Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stealing disqualification from the jaws of victory.

I really wish skeptics would stop insisting that religious claims can't be tested. They commonly are tested. We test the claims that God did it, with regard to things as far reaching as lightning to diseases. Saying that we can't test such things is to say that we aren't winning, and we haven't been winning for hundreds of years. It's to declare that the games never happened and you are not allowed to play because you aren't sciencey enough. For goodness sakes they have been playing for a very long time, it just doesn't look like it because it's been a massive shutout. They've successfully used religion to explain a total of 0 things. But they have attempted to use religion to explain just about every mystery that came down the pike ever.

Oh there's something you don't understand? God does because God is busy doing it. Um, we solved this it's actually a neat previously unknown natural phenomenon. This has always been the case over thousands and millions of examples. It's saying that two horses that have raced together a million times and always, each and every time, my horse has won. And their horse has never won, and you want me to accept that the race doesn't count because their horse is blind or something. That because it isn't a fair fight and they keep getting slaughtered that I should just nullify the scores and give a wink and a nod to people endorsing the scientific equivalent of magic.

It's a strange illusion but overwhelming and utterly universal evidence looks strangely like no evidence at all. Take life after death for example. Is this some great mystery that we should continue to explore and offer platitudes about not understanding or it being ununderstandable? Well, no. We've got massive amounts of evidence as to what consciousness is and generally how it works and it's a process of neurons in the brain, neurons which rot away and stop functioning. We've made a massive number of observations and nobody has reported something without a brain being conscious or anything that has consciousness not also having a brain. Skullfulls of neurons are overwhelmingly likely to be the way to arrive at consciousness. And even if we could design computers to have consciousness, they would do so by doing what brains do. This overwhelming web of evidence is overwhelming not non-existent. You don't get to say nobody knows when I have every observation anybody has ever made about consciousness on my side and they have jack squat to support their assertions.

One could assemble a pretty good argument just from the evidence and the claims. For example, why can't the dead conscious people who are aware and still exist within the beliefs of religion not talk to the living. I mean if a dead mother told her child that hell was real and heaven was real and don't make that mistake you're making, it would be a powerful thing. If the dead could communicate with the living pretty much everybody would accept the one true religion. Under my beliefs the reason why the dead cannot communicate is taken for granted, they are dead. Being material and having that material stop functioning right precludes communication and a meeting of minds because one of the minds no longer exists. Under religion, there's no theological reason why it shouldn't happen, in fact, it likely never occurred to many of them at all. I'm sure they could make something up, but it would be made up, my understanding of the world takes it as a given. There is no direct path from when you die, your consciousness persists which precludes communication. There is a direct path from when you die, you are dead, which not only explains that but necessarily predicts it.

If a different outcome could render you wrong, you do not get any credit. If a plane crash kills everybody but one single child and you'd declare that an act of God. Then when a plane crashes and kills only that one child and nobody else, you should stop and note that your religion only explains that first data set and given the second data set you must reevaluate your understanding of the universe. -- Oddly that never happens. If science is right about things, and religion is wrong about things. Don't try to declare it a draw because after all maybe some different religion could theoretically be right or at least moot and untestable. It doesn't help. They lost. And sure being unable to play and losing both score zero points, but they aren't the same thing. They could have scored as many points as they earned, they just didn't earn any.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Statistical explanations and the 2nd Presidential Debate

After the 2nd presidential debate, I was watching the MSNBC discussion and Al Sharpton made the point that the area had a lot of African Americans but only one African American was there to ask questions. Earlier this campaign cycle Mitt Romney in one poll scored a 0 with African Americans. In a poll they found absolutely no African Americans who supported Romney. It's quite rare. But, also very relevant. The makeup of the audience of the town hall there is "undecided" voters, who are uncommitted and from the local area. That's a massive bias in the numbers. That demographic isn't the wishy-washy with support. Hence the appearance of white-washing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

iPS wins Nobel Prize. Yay.

Actually there's a contest on PZ's blog to guess this, really it's a yearly link to the place that actually runs the guesses, and I keep overestimating the turn around time on Nobel Prizes. Last year I even posted that Perlmutter was too soon as I guessed that guy who invented LEDs. And I was pretty sure that  Shinya Yamanaka was a few years off. Perlmutter won last year and Yamanaka just won.

He made a reset switch for cells. You can now make a skin cell into a stem cell. America might have figured it out first, but we were prevented from doing stem cell research, during the Bush years.  And that's how you figure this stuff out. You look at the stuff doing the stuff and see if you can force it to do that stuff.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Blasphemy Day

Remember folks, it's a victimless crime.