Archive for June, 2009

Conspiracy Theories and Me

Th1sWasATriumph
Th1sWasATriumph
Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:49 am by Th1sWasATriumph

The League of Reason has exposed me to quite a few conspiracy theories – some of which I’d heard of (Chemtrails and OMFG THE MAN KNOCKED DOWN THE TOWAZ) and some which I had hitherto been blissfully ignorant of (the infamous “Fluoride in drinking water’ nonsense.)

I don’t believe a word of it, of course. The claims of conspiracy theorists are all too often similar to the claims of the faithful – a distinct lack of evidence, a pre-existing bias, an unwillingness to consider other explanations or refutations. However, as far as some of the biggest theories go – the moon landing, government-captured aliens and 9\11 – I would not be surprised in the least if irrefutable evidence suddenly arose that proved foul play.

I may not believe the theories, you see, but I fully believe that people – mainly in government, in America, the place where so many of these theories either originated or are linked to – are capable of such duplicity for various reasons.

Let’s take Roswell, Area 51 and all that kind of thing. What if the American government really had isolated and confirmed alien life? What would be the options? Either make it public, or hide it.

Can you begin to imagine the uproar if it was announced that aliens walk among us? It would be indescribable. And the public response would probably be unanimous – more money to space exploration and related technologies. Let’s get out there. People would suddenly be more interested in space than petty squabblings over oil and territory. Where would this extra money be diverted from? Probably the military. And an America without a military is not a happy America, at least as far as the government is concerned. So, what to do? You bury the evidence and keep the army that’s made your nation mighty.

Of course, I don’t think that this has happened. But I can’t help but think it’s at the very least possible, should aliens ever be discovered. I’d like to think that such a thing would be shouted to the highest mountains, but a cynical part of me suggests that folk would like to keep their guns.

The moon landing is infamous for claims of fakery, claims which I sadly used to indulge myself in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was announced that the whole thing really was a big pile of ass. The motivation for such deception is clear; the drive to put a man on the moon was less driven by scientific endeavour and more by the threat of Russian space presence. It was a matter of national pride and security. I can imagine a government faking the moon landing for much smaller reasons – though I don’t believe it WAS fake. I can simply recognise why it would have been faked, if it had been, which it wasn’t. If you follow me.

And, of course, there’s all sorts of reasons put forward to suggest why the WTC might have been planed by their own country.

I guess that if I believed in any conspiracy theory, it’s the one claiming that people really can be as bad as you fear. And that’s not even really a conspiracy theory at all, is it?

Note to all glorious american patriots: I DON’T CARE

Votebot Anatomy 101 – Part 1

CosmicSpork
CosmicSpork
Thu Jun 18, 2009 2:01 am by CosmicSpork

Hi, this is my first blog post on the League of Reason. In case you are wondering who I am, I am the League of Reason webmaster, and as such, my main area of expertise is web based technologies (among other things). I keep the server running, the website up to date, and so on and so forth.

My scientific knowledge isn’t particularly good, my grasp of philosophy is almost non-existant, and my insight on religion is limited. So I think I’ll leave those things to those far more capable than I.

I’ve noticed that there isn’t a great deal of information on how Votebots actually work, and would like to give what information I know and any theories I have for what I don’t know about these how dubious bits of software do their dastedly work.

I’ll start by giving some information about the Votebot software and its origins:

For those who don’t know what a Votebot is, it is a piece of software or script that someone runs who wishes to drop a lot of votes onto a YouTube video to alter its ranking and thus its visibility in things like related searches. The name Votebot has actually been made up by the YouTube community who have been attacked by these bots, rather than have any positive effects from them (I say positive effects in the sense that a persons video has had its ratings increased rather than decreased. In my opinion, the use of this software to manipulate the rating of a video in any way is wrong and should not be looked at as a good thing regardless of its effects).

The original purpose of these software applications/scripts was to promote a persons own videos in order to gain exposure and make money through various means, and people do that, and can make a rather large amounts of money. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s right, it gives the illusion of effort when there has been none or very little. The video in question may not even have anything worth watching, but can potentially out perform a video that is highly entertaining or informative.

Some of these software applications are not limited to simply casting votes on videos, they can also increase the number of views on a video or channel (YouTube have recently added a countermeasure that helps to prevent this, but also has some potentially harmful side effects to legitimate YouTubers which I will explain another time). On top of that they can automatically post comments,  add subscribers to a particular channel using Sockpuppet accounts, favourite a video on said Sockpuppet accounts, and also help create these YouTube Sockpuppet accounts with very little effort. Apart from the voting part the other features can only be used for ‘positive’ effects (except for the views countermeasure side effect I referred to earlier and will reveal in due course).

Well, that’ll do for now, I hope this information so far has been of use to you. If you already knew all this, then good for you 😛

In part 2, I will go into more depth about how Votebotters actually go about performing their insidious tasks and the inner workings of the software and its interaction with YouTube’s system.

Cowardly votebotters caught in the act again

AndromedasWake
AndromedasWake
Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:22 am by AndromedasWake

Thanks go out to Thunderf00t for another eye-opening video of votebot statistics. Recently, some of the most well-subscribed channels have faced a collective 60,000+ one star votes! Those creationists are pretty damn scared alright!

Whilst we’re all trying to come up with definite solutions, I’ll keep supporting Thunderf00t’s original idea. Rate! Try rating a video every single time you watch it. Only a fraction of viewers rate, but if the numbers of ratings were similar to the numbers of views, votebotters would have to work an awful lot harder to have any effect. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you rate, and no one is encouraging you to rate 5 stars just because the censors will rate 1. You should rate as you feel appropriate. It’s the number of real human votes that will determine the effect of the votebot. We all forget to rate sometimes though, so why not put up a little annotation at the beginning of your videos reminding people?

Dr. Dino’s League of Stupid

AndromedasWake
AndromedasWake
Sun Jun 14, 2009 8:16 pm by AndromedasWake

Eric Hovind, infinite fail spawn of one notorious Kent Hovind, has a blog. And guess what? It’s crapola. It’s hard to read without shedding a tear for humanity. In fact, it’s actually worse than Ray Comfort’s absurdly named Atheist Central. And that’s really saying something.

His posts range from misrepresenting concepts of evolution to discussing the “missing link” and dredging up the critically flawed, and really very silly Grand Canyon argument.

Oh, and don’t expect to be able to correct him. This is, after all, a creationist blog. We all know that free speech, open criticism and scientific citations are kryptonite to the Hovind clan, and commenters are widely known to be the minions of Satan himself.

The Overlord, PZ, has already blogged about this, so for my contribution, I thought I’d give you guys a little motivator to throw around the tubes. It wasn’t hard to find inspiration, because even when he was attempting to honestly represent the scientific method with a picture of “how it’s supposed to work”, Eric’s rotting brain said no.

Eric looks rather like that Shamwow guy, no?

A Debate With A Vague God Enthusiast

Th1sWasATriumph
Th1sWasATriumph
Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:31 am by Th1sWasATriumph

Haven’t blogged for a bit, so I’m storming back with a long one. In addition to that, I have a larger than average blog post for your delectation.

My girlfriend and her friend ended up talking about God, and my name got mentioned – presumably because I’m just that awesome. My GF, as someone who’s pretty much had her faiths eroded by my niggling arguments (“Shall we get some wine? Also, why would an all-powerful God allow evil to occur?”) wanted her friend to talk to me on the subject. She prepared a short argument and I emailed her my response.

Something I wasn’t aware of until after I’d emailed her was that she is, apparently, very stubborn and will never let go of her beliefs. Which renders debate more or less meaningless, but hey – who knows?

 

“What is sense? Why can’t open minded thoughts help you accept a possibility of a greater power/energy source named as god?”

I think my GF gave you the wrong impression of my perspective on this issue. I accept the POSSIBILITY of God, or a higher power, simply because it would be scientifically hypocritical to state with certainty that it could NOT exist. Until every iota of the universe has been catalogued, which is almost certainly something we will never do, we cannot posture with certainty on such matters. To state something CANNOT exist is a faith-based position, albeit anthetical to faith IN a God, and as such is a position not often adopted by intellectuals.

So, I can accept the possibility. But with a complete lack of any positive proof, there is no point considering it further. An inability to disprove something is not adequate proof FOR it, otherwise you would have to give equal credence to absolutely every unfalsifiable hypothesis anyone ever makes. Along with your concept of God, you’d have to grant the equal chance of everyone else’s concept of God, along with all supernatural claims. This is without even going into the logical paradoxii that arguments for God tend to invoke, which I’ll go into a bit later..

“Why can’t there be a god?”

I’d need to know more detail about your concept of God to answer this. However, in general, God creates more questions than it answers. Simply using God as a catch-all answer to the mysteries of the universe is unrealistic, because you then have to explain God. You end up with paradoxii of omnipotence, problems of free will, problems of omnicognisance. So tell me more about your perception of God – is it conscious? Insensate? Does it have a specific purpose? What powers does it possess? Is it immortal/eternal/invincible? Is it limited in any sense?

Until I have more detail, though, the simple answer is there COULD be a God – but it’s so vastly unlikely, so internally inconsistent and contradictory by most human accounts, that there’s no point in pursuing it. As we on the internet say, pictures or it didn’t happen. The onus of proof is ALWAYS on the other side to substantiate God – NOT on me to disprove.

“By opening your mind and thoughts you accept possibilities, by accepting possibilities you become more knowledgeable, and by being more knowledgeable you are naturally more intelligent.”

Accepting possibilities is fine. It’s what drives scientific endeavour and progress. But you don’t actually become more knowledgeable until you have proved these possibilities as something workable. There’s some famous quote, I think from Richard Dawkins, which is more or less “Be open-minded, but not so open that your brain falls out.” Wondering how things work and having a spirit of enquiry keeps discovery constant; however, that is no reason to hang on to the impossible or the unworkable. The historical precedent is that poorly understood natural phenomena attributed to the supernatural (for example, the various cultural pantheons to whom natural forces and processes were attributed via individual deities, as opposed to monotheism where a single entity controls everything – this seems to be what you’re postulating) eventually become explained by scientific means. The age of simply hypothesising something which sounds about right is long gone. The age of empiricism demands proof, repeatable observation, before a possibility becomes workable. Otherwise the whole thing simply collapses in disarray under the weight of countless “possibilities” which can only be accepted because they cannot be completely disproved.

That is the nature of science, of course. It operates on inductive reasoning, on extending an assumption from a necessarily limited sample group. However, deductive reasoning – which begins from an axiomatic statement and is thus considered to be more reliable than inductive logic – is never grounded in the real world. Only logical and mathematical constructs can be axiomatic. A famous deduction is “All are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal.” However, this deduction relies on inductive empiricism for its axiom. The only way of looking at the world and the universe is by the scientific method; only abstracts, like logic and maths (human constructions) produce axiomatically true results – and these results are definitionally divorced from the real world.

“Where did the first energy source come from?”

We’re working on it :)

We don’t know. The origins of the universe are pretty trippy to consider. However, given the aforementioned historical precedent of supernatural explanations being superceded, it’s reasonable to assume that we will eventually know – and not knowing NOW doesn’t mean we will NEVER know. Also, not knowing the origins of the universe is comparatively simple when compared to using God as an explanation and then trying to work out how God created itself, or all the other attendant problems with using God to explain anything.

“Do humans have any energy source beyond physics? Why? Why not?”

If human beings have an energy source beyond physics it’s pointless to even speculate as it necessarily wouldn’t be something we could even detect. If we could detect it, it would be an aspect of known physical laws and not metaphysical or supernatural in nature. So, no, humans do not have an energy source beyond physics because the question doesn’t have any actual meaning – you’re asking to verify something which definitionally, as soon as it is verified, STOPS being beyond physics.

“Bear in mind that without self-evidence there is none. With no evidence, you rely on belief. Therefore proof is belief. If belief is your source of proof why can’t you believe in god and use belief as proof.” (I nearly pooped myself when I read that argument.)

That’s a little too much of a logical leap though. Proof is NOT belief. Proof is proof. Belief implies some kind of dependence on the believer for continuation, and gravity doesn’t care if you believe in it or not. Scientists don’t rely on belief or faith, and neither do the things the scientific method discovers.
Your argument dictates that, if belief is a proof, EVERYTHING is real and possible. Jeremy, the unicorn inside Jupiter who controls gravity (but only in this solar system) is real because I have belief in him – and thus proof. And, of course, the concept of God that I believe in that forces all possible Gods to NOT exist (including yours) must be real, because I have belief.

Belief is not the source of proof for scientists, or for me. Repeatable, observable testing and evidence is proof. Proof that is consistent with all previously gathered research. Using belief as proof not only invites a great deal of confusion, it’s demonstrably untrue, and it indicates a lack of any REAL proof for claims. If your proof is belief, you are admitting that you have no concrete evidence on which to go on.

 

So now, we wait . . .

Freedom from Offence?

JRChadwick
JRChadwick
Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:21 am by JRChadwick

When I was 12 years old and in the seventh grade I received my first formal education in the Theory of Evolution.  While Biology was never my primary interest, I have always loved science and I soaked it all up.

There was a girl in my class named Danielle.  She came from, what I now understand, a Creationist family.  She had frequently displayed annoyance at the discussion of evolution since we started studying the theory.  I learned of her attitude when I, and a few others were sitting in the school’s resource center during the lunch period during which I had been working on a Biology assignment.  I asked Danielle (not knowing about her family’s convictions at the time) if she had completed the assignment.

She replied, “I don’t have to do it!  My parents called the school.  We don’t believe in Evolution.  We’re Christians.”

I’ll summarize the ensuing discussion.  I was not sure what to make of this.  I had never heard of someone getting out of school work for being Christian.  I tried to ask why she could not be a Christian and study evolution, since I was pretty sure that most of our classmates were doing both.  However, she was adamant.  She said with certainty, “We did not.  Evolve.  From.  Monkeys!”

I had never experienced such an attitude to science before.  I told her that she was really missing out and that such a stance would harm her in the long run.She objected, citing her faith as well as her personal disgust with the idea of being a monkey.I tired to explain that she should really follow what is taught in school and that there is no reason she can not also be a Christian, but one of the aides in that room suddenly snatched the simple taxonomic chart I was pointing at and crumpled it into a ball.She then moved me to the other side of the room and told me to leave Danielle alone.

Later that week, I was sitting at one of the picnic tables with two of my friends during lunch.I was talking about one of our recent lessons in evolution because they did not understand it as well as I did and asked me to clarify.

During the next period, I was pulled out of class and reported to the front office where I was addressed privately by both the principal and the vice-principal.They said that Danielle had lodged a complaint about me that day.Apparently, she had been sitting nearby and overheard my conversation regarding evolution.They told me I that I needed to be “more aware of the differing opinions around me’ and to not talk about certain things if it might upset someone.

I was twelve-years-old, I was just relieved that the faculty was not going to call my parents or give me detention.It was not until several years later upon reflection that I realized the hypocrisy of their actions.Anything can be viewed as offensive if your criteria of what constitutes offensive material is that which you perceive as contrary to your religion or culture.Are we supposed to walk on eggshells around each other unless we all have the same views?Or maybe it is better if we don’t associate with others at all.

Christian Apologetics – 1 Peter 3:15

Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:28 pm by TheYoungAndRestless

In a recent video on the subject of Christian Apologetics, young master Noah (AKA Veritas48) commented that, “as an apologist, we like to quote 1 Peter 3:15.”

It’s worth noting what 1 Peter 3:15 actually says:

  • But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. (King James Version.)
  • But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (New International Version.)
  • But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear. (American Standard Version.)
  • And so on.

It’s interesting that the attributes of how Christians are supposed to comport themselves changes. Fear vs. respect… big difference, but what doens’t change is “be ready,” and “be prepared.”

This is about having the information and being ready to respond with it if someone asks. “I just thought I’d share something with you,” is not covered by 1 Peter 3:15. “Athiests, come debate me,” is not covered by 1 Peter 3:15.

Christians shouldn’t start fights, even intellectuals. And unless someone is overtly standing in front of you, asking you explicitly for an explanation… you should remain silent.

A further crique of apologetics. They are antagonists.

Radio debate “Evolution”: djarm67 vs Dr Steve Kumar

djarm67
djarm67
Tue Jun 02, 2009 9:03 pm by djarm67

A couple of days ago, Mrs djarm67 was told that a local radio station was going to host a speaker who would confront the “New atheism” movement and evolution. I took the info on board and began listening to the station to get some more info, e.g. when and who. This proved to be a mildly irritating experience within itself as my musical tastes are stimulated far more easily by a combination of prog-rock and hybrids of grunge, psychedelia or various brands of metallic funk with at least a short term residence in the Phrygian mode. This exercise was made somewhat more pleasant with the lubrication of a blend of Hunter Valley Cabernet Merlot. Eventually, it was revealed that the event was to occur not just on the Sunday night but would utilise frequency modulation of the VHF electromagnetic spectrum. The proponent gracing the airwaves at that time to “confront” this new atheism and evolution would be Dr Steve Kumar.

Heard of him?

Neither had I.

So began the extension of my love affair with all things online. I began to investigate the “who” behind the scheduled event. Who is this Dr? A Dr of what? Where did he get his doctorate? Was it legitimate or Hovindesque?

I found many examples of duplicates of his bio (marketing brochure) which attested to an awesomeness clearly in excess of anything I could hope to muster. Finding out what he was a doctor of or where he got it proved difficult and I actually had to rely on his introduction on the radio programme itself to educate my ignorance that I would be dealing with a “Doctor of Philosophical Theology” if I chose to enter the field of battle.

Here is Dr Steve Kumar

Dr Steve Kumar

Dr Steve Kumar

I did find a reference which indicated he had received his doctorate from the same “California diploma mill” as disgraced NZ MP Bernie Ogilvy (who I believe claimed to possess a law degree from an institute which did not even have a law programme). A brochure promoting the “Eleventh annual European summer study session of the International Academy of apologetics, evangelism and human rights” lists Dr Kumar as “Faculty and Advisory” alongside a conspicuous William A Demski. Post-interaction with Dr Kumar, I found another reference which indicated that the institute in question is the “California Graduate School Of Theology” (a worthy member of the Wikipedia “List of unaccredited institutions of higher learning”)

So here I was. An anonymous YouTuber with dreams of “League of Reason” blogging prowess about to confront some (apparently) world renowned Christian apologist who was a doctor no less. I had never been involved in a live radio debate previously. When responding to those on forums or my YouTube channel, I have the luxury of being able to research an answer prior to responding (a luxury not present in the heat of the battle which is talk back radio). I set up my tape recorder, turned on the radio and reached nervously for the phone. Here is the result.

This debate is split across two YouTube videos. Please watch both as I am a blatant video view whore. Oops, I mean I think you will enjoy them both. I’ve included accompanying images and video footage which I hope you will find humourous.

Evolution debate: djarm67 vs Dr Steve Kumar Part 1

Evolution debate: djarm67 vs Dr Steve Kumar Part 2

In addition, for those who frequent PZ Myers blog; Pharangula, I have included a Cephalopod treat for you.

DJ

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