Category Archives: Books

Would you believe? pt. I

My latest attempt at non-fiction comes from Tom Harpur, writer of the book-turned-CBC-documentary “The Pagan Christ” which asked if Jesus was made up of earlier myths. Harpur however, is a self described

struggling Christian who has found the Anglican Church the most conductive to his own spiritual grown. But, I’m attached to it by an elastic band, not a chain. [Would You Believe? p. 45]

The book I’m reading is “Would You Believe? Finding God Without Losing Your Mind” subtitled “A book for doubters, sceptics and wistful unbelievers.” With this title and his form of liberal Christianity, I went in honestly expecting a decent argument or case for theism.

Continue reading

The Integration of (pseudo-)Science and Spirituality

I picked up the book “The Integration of Science and Spirituality: Subtly Matter, ‘Dark Matter’, and the Science of Correspondence” by Deno Kazanis, Ph.D. from the Edmonton Public Library today. The book is self-published, so it is unlikely to ever cause a stir. Nevertheless, of the handful of pages I was able to quickly skim there are some blaring inconsistencies that should be addressed.

First, the author Kazanis is a M.S. in Physics from the University of Cincinnati, and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from The Pennsylvania State University. He also has a lot of experience with Taoism, Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies. One would think this would be the ideal candidate to tie the realms of “science” and “mysticism” together. However, it seems Kazanis failed to learn about how science really works.

The main theme of the book is that dark matter, as posited by quantum cosmologists (as what makes up “95% of the universe” – in fact in only comprises 23% of the universe, with the even more mysterious dark energy comprising 73%), which permeates luminous (or ordinary) matter without being detected, is the source of all spiritual and mystical phenomena.

Continue reading

Soul Cravings

I recently attempted to read through Soul Cravings by Erwin Raphael McManus. This was one of two books being given out freely by Campus (Crusade) for Christ at the Week of Welcome Clubs Fair on campus last semester (the other was Lee Strobel’s “Case for a Creator”). Below are my (while reading) thoughts and comments on the half that I managed to read.

I can barely get through the introduction to the section “cravings” (there are no page numbers, just “entries” so I’ll reference as such) before running into blazen inaccuracies:

It’s not coincidental that psychology is the study of the soul…

Psychology studies the mental state of people, the interactions between thoughts, emotions, and actions, or from Wikipedia:

Psychology (from Greek: ????, psych?, “soul”, “self” or “mind”; and ?????, logos, “speech” lit. “to talk about the psyche”) is an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior.

Then,

Is it possible that much of what we call psychosis and neurosis is really about us being soul sick?

No… Science has shown a strong link between chemical imbalances and these issues. There is no science behind the “soul.”

Continue reading

Richard Dawkins is no astrologer

How dare Dakwin’s insult astrology in his documentary Enemies of Reason.  He has not spent years studying astrology, he does not know the exact meaning of each of the planets and what it means for Uranus to oppose Venus, or the significance of each equinox.  Why it’s as though one would think he’d have the gusto to insult religion without being a trained theologian.

My point here is pretty obvious (I hope), it’s about as appropriate to say someone cannot criticize religion without being a trained theologian as one cannot criticize astrology without being a trained astrologer. I realized this one evening in bed, but later realized that it was a repeat with a different punchline (and not as eloquent) as PZ Myers spoof.

Here’s a brief reference of articles (from this great anti-astronomical pseudo-science resource) that discredit those who believe astrology is something more and may disagree with me (these of course tend to be scientists published in science journals, and if you have a problem with that relearn the scientific method as it stands today):

Abell, G. “Astrology — Its Principles and Relation and Nonrelation to Science” in The Science Teacher, Dec. 1974, p. 9. An early debunking article.

Bok, B., et al. “Objections to Astrology” in The Humanist, Sep/Oct. 1975. A special issue devoted in large part to this subject.

Carlson, S. “Astrology” in Experientia, vol. 44, p. 290 (1988). A clear review.

Carlson, S. “A Double Blind Test of Astrology” in Nature, vol. 318, p. 419 (5 Dec. 1985). A technical paper describing a good experiment examining whether astrology works.

Dean, G. “Does Astrology Need to be True?” in Skeptical Inquirer, Winter 86-87, p. 116; Spring 1987, p. 257. An important examination of tests about astrology.

Dean, G. & Kelly, I. “Does Astrology Work: Astrology and Skepticism 1975-2000″ in Kurtz, Paul, ed. Skeptical Odysseys. 2001, Prometheus Books.

Dean, G., et al. “The Guardian Astrology Study: A Critique and Reanalysis” in The Skeptical Inquirer, Summer 1985, p. 327.

Dean, G., et al. “Astrology” in Gordon Stein, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. 1996, Prometheus Books, p. 47-96. Long readable introduction.

Fraknoi, A. “Your Astrology Defense Kit” in Sky & Telescope, Aug. 1989, p. 146. An introductory article with some basic skeptical questions about astrology. (Available on the web at:
http://www.astrosociety.org/education/astro/act3/
astrology3.html#defense
)

Fraknoi, A. “Astrology Versus Astronomy” in Astronomy, Jan. 1999, p. 102. Concise note.

Kelly, I. “Modern Astrology: A Critique” in Psychological Reports, vol. 81, p. 1035 (1997). An excellent review. (An expanded version can be found on the first web site recommended below.)

Kelly, I.” Why Astrology Doesn’t Work” in Psychological Reports, vol. 82, p. 527 (1998).

Kelly, I. “The Scientific Case Against Astrology” in Mercury, Nov/Dec. 1980, p. 135.

Kelly, I. “Astrology and Science: A Critical Examination” in Psychological Reports, vol. 44, p. 1231 (1979).

Kruglak, H. & O’Bryan, M. “Astrology in the Astronomy Classroom” in Mercury, Nov/Dec 1977, p. 18.

Kurtz, P. & Fraknoi, A. “Scientific Tests of Astrology Do Not Support Its Claims” in Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1985, p. 210.

Kurtz, P., et al. “Astrology and the Presidency” in Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1988, p. 3. A good summary of the controversy concerning astrology in the Reagan White House.

Lovi, G. “Zodiacal Signs Versus Constellations” in Sky & Telescope, Nov. 1987, p.507.

Mc Gervey, J. “A Statistical Test of Sun-sign Astrology” in Skeptical Inquirer, Spring/Summer 1977, p. 49.

Nienhuys, J. “The Mars Effect in Retrospective” in Skeptical Inquirer, Nov/Dec. 1997, p. 24. Good summary of the current research on what seemed to be one lone test confirming astrology. (see also, Dean, G. “Is the Mars Effect a Social Effect” in Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 2002, p. 33.)

Rotton, J. “Astrological Forecasts and the Commodity Market” in Skeptical Inquirer, Summer 1985, p. 339.

Basically my main point here is as follows: “it is entirely fair to discredit something even if you aren’t formally trained in it, so long as you can legitimately question the foundations of the belief.”  Knowing the ins and outs of every verse of the New and Old Testaments can’t demonstrate whether or not god exists, in the same way knowing each of the meanings associated with the planets (or remembering all the “rules of correspondence” for the stars and planets).

So don’t discredit atheist authors for denying god because they aren’t theologians.  If you do want some atheists trained in the bible try Dan Barker, and others.

Dawkins: The Enemies of Reason

So Richard Dawkins, of the God Delusion and the Root of All Evil fame, is releasing a new documentary called The Enemies of Reason.  A very humorous review is available here.  Some snippets:

If you’ve ever described yourself as “quite spiritual”, do civilisation a favour and punch yourself in the throat until you’re incapable of speaking aloud ever again.

This is the real world, stupid. We should be solving problems, not sticking our fingers in our ears and singing about fairies.

I look forward to seeing this new documentary.  It shows on August 13 and 20.

Take the Atheist Test

The full test is available here, and also shows up as a pocket-sized quiz book randomly in urban centres (I was given one by a friend who found it on a bus one morning). But don’t worry I’m going to go through the whole thing here. So let’s begin The Atheist Test (with an atheist commentary – quotes from other sources are in italics):

The theory of evolution of the Coca Cola can.

Billions of years ago, a big bang produced a large rock. As the rock cooled, sweet brown liquid formed on its surface. As time passed, aluminum formed itself into a can, a lid, and a tab. Millions of years later, red and white paint fell from the sky, and formed itself into the words “Coca Cola 12 fluid ounces.”

Of course, my theory is an insult to your intellect, because you know that if the Coca Cola can is made, there must be a maker. If it is designed, there must be a designer. The alternative, that it happened by chance or accident, is to move into an intellectual free zone.

Continue reading

Irreducible Simplicity

The “theory” of irreducible complexity is that there exists biological features, systems, or organisms in nature that are too complex to be traced back through biological evolution. The claim is that anything that is irreducibly complex will shatter the theory of evolution. This fact is true, and was originally admitted by Charles Darwin:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.

And fast-forwarding to the present, we still do not see any such examples in nature.

Creationists like to point to the eye (which can be found in simpler and more complex forms in nature then humans), the dragonfly wing (which again can be seen in simpler and more complex forms), the bacterial flagellum (of which they’ve identified many individual sub-components that could still exist without the entire structure), and likely many more in the future. The point is that every example brought up has been refuted thus far.

Micheal Behe who developed the idea of IC in the bacterial flagellum said in the Pennsylvania 2005 court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that he hadn’t read most of the fifty-eight peer-reviewed articles, nine books, and several textbook chapters that demonstrated that evolution could explain the complexity of the human immune system. If there were ever the ability to revoke a person’s PhD, I think it is warranted in Dr. Behe’s case. His glaring ignorance of the scientific method is appalling for someone who calls himself a scientist.

This all leads me to my idea of a new “theory”: Irreducible Simplicity. I’ll phrase it as follows:

Any idea, theory, or concept that is irreducibly simple and leaves no room for further investigation, thought, or a general advancement of human knowledge is utter rubbish.

I can further illustrate this through a few examples.

  1. In the late 1800s physicists were under the idea that they understood nearly everything. Had they held this belief more firmly all modern physics (quantum mechanics, photonics, relativity, etc.) would not have been developed.
  2. The theory of ID suggests that all of creation came about through an intelligent designer. Unfortunately it fails to explain anything about the designer, but merely that he/she/it was always there.

Any IS theory cannot be classified as science. Following any IS theory is dangerous as it leads the individual to easy and supposedly definite and final answers and truths. Science doesn’t provide any of these, but merely gives our best guess thus far. Surely this seems more reasonable than the easy solution of “oh because God said so.”

If I wanted to be really critical (and I see no reason not to be) I would suggest that all religions fall into the IS category. It’s just too easy to claim one (or multiple yet contradictory) holy book(s) hold all the answers to life, the universe, and everything. As Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) said:

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

This post is my first that has been brought about through the God Delusion, and seeing as I’m only mid-way through chapter four, there will likely be more.