Posts Tagged 'Evidence'

Two Examples of How You Can “Prove” Anything with Low Standards of Evidence

A lot of wacky ideas seem to be supported by evidence, but when you look at what’s used as evidence it often amounts to a bunch of unimpressive coincidences.

Take the following two examples:

1. Kubrick’s “The Shining” is his confession for staging the moon landing. Some of the “evidence” given:

We have to begin to understand Kubrick’s story from his use of symbols. As I like to say: if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a symbol is worth a thousand pictures. For it will be through the use of symbol that the real story of The Shining can be revealed.

A cold winter storm has now blown over the Hotel. The oncoming storm is a symbol of the Cold War between Russia and the United States. Of course the Cold War is also one of the driving forces for the entire reason for faking the moon landings.

As Danny stands up, the answer is revealed in an instant. Danny is wearing a sweater with a crudely sewn rocket pictured on the front. On the rocket clearly seen on Danny’s sweater are the words: APOLLO 11.

The audience watching the film literally sees the launch of Apollo 11, right before their eyes, as Danny rises from the floor. It isn’t the real launch of Apollo 11, it is, of course, the symbolic launching of Apollo 11. In other words – it isn’t real.

May I humbly suggest that the word “All” in this repeated sentence actually stands for “A11” that is: “A-One-One”, or Apollo 11?

“A11 work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

May I suggest that the nickname, or the code name, for the faking of the Apollo Moon Missions was A11?

Accepting that this is true we can see what Stanley is really telling us:

“Apollo 11 work and no play makes Jack (Kubrick) a dull boy.”

I’ll give him one thing, though, Jack Nicholson and Kubrick do look a lot alike!

2. Lady Gaga is an Illuminati Puppet:

The symbolism surrounding Lady Gaga is so blatant that one might wonder if it’s all a sick joke. Illuminati symbolism is becoming so clear that analyses like this one becomes a simple exercise of pointing out the obvious. Her whole persona (whether its an act or not) is a tribute to mind control, where being vacuous, incoherent and absent minded becomes a fashionable thing.

“Gaga” is probably the easiest word to say in the English language, as it is often the first sound emitted by babies trying to imitate speech. So her name basically says: I’m a lady and I’m empty-headed. This empty head can filled with any crap you want. Imitate me young people. This state of mind is achieved after successful mind control.

You only need to look at a couple of Lady Gaga pictures or videos to notice that she is constantly hiding one of her eyes. Most people will simply interpret this  as ”a cool thing to do” or a “fashion statement”. Those who have passed the 101 of Illuminati symbolism know that the All-Seeing Eye is probably its most recognizable symbol. The gesture of hiding one eye, usually the left one, goes way back in occult orders.

The comments  under the Lady Gaga article are hilarious, you have to read them.

These articles are both entertaining reads, but ultimately they’re just picking out anything that fits their theories. Using their standards for evidence I bet I could easily prove that Barack Obama is a Muslim or that there are hidden messages in the Bible or that Paul McCartney is dead. Oh wait…

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Can Your Beliefs About Religion make it Across This Intellectual Battleground?

The Philosophers’ Magazine has an interesting little test to see how reasoned your beliefs about religion are.

Give it a try: Battleground God

I suggest you try the test before reading my results below.

I was awarded this:

It’s given to about 46% of people who complete the test, because I didn’t take any “hits”, and only “bit one bullet”.

Here’s what it said about me:

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity without being hit and biting only one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that required that you held a view that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, because you bit only one bullet and avoided direct hits completely you still qualify for our second highest award. A good achievement!

The question I bit the bullet on was this one:

You answered “True” to questions 6 and 13.

These answers generated the following response:

You stated earlier that evolutionary theory is essentially true. However, you have now claimed that it is foolish to believe in God without certain, irrevocable proof that she exists. The problem is that there is no certain proof that evolutionary theory is true – even though there is overwhelming evidence that it is true. So it seems that you require certain, irrevocable proof for God’s existence, but accept evolutionary theory without certain proof. So you’ve got a choice: (a) Bite a bullet and claim that a higher standard of proof is required for belief in God than for belief in evolution. (b) Take a hit, conceding that there is a contradiction in your responses.

I chose option a, because I feel that the evidence for god would have to be exceptionally strong to convince me. If I were asked the question again though I would probably have to change my answer. The evidence for evolution is so good that an equivalent standard of evidence for god should be enough to convince me, and I hope would convince me that there’s a god.

As far as I know, no scientific theory has “certain, irrevocable proof.” I’m pretty sure that proofs only exist in mathematics. My logic faltered there, but I know that I should hold the same standards of evidence for anything that I hold to be true.

I’m Back!

I haven’t made any new posts in awhile, but I’m missing blogging so I’m back!

I suppose that the reason I stopped was that I was making mistakes in my reasoning and getting off track of what I wanted my blog to be about, and I was getting frustrated with myself. But that’s not a good reason to stop, so I’m going to make a commitment now to start blogging regularly again. Thank you to the people who have commented recently, it’s these comments that have encouraged me to start up again. I’ll try to respond to many of the recent comments.

I just want to comment on a few things before I get back to my regular blogging…

I found that a lot of my recent posts were just poking fun at strange beliefs, and that’s not what my goal was with this blog. I also want to express my excitement with regards to learning about science. I’m a very positive person, so I want to make an effort to blog about what I enjoy. I’ll still be pointing out pseudoscience and bad reasoning, but I want to balance that with talking about cool discoveries and interesting things I’m learning about.

In one instance I posted in the comments section of a post that I wanted someone to show me the evidence they had for the paranormal. They responded with several links to studies, and I didn’t give them much more than a cursory glance. I asked for the evidence (though I should have specified what I was looking for evidence for) and I should have given the responses to that request more of a look, but I was dismissive. I wasn’t worried that I would see evidence that would challenge my world view. I welcome a challenge to my world view. Rather, I had no interest in reading over what was given to me. From now on, when I ask for evidence, I’ll look at what’s given in response to that. And if I’m feeling particularly ambitious one day, I’ll read over what was given to me in the comments of that post. I also want to add that my response to that situation was not representative of people in the skeptical movement. I’m a rookie at this, and I’m learning more and more each day.

Some people had said that I had swapped Jesus for James Randi, and this is not true. I admire Randi, sure, as I admire many other scientists and skeptics, but I do not worship him, I do not follow him blindly, and I do not believe that he has all of the answers. I just wanted to make that clear.

I think I’ve dealt with everything I wanted to talk about for now, but if anyone has any questions or comments about my hiatus please post them here 🙂

I’m happy to be back, now on with our regularly scheduled program…

We Can’t Rely on Our Memories

I had an experience at work today that nicely illustrates the faultiness of our memories.

Last week I was supposed to mail these letters, and I was 100% sure that I mailed them, there was no doubt in my mind. The people waiting for them had called a few times already and I told them yes I sent them. It was Wednesday afternoon, I was on my way out and I quickly packed them in the inter-office envelopes and popped them in the mail. I remember it so clearly as if I were doing it right now.

Finally today, after my boss asked me about them and I once again asserted that I did send them, I actually checked to make sure they weren’t still sitting on my desk. And lo and behold there they were. I could have checked easily the first time somebody asked if I had sent them, but my memory of sending them was so clear that I didn’t have an ounce of doubt.

I’m pretty sure that what actually happened was that it was the end of the day, I didn’t have time to address the letters, so I put them down on my desk to remind myself to send them the next morning. Somehow that mental note to remember to send them turned into a clear memory of popping them into the mail.

This is why eyewitness accounts of UFOs, hauntings, or anything for that matter are not to be taken as evidence. Our memories can be altered over time to the point where they no longer resemble what actually took place, even with something as mundane as mailing a letter.

Echinacea and the Common Cold

I woke up yesterday morning with a brutal cold. Before I began to learn how to use reason and how to look for the evidence, I would just take health care advice based on popular belief. Something I hear all the time, and something that I used to repeat myself, is that you should take echinacea to fight a cold and to boost your immune system.

But if echinacea is so effective, why isn’t there any in my NyQuil?

According to the Wikipedia entry on echinacea, the idea that echinacea helps treat the common cold began when a Swiss herbal supplement maker was incorrectly told that Native American tribes in South Dakota used it for cold prevention.

But despite its questionable beginnings as a cold medicine, it has still become an extremely popular remedy, at least among my friends and family. So is there evidence behind echinacea to convince me that it is efficacious?

This University of Connecticut study claims that “Echinacea, the most popular herbal supplement in the United States, cuts the chances of catching the common cold by 58 percent and reduces the duration of the common cold by 1.4 days.” Sounds good to me! Unfortunately, this study has come under a lot of criticism.

The problem is that it’s a meta-analysis of smaller studies. Meta-analyses can be useful, however in this case critics say that the smaller studies are too dissimilar to be used accurately in a meta-analysis, so this study is not reliable enough to be taken as solid evidence for the efficacy of echinacea.

The gold standard of evidence in medicine is the large, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study. The closest to this type of study that has been done on echinacea is this one, done by the University of Virginia:

In one of the largest, multi-center clinical trials to study the effectiveness of the popular herbal cold supplement, Echinacea, researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have found that it has no effect on treating the common cold.

Turner and colleagues tested the efficacy of Echinacea on 399 volunteers between 2002 and 2004. The volunteers tested were recruited from UVa and were all susceptible to an experimental cold virus, rhinovirus type 39. They were divided into seven different groups and exposed to the cold virus through the nose.

Each group then received either a placebo or one of three possible Echinacea treatments (extracts of the herb originally used by Native Americans and endorsed by the World Health Organization for cold treatment). Volunteers were ‘blinded’ and did not know what treatment they were given. After five days of being studied in an isolated setting, there were no significant effects with Echinacea on the rates of infection or the severity of cold symptoms seen among the study participants. About ninety percent of all participants were infected with the cold virus.

“The results of this study demonstrate that, as tested, the putative active constituents of E. angustifolia do not have clinically significant effects on rhinovirus infection or illness,” Turner wrote in the study.  Researchers from Karl-Franzens-Universitaet in Graz, Austria; the Medical University of South Carolina and Clemson University collaborated on the research.

So no good evidence yet that echinacea does anything for the common cold.

This large trial has also come under criticism, however this time from Dr. Michael Murray, a manufacturer of echinacea. He says that the study used the wrong type of echinacea and in the wrong dosages.

I wonder why Dr. Murray hasn’t funded a study himself to prove the effectiveness of the herb? If he’s so confident in its efficacy then he would be doing himself a favour by proving that it works. Echinacea would become a part of mainstream medicine if it were shown to be effective, it would be recommended by doctors, and Murray would be able to manufacture and sell more.

For now, the burden of providing evidence lies with its advocates. Until they provide reliable evidence that shows that echinacea is good for my health I’ll continue taking my NyQuil to alleviate my cold symptoms, which is proven by science and which outlines its possible side-effects on the box so I can be informed as to any risks it may carry (unlike my bottle of echinacea pills).


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