Archive for May 2012

Chip off the old block- it’s a miracle!   Leave a comment

My daughter returned from a trip to a fast food outlet with undeniable proof that the Christian God, or at least the earthly version, is real.  Two chips, or fries to use the correct language of the church of Burger King, had been cooked together to give a perfect representation of the cross.  Bugger me if that isn’t the proof I have been waiting for!

Luckily my kid is as skeptical as I and so realises this is just random chance which, given the output of such a fat-filled multi-national will happen several times a day.  Those who consider that this ancient form of capital punishment has some message today might be more willing to embrace this miracle.

Probably the most inane phenomenon among theists (at least after all the other insane ones) is the realisation that their god has expressed themselves in vague random patterns.

This means that any random stain, element of flora or natural image can be seen as proof that a particular mythical being exists.  For Christians this means any approximation of a cross in random images reinforces the position of Jesus as significant in their faith.  Of course pareidolia helps and means faces can be seen in anything.  For Christians this results in any vague appearance of a European face with long hair and a beard becoming a picture of their prophet-god.  This of course rejects the evidence that any Aramaic Jew of the period would not have looked like the nineteenth century image of the Christ.

Pareidolia also accounts for the many purported images of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  She also seems to be a western character most probably in holy orders.  Often she forms a double act with her son.  Her appearance can be revealed by shadows, strange lights or crap left on the bottom of burned frying pans.  God works in very mysterious ways!

For the Muslims there are fewer images of Allah or his top prophet.  Anyone who claimed an image of them might expect a fatwa  as a significant majority of those following Islam think such an image would be blasphemous.  Of course the images of the Islamic prophet Jesus would also be prohibited except he pops up with the toast regularly.

In the Arab world it is more often that the words for Allah and his head-honcho that appear in tomatoes and other domestic comestibles.   Odd that the discovery of miracles mirrors the culture of the faith.

One of the issues is that all these faiths depend on the miraculous happens to forward their beliefs.  The catholic church has an industry that manufactures a culture that depends on simple-minded believers accepting each ridiculous claim as one more example of how powerful their god is.

If there was a god I would expect him to offer a little more proof than piss-stains on walls, flickering lights and bits of food with random patterns.  Like the millions of fried chips each day there are a myriad of other manufactured and natural occurrences that might offer an opportunity for the human brain to use its cognition to make a recognised image from practically nought.

A chip is just a chip, a shadow just a shadow and a god just a concept manufactured by man- a bit like my daughter’s cross.


Tweet Mohammed- tweet for freedom   Leave a comment

Today is the third Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.  It might not surprise many to know I am supporting it.  Not because I want to upset any believers, that comes with the atheist label, but because it exposes the corruption that is fundamental Islam.

Clearly I am anti-faith and see religion at best as irrelevant and at worst as thoroughly malevolent.  Even where good is done by faith-led people it could always be done at least as well independent of religion.  At the other end of the scale you have some religious leaders whose principles are so far removed from social reality that extreme harm can only result.

There are of course some small totally irrational sects. You cannot call them cults as the only difference between a mainstream religion and a cult is the number of followers.  Then there are the large and powerful faiths that have to be condemned as inhuman despite their size. Sunni Islamic movement known as the Salafiyya that dominates Saudi Arabia is one such sect.

This branch of Islam is very conservative and, possibly due to the power of the Saudis, is growing strongly. Because of the uncompromising nature of its tenets it is also closely linked to terrorism and the jihad ofAl-Qaeda.  Osama bin Laden came out of this tradition although like most religious despots he was capable of reinventing the rules for his own purposes.

Aniconism was a tradition in Islam where the depiction of any living person or thing was prohibited.  Such a prohibition is very hard to maintain in the modern world.  The Taliban tried it with the destruction of even valuable historic representations such as the Buddhas of Bamiyan but in the electronic age it has to be impractical.

Modern interpretations of Islam concentrate on outlawing depictions of Allah and his prophets.  However this is not a universal prescription with some arms of that religions allowing respectful depictions of Mohammed and other religious figures.  Clearly this enlightened position has not reached Pakistan which, after previously banning Facebook because of the campaign has now cut off Twitter.  Quite hi-tech for a country that couldn’t find the head of Al-Qaeda living next door to its military academy!

However it is Saudi Arabia that we go back to for this year’s Draw Mohammed Day.  This time it is concentrated not on Facebook but Twitter.  It is the latter social network because that was the medium used by Saudi poet Hamza Kashgari. a poet and reporter who has been very supportive of the Arab Spring.  However it is a series of poetic tweets that have been his undoing.  In February he posted three tweets concerning a fictitious meeting with the Prophet Mohammed:

  • On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

  • On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.

  • On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.

The tweets cause an outcry in the Arab world and with calls for his arrest Kashgari decided to leave Saudi and seek political asylum in New Zealand.  Unfortunately his flight there had a stop-over in Malaysia another Muslim country with close links to Saudi.  There he was detained and with no regard for due process put on a plane back to the country he had left.  He is now imprisoned in Saudi Arabia facing charges of apostasy.

There is every chance that the calls for his execution are politically motivated, because of Hamza Kashgari’s support for activists involved in the Arab Spring.  Certainly there can be little chance of a fair hearing in the Saudi monocratic theocracy.

No religion can tell me what I can and cannot draw.  The superstitious nonsense behind any religion has no place in a modern world.  Even if we tolerate those that seek solace in myths they cannot dictate to rational thinking people.

I don’t know whether Kashgari believes in the God of his culture but to admit doubts, particularly in a creative way cannot be condemned.  I can respect the religious but I cannot respect religions.  Three times 140 characters questioning your personal deity is a healthy thing not a capital crime.

King James Bible- Gove’s folly   Leave a comment

The first of the signed copies of the King James Bible are now arriving in schools.  I am a little puzzled about who signed them!  Was it Yahweh, James I or Michael Gove?

Actually I don’t think the books are actually signed- not in any earthly way at least.  However a few individuals have paid several hundred thousand pounds to send a premium copy of the 400-year-old translation to about 25000 schools.  There is no doubt that this version of the Bible is a classic piece of literature, the prose and language has defined our culture.  So is Shakespeare, Austen and Conan-Doyle.

I am not sure that those supporting the supply of the Bibles appreciate the literary merit of the translation.  Fifty-odd scholars looked at the Greek and Hebrew transcripts of the Old and New Testaments but seemed to have relied on the “politically correct” existing versions.  Had they gone back to basics or looked at different books then the new version might have been theologically interesting.  Rather than addressing the message the KJV clouds it in wonderful language.  I understand that those backing the Bible issue are in the main Christian and those supporting the initiative are people of faith.

So what good does sending a wonderfully bound bible to every school do?  Well this version is out of copyright so I think rather than one big book to each school, each pupil could have had a personal budget copy.  Better still the money could have improved education sooner than reinforcing religious prejudice with an untouchable relic.  Plenty of useful books could have been purchased for the millions spent on this project.  The KJV can be read on a computer if someone needs it as a reference book.  If they need to read it as a moral indicator then it proves education isn’t working.

In my youth the Gideons came into my secondary (high) school and handed out New Testaments.  When I doubted the Christian faith based on history and an awareness of multitheism, I looked at the reference section in my bible.  The suggested verses were cryptic and the links contrived.  That small red bible helped to reinforce the idea that any message from that work was manufactured.

I am all for recognising mine and my country’s culture but to suggest that this sending of Bibles to schools is other than a religious gesture is inane.  Better still let students really appreciate the vile drivel of the “Christian user’s manual” that way we might have many more realists.

Homeopathy- just witchcraft   Leave a comment

Homeopathy is literally nothing, but it is portrayed as a scientific nothing.  Lots of practitioners, pills and potions.  Those pushing homeopathic remedies will cite quantum physics, quote pseudo-scientific numbers (30C or 10−60) and mention medical sounding qualifications.  In reality it is closer to witchcraft than medicine.

The first principle of homeopathy is that like cures like.  Thus if a substance causes an ailment or symptom then that same substance can be used to cure it.  Anyone spot a red-flag here?  More than two centuries ago doctors were considering the theory of opposites to cure disease; this was a flawed theory.  It took a quack a couple of hundred years ago to suggest that like would cure like.  Samuel Hahnemann developed a theory that all disease was caused by coffee but homeopathy was the real whack job!

It has been scientifically tested that a placebos can have a surprisingly positive effect on a patient.  So a white-coated techie handing out sugar pills will get results regardless of whether pure water has been drop on those pills; and believe me that active ingredient is pure water!

I talk of a placebo because the second principle of homeopathy is that diluting the substance makes it more potent.  Liquids are diluted in water or alcohol with dry compounds being ground into lactose before being added to liquid.  The dilution isn’t one part in a hundred or one in a thousand it is one in more parts than you can realistically imagine!

Standard homeopathic remedies are diluted so that not a single molecule of the original substance can statistically remain.  One part in 10−13 (that is 1 with 13 noughts after it) means in reality no trace of the “active ingredient” can remain.  The homeopaths preparing the remedies will explain that the process gives the water, for that is what we are left with, some energy or special properties- no proper scientific trial has supported this.  Here lies witchcraft!

The dilutions go further, those formulating the remedies use a “C scale” where every magnitude is a dilution of one in a hundred.  If you have a C40 dilution is the same strength  as one molecule in the whole Universe.  There are C80 dilutions that mean the equivalent of one molecule in as many universes as there are molecules in this one.  Anyone’s head hurting?  (if you do have a headache take an aspirin as it is perfectly natural product and no one has watered it down!)

One of the most popular remedies is C200 or one in one followed by 400 noughts!  The fact that this “medication” can still have a “memory” of the original compound suggests it will also have a memory of T Rex semen, my saliva and Shakespeare’s faeces!

My incredulity is really heightened with that idea that there is a method of undertaking the dilution which means that the neutral product remains effective.  The dilution is not handled by machines that will ensure absolute accuracy but by the pseudo-scientists.  These practitioners must mix dry compounds for exactly seven minutes and hit a soluble mixture against an elastic surface ten times.

Now initiallyt this scientific mumbo-jumbo might have some validity.  At first glance it might echo the idea of vaccination where an antigenic material promotes a physical response that creates an immunity to a disease.  Unfortunately once you dress it up with feathers and incantations you know it is magic.  Technicians using 200-year-old rituals invented by a crank rather than submitting to modern scientific principles is witchcraft.

I have conceded there is a placebo effect, this means some might see homeopathy as harmless and vaguely positive.  That places it to the unthinking mind up there with listening to psychics and popping into church on a Sunday.   However this dismisses the fact that real danger can be done and that those marketing homeopathy are profiting from a lie.

One only needs to look at the case of Penelope Dingle in Australia.  Mrs Dingle died when she trusted an homeopath rather than seeking help from an oncologist.  The Coroner determined the homeopath was not a competent health professional and had given dangerous advice.  That Coroner indicated that using homeopathic remedies rather than proper medicine might have killed a 45-year-old woman.

Of course there are also homeopathic remedies suggested for very serious illnesses or as preventions for the likes of Malaria.  Those remedies are also put forward for use as first aid.  More worrying homeopathy is also suggested for childhood conditions; giving an infant such treatments is akin to child abuse!

As I pointed out those selling this sort of crap are also making money from a useless concept.  No proper double-blind trial has ever indicated that homeopathy is effective.  The people plugging these remedies are either deluded or corrupt; I always picture those snake-oil salesmen in the American frontier towns.  Before Hahnemann those suggesting homeopathy would have been burned at the stake- now they should be prosecuted.

Don’t rely on faith, magic or alternative medicine to cure anything.  As Tim Minchin pointed out- you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work?  Medicine.”