Creationist math and accounting

It took me a moment to figure out what the heck Answers in Genesis was banging on about. In this bizarre article, AiG says the Galileo wondered why pumps could only move water upwards about 32 feet in 1630, meanders through random technological innovations, and ends up with Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone, and then they do some higher math and figure out that 1875 – 1630 = 245 years.

Are you as baffled as I am yet?

Then they say that in their imaginary Biblical chronology, there was 1600 years between Adam and Eve and the Flood. 1600 > 245, therefore the Ark is plausible.

Riiiiiight.

Well, gosh, I think 1600 is a lot bigger than 245. If 245 years was enough to inevitably lead from mining pumps to electromagnetism and world-wide communications, then I think 1600 years was enough to go from fruit-picking to starships, therefore we ought to look for the wreckage of Noah’s Ark on the largest mountain of any habitable planet in orbit around Alpha Centauri. That makes about as much sense to me.

Hey, also, if I found a quarter on the sidewalk this afternoon, two years is more than enough time for a dynamic, brilliant organization like AiG to raise $25 million to build their fake boat. So how come their fundraising is stalled out at $5 million, and they’ve had to delay and delay and delay their groundbreaking?

(Also on Sb)

Is Seattle’s KOMO news sympathizing with creationists now?

Or maybe it’s just guilty of bad journalism. Look at this story they ran: it’s about a creationist who claims that Arizona sandstones are proof of Noah’s flood. It’s a remarkable piece of crap. The creationist, Greg Morgan, is a nuclear safety engineer, not a geologist, and his argument consists entirely of pointing at some swirly sandstone formations and saying they look flowy, like they’d been formed in water. That’s it. It got published in Answers in Genesis magazine, though!

They gave this nonsense 35 paragraphs. The surprising thing is that nowhere in it did they consult an actual geologist — I guess “he said she said” journalism only applies when you’re talking about science. If it’s creationism, just “he said” is enough. The journalist, John Trumbo, did make the effort to call Andrew Snelling in Kentucky to get a second creationist’s opinion, but could not trouble himself to call the UW or WSU to find out what the opinion of a real geologist might be.

I’m not a geologist, not even close, but I’ve traveled through Utah and Northern Arizona and have seen a lot of these spectacular formations, and even I know the answer: these were formed by aeolian processes, built up and carved away by the wind. I can even lift my fingers and consult the BLM via Google and get a fairly thorough explanation.

The Jurassic Navajo Sandstone is 1200 feet thick in Paria Canyon and is the most prominent formation. It is composed of crossbedded eolian sandstone deposited over millions of years as huge sand dunes migrated across a large desert broken only by an occasional oasis. Where the Paria River and Buckskin Gulch have cut through the Navajo Sandstone, slot canyons have formed. The Navajo Sandstone is very resistant in this desert environment and forms sheer cliffs and conical hoodoos.

John Trumbo did not make the slightest effort to evaluate the bullshit Greg Morgan is spouting, or if he did, he ignored it. John Trumbo is an incompetent journalist. John Trumbo is a creationist. Why is KOMO news supporting him? They did issue a statement on their facebook page.

Folks, please note that we shared this story on our Facebook page because it is currently one of the most popular stories on our website. We are not promoting any agenda, including “young-earth creationism.” Thank you.

No, they are promoting creationism. They published a completely credulous story with no fact-checking at all that parrots a totally bogus explanation of a well-understood geological phenomenon.

That’s promoting a young earth creationist agenda.

Hey, KOMO. How about issuing a correction and consulting a competent geologist to get some goddamned truth in your news?

(Also on Sb)

Andrew Wakefield lashes out

Poor Andy. Once upon a time, he had the power to kill children just by doing some very bad science and writing a few very bad papers, and now he’s reduced to living in Texas and being supported by mobs of New Age cranks. He’s powerless and bored, but his ego is still being inflated by sycophants…so what does he do? He decides to sue the British Medical Journal and journalist Brian Deer for defamation.

He has no medical career left. His entire life is now tied to his anti-vaccine crusade, and he’s got nothing to contribute, other than his status as a martyr to the cause, so what he’s done now is crawled up on a cross and is asking for more nails to be hammered in. He knows he can’t lose in the grand scheme of things; if he wins the court case (which won’t happen), he’s a hero; if he loses (the inevitable result), he’s a victim of the evil forces of Big Pharma, and his defeat proves that the bad guys are out to get him, so he must be right.

Orac explains why he’s going to lose the court case.

I find it very amusing that Dr. Wakefield claims his “professional reputation” was damaged by Deer’s most recent article The reason, of course, is that Dr. Wakefield’s reputation was destroyed by his having done and publicized his bad science, by his having intentionally consorted with the antivaccine movement and continued (in my opinion) to crank out bad science in the service of smearing the MMR with the claim that it causes autism. Wakefield destroyed his own reputation by doing fraudulent science. That happened years before Brian Deer ever wrote that BMJ article a year ago. Wakefield had already been found guilty by the General Medical Council of “serious professional misconduct,” which included acting in ways not in the clinical interests of disabled children. Shortly after that, he was struck off the medical register, and fired from Thoughtful House. All of this happened many months before Brian Deer wrote his article.

To but it bluntly, Andrew Wakefield no longer had any professional reputation to be trashed. This will be a major problem for him in any libel action, because one has to prove damage to one’s reputation to be successful in a libel suit.

Just wait, though. When his case is thrown out, he’ll throw himself into the arms of his sympathetic supporters, and they will respond with more affirmations and more money and more status in his movement.

(Also on Sb)

Targets

So a frat boy in Kappa Sigma at USC wrote this long letter to his brothers explaining how to treat women. I won’t quote much of it; if you bother to read it yourself, you’ll wonder about this guy’s sanity. But I thought this bit was interesting.

I will refer to females as “targets”. They aren’t actual people like us men. Consequently, giving them a certain name or distinction is pointless.

How about mother, sister, wife, daughter? Perhaps even that is too impersonal; how about Darlene, Caryn, Tomi, Lisa, Mary, Skatje?

How about friend?

Oh, I was being facetious. People who refer to women as targets don’t have friends.

(via that guy whose name I’ve just learned is pronounced “tee-bow”)

I’m sure they are a very spiritual couple

Kristy Bamu and his two sisters were visiting their older sister, Magalie Bamu, and her partner, Eric Bikubi, over Christmas in London. Initially, it was apparently a jolly time…and then Eric got it into his head that his three visitors were witches.

The court was told that over a period of days the pair, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, attempted to exorcise evil spirits they believed were in three of the children – Kristy, his sister Kelly, 20, and their 11-year-old sister, who cannot be named. Bikubi refused "to let them eat, drink or sleep for days, while the punishments became increasingly violent, with [the attackers] using the many implements found in the flat as weapons of torture", Altman said.

During their ordeal the siblings were forced to pray and chant throughout several nights and, in a "staggering act of depravity and cruelty", the defendants recruited sibling against sibling as "vehicles for their violence", said Altman.

Kristy became the focus of Bikubi’s attention, the court heard. He allegedly struck the boy with a hammer in the face, knocking out his teeth; on another occasion he shoved a metal bar into the teenager’s mouth, the court heard.

When Kelly attempted to hit her brother using something light, she was ordered to use a heavier implement. In a desperate attempt to prevent any further suffering, Kristy and his two sisters eventually admitted to being sorcerers, said Altman. "As Kristy’s injuries became ever more severe he even pleaded to be allowed to die," he added.

They gave him his wish and drowned him in the bathtub.

A couple of people believe there is magic in the world and that their delusions are real, and a 15 year old boy ends up tortured to death.

The couple are denying that they committed murder; Eric Bikubi claims “diminished responsibility”, apparently because he’s an evil idiot who believes in spirits.

Real Spiritual Exercises for Atheists

Several years ago, I had a very strange dinner with Paul Nelson, who tried to convince me that my materialist view of biology was totally wrong and was missing all the important stuff. To do that, he performed a little demonstration for me. He flexed his arm at me.

“Look at that,” he said, “My mind is doing that.” He didn’t give me a nice spooky “woOOOoooo”, but he should have — it would have been perfectly appropriate. I don’t think he was on drugs, either.

But I’ve seen this phenomenon many times. Take some woo-inclined individual, put their brain to work on some incompletely understood process, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll come back to you utterly convinced that mundane physical events are ultimately confirming evidence for whatever metaphysical nonsense is poisonously wafting about in their heads. And now we have a wonderful example of this kind of sloppy stupid bullshit right here on freethoughtblogs.

I have no idea why Daniel Fincke is indulging this Eric Steinhart character, but he’s had a number of guest posts lately that are raving mad rationalizations for ‘spirituality’, whatever the hell that is. Here’s an example.

Spiritual exercises typically involve mental preparation for performance through visualization or emotional preparation for performance through arousal regulation. Visualization involves working with mental imagery while arousal regulation involves conscious control of physiological and emotional arousal (it involves neocortical control of the limbic system and autonomic nervous system).

Of course these are real phenomena. Like Paul Nelson bending his arm, you can consciously control many aspects of your mental state (but not all; ask anyone in the throes of depression — you can’t just will yourself out of everything), and there are behaviors and ways of thinking that you can do to shift the way your brain is working.

But that paragraph above is a perfect example of bullshitting to justify crap. Notice the scientific justification of “neocortical control of the limbic system and autonomic nervous system” — sure, that’s the core of your brain that is involved in arousal, and we know that from scientific experiments and observations. But look what he does: he calls these spiritual exercises.

They are not. They are physiological exercises. They do not manipulate “spirit”, they change the physical state of the brain. But these glib pseudoscientific quacks just love to borrow the language of science and slap the label of “spiritual” or “Wiccan” or “transcendental meditation” or “Buddhist” onto them. It’s intellectual theft, plain and simple: it’s woo-meisters doing their damnedest to appropriate natural phenomena to their cause. It’s the same thing as when Pat Robertson ascribes a natural disaster to the wrath of a divine being — he’s pointing to reality and claiming it for the kingdom of irrational supernaturalism.

I can do the same thing. Next time you encounter one of these kooks, I want you to stop and contemplate what they are doing. I want you to fan the rage, that is, channel your inner being to stimulate your amygdala. Feel the anger grow. Concentrate on your arm; make it rise. Flex the elbow (Amazing! How are you doing that?) and then…reach out and slap ’em upside the head.

If they complain, just tell them you were practicing your Myersian spiritual exercises. I think I’m going to have to start a whole school teaching these skills, so I can get paid for it.