Monday, December 31, 2012

Science and Atheism

Fine, but should they?
There seems to be a deep link between science and atheism.

For example the mission statement of The Richard Dawkins Foundation states: Our mission is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering. (Of course, this means overcoming intolerance of good people. Bad people, for example someone like myself who gives his children a religious education should not be tolerated. Obviously.)

However how solid is science?

Here are 5 retracted science studies from 2012:

Korean scientist Hyung-In Moon took the concept of scientific peer review to a whole new level by reviewing his own papers under various fake names.

Computers and Mathematics with Applications published a one-page article entitled "A computer application in mathematics" by the perhaps fictitious M. Sivasubramanian and S. Kalimuthu. It was actually a spoof, unnoticed by the journal's editors.

The Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel has pondered some deep questions. His research has found that, paradoxically: failure sometimes feels better than success; beauty ads make women feel ugly; power increases infidelity among men and women; and comparing yourself to others might help you persevere with studying or dieting but ultimately won't make you happier. The only problem is that his research appears to be either mostly or completely fabricated.

In 2008, scientists published a paper in the International Journal of Andrology stating that cellphones in standby mode lowered the sperm count and caused other adverse changes in the testicles of rabbits. In March 2012, the authors retracted the paper. It seems the lead author didn't get permission from his two co-authors and, according to the retraction notice, there was a "lack of evidence to justify the accuracy of the data presented in the article." The lead author lifted data and figures from his two previously published papers that doom rabbits and their sperm. But alas, one of those papers also was retracted this year and the other soon will be.

In early October Hisashi Moriguchi, a visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo, claimed at a New York Stem Cell Foundation meeting to have advanced this technology to cure a person with terminal heart failure. However, two institutions listed as collaborating on Moriguchi's related papers — Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital — denied that any of Moriguchi's procedures took place there. By Oct. 19, the University of Tokyo fired Moriguchi for scientific dishonesty even as the investigation was just getting underway.

As in any other human endeavor, when it comes to science, "Trust, but verify".

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shermer's Fallacy

I'm skeptical of skeptics

In the August, 2006 issue of Scientific American magazine page 34 Michael Shermer’s “Skeptic” column is devoted to the topic of “Folk Science”, which seems to mean any beliefs not based on scientific experiments.

One example of folk science is prayer. Shermer cites a study published in the April, 2006 American Heart Journal. In this study, about 1,000 heart surgery patients were prayed for by members of several religious congregations and were found to have no better outcome than other heart surgery patients. According to Shermer this proves conclusively that prayer for sick people does not help them.

The weakness of this conclusion is appalling.

Obviously, prayer involves communicating with an intelligent being who has free will. Therefore the person offering the prayer, the manner of its offering, the subject of the prayer and other circumstances may be crucial. It is not as simple a process as administering a drug to heart surgery patients. Prayer is not a medication; it involves creating a relationship.

To give an analogy, let’s say I want to do an experiment to discover whether or not writing letters to the President of the United States has any affect. One thousand people will write to the President asking that their federal income tax be lowered. Then we will check to see if their taxes drop compared to other people or not. If not, then we can conclude scientifically that the President either does not exist or he never reads his mail.

An experiment like that is obviously absurd junk science which no one would take seriously. Therefore one wonders why Dr. Shermer finds the AHJ study to be so compelling and in fact why the editors of Scientific American magazine even published his column. Could there be a need in scientific community to grasp at any straw which seems to disprove monotheism, thereby discrediting the clergy and increasing their own prestige?

Monday, December 17, 2012

How Atheists Kill

A book called Escape from Camp 14 was published earlier this year. The book tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state, North Korea. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence-he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family.

One wonders how atheists are capable of inflicting such incredible cruelty on their fellow men. How can they kill with no guilt?

I suspect that the answer may be, because according to atheists, nothing is really alive in the traditional sense of the word.

Monotheists understand that something is alive because it has a soul. When something dies it "gives up the ghost".

Atheists of course do not believe in a soul and therefore have trouble defining life. Murder simply means changing a bag of chemicals, known as a human being, from one state to another somewhat different state. Nothing fundamental or terrible has happened. It's like unplugging an appliance. The bag of chemicals is still there, it has just stopped moving and eating.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Justice or Witch-hunting?

rapist - or not?
This week a Hasidic man was convicted of having sex with an underaged girl.

What is interesting to me is that this type of trial, regarding underage sex, seems to be unique in the American legal system. I cannot think of another case where a person could be tried and convicted based solely on the testimony of one witness, with no other evidence that any crime even occured.

Let's say for example a young man would come to the police and tell them that eight years ago when he was 12 his next door neighbor John Doe tried to poison him. John gave him a bottle of soda and he drank it. After he drank it he fell down feeling extremely ill while John taunted him saying that it was poisoned. The boy was unconscious and vomiting for hours until he gradually over several days recovered. The boy never went to a doctor or called the police or told anyone about what had happened because he was afraid of revenge from John Doe. Now however the young man has gotten older and summoned up the courage to turn John Doe in. John Doe, a well respected middle aged family man with no prior criminal record, denies vehemently that anything like this ever happened.

Would any district attorney prosecute John Doe and would any jury convict him? I really doubt it.

If instead of poison soda, the crime was sex, them seemingly John Doe could very well end up doing many years of hard time. I wonder why that is exactly?

Seemingly the public considers adults having sex with minors to be a very serious threat and therefore Draconian methods must be used to stop it.

On the other hand however apparently any American man who has ever been acquainted with an underage girl, including his own daughter, had better hope and pray that this girl never becomes hostile and vindictive toward him. If she does and if she can tell a very emotional although fictitious story of underage sex with him, he may spend decades in prison while the false accuser is hailed as a courageous heroine.

Does ever generation perhaps feel an emotional need for its own Salem witch trials to somehow exorcise its evil and cleanse the community?