Delusions and holding on to them

I’ll discuss two different types of delusions.

The first one: “If a segment of the population doesn’t agree with me or ridicules me, then I am persecuted.”

Seriously: conservatives genuinely believe that.

Hey, Mr. George Will: I have your “coveted status” right here.

Then there are ideas that go against one’s prior beliefs: MORE INFORMATION WILL, IN GENERAL, NOT CHANGE THE BELIEF. Paul Krugman explains:

On Sunday The Times published an article by the political scientist Brendan Nyhan about a troubling aspect of the current American scene — the stark partisan divide over issues that should be simply factual, like whether the planet is warming or evolution happened. It’s common to attribute such divisions to ignorance, but as Mr. Nyhan points out, the divide is actually worse among those who are seemingly better informed about the issues.

The problem, in other words, isn’t ignorance; it’s wishful thinking. Confronted with a conflict between evidence and what they want to believe for political and/or religious reasons, many people reject the evidence. And knowing more about the issues widens the divide, because the well informed have a clearer view of which evidence they need to reject to sustain their belief system.

The Krugman article I linked to talks about economic beliefs.

Jerry Coyne deals with the science aspect (e. g. evolution); he shows that acceptance of evolution is NOT as strongly correlated with scientific knowledge as one might think; one also has to correct for religious belief.

Though the first two examples are mainly aimed at conservatives, liberals are guilty of this as well; in the liberal case, think of woo-woos, anti-GMO crackpots and anti-vaccine types.

In the liberal case, the fallacy isn’t one of traditional religion but rather “natural is better”.

July 8, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, evolution, religion, science, social/political, superstition | , , | Leave a comment

They are that extreme: Huckabee thinks his deity controls the US

Interesting how Gov. Huckabee uses the word “we” as if people who see things his way is America. It isn’t.

I, for one, do not want to see the United States being bound to 2000 year old ideas of morality, and I find his embracing of such primitive superstitions to be embarrassing.

June 22, 2014 Posted by | huckabee, religion, social/political, superstition | , | Leave a comment

Once again, all over the place: videos, denial, mammograms

Workout notes Treadmill: 6 mile run in 1:02:50. Started off at 11:0x mpm and did 2 minutes each in the following pattern: 0-.5-1-1.5-2 then 10:42 (same pattern) then 10:31 for most of the rest: 0-.5-1-1.5-2-2-1.5-1-.5-0 then 5 minutes each at 2-1.5-1 then I finished the rest at .5, increasing the pace each minute.

Then 2 miles (16 laps of lane 3) of walking in 29:37 (14:23 for the last mile).

What I’ve noticed: while my legs aren’t classically “dead”, it is almost as if someone sucked out my quad muscles with a straw. They are, well, not doing a thing.

Physical Stuff

Since we are talking gym: this “gym stereotype” clip is funny. I am the old man in the locker room; I suppose that comes from the fact that many of us don’t look at others…so what is the fuss? It just doesn’t register any more.

Now for some physical craziness. Yes, the law-and-order person in me wondered if these people had the proper permissions to do this. But, well, the video is rather incredible. Physically, these guys are much of what I am not.

Evidence based medicine and science is hard. We create models and then go with our best educated guess…and sometimes it takes years to gather data. Here is a vast study about mammograms and their effectiveness:

One of the largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done, involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century, has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age.

It found that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not. And the screening had harms: One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

The study, published Tuesday in The British Medical Journal, is one of the few rigorous evaluations of mammograms conducted in the modern era of more effective breast cancer treatments. It randomly assigned Canadian women to have regular mammograms and breast exams by trained nurses or to have breast exams alone.

Researchers sought to determine whether there was any advantage to finding breast cancers when they were too small to feel. The answer is no, the researchers report.

Unfortunately, this study will probably be pillared by those whose lives were saved, so they think, by mammograms. Remember: this is NOT a study about regular breast exams; it is about mammograms which are supposed to catch the cancer at the early stages.

So, someone who had a genuine harmful cancer detected by a mammogram and was saved may have well be saved by a later detection via a conventional exam.

I suggest reading the whole article; much of the data that shows “x out of 1000 were saved by mammograms” came out before the newer drugs came out.

I don’t know what to think because this isn’t my field of expertise. But it is interesting, to say the least. I just hope that science and statistics determines the best policy and not emotion.

Now about statistics and onto politics: remember the morons and their “unskewed Presidential race polls”? Well, these people haven’t learned a thing; they are refusing to believe the current data about the Affordable Care Act.

I suppose that instead of breaking people down by “conservative/liberal”, we should break them down by “convinced by evidence/not convinced by evidence”.

Social Views Did you know that people who won lotteries changed their economic views in the conservative direction? Now there are some caveats in this study (e. g. people who are likely to play a lottery might have a different mentality that those who don’t; and yes, the lottery really is a tax on those who can’t do math). But Paul Krugman has a ton of fun with this finding.

February 14, 2014 Posted by | health, health care, political/social, politics, republicans, republicans politics, running, statistics, superstition, walking | Leave a comment

Now why should I take the Catholic Church’s ideas seriously?

They are doing an exorcism over the passage of gay marriage in Illinois?

With Illinois’ new marriage equality bill set to be signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn next Wednesday, one Illinois bishop is planning to mark the occasion with a ceremony of his own: an exorcism.

Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki announced Thursday he will preside over prayers of “supplication and exorcism” in response to the state’s pending legalization of same-sex marriage, which the bishop said “comes from the devil and should be condemned as such” in a statement reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

In a press release, Paprocki criticized Illinois lawmakers for moving to approve the marriage bill this month. He condemned, in particular, Catholic lawmakers — including House Speaker Mike Madigan — who cited recent statements by Pope Francis as in line with their support of same-sex marriage and said they are “morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin.”

“It is scandalous that so many Catholic politicians are responsible for enabling the passage of this legislation and even twisting the words of the pope to rationalize their actions despite the clear teaching of the church,” Paprocki’s statement continued.

Paprocki’s statements are in line with the response from the Catholic Conference of Illinois to the marriage bill’s passing. The conference said same-sex marriage “undermines an institution that is the cornerstone of a healthy society.”

But hey, they are bringing in, at some expense, a vial of…a dead pope’s blood?

PEORIA — The Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced Tuesday that a relic of John Paul II — a vial of his blood — will come to Peoria next week.
The vial, encased in a gold Book of the Gospels, will be on display for public and private veneration at 7:15 p.m. Monday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, with an accompanying Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky.
“The celebration not only honors the memory of this great man but also prepares our local church to celebrate his future canonization,” said Jenky in a news release.
John Paul II was pope of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005 and will be canonized as a saint by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014. The vial of blood represents the official relic used in advancing the cause for his sainthood.
The Peoria diocese is one of only three in the U.S. that will host the relic, in part because of a group of nuns who work in the diocese — the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts, Mother Adela Galindo, accompanies the relic and chose Peoria along with two dioceses in Florida as destinations.

Oh my; the superstition continues unabated.

November 15, 2013 Posted by | religion, superstition, Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Black Magic: is it mere superstition?

magic goat

Yes, this is a real story:

Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.
Vigilantes seized the black and white goat, saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into an animal to escape after trying to steal a Mazda 323.
‘The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them.

‘However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat,’ Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed said.
‘We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody.
‘We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat,’ he said.
Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.
Residents came to the police station to see the goat, photographed in one national newspaper on its knees next to a pile of straw.

Sheer nonsense, right? Yet hundreds of millions in this so-called advanced country believe that a Jewish guy was born of a virgin, died, and was miraculously raised from the dead and by believing this story, they will get “eternal life”.

Is that any less ridiculous than a magic goat?

August 20, 2013 Posted by | religion, superstition | , , | Leave a comment

Religion: how the United States is (a bit) like a third world country

I’ve covered some of this ground before; for example, I continue to be ashamed of how widely creationism is accepted, especially among some groups of people and in some regions of the country.

Here is another example of this. A video is making the rounds; here a kid is praying for Barack Obama:

Yes, I used to do similar things when I was a kid and a believer. But you should see some of the reaction: you see, according to some, he isn’t praying in the correct way.

If you’ve never practiced a western or an Abrahamic religion: to such people, at least to a large subset of such people, HOW one prays is important. In other words, the wording of one’s “abracadabra” matters; if you, say, add newt’s ears instead of lizard’s noses, you are in big trouble. :-)

Seriously, they object because they view this kid as “praying to Obama” instead of “praying to their deity FOR Obama”. Such things matter to these people! This seems beyond ridiculous to those who were never steeped in such culture and though I was at one time, it seems head scratching now.

To see among the worst of this, check out this prayer that took place prior to a rally for Senator McCain in the 2008 election (note: Sen. McCain had not entered the arena as yet; I was there)

I should point out that, as absurd as all of this seems, it is worse in other countries:

And it all reminds me of this:

August 15, 2013 Posted by | creationism, religion, social/political, superstition | , , , | Leave a comment

Philosophers and GMO LOLZ….one of these is intentional

Jerry Coyne has an interesting post called “philosophy of the gaps”:

I suppose it is “philosophy” when David Albert takes Lawrence Krauss to task for not being explicit about what “nothing” means, but you don’t need a Ph.D. in philosophy to see that. And the bizarre fact of nonlocality was discovered not by philosophers, who as far as I can see had little input into that solution, but by scientists. It’s been explained by philosophers to the public, but scientists who are writers can also do that, and often do a better job since they really understand the nuances. Yes, you can say that scientists engage in philosophy when they interpret what they find, but all scientists who ponder the meaning of their discoveries can be said to practice philosophy. That doesn’t constitute an endorsement of professional academic philosophy. The thing is, the “philosophy” practices of scientists doesn’t require the kind of professional training that philosophers demand when they accuse scientists of being “philosophically naive.” That accusation has always seemed to me a self-serving claim for the importance of one’s bit of turf.

According to Tallis, philosophy will solve difficult problems not only in other areas of physics, but also biology. What areas need philosophical input?

Time. Tallis notes:

The physicist Lee Smolin’s recent book, Time Reborn, links the crisis in physics with its failure to acknowledge the fundamental reality of time. Physics is predisposed to lose time because its mathematical gaze freezes change. Tensed time, the difference between a remembered or regretted past and an anticipated or feared future, is particularly elusive. This worried Einstein: in a famous conversation, he mourned the fact that the present tense, “now”, lay “just outside of the realm of science”.

This is above my pay grade; perhaps writers can enlighten me about how philosophy will help straighten out the mess of time. I’d prefer to hear from Sean Carroll (not a philosopher) on this.

I can feel the “butthurt” right now…philosophers boo-hoo-hooing because, when they venture in to the realm of science, those who know the most about science (scientists) blow them off. :-)

Who knows….maybe mathematicians can come up with, say, “the mathematics of word-salads” by which we can critique the philosophers? :-)

This had me roaring with laughter:

A six-month study by AgriSearch, an on-campus research arm of Dalhousie University, has shown that genetically modified (GM) cucumbers grown under license to Monsanto Inc. result in serious side effects including total groin hair loss and chafing in “sensitive areas”, leading to the immediate and total ban of sales of all that company’s crop and subsequent dill pickles.

The tracking study of 643 men and women in Nova Scotia came about after reports began to surface about bald field mice and the bald feral cats that ate them being discovered by farmers on acreages growing the new crop.

“The bald wild animals raised a huge flag and we immediately obtained subpoenas for the medical records of all 600 plus adults who took part in focus groups and taste tests of the cucumbers by Monsanto in Canada,” said Dr. Nancy Walker, Director of Public Health Research at Dalhousie. “Fully 3/4 of the people who ate these cukes had their crotch area hair fall out. This is not a joking matter at all…these people now have hairless heinies.”

Click the link to read the rest. (and take a gander at some of the other headlines too)

May 27, 2013 Posted by | quackery, science, superstition | , , | Leave a comment

That’s Right: Creationists Really Believe this!

From The Nation (about a year ago) (by Katha Pollitt)

Why does it matter that almost half the country rejects the overwhelming evidence of evolution, with or without the hand of God? After all, Americans are famously ignorant of many things—like where Iran is or when World War II took place—and we are still here. One reason is that rejecting evolution expresses more than an inability to think critically; it relies on a fundamentally paranoid worldview. Think what the world would have to be like for evolution to be false. Almost every scientist on earth would have to be engaged in a fraud so complex and extensive it involved every field from archaeology, paleontology, geology and genetics to biology, chemistry and physics. And yet this massive concatenation of lies and delusion is so full of obvious holes that a pastor with a Bible-college degree or a homeschooling parent with no degree at all can see right through it. A flute discovered in southern Germany is 43,000 years old? Not bloody likely. It’s probably some old bone left over from an ancient barbecue. To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, has installed a holographic exhibit of Lucy, the famous proto-human fossil, showing how she was really just a few-thousand-year-old ape after all.

and in an internet “broadside”:


May 18, 2013 Posted by | creationism, evolution, social/political, superstition | , | Leave a comment

Cranks and woos…


April 30, 2013 Posted by | superstition | , , | Leave a comment

Female Genital Mutilation: what is wrong with these people?

I saw the following photo on Facebook (NSF, graphic). It made me want to vomit.

This is a major problem in parts of Africa, and yes, in parts of the Middle East, according to the World Health Organization.

No, not all Muslim cultures practice this, but many do:

In early 2003, WADI, a German-Austrian NGO focusing on women’s issues,[18] started to work with mobile teams to take medical aid and social support to women in peripheral Kurdish areas such as in the Garmian region of Iraqi Kurdistan. These all-female teams consisting of a physician, a nurse, and a social worker built trust and opened doors in local communities otherwise sealed against outsiders. After more than a year of working in the area, women began to speak about FGM. Kurds in the area practice Sunna circumcision. Midwives often perform the operation with unsterilized instruments or even broken glass and without anesthesia on girls four to twelve years old. The extent of mutilation depends on the experience of the midwife and the luck of the girl. The wound is then treated with ash or mud with the girls then forced to sit in a bucket of iced water. Many Kurdish girls die, and others suffer chronic pain, infection, and infertility. Many say they suffer symptoms consistent with posttraumatic stress disorder syndrome.[19]

Subsequent research found that 907 out of 1,544 women questioned had undergone genital circumcision, a cutting rate of nearly 60 percent.[20] Follow-up research in the Irbil and Kirkuk governorates suggests rates of FGM consistent with those in Garmian. Nearly every woman questioned declared FGM to be a “normal” practice. Most women referred to the practice as both a tradition and a religious obligation. When asked why they subject their daughters to the operation, many women respond “it has always been like that.” Because the clitoris is considered to be “dirty” (haram, the connotation is forbidden by religion), women fear that they cannot find husbands for their daughters if they have not been mutilated; many believe men prefer sex with a mutilated wife. Others stress the religious necessity of FGM even though Islamic law is unclear with regard to FGM. While Western scholars may dismiss the religious roots of the practice, what counts is that many Islamic clerics in northern Iraq advise women to practice FGM. Should a woman consider abandoning the practice, she must be aware that she could appear as disreputable in the public eye.[21] Men usually avoid offering a clear statement about whether FGM is a good practice; rather, they refer to FGM as a female practice in which men should not interfere. None of the men said he had ever discussed the question with his wife.[22]

The reaction of locals to the findings has been instructive. When confronted with the study results, only a few women’s activists in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya expressed surprise although most said they did not realize just how high a proportion of women was affected.[23] While a local researcher and women’s rights activist Ronak Faraj had published a study on female circumcision in Sulaimaniya in 2004,[24] the fact that an international NGO had become aware of the problem bolstered public attention. While many Kurdish authorities were at first reluctant to address the issue for fear that the Kurdish region might appear backward, they now acknowledge the problem and are working to confront it with both an awareness campaign and with legislation.[25] But some members of influential Islamic and Arabic organizations in the diaspora scandalized the findings, accusing WADI of trying to insult Islam and spread anti-Islamic propaganda. Tarafa Baghajati and Omar al-Rawi, both members of the Initiative of Muslim Austrians, called the data part of an “Islamophobic campaign” and declared no FGM exists in Iraq.[26] That Islamic and Arabic organizations in Austria, for example, make such arguments is indicative of the problem affecting FGM data: these groups believe that if there are no such anti-FGM campaigns or studies, then they can bypass an embarrassing problem.


Islamic scholars disagree on FGM: some say no obligatory rules exist while others refer to the mention of female circumcision in the Hadith. According to Sami A. Aldeeb Abu Sahlieh, a Palestinian-Swiss specialist in Islamic law:

The most often mentioned narration reports a debate between Muhammed and Um Habibah (or Um ‘Atiyyah). This woman, known as an exciser of female slaves, was one of a group of women who had immigrated with Muhammed. Having seen her, Muhammad asked her if she kept practicing her profession. She answered affirmatively, adding: “unless it is forbidden, and you order me to stop doing it.” Muhammed replied: “Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.”[38]

Abu Sahlieh further cited Muhammad as saying, “Circumcision is a sunna (tradition) for the men and makruma (honorable deed) for the women.”[39]

While some clerics say circumcision is not obligatory for women, others say it is. “Islam condones the sunna circumcision … What is forbidden in Islam is the pharaonic circumcision,”[40] one religious leader explained. Others, such as the late rector of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Gad al-Haq, said that since the Prophet did not ban female circumcision, it was permissible and, at the very least, could not be banned.[41]

In short, some clerics condemn FGM as an archaic practice, some accept it, and still others believe it to be obligatory. It is the job of clerics to interpret religious literature; it is not the job of FGM researchers and activists. There is a certain tendency to confuse a liberal interpretation of Islam with the reality women face in many predominately Islamic regions. To counter FGM as a practice, it is necessary to accept that Islam is more than just a written text. It is not the book that cuts the clitoris, but its interpretations aid and abet the mutilation.

I see this as a human rights violation, period. Anyone who thinks that this is ok doesn’t belong in the United States.

April 26, 2013 Posted by | morons, religion, superstition | , | Leave a comment


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