This one from 10 years ago. Normal service resumed next week.

Discussion (51)¬

  1. Son of Glenner says:

    Nice one, Author!

    A few years ago, there was a book “prophesying” all sorts of doom, linked to “four blood moons” which were about to occur. An acquaintance of mine (I can hardly call him a friend) swallowed this BS whole and got very excited about what was going to happen, whatever it might be. I haven’t seen him for a while; I sometimes wonder if he’s still awaiting the fulfilment of the “prophecy” or if he has latched on to one of the disasters that have happened since then (there have been plenty to choose from) and decided that it was what the “four blood moons” foretold.

  2. M27Holts says:

    You can probably link any disaster to a passage in the bible if you interpret it in a particular way. Religious people will swallow anything except scientific proof which is the ultimate irony of course.

  3. Federico Bär says:

    …Religious people will swallow anything except scientific proof…”
    After many years, I have now stopped looking for the reason of that phenomenon. If you haven’t heard it from Noah Harari. you may like his excellent explaination in this lecture of less than 15 minutes.

  4. Laripu says:

    M27Holts, you wrote “Religious people will swallow anything except scientific proof which is the ultimate irony of course.”

    Not only religious people. There are garden variety stupid nutcases that believe all sorts of nonsense. The moon landing was fake, filmed in Hollywood. Vaccines cause autism. The gods of antiquity were space aliens. AIDS was created in a US government lab to kill off black people. There’s no end to stupid.

  5. M27Holts says:

    Laripu. But what percentage of those loon bombs are also religious? If you accept that any loon who thinks that the moon landings were faked is also likely to believe in anything without evidence, then surely this set of people are all religious?

  6. raymondm says:

    The cartoon is spot on, imo. The comments, though…

  7. M27Holts says:

    Frederico, I read both his books last year. Excellent books they are too…

  8. M27Holts says:

    Raymond, are you suggesting that all science cannot be proven through experiment because some biological theory being untestable? Why dont you throw yourself off the nearest tall building and see if gravity is true?

  9. raymondm says:

    It might be enlightening to scroll through the site I linked to above, rather than stopping at the first article.

  10. Steve Sherman says:

    M27Holts, a lot of anti-vaxxers are atheist leftists. Stupidity is not a monopoly of the faithful, unfortunately, any more than is closed-minded bigotry.

  11. JohnM says:

    Lots of commenters put “science” and “proof” or “prove” in the same phrase or sentence. Just be clear about this – science doesn’t do proof; that’s the realm of Logic and Mathematics. Science works by falsification. Failure to falsify gives the strength to scientific theories like Atomic Theory and Evolution.

  12. HelenaHandbasket says:

    raymondm. Are you suggesting that “Retraction Watch”, a site that records some of the correcting mechanisms of sciences on occasions where mistakes, sharp practice, or outright fraud do occur (scientists being human beings and flawed) somehow undermines the status of science?
    If you aren’t suggesting that–then what are you suggesting?
    If you are suggesting that then can I suggest that you update your view of what science is to a more grown up level? Science is a process (well, a set of processes) of winnowing our beliefs to find increasingly well-grounded ones. It’s not a bunch of authority figures who have to be taken down a peg or two. If you think the latter then you are just wrong. British Red-Top Tabloid level wrong. (And that’s as wrong as a person can be while still remaining a person, so I hope I have misunderstood you)

  13. raymondm says:

    I don’t know that I’m “suggesting” anything other than “Look over the site.”

    1 Scientists are not infallible. Some cheat. Some make honest mistakes.
    2 Science (like all truth) is “true” only in contexts in which it works. Newtonian physics is true in newtonian situations, but not in wu li physics.
    3 Our senses are not infallible.
    4 Belief is an essential part of being human. (Probably of being any intelligent animal.) Some people believe in On the Origin of Species, some in The Book of Daniel, some in both. Some people believe in the evidence of their senses, some in the NYT. Whatever works for them is fine with me, so long as they don’t use violence.
    5 A believer in science isn’t superior to or necessarily more free from error than a believer in the Bhagavadgita.

  14. Someone says:

    Jesus Ouroboros, the self-fulfilling prophet.

  15. M27Holts says:

    Raymond, No 5 sounds like cultural relativism to me. And we are not conceding to that old load of tosh are we?

  16. jb says:

    raymondm — I did a Google search, and as far as I can tell there isn’t actually any such thing as “wu li physics”. There was an inconsequential pop science book published in 1979 called “The Dancing Wu Li Masters” — is that what you are talking about?

    It’s absolutely correct to say that science is “true” because it works. Logic is certainly involved, but science isn’t the same as logic. If the sun rose in the west tomorrow it wouldn’t violate any axiom of any system of logic. Science works in the sense that scientists can use science to do things, like cure cancer or send probes to Pluto. You can’t do a damn thing with The Book of Daniel or the Bhagavadgita; they’re just words. That’s why they don’t merit the same respect as science.

  17. M27Holts says:

    JB. I think Raymond is claiming that some people actually read the book of Daniel as a schematic that enables them to build an LHC…isn’t that a possibility in the many-worlds theory….haha

  18. HelenaHandbasket says:

    Raymondm. Good grief. I hardly know where to start.
    Ok. Let’s start with the scare quotes around the word “true”, shall we? If you want to use a word (but not do anything so bourgeoise as acknowledge that you need that word to make sense) then have the common decency to announce to the world “I am relativist and therefore anything I say can be safely dismissed”. Go on refute me–without using concepts of “true” or “false”, and while I am waiting for you to saw off the branch you are sitting on by admitting that the statement “nothing is true” is itself true….that brings me to the next point…

    The fact that some believe x and some people believe not x does not mean that those people are on an equal footing. I believe that relativists should be rounded up and disposed off. Humanely. You believe that violence is wrong. Well, I believe that your belief that violence is wrong is itself wrong–in the case of relativists, at least. Given that you have given up any right to use concepts like “right” or “wrong” along with “true” or “false” then I look forward to your presenting yourself at the Soylent Green recycling plant where you can be made into something useful. While we are waiting for that to happen…

    In all seriousness. Relativism? Gimme a break, what are you–16 years old and studying sociology? Newtonian mechanics isn’t “true for me” you poor boob. But I tell you what–stand in front of a bullet obeying Newton’s third law and I’ll believe you are sincere. I’ll also believe that you are an idiot, but then I believe that already. Which brings me to the gravamen of the text, namely:

    People don’t “believe in science”. Holy Sokal hoax, Batman. What do they teach in schools these days? Scientists follow scientific procedures to generate beliefs that are better or worse grounded. These are various tested for internal consistencey (falsifiablity) and external consisteny (consilience). If you actually think that scientists have a list of stuff they have to believe then…well, actually that makes a lot of sense. People like you are why climate change denial, anti-vaxxers, evolution deniers and all the rest of the howling panopoly of unreason have been let loose on the earth. Please don’t vote. Or breed.

  19. Son of Glenner says:

    HelenaHandbasket: You don’t pull your punches, do you?!!!

  20. doug says:

    raymondm sounds an awful lot like Moses

    Our senses are indeed fallible, which is why science has developed a vast array of methods and instruments to greatly diminish the effects of that fallibility.

  21. Donn says:

    I took on someone who “believed in science” not long ago, on a local social media platform – local meaning, we’re all neighbors in something like a 1 hour walk radius. Someone had offered her services as a Reiki practitioner, which caused him to fly off the handle as usual for any “alternative” medicine. He apparently works at a local hospital. I didn’t mind when he dismissed Reiki as hokum, that’s fair, but he had to vilify practitioners and generally overdo it. It didn’t matter that some studies show positive outcomes for whatever reason, and it only made him madder when I pointed out that regular medical practice in the US is often based on bad information, has been markedly unable to bring about general good health and well being, and on the contrary has created an awful lot of opiate addicts. If this neighbor’s practice wasn’t sanctified by the medical science authorities, then he clearly felt it was a shame that it was allowed.

    Perhaps that isn’t believing in science in the sense you meant. This fervent crusade to stamp out everything that doesn’t bow to the scientific authorities could be put down to pure simple-mindedness. He looks for some evidence, which can easily be found, that the principles don’t work they way they’re supposed to – say, practitioners actually can’t detect ki – and for him it’s then impossible to accept positive outcomes as validation, where I suppose a true scientist might just go on to look for other ways to account for the positive outcomes. A true scientist, as opposed to a true believer in science.

  22. M27Holts says:

    These conversations always seem to follow this pattern. Donn, science is our only pursuit which embraces test and attempts to falsify any thesis or theory. Stop falling for the media shite that pretends that science has overlooked this or that. I’m assured by my GP that cough medicines don’t work, but I still take Benelin because it always works for me! That is almost certain to be a placebo effect…Reiki probably very similar…

  23. JoJo says:

    What sorcery is this, Author..!!!? How could you possibly have known 10 years ago that this cartoon would be published this week??!

  24. Donn says:

    The media are trying to fool us that “science has overlooked this or that”? If you think science hasn’t overlooked anything, it sounds like we have another true believer. Science is a process, with plenty of overlooking this and that, plenty of avenues determined by industrial funding, plenty of internal disagreement. Blind faith in science is as stupid as faith in Jesus. A good placebo effect is worth a lot more than a marginally effective medical solution with several ill effects on the side, eh?

  25. M27Holts says:

    Faith in science? Yes I would certainly get on the jet plane to warmer climbs, since science has made it reasonably likely that I would be thousands of miles away in a few hours rather than crashing into the sea. Science makes it possible for me to type this and watch telly….we all have faith in that…

  26. M27Holts says:

    And I was saying that I fallible, just imagine that!

  27. doug says:

    donn, if you think quack medicine is harmless, you are grossly and dangerously mistaken.

    About 2 years ago I attended the trial of a woman who gave her 7 year old son quack medicines that she could buy at the local store instead of taking him to a real doctor for real medicine. He died. She went to prison on a conviction for criminal negligence causing death. The boy could almost certainly have been saved without suffering any lasting effects with simple penicillin. He would have received free medical care. In my opinion, if the quack junk hadn’t been available at the local stores, he would likely have been taken to a doctor.

    In another case, as much younger child died because his parents gave him “natural” “remedies” instead of real medicine. They are awaiting re-trial (due to error on the part of the judge in his instructions to the jury) on a charge of failure to provide the necessaries of life. This boy almost certainly would have been saved with common antibiotics if treated soon enough.

    In another case, an even younger child died for much the same reasons – quack remedies instead of real medicine which once again would have saved him. His parents have been convicted of criminal negligence causing death and are awaiting sentencing.

    Every one of those kids wound up passing through the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Every one of them then went just down the hill from the hospital to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. I pass that building regularly, and am always reminded of the kids who died because of useless quack remedies that deserve the most extreme of condemnation.

    Then there’s the fourth kid, a young teen, whose parents refused to believe he was diabetic. In my opinion he was tortured to death over a period of years. He too passed through the ACH and then went down the hill. His parents are in prison for life for murder because they rejected what science told them about their son’s condition.

  28. Donn says:

    You’re setting up the same all or nothing picture as the person I was talking about. What do you think, is your attitude towards science and modern medicine a sort of faith, more or less in the religious sense? Do you think people should approach modern medicine with absolute trust, or qualified trust?

    What I’m saying about that Reiki practitioner is that even though it’s officially based on bunk, she may very well do some good in her practice, enough good to be well worth what she earns – and likely no harm at all.

    The harm you’re talking about comes not directly from the practice of alternative medicine, but from someone’s absolute faith in it. When people who put absolute faith in any system, it can easily be their undoing, and there are certainly abundant examples of that from mainstream medicine. That kind of faith is a mental disease, even faith in science.

  29. M27Holts says:

    Donn. Stop being a relativistic knob. If a person x presents with y symptoms. The qualified clinician hopefully diagnoses z and x recovers. Unfortunately, sometimes y is not treatable and x dies. That is not because the person foolishly had misplaced faith in science. Its because science does not yet know everything and probably never will. But suggesting that x would have been best avoiding the clinician to see quack c is just obtuse stupidity. If tou cannot understand that then the argument is over because you have false idea of what constitutes “faith”..

  30. Laripu says:

    M27Holts, I like what you said about jet planes, internet, television. Science and engineering are useful.

    Science gives us some of the things we want, but not everything at once, and not always in exactly the form we want. Science runs into the limitations of reality.

    Religion, quacks, faith healers, and generic fraud artists claim to give us just what we want. When we discover we were lied to, they’re long gone and spending our cash.

  31. Donn says:

    Where do you get “suggesting that x would have been best avoiding the clinician to see quack c”? That’s the same false choice that doug presents, and likewise without any nuance like what symptoms are we talking about. x may pursue whatever remedies he or she thinks may be appropriate, guided by whatever information is available. doug and you describe real and hypothetical cases where someone doesn’t go to seek conventional medical care. That can be a problem, sure, from the large number of us who don’t drop in to the doctor’s office for all the tests we’re supposed to be getting, to the Christian Science believers who will try to pray away fatal but easily treated conditions.

    You should be able to get that down without the either/or sauce, though. I can shun the doctors without visiting a Reiki practitioner. Someone who does get Reiki treatment can also get conventional medical care. These aren’t unlikely hypothetical cases, they’re the common case. There’s no reason at all to leap to the conclusion that Reiki practice is harming people by interfering with needed medical treatment.

    I pull faith into it because I can’t understand how anything else could lead to this kind of dogmatic attitude. You know, the problems with conventional medicine go far beyond “sometimes y is not treatable.” I hasten to assure the faithful that I’m not rejecting modern medicine here, it’s just a question of being realistic about not only its absolute limits, but its mundane weaknesses. Some doctors, surgeons, nurses, etc. are better than others, you know? Pharmaceutical companies are known to have unduly influenced practice. The science itself is full of controversies. Absolute faith in this system is certainly misplaced, as is absolute faith in anything else involving humans.

  32. M27Holts says:

    So Donn. we forget the GP. And pray to a
    an invisible friend instead? Do you think thats progress?

  33. Donn says:

    Looks like you aren’t even reading. Let’s draw a picture. You’re in the clinic after successful delivery of your 11th son, and the doc says, “Just a minute, I’d better circumsize that boy, for health reasons!” You aren’t so sure, and the little lady turns to you and says “So, Holts, we’re to forget the GP, are we? Have you been listening to that oriental fakir!?”

    I expect you’d say “1, I’m with the GP most of the way, but he can be wrong like anyone, and 2, what the hell does this have to do with Anondomondo, he never said one thing vaguely relating to penises.”

  34. Troubleshooter says:

    Anyone dizzy from all the circular logic yet?

  35. Son of Glenner says:

    Author: I submitted a fairly lengthy comment earlier today. On my first attempt, I got a message to the effect that my comment was not accepted, because I was blacklisted. When I made a second attempt, I got a message to the effect that I had already submitted my comment. So far, several hours later, it has not appeared.

    Clarification, please.

  36. postdoggerel says:

    M27Holts, by tosh did you mean tripe, trash, folderol, applesauce, trumpery, garbage, litter, waste, bollocks, codswallop, filth, crap, detritus, nonsense, poppycock, balderdash, hogwash, baloney, or bosh? Tosh, I take it, is British, whereas bosh is of Turkish origin. Being American, myself, I just discovered the term today, and am sure I got most of it wrong, for example, Shakespeare: Why, thou deboshed fish thou, was there ever man a coward that hath drunk so much sack as I to-day?. Well, tish tosh, and maybe have a tash tish tosh to celebrate cultural relativism. Seems reasonable.

  37. M27Holts says:

    If boy x is presenting with a penile problem that requires circumcision then the foreskin should be clinically removed. However removing tissue from a healthy penis should be illegal and any clinician advocate of such should be struck off the register and prosecuted. If a GP gets it wrong by honest mistake less harsh punishment because tvey aint going to be infallible are they? But they will be a better bet than the witch doctor. Just to clarify. It would not be illegal to circumcise a man over 17 if he consents for cultural or aesthetical reasons.

  38. M27Holts says:

    I dont think I would like to live in the US of A, far too many religious numb-nuts or thick-as-mince citizens. Perhaps the media image I have is misleading?

  39. two cents' worth says:

    Something related to the “absolute faith in science” thread:

    Check out the commentary below the cartoon.

    I think that Donn’s point is that trust in the scientific method makes sense, but absolute faith in science–belief that a thing is real only if we currently have a scientific explanation for it–is shortsighted. Remember, it wasn’t until the 21st century that scientists figured out how bees can fly (see ), but it was always common empirical knowledge that bees could and did fly.

    As far as I know, modern Western medicine has the best track record when it comes to saving lives and relieving suffering, but it is not perfect. (Just ask someone who suffers from chronic pain.) In my opinion, it is foolish not to consult a doctor when one is ill or in pain. If adults decide not to see a doctor themselves, that falls under their right to decide what happens to their own bodies, but parents and guardians should not be allowed to deny Western medical care to their children or wards. That said, if it turns out that Western medicine can’t help, why not try an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, a Reiki healer, or the like, as long as this helps the patient feel better and does no harm? Whether the relief is “just the placebo effect” or is the result of a mechanism scientists have yet to discover, the relief is real, and that’s what matters to the patient.

  40. two cents' worth says:

    Author, I hope you’ll find time for some well earned rest & relaxation before resuming normal service. Many thanks for J&M!

  41. Donn says:

    Really depends on where, in the US. As anywhere, I’m sure. The country was to some extent populated with religious fanatics, early on, and perhaps that’s a legacy. But we’d never put up with the church taxes that several European states impose.

  42. two cents' worth says:

    Laripu, I hadn’t heard this tragic news until I checked out your link. This particular case of child abuse was “justified” by religion, but all child abuse is abhorrent. From time to time in the US, there are campaigns against child abuse that include information on how individuals can report cases to the authorities. I wonder if anyone that knew the child had seen signs of previous abuse and reported it. I wonder if the child was home-schooled and denied Western medical care–in the US, teachers and doctors are required by law to report suspected child abuse. I also wonder if his juvenile assailant was home schooled, because attending public school can help to reduce the extremes of fundamentalism by making fundamentalist students familiar with community standards regarding child discipline, and showing them that there are decent people who do not share their beliefs.

  43. postdoggerel says:

    This is not relevant to the topic of the day, but there is a commenter here who should appreciate this article

  44. Laripu says:

    M27Holts, 326 million people in the US, so if 0.1% are truly stupid, that’s 326,000 idiots. That’s plenty of foolishness with which to stuff the law of the media.

    The people who live quiet measured lives, preparing financially for old age, taking care of their families, working seven days a week … they’re not newsworthy. Me, for example.

  45. Laripu says:

    I meant to write “stuff the maw of the media”.
    Autocorrect kills eloquence.

  46. M27Holts says:

    Well the UK has just prosecuted the first FGM case! Apparently the mother told the court that the trauma of her daugbters vulva was caused when she fell on a kitchen cupboard door….unfortunately the damage cannot be rectified by the courts….but this hopefully is the open door that leads to all circumsision being eradicated…

  47. Son of Glenner says:

    Laripu: Re maw/law: This sort of thing is going on all the time when I compose a comment. I must admit that spellcheck, autocorrect, whatever you like to call it, also protects my writing from a lot of typos, as I’m a very poor typist, so I wouldn’t like to be without it. I like to proofread as I go along and again when finished, while still in the comments box.

    I note that M27Holts does not seem to bother proofreading his comments, but his meaning is usually fairly clear, so he is welcome to give me the two-fingered salute.

    I know there is an edit facility once a comment has been displayed, but I find that very clunky to use.

  48. Donn says:

    The 5 minute edit window might not be the apex of editing and composting composition tools, but it’s great to have it there!

  49. M27Holts says:

    What’s wrong with my smelling? I do miss the occasional typo. I may be suffering from borderline wood blandness, and yes I do it all on my owl.

  50. Son of Glenner says:

    M27Holts: Congratulations on being able to spell “borderline” corectly!


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