January 18, 2010 at 11:19 am (animals, creationism, dinosaur, Fred Phelps, intelligent design, magic, Mapusaurus roseae, Nobel Peace Prize, Obama, Pat Robertson, pet industry, pets, religion, skeptic, sorcery, spellcaster, spellcasting, spells, suspending disbelief, suspension of disbelief, True Believer, Tyranosaurus Res, Uncategorized, Vodou, wicca, witchcraft, woo, woo woo, woo woo fluffy bunny)
This post is a complete flight of fancy. I’m stealing the idea from Skepchicks and running with it.
A couple days ago one of the Skepchicks posed this question: If you could have any animal as a pet, and have it magically be domesticated and friendly, what would you choose?
Most people chose big cats. One person went with a Velociraptor. So I thought “Hmm…how can I take that to the next level? Oh *I* know! THIS guy! http://bit.ly/4FdxYw : The Mapusaurus roseae.
This dinosaur was larger than the T-Rex and may have even been bigger than Giganotosaurus, the guy that took over the mantle of “Biggest Badass” from good ol’ T. In other words Mapusaurus rosae, or as I like to call him, Mr. Whuffkins, was longer than a four-story building is tall. So, yeah…big meat grinder on legs.
The question on Skepchicks included the word “friendly”. Sure, Mr. Whuffkins would be friendly TO ME and to people I liked. But lets have some fun here for a minute. If YOU had the biggest carnivore the world has ever seen at your disposal, what would YOU do? Personally, I’d have bullet proof armor and a saddle made for Mr. Whuffkins. Then I’d take him around to places like the Westboro Baptist Church where Fred Phelps hangs his hat. I’d explain to Mr. Phelps that when he says things like “God hates fags”, it makes Mr. Whuffkins vewwy sad. When Mr. Whuffkins gets sad, he gets hungry. He’s a stress eater, doncha know.
Voila! Instant social reform!
Don’t like the way things are going in Washington DC? Mr. Whuffkins and I are happy to go eat..er..greet a few Congressmen and Senators. I can see it now. Me and my pet wandering the world making change happen wherever we go. Barack Obama would have nothing on us!
It would be like the old children’s book “Danny and the Dinosaur”, just a bit, well, bloodier.
Unfortunately there would be a drawback to keeping Mr. Whuffkins as a pet. No, not the food bill. He’s magical so he wouldn’t need to eat. Except for those times I wanted him to, that is. The big drawback would be the fundamentalists and creationists claiming that me and Mr. Whuffkins are proof that people used to live side by side with dinosaurs and even ride them. After all Mr. Whuffkins would be “domesticated”.
And so, the dream dies.
It IS fun to pretend sometimes though. See? Even skeptics have vivid imaginations!
January 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm (Christianity, critical thinking, critical though, demons, Devil, dogma, evidence, fallacy, Haiti, Haitian, logical fallacy, logical thinker, magic, Pat Robertson, practical skepticism, rational, rational thinker, religion, science, scientific, scientific data, scientific evidence, skeptic, skeptical thinking, skeptical thought, skepticism, sorcery, spellcaster, spellcasting, spells, True Believer, Uncategorized, Vodou)
This morning Pat Robertson continued to insist that the reason for Haiti’s troubles is the supposed pact with the Devil that we discussed yesterday. He claims here http://bit.ly/5XeL7L that since the Dominican Republic is prosperous that this supposed “pact” MUST be the reason that Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the world.
Obviously Mr. Robertson’s research team failed to mention to him that, although there are resorts, the Dominican Republic is still a third world country. There is also a difference ing governmental styles. Haiti is a socialist nation run by a dictator. The Dominican Republic stopped being a dictatorship in 1961.
Because of the governmental style, Reagan levied heavy import tariffs against Haiti. That also contributed to the impoverished state of the country. Add to that the weather-related issues and the drug issues and it’s no wonder Haiti has problems.
And yet, Robertson continues to attribute these troubles to a being that no one has been able to prove even exists. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence because a story cannot be tested repeatedly to get the same results. An anecdote is the result of human observation. Personal biases color those observations. When someone like Pat Robertson observes the world, he sees demons and the Devil as the reason for worldly woes. A scientific, skeptical approach shows us that weather and politics are largely contributing factors.
Not the Boogeyman.
January 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm (Christianity, critical thinking, critical though, cynic, cynical, data, evidence, fallacy, Haiti, Haitian, logical fallacy, logical thinker, Pat Robertson, practical skepticism, rational, rational thinker, science, scientific, scientific data, scientific evidence, skeptic, skeptical thinking, skeptical thought, skepticism, spellcaster, spellcasting, spells, Uncategorized, witchcraft, woo)
This morning on the Christian Broadcast Network Pat Robertson made a claim about the reason Haiti has had so many troubles. He states it is because they made a deal with the Devil in the 19th century for their freedom from France.
It’s times like this when it is very hard not to be a cynic. A cynic would have followed that claim up with something like “WTF Pat? Are you stupid?? What kind of crack are you smokin’??”
Haiti should be very proud of its history. In 1791, their ancestors started the only successful slave revolt in human history. It was the first black-run country. They have a rich heritage that deserves to be celebrated. Their revolution is considered a defining moment in African history in the New World.
Pat Robertson isn’t necessarily full of crap though. At least not from certain perspectives. According to the Wikipedia entry on the Haitian revolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Revolution), “Historians traditionally identify the catalyst to revolution as a particular Vodou ceremony in August 1791 performed at Bois Caïman by Dutty Boukman, a priest.”.”
At one point in my life I was a Fundamentalist Christian so I understand the “logic” behind Pat Robertson’s claim. From his perspective Vodou is devil worship. The priest, Dutty Boukman, called on demons and the Devil, by fundamentalist reasoning, to free his country. When an entire country is given over into the hands of the Devil, no good can ever come of it.
This is, of course, no longer my perspective. This is an observation and explanation on Robertson’s reasoning. It in no way is meant to support his argument by Appeal To Widespread Belief.
This logical fallacy states that because something is widely believed, that makes it factual evidence. This reasoning is fallacious. We used to believe the world was flat. We know better now because evidence has shown otherwise. A belief is not necessarily factual. In this case, there is no scientific, testable evidence of a Devil. There is no scientific, testable evidence that Vodou has been effective.
Haiti has simply had to deal with unfortunate circumstances. The recent earthquake is one more instance in a string of natural occurrences. There is nothing paranormal about it. This country has simply been victim to a host of natural disasters ranging from flooding and hurricanes to disease and drug trafficking. These, along with a public that lacks education, are the things that keep Haiti impoverished.
I would urge you to go to redcross.com and contribute to the Haitian relief effort if you haven’t already.
November 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm (Christianity, critical thinking, critical though, death, dogma, logical thinker, magic, murder, rational, rational thinker, religion, science, scientific, scientific evidence, skeptic, skepticism, sorcery, spellcaster, spellcasting, spells, Uncategorized, witchcraft)
Two days back I posted about a video I watched. The video showed five elderly people being beaten and burned alive in the western district of Kisii in Kenya. Why? They had been accused of witchcraft and/or sorcery and they were being punished for their crimes by being burnt.
After further research I found that I came a bit late to this particular party. The original video I posted appears to have first surfaced in April of this year. This is also not the only incident of people being burnt, beaten, ostracised or otherwise tortured for supposedly practicing witchcraft or sorcery. This is, according to this article by the BBC (http://bit.ly/WYaSP) is so common a practice that there are no longer any elders to consult.
In my previous article I spoke at length about how stunned I was that such a thing could happen in the 21st century. My husband reminded me that it isn’t really the 21st century there. In remote villages in Africa, it IS 200 years ago. Perhaps some of modern civilization touches these areas but not enough science and logical thought are being introduced to these cultures.
This article from the New York Times (http://bit.ly/3t7NkW) blames apartheid for the burnings. The article further claims that these burnings have been growing steadily since the 1980′s. The Chief talks about the “ungovernability of the young” and talks about how the old ways are being lost. There was once a less violent way to handle “bewitchings”. Now the youth are taking things into their own hands and the police do nothing.
Another opinion posed by this article (http://bit.ly/2I7u0c) by the Associated Press blames the increase of Pentecostal churches. According to the reporter, the number of burnings have increased in proportion with the number of churches. “Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”". Some parishioners who attend churches have taken the teachings back to their village where it gets mixed with African traditions. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Then there are those who let the power go to their heads. There are pastors who perform exorcisms and extort exorbitant fees from the parents for this “service”. Children have been hurt and maimed during these supposed exorcisms. The mere mention of certain church names is enough to cause a group of happily playing children mentioned in this article to become frightened.
Unfortunately this is a complicated issue and there doesn’t seem to be a solution. If you remove the churches, then you remove food and medicine that secular organizations simply can’t cover. I would be interested to know what, if anything, the UN is doing about this. Are there any human rights organizations addressing this problem? There is still research to be done on this and I will be talking about it further in the future.
October 6, 2009 at 8:17 pm (critical thinking, critical though, dragons, fairies, free thinker, logical thinker, magic, rational, rational thinker, skeptic, skepticism, spellcasting, spells, suspending disbelief, suspension of disbelief, Uncategorized)
One of the most difficult parts of becoming a skeptic was readjusting my thought processes. I was afraid that because I was now a skeptic that I would no longer be able to enjoy some of the things I love most. For instance, how can a skeptic enjoy the wonder and magic of Disney World and the Magic Kingdom?
Was I allowed to like things like that anymore? Was my life now to be relegated only to the wonders of the world around me and the Universe at large? Not that those are bad things. The Universe and the natural world are full of amazing, complex and wonderful things.
But I still love the fantastic. I still love dragons and fairies, mythology and magic. And I love the magic that is Disney World. It’s a wonderful place where, for a little while, we can be kids again. We can get excited about meeting Mickey Mouse and for a little while we’re seven years old again.
The truth is, I didn’t give ANY of it up. I still love the fantastic. I still get excited about seeing my favorite characters at Disney and I still run to get to the Haunted Mansion. Yet, I proudly wear the label of ‘skeptic”.
Now how does THAT work?? It’s not as hard as it sounds. The concept is called Suspension of Disbelief. It is defined as: The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.
In other words, when you go to a movie and you allow yourself to be immersed in that world you are willingly suspending your disbelief for a time. You are making a choice to accept the premise set down by the writers and actors.
While I understand that dragons, fairies and magic probably don’t exist, I allow myself to enjoy the concept and suspend disbelief for a time. So while I know that there is a person in a costume, I still joyfully hug Winnie the Pooh, embracing the nostalgia of my childhood and allowing myself, for a little while, to be 7 years old again.
September 29, 2009 at 9:44 pm (critical thinking, critical though, crystals, evidence, free thinker, logical thinker, rational, rational thinker, religion, ritual, skeptic, skepticism, spellcaster, spellcasting, spells, Uncategorized, wicca, woo, woo woo)
Last night I got a call from my youngest son’s ex-girlfriend. He mother wanted to talk to me. She knows that at one time I was a Wiccan High Priestess. She asked her daughter to call me because she wanted to know if I knew how to bind someone.
No we’re not talking kinky S&M stuff. A binding is a long-term spell. It’s purpose is to keep the bound person from causing harm.
After being involved in Wicca for a few years I came to a realize about spellcasting. Even though I still believed in duotheism, rarely did a spell work for me. At that time I decided that it wasn’t working because I was trying to manipulate the world in ways that were contrary to the will of the god and goddess. Spellcasting was manipulation in my view.
When I told other Wiccans how I felt, they explained that, in their mind, spellcasting was the same as prayer. To them, the various rituals were ways of asking for what they wanted.
Why not just ask for it then? Why all the circles, pentacles, wands, etc?
I liked the people so I kept hanging out with them but eventually I realized that wicca wasn’t working for me. So I came up with the notion that all gods are one god. Later I discovered that this is a Buddhist idea.
After years of being free of religion, I’ve come to realize that spellcasting is even more egocentric than prayer. With prayer you believe that a being as important as god has the time to listen to you and only you when he/she/it has the entire world to look after.
With spellcasting you believe you have the power to manipulate “Universal energy” to affect change in your life or the lives of other people. Spellcasting can also be used for various situations. For instance if you want a specific job, a spellcaster would do a ritual to create a situation in which they would be offered the job over other more qualified people.
It is egocentric and manipulative to think that by doing certain ritualistic actions in a prescribed manner that those action will bring the desired result.
I called this post “The Error of My Ways” for two reasons. First, I now see that not only is spellcasting manipulative, it also doesn’t work except by pure chance and coincidence. Second, since I have previously told people about my past, it is coming back to bite me in the ass.
I now have to find a way to gently tell this woman that I don’t do spellcasting anymore because I believe it to be another form of manipulation. I’ve also got to figure out a way to explain that it doesn’t really work and she would just be doing it to make herself feel better without actually doing anything to fix the problem.