Archive for Richard Dawkins

Taxpayer Dollars to Promote Prayer..? You Better Believe it.

Posted in Atheism, Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by neandergal

When the emergency technician is about to apply CPR, nobody says: “Wait! Let’s pray first.” exclaims a quote from the Skeptic Dictionary

Well it turns out this may actually be the case in some instances. Biologist and science blogger PZ Myers reports on his blog post how the US government is funding metaphysical methods for promoting health and well being. It is hard to believe that a state department is advocating metaphysical baloney, but the evidence is loudly and clearly displayed on the US Department of Health and Human Services’ website.  

The Healthfinder.gov website content includes an article, Can Hands-on Prayer Help Heal? The article cites a bogus peer-reviewed study published in the September issue of the Southern Medical Journal. The peer reviewed study on “proximal intercessory prayer (PIP)” is the epitome of bad science at its worse. Proximal Intercessory Prayer is a euphemism for “abracadabra” and is a made-up term to describe incantations to the almighty for favors. The study on hearing and sight impaired subjects in Mozambique is bogus because it violated at least three basic scientific method protocols rendering it scientifically flawed. Miraculously, the study passed the peer-review process. 

A scientific experiment requires subjects to be randomized groups that include a control group and measurable variables.  The study was suppose to test the power of prayer on 23 non-randomized sight and, or hearing impaired subjects.  The so called improvements that resulted in prayer were anecdotal rather than empirically based. Anecdotal is testimonial and therefore subjective. 

The article on healthfinder.gov states, “And while they don’t discount that much of the results may stem from a placebo effect, benefits did seem to occur in some individuals.” The placebo effect is what clinical trials of treatments test for and compares it with the real drug for true effectiveness. Just because the placebo effect may work in some cases, does not make it effective treatment for all or anywhere near most individuals.

In the words of Richard Dawkins, “There are all sorts of things that would be comforting. I expect an injection of morphine would be comforting… But to say that something is comforting is not to say that it’s true.”

Sources:

PZ Myers: Pharyngula – Our Government at Work

PZ Myers – Pharyngula

Southern Medical Journal

 

Religion Defeated?

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2009 by neandergal

One would think that scientific discoveries supporting evolutionary theory would have put to rest the question of whether science has defeated religion. Yet, a question mark remains over what answers the “how” versus “why” questions of life. Science asks “how” and religion asks “why.”

Colin Blakemore discusses this issue in an article published in the UK Guardian-Observer, Science is just one gene away from defeating religion. Blakemore describes how “Crick and Watson’s discovery transformed our view of life itself – from a manifestation of spiritual magic to a chemical process.” This is surely a “checkmate” in the “metaphysical chess match between science and religion.”

Religion continues to go unchallenged because of the notion that there are two questions, “how” and “why.” The answer to the “why” questions might be as simple as Blakemore points out: “Either they make no sense or they can be recast as the kind of “how” questions that science answers so well.”

The appeal of religion is that it gives definitive answers whereas science cannot do that. Definitive answers provide a source of comfort because no more questions need answering. Science answers questions with more questions and requires us to think. Freedom of thought is a burden. Religion alleviates that burden.

Colin Blakemore presents the UK Channel 4 television series God and the Scientists.

150 Years On: Widespread Creationism in Britain

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2009 by neandergal

On Thursday February 12, the enlightened will celebrate Darwin’s 200th Birthday and 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection. Yet ignorance still persists in Darwin’s country on the other side of the Atlantic regarding acceptance of the theory of evolution.

An article in the UK Daily Telegraph reveals that a recent survey showed that 32% agreed that the world was only 10,000 years old, 8% did not know and an enlightened 60% disagreed. In the article, Richard Dawkins said that the findings confirmed that much of the population was “pig-ignorant” about science. Some may snort at that kind of retort, but another report by the UK Guardian vindicates Dawkins’ harsh remark.

Widespread creationism indicates a lack of scientific knowledge and is a failure of the educational system to teach the sciences and how to teach people to think scientifically. In December, an article in the UK Guardian, Darwin and creationism do not belong in the same classroom, reported that 29% of British primary and secondary school science teachers agree that it is valid to teach creationism alongside evolutionary science and the big bang.

By placing equal credence to faith versus scientific “theories” we deny children an education. Established religion and politically correct agendas have no place in science education. Teach children how to think rather than what to think.

Creative Creationists Promoting that Ol’ Time Genesis

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2009 by neandergal

It is almost 85 years ago since H. L. Mencken wrote Homo Neanderthalensis. Mencken wrote, “They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge.” It is sad that this amusing essay is as relevant today as it was back in 1925 during the Scopes Trial. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was almost 70 years old at the time of the Scopes Monkey trial. Scientific progress faces the same level of ignorance and opposition as it did back in the days of the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tennessee. It is now 150 years ago since the publication of On the Origin of Species yet we still face the same drivel today as back then. This is clearly evident in the article, “Where Evolution Has Gaps, Creation Might Offer Answers—If We Will Listen” published in the opinion section of US News and World Report.

The author of the article, Henry Morris III, CEO of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas explains that, “Embarrassingly, this “theory” cannot be scientifically observed in action today, nor can it be forensically observed in nature’s record of the past.” It is very clear that Henry Morris III does not understand the theory of evolution. He is obviously ignorant of the very “theory” that he opposes when he describes evolution as “Everything happened quite by accident.” Any evolutionary biologist, physical anthropologist, microbiologist, geneticists or paleontologist will explain that evolution is not random. It is genetic mutation that is random. Genetic mutations lead to variation. Organisms inheriting variations best suited to an environment have a higher probability of surviving long enough to reproduce and pass their genes on to the next generation. The fossil record is evidence of the fact that organisms take a great deal longer than 10,000 years to evolve and confirms common ancestry among different species.

Evolution is a continuing process. Microbiologists see this all the time with new strains of bacteria and viruses. MRSA is a perfect example of evolution at work. We can go on and on with examples, but there is no point in trying to reason with the unreasonable. As H.L Mencken said, “The inferior man’s reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex-because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas.” Evolution is not an opinion or belief. Evolution is a fact supported by evidence and continues to be supported with new scientific discoveries. We have relatively new sciences like the discovery of DNA and Microbiology that continually supply evidence that support the evolutionary process.

Despite scientific progress and more sophisticated technology, a study by the Pew Research Institute shows that almost 50% of Americans believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. To this day, court rooms across the country still witness battles between school boards and science advocates about whether or not creationism has a place alongside evolution in a science classroom. H.L. Mencken wrote in Homo Neanderthalensis, “The hypothesis of evolution” is credited by all men of education; they themselves can’t understand it. Ergo, its teaching must be put down.” Thankfully, reason does have its day and rulings tend to be in favor of science advocates. That is good news. However, the power base is still very much with religion.

Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2009 by neandergal

Sir David Attenborough points out in an interview with NatureVideo that the Book of Genesis shaped the view that the world is there for humans to dominate and use. In the YouTube video reposted on RichardDawkins.net, he explains that the “Basic notion that the world is there for us and if it doesn’t actually serve our purposes and is dispensable. That has produced the devastation of vast areas of the land’s surface…”

The UK independent on Sunday reports that Sir David Attenborough comments on the Bible’s influence on people’s beliefs at the end of the new BBC1 documentary about the theory of evolution. The documentary, Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, begins airing tonight on BBC1 and coincides with Darwin’s 200 year birthday and 150 years since the publication of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

“They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance”

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2009 by neandergal

Says Sir David Attenborough in the article, I get hate mail telling me to burn in hell for not crediting God published in the January 26th edition of the UK Newspaper, Daily Telegraph. When asked why he does not credit a creator, he replies, “I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in East Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

Other people of science such as Richard Dawkins get the same hate-felt correspondence from believers. Richard Dawkins reads out hate mail in his recent award winning documentary, The Genius of Charles Darwin.

It’s interesting how people devoted to understanding the natural world can end up being the object of hate among people who claim to preach love and understanding.

All Aboard the Atheist Bus or is it Agnostic…?

Posted in Atheism with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by neandergal

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/philip-hensher/philip-hensher-the-religious-find-a-friend-in-the-law-1301588.html

It depends on what the former publishing Director of Hello! Magazine, the Managing Director of Boots Opticians and other members of the British Advertising Standards Authority think about the existence of God. Apparently they came to the conclusion that there “probably” is no God and that asserting “there is no God” might be misleading the public since you can’t prove that God does not exist. The philosophical dispute came about after the British Humanist Association started a bus advertising campaign to declare that “There is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” To comply with the Advertising Standards Authority the British Humanist Association had to agree to insert the word “probably.” The final advertisement reads, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Philip Hensher in his article, The Religious Find a Friend in the Law, published in the UK Independent newspaper asks us to “Imagine the uproar if it became a legal requirement to insert qualifications in religious statements – “God Probably Loves You.” How about this one? If you jump off the top of this building, gravity may just pull you down to earth!” It seems typical of the double standards that surround religion and non-believers. Faith-based assertions are completely free of restrictions and yet the British Humanist Association cannot assert that there is no God. However, non-believers do have to look on the bright side of life.

It is encouraging news that such a campaign exists thanks to British comedy writer and journalist, Ariane Sherine who came up with the bright idea. Henry Chu in his article, Richard Dawkins on board with a pro-atheist message published in the LA Times, interviews Richard Dawkins whose Foundation backed the campaign. Sometimes we really do have to go with the flow and choose our battles carefully. As Dawkins says during the interview, the statement is now “more likely to get people talking than something definitive like “There is no God.” It encourages people to start talking.” Getting people talking is exactly the point, otherwise we really are on a road to nowhere. No matter what bus you’re on.