Archive for September, 2010

A NYr’s reflections on 9/11

TheTruePooka
TheTruePooka
Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:33 am by TheTruePooka

I’ve been asked by AndromedasWake to say a few words on the entire 9/11 Ground Zero debate and give a New Yorker’s perspective. I thought it would be appropriate to wait until time has passed since the Ground Zero anniversary, considering the content of this blog post.

I have lived through a decade of Ground Zero controversy. From the moment the dust settled, individuals and groups with political agendas descended on the wounded carcass of lower Manhattan, cutting out and dishing up great slabs of suffering to serve at the gluttonous feast of their ambitions.

“All of Ground Zero should be declared hallowed ground’, “The memorial in light should remain until the towers are rebuilt’, “it should be called the Freedom Tower’, “THIS tower design is a better memorial than that one’, “A design contest will show the true spirit of American freedom’, “The stairway to heaven can’t be moved, it would be disrespectful!’, “The beams that form a cross cannot be moved, God placed them there!’

It has gone on and on, year after year. (more…)

Experiment time again

rabbitpirate
rabbitpirate
Sun Sep 26, 2010 4:22 pm by rabbitpirate

Yes, it is time for another ill-conceived and most likely fundamentally flawed online experiment to test something that in all likelihood no one else is remotely interested in other than me and which is presented with all the get up and go of a dead camel stung by a poisonous grave scorpion. Oh the fun. This time around we will be testing the pseudoscientific claim that by recording what we say and playing those messages backwards we can tell if someone is lying or not.

 

This strange claim is put forward by David Oates who runs an organisation called Reverse Speech Technologies. Reverse Speech is the idea that when we talk normally our subconscious minds encode messages into the words we choose that can only be identified by recording what we say and playing it backwards. These backwards messages are said to contain the true meaning of what we said as well as always speak the truth. Amongst the various uses for Reverse Speech Oates claims that Reverse Speech can be used to detect lies. Well them sound like fighting words to me and so I have put together a very simple experiment to test that claim. And that’s where you guys come in.

 

In order to test this claim I have put together a video, well technically two videos but who’s counting, that contains five statements, four of which are factual and one of which is a complete fabrication. After each statement is played you will hear it again only this time in reverse. If the claims of David Oates are accurate then you should be able to hear in the reverse versions of the five statements clues as to whether they are truthful or not. Once you have decided which of the five statements you believe is the false one then all you need to do is vote for that statement in the poll that you can access from a link in the information box below the second part of the video. Unlike my pervious experiment the results of how people have voted and the details of which statement is in fact the false one will be accessable immediately so you don’t have to sit around for ages waiting for me to make another video explaining how everything went.

 

Ok so it is not as sexy as testing psychic powers or debunking homeopathy, however as far as I can tell this is the very first time this specific pseudoscientific claim has been tested which means you will be a part of something no one has ever done before. To get involved, and I hope you will, go watch this video and simply follow the instructions you will find there. Sorry my video presentation is somewhat less than dynamic, that is really something I have to work on.

 

Pope in-fallacy

Aught3
Aught3
Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:17 am by Aught3

A recent speech by the current Pope, in Britain, where he links atheism and Nazism has caused some controversy in the blogosphere and in our own forums. The Pope spoke of “a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society’ and went on to express concerns over “aggressive forms of secularism’. This is such a common trope in debates that I wanted to take an entire blog post to explain what I see as the gaping flaw in this form of argument. What I want to discuss is the way atheism and theism should be properly related to religion and ideology and why it is incorrect to set up atheism as the counter-position to religion.

Atheism, at its most inclusive, describes anyone who has no belief in gods. From even this basic understanding, it is remarkably difficult to see how atheism could be expected to produce any action from an individual atheist. There is no causal line from the absence of a single belief to any other belief or action, be it good or bad. Even explicit atheism (the denial of gods) does not imply any further belief or action. If we say this for atheism, in order to be consistent, we must also say this for theism. Theism (the belief in gods), as a single belief, does not entail any other beliefs or actions by the individual theist. A theist may believe in the philosopher’s god, a non-interventionist god, Allah, the trinity, or a whole pantheon of pagan gods. But even these basic beliefs about the nature of gods are additional to the initial claim of theism, not derived from it. Taking the example of the Thirty Years war, the Pope would have us blame theism for the conflict. However, given both sides of the conflict were theists this conclusion makes little sense. The true dividing factor was the different religions, Catholicism and Protestantism, which each side maintained. My contention is that while atheism and theism are blameless in the great atrocities of history, ideology and religion should be held to account.

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Multiple Conversions – The quest for Sanity and Security.

TheTruePooka
TheTruePooka
Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:26 am by TheTruePooka

The saga that is TheWoodsOfJordan on YouTube has come to a temporary lull with his announced conversion and temporary leave of absence from said site.

He has been a controversial character since he first came onto the YT scene.

Originally preaching a message generated by an internal Christ that was clearly representative of his internal demons he was ridiculed and loathed by many.

Recently he announced his deconversion from Christianity to Atheism. Just the other day he posted a video.

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PSA: Changes to the Show

AndromedasWake
AndromedasWake
Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:36 pm by AndromedasWake

Over the last few weeks there has been an ongoing discussion about the future of the League of Reason Show. Since its inception, the Show has been a popular project, but a growing number of problems both technical and communicational have lead to a radical restructuring of its format. What has up until the present time been known as the League of Reason Show may continue under a different name at the organisation of dprjones.

From the outset I had hoped to steer the Show in a ‘community input’ direction, specifically by taking panelists from the community itself. Due to the nature of the general topic (science/creationism) and the format (specific questions addressed by a panel of scientists) it became difficult make alterations without cutting out critical contributors to the effect of a static panel become more or less permanently established. Whilst the results were good, League of Reason is a community built and maintained by a large number of contributors, and the Show is intended to reflect that as a community project.

Starting Sunday 12th, the League of Reason Show will be moving to a fixed discussion format in which I will be hosting with a panel of three others. Every two weeks, the panel will be different, and the entire episode will be posted to YouTube with an iTunes enabled podcast to follow in the near future.

CosmicSpork has also put together a nice, light Show Site which can be accessed at any time by clicking the rather beautiful little countdown on the top-left corner of the blog and forums. This page contains information about the next broadcast and an embedded chat room specifically designated for discussing the Show. You can now watch and chat with the community without having to leave the site!

Tomorrow’s topic — Don’t be a Dick? — focusses on the suggestions made by Phil Plait at his TAM 8 address. The panel includes familiar LoR Bloggers, Th1sWasATriumph and RabbitPirate, as well as ZOMGitsCriss. We hope to see you there!

Read books, don’t burn them

rabbitpirate
rabbitpirate
Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:41 pm by rabbitpirate

At this moment it is unclear if the proposed Burn a Koran Day will go ahead or not and I for one really hope it doesn’t. For those of you who have not heard about this the idea was dreamed up by Reverend Terry Jones, a Florida based pastor, as a protest against Islam and a memorial for those who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001, though obviously not for the Muslim victims. On the Facebook page for this event Reverend Jones has stated the following:

 

“On September 11th, 2010, from 6pm – 9pm, we will burn the Koran on the property of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!”

 

As I write this the latest on this story seems to be that, after stating earlier that the event would be cancelled, Reverend Jones plans to “rethink” the idea after local Muslim leader Imam Muhammad Musri denied that any deal had been struck to move the proposed Park51 community centre away, sorry make that further away, from the Ground Zero site. Jones has stated that on Saturday, the day planned for the Koran burning, he will be travelling to New York to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf about the proposed location of the centre. However it is unclear if the actual book burning part of his plan is back on or not.

 

Either way the reason I mention this is in order to draw attention to what I think is by far the best response to this proposed event that I have come across so far. International Read a Book Day. I love this idea, not just because I love reading anyway but because I feel it is exactly the sort of approach that should be taken against something stupid like Burn a Koran Day. It is a reasoned, measured reaction that clearly gets the point across, shows solidarity and respect for people who may believe differently than we do and promotes something constructive. What’s more is that the people behind this are Christians. Yup for once we see moderate Christians standing up against the more fundamental members of their religion. Here’s what Facebook page has to say on the matter:

 

“In July of this year, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida announced September 11 this year would be “Burn a Koran Day.” We believe that the burning of a Koran, or any other book, while it may be within the rights of free speech, is a tasteless and disturbing gesture that only communicates contempt and ignorance. Instead, we invite the international community to celebrate “Read a Book Day.” Burning books has never made a society better, but reading them has.”

 

So this September 11th I will be sitting down to read a book and remembering all those who died on that terrible day nine years ago. Will you join me?

Why Skepticism is important

rabbitpirate
rabbitpirate
Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:38 pm by rabbitpirate

So you have probably heard this story already, or if not other stories like it. In Kenya officials are trying to stem a growing panic caused by a rumour that ghostly red numbers are appearing on mobile phones and killing people. Many people in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have been forwarding this story on to their friends and families via text messages, warning them not to receive calls which will appear in red, resulting in the hysteria spreading to other major towns in the country. These messages read:

“Please don’t attend to any calls from 7888308001, 9316048121, 9876266211, 9888854137 and 9876715587, these numbers come in red colour…you may get brain haemorrhage due to high frequency”

 

Now this may sound crazy but it is still more believable than the version of this urban legend that popped up in Pakistan in 2007. Here it was claimed that listening to phone calls coming from red numbers would result in men becoming impotent and, get this, woman falling pregnant. Now I am no expert on reproduction but even with my limited knowledge I am pretty sure that’s not how things works. Meanwhile back in Kenya the Communication Commission have been investigating these claims and have put out the statement below, which prompted me to comment on this in the first place.

“Upon analysis of the messages, the Commission has established the warnings are a hoax generated by unscrupulous people bent on causing fear and despondency among members of the public. The listed numbers are non-existent as mobile, fixed or international calls,’

 

Maybe it is just my years as a battle hardened skeptic but I required no further analysis than reading the title of the article to know that this story was complete horse hockey. I think this just goes to show why skepticism and critical thinking skills are so important. In a world where everyone had a basic understanding of how to apply skeptical thinking to their daily lives things like this would simply never gain traction. This sort of thing, as well as a lot of email driven hoaxes, rely on the credulousness of the people receiving the messages in order to propagate. With something like this I don’t even think you need to have an understanding of the technology used by mobile phones to see that it is bunkum. It just requires taking a few seconds to see if it passes the sniff test.

 

But maybe my strong reaction to this story come not from the fact that I find it so amazing that people would fall for this, as reality tells us that there are a lot of credulous people out there, but rather because, to my mind at least, it represents something of a failure on our part. I know that we have to choose our battles and that there are a lot more pressing subjects that need our attention. But really things like this always leave me feeling somewhat depressed. Just as I think we are making progress a story like this reminds me just how far we have to go in getting the world to think skeptically.

On Thunderf00t, Park51 and the elusive point

AndromedasWake
AndromedasWake
Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:02 pm by AndromedasWake

This poor old blog; it just hasn’t seen much action lately. I myself have several unfinished posts in the edit bin which need attention. Hopefully the problem will atrophy as the blogging team expands before the year is out.

In the mean time, I have been blessed with a topic that’s perfect for a blog post; too big for a rant on Facebook, and too opinionated and irrelevant for a YouTube video. That topic is of course Thunderf00t’s videos about Park51. I will also be focussing on my role as a subscriber and commenter, as I have apparently become central to a debate about miscommunication.

Before getting started, I should note that I see Park51 as a complete non-issue blown up out of all proportion for the sake of sensationalism. Many of my favourite commentators on religious and rights issues have left me disappointed with the use of “they have the right but…” arguments, where what follows the “but” has been universally superfluous or just plain incorrect. False attribution, red herrings and appeals to emotion are popping up all over the place and making a mockery of the actual debate.

But of course, we all think in chorus, this is the Internet!

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