Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blog of an Ex-Christian

Back at KU, one of the members of the Society of Open Minded Atheists & Agnostics was Chris Redford, a former evangelical Pentecostal Christian. After I graduated and moved on, he began producing a fantastic YouTube series on his deconversion.

Now, due to facebook's odd policy of people being able to like things without the creator's control, he's decided to set up a public persons facebook page. Additionally, he created a new blog where he's responding to PMs sent to him on his YouTube channel.

I highly recommend checking out the series if you haven't seen it and reading through the blog. The mental gymnastics people will go through to try to keep their faith is astounding, but Chris does a meticulous job of breaking it all down.

Friday, June 17, 2011


So last year, I reviewed a book, You Will be Forced to Become Wealthy written by a true crackpot. I reamed it, prompting the author to leave a gibbering reply which I also tore to shreds.

So imagine my surprise when I get an Email from a Victor Senchenko promoting another self published book promising to explain Grand Mysteries:
The Second Edition explains more precisely:
• Exactly from what everything is physically made of, and why.
• Exactly what gravity is, and why.
• Exactly who and what humans are, and why they behave as they do.
• Why god and gods do not physically exist.
• Why 'time' does not physically exist.
• Why there is homosexuality in humans.
• What 'happiness' actually is and how it can be obtained.
PLUS there is much, much more of what humans never knew – or misunderstood – about themselves and all that physically surrounds them.

These claims may appear to be far-fetched to all those who have not read this book. It may also appear as highly improbable that a mere book can contain information that had never before been assessed by human intelligence.

But here's a puzzle... what is intelligence in the first place? Where does intelligence originate? What does intelligence comprise of?

While current humans and their science may wonder about intelligence, they actually know neither what intelligence represents nor how it is derived. And yet, the source of intelligence – as many other unknowns – is revealed and explained in the book.

Is this worth following up on? Apparently Victor went on a big PR campaign a few years ago, sending announcements to many other skeptic blogs and organizations, then turning into a complete prick when they were, um, skeptical (See: here, or here).

Looking over the quotes others have posted, this guy apparently heard of quantum mechanics as he's using a centuries old claim that electrons should fall into the nucleus of the atom, ignoring quantum mechanics. Oopsie.

Still, debunking books like this is a good mental exercise, so I may pick up the copy. It's free to download apparently. However, I do have a review copy of a book from a real writer on the way, so it may be delayed. That is, assuming I ever actually get around to reading something I know full well is a critique of modern science by someone that doesn't understand it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why Educate?

Today, NPR had a brief segment looking at the value of education beyond simply landing a better job (on average).

This is something teachers must consider very frequently. I don't think there's likely to have ever been a class (at least at the high school level) where some smart ass didn't think that asking "How am I going to use this in real life?" was an excuse for not having to learn. My smallest class this year was 2 students, and yet I still had the question asked. Repeatedly.

I think much of what was said in the NPR segment was very important: Education helps in that it creates an informed citizen base that will ultimately vote and decide the heading for the entire nation. Without educated citizens, we're likely to lead ourselves off a cliff.

The interviewer asked how important these esoteric ideals are to someone working as a barista? The response was that such times are a perfect time for education to again be important because such people can better analyze the economic situation (both nationally and personally) and hope to find a way to better their position. Without an basic, educated understanding of how economics work, you'd be lost. As such, it's no surprise so many Americans labor under amazing credit card debts that they will likely never be able to pay off.

The segment also touched on social benefits like "learning to think together" and, perhaps more importantly, "how to disagree." Personally, I think the social aspect of education is vastly understated and one I push to my students the most. One of the things that we find as we become more educated, is that the knowledge we've gained forms a web, and the larger that web gets, the more interconnected it is, the easier it is to connect it to new things. The result is that, even if we don't use a skill or a fact directly, it opens the door to other things indirectly. It allows for us to learn easier in the future. In other words, the true value of education isn't really to retain every factoid and be able to spew it back (although, that is an important component), but it's practice at processing information and assembling it into a coherent picture. What we're truly practicing in school is learning.

The social value of this is that it allows people to continue absorbing information outside of the classroom and sorting it in rational ways. Those tidbits we pick up here or there, from the news or conversations stick better and make us knowledgeable more quickly and easily on topics which we haven't directly studied, allowing us to partake in social interactions more deeply and authoritatively. As I tell my students, it makes you a more interesting person.

And that's worth a lot.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Not Hoax. Just Crazy.

If a psychic calls the cops and tells them she knows where a bunch of bodies are hidden because of mystic powers, what should they do?

Same thing they should do if they claim Jesus told them, or a Ouija board, or reading of tea leaves, casting stones, or any other metaphysical nonsense: Hang up the phone.

Of course, in Texas, they took it seriously and sent in a task force to find.... nothing.

Sounds so very familiar doesn't it.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Anti-Science Advocate Running for President

Today, Rick Santorum announced his bid for presidency. I don't know how much of a chance he's got, but given he's up against complete clowns like Bachmann, he might have a fair chance of getting the nomination.

However, if that's the case, Santorum is a dangerous person for science to have as a president. If his name sounds familiar, it may be because of his infamous "Santorum Amendment" which sought to amend the NCLB act to cater to the Discovery Institute's "Teach the Controversy" mantra by singling evolution out for special criticisms. In specific, he suggested science teachers help students distinguish between real science and "philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science". Sounds good, until you realize that, according to Santorum, "biological evolution ... relies heavily on the sensitive philosophical belief that evolutionary change can give rise to new species".

Herp derp.

Fortunately, Santorum only got his amendment into the Senate version of the bill. Since the House version lacked it, a special committee was appointed to decide on it and eventually rejected it.

Since then, Santorum has been flip-flopping on whether or not he supports ID, but has also come out against global warming. Given his poor track record, he's someone that anyone caring about science, should stay away from.