Monday, May 31, 2010

Response to FINIFID

Apparently the author of You Will be Forced to Become Wealthy decided to respond. If you haven't read the review, go do so. It's an absolutely awful book. It's the worst thing I've read since Brother Jed's book. Then read FINIFID's response. Normally, I'd respond in the comments there, but since the response is so long, I can't without chopping it up, so I'll just post it here.

FINIFID: Let me again respond, point-by-point, to your reply -

First off, let me apologize for getting the title wrong. As I've pointed out elsewhere on this blog (which I don't expect you to know), I'm dyslexic. A consequence of this is that I often replace words with others as I put things together in my mind. This was the case here. It's not an excuse, but simply an admission of error and that I will henceforth remedy it.

You're absolutely correct that the apparent time I published the blog post would imply I read almost the entire book (and also wrote my reply) in a matter of hours. As you expect, this would be impossible. And given the rather detailed review I gave, it should be common sense that something is wrong with that implication.

The answer is that I started writing the post a few hours after sending Mark the reply. Blogger works in an odd format that it will retroactively arrange and date posts based on the time they were began. Not when they were actually published to the website. The actual post went up late Monday night/Tuesday morning, a few minutes after which I sent Mark an Email telling him so. The Email was sent @ Tue, May 25, 2010 at 2:00 AM .

Thus, there was actually nearly six days for me to read and write. Thus, using this as a basis to claim I did not read your book is unfounded.

If your target audience was truly theists, you've done a horrible job at targeting the correct audience. The amount of your book dedicated to engaging them is minimal. Yet you market this as an atheist book. I'm not even sure you know who your target audience is.

Yes, studying is about repetition. However, right or wrong, things are ingrained into memory if they are repeated. As my piano teacher used to tell me, “Practice doesn't make perfect; It makes permanent.” If your ideas weren't correct, there's no use in “studying” them any further. I could see they're flagrantly wrong from a first pass.

Like it or not, dividing people into your two groups is arbitrary. Sure you can draw a line, but wealth isn't as split as you'd like to pretend. It's a continuous progression. Thus, where you place your line is meaningless. Sure, it can be useful to have a way to talk about things (we draw lines in science all the time, between species, between planet/asteroid), but getting hung up on where you draw the line as you do is what makes it meaningless. As I said elsewhere in my review, getting caught up in the analogy and losing sight of reality is a logical flaw I see all the time with Creationists. It's a mistake you're committing as well, hence the reason I called it out.

Similarly, your argument against the Big Bang is still flawed. Although you claim to know a lot more than you let on in your book (which I highly doubt since further knowledge would reveal the holes I've pointed out) you still manage to get what the Big Bang says wrong. This now makes your argument into a straw man (yet another logical fallacy!). On top of that, you've now compounded your original logical fallacy and added an argumentum ad infinitum. Let me explain since you apparently have problems with “big words”.

As you point out, there are numerous hypothetical alternatives to the Big Bang. Steady state and plasma cosmology (which has been repeatedly debunked at this blog) are “alternatives” in the sense that they have been proposed, but they are not in the sense that all available evidence contradicts them. Your original argument was that you couldn't understand the evidence. Your new argument is that just because you can propose an alternative (regardless of the actual evidence you've ignored), it is equally valid. To then decide between them, you simply default to the ones you can understand (evidence be damned!).

But you've failed to realize the actual implications of this line of reasoning: It's possible to come up with an infinite number of possibilities, all slight variations on themes. Thus, now you're forced to consider all of them as legitimate. Thus, your “logic” falls apart.

The only true way to determine things between such sets is those that have accumulated evidence vs. those that haven't. The Big Bang and evolution with common descent hold all the cards. No other theories do. So your claim that you “have proven that the Universe is infinite” (at least in age) is simply wrong. The entire argument you used was, and still is, a logical fallacy. This makes it useless.

Your argument against my bringing up Quantum Mechanics is profoundly anti-intellectual as well. The entire book is an attempt to present an argument for how our world and our bodies really are. Thus, it must rely on how things really work. Unfortunately, reality isn't determined by what “regular people” know or want to know. So bringing that up at all is an attempt at distraction. You can't simply ignore it because your audience might not understand it. If it's important to the hypothesis, it's important. It cannot be left out.

Anyway, your quote from a textbook does absolutely nothing to argue against my point. My point was that the energy isn't created. It's already present in the form of chemical bonds which are being broken. You seem to be implying it's magically being created from the matter.

As to your bastardization of the term theory, it's yet another of your logical fallacies. In this case, it's the fallacy of equivocation. A “theory” in layman's terms is not the same as a “theory” in scientific terms. The former means a guess. The latter means “overwhelmingly tested and proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” Your “theory”, as well as Steady State “theory” and many others your attempt obfuscation with, are the former. The Big Bang and evolution are the latter. Conflating the two to attempt to make the former look equal in importance to the latter is a dirty trick used by Creationists and a personal pet peeve of mine.

I did not “totally miss” chapter 6. It was just pointless to address specifically. It was a grand total of three pages. The first page was a summary of points I'd already addressed and the conclusions were little more than bland restatements from them. Not worth writing about, but if I'd like me to edit that statement into my original review, I'll be more than happy to.

In regards to chapter 7, your new claims are not consistent with what you'd said before. Here, you say that supernovae can trigger new star formation. In your book, you claimed that the material given off directly formed the new stars through “broken off pieces”. These two points are mutually exclusive.

I have read chapter 8. My statement still stands based on what is given in the book. Your numbers are completely without justification.

By the way, thanks for not wanting to “give [me] a course in planetary creation and destruction.” I've already had one.

Your response to what I said about life being complex, well, I don't know what to say. You didn't really offer a response beyond maintaining it is simple, without any actual justification and just saying if I knew more, I'd get it. That's not really an argument. It's an excuse not to provide one. I know quite a lot about Biology. Although I haven't had nearly as much formal training in Biology as I have in the physical sciences, I've been debating Evolution/Creationism for eight years and read numerous books on the topic. I've discussed points with many people in the field. In fact, I know it well enough to teach it. Thus, simply responding “learn more” is not really saying anything.

As far as chapter 12 goes, you did claim that the brain is something life needs to achieve for higher organisms (although you never called it by name). Let me quote you:
When complicated and advanced cells began grouping together and created some simple organisms … the need for some central intelligence of that organism had arisen
You then go on to list functions of this “central intelligence” center, most of which are performed by the brain. Thus, without explicitly naming it, you did claim the brain is necessary. My point stands.

Your next rant is on humans and animals being different. I'm not going to bother going through the evidences (you obviously don't care about such things). If you care to find them, I'd suggest looking at These issues have already been hammered out in detail with Creationists.

Your confidence is unbounded population growth is merit less as well. Sure, kids will have sex and make more babies. But will the rate at which they continue to have kids be consistent as you assume? Will there never again be a great plague that destroys large percentages of the population? Will resources allow for as many people to survive? You assume all of these won't happen and that the case for now will continue forever, but even optimistic population models include such things. This is a staggering oversight on your part.

I am not in any way closed minded. As I pointed out in my closing, there's a difference between having an open mind and having one that gets soggy when it rains. I prefer to think of my mind as “guarded.” You need to have some actual evidence to be accepted in as more than a hypothetical scenario. But apparently, you like to allow things in based on generalizations and logical fallacies aimed at the masses.

On the topic of heredity: Your now claim that your genes “keep you human”. I get the impression you're pretty shaky on the definition of species. How much divergence does there need to be before humans are, well, not human? Until you start using some sort of system by which your distinctions have some meaning, your point can't be taken seriously. Again, this is a tactic Creationists love to hide behind. I have no respect for it.

By the way, I don't believe in astrology. It's not something I've put on my “About-Me” page. It's something that blogger automatically puts there based on my birthday.

I'll agree that chapter 15 is especially important in establishing your hypothesis. It's the grand unveiling. Given how shoddy your base is for the grand conclusion, I've treated it with due respect. As for chapter 1 of part 2 being important, I just reread it (somewhat more carefully this time). I agree with most the points against religion in it, but it isn't necessary for the rest of the thesis. If you really think it's important, then I think you're confusing the side topic (atheism and the lack of god) with the main one (the LAW).

At this point, your response turns ironic. You claim I summarized in chapter 2 in “two words”. I gave it a whole three sentences which outlined the main points without bothering to respond to them in any way. Yet, magically, you've decided that this amounts to “insults”.

But at this point, you're not bothering to respond to anything I said. Instead, you bitch and moan about me hurling insults, then you have an entire list of your own with a dose of silly psychoanalysis. I absolutely do not “spew [my] accumulated poison”. If you'd read the other reviews I've written, I'm very positive where good things can be said. In contrast, I maintain that the proper response to the ridiculous is ridicule. Given that the second half of your book is based on the first half, and the first half was nothing but logical pit holes, the entire second part is ridiculous. Thus, the second half of my review was more geared towards ridicule, but I'm in no way apologetic for such things.

I take great care to keep your sentences in context. If you care to argue how one is out of context, feel free to actually address it (which you've notably not done through all of your response thus far) instead of simply claiming it. Let's see some academic integrity here.

The author/publisher is rather unimportant to the main topic, but I never pretended it was. Notice I left It distinctly as an afterthought, separate from the main review. As far as “trying to dig in the dirty clothes”, you mentioning that shows your hypocrisy given you find it important to dig through my profile on a separate page to complain about the astrological notes that are affixed there without my asking. But hypocrisy is apparently rife with you in closing given you continue spewing poison of your own.

In conclusion, I do understand your book. The overall thought process is shaky, but stable, assuming the foundational statements are accurate. Those foundational statements include (but are not limited to) the infinite age of the universe, the creation of new celestial bodies, and the distinctness of the human species from animals. Given that all of these topics (and the ones I originally brought up and you unsuccessfully defended) you display woeful incompetence on and still have yet to support, your entire foundation crumbles, taking the rest of the structure with it.

Given this fact, there's no point in reading it again. I didn't expect you to be happy in hearing this, but your response has only confirmed what I already suspected: You're not really interested in academic, intellectual, or honest reviews. You want shallow praise from people that don't have enough knowledge to actually subject your claims to any real scrutiny. I cannot respect that. Your insistence that I should, and I should politely overlook the glaring holes in your basic knowledge is asinine.

So thank you for your lack of respect. I have no need of it from you. I'd much rather have it from people whose worldviews are built on logic, rational thinking, and evidence.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Atheist" as a derogatory word

Over at Blag Hag Jen asks a simple question:
"How often, if ever, have you been called an atheist in a derogatory way?"
I'm not sure if this question is one Jen is asking or part of a larger meme, but either way, here's my answer:

For the most part, being referred two as an "atheist" in a degrading manner has been exceptionally rare.

The first instance I can recall is one that wasn't even directly to my face. It was while I was dating my second girlfriend and she told her parents she was dating me. I wasn't around, but when she mentioned I was an atheist, her good Catholic mother responded, "Oh. Atheist? That's disgusting."

After we broke up, her mother then sent me numerous Emails saying how glad she was that her daughter wasn't dating an atheist anymore.

I think the reason I haven't had many instances in which it's been used as a derogatory term with me is that, although I'm quite outspoken about my atheism on my blog and with my friends, it's not something that comes up in most circumstances. Atheists don't have as prominent of symbols to wear around as many religious faiths. So short of asking me about my religion, it's not something you're likely to pick up on. Many members of my own family don't realize I'm not religious.

Meanwhile, my students do know. I'd debated a few months about answering their queries on my religious status, but eventually gave up on keeping it a secret about half way through the first semester.

And honestly, it hasn't mattered. Most students just shrug with a sort of "that's nice" attitude, but I have a few students who have a large dose of incredulity at how someone could not believe in God. They've scoffed a few times, implying that I must be crazy to think so, or to maintain that humans share a common ancestor with all life on Earth, or that the Earth is more than ~10,000 years old, but truth be told, I tend to actually feel sorry for those students. Since the school is very sheltered and most of the students live in school housing, they're not exposed to the real world to any large extent. Those students I mentioned can only scoff and expect agreement because they're embedded in a largely sympathetic audience. As soon as they step out into the larger world they're likely to discover that value of ideas depends on more than getting a few of your friends to nod in uncritical agreement. I have a feeling these students are going to be in for a huge shock when (or if) that realization hits.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review - You Will Forced to Become Wealthy

About two months ago I got an offer to receive a review copy of the book, "You Will Forced to Become Wealthy". The publisher is marketing it as a novel gift for atheists.

Books on/for atheists? Cool beans! Send it along! While it was heading here, I looked for other reviews to see what it could be about. It looks like the publisher is sending it to atheist blogs and although numerous people have mentioned getting the invitation to review it, I could only find two reviews on it, which I'll address after the book itself.

I finally received the book about a month and a half ago. I read the first few chapters and put it down when I was sent another book to review that ended up being far more interesting. But the publisher dropped me an Email asking me if I'd had time to read it yet. I'd intended to write a short, personal response, but in picking the book back up to pass long the few notes I'd made so far, I decided to go ahead an finish it since it's a very quick read.

This review may seem somewhat odd. But then again, the book is amazingly odd. I'm not going to start out with describing the premise of the book, because when I started out reading it, I had no idea what it was about. So this will be more of a liveblogging of my (re)reading as opposed to my more usual retrospective.

In the opening pages the author claims to use logic, but then shortly thereafter demands that anyone disagreeing must be thinking incorrectly and should read it again, and again, and again,... until they agree. This is not logic. This is brainwashing. If it's wrong the first time, it will continue to be wrong.

Within the first few pages of the first chapter, the author claims there are two "lists" which essentially boil down to the "haves" and "have-nots", just rephrased. This is the logical fallacy of bifurcation. Again, logic is abandoned.

The first page of the second chapter contains even more errors, in claiming that time existed 50 gigayears ago. The Big Bang happened only 13.6 gigayears ago and physics has revealed that time and space were wrapped up in such a way that talking about them existing prior to that instant is complete nonsense. Thus, claiming that time existed prior to that is simply wrong, yet the author claims it must exist because the author cannot perceive any other option. Yet another logical fallacy (argument from personal incredulity/ignorance).

In chapter 4, this same problem is repeated, but instead of time, the author extends personal incredulity to matter and energy. While this is mostly true due to the conservation of mass/energy, it's not strictly true when you get to the quantum level. Later, the author seems to imply that energy is created from matter when you burn wood. This is completely incorrect. It comes from the destruction of bonds in the matter. This is straight out of high school chemistry. The bastardization of the term theory at the end of the chapter is likewise unimpressive.

Chapter 5 questions why orbits are elliptical and goes through, yet again, an argument from ignorance. Although the author is right (orbits are elliptical), it's for the entirely wrong reasons. The author then describes perpetual motion using the analogy of a rocket to Venus. While the picture is more or less accurate (less in that he claims no energy occurs once the engines stop firing and it will coast. Energy is still being used in that the Sun's gravitational energy will still cause an acceleration. This doesn't destroy the point, but is a rather blatant oversight.), it is somewhat confounding that the author for some reason (intentionally or through ignorance) cannot simply call this what it is: momentum. Again, the lack of basic high school familiarity with the topics that seem to be the entire foundation of the book does not inspire confidence.

From the start of chapter 7, the author shows confusion between the Big Bang and the formation of planets (entirely distinct and unrelated events). From there, he dismisses the Big Bang simply because he cannot understand it because it contradicts his notion that time must have always existed. Thus, this is an argument from ignorance built on an argument of ignorance. It is doubly worthless. But with the Big Bang rejected out of hand, the author now tries desperately to make a model for a Steady State universe. Take a look at this train wreck:

The author plays with scenarios in which, for no apparent reason, the Sun's gravity magically increases. The result:
All of the planets and their satellites, asteroids, meteoroids, and everything else in our Solar system will fall onto the Sun and such a collision will produce ... [a]n extremely huge explosion (most probably, that's what science calls a nova or a supernova) or a series of smaller explosions. Any of these explosions might lead to the creation of a new reaction because Earth, the other planets, satellites, asteroids, etc. will provide a new fuel (all of them will burn.) In other words it may may lead to the creation of a new sun. If there are some broken off pieces - they might create new planets and satellites. Thus, the process of creation of the new solar system takes off.

Where to start?

1) No, that's not a supernova or nova. If those happened that way, the vaporized planets would be readily visible in the spectra. They're not. Doesn't fit the evidence. REJECT.

2) Planets do not "burn" in any sense. They can be vaporized, but this is not burning. And even if it were,

3) Stars operate under fusion. Planets like Jupiter have lots of hydrogen which can easily fuse, but there's a problem: a planet plopping on the sun only deposits the material on the surface where the temperature is far too low to undergo fusion.

4) Explosions would take place certainly due to the kinetic impact, but its not going to throw off enough material (especially the right kinds of material) to form new planets at just the right trajectories to form stable orbits!

This shouldn't take that much thinking to realize. But the author again plays to ignorance saying: "Please remember - you and I are not astrophysicists or astronomers".

Oh, but I AM!

His other scenario involves the Sun's gravity magically turning off. In this scenario, planets would (correctly) drift off from their parent stars until (potentially) captured by other solar systems.

I really don't think the author appreciates the size of the universe and just how empty it is, even on a galactic scale. In in the author's fictional eternal universe, sure, eventually they would be captured, but what are the odds of getting planetary systems formed in a set of damn near planar orbits like we have in our own solar system? Not happening.

"Probability" it the title of chapter 8, but it would be more accurately named "Pulling numbers out of my ass".

Chapter 9 is about "Circumstances" and starts with a few sentences on why each planet can't sustain life. For all the pop-sci I suspect the author watches, I'm amazed he hasn't heard all the inferences on the potential for (primitive) life on Mars. Or on any of Jupiter's moons. He then claims that the asteroid belt was a destroyed planet, again invoking an argument from ignorance (where else did they all come from?).

He closes the chapter making the absolutely bizarre claim that, the "more we learn about life - the less complicated it becomes".

I don't imagine the author could make it into an sort of college level Bio course. I didn't take any, but I've heard the rumors of Organic Chem. It's not simple. It's complex. What we have learned is that it's not magical.

Chapter 10 is a screed against the notion of God. It's the best part of the book so far. The short version of it is that the concept of an omnibenevolent God is obviously incompatible with the way the world works.

In the next chapter, the author takes some time to do a quick review and then chapter 12 is a summary of evolution. It's pretty much right although shows some bias in anthrocentrism with claims that brain (especially big ones) are an imperative for life. With little reason or evidence, he deems this sufficient and moves on.

In chapter 13 he engages in come Creationist-esque logic demanding that there be some magical division between humans and animals. He claims that evolution is (somehow) insufficient to bridge this gap using some bizarre chicken and egg argument that makes little sense. Apparently he thinks that developing conscious thought takes conscious thought. The notion that conscious thought could be the result of evolutionary processes is somehow completely missed.

He claims, "scientists compared genetic materials of neanderthals and modern humans.... they do not match." Obviously this book is missing out on some important information.

From there, it's the whole canard about humans only using 10% of their brains. Which in the author's world means that we're all geniuses and means

(wait for it......)

We're Intelligently Designed.


Chapter 14 explains: Assuming (incorrectly) that population growth will go on unbounded, humans will be forced to venture out into the cosmos since there will simply be no further space or resources here. And if we do that, the author presumes we'll create "a new human species using our DNA".

In other words, we intelligently designed ourselves...... and then abandoned ourselves without any sort of technology. I think the author watched a the last episode of Battlestar Galactica a few too many times.

Of course, this all begs the question: If pre-human humans are filling the cosmos with new versions of ourselves, why has SETI not detected anything yet? (Incidentally, the other book I'm reading it Eerie Silence on that very topic which seeks to answer why we haven't heard from ETs, but none of the explanations are really compatible with the scenario laid out in this book.)

This is the grand conclusion of the book so far put together through a string of logical fallacies:
1. The universe must be infinitely old because I can't imagine it otherwise.
2. I can't understand how humans could have evolved.
3. Thus, since time is infinite, so are humans and we can create ourselves.

Chapter 15 attempts to answer the question of why the pre-human humans that apparently created us didn't leave us anything. The author claims they did. They left us a library of infinite knowledge (or at least everything they knew). And he knows where it is.

It's in our DNA.

Yeah.... it's a code to a secret library.... Like the DaVinci Code.... But with genetics....

Shame that it's subject to all sorts of random mutations, insertions from retroviruses and other distortions that it's probably a bunch of gobbly gook now.

But the author doesn't seem to realize this and also thinks that this magical library of knowledge has a plan. And it's tailored explicitly to you....

I guess the author doesn't realize how heredity works and that the collection of genes and chromosomes we get is random, making this "plan" as accurate as a horoscope. Again, the author apparently didn't master high school science.

That's the end of "Part 1".

Chapter 1 of the second section is a rant against religion that I skimmed over. In chapter 2, the author claims that we're subconsciously in touch with this library of knowledge, but some people more than others. Those that are more in touch are the successful Bill Gates' of the world. Those that aren't are the masses.

In Chapter 3, the author discusses failures and success. Of failures he blames everyone else, saying that with all your friends and families pulling you in their own directions, you can't go anywhere. Of success, he simply states that if at first you don't succeed, "[a]ll you have to do is to try, and try, and try, and try again."


But don't worry about it. Once you've tapped into the cosmic knowledge fountain, you'll be riding the gravy train.

Chapter 4 is all about "Goals". Basically, it's asking what do we do with our lives when we aren't busy procreating to make more humans (which is apparently the meaning of life). The author says, "Our creators knew perfectly well that nobody would go far on pure altruism." (Where altruism is being defined as making more human spawn to fill the rest of the cosmos.

I'm not sure why our creators would know this given it's not a necessary condition. If they created us, they could have made us 100% altruistic. But they didn't. Why?

God The Creator works in mysterious ways.

Meanwhile, there's some more touchy feel good crap along the lines of the "Aim for the stars and even if you miss, you'll still get the moon" junk.

Chapter 5 is all about maintaining a positive attitude all the time. Yay rainbows coming out of your ass nonsense! And how do you do this? More self help book nonsense about positive visualization.

Chapter 6 is a review of all the metaphysics rubbish: If you want to succeed, get in touch with your magic data center.

Chapter 7 is about the value of thinking. I'd agree with this. However, sometimes before one does too much thinking, it's helpful to actually do some learning.

The next chapter is two pages long. It's basically more self-help nonsense: You have to be obsessed with what you want.

Chapter 9 covers faith. The author lambastes blind faith yet, ironically, it's exactly what he uses to build up the entire argument so far. It's blind faith that drives him to claim that, just because he can't imagine something, reality must be what he can imagine. Fail.

Meanwhile, the author praises informed faith which he calls "real faith". This I can get behind. I appreciate the distinction that so many theists miss so they can hide behind equivocations of the term.

But the author dips right back into bizarro land in chapter 10 in which he claims that people hearing voices aren't really crazy. They're just getting an overload of information by being too in touch with the super information repository. His evidence for this? A guy in a mental institution who was good at math.

Apparently all you have to do to tap into this information storehouse is to do a lot of visualization. Just picture it, and become completely OCD about making it happen, and it will!

Chapter 11 again summarizes all the faulty logic before moving on to chapter 12 which tries to illustrate the whole process in action. In specific, the author discusses Einstein:
He was very educated in physics and mathematics (understanding.) Space, energy, mass, and time questions - that is all he thought about (real thinking). He did not care about his job in the patent bureau and he had even neglected his family in favor of those questions (obsession and persistence. Instead of going home after work, he was pacing the streets and his mind was filled with imaginary pictures of possible answers (visualization.) He did not have any doubts that one day he will [sic] solve these problems (faith) and he finally did.
Does this whole thing reek of confirmation bias to anyone else? The author takes a success story and shoe horns it into his paradigm without bothering to assess counter examples of people who went through the same steps (those underlined) and failed utterly.

Chapter 13 goes through how using this magic system will produce good habits and lead to good health.

Chapter 14 is the summary of the entire book and not even worth mentioning.

Taking stock of the book as a whole: It's a bunch of metaphysical gibberish based on false premises born out of logical fallacies. It's nonsense on par with Creationists. The logical flaws are so astoundingly blatant, I'd be amazed that anyone engaging in a bit of critical thinking, or with any background knowledge to the topics would be taken in. Yet, the two other reviews of this book I could find online both found it compelling.

One review said, "the book’s strongest point is the writer’s eagerness to help readers understand that there is no god". As I pointed out before, the argument against god(s) laid out in this book is simply because the author finds no need for them given his (erroneous) understanding of the history of the universe. Knowledge through misinformation is not something I can encourage. Especially for something that is such a minor part of the overall narrative.

The other review I found says, "the book is dedicated to discussing those questions we all always wonder about, especially today, in a day when there are so many more people questioning religion and faith." This claim is outright frightening to me. Sure, it asks the questions, but the answers are pure rubbish. Yet the reviewer says this book has her "convinced".

Really? I mean really?!

Asking questions is good. But at least put some thought into the response you get!


The only other thing I want to say about this book is that the whole publishing and promoting seems highly suspicious. The author simply refers to himself by the pseudonym FINIFID which stands for "Friend In Need Is a Friend In Deed". Cute and in and of itself, I wouldn't find it suspicious.

But there's something else that seemed odd. Comment 235, by Mark Ofshtein at this blog claims that Mark is the publisher and he was "presented with a manuscript by an unknown author." In his Email to me, asking if I'd like a copy, Mark again identifies himself as the publisher.

Yet, in his Email to me asking for my thoughts recently, Mark identifies the book as his.

On that same link to the "Why Won't God Heal Amputees" blog, Mark asks that criticisms be given in private. In the book, FINIFID repeatedly claims these revelations are meant only for the person given the book. In both cases, there's a creepy sense of cultish secrecy. However, I've maintained a policy of addressing things without shying away from them. Good work I'll praise publicly, but if one wants that, they must also risk public humiliation. That's how fair exchange of information works. I appreciate the amount of work it takes to write a 300 page book, but effort isn't everything.

If I were to take anything out of that, it would be a final confirmation of the intellectual vacuity of the entire premise of the book. If the magical source of knowledge were truly available, and the author were so in tune with it, this book should be an intellectual masterpiece topping the best seller list. But it's not. It's being peddled to bloggers who think it's crazy and toss it aside.

Is Mark really FINIFID; Hiding behind the mask of a publisher promoting his own work?

I can't say, but everything about this book, from the content, to the publishing, to the random bolding and underlining (often seen by religious nuts) both in the book and on the publisher's website points to the person behind it being more than a little off their rocker.

It's great to keep an open mind, but that doesn't mean that you should let your brain get soggy when it rains.

UPDATE: The author has responded in the comments. My response to him is here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Careful There, Doc...

Brittish doctors are calling Homoepathy "witchcraft". There's nothing surprising about this. Magical treatments with no basis being dispensed by people with nothing more than faith and bad statistics is no different than magical spells with no basis being dispensed by people with nothing more than faith and a few frog legs.

The doctors rightly point out that these "treatments" do nothing more than the placebo effect and are calling for the end to taxpayers footing the bill for this bogus treatment. But in going beyond these facts and using a perfectly valid analogy, the group may have just opened up the door to a law suit. After all, that's exactly what happened to Simon Singh because Brittish law doesn't protect the free speech of citizens, but rather protects those that get their feeling hurts by not being told exclusively what they want to hear.

Hopefully the homeopathic group won't be as stupid as the BCA. After all, Simon won his appeal. Hopefully that will set some precedent.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Boy Scouts Cover Up Abuse Too

The last time I wrote anything about the Boy Scouts was back in 2006 when I had a bit regarding their religious discrimination which continued in the face of getting large amounts of government funds.

It's not a group I've ever cared much for (they don't even sell cookies!) but it's such a small fry that I haven't paid it much attention. But another recent development shows just how much of a horrible group this organization can be.

Just like the Catholic Church the Boy Scouts have been covering up abuse cases. Apparently they have been keeping files on instances of abuse, but have been loath to let anyone see those files. They claim its for privacy reasons, to protect the victims and wrongly accused adults, yet the files have even been hidden from juries until just now.

Now there is a lawsuit to seek damages and have these files exposed and the volume is impressive. In this case, "about 1,000 files, from the years 1965 to 1984, were included as evidence." Note that this is just saying that's what was included as evidence. It doesn't make any claim that this was a complete collection!

What's worse is that, "the files detailed many instances across the country in which troop leaders or volunteers were allowed to continue working with children even after the Scouts had received complaints that they had committed sexual abuse."

In the past few months, there's been growing unrest with the Catholic Church and its sex scandals. I'm glad to see that at least in this case, American courts are taking action. The same thing needs to happen with the Vatican: Those in charge of hiding these abusers need to be held accountable.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Still A Lie

If you're not familiar with the original song, it's from the end credits of the game Portal.