Monthly Archives: July 2014

Tech-Savvy Satan Puts Frighteners On Priest

By our religious affairs correspondent, Joe King.

 

Priest believes the Devil is a twat.

A priest claims he has been receiving death threats from Satan shortly after he completed several gruelling exorcise sessions. “I exorcise regularly,” said Father Raving, who has been practising, but is not yet perfect at, the art of casting out demons.

After failing in his attempt to destroy the demonic spirit inhabiting the soul of a teenage girl, the priest declared that he had upset Satan even to the extent that the Dark Lord Of The Underworld Himself was now resorting to modern technology to get back at him. Beelzebub now uses a mobile phone, but not his own.

“It’s not like the old days,” said the elderly priest, “when a demonic possessor would just attack you with flying objects – knives, pots and pans, or even just set up cuddly toys in unlikely scenarios, or maybe get the young lass to vomit all over you. It’s different now and much more frightening.”

Asked what was different nowadays, and why his job was much more difficult, Father Raving said, “Look at it this way – if you get trouble from someone on Twitter, you can just block the fucker. Text messages are different. OK, the sender’s phone number appears, but it doesn’t mean that the teenager I was exorcising actually sent those messages. It’s obvious to me that Satan has possessed her phone and it’s not her or someone else taking the piss out of me.”

In one shocking incident, after the priest prayed for the girl’s salvation, he received a sinister text message from Lucifer saying, “Up yours, mate.”

“The owners of mobile phones often don’t know that they are being used like this,” the priest said. “At least not until they get their phone bill. That’s when they go mad.”

The priest added: “This girl is in need of further help, so I’ll probably pop round later to administer extreme unction.”

“In the meantime, there’s not a lot I can do about Satan, except unfriend the twat on my Facebook page. That’ll send him a message he can understand.”

 

[By coincidence, a completely different priest has been having similar problems. You can read about it here.]

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Astrology On The NHS?

A few hundred years ago if you happened to fall ill, it quite often turned out to be a death sentence. The best that people could do then was to turn to superstition. Everything from charms to prayers would be used to try to cure ailments that no one had any idea what to do about. Mortality rates then were horrendous, and only a lucky few with some level of natural immunity would survive the various epidemics and plagues that swept across whole continents.

Over time, however, the patient work of many brilliant and dedicated researchers gradually found ways of beating the dark side of nature. An outbreak of cholera could be stopped if a supply of clean water was made available, for example, and  infections could be avoided by simple hand washing. Even if people had no idea about germ theory, some had discovered ways to tackle diseases even if they did not yet know exactly why their innovations worked.

More research gradually revealed the causes, and very often the cures, for various ailments that would have routinely sent a sufferer to an early grave. Prayers, charms and meaningless rituals slowly disappeared to be replaced by science-based medicine – a triumph of the human intellect over out-dated and useless (often dangerous) superstition, which was eventually replaced by everything from antibiotics to complex full body scanners.

David Tredinnick BBC photoAnd now that there is absolutely no need for superstition in medicine, along comes a modern day member of parliament who wants to see astrology provided on the National Health Service! David Tredinnick, MP, thinks that a throwback to the middle ages and beyond is going to be of use in a modern medical setting.

According to the BBC:

The MP for Bosworth, a member of the health committee and the science and technology committee, said he was not afraid of ridicule or abuse.

He’s a member of the what? The Health Committee and Science and Technology Committee? Well, it’s a good job he’s not afraid of ridicule (I disapprove of abuse), because he’s going to be getting it.

Having studied an Indian astrological system and the way it is used by the Indian government (yes, really), he is convinced it works. He says:

“There is no logic in attacking something that has a proven track record,” he told BBC News.

I’ll agree there’s no logic in attacking something that has a proven track record, but astrology’s track record is dismal for everything, never mind health care, however much he and others might believe in it.

It’s bad enough that homeopathy has a small foothold in our health service, but Tredinnick and others like him are pushing hard to have centuries of scientific achievements thrown to one side. There is even a group of Christian doctors pushing to have demon possession recognised and exorcism as an effective treatment for mental disorders. If you don’t believe me, check this article on the website of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

And it just gets worse: Lord Saatchi is pushing a new law which, if enacted, could allow all kinds of quackery to flourish; if he gets his way, then any kind of quack nostrum could be applied by medical practitioners without fear of legal consequences. Indeed, this might be one way that astrology could be shoehorned into medicine.

What happened to the Enlightenment? It took thousands of years of patient research by very clever people to find ways to prevent or cure illnesses that never would respond to what was itself never anything more than magical thinking. Yet it could all be undone very quickly by scientific illiterates who happen to be in positions of influence and power.

Tredinnick, however, has not revealed what his star chart predicts about whether or when his proposals will become law. Maybe he isn’t mad; he might just be possessed. And if exorcism fails to cure him, then maybe one of Saatchi’s end-of-life futile gestures will do the trick. Then again, maybe, just maybe, reason will prevail and all this assorted nonsense can be disposed of sensibly. I think it will be a fight to retain science in the face of superstition, but it’s a fight that obviously has to be fought.

This is not a political blog, but I would suggest to the people of Bosworth that if, in the event of an illness or accident, they would want their doctor to consult their X-ray results rather than their horoscope; check their pulse rather than check which constellation the Sun is in; or whether Mystic Meg is going to be the surgeon who might be hacking away at their giblets,  they could do worse than thinking very carefully before they cast their vote in next year’s general election.

Talk about Bad Thinking!

Not Evidence For Design

I’ve just had my regular visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And of course they left the latest copies of their propaganda magazines, The Watchtower and Awake!

I always read them before they go into the recycling bin, just to see if there is anything that makes sense to a thinking person, although their main value is to give an insight into the irrationality of the believing brain. These magazines are just apologetics, mostly, and seem to be aimed at believers rather than anyone else. For those who already believe, and who like to have reinforcement of those beliefs, they serve a purpose. They might also be aimed at impressing potential converts, of course.

Something jumped out at me in this month’s Awake!, however. It’s an interview with an actual physicist who converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2005. He says he used to believe in evolution, but later concluded that life was created. I’ll not embarrass the fellow by naming names, but if you come across the July 2014 edition, you can read the interview on pages 12 and 13.

Incredibly, an actual physicist – who says that his job is to understand nature – shows the most profound misunderstanding of nature itself and the most basic laws of physics. He says:

As a physicist, my job is to understand nature. So I decided to give the facts some careful thought.

So what facts did he consider?

First, I knew that a closed system cannot become more organized unless acted upon by an external agent. That is the second law of thermodynamics. Since the universe and life on earth are highly ordered, I concluded that they must be products of an external agent, a Creator.

The second fact was that the universe and the earth seem to be specifically designed to support life. [Emphasis added]

In fact, the second law of thermodynamics says nothing about an external “agent” as such, and certainly not in the form of a creator, (or god). There are different ways that the second law can be stated but essentially it means that the total energy in a closed system will equalise over time until it is no longer able to do any useful work. It’s the same reason why perpetual motion machines are nothing more than wishful thinking: even the most efficient machines must eventually lose their energy into the rest of the system until they come to a halt.

It almost beggars belief that an actual Experimental Physicist can mangle one of the most basic physical laws. I checked around on the internet and found out that he is not just a physicist but a Senior Research Fellow in a British university, so it looks like the article isn’t a hoax – although I was wondering.

The second law is regularly trotted out by creationists as some sort of proof (they think) that evolution can’t be true. But it’s sad that their physicist has missed one extremely important point: the Earth is not a closed system. There is a constant input of energy from the Sun, so life on this planet is not falling foul of any physical laws, least of all the second law. As long as the Sun keeps shining, there is no danger at all of the orderliness of our system decaying.

The second point he makes is just another fallacy that creationists promote, the idea that “the universe and the earth seem specifically designed to support life.”

It’s another example of bad thinking. Look at it this way: if there is life elsewhere in the galaxy, it is unlikely to be anything like life on this planet. The environment that supports us could well be lethal to alien beings. And the environment on their planet might be lethal to us. There might be thousands of planets out there that are home to intelligent civilisations, none of which could survive for a minute on any of the other inhabited planets.

The point is this: the laws of physics apply all over the observable universe, so the emergence of life is probably inevitable. But those same laws don’t mean that there is only one type of environment that can support life. In the same way that life on Earth is extremely diverse, life across the universe is going to come in different forms too. If life can emerge and develop, it will evolve to fit into the environment it is in – not the other way round. The tendency is for believers to assume that the environment is there for the needs of the life within it, but the reality is that life adapts (evolves) to a changing environment, or it dies out. Nature has no feelings on the matter.

Our physicist then goes on to contradict himself, although it’s subtle and it will go unnoticed by the scientifically illiterate faithful, of course. He was “intrigued” by the Bible’s creation account and its reference to light:

“God said: ‘Let there be light.’ Then there was light.”

He then goes on to state the obvious: plants need light to produce food and we need light to see. And he goes on to say that ultraviolet light is good in small amounts, but dangerous if we get too much.

Yes, that’s true enough, but he acknowledges here that there is a constant stream of energy reaching the Earth from the Sun – the very thing that ensures that the second law is not going to spell our doom (for a few billion years anyway, at least until the Sun runs out of fuel and dies).

Sometimes I despair, especially when a qualified scientist (a physicist, of all people) who knows better, is willing to overlook the science he is trained in, in favour of faith (a belief that is held without evidence).

One thing I think I can be sure about is that this physicist will not be teaching his students the Jehovah’s Witnesses version of physics in an actual university lecture theatre. He will be obliged to teach physics, not religion.

Then again, it would be interesting to see what his peers would think of his research in this kind of scenario:creationism-cartoon-a-miracle-occurs

(Credit: Sidney Harris Science Cartoons)

The advantage of an article featuring a scientist for any religious organisation is that it gives a false impression that science itself somehow confirms the religious beliefs of that organisation. Unfortunately, this scientist is not using science in this instance; he has allowed his beliefs to override his logic, and he just gives a superficial and false sense of authority to his church’s doctrine.

Religion and science just do not mix.