Non-Fiction? Friday: Mind Games

Inspired by the extreme level of cognitive dissonance displayed by our new house troll here at IdioPrag, I have decided to offer a book this week just for fun. I would hardly call it non-fiction since the content takes place in a world haunted by spirits and demons, where magic is real and psychic powers can be bestowed upon people by the forces of darkness and good alike. It gets the opportunity to show up in the non-fiction section for two reasons. The most obvious reason is that the author and the target audience believe it is non-fiction. I found it in the non-fiction section of a second hand book store. My other reason is that I think those like me, who understand the difference between fantasy and reality, might get a real kick out of it.

This book is so funny I hate to spoil anything by talking about it. Be sure to charge the batteries on your irony meter before picking it up. Here is a quick run down and I will leave you to your frantic attempts to get hold of a copy.

Andre Kole is fancies himself an evangelical Christian version of James Randi. I know what you’re thinking. WTF does that even mean, right? It means that he goes around performing magic tricks and debunking hucksters and psychics….except the authentic Christian ones. Those guys are the shit. To read  his methods and critical process in approaching an alleged hoaxer one would think he was a real live skeptic. A few sentences later though, he will undoubtedly ruin the moment by talking about his own invisible magic man, the real one, that can do this stuff for real. I can’t do it justice. You really just have to read it.


God is love

An article in UK’s Mail Online today has made me ill. It highlights the trend of torture and murder of children suspected of witchcraft, a phenomenon that is growing frighteningly more common in recent years. In a world that has probed the inner depths of matter and energy and seen the far reaches of space, how can there be those among us so hopelessly ignorant that they would believe in witchcraft and demon possession much less be willing to murder over such superstitions?

According to Mail Online:

 More than 80 children have suffered appalling abuse after being branded as witches in a crimewave fuelled by medieval beliefs imported from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

The scale of the problem – with many youngsters being beaten, starved and kept in cages – was revealed as a football coach was found guilty of torturing a boy to death.

In England Project Violet, an investigative unit dedicated to fighting crimes of a religious or cultural nature, is being reorganized to answer this threat. According to the report:

 Officials suspect grotesque acts continue to thrive behind closed doors, fuelled by a toxic combination of extreme evangelical Christianity and traditional beliefs.

In some of the most serious cases police suspect children may have been sent to their native countries where they face torture, sexual abuse and even murder.

But at least we can be confident that no “real” Christians would ever engage in this kind of nonsense, especially in this country.

Eric Bikubi, the football coach mentioned above, believed he had special powers that allowed him to detect evil. According to the article:

 His defence team argued he was suffering a mental disorder, but an expert told the court he was ‘calm, lucid and rational’ when he murdered Kristy.

Calm and lucid perhaps but I think we have entirely different definitions of the word rational.

Christian fundamentalist pastors in Britain are fuelling the belief in witchcraft, experts warned yesterday.

Dr Richard Hoskins, a police adviser, said he has spoken to many immigrant Londoners gripped by the potential power of malicious ‘spirits’ threatening to damage their families.

Traditional methods of exorcism include wearing a charm, fasting or sacrificing an animal and are controlled by the Church.

The university lecturer warned that Christian extremists and evangelists have begun taking advantage of vulnerable families and perpetuating beliefs in witchcraft by offering expensive ‘deliverance services’.

Still waiting to hear that loud unambiguous public outcry from the “real” Christians denouncing these assholes. I won’t hold my breath.

Dr. Jobe Martin. Part 1

 Last week I saw a set of DVDs sitting on the desk of a coworker. I stopped to take a peek. Hmmmm, “Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution…” I quickly set the disks back on his desk, exactly the way I found them, and moved on as if nothing had happened. I don’t like to get involved in certain types of conversations at work. Eventually I asked him, casually, about them as if I didn’t know what they were. To my relief he said he had come across them, didn’t know what they were and didn’t care and told me I could have them if I wanted. Offer accepted. Now I could watch them without feeling guilty about contributing any money whatsoever toward the spread of idiocy. To top off the mixed feelings, I found the book the videos were based on, The Evolution of a Creationist, available online for free. I also got hold of a transcript of a television interview Dr. Martin did for a Christian program where he talked about his work. I had a day off work (for other reasons-I wouldn’t call out of work to watch creationist propaganda if that’s what you’re thinking) and had a barrel of laughs with WilloNyx as we watched the first video, almost an hour of GawdDidIt on the big screen.

Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution with Dr. Jobe Martin

Based on what I read ahead of time about these videos I was sure to be in for a treat. One website informed me that this set of videos “presents powerful evidence that proves that animal designs can only be attributed to a creator. They cannot possibly be explained by evolution. This program will inspire you to look more closely at the world around you.” Oh yeah. I was pumped.

As the video began we were introduced to an actor dressed like an Animal Planet star walking around what looked like a zoo. His first job was to fluff “Dr.” Jobe for us. Tell us sir, what is it that makes Dr. Martin uniquely qualified to overturn centuries of scientific research? I’m glad you asked gentle viewer. Well you see, half a century ago Dr. Martin was a dentist on Air Force One. Be still my heart (wiping a tear). You had me at dentist… You had me at dentist…  There I was, thoroughly impressed by the man and I hadn’t even heard the good doctor speak yet. It was a good thing I was committed to writing this piece because, all sarcasm aside, once he opened his mouth I regretted bringing the DVDs home.

I have to confess to you, while I managed to watch the entirety of part one, I could not bring myself to watch the other two. I can’t get that time back, no matter what I do. The video offered not one single piece of evidence to support the assertions of irreducible complexity it made over and over again. It didn’t bother to examine any of the evolutionary explanations it purported to disprove. It simply mentioned and described, usually inaccurately, some biological system or organ and stated that it couldn’t have evolved. It even went so far as to pretend like these creatures were kept secret and out of the scientific literature because they baffled “evolutionists.”

In fact, I was already familiar with every single species this video highlighted because they were all classic case studies in evolution. The chemical arsenal of the bombardier beetle; the cardiopulmonary system of giraffes; the tongues of certain species of woodpecker, etc. As if this wasn’t dishonest enough, many of Dr. Martin’s descriptions of the biological systems were horribly inaccurate to the point of absurdity.

None of this was surprising after listening to Dr. Martin summarize his education in evolutionary biology. I’ll paraphrase. It began with a big bang which released a bunch of hydrogen gas which turned to dust. The dust became the earth which was dry until volcanoes made water. Somewhere some stuff gets zapped with lightning or X-rays or something and BAM! Life.

See, it makes perfect sense now. Doesn’t it? If that wasn’t painfully stupid enough, he constantly throws bible verses around in place of evidence. Somewhere in the video he mentions that there is more information in his book The Evolution of a Creationist. If you had any doubts before about a possible masochistic streak in me, doubt no more. I decided to read the book. I’ll save that discussion for my next installment.

Strolling Through the ‘Mart

I happened upon this product yesterday at Walmart.

Spot the problem?

How the fuck the can a hormone be hormone free?

Surprisingly they have an ingredients list. Woo peddlers get away with far more than the FDA should allow them too.

Try not to injure your self when your head makes contact with your keyboard.

“*Contains the same amino acid constituents as hCG”

The most painful thing is that people pay for this nonsense (in more ways than one). I know what it is like to struggle with weight issues. I really do, but seriously people there are safe ways to lose weight.  This is not one of those ways. If this product was really using the hormone hCG it still wouldn’t be safe (not that hCG is inherently unsafe). Diets based on hCG all require the dieter to reduce calorie consumption to starvation levels to be effective. The hCG does nothing and the dieter does all the work (destroying their body and metabolism in the process).

Then again, this product doesn’t contain hCG itself. Rather it contains all those hot button words that other woo-based diet peddlers want you to think help you lose weight. The various “herbal” ingredients do little more than diuretics and sugar-free coffees do, that is to say, not much at all. So while this one won’t require you to drop your calorie intake to 500 calories a day, it still will probably call for a significant drop as well as regular exercise, just like every other “diet supplement” on the market.

My last word of advice.* Find a healthy weight for you. There is no set in stone weight for anyone. If you want to lose weight start by cutting calories in a reasonable fashion. Eat nutrient and fiber packed foods. They are filling without containing empty calories. Take a walk or a bicycle ride a few days a week. Be more active than you currently are. Decrease your portion sizes.  Have heated, vibrant conversation during your meals (they not only burn calories but also keep you from eating too quickly.) Reduce portion sizes.  Enjoy life a bit more. All these little suggestions play a role in healthy weight loss. They either reduce calorie intake, help you burn more calories, or increase your metabolism by degrees.

None of them taken in moderation are dangerous to your health.

*Always consult your physician before making any decisions about your overall health, including but not limited to dieting and exercise.