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Another Edition of “What More Do You Need?”

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Our previous installments have covered the vaccination “controversy” and the “birther conspiracy” (which is sadly making a comeback because of an idiot’s inability to speak in front of crowds), this edition concerns climate change.

I’ve never been a major skeptic of climate change. I’ll admit that up front so that any conservative readers with no patience can feel free to just hit the comment button right now. The science always seemed to be convincing in the sense that it was certainly happening. How that became controversial is kind of hard for me to understand. Numbers don’t lie, but the accusations that the people compiling the numbers were lying was certainly worth inspection but with no evidence pointing to the existence of a worldwide conspiracy of scientists I never really doubted it.

Yes, Al Gore’s movie is full of errors. For instance, he claims that global warming caused Katrina to be a category five hurricane when it hit New Orleans, when in fact Katrina was only a 3. The flooding had nothing to do with Climate change and more about the rampant corruption in New Orleans regarding the maintenance of the flood levies. However the studies shown in Al Gore’s movie wasn’t really up for debate. There was about as much of a debate about Climate change in the global scientific community as there was about evolution, or gravity. Yet the topic for some reason was politicized, with Conservative congress members calling it junk science, Conservative pundits claiming that some sort of conspiracy must exist because as we all know, in the 70s they thought the world was cooling.

The problem for me was that none of these people were scientists. Rush Limbaugh is not someone I would listen to regarding climatology, Glenn Beck isn’t someone I would listen too ever, and I’m not really sure if O’Reilly ever commented on it (I only watch him when he has a guest I’m interested in…though I hear his Lincoln book is good). When an actual scientist raised questions of bias or flat out fraud in the study I was interested.

Professor Richard Muller of Physics at Berkeley University was that scientist. Concerned over the allegations he sought to disprove climate change through a review of the evidence, in part, by conservative super-contributors the Kochs. The Koch brothers being oil billionaires and supporters of the Republican party, were hoping that a scientist with skeptical concerns about climate change would confirm that nothing they were doing was harming the environment. Republicans even invited him to speak to the committee before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology last Spring.

What they were expecting was not what they got. The scientific method is, according to the philosopher Husserl, the greatest development of the Western world. It’s cold, objective, rational, and most of all its conclusions are irrefutable (excepting for human/mechanical error).

You start off with a hypothesis, an idea that can be—and this is important—tested. Develop a test, perform the test, collect the data, build a theory. Stronger theories are those that have been tested and confirmed multiple times (see evolution or gravity). When someone like Professor Muller, a skeptic, comes around with the theory that the data confirming climate change is skewed, biased, or fraudelent; we have an idea of what is hypothesis was: that the Earth isn’t warming as reported.

Yet his data showed otherwise. So in conclusion I must ask to the skeptics of climate change, how is it that a scientist who was previously a skeptic looked at evidence and drew the same conclusion that other groups have in the past? He even concedes in the Wall Street Journal oped piece that the previous science was done as carefully as his group conducted their research. In other words his experiment aligned itself with all of the other experiments previously done on the subject. If this doesn’t settle it, then please tell me what will.

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Categories: current events, expose, science

Is It Too Much To Ask?

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

On some previous occasions I have commented on the “Vaccine Conspiracy.” The idea, most advocated by a playboy bunny and followed by those with a tenuous grasp on reality, that the vaccines we received in childhood (that we all received) were somehow responsible for autism. An idea proposed by former doctor Andrew Wakefield (as he is no longer legally permitted to practice medicine in the UK) in the medical journal Lancet which has since revoked the article with prejudice offering an apology for its publication.

Like all conspiracy theories this one existed because of a vacuum. Unlike most theories, and to this theory’s credit, the vacuum wasn’t made up. The whole JFK Assassination theory rests on the idea that since we don’t know who killed the president it must have been a conspiracy, which is pretty dumb when you consider that we do know who in fact killed him. This theory was based on the idea that since we don’t know what causes autism something must in fact do so. Then it was postulated that it must be vaccinations that children receive since only, what, children get autism? I guess Rainman was lying to me the whole time.

Having already received the sifling blows that involve having your movement led by Jenny McCarthy and the only doctor to have ever gone on record supporting the view not only having that view forcefully retracted but also losing his medical license in his home country there was only one more piece of the puzzle that needed to be annihilated before we could put this one to bed, the cause of Autism.

The most commonly attributed cause of the disease has always been genetic, although that has never been proven. Behind it, has always been environmental factors which are myriad but within that umbrella has been vaccinations. I’m not saying that if you believe that Autism was caused by environmental factors you are some kind of idiot, only if you believed that it was vaccines despite the evidence that it was not…well then you are an idiot (and I actually got a doctor to admit that you are an idiot too).

Now it’s time to begin putting that last piece to bed it seems, and this isn’t new news but now that it has been confirmed by a couple of different sources we can begin to move it beyond the hypothesis stage, that certain genetic mutations look to be responsible for the cause of autism. Children with the condition are possess certain genes that are statistically less prevalent in children without autism. For instance the homozygous 677tt allele showed itself in 23% of children with autism and only 11% of the control group. The 677ct allele showed up in 56% while only showing itself in the significantly lower 41% of the control.

As I said in the beginning, I’m not a geneticist, a pediatrician, or a psychologist. I have not read the DSM IV in its entirety and can only really diagnose certain boo-boos that afflict my daughter. Having read the article I know two things: that there is a likelihood that it is genetics that cause autism which will now be better researched and come to the conclusion that it is the cause or isn’t. Which is much better that the vaccination idea which rests on “I believe” and “I feel” as proof. The second is that Jenny McCarthy, if she was a decent human being, should get ready to begin apologizing to all of those idiots who listened to her and refused to get their kids immunized. Maybe she should even begin paying out for the ones that died.

Categories: expose, science

Bullshit.

May 20, 2010 Leave a comment

There are many things in this world that I don’t understand. Mysteries of the universe and the untold depths of the sea hide things that boogie the mind, so as much as some people may claim I’m closed minded I contend quite the opposite. However, I’m going to make a stand right here and call this man’s claim bullshit.

No water or food for over 70 years? No.

Sure I could just sit back and agree with the medical doctors who state that without replenishing water in the body his blood would literally thicken and his heart would fail trying to pump something the consistency of gravy through it’s veins. I don’t however have to do that, because for some reason the enlightened Prahlad Jani still needs to gargle. For what possible reason does he need to gargle unless it be to take in liquid, no matter how minute that amount could be.

I also enjoy the fact that he is bathing too, it’s almost as if the observers could not conceive of a person urinating in a bath tub either. There’s a lot to work with here, such as the 14 day study. Why not make it a month? If he were to live a month that would be something IRA member Sean McKenna once lasted 53 days without food…of course he lapsed in and out of a coma during that time and also was able to ingest both water and salt but that seems to be the record.

Despite the fact that most people want to believe in the sincerity and innocence of the Eastern Religions there’s is no different than ours. They have as many shysters, con men, and frauds over there as we do over here. His claim of deriving his ability from a goddess at a young age is no different than Marjoe Gortner who was claimed to conduct miracles and inspiration from God at a young age (it turned out to be a fraud, by his own omission). Don’t let the exotic aspect of the Indian subcontinent fool you, this guy will be found out and exposed.

Oil Rig Troopers

May 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m going to make my best effort to nip this one in the bud before it gets too strong. Right now only the fringest of the fringe are taking stock of one of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories I have heard since the little-known but widely derided accusations that somehow Bush caused the Tsunami in 2005.

The theory regards the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and the explosion of the rig that caused it. Before I even begin with the theory let me preface with the admiration I have for the creativity of the theory itself. During the Bush presidency the theories were pretty lame only positing such things as weather machines (or Earthquake machines depending on who you ask). I remember the numerous theories surrounding the Clinton Administration, although I will grant that the internet was pretty new then so that may have had something to do with the novelty of being able to post anything anonymously.

Anyway, the theory has taken a couple of odd turns, so I am going to concentrate on the best one but will add “/” when the others intersect. It’s a good example of how these theories run, no evidence, a plethora of hypotheticals, and circular citation. My primary source (number one on a google search) does several things which are endemic to the conspiracy theory, alone with the prior examples the author sets up a series of hypotheticals and then concludes that there was a cover up as if this exercise in meta-logic actually discharged their assumptions (something that is infuriatingly difficult in advanced logic).

The theory is that North Korean submarines* torpedoed the rig in a deliberate act of sabotage/war. There is also a theory that they accidentally destroyed the rig attempting to destroy a South Korean sub in the area.

Then the President of the United States ordered a press blackout and deployed SWAT Teams to the area. Although the latter has yet to have an explanation as to his intent in doing so. The former makes no sense for why the United State’s president would cover up an action by a foreign government for whom there is an established record of enmity. I guess the president has expressed interest in opening talks with our enemies but that is this blogger being quite generous to the crackpots.

For which my generosity is completely undeserved since there was no press blackout. Again, Google as my tool, my first page is covered with reports immediately following the event and all from major news sources ranging to the left’s MSNBC and to the right’s Fox News. Everyone covered this story. The fact that no reporters were on the scene is largely due to the fact that scene did not exist anymore. This does not indicate a press blackout.

An interesting fact is that my primary source article claims that a television station, WRAL in Raleigh is reporting the Russian report of the North Korean Sub. If you check their source though, you will find that it is not a report from the station, but a report posted on the website as a blog that they host. Every news station does this and it is free and open for anyone to do so, to claim that the station itself is doing this is deceitful.

My source seems to link to the Rush Limbaugh show for most of the information. This is bad for two reasons: first off all of the links do not point to Rush but rather to callers to his show. This is hearsay at its worst because the writer is using a personality that is widely respected by some circles but not using his words, just what reads like him placating a caller. Rush consistently mitigates the callers. Secondly, even if Rush had said the words he doesn’t report the news, he offers commentary on the news. If Chris Matthews, Bill O’Reilly, or Keith Olberman, etc were used it is always important to remember they are pundits not reporters. I don’t agree with the pundits on Fox news but I do like their reporters (see the difference).

Other theories regarding the tragedy seem to involve Environmentalists purposely sabotaging the rig in order to protest off shore drilling or the evil oil companies (this theory is actually propagated by Rush himself). This is more plausible (though still not likely) but if a radical environmental group (like the Earth Liberation Front**) with an agenda committed the act it serves them no purpose if they do not claim responsibility for it.

We must resort to the Razor of Okham for the truth. What is more likely, any of the above theories or that an oil rig pumping a volatile substance from sea floor exploded?

___________________
*Internet research from globalsecurity.org appears to indicate that the only submarines that North Korea’s Navy possesses (the Whiskey and Romeo classes) are both diesel operated. This means that while they possess the stealth capability to enter into the Gulf of Mexico undetected it also means that they don’t have the range to do so. They would either have to enter through the Panama Canal, in which they would surely be located, or take the long way around the tip of South America much too far for a non-nuclear Submarine.

**About five years ago they torched a lumber yard to protest the rape of the Earth, which is nice that they can be so contradictory.

Categories: current events, expose

Voodoo Histories

April 13, 2010 Leave a comment

David Aaronovitch has written the book on conspiracy theories that I would have liked to have written. It is a history of conspiracy theories dating back to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and covers the current “birther” conspiracy theories that once garnered a good deal of press during the 2008 Presidential election and the subsequent year. While primarily involved with debunking the various conspiracy theories the overall aim in the book is to explain why people believe in such theories and how they share similar historical circumstances in their inception.

I begrudgingly have admitted in previous entries that I was once very much into the theories, a neophyte believer that thought them to be true, even if I could not establish a motive for most of the theories involved beyond the obvious. I didn’t put the theories together myself but had the smugness of “being in the know” that theorists derisively use to look down on those that accepted the official versions of events despite the alleged improbability of that version. This book serves to wonder at why, despite the mountains of evidence that support the official versions, otherwise intelligent people buy into theories that are supported by nothing more than coincidental events, references to anonymous sources that can never be objectively verified, or appeals to false authorities.

The thesis of the book is thus: “The belief in conspiracy theories is, I hope to show, harmful in itself. It distorts our view of history and therefore of the present, and–if widespread enough–leads to disastrous decisions.”

It’s a lofty goal to prove what might otherwise be considered a harmless foray into alternative theories thus making the label of “disastrous decisions” something non-believers in the theories would have to prove. How can the idea of an alternative history, an invisible guiding hand pulling the strings of history be so dangerous. Aaronovitch proffers to examples of conspiracy theories that did such.

The first is the very first theory that he tackles, that concerning the forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” This book, a plagiarism of a 19th century satire on the French reign of Napolean III called “Conversations in hell between Machiavelli and Rousseau” served to ignite a widespread anti-semitic sentiment in the Western World. It was used by the Russian Empire to blame the Jews (who else?) on the loss during the Russo-Japanese war. It was also used to garner support against Russian Socialists prior to the fall of the Tsars, again during the rise of Nazism who used it to blame the Jews for the treatment of Germany after WWI, legitimized the Nazis action towards them, was published in American newspapers by Henry Ford, and is currently disseminated in the Middle East by Hezbollah. The book is so obviously a forgery that when it is put next to the original French book great tracts of it appear identical.

The next is the Red Scare, the belief that Communists had infiltrated every aspect of American society. This one has a curious beginning mutating from a distrust of the federal government and an attack on FDR by political opponents who believed him to be responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor (or at the very least allowed to happen in order to involve the US in WWII). Suspicions that still get tossed around today only corrupted and mocked into the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.

In both cases the theories did more than just give the believers an undeserved sense of entitlement. They changed history, and not for the better. Reading Ann Coulter’s book, “Treason,” I was struck by the belief of the House Un-American Committee’s belief at how endemic the Communist infiltration actually was, and this was from a writer who supported both its and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s actions in countering the alleged insurgency.

What Aaronovitch does is bring to light just what depth the beliefs are willing to go in order to show the veracity of their claims. How many pluralities need to be present while still maintaining that such a conspiracy would allow its exposers to live. Isn’t this proof that the conspiracy doesn’t exist? If FDR really caused Pearl Harbor why then would he not stage an attack by Japanese soldiers to kill those accusing him of tyranny?

The book interestingly points out that the genesis of most of the theories come from the opposition to the ruling parties, who are then accused of being susceptible to the invisible hand or, at the very worst, are the arm attached to it. The conspiracies that surrounded Bill Clinton were generated from Right, those around Bush came from the left, and to bring it full circle the current ones around Obama again come from the right. What is most curious about the ones concerning Clinton: the New World Order, UN takeover of the United States, all used the phrase “New World Order” from President George H. Bush’s State of the Union address but are almost never applied to him (there are theories involving him though, especially considering his prior roll in the CIA).

The only thing I feel that the book is lacking is the ultimate motive that theorists postulate is behind the conspiracy. Aaronovitch probably lacks this because it is almost impossible to find a consistent story among them. The only motivation they bring to light is in answering the quesion “Cue bono?” who benefits, as if the only motivation that people have is financial. The theorists ignore other possible motivations and see money or power as the only motivator in such actions as faking the moon landing or assassinating a president.

He wonders at the type of person that believes in these conspiracies and he internet is given no small part in responsibility to the new crop of theories which reign in people that are otherwise thought to be beyond such trifling matters. It isn’t like Dr. David Griffin is the stereotypical believer, instead a theology PhD should be applying critical thinking and reasoning but instead he becomes the spokesman for the 9/11 theories which adds more credence than anyone could bring to the so-called movement. Conspiracies used to be the domain of the Fox Mulders of the world. Eccentric loners staying up searching for imagined strings connecting unrelated events but now things have changed as internet pages and writers are given the same credibility as researchers. The internet makes it interesting because the theorists can now engage in a “circle of citation” where page A cites page B which cites page C which, in turn, cites page A. The more footnotes that are involved can convince the average person that the research is legitimate.

His conclusion is that people want to believe the theories and thus look for evidence confirming their desire. This is because a coherent story is much easier to accept than a random sequence of events. Psychologists have proven that a causal chain is easier to digest when it involves a tragedy than to say that fortune is the sole mover. For instance it’s more comforting to believe that “the whole commission, from Chief Justice Warren down, and its whole staff, and the vast network of police, the FBI and CIA and the Secret Service…” than to believe one man with a rifle killed the President of the United States.

That’s one reason, yet the other is much more selfish. We are given a famous quote by Oscar Wilde, “That the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” perhaps the conspiracy theorists are involved so much because they need their lives to have meaning or to have some particular importance that otherwise does not exist. If they can at least illuminate something, anything, than to face the truth that our lives are probably only important to ourselves they satisfy an internal desire which can explain the zealotry with which they hold on the theories themselves.

Categories: book reviews, expose

The Conspiracy Trial

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m currently finishing the book “Voodoo Histories” which is an incredible well written debunking of modern conspiracy theories and more importantly, why people believe in them. One theory, which was quite popular a couple of years ago, has actually been to trial and presents a unique case of pushing the theorists into a corner.

Some background first, early in the millenium there was a writer named Dan Brown. He specialized in writing espionage/sci-fi thrillers but become a household name when he wrote a book called “The Da Vinci Code.” The book centered around a “Symbologist” (which he made up) who decoded a series of clues that led to a vast conspiracy concerning the bloodline of Jesus Christ, the Merovingian line of French Kings, and a shadowy organization called “The Priory of Sion” which included such historical figures as Sir Isaac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci.

The book was a sequel to “Angels and Demons,” which concerned the symbologist Robert Langdon as he deciphered a series of clues hidden in the work of the artist Bernini and uncovered a plot by the long dead Illuminati to destroy the Vatican. Brown’s wife, an art historian, pointed him in the direction of the strange history of the Catholic church and more importantly to a book called “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” in which the conspiracy of the alleged bloodline of Jesus is claimed.

Authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln; claimed that Brown had plagiarized the ideas of their book without attribution in order to write “The Da Vinci Code.” The timing of the suit was always suspicious, as it wasn’t until a movie based on the novel was being shot that it was first considered. One of the most popular novels in recent history being turned into a movie would definitely be a nice cash cow in the royalty department. As it turns out the movie didn’t do as well as most people thought, and the authors of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” lost the suit and were forced to pay the legal fees of Brown.

Here’s where my interest perks up. By now, most people understand that I do not buy into conspiracy theories. They are fun to read, it would be great if there were some shadowy organization protecting the blood line of the founder of the Christian religion, but this is not the case. What the lawsuit does though is present a conflict for the authors in suing Brown.

Since Leigh and Baigent place their book in the category of “non-fiction” it cannot be plagiarized unless Brown had copied large sections of the book into his novel word for word. The truth cannot be copyrighted, and while I do not believe that Leigh and Baigent have written a historical book they certainly do as well as the publishers of the book. The authors can only copyright (and subsequently sue for plagiarism) if the general ideas of the book are presented as fiction.

For them to push a lawsuit means that they are legally admitting their book is a work of fiction in order to win. Or else they have to withdraw the suit in order to maintain their theory as legitimate. Since they lost I suppose they can still maintain the truth of their theory. I would like to see if other theories can be pushed into the court room like this in order to get people to admit that they are works of fiction (as the genesis of “Loose Change” clearly was) but it’s doubtful that it will be the case.

Categories: daily observations, expose

Early Thoughts on Cicero’s Nature of the Gods.

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

“It is conceivable that, if reverence for the gods is removed, trust and the social bond between men and the uniquely preeminent virtue of justice will disappear.”—Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 1.4

Roman Philosopher/Senator/Auger Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote the above words in 45 b.c. and the argument that he is making in the preface to his work on religion still has traction over 2000 years later. It remains an argument that is used not to provide proof of the truth of religion but proof of religion’s need. The importance of that difference cannot be overestimated as theists who make the argument often times miss it.

The argument simply put is that if religion were abolished in the minds and hearts of people that those people would retract to a state of anarchical hedonism much like the state of nature posited by English Philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’ argument had nothing to do with religion per se, as he was talking about the need for the law or for government, in which he said that without the sword of the sovereign there would be no impetus to not behave. The question then remains, would the abolition of religion have the same effect?

For those people making the argument the question that I ask is whether they are only being moral because of the threat of divine punishment? If that is the case then it is not for the benefit of others that they are refraining from murder/theft/rape it is for the benefit of themselves. They are playing a long game looking to hedge their own desires for the promise of after-life reward (or at the very least the lack of after-life punishment). Which also means that the smug disposition of those same theists toward their atheist counterparts is false because they aren’t morally better and I would contend that they may even be morally worse if that is their sole motivation in being good.

Take this hypothetical example*: I’m walking down the street and I see someone that I deem to be my enemy. This enemy does not see me and the street is utterly abandoned. I have the opportunity to rid my life of this person without any civil repercussions. Now there are three possible choices: the first is that I do it and then live with it.

That one is easy. However if I don’t do it my motive for not doing it then comes into question. If I don’t do it because I know that I will have to answer for it to whatever religious Absolute that I believe in that is one motivation. The other is that I don’t do it because I feel that killing another person is intrinsically wrong without the threat of the divine. Which motivation seems better morally?

Some may be resistant to answer that the second motivation in not killing is the better one, but I can argue against this by asking another question: who is the better person someone who gives to charity because they feel that it’s right or someone that gives to charity because they know that they can get a tax right off for it? That question seems rather obvious: the first person.

The first person is doing something for the value in just doing it, while the second person needs some other motivation. There is nothing wrong however with accepting other reward but as Philosopher Immanuel Kant would comment, it is in the motivation to action that matters most not the end result. Kant, oddly enough, was deeply religious using morals to prove the existence of the divine even though his moral system has nothing to do with it.

This isn’t to say that theists are ethically worse than atheists there can be many examples on both sides of the fence to prove one or the other. I’m only saying that theists aren’t morally superior just on the fact that they are religious.

Ultimately this particular argument by Cicero is faulty for two primary reasons, one of which is specious. The non-specious argument has already been stated, it does nothing to prove the validity of any particular religion only that religion is necessary to maintain the social order. Machiavelli later comments that the Romans used their fear of the gods for civic reasons because the Romans feared divine retribution more than they feared legal retribution, which is saying something given the rather creative punishments the Roman legal system could met out.

The specious fault, because I can’t prove this yet, is that Cicero’s point of view may be in part based on the fact that as he was writing this book he was an Auger of Rome. He determined the will of the gods based on various signs in nature, and that without establishing some Philosophical proof that there was a need for religion he might be out of a job.

*Here is the rule of hypothetical examples: in answering the question a person CANNOT go outside of the example. So when I say “without any civil repercussions” I mean that by murdering the person I will never be punished for it by a legal system ever.

Categories: expose, philosophy, religion