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Stardate 10.014

Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team

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Scientologists convicted of fraud
I learnt from a media article that the Church of Scientology has been convicted in a Paris court of organised fraud and fined more then NZ$1.2 million. Technically it was only the Church of Scientology's French office that was fined, but this has to be a good start. Finally one country's legal system is prepared to take a stand against deluded religious nutcases ripping off gullible members of the public. Evidently the 'Paris Criminal Court found that the practices of the organisation involved unlawful approaches to fragile people using scientifically bogus claims to defraud them of thousands of euros'. The likes of Christians and Muslims don't look on Scientology as a 'real' religion and will probably be pleased that a court has labelled them criminals. Yet the basis on which they were found guilty — targeting fragile people, using scientifically bogus claims and asking for money — is no different to Christianity or Islam or any other mainstream religion. The same challenges could be put to every mainstream religion in a court of law and they would be equally found guilty. Christianity can no more prove that Jesus walked on water than Scientologists can prove the alien ruler Xenu dropped aliens on earth, and Christians, Muslims et al. make untold scientifically bogus claims just like Scientologists. Likewise churches, mosques and temples are over represented with the disadvantaged, poorly educated and fragile members of every society.

Convicting a religion of organised fraud is a positive first step. Now we must work towards seeing EVERY religion worldwide have their day in court and finally being led down to the cells in shackles. In the same way that Catholic priests, Creationists and now Scientologists have been taken to court and told to justify their activities, every religion should be challenged to demonstrate that their claims that they insist are true, actually are. Numerous individuals and corporations go to court every year to defend their claims and reputations, why won't religions — who have God as a lawyer — do the same? They obviously realise that against reason and science put forward in a legal setting that they stand no more chance of proving God than they would the Tooth Fairy. Thus like Scientologists they continue to target fragile people using scientifically bogus claims. They are afraid, they are very afraid.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Nov, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Bob, 15 Nov, 2009

    It is good to see one country prosecuting scientologists. Germany has been gunning for them for some time but have had difficulty pinning them down for illegal activities. They are trying to prove scientology is not a religion but a commercial operation liable for tax. Investigators have uncovered a lot of disturbing facts about the organisation such as carrying out psychological experiments of the mind altering type on vulnerable people.

    I think it is a bit unfair to lump the conventional religions with scientology. Scientology leaders take all the money and assets they can get from adherents. Your regular Catholic or C of E take only comparatively small contributions volunteered by their adherents. There is nothing illegal in their activities. There is no reason for them to face a court and defend their beliefs. If they did then it would be necessary to put all the alternative and natural medicine practitioners, makers of useless weight loss products, useless exercise machines and claimants of false scientific evidence (magnetic underlays, copper rings) in the dock as well. Our court system is clogged up enough as it is.

    On a slightly different tack I was watching a video clip on YouTube featuring Richard Dawkins. He was showing scenes of the Catholic Church while criticising their belief structure. He pointed out that some of their basic beliefs have no foundation at all. The Pope has declared that certain things such as the Assumption of Mary just have to be believed. So I looked up Catholic web sites googling the Assumption and found he was right. There is no mention in the gospels of Mary after Jesus' death so nothing is known about the circumstances of her death. However in the 6th century the church fathers decided because Mary was the mother of Jesus-God she could not have simply died and rotted in the grave. So first her soul would have gone straight to heaven. Then later her tomb was opened and the body was gone. There could be only one explanation that God had assumed her body into heaven to be reunited with her soul. That was Catholic belief but not official dogma until 1950. Then it was declared to be a compulsory belief. When announcing it the pope would have been under the cover of Infallibility when he couldn't be making a mistake.

    The more you look into it the more absurd religious belief becomes. http://wf-f.org/Assumption.html

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Nov, 2009

    Hi Bob, I'm not so sure that it's unfair to compare conventional religions with Scientology when it comes to the money that their adherents give. Tommy Davis, a spokesman for the Church of Scientology International has claimed: 'It's simply not true that scientologists give more to their Church than members of other religions.' Just like Christian churches, no one is forced to give money to their chosen religion. Everyone voluntarily gives as much as they think they need to give, either to obtain some heavenly reward or to look generous to their peers. Scientology does not take all the money and assets they can get from their adherents anymore than a Christian church does. Look at John Travolta and Tom Cruise who no doubt still have complete control of their assets, not the Church of Scientology. I suspect that many Scientologists have spent more on their religion than your typical Christian, but then again your typical Scientologist seems to be more financially secure than your typical Christian. Other well known members are Kirsty Alley, (the late) Patrick Swayze and Issac Hayes (musician and the voice of Chef in South Park), Anne Archer, Juliette Lewis and Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson). Hardly the paupers of society. ON TV3's Campbell Live recently a member of Destiny Church said that on several occasions they had donated to the Church on Sunday and then had to go down to the food bank since they had no money left. I doubt if Tom Cruise or John Travolta have given a similar proportion of their wealth to Scientology. The money donated to Scientology would be minute compared to that donated to Christian churches worldwide. 'Your regular Catholic or C of E take only comparatively small contributions' simply because that is all they have to give, and in many cases can't really afford to give. I would rather see a Christian Church refuse a $10 donation from a struggling Polynesian family than the Church of Scientology refuse a $1,000 from a wealthy family.

    Every dollar that is siphoned off by the Christian churches is a dollar that some poor family will never see again and will go towards funding the decadent lifestyles of those that run these churches such as Brain Tamaki and the Pope. The Pope doesn't have his own planes because he markets a computer operating system like Bill Gates. The Pope and his dodgy business run out of the Vatican exist solely because of donations from his adherents. I don't think we should look at the actual dollar values donated by the religious, we need to look at what proportion of their income they are giving away and whether they can really afford it. Impoverished peasants in South America are giving to the Christian churches, not the Church of Scientology. Preventing a handful of relatively well off citizens in France or Germany from donating to Scientology is worthless on the large scheme of things, and a cynic might even suggest that it was just an underhanded Christian way of channelling those funds and adherents back to the Christian churches.

    The Church of Scientology was charged with approaching fragile people using scientifically bogus claims. Yet the Christian churches actively approach homeless people, alcoholics, drug addicts, sufferers of physical, mental and sexual abuse, those in prisons, hospitals and the financially disadvantaged and the elderly. These are the very definition of fragile people. Likewise the claims that Christian churches make are as scientifically bogus as those made by Scientologists. A Scientologist saying that mentally disturbed people have thetans in them that need to be removed is no different than Jesus trying to drive out demons. I think a familiarity with Christianity causes us to often overlook just how equally ridiculous it is compared to those other religions that we all have a giggle over, such as Greek gods hurling lightning bolts from Mt Olympus or Egyptian gods with the head of a hawk and the body of a man. We scoff at Scientology's galactic leader Xenu but immediately accept Christianity's claim of a virgin birth and a man walking on water. From a scientific perspective, while still silly, Scientology claims are far more plausible than those of Christianity. As for the illegality of their methods, again I see no difference between Scientology and Christianity. If someone wants to voluntarily give a $1000 to Scientology, this is no different than someone voluntarily giving a $1000 to the Destiny Church or the Vatican. And let's remember that far, far, far more money has been given to the Vatican than Scientology. Any interpretation of a law that makes Scientology methods illegal would apply equally to Christianity.

    I agree Bob that it is unrealistic to expect our court system to examine religious claims, along with other pseudoscientific nonsense, but this is because of logistics not because they don't deserve to be challenged. If there were no crime I'm sure lawyers would jump at the chance to put god, psychics and magnetic underlays on the stand. As much as I am against Scientology, I don't believe that they should be forced into court if all the big religions get to freely walk our streets and even sit on the jury, hypocritically condemning a brother religion. Scientology is a minor blip on the religion radar and we are being fooled if by squashing them we think we will have rid the world of the dangerous effects of religion. Challenging Scientology should just be the first step, the impetus that gives us the confidence and will to challenge the real players in the religion game. If we are just going to destroy Scientology and then stop, then we are just stupid pawns of the mainstream religions, removing their opposition for them and freeing up their followers to potentially return to the fold. I know that Christianity or Islam isn't going to be put on trial any day soon, but we can't let their followers believe that, unlike Scientology, there isn't a strong case. The evidence is there, unfortunately the will is not.

    As for your comments on Mary, I think many Catholics would be shocked if they only realised that there is no Biblical support for the claims they make. Their worship of Mary, not to mention Jesus, goes against the commandment of worshipping false idols. For many God is third on the list, if mentioned at all. This idea that she arose bodily into heaven, that she had no other children, that she was forever a virgin, that her mother also gave birth to her with out sex — the immaculate conception — or that they later examined her tomb is just silly. The Catholic Church revere her since she was the mother of Jesus, yet Jesus himself was seemingly on poor terms with her. When a woman in the crowd said 'Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you', Jesus contradicted her by replying, 'Blessed rather are those who heard the word of God and obey it'. At one stage Mary and other family members attempt to have Jesus taken away because they believed he had gone mad. Jesus wouldn't even interrupt his socialising to go out and talk to her. When he died and rose he appeared to Mary Magdalene and numerous others, but he never bothered to visit his mother. Mary featured in the birth stories, but seldom after that. Joseph simply disappeared after the birth. Considering the Catholic Church's subjugation and often hatred of women, it is surprising that they placed Mary, an unmarried woman that cheated on her fiancee, on a pedestal.

    As you say, 'the more you look into it the more absurd religious belief becomes'.

  3. Comment by Bob, 16 Nov, 2009

    Hi again, I wouldn't take much notice what the said Tommy Davis says. The Scientology leaders take legal action against anybody who criticises them at the drop of a hat. Defamation actions, gagging orders etc. are their stock in trade. The Germans are trying to stop them claiming religion status so they have to pay tax. They claim they are a profit making business.

    Those wealthy successful people worth hundreds of millions of dollars are not giving anywhere near their total wealth to scientology. They can give a million or two without batting an eye. The organisation might get money by voluntary direct contribution but they also make a lot of money by giving bogus treatments for mental and emotional problems. You have probably heard of what they call auditing. An auditing session always shows subjects have mental instability problems. These are treated by expensive treatments of which many are needed. At several hundred dollars apiece for a series of sessions an average adherent soon goes through his or her money while the "Church" rakes it in. They attack conventional psychiatry while boosting their own mental health treatments.

    While I have no interest in the main stream churches they don't act so financially fraudulently towards their followers. I agree they take in more money than scientology because they have millions of followers compared to a few tens of thousands for scientology. I have heard that about Destiny which I also despise. It also happens in some of the Island churches around Otara and Manukau.

    As a matter of interest I have heard that the Church of England in particular is wealthy because of the amount of property and other assets bequeathed by followers over the years. Simply managing the property is quite a business in itself. Apparently the Church owns millions of pounds worth of valuable real estate around London and elsewhere.

    I agree with what you say about the religions in general. I just think from knowledge I have gleaned that the Church of Scientology is worse than the rest and is in fact fraudulent along with those mainly American evangelical snake oil salesmen like Benny Hinn.

  4. Comment by Matthew, 26 Nov, 2009

    Hi team, I tend to agree with the above poster that Scientology is no better or worse than any other organised religion. There are some things they do that are far worse than say, the Catholic church, such as demanding a substantial amount of money to increase your 'level' & encouraging followers to turn their backs on family and friends who don't support the church but they have never had a war fought in their name, don't preach gay-hate, don't move child molesters from one church to the another to sweep things under the carpet and so on. For some reason, the mainstream media find them a more 'acceptable' target for our scorn than the other religions which is a shame as they all have their crosses to bear (pun intended). I've never had a member of the church of scientology come and knock on my door on a Saturday afternoon and interrupt my day with offers of pamphlets so they get points from me for that.

    With regards to the Catholic church and where do they get their money, interestingly enough I was looking at buying an apartment in Auckland city as an investment about 8 years ago near the top of queen street and noticed it was a 99 year lease (not freehold) and digging a little deeper learned that all the land was owned by the church. Further chats with the developers and I found that all along Karangahape road is also owned by the church from queen street along to the first road on the right and this was why there were no strip clubs, dodgy pubs, etc at that end. They have land everywhere and there is absolutely no reason why they need to take donations from people who are struggling to make ends meet. Funny how they recently declared 'obscene wealth' as one of the new deadly sins.

God, jigsaws and drowning children
Recently there has been the tragic death of a child. A two-year girl drowned after falling unseen into a drain through a slightly open manhole cover. Through no obvious fault on the part of the police or search and rescue personnel, it took a week before her body was finally located some 36 metres into the drain from the manhole cover. Hundreds of professionals and volunteers from the community frantically searched the waterways and properties surrounding the site of her disappearance, including the drain where she was eventually found. Many of these individuals and no doubt hundreds of thousands of others around NZ prayed for her safe return. The child's parents belonged to a local Baptist Church, and as often happens in these cases, the pastor became a spokesperson for the media. He told us of their natural distress and anguish, and again reassured us that everyone in the church was praying that God would protect the child and deliver her safe and well back to her family. Unfortunately this was not to be and that's where the pastor's story changes.

After the discovery of the body, on TV3's Campbell Live program the pastor said that the parents had 'dreams and hopes for a little girl's life, you look forward to things, and, this is not part of God's will, God's plan for their lives, it's ... some thing has gone very wrong here, an accident or some thing has gone very, very wrong'. I'm not picking on this pastor, I'm just highlighting the contradiction, the back flip that most all religious people perform in situations like this. When a search is on and there is still hope, then God is on their side, he is protecting the lost or injured until help arrives. If they are found safe and well, then cries of 'Thank God' ring out. We're told that there has been a 'miracle' performed and that God truly loves them. If there is a positive outcome we're informed that God is the reason. Even if police find a missing person, we're told that God led them to their location. God is intimately involved in EVERY saving of a human life.

But when things don't go as hoped, then these same people ditch God like a soiled napkin. I don't mean that they reject him, I mean that they absolve him of all responsibility in someone's death. People only survive tragedies it seems because of God's will, because God is with them, but when they die, they were on their own. God has written them out of his plan. What might an innocent two-year old have done for God to put a line through her name? The pastor, who one assumes knows far more about his God than I do, said that this child's death was an accident and not God's will. So who has the power to override God's will? Does God have a boss, or a wife? We all know that in human terms people can't be blamed for failing to help if they were on holiday at the time or quite simply because they can't be everywhere at once. But this is God we're talking about, the being that is incapable of taking a holiday and is the biggest peeping Tom of all time. He saw the child run away, he failed to close the manhole cover as she approached it, he failed to lead searchers to her and he watched her life ebb away. Who told him to do nothing?

Religious types, and this applies equally to Christians, Jews and Muslims, will insist that God is the head honcho, that no one dictates his actions and that nothing happens that isn't part of his plan. And when things are going well, they are happy to knock on our doors and tell us about God's will and his plan for us all. But when things go pear shaped, then suddenly it's just an accident or a natural disaster, and God would have liked to help but unfortunately he was off on holiday again. When an airliner crashes and a child survives it is a 'miracle', God has chosen to save her. No one mentions the 300 other passengers that God evidently decided to kill horribly. It is part of the age-old problem of evil. Everything good in our lives can be attributed to the will and grace of God. As for everything bad, oh well, shit just happens. But if we have a God for all the good things, maybe there is another god that handles all the bad things? Maybe the bad things aren't accidents and nature after all? Some people might mention Satan at this juncture, but no, we need a god that is at least equal to God, and probably even more powerful in some aspects. The evil god needs to be able to either override the will and plans of God or at least hide his evil activities from him. Perhaps the evil god bought God a really challenging jigsaw puzzle and this distracted God from realising a child was missing. I know from experience that I've let several mugs of coffee go cold while engrossed in a jigsaw.

When pastors, priests and ministers insist that tragedies like children drowning in drains, flooded rivers and tsunamis are just accidents and natural disasters, that it has nothing to do with God's will and that God had no involvement whatsoever, I accept this immediately. But then I'm an atheist. What I don't understand is why other Christians who also acknowledge that God had no involvement with a disaster, don't turn on their pastor or priest and ask, 'Why the bloody hell wasn't he involved?'

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Oct, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Scientist reproduces Shroud
Shrouds In an event that will be distressing for believers in the Shroud of Turin, the cloth that they believe wrapped the dead body of Jesus Christ, scientists have created a cloth that closely resembles the original. The original bears what appears to be an image of a crucified man, and although to most of the world it has been shown to be of medieval origin, carbon dating to around the 14th century, believers still argue that it is genuine. Against all the scientific, historic and biblical evidence, a favourite challenge of theirs is to state that even today no one can make a shroud or linen cloth that bears an image similar to the shroud, and they didn't have the knowledge to do it in the 14th century either. But now scientists in Italy have made a cloth bearing an image very similar to the shroud, and using only techniques and materials that were known in the 14th century. Luigi Garlaschelli, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia, stated that, 'We have shown that it is possible to reproduce something which has the same characteristics as the Shroud'. And so crumbles another weak argument put forward by believers in the shroud. Read more about the method used in this article, with photos comparing the 14th century shroud and its modern reproduction. (Note: In the above photo the original is on the left.)

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Oct, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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The Journey — to fantasy land
Journey Recently I went to a free lecture designed to convince people to attend an upcoming weekend seminar on something called 'The Journey', or at the very least, to make people consider having an holistic healing session. The Journey is simply one of a long list of bogus healing therapies invoking 'mind-healing'. We were told that it's a 'dynamic, new paradigm for bringing lasting change to your life'. It's claimed to be 'cutting edge transformation and healing work' that will 'awaken and liberate the infinite human potential'. But what does 'infinite human potential' even mean? Do I have trapped inside me the genius of Einstein, the muscles of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the abilities of numerous Olympic athletes, the handsome good looks of George Clooney, the allure of Casanova, the humour of the combined Monty Python troupe and the longevity of Methuselah, all just waiting to be switched on courtesy of a weekend seminar? And if so, why have these 'accredited Journey practitioners' not accessed and liberated their own 'infinite human potential' and made something really worthwhile of their lives? Unlocking this 'infinite human potential' and combining it with their 'infinite wisdom' should allow them to transform society and solve all the planet's ills, not just that of their bodies. Why are they not the next Einstein or Rembrandt or Shakespeare? It's a bit like the Hunchback of Notre Dame telling you that he can teach you the skills to transform your body into that of an Adonis or Aphrodite, and yet he's still a hunchback. Or psychics that want to sell you the winning lottery numbers but haven't bothered to use them themselves.

We were told that the Journey has helped thousands to 'free themselves from issues like fear, anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, chronic anger and rage, physical illness and disease, and those relating to addictions and unhealthy behaviours, sexual abuse, relationship problems and career performance'. You might have noticed hidden in that list these words: physical illness and disease. The rest could be broadly labelled as psychological problems, and I believe this is most likely why some people put faith in the healing powers of the Journey. Psychological problems can sometimes be resolved or controlled by recognising what is causing fear, anxiety, stress, relationship problems etc. and taking steps to eliminate their causes. Talking through issues with an 'accredited Journey practitioner', a fancy name designed to fool you into thinking that they're a trained counsellor and/or medical practitioner, could indeed resolve some emotional problems, just like talking to a psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor or even your partner or a close friend might. However, Journey practitioners don't stop with emotional problems, they keep mentioning being able to cure physical disease as well, from simple flu and stiff joints to anthrax, cancer and HIV. Their main thrust is to talk of healing psychological issues, such as fear and anxiety, of feeling stuck in your life, of unhealthy behaviours and patterns, of resolving and letting go of emotional issues, of getting more fulfilment from relationships. But hidden within these claims are the bogus, unsupported and potentially dangerous claims of physical healing. They promise the healing of physical disease by a process of 'guided introspection... It will take you deep within, to a place where you will be guided by your own body's wisdom. When you have recovered the memory that is the key to your issue, you are then able to empty out all the associated emotion contained within it and open into a deep forgiveness. Once completely free from this memory, healing at a cellular level can take place'. They promise that they can cure 'ill health or ongoing physical issues', that they can 'effectively address the root cause — not the symptom — of any life issue and clean it out completely', and that 'the process addresses any type of physical block', enabling you to 'let go of emotional and physical baggage'. And this slightly vague implication that the Journey can cure serious, fatal diseases has an easily discovered origin. This bogus healing method known as the Journey was invented by American woman Brandon Bays after she supposedly caused a football sized tumour (or basketball sized depending on the article), in her body to completely disappear within six and a half weeks. In her own words, this is how, without any medical intervention, she discovered how to cure cancer: "I underwent a profound process of introspection. To my surprise I discovered that stored inside the tumour was an old unresolved traumatic memory from my childhood. Through a powerful process, I was able to finally face, resolve, forgive and complete that old issue. When it was complete my body went about the natural process of healing on its own'.

Cellular memories are the key to the Journey's healing method, whether the issues are physical or psychological, and the journey is one of 'discovering old cell memories, resolving them and clearing them completely allowing the body to heal'. You might be wondering what the Funk & Wagnalls is cellular memory? It's the erroneous idea that every cell in our body has the ability to store memories just as our brain does. The Journey practitioner informed us that every emotion that you have rewrites the DNA in our cells, of which our body has around one hundred trillion. Of course I can't see why the body would evolve the need to duplicate our memories, first a copy in the neuron connections of our brain, then another hundred trillion copies into our cells. It would indicate that the brain is a terribly inefficient way of storing memories. The brain has around a hundred billion neurons, many of which in association with other neurons are needed to store memories, yet it seems each neuron, which is just a type of cell, can also independently store memories according to believers in cellular memory. Why bother with a brain when you can store them all in a single cell? Of course if you dig a little deeper you discover that all our memories aren't actually written into all our cells. If they were then Brandon Bays' cancer causing memory should have been in every one of her cells and her entire body should have been one large tumour. So perhaps memories are allocated so many to a cell, and if the memory a particular cell gets is bad, then that cell gets depressed and fails to bother going to work in the morning. The supporters of cellular memory are quite vague on the actual details of how all this works, and what memories are stored where. You'd think the memory of your first teenage crush might be stored in a heart cell, and that of losing your virginity might appropriately be stored in a cell in your genitals, but no, it could just as easily be a cell in your liver, bowel or lungs. If losing your virginity wasn't as great as you thought it was going to be, then I'm sorry, but you're destined for liver, bowel or lung cancer depending on where that memory ended up. If you've had several unpleasant sexual encounters, or even if your older brother just enjoyed scaring you when you were a kid, you might get cancer of all three. How do people find out where these destructive memories are stored? We're told that people need to meditate and get in contact with the body's 'infinite wisdom', or 'open into source', which is just another vague, meaningless term that they throw about. We're told that when they're in the right frame of mind then contact with their 'infinite wisdom' will occur, which is quite ironic since the right frame of mind is the one thing that these people certainly aren't in.

Evidently if you experience negative emotions in your life then the memory of them is stored in your cells and the specific way the emotions reconfigure your DNA causes the cells to malfunction and get out of balance. Just as you can retrieve, visualise and relive an event from your past by accessing the memories stored in your mind, Journey practitioners believe you can scan and access memories stored throughout your body, such as in your liver, big toe and right ear. As we've already discussed in our criticism of the 'documentary' movie 'Transplanting Memories', these people also believe that organ transplants see people receiving the memories of the organ donor, all due to cellular memory. If the organ donor was an alcoholic, now it is likely that the recipient will also have that addiction. If the donor was raped and murdered, the organ recipient will now have those memories in graphic detail. Of course cellular memory is utterly bogus, it's simply a modern, scientific sounding term to describe a primitive, ignorant superstition. It harks back to the ancient belief of sympathetic magic, such as where eating the heart of a powerful and brave enemy warrior would transfer their courage to you, or eating the brains of a wise man would give you his wisdom. Many people from past times also believed that disease was a punishment from the gods or a magical curse. If you got the plague it was deliberate punishment for some past action on your part. If you were born with a deformity it was because, according to an episode of South Park, your parents laughed at a handicapped person, or, according to the Catholic Church, your parents had sex in a position other than the missionary position. Disease wasn't seen to be caused by microscopic organisms, a lack of vital nutrients or errors in their DNA. Thus to get well you had to discover and make amends for some event in your past that had offended someone. The Journey and cellular memory is merely a modern version of this primitive superstition. Rather than viruses or toxins or DNA errors causing disease, it is claimed that emotional events in a person's past are the root of all illnesses, be they a simple cold or a more severe case of Ebola. To be cured and maintain perfect health, all that needs to be done is to discover the emotional memories that are unconsciously troubling your body. Perhaps years ago you lied about breaking your sister's doll or were scared by an old Dr Who episode as a kid. All you need do is to be confronted with this memory, resolve your emotional conflict with it, and all life's problems will simply melt away, be they a strained relationship with your sister or terminal cancer.

The Journey practitioner said that as we meditate the 'infinite wisdom' within us all would lead us to the diseased cells. Once located we can relive the negative emotions and attempt to resolve them. It makes you wonder why our primitive mind must attempt to resolve these past issues when one would think that our 'infinite wisdom' was far more qualified to psychoanalyse our past mistakes. But seemingly it just hides in the background for our entire lives, observing but never offering a polite, 'I wouldn't do that if I was you... which of course I am'. Even the people that I know that have completed the Journey and communed with their infinite wisdom don't seem to be any wiser than they were before. By swallowing this nonsense dare I say that many have even regressed.

We were told that if you maintain feelings of joy, love and gratitude you will NEVER get ill. One handout entitled 'Self Healing DNA Discoveries' informed us that 'we create our own reality by choosing it with our feelings... Remember that the law of the Universe is that we attract what we focus on. If you are focused on fearing whatever may come, you are sending a strong message to the Universe to send you whatever you fear'. What total bullshit. As if there is such a 'law of the Universe'. I've been focused on a Lamborghini Countach with a certain Playboy playmate in the passenger seat for many years now. OK universe, where the hell is it? One moron in the audience even stated that the annual 'Daffodil Day' appeal to raise funds for cancer research was very dangerous and should be stopped. He reckoned that if you buy into supporting 'Daffodil Day', if you donate, then you'll definitely get cancer. The rest of the audience murmured agreement, as did the Journey practitioner. One woman asked if our emotions generating negative cellular memories caused all diseases or were toxins and viruses to blame as well. The answer basically was that the initial cause is definitely your emotions and cellular memory, but once your cells were all screwed up, causing your meridians and chakras to be out of balance (yes, the Journey practitioner believed in these as well), then this allowed toxins and viruses to enter and damage the body. If you only think of love and peace then your body is immune to the likes of toxins and viruses. One claim was that 'you can prevent getting anthrax or any other flu, viruses etc. by staying in these positive feelings'. They also claimed that these positive feelings would increase the resistance that HIV patients had to getting AIDS by 300,000 times. Positive thoughts are the answer to staying well, 'no matter what dreadful virus or bacteria is floating around'. How dangerous and irresponsible it is to make totally unfounded claims like this, claims that might encourage vulnerable people to forgo effective medical treatment and gullible people to place themselves at risk.

Obviously if your cancer doesn't abate or your boss still doesn't like you, then you'll be told that — no doubt sympathetically — that this is because you personally have failed to resolve those past emotional events. The fault and failure is with you, not the fact that you aren't seeking medical care and certainly not with the effectiveness of the Journey's methods. You simply aren't doing it right. The Journey can never fail. If your life improves, then you can thank the Journey. If it gets worse, then you have failed, not the Journey, but you personally. If only you weren't such a loser!

The woman giving the talk was Julie Gullick from Winton, Southland. She says her job is holistic healing, and calls herself an Accredited 'Journey' Practitioner, as well as a Holistic Counsellor, a Reiki Practitioner, a Natural Health Consultant, an EFT Practitioner, Spiritual Mentor and Life Coach. She also does Past Life Regressions and uses Energy / Vibrational Healing Techniques. I always wonder that if any one of these healing methods really worked, then why would you believe in or need the rest? If cellular memory and the Journey both explained and treated disease and psychological problems, then why try and convince another client that Reiki and some powerful invisible being is the healing path they should attempt to follow? The answer is twofold. Firstly, since none of these therapies actually work, then these holistic healers need a raft of silly beliefs to fall back on when the client's choice of the Journey or Reiki doesn't work — 'OK, let's try EFT then'. They don't seem to notice or at least don't acknowledge that their different therapies conflict with each other. Secondly, believers in this type of nonsense can't seem to stop themselves from adopting new forms of holistic healing, perhaps unconsciously searching for one that actually works.

When she first heard of the Journey and its healing claims, Julie said she was skeptical. She told us that she needed the science to convince her, she was that sort of person. She says that in her early days 'I was so thirsty for as much information about healing and wellness, body/mind/spirit connection I could get my hands on. I am an avid reader and poured through books one after the other. I visited many different healers, spiritual counsellors, attended workshops, studied at university, and seemed to be gathering knowledge and awareness every where I went'. It's disappointing how these believers confuse the nonsense that healers and spiritual counsellors tell them with science. Also the fact that she travelled all the way from Southland to Christchurch to attend a Journey seminar would indicate that she wasn't all that skeptical. Nor did she offer any evidence at this talk that the scientific community accepts that cellular memory is real and the cause of disease. She did say vague things like 'science has now proved that emotions do actually affect our health', but this is a million miles from what the Journey claims. It's like saying science has shown that every snowflake is unique, therefore this must mean that some powerful being is overseeing their construction to ensure they are all different. Why is it that these idiots and their clients can all make these leaps from a fact to a fantasy in one easy step, or should that be stumble?

If you're wondering how much that weekend seminar on the Journey might set you back, the cost ranged from $545 to over $2000, plus airfares and accommodation. This is where the real money is made with all these silly beliefs, selling them to others, and as they say, there's a sucker born every minute. And once these gullible idiots become accredited Journey practitioners, they can try and recoup their setup costs by seeking out other gullible idiots to come in for numerous sessions of fantasy and magic. We just hope that all their clients only have minor psychological problems and not cancer.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Oct, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Anonymous, 21 Apr, 2010

    Hello John, I discovered your website yesterday while trying to find some info about The Journey and was so relieved to read what you had to say as it totally verified all my own distrust of this cult. Whereas all my convictions about The Journey were just based on gut feelings/suspicion/an enquiring (sceptical) mind and just plain common sense, it was encouraging to find someone who had done some proper research and had personal experience of The Journey. Thank you!

    I have a close friend who became enamoured of Brandon Bays (and all her spiel) and then went on to become an accredited Journey Therapist. She became very annoyed and defensive when I questioned her as to whether six weeks training was really enough to qualify one to take on... well, as you say, just about any health problem the world throws in her direction. Her involvement with The Journey and its use of Recession Therapy — which reassured her that all adult problems with life were based on 'experiences and mistakes during childhood' — began to cause such a rift between us that we now see little of each other.

    I sincerely hope that more adverse publicity is given to Brandon Bays and her sycophants.

  2. Comment by Joe, 15 Jun, 2011

    Have you sat any of the courses John? If you haven't then maybe you are in constant judgement of others wanting to better their own lives by living with happiness. :)

  3. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Jun, 2011

    No Joe, none of us have been willing to throw away hundreds or thousands of dollars to sit in on one of these courses. But we did attend a free lecture, so are you suggesting that there are secrets and convincing evidence that is revealed only when money changes hands? We would be quite willing to observe a course or seminar and recant our views publicly if they convinced us that they were genuine. So if you know of any practitioner willing to let us evaluate their course for gratis, please let us know. Think of it as a little like the free copy of their book that authors send to book reviewers in an attempt to promote their work.

    Furthermore, we are not in 'constant judgement of others wanting to better their own lives by living with happiness', in fact we applaud any method that improves people's lives. We believe that telling people that they should save their money and seek real help from professionals is good advice that will make their lives better. We are trying to make a difference. Our problem with 'The Journey' is, as we said, that it is merely a modern version of primitive superstition. It is totally irresponsible to claim to fix emotional problems by meditating and seeking bogus cellular memories or to imply that 'The Journey' can cure everything from simple flu and stiff joints to anthrax, cancer and HIV.

    We accept that some of these practitioners may genuinely want to help people, and of course their clients no doubt have real problems, but immersing yourself in a superstition is not the answer. Perhaps you could explain why no one other than followers of 'The Journey' believe that it can cure cancer etc, and why they can't demonstrate this belief with evidence? Is it another massive conspiracy at work?

  4. Comment by Chris, 22 Jun, 2011

    Hi John, please excuse me digressing on a wildly different tack, but a throwaway remark of yours caught my attention — "It's like saying science has shown that every snowflake is unique, therefore this must mean that some powerful being is overseeing their construction to ensure they are all different."

    When I first heard this story about the snowflakes, I had my doubts — because I could see no mechanism that could possibly operate to prevent duplicates occurring. What I guessed was that there is a moderate number of different possible patterns, but the chances of seeing two of them side by side was fairly small — hence the origin of the legend.

    But I've just been impelled to Google, and it seems the number of potential forms is so vast that the chances of two larger flakes being exactly alike at the molecular level is astronomically small (though, of course, in no way impossible).
    http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/alike/alike.htm

    So I learnt something today, thanks to your blog. It's kinda nice to find that something I always regarded as a pleasant fantasy is actually (probably) true. And I do like the question that the author of that page posed at the start — if two identical flakes did fall, who would ever know?

  5. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jun, 2011

    Unlike you Chris, I had never really thought about the claim that no two snowflakes are alike, but a while back I did read (somewhere) that it isn't actually a proven fact that no two snowflakes are alike. Evidently many years ago someone just looked at a few snowflakes under a microscope and made that assertion, with no real evidence, and a belief was born. But you're right it seems, snowflakes are for all intents and purposes unique in appearance. In a similar vein, people used to refer to DNA fingerprinting, implying that the samples obtained from different people will be unique, but this is not necessarily so, and scientists now call it DNA profiling. Of course our entire genome will be unique, but not necessarily so the small samples taken for profiling.

    Update: I found where I read about the guy who started the belief that no two snowflakes are alike. It was mentioned by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki in his book 'It Ain't Necessarily So... Bro' [2006]. Evidently a farmer by the name of Wilson A Bentley started taking photographs of snowflakes through a microscope in 1884, and before his death in 1931, he said he had photographed 5381 and had 'never seen two snowflakes alike'. Unfortunately for him, scientist Nancy Knight, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, did collect two snowflakes that were identical under a microscope. That was in 1988. Kruszelnicki agrees that they probably weren't identical at a molecular level, but then what is? However I take the claim to be referring to snowflakes at the microscopic level, and perhaps even macroscopic, so at that level it seems it is possible to find two alike, but very, very unlikely, and I'm certainly not going to start looking.

    As an aside, isn't it weird that I used the phrase 'not necessarily so' twice and then later found the answer in a book called 'It Ain't Necessarily So... Bro'. Is that spooky or what? If I wasn't a skeptic I might think that some helpful spirit was trying to give me a hint!

  6. Comment by Chris, 24 Jun, 2011

    Hi John. Actually this subject raises all sorts of interesting aspects. For example, the way in which the electrical charges on the frozen water molecules (I think this is the case) act to make the next freezing droplet stick exactly opposite the last one so the flake ends up with its very complex shape but six-sided symmetry. But the spatial geometry of the charges must be such as to permit the wide variety of different designs. William Paley might well have offered snowflakes as an example of intelligent design had they been known at the time.

    The other intriguing question is, even if Wilson Bentley had collected two alike, how would he know? How do you catalogue and compare 5381 shapes? A computer could quite easily, but by hand? I think it would require 5380+5379+5378+...... +4+3+2+1 comparisons, which is around 5380x2690 = 14.5 million. One could much reduce this of course by arranging them into groups, if their designs are such as could be readily grouped (something I don't know).

  7. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jun, 2011

    Yes Chris, it is amazing that something as ubiquitous as water has such amazing properties and can be so complex in its different forms.

    As regards Paley, you're right that he might well have used snowflakes in his argument had he known of their design. However he would have had the problem, for me anyway, of explaining why god insisted on every snowflake being different, and yet that same god kept using the same designs over and over again in life, when even dumb humans can see that there were better ways of making things. Why for example do humans share at least 96% of our genes with chimps and around 60% with the fruit fly? Why does snowflake design that we can't really see have to be unique and yet even Christians can see the obvious shared attributes between humans and chimps? Perhaps Paley would say that God had a fetish for snowflakes, and that's why he never married, too engrossed in designing unique snowflakes?

  8. Comment by Anonymous-2, 17 Nov, 2013

    Hi John. I thoroughly enjoyed your post on the Journey. I am a sceptic that considers this journey a kind of exercise in wishful thinking — much like religion, in fact. I have a friend, however, who is an enthusiastic believer and who claims that the journey healed a friend of hers after the doctors had told her that there was nothing more that they could be done to cure her cancer. Out of curiosity, I looked into the journey and saw numerous people who claim to have been recovered from terminal diseases. Do you think that these are bogus claims or could you give a more conceivable explanation?

    (I also agree that the financial aspect of this 'therapy' is very problematic. If the claims are true, it essentially means that they are only available to people who can afford the therapy — this seems very corrupt to say the least. Also if the claims were true, one wonders why funds continue to be poured into medical research in order to find cures that are so obvious!).

  9. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Nov, 2013

    Thanks for your comments. I believe you've asked a very revealing question — are these healing claims bogus? — one whose answer is applicable not just to the Journey but to a great many silly beliefs where honest, ordinary people make apparently outlandish claims. I contend that all these personal testimonials claiming miraculous healing are false, in the sense that the claimed healing attributed to the Journey never happened, and reason and evidence supports my stance. However this is not to say that all the people making the claims of being healed are lying, they will often be quite sincere in that they truly believe that the Journey cured them. That said, some personal testimonials will be totally bogus, in that not only did the claimed healing not occur, the person making the claim will be fictitious, invented by the company to promote their business. The clients will naively believe in what their Journey practitioners claim, just as the clients of psychic mediums blindly believe that they are receiving messages from dead people, but when if comes to the Journey practitioners themselves (and the psychic mediums etc), while some will be as deluded as their clients, many will know quite well that what they claim is bogus. Some are truly ignorant, others are deliberately devious.

    But getting back to those sincere claims, sincerity in making a claim does not equate to truth. For most of history people have sincerely claimed that untold gods have cured them and demons and witches have cursed them. Today we have people sincerely claiming that they have seen alien spacecraft and/or have been abducted and experimented on by aliens. Name any quack alternative therapy from homeopathy and Reiki to healing magnets and crystals and people can be found that will sincerely attest that these therapies healed them from a terminal disease. Does this mean that gods, demons, aliens and Reiki healers really are making a difference to people's health? No, just that some people think they are, and are honestly saying so. Ask a young child who brought them their Xmas presents and they will sincerely tell you it was Santa. They're not lying, this is what their gullible mind truly believes, but they are wrong nevertheless.

    And young children actually have better reasons to believe in Santa than people have for believing in the healing powers of the Journey. They've often met Santa, all the authority figures they know agree that he is real, and they have personally experienced the receipt of gifts. But with the Journey (and other silly healing scams), stories of cures almost always involve a friend of a friend or some unknown person mentioned in the company's list of testimonials, eg Mary S. of Sydney or Richard K. of Toontown. Strangely no one has experienced this miraculous cure themselves, it almost always happens to someone else. And when friends are pressed about their friend's details, or the practitioners are pushed for more details about a specific testimonial, the excuses surface. They don't know exactly what sort of cancer it was, or what conventional treatment they underwent, or what the doctor's exact prognosis was, or whether the doctors have said that they are definitely cured. It's all very vague, as if it might not have even happened, just like an urban myth. But why aren't these people that have been cured of a terminal disease coming forward themselves to publicly make their recovery known to the world? They will have experienced the suffering and stress involved with their affliction, but on being cured, rather than wanting others to know that they too could be cured, the very most that they do is tell a friend that they're much better now, and/or send a brief testimonial to the Journey website. Why aren't they appearing on the TV talk shows and pushing the doctors, hospitals and medical community to take their cure seriously? Society should be bombarded with people diagnosed with terminal disease suddenly and inexplicitly turning up completely cured, and thanking the Journey. But we're not. Why are those cured by the Journey and granted a new lease of life content with simply writing a brief testimonial and then going into hiding?

    Of course a very small number of people diagnosed with cancer will no doubt be able to factually claim that after taking the Journey they are now apparently cancer free. But we must remember that cancer (and other afflictions) can, in rare cases, naturally go into remission, and people are wont to credit whatever they were trying at the time to be the reason for their cancer to abate. If they had been conned into paying for the Journey, or had just started a new diet of rhubarb flavoured ice cream or thought that the end was near so went on a wild orgy of promiscuous sexual encounters, then they would likely credit this new activity as that which cured their cancer. But of course this linkage is pure superstition, and it requires science to actually prove what intervention might have brought about remission, or if it simply had a natural and unexplained cause.

    Also, some people that have cancer and see some remission often credit some nonsense such as the Journey or prayer as the reason, and completely ignore the conventional medical treatments that they have probably undergone at the same time, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I saw a guy on TV a few months swearing that Jesus had cured his cancer, and when asked if he had also used the likes of chemotherapy, he said yes, and was actually still undergoing treatment, but he assured us that it was Jesus that effected a cure. It makes you wonder why he continues with the unpleasant chemotherapy then?

    The fact is that it would be very easy to prove to the world if this silly Journey nonsense actually worked. Why don't they want to help humanity and relieve unnecessary worldwide suffering? Plus from a purely greed perspective, trillions of dollars are to made from their method if it worked, so why are they happy for ineffective conventional medicine to reap the financial rewards instead? The clear reluctance of Journey practitioners to offer evidence that it works is simply because it doesn't. Producing evidence for miraculous healing courtesy of the Journey is like producing a struggling leprechaun or skimpily dressed fairy, you can't produce that which doesn't exist.

  10. Comment by John, 02 Oct, 2015

    Hi, all. I wonder if anyone is still following this thread? Journey

    Ok; I have a question. I was just invited by a friend, who I like, to read The Journey. I know from the first few words on the website that this is 'make up silly beliefs and dreamy words as you go along' stuff. Seen it dozens of times. I decided once to get rich by publishing my own work, called The Seven Blessings. I am sure any of us could turn the handle and churn out the rambling self-indulgent tosh, about how nature and the angels want us all to be healthy, beautiful, slim, rich and adored but a conspiracy of evil scientists have poisoned us with low self-esteem and chemicals.

    So.. nice friend believes all this guff. How can I GENTLY undermine her belief? She WANTS to believe it; her friends believe it. Against such forces cold reason has no power. She just thinks we are evil men trying to bury the truth, prevent her achieving spiritual harmony in a beach-ready body, by spreading toxic DOUBT.

    Has anyone ever managed to rescue a silly believer from their silly beliefs? What language can we use that they will even HEAR??

  11. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Oct, 2015

    Hi John. By coincidence I recently read the following quote by Carl Sagan:

    'You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe'.
    However, speaking from personal experience, I know that it is possible 'to rescue a silly believer from their silly beliefs'. I've had a few successes over the years, from believers in homeopathy to alien visitors. And if you look at religion, probably the biggest silly belief of all, more and more people are walking away from it every day. But I believe a lot depends on the person themselves, whether they're the type that wants the honest truth and will seriously consider opposing arguments, or the type that prefers feel good answers. The latter type is what Sagan is referring to. For example you would be wasting your time debating with the pope, door-knocking evangelists or Brandon Bays, the inventor of 'The Journey'.

    As for, 'What language can we use that they will even HEAR??', this also varies greatly and there is no easy answer. It's easier to get a friend or family member to see the light since you'll have many opportunities to slowly chip away at their belief, whereas it's unlikely that you'll deliver a single killer argument in a one-off encounter with a stranger at some social gathering. Some people are receptive to scientific evidence, many are not, at least not at first. It's best to keep it simple and ask questions that expose flaws in the belief. You don't want to lecture, it's better if they discover problems with their belief as they explain it to you. And as you say — 'GENTLY' — it's important to be friendly rather than dismissive and arrogant. I've found that people normally know very little about their pet belief, be it 'The Journey' or gods or aliens. Sure, they've perhaps read a book or article written by a believer, but they're usually ignorant of the many flaws that skeptics have pointed out. Sometimes a simple question can really trip them up. Of course this means you'll likely have to know something about their belief. For example, people pushing the moon landing hoax nearly always start out by asking that if getting to the moon was so easy, why didn't they ever go back? When I reply that they went to the moon nine times and landed six times, they reply sheepishly, 'Oh... the article I read didn't mention that'. Most alternative healing beliefs can be challenged with simple questions such as, why don't the people healed of cancer etc go public and help others? Why do they keep a miracle cure to themselves and close friends if they're so convinced it works? You mentioned your friend talks of 'evil men trying to bury the truth', so why do people cured by 'The Journey' help them by keeping quiet? If something like the 'The Journey' works, why do therapists also often offer the likes of Reiki and homeopathy etc? If they're absolutely convinced that 'The Journey' explains our health problems and can heal us, why waste their time playing with other therapies?

    You could also reverse the challenge by invoking fair play. Since your friend invited you to read 'The Journey', you can ask her to read a book or article that takes a skeptical look at 'The Journey' or alternative healing in general. They expect you to be open-minded enough to consider an alternative view, they surely should be willing to do likewise. Some general books that expose the tricks therapists use that I would recommend (check your library) are:

    'Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial' by Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst
    'Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks' by Ben Goldacre
    'Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All' by Rose Shapiro
    'Complementary Therapies for Cancer: What works, what doesn't... and how to tell the difference' by Shaun Holt Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science' by Robert L. Park
    Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud' by Robert Park
    The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy, and the New Fundamentalism' by Dick Taverne

    Book Book Book Book Book Book Book

    Unfortunately, and speaking from experience, if your friend is a true believer and you do start to expose cracks in her belief, she will likely quickly get annoyed and refuse to discuss it any further. She will talk about 'The Journey' as long as she thinks she might be convincing you, but if the tide turns then she'll suddenly find other things to talk about. If as you say, 'She WANTS to believe it', she isn't going to cheerfully let you change her mind.

    If I had some illness and was desperately seeking a cure, I wouldn't care if it was delivered by doctors or leprechauns, I would simply say to both: Convince me that you have the cure. But true believers seem to forget that it is a cure they seek, and fixate instead on one person promising a cure at the exclusion of all others. If I was to argue that leprechauns can cure me, as soon as I find one, and refuse to listen to arguments against leprechaun cures or to consider any cure that doctors might have, I would be called closed-minded (as well as less polite names). I would be utterly stupid to fight to prove that leprechauns could heal me rather than simply finding a cure, no matter what the source. I could say I WANT leprechaun healers to be real, and forget that what I really want is a cure. People like your friend that WANT these silly beliefs to be true forget that what they really want is to be healthy. And as such they should be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if that means rejecting a belief that they had thought might work. Why are they so obsessed that it must be 'The Journey' that makes their life better? It's as though they've fallen for that old saying, that the journey is more important than actually arriving. Rubbish! Actually regaining your health is far more important than 'The Journey'.

Evolution verses Creationism
I saw on the TV news the other night that there is a new British movie out called Creation. It follows Charles Darwin's life as he slowly constructs his theory of evolution by natural selection. His book On the Origin of Species was released in 1859 and gave biology, and science in general, an immense boost, at the same time dealing religion such a serious blow that it will probably never recover the authority it once held over the masses. For much of history, even the few that dared question the notion that an all-powerful god created life could not come up with an answer that made gods superfluous. As silly as the god stories of divine creation appeared to be, they couldn't see how life, and humans especially, could have arisen without a guiding hand from some Being playing god. And let's remember that Darwin didn't come up with the idea of evolution. Many scientists of his time and before thought it obvious that life had evolved from simple life forms to more complex forms over time. Even Darwin's own grandfather had developed a theory of evolution, the details of which Charles rejected. The close similarity between many species, such as humans and apes, and the examination of fossils, appeared to demonstrate a linear connection. Also scientists were beginning to understand that contrary to entrenched religious beliefs, the Earth was a lot older than just a few thousand years. They began to realise that a span of millions of years could give time for species to evolve. But by what mechanism they might evolve no one could explain, until Charles Darwin came up with that mechanism — natural selection. And let's not forget Alfred Russel Wallace either. As I've said, many scientists were considering the idea of evolution, and Wallace working independently also discovered natural selection. In fact, it was only his letter to Darwin asking him what he thought of his discovery that promoted Darwin to publish his own discovery. When the theory of evolution by natural selection was revealed to the world, it was done so jointly by Darwin and Wallace. Darwin is generally credited with its discovery over Wallace since he had formulated it years before Wallace but was reluctant to go public, knowing the furore it would create. He also had a massive amount of data supporting his theory, but there is no denying that Wallace also discovered evolution by natural selection.

But back to the movie. It was revealed that the producers had difficulty finding a distributor in the USA and that originally it wasn't going to screen there, since, we were told, evolution is both controversial and deeply divisive in the US, and evidently only 39% of Americans belief it is true. Meaning 61% believes in Creationism, that their god created 'life, the universe and everything'. Yet here we are in the land of democracy and free speech, and they struggle to find a distributor for a movie that discuses a view that some of their citizens disagree with. What's democratic or free about that? Obviously this movie would not be a blockbuster in the States like the Harry Potter or Terminator movies, but I know that there will still be more Americans that would see it than there are Kiwis simply because of the population. This reluctance to screen it is solely an attempt to hide the truth from the religious majority, rather than a fear that they might lose money. Churches don't want their followers to be confronted with alternative views. They are rightfully fearful that exposure to the facts of evolution could see belief in god plummet as it has in other western nations. To hold onto their followers they must keep them ignorant. In an attempt to maintain this ignorance, and outlawed from teaching creationism in schools, they are energetically trying to get Intelligent Design taught alongside evolution in science classes. Thankfully they have failed to date, since as someone once described it, Intelligent Design is just Creationism in drag. Or as one of my fridge magnets says, 'Intelligent Design isn't Science. It's Bullshit'. American is a real contradiction. Possibly the most technologically advanced nation on the planet as well as the most religious. The poster boy for free speech where religious voices often control what its citizens get to see and hear.

In a similar vein, just recently the producers of the science fiction TV show Stargate SG-1 released an 'improved' DVD version of the original pilot episode that would go on to be the longest running sci-fi series in history. I read on the internet where American fans say they are very pleased that they have edited out the single scene of nudity that it originally contained. Untold people are shot and stabbed and blown up in Stargate, as well as being terrorised, tortured and taken into slavery, but one bit of female nudity is what offended and concerned them. With the nudity gone, one person said that now he is happy to let his kids watch the episode. Some Americans are seriously screwed up. I picked up a copy of the new DVD in a shop the other day. The warning label said 'Contains nudity'. So obviously the producers realised that countries like NZ wouldn't be offended and left the nudity in for our version. It seems that many Americans are as fearful of nudity as they are the truth.

Thankfully we live in NZ. The other week at the supermarket an attractive young woman served me at the checkout. On spotting my 'Born Again Atheist' badge she said, 'I see you're an atheist'. She then paused, and I though she might be searching for a polite way of telling me I was going to roast in hell, but then she continued, 'Me too'. All is right with this part of the world.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Sep, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Phill, 17 Jun, 2011

    I got Creation out on DVD a few months back, it wasn't a bad movie, I quite enjoyed it. But it was not so much about Darwin's (Paul Bettany) struggle with the theory of natural selection. By the time the story in the movie starts Darwin is already at that point in his understanding. Rather it is more about his relationship with his wife, Emma (Jennifer Connelly) who remained an ardent christian) and his own loss of faith and the focal point of that loss of faith (not his own scientific beliefs) but his favourite daughter (Anna).

    The film is in my view a sweet bit of whimsey, Darwin spends a lot of time discussing evolution and faith with his eldest daughter (played by a charming young actress).

    *Spoiler alert*

    The reveal towards the end of the movie is of course the fact that the real reason for Darwin's estrangement from faith, and his wife's estrangement from him, has very little to do with science. The daughter has in fact died some time before, the daughter Darwin has been talking to is a construct of his mind (or a ghost if you are of a supernatural bent). The fact is though his science took him towards his own non belief, it was the loss of a loved child that caused him to question the existance of god (as it no doubt did for many Victorians) and for people today. HIs estrangement from his wife was due to his own feelings of guilt that he and she may have been responsible for the child's illness because of how closely related they were (they were cousins) and according to the film that Darwin took the ill child away from his wife to Bath, and put her into the hands of a doctor with with what we would not see as quack theories where the poor girl died (though in fairness to the doc this was in the 1850's when medical science was still pretty basic).

    Now I could imagine some atheist getting all hot under the collar because of the film's magical realism (the ghost of the girl or her mental construct or hallucination talking to daddy). Also the story of a less than heroic Darwin coming to atheism not becuase of the science but the due to the emotional toll of a child's death. But the fact is, this is what did happen. The film ends well, Darwin receives the letter from Wallace and realises he needs to put aside his fears and publish. He comes to terms with his own non belief in god and in a sense his wife's belief, and she in turn comes to terms with his atheism. All because they realise they love one another — its very sweet and tender and brings out the romantic in me.

    I could imagine that Anglicans, Catholics, and other mainstream christian donominations will have little problem with the movie, but then they generally don't have any problem with evolution. Of course your Baptists and other fringe groups (which seem to make up a large portion of American belief) will freak at the name Darwin without even seeing the movie.

    If I was going to sum the film up, I'd say a chick flick for the science graduate (My wife (the BSc) loved it.)

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Jun, 2011

    Thanks for the review Phill. We haven't seen it yet, although we were aware that Darwin struggled with the direction science was taking him and his love for his very devout Christian wife. We were also aware that the loss of his daughter Anne affected him in the extreme, but we hadn't heard that he 'chatted with her ghost'. Most probably a bit of cinematic licence, but possibly a successful way to introduce evolution and religion debates. We guess that to make a successful movie about a scientist and his science that the general public would want to see it had to focus on human relationships rather than what could be dry and complex scientific explanations. They wanted a movie, not a documentary or science lecture, and as long as they didn't fudge the important bits that really happened then we have no complaints. There have been plenty of movies featuring God and Jesus, it's high time Darwin and evolution got onto the big screen.

    We like your description: 'a chick flick for the science graduate'.

  3. Comment by Phill, 17 Jun, 2011

    Hi John, yes a quick re-read and I see what you mean — yes what I meant was the death of his child was a major impact upon him. The chatting with the ghost thing was the creation of the script writer!

    I do recall a wonderful British Docudrama of Darwin's voyage on HMS Beagle (I think it came out in the early eighties). Which included a recreation of the famous debate between T.H. Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce Lord Bishop of Oxford about Darwin's theories. Certainly one of the things you do wish they would bring out on DVD.

TV journalists promote nonsense
Last night TV3's current affairs show Campbell Live featured one of the most pathetic items I've yet to see. It showcased a scam run by Malcolm McLeod, although they didn't mention it was a scam. McLeod claims to be able to analyse a person's handwriting in order to determine their character. This scam is known as graphology, and is no different than the likes of astrology or palmistry. Graphology shouldn't be confused with 'Questioned Document Examination' (QDE), which 'deals with the authenticity and authorship of written documents' and is a respected branch of forensic science. Graphology is a pseudoscience based on a superstition. Unfortunately the substandard reporting of Campbell Live referred to the 'science of graphology'. We've already written an article debunking both graphology and McLeod, so we won't rehash that here. When I saw McLeod in Queenstown women were fawning over him like groupies over a rock star, and those shown on TV3's piece were no different, although McLeod had aged considerably. The Campbell Live reporter Emma Keeling made no attempt to challenge what he claimed, and although he made innumerable statements about different people's personalities and past histories, not once did anyone stop and ask the person whose handwriting he was analysing, 'Is that correct?' McLeod offered offensive statements such as 'Psychopath... you're a bit of an anal, pedantic bitch... you're possibly the sickest puppy I've seen in my whole life... someone has trashed you in a past relationship... you need [vitamins] or Viagra or both, lady... ' He also offered non-committal statements that psychics and mediums love to use, such as 'People who forget to dot their 'i's, can be forgetful or subtle rebels... ', so the listener simply picks the one they like the sound of best. He told Emma that her 'o's suggest you are slightly emotionally constipated... '. McLeod speaks on the lucrative seminar and corporate speaking circuits, so these idiots weren't paying for his services, yet if convinced of his 'science', they may well go on to employ graphology in the recruitment of staff in their business. It is worrying that many businesses already use graphology to vet potential staff. Businesses can not discriminate on the basis of skin colour, religion, sex, ethnicity etc., but they can, and do, discriminate on the basis of your handwriting. And the many idiots involved in producing TV3's Campbell Live have played their part to make this discrimination respectable.

Last Friday, TV3's Sun Rise program also did their bit to spread nonsense. They featured the scam pushed by Ken Ring, the ex-maths teacher and ex-clown who claims to be able to produce accurate long range weather forecasts by looking at the moon and astrology. I don't watch morning TV, but I don't believe Ring is a regular on the program, he seemed to be on because his latest Weather Almanac has just been published. Co-host Oliver Driver did ask one or two questions regarding criticism of his method, but it was all very non-confrontational with nothing designed to shake any faith viewers might have in Ring. Although at least one person in the control room must have been skeptical since this question, appearing as text at the bottom of the screen, was directed to viewers, 'Is our weather unpredictable?'. I suspect that Driver was skeptical but that their job is to ask polite questions, not expose their guests as delusional, superstitious screwballs.

Last night I heard that botanist David Bellamy would be on this morning's Sun Rise program debating climate change, so I recorded it. I thought that this would make a trifecta of nonsense, but I was wrong. Although it did provide a platform for Bellamy to deny that man-made climate change was occurring, co-host Ali Akram was not intimidated by Bellamy's reputation and strongly challenged his view. While little ground was covered, it was refreshing to see a reporter unwilling to let a guest push their view with no need to support their stance. I think even Bellamy was shocked that he wasn't getting the free ride that most morning TV show hosts no doubt give him. By the end of the interview the screen was labelling him a 'climate change denier', with the same negative feel as one would accuse a holocaust denier.

So the hosts, producers and directors of these types of TV shows can make a stand when they feel like it, it's just a shame that they can't be relied on to research and accurately report the truth status of every topic they choose to present to the viewer. If a proportion of the items they present are simple fluff pieces, completely bogus items designed simply to attract and entertain gullible viewers, many viewers will be unable to discern where the fluff stops and where the facts begin. The willingness of these shows to mix bogus but entertaining topics with factual topics only contributes to the so-called 'dumbing down of society'.

So what can we do? My friends and family, like most people, complain about the state of TV, but only to each other. If we want to change things we need to tell those that can make changes. Email the show and tell them that you thought that the standard of the item was pathetic, that you hate being lied to, treated like an idiot and that entertaining lies are not what you expect from professional journalists. Conversely, if they occasionally get it right, congratulate them on a job well done and remind them that there are viewers out there that watch these types of shows to be informed, not entertained. We watch the nightly news and current affairs shows to learn about the world, to be entertained we'll watch Family Guy and Star Trek. No one can hear you muttering in your armchair. I suspect many journalists and producers would prefer to make more serious and informative pieces, we need to tell them that there is an audience that will support them.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Sep, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Matthew, 11 Sep, 2009

    Hi folks, thanks for voicing the thoughts of many of us regarding the state of journalism and in particular the "news" programs. There is definitely a decline in the integrity of the news programs and I sometimes wonder who they think they are catering to. One of our favourite things to have a chuckle at in our household at the moment is the insatiable need for TV3 news to cross live to someone somewhere for absolutely no reason at all. The first time we noticed this was during the swine flu hysteria where some students from Rangitoto college were put into quarantine on returning from Mexico — so they crossed LIVE to a reporter standing outside the front of Rangitoto College. At 6:pm on a Sunday night. In the middle of the school holidays. There was absolutely nobody there apart from the reporter and one had to assume that nobody had been there all day. In the last week we've also seen a "crossing live" to a reporter in a park in Auckland to report on the supercity debate and someone standing in front of a pub to report on alcohol advertising. Keep an eye out for these — they are hilarious. Sadly I now rely on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for my news (also the National Geographic website has an excellent news section).

    Now to the part of your article that troubled me. The closed minded attitude to global warming. I have been a believer and then a denier and now am firmly on the fence. Your attitude comes across (and apologies if I have this wrong) that deniers should all be firmly lumped in the conspiracy theorist camp but if this is the case you do yourself a disservice. There is still a fantastic scientific debate going on that is the likes of which we have never seen before and following both sides is fascinating. This site is an avid advocate of empirical evidence being needed before making up your mind either way which is something I adhere to nearly fanatically and yet when it comes to global warming it seems your stance is relaxed. So far, not a single prediction about global warming from the IPCC has come true. Not one. Similar to not one case being solved by sensing murder. Indeed, the temperature of the planet has dropped in the last 2 years and sea levels have not risen at all. Computer models are not evidence and neither are little circumstantial anecdotes that the news seems to love throwing into their line up a couple of nights a week. People that speak out concerned that the alarmists have hijacked the debate are subjected to nearly witch-hunt like attacks (as you pointed out in your article) or labelled conspiracy theorists. It obviously doesn't help when some of them obviously are, that's right Ian Wishart — I'm looking at you. Stay off my side!

    One of my favourite books, The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, made a point of saying that we should continually remind ourselves to remain skeptical but never cynical (if we can help it). For you to say that a climate change denier should be given the same negative feel as a holocaust denier is quite sad as there is no way to compare the two but I would love to hear you try.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Sep, 2009

    You're quite right Matthew that those skeptical of man-made climate change shouldn't be vilified or insulted because of their views. Nor should all of them be labelled conspiracy theorists. I could have written that paragraph better. It was actually Prof Bellamy who brought up the holocaust. Asked if he had 'experienced vitriol and hatred for expressing [his] beliefs?', Bellamy replied:

    'I'm a holocaust denier, and I should be sent off and tried for crimes against humanity. I would say that in fact the other side, the people who won't allow both sides to [be publicised and debated]... '
    He never finished his statement, but I think we can assume that he meant that those that support climate change should be the ones labelled holocaust deniers. He doesn't seem to disapprove of the insult, just that it targets the wrong side. I agree with you, not Bellamy, that people with different views shouldn't be denigrated solely because of that difference. Of course, I am happy to call someone deluded and ignorant if their arguments show they are.

    I certainly didn't mean that we should automatically view climate change deniers in a negative light. I meant that the interview changed from being a friendly, fluffy, feel good piece on conservation with a hairy, chubby botanist from an old TV show, to one where he was increasingly coming across in a negative light. An eccentric, rambling, elderly gentleman basically accusing the world's governments and scientists of conspiracy and 'crimes against humanity'. This was the atmosphere that the show appeared to create.

    My gripe in this particular post wasn't on climate change per se, but on the inconsistent stance that journalists take when reporting items. The viewer never knows when they are reporting widely accepted scientific facts or new age nonsense. Watching the items on weather prediction by the moon and graphology, there was no real hint that the scientific community considers both these as nonsense, or that the claims might be highly controversial. Yet with the climate change item, it was made perfectly clear that there is considerable controversy. Whether climate change is man-made or not, Prof Bellamy was challenged to support his stance. Also the program gave viewers the correct impression that the majority view of the scientific community is that man is contributing to climate change. Whether history will show this view to be right or wrong, the fact is that people like Prof Bellamy that insist climate change is a myth are the minority voice. Remember that there are other scientists that dismiss evolution and push Intelligent Design, others that dismiss the Big Bang theory and go with the Steady State theory. There is never 100% support for any scientific theory, but it is disingenuous if the media leads the public to believe alternative theories are equally matched, that depending on new data the pendulum could easily swing either way. Just as most biologists support evolution and most astronomers support the Big Bang, most climate scientists support man-made climate change. This could change of course, but until it does, the minority of scientists that support the out-of-favour theory must not push a public argument that their stance has an equal chance of being correct. Also they must accept that they are denying the conventional view and thus will be labelled as dissenters. This is a fact, and not something they should get upset over. Most people that deny climate change claim that the science clearly shows they are right, and that they should be given equal time in the media to put their case. They also claim that more and more scientists are coming across to their side and publish quotes from scientists who now support them. Yet this is exactly what people pushing Intelligent Design do. They claim that their science is more robust, that they should be given equal time to teach the controversy, that evolution is an atheistic conspiracy and that the world's biologists are deserting evolution in droves. They also publish quotes from supporting scientists, but like the climate change skeptics, most of the scientists have no qualifications or expertise in the field they are commenting on. Why should we support the climate change skeptics in their push for debate and not the ID proponents?

    I applauded the stance displayed on the Sun Rise climate change interview, not because it settled the debate in any way, but because viewers were left in no doubt that there was debate, that there was controversy over climate change. Whether Bellamy is correct is not, he was forced to explain his argument, unlike the weather and handwriting items where Ring and McLeod had full rein to give the viewer the impression that there was no controversy over their claims. They should have both been challenged as Bellamy was, especially since their claims are truly pseudoscience, whereas Bellamy et al. are usually arguing using real science. As I said, Bellamy appeared truly shocked that he was forced to support his case. He obviously expected to just tell the viewers that climate change was a myth and that they would hear his arguments and no one else's. Although he argues for both sides to be debated, he was annoyed when this actually happened and he struggled to put forward a coherent argument.

    For example, here are some quotes from the show:

    Host: 'You actually say that the current warming of the planet that we are experiencing is going to be good for this planet?'
    Bellamy: 'Well, no, no... the... umm... well, we could grow more food in Siberia... '
    Yes we could, but that probably means that many of the areas where we used to grow food are now too hot. Other areas in Europe may now be hot enough to support mosquitoes and malaria. You must look at the pros and cons. It also shows that many climate change skeptics disagree with each other, not just with the majority. As you stated, many claim that the world is not warming, others claim it is, but man isn't causing it. They don't speak with a concerted voice. I believe that support for climate change skeptics would be a lot less if they were forced to split into their separate camps, rather than pretending they are all reading from the same hymn book.
    Bellamy: 'It's climate change and there's absolutely nothing [we can do about it]... we talk about a 0.7 degree Celsius rise... I go out and a cloud comes over and it changes that much. It is total poppycock.'
    This is a childish argument. I've heard many say it is foolish to worry about a predicted 3 or 5 degree change in temperature, when last week there was a 20 degree temperature difference in Alexandra in 24 hours. A 20 degree change didn't harm us, so why should 5 degrees? Does Bellamy not understand the difference between weather and climate, or is he deliberately sucking in those who don't?
    Bellamy: 'If you look at [Al Gore's] famous DVD, there are 25 very, very dodgy statements, politically, and that is banned in Britain, and no child, no school, can be shown it unless the other side is actually given in the argument.'
    Bellamy states, rightly or wrongly, that the movie contains not a single false statement, only some that are 'dodgy'. And seemingly not a single one of these statements involve science, only politics. He also states that British schools have been forced to 'teach the controversy'. This is exactly what proponents have been fighting for in the US, not for climate change, but for Intelligent Design.
    Host: 'The list of people who believe it's happening is much longer than the people who don't believe it's happening. Every recognised advisor to governments on science believes it's happening, so how can you sit there and say it's not?'
    Bellamy: 'Why are most of those governments now saying, come on, we really can't afford this, it's going to bankrupt our economies and they're changing their minds... '
    Host: 'But that's a different issue isn't it... between whether it's happening and whether we can afford the remedies...
    Bellamy: 'No it's not... '
    Sorry Prof, but it is clearly a different issue. As Ali Akram said, people may believe in climate change but still disagree with the Kyoto proposals. Anyone that argues that the science must be wrong simply because governments are backing down on expensive changes is either fudging the issue or not that bright.

    When asked what backs up his belief that man made climate change is not happening, Bellamy replies:

    'Because there is no actual proof. There are a whole series of computer models, and you can trick a computer model to say what you like... there is no proof at all, just models.'
    So Bellamy is saying that the lack of proof is the best argument. He's not saying there is definite proof from his side that it isn't happening, only no proof that it is. Let's remember that Einstein's theories of relativity were generally accepted for many years before physical evidence was obtained, the same with quantum mechanics, so lack of immediate proof is not a good argument. Also he is wrong to dismiss computer models. They work, and both sides should be using them. They only give flawed conclusions if you enter the wrong data and use flawed algorithms. Climate change skeptics say they have different data, so if they were to enter that into their computer models, this should demonstrate their conclusions. Why don't they use computer models to challenge those from the other side, rather than simply dismissing the concept completely? And scientists don't just have computer models based on theories. The data they are inputting into these models is solid physical evidence, such as ancient ice core samples. It is also disingenuous to say that scientists are 'tricking' their models to produce desired results. This is implying a massive conspiracy, that scientists are knowingly fabricating false models.

    As you say, some climate change deniers are true conspiracy theorists, and their arguments and vocal support do tend to show all deniers in a bad light. People such as Ian Wishart and Ken Ring, and most every conspiracy theorist magazine and website seem to distrust governments and scientists and thus write screeds on the myth of climate change. Many of the arguments that one hears are flawed, but it seems that many laypeople use them for support. Last week a letter to the local paper moaned that everyone learnt in school that when ice melts the water level doesn't rise, so this claim the sea levels might rise is bogus. This is true for ice that is floating, but not for ice that is sitting on land. If this ice melts, sea levels will rise. Many people seem to be climate change skeptics due to simplistic arguments.

    I admit that I haven't studied the debate that deeply, and I can't argue specifics. That said, at present I am going with the majority view of the scientific community. They are the experts, and until some climate change skeptic can sway this view with convincing evidence, I must accept their expertise. I don't care how many laypeople the likes of Bellamy, Ian Wishart and Ken Ring can convince. Until they can produce arguments that aren't torn to shreds by real scientists, arguments that create real doubt in their minds, I will accept that there is a good chance that man-made climate change is occurring. This is the same stance I take with the universe being 14 billion years old, that there are quarks inside protons and DNA inside my cells. I have neither the resources nor qualifications to verify any of these things. I choose the majority views of astronomers, physicists and biologists over priests, astrologers and homeopaths. I haven't suddenly developed the skills that allow me to challenge climate scientists. I can certainly look at arguments from both sides to see if they seem reasonable, logical and consistent, but if that resolves nothing specific, then I'll opt for the majority view for now. I'll only sit on the fence if scientific opinion is equally divided, with what robust evidence there is supporting both sides.

    Returning to the holocaust deniers bit, I would actually defend their right to challenge a historical claim. I think we fall into the very trap that you were arguing against, that we're denigrating someone based on emotion rather than objective facts. Many holocaust deniers may be immoral, racist scum, but that doesn't mean that their view of history is wrong. I believe it is wrong, but if we want to challenge a holocaust denier we must do it by exposing their errors and/or lies, not simply by making them too embarrassed to open their mouths. For example, there was a claim made by Jews that the Nazis turned the burned bodies into soap. This has been shown to be false, a myth. Many Jews were naturally appalled that people even questioned whether this claim was true. If holocaust deniers weren't given the same opportunity to debate their claims as are climate change skeptics, then this would be unjust. We can't let emotion dictate what people can dispute.

    On a lighter note, yes I have noticed those news items where they go live to their reporter. They are becoming ridiculous. Another negative aspect of these film crews is that news worthy items are often ignored if there's no crew in that city to get gory pictures, while cities that have crews get to film a cat in the tree story just to utilise the crew. They really do influence what we get to hear about. I've never seen The Colbert Report, but The Daily Show is certainly very good. News and comedy in one show.

  3. Comment by Matthew, 14 Sep, 2009

    What a marvelous reply and worthy another response. Firstly (and most importantly), WATCH the Colbert Report! Anybody who has a problem with the reporting style of today's news stations will get a huge kick out of it (comedy channel, 10:30pm). It is similar to the Daily Show but he is a 'character' who is parody of many of the ultra right wing reporters from the likes of Fox news.

    Secondly, sorry for hijacking the thread and almost turning it into a debate on global warming rather than a comment on the unbalanced way of reporting stories. For the most part I would say that you & I agree on the double standard type of reporting we see — its blatant and wide spread. And its not just with the interviews, its also in the choices that the news makes about what stories to run. It is very rare to see what I would call a 'science' news item about a new break through or discovery and when it does happen its about 10 seconds long and after we learn about what the celebrities are doing, but they are happy to run items about the pope or what the Dalai Lama are up to. Or perhaps a blue berry muffin with the face of Jesus in it has been discovered in Mexico. There was even a story on the Loch Ness monster on TV3 news a few nights ago. Meanwhile, real & fascinating things are happening in the scientific community that we never hear about. I didn't see the interview with Prof Bellamy but you'll get no argument from me that all interviewees should be treated equally. The problem is that the biggest scam artists are professionals at what they do so will refuse to be interviewed or will set conditions in order for the interview to take place restricting what questions can be asked. Eg. John Edwards, Al Gore. I will be following up on your request and writing to the news stations and will encourage others to do the same but change will come slowly, if at all.

    Now on to the comments on the rest of your response and yes, they do predominantly revolve around global warming:

    1. "like the climate change skeptics, most of the scientists have no qualifications or expertise in the field they are commenting on" — this is a common misconception and I would argue it's the other way around. Almost every article I read these days on global warming is written by an 'environmentalist' or a scientist that has no business commenting on climate change (such as botanists) and journalists tend to recycle old scare mongering news items. I see a lot of articles that say 'scientists predict...' or 'scientists believe global warming is the cause of...' but not often do they say what they are scientists of. Excluding the members of the IPCC there are not many geologists, meteorologists or climate scientists that buy into the alarmism of the global warming hysteria. Here are a few very recent articles written by qualified scientists that I would say refutes your comment above (the first article alone is a intriguing read):

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2009/09/a_skeptical_perspective_on_glo.html

    http://nzclimatescience.net/images/PDFs/lost_science_of_climatology_nbr_17-july-09-1.pdf

    http://anhonestclimatedebate.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/heaven-and-earth-ian-plimers-new-book/

    http://www.urgentagenda.com/PERMALINKS%20IV/DECEMBER%2008/22.P.WARMING.html

    2. Al Gore movie "This is exactly what proponents have been fighting for in the US, not for climate change, but for Intelligent Design." Or to put the slant a different way, the Intelligent Design proponents learnt from the global warming alarmists that if you yell long enough and loud enough you might be able to teach any nonsense as science in school. Showing an Inconvenient Truth in schools as 'education' is exactly like teaching intelligent design — it ignores a massive amount of the science, only shows one view and is filled with outright lies. I find it mind blowing that people in NZ especially didn't find the movie laughable when about 50 minutes in Al Gore states that "all the citizens of this Pacific nation had to be evacuated to NEW ZEALAND" because of rising sea levels! My jaw hit the floor that a movie that contains such absolute lies is able to be released let alone win an academy award. Intelligent design and an Inconvenient Truth are cut from the same cloth — smoke and mirrors masquerading as science.

    3. "Anyone that argues that the science must be wrong simply because governments are backing down on expensive changes is either fudging the issue or not that bright." Although I do agree that this is not a great argument for global warming skeptics it still has some merit. If we all truly believed that global warming was, without a doubt, going to destroy the planet or at least ruin our way of life then wouldn't we all be doing something right now instead of just paying it continual lip service? Wouldn't the next summit be on video conference instead of 1000's of people flying to Copenhagen? Maybe it has something to do with none of the IPCC's predictions actually coming true. Like Richard Dawkins sites in The God Delusion, if people are so adamant that god and heaven exist why don't they jump for joy every time somebody dies instead of suffering natural grief?... because most likely, the belief isn't as strong as they say it is.

    4. Lack of proof argument. You say this isn't a good argument for Prof Bellamy to use but as I scroll through the Silly Beliefs website this is the exact argument that we skeptics tend to turn to. And just as we argue when discussing a religion, the onus is on the believer to provide the proof.

    5. "I admit that I haven't studied the debate that deeply, and I can't argue specifics. That said, at present I am going with the majority view of the scientific community." Here I can draw from my own experience. You are obviously a more an intelligent than average person so I would encourage you to study the debate more carefully and then make a decision or join me on the fence. You may think you are with the majority of the scientific community but you may not be and if you are, to blindly agree with the majority without investigating both sides is one of the worst things a skeptic can do. The majority of the world's scientists still believe in a higher power... does that mean you do? The majority of scientists thought the sun rotated around the earth for 100's of years too. Most people believe in ghosts, the secret and the power of prayer. At the end of a bit more reading on the subject you may find that you do still agree with the majority of the scientists but just because they are the majority should not be the reason you do. I'll finish off by letting you know of a couple of my heroes who have just admitted to joining me on the fence. Penn & Teller in the 6th season of Bullshit! (now THERE is a program that should be shown in schools). In an episode titled 'being green' they rip Al Gore to shreds and then label him as the worlds smartest man by inventing "green guilt" and becoming a multi-millionaire out of it. Oh yes, he offsets his huge mansion and private jet travel by buying carbon credits... from his own company! They also touch on the absolute nonsense that comes out of the global warming industry and climate change hysteria but at the end of the show they confess (literally in a confessional!) that they can't call global warming bullshit yet. They say they would love to and they've spent months looking at every different angle, but they "just don't know". And I think a few of the rest of us should be brave enough to say that instead of just adding our voice to the masses.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Sep, 2009

    Hi Matthew, I've been thinking about your thought provoking comments regarding climate change. I'm interested in what position a layperson or skeptic might reasonably take. Hence I will now ramble a bit.

    As we both know, climate science is very complex, and so therefore are the arguments for and against man-made climate change or AGW (anthropogenic global warming). It's not like science verses religion or even astrology verses astronomy where it's pseudoscience challenging science. This is true scientific debate with, at least in professional circles, real scientific methods and evidence being used on both sides of the debate. This is why many 'average' skeptics have kept out of the debate. It is not some silly nonsense challenging science. It is just scientists debating their theories with other scientists as they normally do.

    So why is the public more interested in debating climatology than cosmology or high energy particle physics? For many it is all about money. It could cost them considerably to combat AGW, and therefore many are happy to side with those that say it's all a scam. Even some that believe AGW is a problem argue that we should do nothing. Why? Because they are thinking short term and the major effects of AGW are decades away. They don't care if sea levels or temperatures rise causing problems for future generations, because that won't affect them personally. Others think that it is just impossible for mankind to influence something like the climate, so any money spent is being wasted. For others their interest is their grandchildren and the state of the earth they'll inherit, and they'll begrudgingly pay if that is needed to ensure a better future. Many people become quite emotive over the validity of AGW since it affects them personally. And unfortunately the ratings driven media love a controversy, happily portraying one scientist flatly contradicting another, all under the guise of balanced reporting, and implying that the science is equally balanced. However this public emotion shouldn't be allowed to decide whether AGW is real or not. The public shouldn't dictate to their governments based on what they heard a botanist say on morning TV, over what a journalist claims in a blog or what a politician claims in a documentary. The public should only demand that their governments follow the best scientific advice available.

    You said that you believed that most of the scientists skeptical of AGW are climate scientists, yet this report shows that of a list of 700 dissenting scientists 'fewer than 10 percent could be identified as climate scientists'. However this difference of opinion highlights my main concern with the public debate, following it is like a game of Ping-Pong. For example, the first link you provided listed ten points that argued against AGW. This article sounded plausible until you read through the numerous comments, where some people showed some of his claims to be definitely false, misleading or irrelevant and others debatable. This seems to be the state of the public AGW debate. One side produces an argument and the other side claims it is flawed or false. Who do you believe? How can a layperson decide on the science when the experts evidently can't? Yes we can perhaps pick up on lies and misleading arguments, but the detailed science is beyond us. People like Bellemy insisting that Al Gore should be debating with the skeptical climate scientists is silly, but the public falls for this argument. Gore is a politician, and while intelligent and well informed, he is not a climate scientist. The science debate needs to happen, and is happening, between scientists. If a scientist can't convince an opposing scientist with his evidence, convincing a plumber or accountant is meaningless. When scientists were investigating DNA or quarks, they didn't ask the public to decide which of their various theories was the right one. Scientists eventually came to a consensus view based on complex evidence and then simply informed the public of their conclusions. The original debate over evolution was similar, with many scientists and much of the public in complete opposition. However, this debate was settled by scientists debating with scientists. The public, regardless of their interest in the outcome, was simply told that the evidence validated evolution. A scientist believing in creationism may be able to convince a lawyer that evolution is false, but let them try and convince an evolutionary biologist. That is the true test of their argument. Look at the more recent problems of acid rain and ozone depletion. The science was decided by scientific consensus, not a public vote.

    I know that any climate scientist worth his or her salt on either side of the debate should be able to utterly confuse me with the science of climate change. Like shooting fish in a barrel. You and I may be able to understand a well-communicated scientific argument, but we are incapable of knowing whether a scientist has deliberately or unknowingly omitted a crucial scientific detail that might harm his argument. That's why scientists must thrash out their ideas with their peers, not the public. Thus I am only accepting of arguments and evidence that convince the majority of climate scientists. And we are told that the majority of climate scientists and scientific bodies do believe that current evidence suggests AGW is real. If the majority of scientists were unsure about AGW, I believe they would say so. In fact the majority did say they were unsure during the early years of the debate. Of course they could be wrong, but until the majority of climate scientists are convinced by evidence that they are wrong, it makes sense for a layperson to side with the consensus. We don't immediately challenge and research every other claim that scientists or historians or doctors tell us, so why has the public suddenly decided they have the expertise to challenge this one?

    So why do climate change sceptics say the public should change their minds regards AGW? Most sceptics usually accept that the majority of climate scientists do now agree with AGW. They just suggest that the majority are wrong. And they could be right, but what convincing reasons do they provide that the majority of climate scientists are misleading us? The most prolific argument is the conflict over the evidence. However, as I've already said, this backwards and forwards debate over scientific detail is a matter for scientists, not the public, and we must wait until they resolve it. Debating the science of climate change for the layperson can be nothing more than a hobby. And as I've said, I am deeply suspicious of any 'expert' that targets a layperson rather than his scientific opponent.

    Another reason put to the public is that powerful, interested parties are manipulating climate scientists. Many skeptics claim that government climate scientists are almost totally pro-AGW, and one reason is that they are being forced to side with AGW to get research grants. Yet why would governments coerce their scientists to create a false belief in AGW knowing that it would cost them prohibitive amounts to 'appear' to combat it? If they didn't foresee the cost, why aren't they now at least siding with AGW skeptics and saying new evidence shows their fears were premature and ill-founded? Taxpayers and environmentalists would rejoice, even though we had received a false scare. But for whatever reason, skeptics claim that governments worldwide have somehow convinced the majority of scientists to lie to the public. If true, this would mean a massive global conspiracy. However, in the same breath skeptics usually deny that there is a conspiracy. This claim also implies that independent climate scientists are more likely to be against the notion of AGW, since they have no one coercing them. Yet I have seen no evidence that opposing beliefs in AGW is split between independent and government scientists. But if there is no massive global conspiracy, then this must mean that government scientists just don't have the intellect, skills or experience possessed by a few independent scientists. How else could you explain why government scientists can't see through AGW? If independent and government scientists are equally intelligent and qualified, why isn't acceptance or skepticism of AGW found in both camps? If it was a truly undecided debate over the science, the differing theories should be found both in government and independent laboratories.

    Regarding this claim that governments are able to easily silence their scientists, back in the 1980s President Reagan and his government were strongly committed to something called the 'Strategic Defense Initiative', commonly called the 'Star Wars' plan for a laser shield in space. And yet even though fortunes had already been spent, the government scientists eventually convinced him that it wouldn't work. They weren't prepared to accept lucrative contracts just to work on something that wasn't feasible. Going against the government's desire didn't see them losing their jobs. Why do climate skeptics now believe that the entire government scientific community has now turned into obsequious wimps interested only in money, happy to toil for years on research that they know is a lie?

    There is simply no evidence that suggests that the majority of climate scientists are deliberately misleading us, and if they are, why they are misleading us. Nor is there any good evidence that the minority of scientists that are skeptical of AGW are of a higher calibre, both scientifically and ethically, than their many opponents. In what other field of science do rational skeptics side with the minority view? Evolution over Intelligent Design? Big Bang over Creationism? Germ theory over homeopathy? Astronomy over astrology? I agree that unlike those well known debates, the science regarding climate change is relatively new, very complex and with much of the data possibly ambiguous, but for this reason the public can not fool themselves into thinking that they can sit alongside scientists and decide who is right. Yes we can sit on the fence in a debate, but only if we are convinced that arguments from one side effectively neutralise those from the other side, with neither side putting forward a convincing argument. If, as in this case, the majority of experts are not undecided, to sit on the fence we also need to have a convincing argument as to why we, the layperson, should nevertheless remain undecided when the experts aren't.

    And yes, I accept that the minority view of scientists could be correct, that AGW isn't real. And yes, I readily agree that many government officials are incompetent and/or corrupt. If this new evidence against AGW is presented and the scientific consensus changes I will have no hesitation in accepting it. As many people have said, even thought they believe AGW is real, they sincerely hope they are wrong. My tentative support for AGW is not like religious dogma. My belief is not held just so I get to heaven or receive a free set of steak knives. Show me the scientific change and I'll happily go with the flow. Don't worry me with conflicting scientific details, show me the majority view of scientists changing.

    You mentioned my criticism of Bellamy for using the 'lack of proof' argument, saying that we rely on this argument ourselves. Also that the onus is on supporters of AGW to provide proof, not the deniers. Yes, the onus is on the believer to provide the proof, and let's remember that the majority of scientists believe they have done that, to the best of the available science. Scientists have not simply said, 'We think man is causing global warming, you prove us wrong'. Yes we skeptics always highlight the inability and often utter refusal of believers in psychic powers, energy healing and gods to produce actual proof of their claims, but we certainly try not to just leave it there. We also try to produce the appropriate scientific, philosophical, historical or logical arguments that support our claims and discredit the opposing claims. You gave religion as an example, and as far as religious belief goes, I would never be entirely content with being an atheist if my stance was solely, 'Because there is no actual proof of god'. Instead I'm an atheist because not only is there no actual proof of god, there are also numerous excellent reasons from science, history, philosophy etc. that indicate that there are no gods. It is scientific evidence that boosts my confidence in my atheism, not religion's inability to provide proof for their stance. I like the phrase, 'I see no evidence of gods or need for gods'. The first part encapsulates Bellamy's stance with climate change, that there is no evidence, no proof. However I believe the second part is the more powerful reason. There is no need to invent gods, since science can now explain the things in nature that gods were originally needed for, such as lightning and keeping the planets in orbit. Absence of evidence is certainly an argument, but by itself it is weak. This is why I was surprised that Bellamy offered this as the main argument to support his stance, rather than offering scientific evidence that clearly demonstrated his side of the debate.

    In considering my stance of going with scientific consensus, you asked, 'The majority of the world's scientists still believe in a higher power... does that mean you do?' While many scientists do believe in a higher power, I would say that scientists are overall probably the most atheistic of any group you could name (not including atheist type groups of course). Contrary to your statement, studies have shown the majority of the world's top scientists are atheists. So yes, I do in a sense follow what top scientists believe. But not blindly. On a level that I can understand their arguments, I concur with their reasoning, and find flaws in that of their opponents. Unfortunately much of the science and reasoning behind AGW is too complex at present for a layperson to grasp anything but the basics. If you do think you understand certain data, the opposing side will tell you that you've misinterpreted it. Ergo this is a scientific debate, not a public one. Should public opinion sway scientific opinion? I just can't grasp how unqualified people such as botanist David Bellamy, Bible thumping journalist Ian Wishart and New Age proponent Ken Ring, with nothing more than a little reading on the internet after dinner, can immediately see that AGW is false, and yet highly qualified climate scientists spending their every working hour on climate research are easily fooled. And if they're not fooled, why they are prepared to lie to us en masse. Yes, a minority of climate scientists are also skeptical, but why can't even they get the majority of scientists to see the flaws or at least expose their collusion with world governments? This what the skeptic in me has trouble with.

    You asked, 'If we all truly believed that global warming was, without a doubt, going to destroy the planet or at least ruin our way of life then wouldn't we all be doing something right now instead of just paying it continual lip service?' Yes of course, many would, and many actually are. We're not just paying lip service and this is what annoys many people, money is already being spent. But because of this public debate over the science, not everyone believes, and because of the potential cost involved, many don't want to believe, and so many are happy to drag their feet.

    And a final thought. Can we afford to take the risk and do nothing? If AGW is false, we will only have wasted money, not lives. If AGW is real and ignored, we could destroy human existence. Shouldn't we err on the side of caution, at least until more data comes in?

  5. Comment by Matthew, 07 Oct, 2009

    Hi John, sorry for the delay in responding — real life suddenly seemed to consume all my spare time for a while. I agree that people are far more interested in debating this subject than cosmology or high energy particle physics and rightly so. Never in our lives has anything been more worthwhile discussing as there are only two possible options:

    1. AGW is real and IS the biggest challenge/threat facing our species (and others) since time began.
    2. AGW isn't real and the entire planets population has been misled (whether intentionally or unintentionally).

    Yes, some people are challenging it because of the cost associated with things such as ETS and carbon credits, etc but just as many people are promoting the belief of AGW to make money so they tend to balance each other out.

    So the public absolutely need to be involved whether they are scientists or not. You don't need to be a scientist to ask intelligent questions and become involved in something that affects us all one way or another. We, the public, are actually paying for much of the research after all and we undoubtably be paying for any action taken should the predictors of doom get their way. Already NZ is looking to implement an ETS that will cost us millions and we contribute 0.2% to the worlds CO2. Even to a AGW believer this is pretty silly.

    Speaking of silly, you commented "Al Gore should be debating with the skeptical climate scientists is silly". So he is beyond reproach? He can fly around the world in his private jet selling seats to his speechs for thousands of dollars but can't be questioned about it? A bit like the pope I guess. He never has to answer any of the hard questions like why he never comments on how the meat industry creates more CO2 than the automobile industry (see 'livestocks long shadow') or how many of his billions of dollars are put back into saving the environment. Scientists don't have to ask the public to decide which of their theorys are correct, as you state, but they still give interviews, have debates and are generally happy when people raise questions about their work.

    I could debate this until the cows come home (and often do with friends and family), not only because like I said above, nothing in our lifetime has been more important or interesting and secondly because I am still searching for the truth in this myself. But rather than go around in circles I'll just jump to your last paragraph where you say we should err on the side of caution as we have nothing to lose except money. Firstly, this only applies to we lucky few who live in 1st world countries — if emission trading schemes, carbon trading and taxes on certain energy sources are implemented it will have a devastating effect on third world countries who rely on cheap energy to survive. Please don't fool yourself into thinking that lives won't be lost as they absolutely will be so we need to be as right as we can be. Also, the billions of dollars that will be spent on combating global warming or research needs to be taken from somewhere else — imagine the research and conservation work NOT being done as AGW research has soaked up all available money.

    In the meantime I'll be praying to god to forgive my sins — I don't really know if he exists or not but nothing is more important than my immortal soul and I've got nothing to lose by praying. Better to err on the side of caution right as if the priests are wrong I would've only been wasting my time right?

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Oct, 2009

    Thanks for your reply Matthew. You're right, we could debate this until the cows come home.

    Regarding Al Gore, of course people can and should challenge his views. What I meant was that Bellemy by suggesting to the public that this debate would be solved if only Gore would go head to head with the skeptical climate scientists would be only creating public entertainment, not true scientific debate. It would be a show trial. If the skeptical climate scientists won the debate, this would only prove that they knew more about climate science than a politician, and they should, not that they could win a debate with other climate scientists, other experts. Of course people are welcome to demolish Gore's claims if they can, but they shouldn't fool themselves into thinking that the debate is then over. Let's remember that Gore is only publicising what climate scientists have told him. People like Bellemy need to stop shooting the messenger and challenge the real experts. Gore may be the biggest hypocrite on the planet but that doesn't mean he's wrong about AGW. If Bellemy wants public debates, then he should arrange for climate scientists to debate climate scientists. Unfortunately for the public this would be as boring and mystifying as attending a scientific convention. Thus Bellemy wants Gore to engage in debates. Putting a politician up against a climate scientist may be entertaining, like putting me in the boxing ring with David Tua, but it's hardly a fair fight. Only climate scientists debating with their peers will conclusively decide whether AGW is happening or not. And to be honest, of the many, many things that I'm convinced are real, AGW is way, way down the list. I'm siding with the scientific consensus at the moment but I accept that the complexity of the available evidence could easily swing the view the other way in the near future.

    As for AGW, if real, being 'the biggest challenge/threat facing our species (and others) since time began', I'm not so sure I'd agree. Global nuclear war, deadly pandemics like the 'Black Death' and 'Spanish' Influenza and impact by asteroids scare me more. I'm sure if the dinosaurs were given the choice between global warming and being splattered by a rock from space, they would have gone with global warming. There have been several occasions in Earth's history of mass extinction where life has been decimated, with over 90% of all species disappearing, so a little global warming might be a walk in the park compared to those.

    You final comments surprised me a little. I'd say that if you were serious in your comment about having an immortal soul, then you have nothing to worry about. You'll survive no matter what happens. Don't pray to god to forgive your sins, that's rather selfish, instead pray that he reveals to us whether we should take AGW seriously or not, or better still, pray that he does his bloody job, stabilises the climate and allows his creations to spend our time and money on more productive endeavours.

    However regarding AGW I think you are doing the right thing, studying the arguments from both sides and taking a stance based on your understanding of the debate. We can't do more than that.

    Also, I was recently recommended the following book, 'Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing Us the Earth' by Christopher Booker and Richard North. I haven't managed to read it yet (or even find it), but it sounds like an interesting read.

  7. Comment by Matthew, 12 Oct, 2009

    Hi John, you are so right - a debate between Al Gore and a scientist would be a one sided debate in which he would have very few answers about the message he delivers and it would be entertaining but not very helpful in helping us decide either way. But lets not be too kind to him as he invented 'green guilt' and is making a fortune out of it so I put him in the same box as John Edwards, the catholic church and Feng Shui consultants. If you're going to call something science or fact and then sell it to others for massive amounts of money then be ready to face up to some scientists.

    But sadly I have only ever seen ONE debate between actual climate scientists on TV and I'm proud to say it was an NZ based show which screened after Prime showed the Great Global Warming Swindle. The movie itself was interesting but about as biased as Inconvenient Truth so didn't carry much weight but the debate afterwards was an example of what we should be seeing all the time. Once Layton Smith and Cindy Baxter shut up (a radio show host and a Climate change campaigner...next time leave them outside!) and the scientist actually started debating science with each other it actually got very interesting and you could see that they wanted to carry on talking once the debate finished. You are probably right that some people would find it boring but I say give the public the benefit of the doubt and lets try a few more of these.

    I stand by my 'biggest challenge/threat facing our species (and others) since time began' comment but should have written it as 'since we started recording time'. Global nuclear War never actually happened whereas this has allegedly already started, deadly pandemics like the 'Black Death' and 'Spanish' Influenza did not change land scapes, wipe out sections of the food chain and make the planet uninhabitable in large areas and although a large meteor on a collision course with earth would be a bigger threat at this stage we do not know of one that is definitely going to happen. Some of those mass exstinctions that happened in our earths distant past may have actually proved beneficial to humans - many of the creatures wiped out liked the idea of having us for a between meal snack or were simply lethal to sit on.

    And you were right, my last comment was a bit of joke making a ill attempt at humour around how climate change is the new religion for many (thank goodness burning people at the stake has quite a high carbon footprint!).

    I'm very keen to hear your thoughts are on the book as I've not read it either so would really appreciate a review of some sort once you've finished it. Totally off the subject, I'm currently reading Born to Run about a journalist who wants to find the secret to successful injury free, long distance running by tracking down a mexican tribe of barefoot ultra-marathon runners. During his research he discovers that its todays super high tech shoes that cause the majority of all jogging injuries so perhaps there's s Silly Beliefs article in there somewhere in the future. It's a great book for runners and non-runners alike.

    And finally, this isn't me trying to be smug but really just trying to put a grin on your face as it did mine. It is an article from Time Magazine about Global Climate Change. I'll post the link here, but here are some excerpts:

    "In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims....record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries. In Canada's wheat belt, a particularly chilly and rainy spring has delayed planting...disappointingly small harvest...Rainy Britain, on the other hand, has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells...while New England and northern Europe have recently experienced the mildest winters within anyone's recollection. As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval."

    The article is from 1974 and is about scientists explaining irrefutible evidence of...man-made global COOLING!

    'University of Toronto Climatologist Kenneth Hare, a former president of the Royal Meteorological Society says "I don't believe that the world's present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row."'

UFO files released
UFO fake I see that the British government has released secret files detailing UFO sightings from 1978 to 1987. Believers in flying saucers, of aliens visiting Earth and of abductions in the middle of the night from rural homesteads will be feverishly devouring them, pouncing on every claim from some farmhand or military sentry that insist that they really did see aliens.

Conspiracy theorists and believers in visiting aliens will no doubt put enormous but unwarranted trust in witness statements written by those who saw something unfamiliar in the sky. They will use their own scientific ignorance, confuse it with their love of Star Wars characters and guided by a mistrust of authority will reach the bogus conclusion that aliens are here.

However, one must look at what didn't accompany the release of these files, that is, no announcement by the British Government or by government scientists that the likelihood of alien visitation is real. These files of UFO sightings were released, contrary to what believers will claim, because they contain no good evidence of alien visitation. If anything, they are merely further circumstantial evidence that flying saucers are not buzzing our skies.

No government would release clear evidence for aliens and then pretend that they're not at all interested. Evidence of aliens, that we are not alone in the universe, would be monumental news, perhaps the biggest discovery of all time. It is not something that anyone would reveal and then shrug off. And even if the government did have evidence of aliens, and wish to keep this information from the public, they obviously wouldn't include this evidence within the files that they released. If the British government does have real evidence of aliens, and we don't believe it does, it certainly won't be found in these files. Unfortunately these files will be scanned and the witness statements and their vague diagrams will soon start appearing on websites pushing belief in visiting aliens. And while only the most ignorant and paranoid sites will claim that they provide absolute proof, even those that admit that these released files are not conclusive, they'll insist that's only because of ongoing government conspiracies.

We've already written an extended article on what we see as the cause of UFO sightings, and it's revealing that the largest number of UFO sightings evidently occurred for the years when the popular TV show The X-Files was screening. We've also commented on the fact that back in 2006 'A British 'Ministry of Defence' secret study has concluded that UFOs are nothing other than natural phenomena'.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Aug, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Bob, 22 Aug, 2009

    The release and comments on these sightings is much the same as the American Blue Book release from the 1960s. Project Blue Book was set up during the cold war in case strange sightings were of Russian origin. The Americans in those paranoid days were afraid the Russians might have stolen a technical march on them.

    The conclusions were the same. Some were explained and some just dismissed as worthless There were some residual reports which were put aside for want of more information. Of course believers wouldn't accept the conclusions claiming cover-ups.

Bogus healing by prayer
Yesterday a correspondent, Rob, brought our attention to this article on the Stuff website: Faith healers attack cancer with prayer. We learnt that another group of Christians living in a medieval fantasy world have set up 'healing rooms', this time in Christchurch. We've already written about delusional Christians setting up healing rooms in Dunedin last year, pointing out the stupidity of their belief in praying to God or Jesus for cures, and this new group of idiots is no different. Although the setting up of these 'healing rooms' is happening worldwide, the number of people that take advantage of these prayer healing sessions is probably — and hopefully — minuscule compared to those fronting up to real healers, that is, doctors. And by doctors we mean those with real medical degrees obtained after years of study in real universities and not those misleadingly calling themselves doctor, such as chiropractors. We also obviously exclude those that pretend to be medical professionals such as naturopaths, homeopaths and Reiki practitioners.

Last night TV1's Close Up and TV3's Campbell Live both featured items and interviews with Pastor Dee Rea and his associates who run the Christchurch clinic and also with medical professionals. Outside the clinic was a sign advertising their services:

"Jesus the healer"

Are you suffering from?

Chronic illness or pain
Terminal diseases
Physical needs injuries
Emotional or mental illness

We were told that, 'many other churches are now offering the same service'. They really don't learn do they? 2000 years of trying to get prayer to work, of getting their God to listen, and failing miserably, and they're still willing to give it one more go. Is that perseverance that we should respect or just plain stupidity?

When I read the 70 plus comments following the Stuff article they were 2 to 1 against the silly Christians faith healers. While it's good to see that the majority can see the futility of prayer, still one in three defend it. And of course it might be that most devout Christians are on their knees praying for that new plasma TV or Lotto win rather than visiting the Stuff website. While some of the supporters are truly lost to the 21st century with comments like 'People have been raised from the dead through the power of prayer. Good on them for stepping out in faith' and 'Prayer is the most powerful thing we can evoke!! Awesome!', the common theme of support is more along the lines of this comment from StewBest, 'Quackery? I'm not so sure, but even if it was, so what? People are getting healed and feeling good about themselves. What's the harm in praying to a god who might just exist? Who does it hurt really?'

What's the harm? It's been explained many times what the harm is, that vulnerable people might neglect proven, effective medical diagnosis and treatment in favour of bogus treatments. Treatment scams that attract people because they are cheap or promise impossible or extremely unlikely outcomes. And devout Christians can be vulnerable to prayer scams such as these because opting for secular medicine rather than God suggests a lack of faith in their Creator's ability to care for them. A comment from Tony makes an important point, 'The only thing 'believers' can expect from this nonsense is a possible fleeting placebo effect, which may mask a serious condition until it's too late'. People that attend these bogus sessions may honestly believe they can detect an improvement in their condition, and the mere attention and genuine concern from the pastors may even cure some psychological problems, but real problems such as cancer and broken bones will still be there. The symptoms will return and by the time people eventually lose confidence in their pastor and seek medical help, their problem may be irreversible. Some years ago an uncle of mine consulted a 'colour therapist' over a health concern, although he referred to him as a 'colour doctor'. Among other 'colour' changes, he told him to paint his house a certain colour, which would cure him. He didn't improve and the increasing severity of his problem eventually took him to a real doctor. His body was riddled with cancer, and at such a stage that possible treatments were ineffective. He died not long after. If he hadn't wasted years consulting his silly 'colour doctor' he might well have detected the cancer early and real treatment might have prolonged his life.

Note also that StewBest above states as a fact that 'People are getting healed'. If this were true then obviously it's not quackery, and yet he or she still can't decide whether it's quackery or not. Thus this claim of people being healed is an invention. So there's another problem with this prayer scam, it turns people that try to support it into liars.

Of course the pastors themselves and the supporters of these prayer rooms state that 'patients' are told not stop regular medical treatment and that they should consult doctors before and after attending a prayer session. But this is obviously just a transparent ploy to stop them attracting the attention of the law.

If you have complete faith that these morons — or Jesus, whatever — can cure you, then why would you then go to a medical doctor for confirmation that you had been cured? Why would you put more trust in a doctor's opinion? Distrust, disillusionment or lack of confidence in doctors led you to the prayer healing rooms, so why would you go back? Especially since you might have to pay considerable money for appointments, blood tests, scans etc just to confirm that Jesus has cured you. Why wouldn't you have faith that your god has healed you, why would you seek secular proof? Wouldn't this be an insult to God? Might Jesus not understandably reply, 'What, you didn't believe I could cure you? Well screw you, you doubting Thomas, you've got cancer again!'

Think of this analogy. You pay $500 to have a problem with your car fixed. Your mechanic takes your money, assures you that he has found and rectified the problem, but then insists that you must now go to another mechanic and pay him to run comprehensive tests to show that your car has actually been fixed. Would you do this? Of course not. If you didn't trust the honesty and competence of your initial mechanic to fix the problem, you wouldn't use him in the first place. Having faith in your mechanic means you wouldn't waste time and money on getting another mechanic to check his work. Likewise with these faith healers, if you had faith in their ability then you wouldn't undermine this faith by skulking off to a real doctor to see if your pastor had lied to you.

Pastor Dee Rae said they definitely preferred patients to seek a medical diagnosis before coming to them so that they knew what needed healing. What nonsense. These idiots keep insisting that Jesus heals through them, and that the healing doesn't come from them. (This is exactly how Reiki also claims to work by the way. 'God' simply works through them.) We are led to believe that Jesus can heal any affliction, from relatively simple things like anxiety and depression to complex ills like cancer and stroke paralysis. Yet while Jesus has the power and knowledge to heal the body, he seemingly can't diagnosis what might be wrong in the first place. He must be told what's wrong by a doctor. He can cure every type of cancer, but he can't recognise it in a patient's body. This is a typical ploy for scammers. They must get the patient to reveal what's really wrong with them so they can appear to talk knowledgeably about the problem. Imagine if you went in with a sprained wrist and after 15 minutes the pastor said, 'You can go now, Jesus has fixed your toothache'. Since neither the pastor nor his imaginary friend can magically diagnose the patient's problem, they must get the patient to reveal it. Hence the question, 'So what did your doctor say the problem was?'

It was revealed on Campbell Live that people only need to undergo 8 hours training to work in one of these prayer healing rooms. 8 hours?? Would you trust your doctor or lawyer or electrician or accountant if they only had 8 hours training? Even the person serving you your burger at your favourite fast food joint has had more training than these idiots.

Pastor Marie Rea was quoted in the Stuff article as saying, 'patients with problems as diverse as stroke paralysis, cancer or dyslexia were cured, usually within one 20-minute session'. Why can people make patently false public claims like this and not face legal proceedings for making fraudulent statements? Although they say they don't charge for their services, they do accept donations, so no matter what you call it, the patients leave poorer than when they went in. If you had just been cured of cancer, in 15 minutes, once and for all, would you leave a donation? Patients may be willingly handing over their money, but they are parting with it on false pretences.

On both TV1's Close Up and TV3's Campbell Live, medical professionals were asked to comment on the claims that prayer could heal. I guess people in public positions are forced to be diplomatic in what they say, needing to walk a middle path so as not to offend either believers or skeptics. On TV3, Dr Pippa MacKay, a local GP described the pastor's claim to be able to cure an orange sized cancer instantly as 'outrageous'. She said that people should 'be cautious about some of these claims'. Only some of them? On TV1 though, Professor Donald Evans, a medical ethics expert, was extremely wishy-washy in his responses. Asked if he was disturbed by the pastor's claims, he replied, 'The first question I asked was, do they charge money? No. Do they discourage people from going to their doctor? No. Of course praying for sick people is as old as Christianity itself.' Believing that these two conditions make prayer healing rooms acceptable is a very na´ve answer, especially from someone in his position. And of course praying for sick people is a lot older than Christianity. This reveals a possible bias, that he is only familiar with Christianity. When asked, 'Does the medical establishment as such have a view on faith healing?', his long winded answer was, no. While he is no doubt correct that some doctors are Christians, I have yet to find a real hospital that has a faith healing ward. His statements such as, 'there is far more to people than simply their body...', 'there are many things [doctors] do not understand', and 'medicine can not explain everything', all appear to leave the door open for the possibility of souls and the invisible tampering by supernatural beings. Mark Sainsbury did ask some crucial questions that exposed Rea's stance a little, but he didn't follow them through to a forceful conclusion.

Following this line of thought, why did neither Close Up nor Campbell Live reveal details of scientific studies that have investigated the efficacy of prayer? We know that they have the intelligence and resources to seek out this information, but they chose not to. Nor did any of their 'experts' mention these studies, or if they did, they were left on the cutting room floor. I know we have this idea that the media needs to be balanced in its reporting, but this doesn't mean that they suppress evidence and ask easy questions so that both sides of an issue appear equal. I got the feeling that both items were more about entertainment and attracting viewers than reaching the truth of the matter, that the producers didn't want to alienate any sector of society. So we were left with the false impression that it's all still a mystery, that neither side has any strong evidence and that prayer just might work, but we should combine it with modern medicine just in case it doesn't. Or in case it does work but you and Jesus are not as close as you'd like to believe.

I don't have to worry about offending potential clients, so I can give my frank opinion. The pastors that run these clinics, their 'divine-healing technicians' and those that willingly participate in their prayer rituals are nothing but delusional fools. Some or even most may sincerely believe in what they're doing, but this only exposes their ignorance. Mankind's progress was hindered for centuries by a silly belief that a God was running the universe. We can not allow idiots that give the appearance of medieval peasants thrust unwillingly into the 21st century to drag us back into superstition and ignorance.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Aug, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Bob, 14 Aug, 2009

    I saw the TV1 version of the faith healers. I agree. I thought the medical man who was involved with the medical ethics committee was wishy washy. I laughed at the patient who turned up during the filming. He had picked up a heavy item and twisted while bending over. That is a recipe for a strained back. I know because I used to carry heavy things in my job and did my back a number of times. I reduced back strains when I took notice of professional advice on how to lift weights. When a back muscle is strained nothing can be done about it. With rest and time it cures itself. A bit of massage might help. To see Jesus healing him just made me laugh. The healer rubbed his back and had him twisting around. He was asked if he was any better and he replied a bit. If you have a strained wrist and you move it around it does free up and feel better until it is left and seems to freeze up again. In spite of the so-called pastor being at pains to say he didn't advise people against regular medical treatment, there is still the risk they will go to him and not to a doctor.

    In spite of being an atheist I think a bit of prayer might not be such a bad thing. I do believe the mind has a lot of control over the physical body. If prayer gives a patient a more positive outlook it could just help the healing process, after all that is the basis of the placebo effect. I do think a person with a positive outlook will heal quicker than one in depression. It is not that prayer and gods in themselves are any use, just the positive frame of mind engendered. If a church full of the patient's fellow Christians are praying for him, that gives him some comfort, much the same as having your family and friends around.

    While on the subject I was not impressed with the light sentences given to those who drowned the mentally deficient girl to drive out bad spirits. While I don't think they needed the book thrown at them I feel the sentence was practically a reward for dangerous ignorance. They killed that girl and should have done jail time. It is against the law to kill someone. It is also a principle that ignorance of the law is no defence. It would have been a sharp reminder to others, especially spiritually backward Maori who need to come into the 21st century, which reminds me of something else. There is an island off the coast of Tauranga which belongs to Maori. It originally formed by volcanic activity which left a black glass like stone called obsidian. It is an attractive stone so people going to the island often take pieces away with them. That annoys the Maori owners. They now say anyone who takes the stone will have bad luck. If the stone is given to them by the Maori owners it will not result in bad luck. According to the report in the BOP Times, several people suffering bad luck have returned their stones. With the economic downturn making life hard for a lot of people, I am not surprised some consider themselves having bad luck.

    People are backwards and superstitious usually due to low educational achievement. They never learn anything of value. For many years as a tradesman I went around people's homes and saw a lot. In particular there were far too many Maori homes which had no books and little to stimulate kids. Children grow up ignorant. None of us knows a lot automatically. We have to learn. We have to learn how to be good parents. But then we have to learn how to learn and how to sift useful information from the useless. I sometimes wonder how many potenially good brains are never nurtured. Yet when given the chance many Maori have achieved well.

    Ridding our society of ignorance is an ongoing process.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Aug, 2009

    I agree wholeheartedly that a positive outlook can aid healing. It's just that I would rather people get that positive outlook from confidence in modern medicine, and, as you say, from support of family and friends. People might say that medicine doesn't always repay that confidence, but I would argue that prayer has a far worse record, indeed, an abysmal record. But like winning Lotto, people obviously hope that they'll be that one-in-a-billion lucky one. Like you, I'm all for creating a positive frame of mind, but I'm uncomfortable with using a lie to engender that positive frame of mind, especially a lie that can have huge and disastrous side-effects. By this I mean prayer for healing isn't a standalone thing. It's all part of whatever religion you must believe in, and if your faith is strong enough it might prevent you from actually seeking conventional treatment. The more that you believe that God will heal you, the less need you will have for medicine, and vice versa. The more we lie to people that God will come to their assistance, the more they will sideline conventional medicine. I know this because this is the way I act, only in reverse. As my confidence in conventional medicine has increased, my belief in prayer has been sidelined. Plus prayer and religion is not something believers just call on when they get ill, they use this 'lie' to inform their morals and how they should vote or interact with the rest of society. Continuing to encourage people to pray for healing means that we must also let them pray for the answers on how to treat abortion, divorce, genetic engineering, euthanasia, pre-marital sex and relations with Muslims and heathens. Being supportive of those who pray for healing but then criticising them when they use prayer and the Bible to argue against GE just turns us into hypocrites. Yes, belief in prayer may well have a placebo effect in a few cases, but just as we eventually tell children the truth about the likes of Santa Claus and the Toothfairy, we need to start telling the truth about prayer. We also need to realise that whether prayer works as a placebo or not, we know that placebos do not cure most diseases, that's why they use them to test the efficacy of new drugs and treatments. Praying may put a patient with a broken leg or motor neurone disease in a positive frame of mind, but it won't let them get up and go for a jog.

    I know one could argue that a doctor's sugar pill, like prayer, is also a 'lie', but it's not quite the same. It is conventional medicine that has cured you, in the sense that conventional medical knowledge might say that with two weeks rest your body will have recovered naturally. It's just that some patients won't accept this simple fact of nature, and their resultant anxiety and stress hinders the body's attempt to bring about this natural cure. Giving them a fake pill alleviates their anxiety and allows nature to take its course. Even though the placebo effect has been used, conventional medical knowledge has 'cured' the patient, whereas the placebo effect of prayer is different. In both cases recovery will be due to natural causes, not supernatural, but the religious person will be mistakenly thanking God instead of a doctor. The patient with the sugar pill will correctly thank the doctor, even though the details of his recovery are bogus. Furthermore, his mistaken belief in the sugar pill will not influence how he views premarital sex or whether Muslims are terrorists.

    Some fundamentalists believe that disasters, 'natural' or otherwise, are caused by God or Satan. Most rational people, even most Christians, do our utmost to deny this. But why should we encourage Christians, or at the very least not discourage them, from praying for God to bring about good things, while denying that God has anything to do with the bad things? Again, I think we're being hypocrites. Most of us are quick to deny that God does the bad things in the world, it's about time we started to insist that he doesn't do the good things either. Just as you can have good morals without a belief in god, you can have a positive frame of mind as well. We need to convince people of this, rather than just continuing to let them fall back on prayer.

    Like you Bob, I wasn't impressed with the lack of jail sentences for the killers of Janet Moses, and I've added my comments to the end of my original post on Moses.

    Re that island off Tauranga, a friend is part of the tribe that owns it. Although he doesn't live there, I doubt he would subscribe to the bad luck idea. Although he does have some scary views on the foreigners occupying his country, so he might use it if he thought people would fall for it. I must ask him the next time we see each other.

    As for education, I'm with you, it's the key to ridding ourselves of superstitious thinking. A real estate agent friend has told me that a large proportion of houses she sells, few of which are Maori, have any books in them. At most there might be a Women's Weakly or a TV Guide. But there is no shortage of TVs, stereos and computer consoles. Everyone is getting their education from Shortland Street, Outrageous Fortune and Sensing Murder. Some parts of society almost resemble the likes of ancient Greece. You had a minority that were educated and enlightened swamped by ignorant peasants. In those days the peasants had little chance of bettering themselves, but today knowledge is available to everyone, and yet a great many still prefer the superstitious and ignorant world of the peasant.

  3. Comment by Alison, 17 Aug, 2009

    And of course there are a number of recent cases in the US where parents have trusted in prayer to cure their children, & ended up with children who are either sicker than when they started, or dead. Orac on ScienceBlogs has discussed some of these in some detail. I seem to remember something similar here a few years ago, up in Auckland, where a child had a cancerous growth on his leg that the family tried to "treat" with prayer & I suppose some would argue that there's no harm in praying for recovery but there most certainly is when someone else (in these cases, a child) is harmed by that faith in the power of prayer to the exclusion of other options.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Aug, 2009

    You're right of course Alison, and I suspect that many people that seek out these prayer services will be taking their children along. And the present recession might mean that even more religious, lower income families than normal might be looking for cheaper 'healing' options. It's especially distressing to think that innocent, trusting children could be suffering needlessly.

Breast feeding in public
Breast Feeding Outside our local library yesterday several women were handing out pamphlets surrounded by large posters and displays promoting the right of mothers to breast feed in public. We were discussing this the other night, following a TV news item that nursing women in various centres were being abused, instructed to cover up and told that what they were doing was illegal.

They're sort of like mini-terrorists. The really scary terrorists say that we have offended their beliefs or blasphemed their god in some way, and they attempt to correct our behaviour by blowing us up. These mini-terrorists accuse nursing mothers of offending their beliefs or blaspheming their god in some way, and they attempt to correct their behaviour by shaming them into covering up or threatening them with action from the authorities.

The TV item we all saw never actually revealed who was complaining — male or female, young or old etc.? We wondered what sort of person could take offence or be disgusted at the perfectly natural sight of a mother breast feeding her baby? The males of our group had no problem with women baring their breasts in front of us. In fact we encourage it, remembering that nursing mothers are normally young and in their prime, not old age pensioners. The women of our group were of course completely familiar and comfortable with female breasts and consequently aren't shocked by the sudden sight of one with a baby attached. Having seemingly eliminated what we would call normal, rational men and women, who's left to complain? Yet obviously it is men and/or women complaining, so like the flu virus, is the Victorian prude virus making its rounds of our communities? Who is most at risk of succumbing to its prudish DNA?

More often than not it appears to affect those of a strict religious upbringing. Christianity is renown for its troubled, confused and negative attitude to the human body and sexuality. One minute their god creates a naked man and woman and is pleased with his effort, perfectly happy to watch them wander around au naturel. The next minute he is making fig leaves for them to cover the wickedness of their nudity. Many Christians have been brought up to believe that the naked human body is a shameful and obscene thing, which should only be exposed to quickly procreate under the cover of darkness and heavy bed sheets. And many Muslims are certainly no better. The apparent inability of Muslim males to control their carnal desires necessitates the complete covering of their women from head to toe. A disgraceful number of Muslim women have been killed solely for exposing what other Muslim prudes considered too much flesh. And by flesh we mean the sighting of their neck, shoulder or leg. It's hard to grasp what a Muslim who is thrown into a murderous rage over a naked shin must think when he or she sights a naked breast. And Jews, well they certainly aren't known for their skimpy dress code either. In fact none of the modern versions of the major religions seem to be comfortable with the human body and nudity. Although originally created naked by god, and each of us is born naked, the religious in general believe that we must remain clothed in public. Even though their god is forever ogling us in the shower and while we dress, others must never see us naked.

So we suspect that it is the overly religious among us that is most likely harassing young mothers who breast feed in public. Possibly both men and women, young and old, although more likely than not, mostly older women with conservative religious beliefs.

Of course some might argue that religion doesn't enter into it, that they've simply been brought up to believe that nudity is inappropriate and just not right in public. Maybe so, but they need to go further, and ask themselves why it's wrong, not just insist it is. Reflection on why public nudity is wrong will almost always see people eventually dredging up commandments from religion's holy books. Look at Pacific Islanders, they were a completely uninhibited people with regard to nudity until Christian missionaries got to them. And now we've seen a complete reversal, British women run around in bikinis and island women dress like nuns.

And let's remember it is legal to breast feed in public and that nursing mothers do not go out of the way to flash their boobs. It is usually all very discrete, and often the surrounding public is unaware that the mother is nursing. And even if one does 'cop an eyeful' of exposed flesh, anyone that is disturbed or offended by sighting this small piece of skin needs to address their own psychological failings.

There is certainly a problem here, but it's not young mothers breast feeding in public, it's how to open the eyes of these prudes living in their corrupted little world who harass them.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Aug, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Crystal, 12 Oct, 2009

    Love it. Could not have put it better myself. Thankyou for a good read and making an exceptionally well thought out argument. Even though it's a travesty that we even need such arguments in the first place!
    Crystal, 27, Sydney.

Unlucky 13
I heard on the radio yesterday that city councillors in Palmerston North have decided that street numbers in their fair city should once again include the number 13. It seems in the late 1960s they officially banned houses from being designated 13, they simply went from 12 straight to 14. This doesn't appear to have been a new strategy, they were simply making the practice official. Now obviously someone has recently wondered whether they hadn't outgrown this silly superstition and should enter the 21st century. Others might have been of the view that if it's worked for so long, why tempt fate and change it now? We've all heard of various examples that pretend 13 doesn't exist, like some hotels that don't have a 13th floor or Room 13.

But of course 13 always exists whether we want to acknowledge it or not. The hotel floor on top of the 12th floor is still the 13th floor even if we change the label and pretend it's the 14th floor. The 13th house in a street is still the 13th even if we call it the 15th or remove numbers altogether and label it The Alternative Holistic Health Clinic.

Have these superstitious people even considered that the bad luck genie or god or whatever might not even understand our numerals? What if the bad luck genie only understood Chinese characters? Thus in NZ he would ignore our little squiggles and just physically count the houses or hotel floors. And even if he does recognise 13, do they think he's so stupid that he would fall for the trick of re-labelling? After centuries of using this ploy, has he still not noticed that there is no house No. 13, yet there is a house No.14?

But if 13 really is unlucky, shouldn't we ban if from schools? That will certainly impact on the accuracy of arithmetic and mathematics, but isn't the safety of our children paramount? Aren't children likely to be more vulnerable to its effects than adults? And what about teenagers? Should the first year of being a teenager be skipped, going from 12 straight to 14, or should we put all 13 year olds in cryonic suspension for the year for their own safety and those around them?

And what about other cultures that recognise unlucky numbers other than 13? In our multicultural society being fair to all and reducing the impact from their bad luck genie is the only sensible thing to do. I mean the house next to you may not be bad luck if a European lives there, but if a Chinese family move in it may suddenly become deadly, due to the attention of the Chinese bad luck genie, and you get harmed in the bad luck fallout.

Thus all manner of houses and hotel floors probably need to be relabelled to minimise ill fortune. All phone numbers and car registration plates containing numbers that bring on bad luck, such as 13, will need to be changed. Airlines, which often seem to ignore the need to remove Row 13 and seat 13 and place their passengers in unnecessary peril, will have to be brought in line with new safety precautions. We'll need to ban the use of 24 hour clocks that flaunt the evil 13:00, and even 12 hour digital clocks will need to have the 13th minute relabelled. Perhaps simply reversing the digits to read 31 will be sufficient to fool the bad luck genie. Large families will no longer be permitted to have 13 children, or if it's too late, the 13th child must be re-designated the 14th.

Of course I jest, but for those that really take unlucky numbers seriously, monumental and wide reaching changes would be required to keep one safe if these numbers really could impact our lives. Avoiding something that may cause harm makes sense of course, but living on the 13th floor and simply renaming it the 14th fools no one other than idiots. It's like eating arsenic from a container labelled icecream. It's still poison and will still kill you. Likewise labelling the 13th house as something else. It's still the 13th house. If the 13th house really was unlucky, then they should still be built, labelled, and left empty. Childish relabelling is only for children. I don't believe in good and bad luck or objects, numbers, rituals etc. that can affect one's luck. Things simply happen, cause and effect, and while everyone can influence what happens in their lives by their behaviour, avoiding the number 13 or carrying a lucky rabbit's foot won't help. As they say, it wasn't lucky for the rabbit. If anything, this reliance on superstition may make things worse. Actively trying to avoid Row 13 on a plane may mean you fail to get a seat and miss your flight. Confidence in your lucky rabbit's foot may mean you fail to take all sensible precautions, resulting in an accident.

I'm glad the Palmerston North councillors have voted to reintroduce the number 13 to their streets, and have demonstrated that they do have the intelligence to hold positions of power in the 21st century. Mayor Jono Naylor is quoted as saying, "We decided that it was time to get rid of superstition from the city".

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Aug, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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