Questionable Motives

February 24, 2014

Should we assume that climate change is still debatable?

Filed under: Climate Change,Scepticism — tildeb @ 3:09 pm

Not when the science is settled and there are real consequences all of us have to face leaving us unprepared.



January 30, 2014

Can you spot the irony?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 7:26 am



International Catholic Association of Exorcists Director Reverend Isaac Kramer has warned that Internet exorcisms are just a scam.



January 21, 2014

How can you detect climate change denialism in action?

Filed under: Climate Change,denialism,Global Warming — tildeb @ 2:39 pm

Easy: listen to the language.

When you hear someone include a phrase like “invented by Al Gore” or “the models are wrong” or “climate changes all the time” you know you’re about to face climate denial in action. Here’s a reminder why:


(h/t to Climate Denial Crock of the Week)

January 6, 2014

Why this post?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 9:20 pm

questionFor those to have the means to question me further or have me explain in greater detail comments I have made elsewhere.

Go to it.

December 29, 2013

Speaking of why justifying action based on faith-based belief matters…

Filed under: faith-based beliefs,murder,vaccination — tildeb @ 11:26 am

From the Guardian:

Five female health workers vaccinating children against polio have been shot dead in Pakistan in a series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants. One victim was a 17-year-old schoolgirl volunteer.

Belief that vaccinations are equivalently dangerous to the diseases themselves is simply not justified.



If faith-based belief – even by otherwise intelligent people – can so easily relegate reality to a distant consideration, imagine how easily we can use the same methodology to justify imposing our beliefs on others… because we believe we are right and reality isn’t allowed to arbitrate the claim. The Pakistani murders are just one more example of faith-based belief in action. It looks to me just like delusional thinking and then acting on the crazy to cause real harm to real people in real life no different in methodology than believing Jesus was the Christ and was raised from the dead to redeem us from our inherent sin. Crazy is as crazy does. Believers of all stripes, please welcome to your tribe your murderous brethren-in-empowering-faith-just-like-you.

(H/T to Open Parachute)

December 1, 2013

What is woo (and why does belief in it matter)?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 11:56 am

Woo, woo-woo, Oga Boga, POOF!ism, and my favourite Oogity Boogity! (Blessed be His name).  Many people are deeply offended to have their most cherished beliefs classified this way. But should they?

Well, these terms represent not things but conclusions of causal effect by some mysterious yet apparently interactive agency that are unjustified. The cherished belief simply falls into this category if the claim for causal effect is made by the believer regardless of what the specific belief may be. The belief is  wrong not because what it represents may or may not be true in whatever the specific case may be (god or gods, Lanza’s biocentrism, young or old earth creationism, life after death, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, supernaturalism, metaphysics, caste system, astrology, and so on) but because the method of arriving at the conclusion (the epistemology) doesn’t work to accurately reflect reality in the general. Here’s why: the explanation is first imposed on reality and then is immune from being arbitrated by it for accuracy. That’s how woo works! Using the method of woo to explain anything is a guaranteed way of fooling ourselves into empowering some measure of confidence of that belief (as an interactive agency of some kind causing effect in the reality we share) where it is not justified (not arbitrated by reality), and so we confuse our beliefs imposed on reality to be an accurate reflection of it. This is woo in action, justifying all kinds of beliefs that deserve none.

Believing in woo matters because acting on the belief really does cause effect. It really does cause real harm to real people in real life all the time. But this evidence from reality doesn’t matter, you see: the belief is true and nothing from reality’s arbitration of it can make a dent in this assumption. Evidence from reality can then be relegated to some other reason… usually in the form of becoming some artificial outlier (in statistical parlance). And we see this in action all the time: those believers identified causing this harm by utilizing this method are some imaginary fringe group, a ‘few bad apples’, extremists, fundamentalists, and so on, keeping the method of belief that fuels acting to promote harm free from scrutiny by reality.

The is how woo works and why it is so seductive. The methodology – applying a belief that cannot be adjudicated by reality – produces a false confidence we call ‘faith’. And it empowers all kinds of pernicious effects in the world… everything from denying climate change to presuming evolution is scientifically controversial, from going along with cutting off a girl’s clitoris to a boy’s foreskin, from assigning different legal rights to women to denying legal rights to gays and lesbians, from refusing to inoculate children to subsidizing tax free housing allowances to US pastors. People spend billions of dollars buying into bullshit like Deepak Chopra’s consciousness-determines-reality as they do applying snake-oil remedies in place of evidence-based medicine. Public policies are affected by these beliefs in critical areas such as abortion and euthanasia where belief in a ‘slippery slope’ determines very real suffering for real people in real life. The list goes on and on and on and yet the common root  – infusing unjustified confidence in faith-based beliefs – rarely is subjected to the withering criticism it so richly deserves.

Calling any kind of faith-based belief that people are willing to act on with the pejorative term ‘woo’ is a good place to start. More of us should be far more concerned with figuring out what constitutes justified beliefs than offending others who don’t. And if people don’t care about what’s true, then why on earth should we pretend that what they have to say about their faith-based beliefs is worth serious consideration? We already know that they have rejected reality’s role to act as an arbiter of the causal claims they make in its name and will dismiss as irrelevant even the most compelling contrary evidence with an intellectually deceitful wave of the metaphorical hand, because they know that far too many people are willing to concede that people’s faith-based beliefs should be respected out of politeness and personal consideration as if they were equivalently justified as beliefs arbitrated by reality. Perhaps that willingness to police our tone makes us part of the problem, and one that we as non believers of woo should consider.

November 29, 2013

What might a vaccine ad look like?

Filed under: Medicine,Science,vaccination — tildeb @ 11:09 am

November 2, 2013

Why is islam such a dangerous foe of liberal democracies?

Because of  the teachings of the koran stand contrary to them.

The music is irritating but the video reveals what I’ve been saying forever: the koran itself – and not a ‘few bad apples’ who mistakenly take its teachings too seriously – is incompatible with Western liberal secular values.  Pointing out this fact does not make one a racist or an islamaphobe. It makes one a realist who is awake and aware.

Sam Harris makes a very good comment on it here as does Jerry Coyne here.

October 10, 2013

Can we afford to do so little?

Filed under: Climate Change,Science — tildeb @ 2:03 pm

If we think of climate as our life support system, then at what point – what milestone, what knowable data collected – do we decide that we no longer have time luxury to afford small incremental changes but must act to save the life of the system itself? This is the kind of answer we need from scientific consensus to overpower the short term interests and political capital of those who monetize their carbon assets.


August 26, 2013

Why is accommodating respect for faith-based beliefs stupid and irresponsible?

medical treatmentOver at  Jerry Coyne’s site, Why Evolution is True, he posted about a measles outbreak in Texas traced back to a mega-church and non vaccinated children.  Coyne titled his post, “Measles back again, thanks to religion,” and gave us information about the outbreak, the response from church authorities and its ‘medical’ team, and data on the disease, all very useful stuff (as usual). But I disagreed in one sense that the measles outbreak was due to religion. It was just as much back because of those who accommodate faith-based beliefs of any kind and smugly attack New Atheists for daring to criticize any of it publicly. This is what I wrote in my ridiculously long comment:

I apologize for the length of my comment, but this post highlights that the ‘enemy’ of reason and knowledge isn’t just religion per se but those who support and tolerate a methodology that is clearly broken, namely, the empowerment and public acceptance of any faith-based belief (an acceptance demonstrated by offering unjustified respect rather than justified criticism of those who exercise any faith-based belief. I’m talking to you, accommodationists).

Into the category of faith-based beliefs can be everything from religion to anti-vaccination, conspiracies to astrology, alternative medicine to Winfrey/Chopra/Dr. Oz-ian woo. Belief in these is all of a kind, and the root is faith- rather than evidence-based belief… a method of thinking that elevates possibility to be equivalent to probability, meaning that it’s a way to elevate any belief in something to be the same weight in consideration as not having belief in it. In other words, it’s a way to make any faith-based belief seem as reasonable as not believing… one either believes in alien abductions, for example, (by entertaining the possibility) or one does not (by seeming to be closed-minded when there is no compelling evidence in its favour). See? Equivalent: six of one, a half dozen of the other. How very reasonable and open-minded we are and not followers of scientism like those intolerant, strident, and militant folk who are Doin’ it Rong!

What’s lost, of course, is any meaningful way, a methodology we can trust, to allow reality to arbitrate the faith-based belief because the weight of evidence (supporting or not supporting the belief) plays no important role; the equivalency is already clearly established by believers, which is why any possible evidence for the most ludicrous of beliefs is drafted into service and used as if equivalent to the array of evidence contrary to them combined with the absence of compelling evidence where it should be if the belief were true. In this sense, the use of evidence (aka, reality) by the faith-based believer is only used in service to the belief, whereas in every other area of life we know enough to allow our beliefs to be in the service of reality… if we wish to function successfully in it.

Any method of inquiry that refuses to allow reality to adjudicate claims made about it is a guaranteed way to fool one’s self. Believers in faith-based beliefs fool themselves (along with the tacit approval of accommodationists who decide the appearance of being tolerant of foolishness is a higher standard of intellectual integrity than respecting reality to inform our beliefs about it). But it doesn’t end here and this is the point accommodationsits fail to appreciate. A measles outbreak doesn’t just threaten those foolish enough not to vaccinate; it threatens both the non vaccinated AND the vaccinated with exposure to a preventable disease! This is unconscionable stupidity and social irresponsibility in the face of spreading a very real disease because of acting on a faith-based belief. As if believing in such faith-based foolishness weren’t bad enough, acting on this foolishness carries with it a demonstrable cost to all of us that causes real harm to real people in real life. Faced with this reality, I must ask: where did all these ‘reasonable’ accommodationists suddenly go? This is where the rubber meets the road of why respecting faith-based beliefs by anyone including accommodationists is a public threat to the health and welfare of us all.

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