Archive for June, 2009

Question of the Week: If God existed, what would you ask him?

Buses seem to be an increasingly popular battleground in the conflict between religion and atheism.  First we had Richard Dawkins and the lovely Ariane Sherine’s ‘There’s Probably No God So Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life’ posters, which we heartily endorse here at the MSS (I personally endorse Ariane Sherine, too, but that’s neither here nor there).  Then came the derivative and pretty petty, not to mention offensive to any non-Christian, reply from the Christian Party – ‘Ours is the right God nerr nerr nerr nerr nerrrr nerr’ I think it read.  I may not have that exactly right (there may have been another ‘r’ in the third ‘nerr’).

And now the latest one to catch my eye, as I sat merrily and atheistically eating my lunch the other day (actually, can you atheistically eat lunch?  I suppose I didn’t whisper with my eyes closed before eating):  ‘IF God existed, what would you ask him?’ What struck me most, I think, was the note of doubt somewhat uncharacteristic for a bus that presumably was pro sky-God.  Usually good Christian buses are loud and certain.

As it turned out, the ad was for the slightly creepy Alpha course – a series of  discussion groups sold (even if unofficially) as the Atheist-converter du jour.  Having looked over the course content, it seems to be little more than propaganda (the course has been criticised in the press for its emphasis on the charismatic and attractive facade – the Channel 4 show ‘Revelations’ recently explored the course in depth; it can be viewed online).  Still, it won’t stop your intrepid MSS investigating in person… see Mike and I at the next Skeptics in the Pub for details!

Well it’s question of the week time, so I want to put it to you, seasoned and smart followers of the MSS – If God existed, what would you ask him?  You’re a well-read bunch; he’s supposedly omniscient – pull no punches!

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Electro-hypersensitivity: the so-called allergy to modern life

When Stephenson’s Rocket was first trialled, there had to be large fences erected along the sides of the track to protect passers-by from the sight, due to the popular belief that if a man was to travel at the speed the train would achieve, he would instantly die a horrible horrible death.  I don’t know if this is true in the slightest, or simply one of those urban myths that gets passed-on after the fact, but it’s a quirky little tale that came back to me when I read this article yesterday.  No matter what technological breakthrough is made, there’s always some element of fear that it will cause us harm.  Sitting near the TV will make you go blind. Microwave ovens will give you radiation poisoning.  And now electro-hypersensitivity…

Former TV producer, Sarah Dacre, 53, had a successful career in London, but, in 1994, she suddenly began suffering from a pattern of mysterious symptoms.
When finally diagnosed with electro-hypersensitivity, her illness forced her to leave both her job and her home. Divorced, with a grown-up son at university, she now lives in Kent.

“Former TV producer, Sarah Dacre, 53, had a successful career in London, but, in 1994, she suddenly began suffering from a pattern of mysterious symptoms.

When finally diagnosed with electro-hypersensitivity, her illness forced her to leave both her job and her home. Divorced, with a grown-up son at university, she now lives in Kent” – Source: Mail Online, June 27, 2009

In the article, she explains how as her life became more packed with technology – phones, laptops, you name it – she became more and more ill.  And then someone told her that the phones, laptops and you-name-its were the cause of the illness.

What the article doesn’t mention is ANYTHING SCIENTIFIC AT ALL.  At all.  Have a good look, really, I tried, but all I could find were correlation/causation fallacies – ‘I had lots of electrical stuff and got ill, you do the maths’ essentially.

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Succussed, Not Stirred – Homeopathy and Annabel Croft

This week the Telegraph’s informed us how former tennis star and TV-pundit Annabel Croft has come to rely on magic and water, after her ovarian cysts were ‘cured’ using Homeopathic means.   After developing the naturally-occurring cysts in 2003, the Kent-born player was informed by her GP that she potentially faced an operation to remove the benign growths.  However, as the article informs us, upon the advice of a friend (not the advice of her doctor, you might want to note), she visited local homeopath Hilery Dorrian.  Annabel explains:

“When I saw Hilery, I was astonished to see my ideas of health turned on their head. She explained to me that homeopathy treats the real causes of illness in the body, not just the symptoms – as conventional medicine does… Hilery didn’t perform a physical examination. Instead, she asked me about my background, my personality, my emotions, what made me stressed – even my parents’ health. She constructed a picture of me and gave me a remedy made up exactly to treat my left ovary.”

It’s hard to say, really, at what point the alarm bells should have been ringing.  Perhaps when the diagnosis involved no physical examination at all – that would have struck me as odd.  Or perhaps when she was diagnostically asked about her personality and her emotions, when her real physical pain was already known to be caused by erroneous fluid-filled sacs on her ovaries – that would seem a bit weird.  Or perhaps when Hilery trotted out a meaningless fallacy that conventional medicine only treats the symptoms of an illness, not the cause – that would strike me immediately as completely, utterly and patently absurd (anti-biotics, for example, kill bacteria and infections – they don’t go near your symptoms, you’ll still cough and wheeze right up until the causal infection in your chest begins clear). Read the rest of this entry »

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Technical difficulties, and a question of vampires.

Cripes!

It’s been a busy weekend most of my time having been taken up attending extended meetings with a litany of scoundrels – Jim Beam and Jose Cuervo to name but the two worst offenders – and so I have had very little time for blogging.

And now that I do have a little more time, my laptop is broken.

So, posts from myself, the bleary-eyed-and-sore-headed Reverend Colonel Molerat, will have to be short, quick and vacuous until I once again have the technology at my disposal to spend long evenings reading, researching and writing (I hear cries of relief from those who have suffered through my longer ramblings!).

The first of these posts is, of course, this one, and it is already becoming much longer than expected. So, to try and produce more content for less work, I am going to pose a question to you, O Anonymous Reader, a question I have long pondered and the answer to which I do not know:

How much evidence of God would a ‘real’ western-style vampire be?

If there were a true ‘I vant to suck your blood!’-style vampire, who ticked every ‘vampire’ box (turning into a bat, sleeping in a coffin, hating garlic, etc), how would you interpret their aversion to the Christian Cross? Evidence of a deity, or evidence of vampiric phobia of certain geometric shapes?

How would you investigate? Vampires of different cultural backgrounds? Crosses vs crucifixes? Placebo holy water?

So! Throw off the shackles of anonymity! Embrace the comforting hug of a nym, be it pseudonym or, erm, real nym, and comment below the fold!


Colonel Molerat never drinks wine…

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The Psychic

Samuel glanced up nervously at the noon sun shining through the dim room’s thick, dusty windows. He had been feeling worried all morning, but couldn’t put his finger on it. No doubt the man who had visited earlier hadn’t helped. He had simply poked his head into the apothecary and, upon sighting Samuel, left again. Very suspicious. Perhaps it was innocent enough. Perhaps he had come into the wrong shop by accident. Or perhaps it was more sinister. Perhaps they were scouting him out.

The shop had been quiet all day. Books were piled high around him, and what few customers had been in had barely given him enough money for the day’s bread. Samuel sighed deeply, but stopped himself short as a mouse looked out from behind a bookshelf. He watched it silently, as it sniffed at the thick air and eyed the mottled floor. Timidly, it scurried a couple of feet along the edge of the wall, before gaining confidence and darting to the table at which Samuel was sitting, in order to better investigate the scraps he had spilled during breakfast.

Suddenly, the mouse stopped shock still, pricking up its ears. Samuel was still holding his breath, frozen like a gargoyle. It wasn’t him who had startled the mouse. It stood up on its hind legs and sniffed the air and then, with a panicked leap, it ran back to its home behind the books.
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UFOs Spotted Over Lake District. Really. UFOs. No Fooling. OK, Maybe SOME Fooling…

So the Lake District is the latest area of England to be visited by UFOs.  Following on from the ones spotted in Shropshire, Cambridgeshire, London and… erm, well… Merseyside.  Yes, Merseyside.  That sound you can hear is us, dropping the ball on that one.  Aliens in our back gardens, and there we were out ‘mobbing’ local ‘psychics’.  Boy were our faces red.

But as it happens, the Merseyside UFOs weren’t aliens, after all.  I’ll let you have a moment to stop reeling from that shock revelation.  Done?  Good.  They were countermeasure flares deployed in a navy training routine.  Even the woo-tastic Telegraph is happy to go with this explanation, so it must really hold water – give those guys half an inch of wiggle room and it seems they’re the first ones to don their tin-foil hats and hum the theme tune to the X-Files.  And the BBC are not much better – ‘Do-Dee-Derr-Derrr…Do-Dee-Do-Derr-Derr-Derr…‘   As it happens, I was half-way through an ‘it’s probably something straightforward’ type post when it emerged that it was, in fact, something straightforward.  ’Oh,’ thought I, ‘that’s that then.  No need to write on UFOs, it’ll be ages before another one of those comes up.’  But UFOs, like buses and clichés, rarely come along one at a time… Read the rest of this entry »

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