus? I don't believe we could. And by 'prove' I mean establish beyond any and all doubt that our conclusion is true.
Someone turning up, performing the odd "miracle" and claiming to be God isn't proof because it could, for example, be a Hindu god just pretending to be God. As long as the Hindu god had supernatural powers he would always be able to outsmart our attempts at checking his identity. This being wouldn't even have to be a supernatural being at all, he could just be an extremely advanced alien. Pretending to be God would be an easy way for an alien to get our obedience. As Arthur C Clark said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic". There is plenty of evidence for this in our own history, where European explorers have been taken as gods by primitive natives due to their appearance, knowledge and "miraculous" technology. So no matter who turns up claiming to be God, no matter how convincing they are, we could never prove that they really were God.
Certainly we would have good evidence and good reason to believe that whoever he was, he was very powerful and very knowledgeable, but we could gain no evidence that he was all-powerful and all-knowing as God is claimed to be. He may well appear god-like, but we could never be sure he was even a god, let alone THE God. He could expertly quote the Bible, he could attempt to explain how he created the universe and life, he could even appear to take us back in time to watch his crucifixion. But if he had god-like abilities that were merely alien in nature, he could simply plant the false experience of the crucifixion in my mind, and we never actually went anywhere. This alien could, using advanced medical technology, return my body to what it was when I was a 20-year old, and he could pass through a hospital and cure everyone. He wouldn't replace missing limbs, because that would suggest that he wasn't God, since God has apparently never been able to do this. For this alien to impress and confuse me would be no more difficult than it would be for me to appear god-like if I were to travel back in time to the era of Jesus with cameras, DVDs in 3D, helicopters, antibiotics, machine guns and a chocolate cheesecake. Of course I would be seen as a god, and as long as I was careful in what I let them see and know, I could easily maintain this ruse. If I could mislead ignorant goat herders, why couldn't an equally advanced being mislead me?
And it's not just atheists that have trouble recognising God, I've read the Christians have this problem of not being able to recognise Jesus and God all the time. We're told of the Antichrist, of false prophets, of Satan masquerading as God, and that Christians have no good test to tell them who's telling the truth. As Christians describe Satan, he is a very powerful being, perhaps almost as powerful as God, hence the reason God hasn't yet been able to defeat him. So I can't see as how he would have any trouble convincing your average Christian that he was Jesus, and I doubt that I would have the intelligence or technology to expose his deception. If even Christians often struggle to understand who that voice in their head really belongs to, we shouldn't be surprised if atheists are skeptical when someone turns up and says they are God.
And as I've already said, even if we all agreed that this amazing being most likely was a god and not an advanced alien, how could we determine that it wasn't a Hindu god just pretending to be God? Perhaps this Hindu god's overriding concern, like the Wizard of Oz, is that humans are happy, and he doesn't care what we think is behind the curtain as long as we prosper. Thus this Hindu god might be happy to dress up as the Christian God as long as it makes us happy, why rock the boat?
I've also heard arguments that many non-believers should be convinced if God made a burning bush talk to them, cured their baldness or wrote 'I AM GOD' in the sky in 100 metre high letters. But nothing of this kind would be proof, even today we mere humans can perform these sorts of tricks. We've all seen magicians make elephants disappear and watched ventriloquist dolls that appear to talk. I've even met people that think that REAL magic might be involved in some of these tricks, and that mediums might really be talking to their dead granny, so of course it would be child's play for some advanced being to convince them that they were God, but being able to fool the gullible is not proof.
And the reality is that I have never seen a religious believer perform some act that is even a fraction as impressive or amazing as that performed by even an average magician, or an engineer or surgeon for that matter. Why is it that God's miracles today seem to match what we call natural disasters, or curing someone from the common cold after a week's suffering, and putting a blurry image of a bearded face onto a tortilla? Of course you might mention the Biblical miracles, but describing what is recounted in the bible is no different to me describing what I read in a Superman comic. We're talking about proof, not stories we may have read.
What if someone suggested that if such and such happened I should take that as evidence of God? I could then argue that I can no longer be sure that such and such did actually happen, even though I saw it happen. You see the problem is, even if the being I'm talking to really is God, whether I know it or not, I still can't be sure that God is being honest with me. I can't be sure that the evidence I'm being presented with is actually valid. We read in the Bible that even God is not beyond taking away a person's free will and forcing them to act as his pawns, to believe as he wishes. For example, in the infamous ten plagues of Egypt episode in Exodus, where God goes on a murderous rampage of innocent people and animals, every time the Egyptian Pharaoh freely and sensibly decided to let the Hebrews leave the country, God manipulates the Pharaoh's mind and forces him unknowingly to change his mind. In God's words: 'I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go... I will harden Pharaoh's heart... he will not listen to you'. So even if the real God stands in front of you and says, 'Trust me, I'm God', clearly you can't trust him because he has admitted that he will deceive and harm people to carry out his secret schemes. Need more convincing?
In the Bible we are told that it doesn't matter whether we are good or bad, before we are born God has already decided what part we shall play in the world. Of Jacob and Esau we read that 'before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God's purpose in election might stand... [God had already] ...written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."' Clearly we are all being manipulated, designed to play a role of God's choosing, not our own. It goes on to reaffirm this view: 'It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, `Why did you make me like this?' " Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?' (RO 9:11-21)
Even back then people could see that it was totally unjust for God to create someone to be the bad guy, to force this behaviour on him, and then to punish him for acting in a way that he had no option but to behave. How could they hope to triumph over God's will, they ask? It's like me designing and building a toaster, and then when it makes perfect toast as planned, I smash it to bits, angrily screaming, 'How dare you be a toaster!'
And look at how they respond to the question of divine justice: Who are you to question God, you're just a piece of dirt that God is playing with, if he makes you into a heart surgeon or a serial killer you must act out this role. So clearly, if the Bible is to be believed, God has made me an atheist and has hardened my heart so that it is impossible for me to glimpse any evidence of his existence. And yet I'm still going to burn for something that I had no choice in or knowledge of. So this whole 'harden his heart' thing just raises more doubts if I was ever to meet someone claiming to be God. How do I know what to believe when I've been told my thoughts are not my own, and how could a perfectly just God act like such a demonic prick?
Rather than trying to prove to me that he exists, by all reasonable counts, if God exists he appears to be hiding from me, deliberately manipulating the universe to make it appear that he doesn't exist. God is apparently happy that science and knowledge expands exponentially and that this knowledge convincingly denies him an existence. Apparently God has no wish whatsoever that I, and untold others, should believe in him, and he goes to devious lengths to maintain my ignorance. He falsifies the fossils and light from distant quasars to give the impression of an ancient universe when he only created it 5-10,000 years ago, he puts silly flaws in the human body to make it appear that it wasn't designed, he ensures his autobiography is fill of nonsense and contradictions, clearly not something a god would write, he refuses to repeat his Biblical miracles and lets his priests rape children because his interference would expose him, and he refuses to even help believers by hinting as to what the flaw in atheistic arguments might be. If God exists, clearly he would rather us forget that fact. It is simply unbelievable that naive evangelists can find me to argue their case and yet an all-powerful, all-knowing God that is desperate for me to acknowledge him can't do likewise.
So to repeat, even God couldn't convince me of his existence to a point where I am left with no doubt. He could certainly make me suspect that he could well be real and is going to torture me for all eternity, and could certainly persuade me that Pascal's Wager is correct, that I should at least start living my life as if God is real. But he couldn't utterly remove all doubt that I might have. Perhaps I was only dreaming or had suffered a short mental illness when I thought I had met God and he offered his proof. We know that some people that suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy have episodes that cause them to falsely believe that they have communed with God. Even if some being did appear to us all that started performing 'miracles', I would still suspect that they were most likely advanced aliens rather than gods, because advanced aliens are quite plausible although unlikely, whereas God on many counts is quite impossible.
Even if I was 99.9% convinced that God really did exist, I would still be greatly troubled by the 'evidence' that for most of our history God has been a vicious, barbaric, unjust bastard, which conflicts greatly with claims that God is perfect, all-good, and all-loving. Clearly the world and life that a perfect God created is not anywhere near perfect, and how is it that an all-loving God has no problem with his plan to torture me for all eternity? He gave me free will so that I could freely decide what I would believe, he manipulated the evidence I considered, and now he will punish me for not being able to see through the machinations of an all-powerful god. I may come to accept that some god exists, but I will always have doubts that he is the god that Christians talk about. Like the Hindu god, I would suspect that he was just a petty god dressed up as God.
Of course if God does exist, there is one foolproof, but devious way that he could theoretically ensure I believed in him absolutely. He could manipulate my mind, planting absolute certainty and destroying any mental faculties that might allow me to doubt my thoughts. But this would remove my free will, and any god that did this could not be the God Christians describe to us (although it does match parts of the Bible, but not the bits Christians read). So we're back to there being no way that God could convince me absolutely. And clearly he hasn't thought of a way either, or I would have heard from him by now. After all, you found our web site, even without the benefit of omniscience, so why hasn't he?
Perhaps I should throw the question back at you Francis. Assuming you are a Christian, how do you think God could convince me 'without any doubt' of his existence? If you believe in God 'without any doubt', what convinced you that he exists? Have I missed something important? Do you think I should be convinced as you were? But first I would ask you to read the arguments I presented here: 'Why we can't prove God', so that we don't cover old ground.
And please don't bother with such answers as:
Believers of whatever religion you name, eg Christianity, Islam and Judaism, can and do all claim that these answers 'prove' that their god is the one true god. Any argument that produces contradictory proofs is clearly flawed and worthless.
- The truth is found in our holy book for those that accept it as the word of God.
- Our God clearly performs miracles in the world.
- Believers have had personal experience of God.
- I feel God in my heart.
So what argument, what evidence, do you believe should convince me that not just some mysterious god, but your personal God, is the reason for me being here? Why did God deliberately create an atheist that he could hide from?
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jun, 2014 ~
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Comment by Zafir, 23 Jun, 2014
Hi John. I agree with most of your argument but find that you are setting the bar a little too high with all the advanced alien stuff. If someone claiming to be Jesus appeared out of thin air in front of me and could perform miracles, I would perhaps start with questioning my mental health, then look for independent confirmation. But that aside, I can think of something less dramatic.
Why give weight to any hypothesis? My understanding of how science works is if a hypothesis correctly and reliably predicts new data then it can move to robust theory. We can then use the theory as a tool for understanding a phenomenon. If data comes to light that does not support the theory then examine it and perhaps the theory needs tweaking. The whole belief, non-belief stance makes for bad science.
As you know Religion does not work like this. It starts from the point of view that God exists.
Back in my dark days of closed mindedness and ignorance (my Christian years) I was using the court of law approach where it is possible to prove something without evidence. Very dull link: http://www.insitelawmagazine.com/evidencech4.htm
I would pick holes in the opposing argument to prove what I already thought I knew. Of course this never proved God existed only who was better at arguing.
I currently think (not believe) that God is very unlikely to exist. I have a very high degree of confidence that the God described in the Bible does not exist.
If aspects of God could be quantified and measured against a control group and God could out preform the control constantly and reliably then my position would be re-accessed. So if you took three groups of say 100 people with an easily curable condition that responds well to medication:
Group one is prayed for only.
If this experiment is run multiple times and the prayer group out preformed the placebo every time, it would lend some weight to the power of prayer. Then I would want to know why it works and design an experiment based on does it matter who is prayed to.
Group two gets effective treatment.
Group three gets placebo treatment.
I could see some kind of path like this changing my thinking (not believing) as to the likelihood of God's likely existence.
One of the problems that prevent Christians from becoming critical thinkers is that their very belief system forbids it.
Hebrews 3:16 and 11:1
Of course this is not the only problem as it takes effort to change your mind, which by the way is what repent (metanoia) means.
2 Corinthians 4:18
It takes effort to think — Misinformation: Why it sticks and how to fix it
So a question for Francis. Is it possible to suspend your belief so that you can critically look at the evidence?
Found this webpage: Intercessory prayer and healing: A summary of medical studies. I haven't heard of most of the publications before. I will read through these studies and look for a few more when I have time. I can give you a summary if you are interested.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jun, 2014
Yes Zafir, of course I would question my sanity on seeing someone materialise in front of me, and I did mention that I would continue to have doubts because I would suspect that my vision of God was merely a dream or due to mental illness.
I was compelled to beam in an alien to support my argument. Let's remember that Francis did not ask how I would approach what Christians these days call 'miracles', eg a person surviving a plane crash or recovering from cancer. In these cases I would do as you suggest, use science to investigate the miracle claims. And each time I would likely reach the conclusion that these events can be explained by recourse to natural causes. While we may not know all the minute details in every plane crash or disease recovery, we know enough to explain how they could and do happen naturally. There is no evidence whatsoever suggesting that natural laws can't explain someone surviving an accident or illness. It happens all the time, and to far more people that aren't Christians than are. If it is the Christian God at work, why is he saving more non-Christians than Christians?
No, I wasn't asked how I would respond to ordinary 'miracles', I was asked if there was anything that God could throw at me that would convince me 'without any doubt' of God's existence. I've considered the cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments that have been around for centuries, and like most people today that have looked at them honestly and without bias, I have dismissed them. The only thing that I can think of is really over-the-top miracles, events that do appear to break or suspend the laws of nature as we presently understand them.
Confronted by some strange looking guy doing amazing things, and I'm not questioning my sanity because everyone else sees them too, we all know what the religious response will be: 'Look, if you can't explain who he could be, and he's clearly not a normal human, then he must be God'. If our science is utterly at a loss to explain these events, how do we answer, must we accept that it must be God?
I think this situation is similar to the evolution or creationism argument. Before the theory of evolution arose, even people that weren't happy with the Christian god as the creator were still forced to stick with a form of creationism — deism — because they knew of no plausible alternative. The religious argued, 'Clearly you have no choice, since it couldn't have happened naturally then it must be God'. The theory of evolution by natural selection gave people a plausible alternative and allowed them to opt for a theory that was far more rational, and of course better supported by the evidence. Likewise if the religious were now to argue that a being performing amazing feats must be God, we can disagree. When they say, 'Clearly you have no choice, since it isn't a human then it must be God', we can say we have an alien theory that is far more rational, and of course, probably better supported by the evidence.
As I said, advanced aliens are entirely plausible, although unlikely, and if I must pick between aliens and gods, I will first go with aliens until the evidence makes that choice unlikely. And yes, visiting aliens are very unlikely, but so too is a Jesus look-alike appearing in my lounge, and confronted with such an unlikely event, as unlikely as aliens are, they are far more likely to be the explanation than God is. For most of history this flawed argument was pushed by the religious: 'If you can't explain it, it must be God, since there is only us and God in this universe'. My argument forces the Christian onto the defensive, they must now think of an argument to show that the guy isn't just a cheeky alien, just as they must disprove evolution before we need to consider creationism.
Without the alien, the Christian argument would seem far more compelling, just as their stance was before evolution came along. But with the thought of aliens, and the implicit acknowledgment that this thought evokes, that there is much about the natural universe we don't yet understand, we can remain confident that events that appear mysterious to us most likely have a naturalistic explanation. Not once throughout history with an event that was claimed to have been caused by some god, have we found that to be true. We would be foolish to forget this lesson and drop to our knees praising God the next time we encounter something strange.
As for the intercessory prayer experiments, from reading accounts from academics that have studied the results of these trials, none have shown that prayer works. And really, you don't have to be an academic and run studies to determine whether Christians praying works. If it did then there would be no Christians with cancer or Alzheimer's or dying in car accidents. The Black Death in the 14th century would have spared much of Europe, and the prayers of terrified altar boys would have prevented their sexual assault. If prayer works, why is an atheist, Bill Gates, the richest guy on the planet, why did Mother Teresa have to quietly fly to an expensive hospital in the US to treat her medical problems, and why did Pope John Paul II get shot by an assassin, attacked by a knife wielding man, need a tumour removed from his colon, dislocate his shoulder, break his femur, need had a hip joint replacement, need his appendix removed and then went on to suffer from Parkinson's disease, an arthritic knee, an aching hip and the lingering effects of the 1981 assassination attempt? If God won't answer the prayers of Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and even Pope Benedict who had to resign due to bad health, what hope has the ordinary Christian got? I watch stunned when I see on the TV news a Christian standing in her destroyed home, crying that she has lost everything and her friends and neighbours are dead, but then she says, 'I'm alive because I prayed and God heard me. Praise the Lord'. Jeez, grow up. This is as pathetic as an ancient Aztec saying, 'See, we sacrificed those virgins yesterday and the sun rose this morning. Clearly the gods heard our plea'. At least they had the excuse of not having access to a 21st century education.
Comment by Francis, 24 Jun, 2014
Hi John, you are correct, I am talking about one God and I am a Christian. Just to clarify, I wasn't trying to be condescending when I asked 'If it's possible for you', I just haven't conversed with many atheists on the subject of God but that's another matter. I read your comprehensive response and you answered my question and what would have probably been my follow on question i.e.
"No, there is nothing I can think of that would convince me 'without any doubt' of his existence."
You mentioned the old claim "Well, what if God turned up on your front lawn, you'd have to believe then. That would be the ultimate proof." Well, no it wouldn't.
I have to agree here as that already happened and many couldn't believe 2000 years ago and can't believe now.
There are many Christian artifacts, events etc that cannot be explained by science even by non-Christian scientists, but as you stated in your response, ANYTHING can be explained away if you don't want to believe in a God. As you said yourself, "And I prefer the world to be without gods."
I would conclude those trying to reason with someone who does not want to be convinced of the existence of God are wasting their time as no matter how reasonable or convincing their arguments are, some hypothetical explanation can be imagined and put forward as fact.
As it happened, I learned about the life of Alexandrina Maria da Costa at Mass yesterday. Just another miraculous proof of the existence of God or someone trying to dupe us for some unknown reason? The Shroud of Turin is not the only artifact that has miraculous properties, if you use real science that is as many have.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jun, 2014
Hi Francis. I did indeed say that 'there is nothing I can think of that would convince me 'without any doubt' of his existence'. But I most definitely didn't say there was nothing that would convince me, merely that there was nothing I could think of. After all I have not claimed to be a theologian, scientist or philosopher. And I immediately followed this statement with the request to you that 'Of course I am willing to listen to reasons why I might be mistaken. I will go where the evidence points', and I finished with this: 'So what argument, what evidence, do you believe should convince me that not just some mysterious god, but your personal God, is the reason for me being here?'
Do I need to remind you that it should not be an atheist's job to construct ingenious arguments that you can use against me? You believe in a god, I don't, so the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate your belief, to show where my arguments are flawed. And if I could see flaws in my arguments I would already have rejected them, I wouldn't need your prodding. You asked the question, I gave my honest answer. Please explain why my alien scenario makes no sense, and how I could prove that it was really God and not a sneaky alien? Furthermore, if you believe that there is an argument that should convince me 'without any doubt', then why haven't you presented it?
You also claimed that I stated that 'ANYTHING can be explained away if you don't want to believe in a God'. Please show where I stated this. My atheism has got nothing to do with not wanting to believe in a God. I assume you don't believe in the Tooth Fairy, is this solely because you DON'T WANT to believe in the Tooth Fairy? Or is your atheism regarding the Tooth Fairy based solely on reason, that you simply see no evidence of or need for the Tooth Fairy to exist? I see your belief that I don't want to believe in your God as similar to the claim of other Christians, that I am angry with God for some reason, and I'm petulantly going to go around telling people that he doesn't exist, just to piss him off. You try to support this belief of yours by misreading my statement: 'And I prefer the world to be without gods'. I am not suggesting that the world will match my preferences, that because I don't like the idea of gods I'm going to pretend they don't exist. I made this statement in the sense that I would prefer the world to be without murder, poverty, disease, war, and child-raping priests, this is a world I would prefer over the one we have. Given the choice to eradicate these evils, I would do so. Likewise if I had the choice, if I was told to choose between living in a natural world with no gods, or even the concept of gods, and a world connected to a supernatural realm where there was a cruel, barbaric, unjust God biding his time until he could torture me for all eternity, then clearly I would chose the world without gods. For me to say that I would prefer a world with gods, knowing what those gods would do to me, would be insane.
You say that God did turn up 2000 years ago and most didn't believe it, and still don't, and so you agree with me that simply wandering around saying you're God is pretty worthless. Still, you'd think God would have known that, and would have thought of a more convincing way of proving his case, but 2000 years later, still nothing. I mean, he didn't even bother trying to see if the Asians, Africans, Americans or Australians would be more open to his 'I am God' speech. Maybe God realised that many other gods such as Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, Maui and Apollo had got there before him, and he couldn't see a way of ousting them. To me, God turning up to some ignorant, Bronze Age goat herders and expecting the entire world to believe their wild stories is no different to the ignorant hillbillies today that claim advanced aliens travelled thousands of light years to tell just them. No sophisticated person finds these stories plausible.
You say that you 'would conclude those trying to reason with someone who does not want to be convinced of the existence of God are wasting their time as no matter how reasonable or convincing their arguments are, some hypothetical explanation can be imagined and put forward as fact'.
For a start, again it is not a question of whether I 'want to be convinced of the existence of God'. God either exists or he doesn't, it doesn't matter what you or I want. The evidence will not change based on my wants. As I've said, I don't want murder to exist, but it does regardless. You say you're wasting your time in 'trying to reason' with me, and mention 'reasonable or convincing' arguments. Perhaps you should give me the benefit of the doubt and actually present your reasonable and convincing arguments?
And I had to giggle when you said of me, that 'some hypothetical explanation can be imagined and put forward as fact'. Isn't that just a definition of God? But seriously, nowhere did I say or imply this, yes I raised the notion of a hypothetical alien, but only in arguing that confronted with amazing feats this alien would be a more likely explanation than God. I did not say that this alien's existence was a fact, just because I can imagine one existing. This is the flaw with religious thinking.
I agree that there are some, but not many, Christian artefacts, events etc that cannot (or have not) been explained by science. Often this is because science can't be bothered, just like it can't be bothered checking if it can locate Santa's North Pole base, or because, like the Shroud of Turin, the owners of these artefacts refuse to give scientists access to them. And most historical events can't be properly explained simply because there is insufficient information to go on. But we must remember that for every Christian artefact and event that science hasn't explained, there are an equal number of Muslim, Jewish or Hindu artefacts and events that haven't been explained either. Does this mean that the Muslim, Jewish and Hindu gods are working alongside the Christian God to produce these things for their followers? Or are you going to say there is likely a scientific explanation for these things, we just haven't found it yet?
I have never heard of Alexandrina Maria da Costa, and I suspect almost no one has. But nearly everyone has heard of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and even Captain James T Kirk and Darth Vader. Your God seems to be losing the PR war. I have no idea what some peasant claimed Alexandrina Maria da Costa did, but it can't have been a very impressive or convincing miracle since almost no one knows of it, not even you until yesterday. You say it is either a miracle or 'someone trying to dupe us for some unknown reason', but you ignore the most likely explanation, neither a miracle nor a scam, the person is simply sincere in their belief but deluded nonetheless. When a child tells of the gift they received from Santa, they are not trying to dupe us, nor was the gift the result of a miracle, the child is simply deluded. She was lied to by the people she trusted to explain the world, just like religion.
Returning to the beginning, you believe in God. So what argument, what evidence, do you believe should convince me? Or are you like the child and Santa, and most Christians, you believe on faith not reason?
Comment by Zafir, 24 Jun, 2014
Hi John. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
I'm starting to think that you are more interested in arguing than getting to the truth.
Any evidence that appears to not be consistent with a theory is worth investigating.
The challenge that I give Christians is "What is the evidence? Please explain."
You seem to be straying into "What is the evidence? I've heard it all before and I'll shot it down."
Before you go on attack, no I can't point to where you wrote that.
I find that a lot of people defend their beliefs by offering evidence that they have not examined.
What is important is getting a greater understanding of the truth, not what you think the truth is, or even what you want it to be.
It's by acknowledging that I'm often wrong that I become more right.
Advanced aliens visiting Earth is not very plausible. It's a long way between fuel stops.
I suppose I go along with the advanced aliens being more likely than God as there is precedence for (semi) intelligent life, why not elsewhere.
The prayer studies don't support the hypothesis that God answers prayers.
Of the 15 studies I had a quick look at 10 concluded no significant improvement or not beyond placebo. One even showed prayer to be detrimental. A couple of the studies that concluded some benefit from being prayed for looked suspect in design or sample size.
If 15 of 15 studies said prayer works that would be enough to create more than a little doubt of my world view.
Just for fun, I may or may not pray for you. Please feel free to attribute any beneficial outcome of any kind to the Awesome Power of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jun, 2014
I'm sorry Zafir, but I'm not sure what you're getting at. You start by saying,
'I'm starting to think that you are more interested in arguing than getting to the truth.
You don't explain how you arrive at your conclusion that I'm being argumentative. Do you think I should have said I'm sure God could prove to me he exists, after all he is God? But then it wasn't a question of what God could do, it was what I thought he could do. I do agree with your evidence comment, but what evidence are you referring to, what theory?
Any evidence that appears to not be consistent with a theory is worth investigating.'
You continue with, 'The challenge that I give Christians is "What is the evidence? Please explain."'
Francis did not make any claim that would allow me to ask, 'What is your evidence for that?' He asked, to put it simply, whether I knew of anything that God could do to prove he existed. Not something that might shake my atheism or introduce some doubt, but something that would prove to me beyond any doubt that God existed. My answer was no, that I personally didn't know of anything, but I also implored Francis, or you or anyone, to correct me if I am mistaken.
I could have left it at that, but most believers would then label me close-minded or arrogant, since they no doubt believe there are many things God could do to prove his existence. Therefore to forestall the most obvious argument from Christians — If God appeared in person, performing miracles, you'd have to believe then — I tried to explain why this argument, while it might seriously shake me, it could not prove to me that it really was God. After all, what does God or Jesus look like, no one knows, and anyone who says they do is mistaken.
Francis issued me with a challenge, I simply don't see how replying with your preferred challenge — "What is the evidence? Please explain." — would have made any sense.
You go on to write that I 'seem to be straying into "What is the evidence? I've heard it all before and I've shot it down"', and then you add that 'I find that a lot of people defend their beliefs by offering evidence that they have not examined'.
Again, it would be helpful if you would explain why you have formed this view. However, I must admit, as regards most creationist arguments, I have heard them all before, and if confronted with them I will explain why I believe they fail, and quite frankly, if I couldn't do this I wouldn't be comfortable calling myself an informed atheist. At most I could only be a weak-kneed agnostic. Perhaps you felt I was being arrogant when I said that 'I've considered the cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments that have been around for centuries, and like most people today that have looked at them honestly and without bias, I have dismissed them'. But again, every informed atheist should proudly make this claim, arguing that they have reached their position through considered reflection, not simply through blind faith, apathy or inheriting it from atheistic parents.
Just as any good Christian will tell me (and have told me) without any hesitation that I am wrong in my disbelief, and respectively leave it at that, I will likewise express my view that it is they that are wrong. But what is more, if asked I will happily explain and defend why I hold my view. If my willingness to debate, my wish to bring knowledge to this debate, and my belief that my stance is the correct one is seen as arrogance, then every single person throughout history that has stood up for what they believe must be seen as arrogant. Everyone from Socrates and Jesus to Galileo and Martin Luther King Jr.
You added that you 'find that a lot of people defend their beliefs by offering evidence that they have not examined'.
I agree, but since you seem to be implying that I've done this, you need to point out where so I can understand where and how I might have erred. I have certainly struck many evangelists that have offered evidence that they clearly have not examined. Watching the terrible doco movie 'Jesus Camp' recently, a young born-again Christian told the camera that he was so glad that Galileo had decided to give up science for God. Say what? Not in the standard version of history he didn't. And a visiting evangelist recently told me that serious earthquakes never happened in the past, their sudden appearance now is a sign of the impending apocalypse. So I do understand people using 'evidence' that they have clearly never examined, so if I likewise have offered evidence that people believe I have misunderstood or misrepresented, then they need to challenge me on it.
Regarding whether successful prayers should prove to me that God exists, you write, 'If 15 of 15 studies said prayer works that would be enough to create more than a little doubt of my world view'. I agree that this would 'create more than a little doubt' with me also, but this doesn't satisfy the challenge that Francis presented, it had be something that eliminated ALL doubt, not something that merely increased doubt. And again, this is the problem I see with this scenario, even though something is now apparently causing prayer to work, it needs to be explained how we can prove it is not the Greek god Zeus or an advanced alien doing the magic. Let's remember that if God is possible then so by definition is Zeus. And if I am to rule out aliens because they are very unlikely, then I most definitely have to rule out God, who on any scale is exponentially more powerful, more intelligent, and thus exponentially even more unlikely.
I truly don't see how you can note that 'Advanced aliens visiting Earth is not very plausible. It's a long way between fuel stops', without realising that if true then God must also make an exit. Anyone that dismisses visiting aliens as being so unlikely as to be nigh on impossible, must logically also dismiss God for the same reason. And, conversely, anyone that accepts the mere possibility of visiting aliens as being a possible explanation for the observed events, must also accept that they can no longer be absolutely certain that God is the cause. And this is the point of my argument, that events that appear miraculous are not absolute, conclusive proof of the Christian God.
If God exists, then he knows whether there is an argument that my limited intellect would accept, so I wonder why he hasn't presented it. I also have to wonder why Francis hasn't presented some argument, any argument, that he thinks should prove to me that his God exists. Surely Christians have considered this question beyond just asking me to do all the hard work? Instead he just gives up, saying that debate is a waste of time 'with someone who does not want to be convinced of the existence of God'. But as you say Zafir, the truth of the matter has no connection to 'what you want it to be'.
I believe my worldview is correct, but I can't prove that it is. That is why I want people to challenge my ideas, not simply tell me I am wrong (or annoying or arrogant). I believe that science, history and philosophy is taking me down a path of ever increasing knowledge, knowledge that is describing the universe as it really is. To move me onto the religion path, people need show me why my solid, natural path is an illusion, and their invisible path is the real one.
Comment by Wayne, 27 Jun, 2014
Hi John, a lot of Christians like to turn the tables and try to get you to tackle the more difficult questions. They then look at your response without considering the points carefully and automatically conclude that you are never serious about finding god in the first place. This ironically allows them to rationalize that it is useless trying to engage you in reasonable debate because you are close-minded. What a lot of Christians fail to realize is that they make claims without justification. In their simplistic view, I think Christians want similar responses from nonbelievers so that they can assert their own version of reality on us. If you said you wanted god to show himself, they would say he did already in the form of Jesus 2000 years ago. Show me that the Bible is the true word of god and they will say the Bible tells us so. Many Christians are not able to question and critically analyze the basis of their own claims and simply see them as indisputable facts. Christians often confuse claims and evidence; they dismiss evidence as claims and consider claims as evidence. If there is overwhelming evidence pointing to their version of god, then they do not need to base their faith on claims. Also, there will be no need for any of us to come up with a proof for god.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Jun, 2014
Yes Wayne, I agree. I gave a reasoned answer to the challenge Francis posed, and he thus concluded that he was wasting his time trying to reason with me. If I had simply answered No, and left it at that, I think we can safely conclude that he would have thought it was a waste of his time trying to even engage with me. I mean really, did he spend time searching the Internet to find an out-spoken atheist to whom he could pose his question, thinking that he would be well satisfied with a simple No? Do we really think that Francis would have moved on, thinking, 'Hmmm... excellent answer. So concise and to the point. He's clearly thought deeply about his stance'?
I doubt it. If it were that simple, every time I met an evangelist, I should just say, 'No, you're wrong. Why? Because'.
It's impossible to win. Christians claim that it is futile to debate with a confident, informed atheist because we are
close-minded, and that likewise it's futile to debate with an atheist who won't (or can't) go beyond simply repeating that gods aren't real. Either way, as you say they rationalise that it is useless trying to engage an atheist in reasonable debate. I've heard Christians that argue: I have faith that there is a God, he simply has faith that there isn't. They want our arguments to be as weak as theirs.
Comment by Zafir, 27 Jun, 2014
Hi John. What I'm getting at is very few people are compelled to change their mind based on an argument.
Francis wrote a polite question "I am curious to know something. If it's possible for you, try to suspend your disbelief for a moment and "pretend" there is a God. If he was to decide that tomorrow, he would prove to you that he existed, can you think of one or more things he could do that would convince you without any doubt of his existence? I'd be very interested to know."
You could have answered, no I can't think of anything. But if you have some good evidence I would be happy to have an open minded look.
If the question had of been asked of me I would have answered, no there is nothing that could convince me without any doubt because I think a little doubt is useful. But there are plenty of things that could challenge my position on the likely existence of God.
But no, you John decided to treated this polite question as a "Challenge." I am suggesting that your response is over the top and pedantic.
You are clearly a very rational thinker and clever. I just think you are too hostile to help people to examine their beliefs.
I do realise that God is less likely than Aliens and stated as much when I wrote "I suppose I go along with the advanced aliens being more likely than God as there is precedence for (semi) intelligent life, why not elsewhere."
I apologize for not being clearer. I'm requesting that you become less argumentative.
Some beliefs aren't just silly; they are also detrimental to society. An argumentative approach can entrench people into their position.
This is my only criticism on an otherwise excellent site. You could choose to take the compliment and treat the criticism as
constructive and leave it at that.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jun, 2014
Hi Zafir, I appreciate your comments and understand your point, but I don't believe I'm being argumentative, and if I am, point out where, as I'm missing it.
As you suggested, I could have answered by saying, 'no I can't think of anything. But if you have some good evidence I would be happy to have an open minded look'. And in fact when I look back I said almost exactly that: 'no, there is nothing I can think of ... Of course I am willing to listen to reasons why I might be mistaken'.
But if I had stopped there, what would have been gained, on either side? I don't believe Francis went to the bother of finding a site run by an out-spoken atheist just to get a 'No' out of me. Imagine what our site would be like if simple denials were the norm:
John, do you think Ken Ring can predict the weather?
John, do you think the 'Sensing Murder' psychics can talk to the dead?
No is just an opinion, until it is backed up with an argument we have no reason to take it seriously.
I started this website so I could reflect publicly on skepticism and atheism, it is not a polite dinner conversation where we can deliberately skirt around these topics. It's clichÚd, but it's a search for the truth, and the only way I will know if I'm on the right path is if I present my ideas and let others challenge them. My real life is full of people discussing the weather and sports and reality TV, and deliberately avoiding controversial topics such as religion, psychic mediums, astrology, alternative therapies and belief in UFOs, all because they fear how others will react. Although everyone I meet know I'm an atheist, not a single person has ever asked me why. Discussing these things online is the only way I have found to be able to go beyond the simple statements that people make in the real world, 'No, I agree John, I think Ken Ring is a fraud too. But changing the subject slightly, did you see the rugby last night?'
And I believe Francis was looking for an argument from me, albeit one he could demolish, and by argument I mean a rational debate or discussion, not an angry quarrel, an answer to his question that extended beyond a polite No. Francis revealed in his reply that he was hoping to reason with me, to provide 'reasonable or convincing arguments', but has now changed his mind since he has come to believe that I do 'not want to be convinced of the existence of God'.
When asked if there could be proof of God, rather than appear as a stereotypical close-minded atheist and reply simply, 'No, of course not', I tried to provide an answer that showed I had actually thought about the matter. I took it seriously, believing that no matter whether I had answered yes or no, the person asking the question wouldn't want me to simply stop at yes or no, but to go on to explain why I had reached this conclusion. And if I hadn't, wouldn't this have been the next question from Francis? Why do you say no, what about blah, blah blah?
I tried to anticipate how Francis might respond to my answer to his question, showing that it was an interesting question but this is why I think it fails. Again, imagine me saying that Ken Ring is talking nonsense, but I'm not going to risk appearing argumentative by explaining why. I fear that for many people, just disagreeing with them is to appear hostile and argumentative. And if they can't think of a good response, even more so.
But as I've said, I want my online discussions to have some depth, to get to the guts of the matter, not just dance politely around the issues. I'm an atheist, by default my position is going to appear hostile to the religious, there's no polite and respectful way to say I think you're all talking nonsense. Just as they think the same of me, plus that I'm evil.
Comment by Francis, 28 Jun, 2014
Hi John, I read your last reply and at the end you stated:
'Returning to the beginning, you believe in God. So what argument, what evidence, do you believe should convince me? Or are you like the child and Santa, and most Christians, you believe on faith not reason?'
I thought about it and I can't produce any evidence that you won't reject I'm pretty sure. My beliefs are based on reason and faith.
All I can point you to is to read the words of Jesus with an open heart and ask him to show himself to you if he really exists. I'm saying really, really read what he says carefully and be open to his message and the possibility that he is the Son of God as he claimed.
That is all I can suggest as I know I can't convince you. I know only Jesus can convince you in his way if you are open to him and allow him into your heart.
I'm sure no one will convince you that Jesus is God. Only God can do this if you allow him.
I hope you decide to take up Gods offer. He's waiting for you!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jun, 2014
Hi Francis, thanks for your reply, but I can't see how any of your religious beliefs are based on reason, since you admit that you can't produce any evidence that I won't be able to reject. And by 'reject' I'm being generous here and assuming that you mean I will be able to reject your evidence based on better evidence, and not 'reject' based on being close-minded. If you have no evidence to support God's existence then you have no good reason to believe. You have only faith, believing without reason and often in spite of reason.
You entire email is pure unadulterated faith. You know that I can be swayed by reason, and yet your comments offer not a single reason as to why Christianity might be true.
You say I only need 'to read the words of Jesus with an open heart and ask him to show himself to you', but I've always felt this is a crock. I'm told that Jesus is watching me in the shower and yet he won't reveal his existence unless I'm 'open to his message'. I'm not sure that I want to be open to the message of someone who spies on me during my ablutions. And so the fault of me being unable to see Jesus is placed squarely on me. It's my fault, I'm not doing it right. But if God created me this way, to be skeptical, why is it my fault? As for the Bible, I have 'really, really read what he says carefully', probably more so than most Christians, and yet still nothing. You say God will only expose himself to me if 'you allow him', but again, he doesn't seem to need my permission to watch me in the shower? You go on to say that 'I hope you decide to take up Gods offer. He's waiting for you!'. The fact is I was a Christian when I was a kid, including going to Sunday School. They're many hours I'll never get back. He never turned up. Clearly I got sick of waiting. God may have forever, but I haven't.
And how is your 'read the words of Jesus' and all will be revealed, any different from a Muslim saying, 'read the Koran' and all will be revealed? Besides saying it just is, why is the Bible more believable than the Koran?
I'm sorry but your Bible just doesn't make sense, and your email gives one example of why. You say that Jesus 'is the Son of God', but then further on you say that 'Jesus is God'. This is silly talk. It's like me asking, 'Am I the son of my father, or am I my father?' If I went around talking like this my friends would implore me to have a psychiatric evaluation. I know you have a special word to explain this — the trinity — but it explains nothing, just as saying Harry Potter's wand works by 'magic' explains nothing.
You say that 'I know I can't convince you. I know only Jesus can convince you... I'm sure no one will convince you that Jesus is God. Only God can do this'. I'm quite surprised, but pleased, that you somehow know that no one on the planet, no priest or theologian or Christian scientist, could convince little ol' me that God exists. This either means you accept that there is no good evidence or argument that believers could employ, or else it's an insult, I'm close-minded. I'm sure you didn't mean it as an insult so I'll go with the first option.
May the Force be with you!
Comment by Paul, 28 Jun, 2014
Hi John. I am also forced to admit that there is probably nothing that could convince me of the existence of God. There is a solution however if I use my imagination to play god. I would go back in time to the young me; the me that was much more naive and do some magic. Better still I would have always been there doing magic for everyone so that my parents and grandparents and every person on earth were all believers in the same god. I think if I was god I could quite easily manipulate the universe so that everyone was a believer.
Of course the me that grew up in a universe where god manifested himself doing magic and chatting with people would be quite different from the current me that grew up in a universe where god is absent.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jun, 2014
Ahhh... good one Paul. If we clearly lived in your imaginary world, where God didn't hide from us, then we would all believe in him. He would be as obviously real as the Sun and bunny rabbits. Of course it would be very different from this world, there would probably be no science — we would know the answer to everything, it was God — and therefore minimal technology. There would probably be no competitive sport, it would be pointless since both sides would pray for success and a just God would cause a draw in all games. There would be no medicine, if it is God's will that you recover then you will. There would probably be little incentive to strive towards any goal, since God had already determined whether you should succeed or not, far easier to just pray for a good job or cute wife. There would unfortunately still be war, murder, earthquakes and deviant sexual behaviour, because according to the Bible, when the world was as you imagine it Paul, when God didn't hide from people and did go around doing magic, chatting with people and impregnating virgins, he couldn't or wouldn't stop these things from happening.
Of course the religious argue (weakly) that God can't show himself because that means we would have no real choice in believing in him, just as sane people have no choice in believing in the Sun and bunny rabbits. They argue that this would be God taking away our free will. But of course this is nonsense, a pathetic excuse for why he must stay hidden. He is perfectly happy to take away our free will when it comes to believing in the Sun and bunny rabbits and a trillion other things. He plonks them in front of us and effectively says, they're real, get used to it.
And what about justice? In our world humans have created laws and we are told and shown in no uncertain terms that if we transgress these laws we will be justly punished. But God, or so the religious argue, refuses to reveal whether his laws and punishments are actually real. He is apparently afraid that if we knew without doubt that they were real, as we do human laws, then we would obey them because of our reason and not our faith. So again, this is another reason why God must stay hidden according to Christians, and why your imaginary world Paul will stay imaginary.
Of course even if your imaginary world did exist, where an apparent god wandered around doing magic, I suspect there would still be room for doubt. Not doubt that this particular god existed, but doubt that he was the creator god or the most powerful god. Let's recall that in ancient times various civilisations were convinced that their gods were all there was, the Egyptians knew nothing about the gods in America and vice versa. Even if you had a god wandering around saying that he was the head honcho, how would you know whether he really was, even if he honestly thought he was? You could even read the Bible and say to God over a cold Coke, 'Look God, there are a lot things in there that don't make sense and that contradict others things. How could a perfect god like yourself be tied to something so flawed? I get the feeling that we're not being told the whole story here?'
No, I'm afraid the very idea of gods is stuck with doubt.
Comment by Zafir, 29 Jun, 2014
Hi John. Point taken.
Fault is mine. I assumed you started this site to inform and convince others as a primary motive.
Reflecting publicly on scepticism and atheism is a completely different motive and therefore a different approach.
Some of my friends do accuse me of banging on re quackery, religion, climate and environment, even over dinner. But it's fairly good natured and they actually asked for my take on some new thing they have come across. If I don't have an informed opinion I'll get informed, just because that's what I like doing. I suppose it saves them from having to do their own research.
Actually that's how I came across your website a couple of years back.
So I retract my earlier criticism.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Jun, 2014
Hi Zafir, it's good that we can reach an agreement without the necessity of a duel. Although I am a good shot with a pistol so it would hardly have been fair. And I would choose pistols, as I'm scared of swords. Well, I'm not scared if I'm the only one with a sword, but scared if other people have them too.
Thanks also for 'The Debunking Handbook' pdf that you sent me. I've also read other books on the many traps that we can fall into while defending our views, and the scary realisation is that while we can often (easily) detect these biases in the views of others, the very nature of some biases can see them stay hidden from us when we defend our own views. We must rely on others to pull us up and expose flaws in our own reasoning. That's one reason science works. So I welcome your comments on the tack I took in responding to Francis. It's refreshing to debate a difference of opinion where the dialogue can remain civil and focused on the topic. We can resolve our various points or at least agree to disagree, without any name calling and storming off. I find it futile when people say I am wrong, and maybe I am, but they aren't going to waste their time explaining why.
No doubt some of my frustration does show through when people present childish arguments for their beliefs, such as it must be true, lots of people believe in it, or if you would only read our holy book you'd believe, or how do you explain sunsets if there is no God? And on rare occasions when confronted with offensive, ignorant morons incapable of reasoned thought, I have deliberately refrained from being polite, not worried in the slightest that my frank tone will drive them away, since I know that reasoned debate was never going to happen anyway.
I guess too that skeptics don't have the same emotional commitment to their worldview as do the religious. By this I mean, if for example the Big Bang theory was found to be false and was replaced with the Steady State theory, I wouldn't lose any sleep. In fact much in science has changed, and I see this as being positive, not as something I should be depressed about. But for the religious, if their God was found to be false then this would be hugely traumatic for most, so they bring a lot more emotion to the debate. In their view they just can't afford to be wrong. It would destroy their world, and in their view, turn them into soulless beings where they couldn't help but commit unspeakable acts such as murder and rape. You know... atheists.
You're lucky Zafir that some of your friends do let you bang on re skeptical topics, even over dinner. Most people I meet these days only talk about the soccer or the latest funny video on YouTube. I have found though that whenever a question comes up about religion, say at a quiz, even though they all have religion in their lives to varying degrees, they all turn to me for the answer — the atheist! They would (if forced) all debate my atheism to varying degrees, and yet they all acknowledge that I know far more about the subject than them. I can't put my finger on it but I just feel there's something wrong there, something they're missing.
Comment by mike, 22 Jul, 2014
from Francis' post of 28/6/14 [#11]
"All I can point you to is to read the words of Jesus with an open heart..."
WTF is an open heart? You don't critically assess information with your heart, you do it with your brain.
I appreciate his polite approach but it is still the same old bs and no substance. Your Tooth Fairy analogy sums it up perfectly. No adult believes in the Tooth Fairy because there is no evidence to conclude such. Ditto gods. If an entity claiming to be a god lobbed at my house and could do some otherwise inexplicable stuff and do it on cue repeatedly then it would garner my full attention. That would be evidence, clear and verifiable.
Feelings and platitudes (allow him into your heart) are not evidence.
A friend of mine once when we were looking at a beautiful sunset asked me "how can you look at that and not conclude there is a god?".
I replied "easily. That sunset is evidence of the presence of the sun and the atmosphere. Where is the evidence of gods?".
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jul, 2014
Yes indeed Mike, haven't we got past this 'open heart' nonsense these days? Francis believes that if I was to 'read the words of Jesus with an open heart' then he will show himself to me, proving that he really exists. I wonder what would happen if I were to pick up the Koran and read the words of Mohammed with an open heart? It's a scary thought, that suppressing our rational side and giving ourselves over to our emotions while we read a book is all it takes to become permanently deluded.
Comment by Graeme Hill, 14 Oct, 2014
I love this question. I have been frequently disappointed in otherwise brilliant minds when this question has been posed to atheists in debates. Lawrence Krauss thought that all the stars moving into an I AM GOD pattern might be a good start, and Peter Atkins has cited classic Old Testament party tricks from Him might help too. Come on, think about it just a little bit harder. The answers to this question are right in front of us. How about this... reverse the evidence that informs sensible arguments against the god of the Old Testament and by necessity, the divinity of Jesus as messiah/saviour.
Humans would not have DNA like every other living thing, we'd have something completely different, or maybe nothing at all.
No living things would exhibit a bell curve of variation. All parrots would be the same in almost every way. That's how god made them and they reproduce after their kind. There shouldn't be all this variation and evolution theory would be dead for lack of wood to work with, let alone a mechanism.
When we are cold we would not exhibit goose bumps, the futile effort to raise our hairs to capture heat. We wouldn't suffer so much from chronic back pain. We'd be able to breathe and swallow simultaneously. We wouldn't look EXACTLY like an ape.... or there wouldn't be any apes. ... or mammals, or reptiles, or amphibians, or Tiktaalik, or amphioxus. There would be other things and they would not be related to us. We, are made in the image of god.
All languages would be traceable to Babylon just a few thousand years ago.
Astronomers would only be able to see light about 6,000 years old. The light barrier that now sits approximately 13.7 billion light years away would be stuck in a "sphere" less than one tenth the diameter of our Milky Way.
You can actually trash the last one because even better evidence would emerge that the world is indisputably flat, heaven is up in the air and hell is deep underground. You could visit a deep hole where you could hear the screams of suffering for $10, ($5 seniors & children). Free Sundays.
There wouldn't be so many religions because evidence would compile ever towards the One True God's existence.
Prayer would work, all the time, and be especially powerful and quick-acting if you pray in a group.
There would be no tectonic plate movement or continental drift. There would be clear evidence for a world-wide flood.
Lightning would be a profound mystery, as would disease.
Plants would not use light to manufacture sugars. No more problems with Genesis.
I'm sure we can all think of plenty more, but I especially entreat Christians and theists to give this an honest go. What would the world be like, and what would its history be like if there was a god (that does stuff) and how does that world differ from the one you live in?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Oct, 2014
Wow Graeme. What can I say? You really have thought about what the world would be like if we were indeed all just part of God's big experiment, and have shown the idea to be lacking in a big way.
It would be nice — and the world a far safer place, think ISIS beheading nonbelievers in the Middle East — if the religious would honestly think about how the world differs from that described in their holy books, and what that means for their god's likely existence. But I suspect I'll see Wile E. Coyote shoot past on a rocket powered skateboard before I see many religious believers questioning their faith.
Like you I'm interested in science and I enjoy thinking about 'what if' scenarios, but believers clearly find it easier and more comfortable to believe in an unseen god without reason or evidence. A god whose conspicuous absence can evidently be explained by him being very busy preparing their luxury accommodation for when they die, some with 72 virgins, some without.
Comment by Graeme Hill, 17 Oct, 2014
I would like to add, in a universe with clear evidence for God I doubt very much there would be any churches because there would be no reason whatsoever to reinforce belief. Faith wouldn't be a factor.
Church-types should be careful what they wish for. You'd become redundant in a world with an obvious God.
Comment by Tony, 18 Oct, 2014
"If he was to decide that tomorrow, he would prove to you that he existed, can you think of one or more things he could do that would convince you without any doubt of his existence?"
If a god could and did prove to me it existed then by definition I have accepted the proof of its existence without any doubt. Whether or not I can think of what the proof might be before such a fictitious event is totally irrelevant.
If a god decided it would prove to me it existed, and I didn't accept the proof without any doubt, then a pretty pathetic god would have failed to prove its own existence to a mere mortal.
This question is merely another version of "Can you prove a god doesn't exist?". The Theist knows the answer has to be "No" to both questions and this gives them the following gotchas — "You can't prove a god doesn't exist therefore a god does exist." And — "You won't accept any proof that a god exists therefore you're closed minded and deny that a god does exist."
Trouble with Theists and other paranormal believers is that they wrongly conflate belief and knowledge. If they believe something is true they claim they also know it's true. They believe a particular god exists therefore they know a particular god exists. Their conveniently bastardised redefinition of words only applies to their own beliefs however.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Oct, 2014
You're quite right Tony, it's all a childish trick to make it appear that it is the atheist's responsibility to disprove the existence of the believer's specific god. And of course you'll be aware that their claims such as, "You can't prove a god doesn't exists therefore a god does exist", are easily shown to be flawed by simply replacing god with something equally silly, for example the tooth fairy: 'You can't prove a tooth fairy doesn't exist therefore a tooth fairy does exist'. Any range of so-called arguments that logically support belief in a huge range of silly beings are nothing but wishful thinking. But as you say, true believers have big problems grasping the difference between belief and knowledge when it concerns their own beliefs. Christians have no problems correctly identifying the falsehoods and contradictions in Islamic or Wiccan beliefs, just as Muslims have no problems pointing out the silly flaws in Scientology, and Hindus can easily explain why the Greek god Zeus never existed. But ask them to examine their own religious beliefs and their new found skills in logic and reason quickly desert them.
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