Darwin Day And Other Musings

I’m a bit late posting this, but better late than never, perhaps. Work and family commitments have kept me away from blogging for the last few weeks.

Charles DarwinCharles Darwin was born on 12th February, 1809, and yesterday we celebrated that event. Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection unifies all of the biological sciences, and has led to some of the greatest medical breakthroughs in history. It is arguably the most important theory in all of science, and is also perhaps the most tested and confirmed.

Unfortunately, religions in general do not accept it because to do so means that there is little room left for a creator god. Although evolutionary theory does not disprove the existence of any gods, it certainly disposes of the idea of the supernatural creation of all life in its present form within the last few thousand years. Consequently, some religions have been forced to modify their interpretation of their holy scriptures, and reluctantly reinterpret their creation myths as being allegorical rather than factual accounts of how life arose on this planet. Even the fact that we live on a planet orbiting the Sun was a discovery that some early astronomers paid for with their lives after contradicting church dogma.

That’s the problem with religion. Dogmatic beliefs will not be swayed by evidence or logic.

Although evolution has been accepted – at least in part – by many religions, there are the fundamentalists who deny it unconditionally. It’s particularly worrying in America, where some elected politicians make repeated attempts to either have evolution dropped from school lessons, or have bills introduced to “teach the controversy” (although there is no controversy within science about the fact of evolution).

I find it incredible that, even though the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, not to mention easily available and well promoted, there are those who claim, quite seriously, that “there is no evidence at all for evolution.” This is denialism on a breathtaking scale. Anyone interested in the subject can buy an introductory book in almost any bookstore; there are libraries full of information; there are many high quality TV documentaries that explain evolution (anything by David Attenborough is worth watching); there are websites and blogs that cover the subject in exquisite detail and there are even museums displaying physical artefacts that can be seen and sometimes even physically handled. Yet despite all that, there are plenty of people who simply say the evidence is not there, despite it being offered to them. Denying evidence when it is offered is just seriously bad thinking.

Maybe it’s just the other side of the woo coin. As a sceptic, I doubt that the Earth is being visited by alien beings, for example, but I would love the chance to examine the evidence that UFO promoters say is out there. There’s a snag, however. No one will offer any testable evidence whatsoever. There’s no shortage of people claiming to have been abducted by extraterrestrials (up to four million claimants in the USA alone), or former military people claiming they have seen or personally examined aliens and their alleged craft, but that is not evidence of anything. If you happen to believe extraordinary claims on nothing more than someone else’s say so, then you will believe anything.

That’s where religious and paranormal claims seem to meet – in a disjointed sort of way. Believing in gods on faith without evidence is similar to believing that ET is here, also without evidence. The difference, however, is that the religious will deny the existence of evidence for evolution despite it being there; the believers in aliens expect others to believe their claims but cannot provide believable evidence even though sceptics like me keep asking to see it. It would be particularly fascinating to have physical contact with an alien civilisation, to be able to study their own biological evolution in comparison with our own.

The laws of physics operate all over the universe, so it’s likely – perhaps inevitable – that the cosmos is teeming with evolving life. Even so, the same laws of physics put limits on what can happen within the universe. Can alien spaceships travel faster than light? Maybe not, but what about warping space for fast travel? Theoretically possible, maybe, but maybe just not practical, given the astronomical amounts of energy it would take. Wormholes? Another theoretical possibility that apparently disappears up its own mathematics.

The hurdles that would have to be overcome to make interstellar travel possible – at least in any practical timescale – are huge, and the idea itself might be nothing more than a forlorn hope. Then again, if there are technological civilisations out there, then they are most likely to be discovered by detection of their radio signals – even if face to face meetings aren’t possible.

In the meantime, evolution deniers will continue to ignore the evidence that is there in abundance, and the alien visitation advocates will continue to fail to provide the evidence they say is there, but can’t provide. The evidence for evolution is there for everyone to examine; the evidence for alien visitation is not. Such is the power of faith (a belief held without evidence): at the end of the day, it is no wonder that the major advances made by modern civilisation have come about by scientific exploration, not religion or woo.

As far as ET is concerned, there is still an absence of evidence for extraterrestrial visitation, but for anyone who wants to claim some kind of victory over sceptics by quoting Carl Sagan’s famous dictum, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” it does not follow from the fact that the evidence is absent that the evidence is there, or even might be. The burden of proof is always on the person making the claim, but after decades of claims of alien encounters there is absolutely nothing – nothing at all – that the ET buffs have proven, nor is there even any physical evidence that can be tested. And they wonder why some of us are sceptical.

At least with evolution, Charles Darwin presented his evidence (coinciding with another naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, coming to the same conclusion independently). And since then, the foundations laid by Darwin have been built upon and gone far beyond anything Darwin himself could possibly have imagined. Evolution – descent with modification by the process of natural selection – is a fact. Only an uneducated fool could deny the evidence for evolution. But there are plenty of those around.

Charles Darwin deserves to be – and should be – remembered. Many of us would not be here without him.

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14 responses to “Darwin Day And Other Musings

  1. If you’ve read my recent columns in the Gazette – and the one yet to follow – you’ll see that hundreds of scientists, military personnel, astronauts et al are BEGGING for a Congressional Hearing and the right to spill the beans on what evidence they have as long as they are guaranteed immunity from prosecution.


    ‘“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” it does not follow from the fact that the evidence is absent that the evidence is there, or even might be.’

    That’s true, but neither does it follow that because the evidence is absent that it isn’t there at all. It may only be absent from view, not absent altogether.

    “The burden of proof is always on the person making the claim, but after decades of claims of alien encounters there is absolutely nothing – nothing at all – that the ET buffs have proven, nor is there even any physical evidence that can be tested.”

    Really. And how would you know this, exactly? I mean, from someone who loves to wave the twin banners of logic and scientific thinking so proudly, would you explain how you have been able to determine that there is “no physical evidence that can be tested”? How could you know, unless you had access to every facility and laboratory on the face of the earth that could carry out such tests, and indeed have been according to witnesses?

    “The burden of proof is always on the person making the claim…”

    Well, let’s put this to the test. You are making the claim that absolutely no testable evidence exists to prove the reality of ET. Please offer your proof. Tell your readers exactly how you set about proving that there is no ET evidence at all – anywhere in the world – as opposed to the idea that the evidence does exist but has been hidden.

    I’ve asked you this question before, and you always dodge around it. Its fine to say that you’ve never seen the evidence, and it’s also okay to go as far as to say you don’t believe there is any; but exactly how can you state dogmatically that there “is no evidence” when its simply impossible for you to be able to make that determination? Or, if you did make such a determination, how did you go about it? One academic with a bit more discernment offers his thoughts on UFOs here:

    Watch the videos of the Citizens’ Commission and you’ll see that many people want to come forward and testify regarding the evidence you claim you also want to see. You should be supporting their efforts, as they want exactly the same thing you do – the evidence brought forth.

    “Only an uneducated fool could deny the evidence for evolution. But there are plenty of those around.”

    Instead of being so insufferably arrogant, why not engage some of the Creationists in constructive dialogue? They are not all uneducated. Some are respected scientists. You just don’t like their way of interpreting the evidence – which is fine, but to denigrate people as “uneducated fools” doesn’t help your cause at all, and only serves to demonstrate the shallowness of your character. The Church used to chuck such ad hominems around and describe evolutionists as “idiots and incompetents”. Look where that got the Church. If the tables turn once again, you could end up with egg on your face.

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  2. Mike – read the post again. I didn’t say, dogmatically or otherwise, that there is no evidence, I said, “No one will offer any testable evidence whatsoever.” If anyone has offered testable evidence, then feel free to tell us where it is.

    I also did not claim to prove that extraterrestrials aren’t here or prove that there isn’t any evidence – even if it is being hidden by a government conspiracy.

    You are using logical fallacies again, but I’ll help you out here. The first one is called “shifting the burden of proof.” Those who make the claim that aliens are here have the responsibility of proving their claims; it is not up to me or anyone else to try to disprove them. And I don’t think even you really agree that it should be otherwise, if you give it some thought.

    For example, would you really rely on your own reasoning in a real-life situation? You’ve used a courtroom analogy before, so I will do the same.

    If someone (or a lot of people) told me you were a criminal who mugged old ladies in your spare time, I wouldn’t believe it anymore than I believe aliens are holed up in Area 51. But what if you were arrested, charged, prosecuted and jailed with the same standard of evidence against you that there is available for the existence of aliens? Would you protest? Would you think you were being dealt with unfairly? After all, just because the evidence for your guilt has not been revealed by the authorities and presented in court, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, does it? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all. I’m a sceptic and I might even speak out publicly about such a travesty of justice and logic, but maybe not if you truly believe that the general population should accept an extraordinary claim without evidence. Who’s to say the evidence isn’t there?

    I don’t have to prove that aliens aren’t here, but you are trying to shift that burden onto me. It’s poor reasoning, and in our hypothetical court case I think you would understand it if you found you could be punished without evidence of any wrongdoing on your part.

    As for evolution, as I said in my post, not only is the evidence there and easily accessible, there are many people promoting it for all to see. No one is hiding it. Creationists, however, cannot be engaged in “constructive dialogue” as you put it – if creationists could be reasoned with, then there would be no creationists. If you want to argue that science has got it all wrong, then you need to show why it is wrong – which you can’t, because you don’t understand science and how it works. Those scientists you don’t name, but who you say oppose evolutionary theory, tend not to be involved in the biological sciences anyway. That’s just another logical fallacy you use here – the appeal to authority.

    Also, as I have pointed out to you before, saying that hundreds of astronauts, military people and so on all say the same thing is also a logical fallacy – the appeal to popularity. The number of people who believe something is irrelevant. Or are you now going to change your religion to Christianity just because it is the largest religion in the world in terms of followers? You are one of about 1.5 billion Muslims on a planet of seven billion people, 5.5 billion of whom think you are following a false religion, so why not go with your own version of logic: just pack it in. Join another religion or become an atheist, or in other words become an “infidel,” which is what you are in the eyes of the followers of every other religion anyway. But to you, they are infidels. Oh, well.

    When it comes to evidence, your “interpretation” does not have equal status with scientific investigation. Science deals with testable evidence, not faith. All scientific theories are falsifiable (otherwise they wouldn’t be scientific), so you’re welcome to go ahead and do it if you can. On the other hand, creationism is not falsifiable – anything that can’t be explained is just attributed to a miracle, or that it’s one of those things that God has simply chosen not to reveal and so on. There’s always an untestable get-out so, no, creationism is not science. In any case, there are thousands of religions and thousands of creation stories. Science, however, is unified and the laws of physics apply all over the world and across the universe.

    Then again, here’s a conundrum for you. Do you believe the Earth is stationary and that if it were round, as science says, it would be impossible to fly to, say, China? Here’s a Muslim cleric explaining (on Galileo’s birthday) that the Earth does not orbit the Sun (so it’s the other way round), and it is stationary. He has also said in the past that astronauts have not landed on the Moon. And so on.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-muslim-cleric-claims-the-earth-is-stationary-and-the-sun-rotates-around-it-10053516.html

    Personally, I disagree with him, but as a Muslim yourself, do you agree with him? Would you dare to disagree with him? In certain parts of the world today, anyone who disagrees with Islamic authority can expect a death sentence for his trouble, so what is your position on the subject? That’s not the way science works, but in Islam there appears to be a different methodology. Do you agree with this person who is an authority on Islam, or take the risk and say outright that he’s got it wrong; and more to the point, why he is wrong? You are so confident that you know what science is all about, I would love to see you challenge this cleric; quote actual science to him – you know, demonstrate to him Newton’s laws with the associated mathematics that explain the orbits of the planets and the inverse square law of gravitation. It explains mass and its relationship between the Sun and the planets and even the movement of comets as they travel through the solar system. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Halley and others worked it out hundreds of years ago, but a modern day Muslim cleric thinks he has just trashed it all. But maybe you, too, think that mankind never landed on the moon: I know from reading your website that you are very much into conspiracy theories (Muslims weren’t involved in 9/11; the Sandy Hook massacre didn’t happen; & etc.).

    Think about this, Mike: you are a recent convert to Islam, but are you recognised as a Muslim Scholar? He is, although you might have aspirations in that direction yourself, and why not – you aren’t a scholar in the ordinary sense. He has authority within Islam that you do not. He bases what he says on the Quran which, you must agree, has absolute authority. You cannot challenge that – or can you?

    Then again, you, like he, has what you and he would call “revealed knowledge.” So is the Earth stationary, orbited by the Sun because the Quran says so? And if you believe that is true, then where do these aliens of yours come from? Science obviously doesn’t apply anymore.

    Before you get all paranoid, let me be clear: you are entitled to your religious beliefs, and I support the right of you and every person to act on their own conscience within the law. But all religions are anti-science to a greater or lesser extent; whether you like it or not, science works. You are entitled to your opinions and your beliefs, but if you want to assert that science is wrong, then you are going to be challenged to prove that assertion.

    One more thing: I did use a generalisation when I described those who deny evolution as uneducated fools. You reckon that such a term demonstrates the shallowness of my character? On the other hand, you have been very specific with the insults you have thrown at me in the past. In lieu of any sound arguments of your own, you have routinely told me I am of “low intelligence,” “bereft of logic,” an “idiot,” my character is “shallow,” even, and much else. What does that say about the depth of your own character? If you can do it, why can’t I?

    And as a final irony, that last paragraph includes a deliberate logical fallacy that I would have pointed out to you had you committed it yourself. Here’s your challenge: name that fallacy! I’ll offer you the same terms you offered me some time ago when you challenged me (a challenge I won but which you, as self-appointed judge would not accept); I will allow you a couple of days (48 hours, actually) to name the deliberate fallacy, or at least find an educated person who can help you out. If you can’t, then I will post the answer here and then do a new post dedicated to that particular error of reasoning. And at least the answer to my little poser is definitive, unlike your tortuous torturing of the English language to get yourself out of a self imposed trap of your own making. Pity we didn’t have an independent arbitrator then, but in this case there won’t be any dispute. (Except from you.) That paragraph is an illustration of what is bad thinking when used by people like yourself, but it’s good rhetoric.

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  3. Thank you for your detailed reply to my comment. You’ve taken me to task on two specific issues, so I’ll beg your leave to respond to them in two separate retorts. The first concerns UFOs/ET etc:

    “Mike – read the post again. I didn’t say, dogmatically or otherwise, that there is no evidence, I said, “No one will offer any testable evidence whatsoever.”

    Which is exactly what I quoted you as saying. But you’ve also said…

    “nor is there even any physical evidence that can be tested.”

    “The evidence for UFOs … is actually non-existent.”

    “If anyone has offered testable evidence, then feel free to tell us where it is.”

    “What’s the probability of that? Given the complete absence of any confirming evidence, the probability is (approximately) zero.”

    However, you also said…

    “I also did not claim to prove that extraterrestrials aren’t here or prove that there isn’t any evidence – even if it is being hidden by a government conspiracy.”

    “As far as ET is concerned, there is still an absence of evidence for extraterrestrial visitation.”

    Well, as the above quotations show, you DID say just that, but never mind.

    “I don’t, however, claim to “know,” I claim to doubt.”

    Well, when someone says, ““The evidence for UFOs … is actually non-existent.” That sounds a lot like “knowing” to me and not very much like doubting.

    “The laws of physics operate all over the universe, so it’s likely – perhaps inevitable – that the cosmos is teeming with evolving life. Even so, the same laws of physics put limits on what can happen within the universe. Can alien spaceships travel faster than light? Maybe not, but what about warping space for fast travel? Theoretically possible, maybe, but maybe just not practical, given the astronomical amounts of energy it would take. Wormholes? Another theoretical possibility that apparently disappears up its own mathematics.”

    And that’s the problem with some scientists (and people who aren’t scientists at all, but try to sound like them); they simply can’t conceive that the state of their knowledge base as it is now can and will be improved upon in the future. The history of mankind is littered with dogmatic scientific and religious pronouncements that something is/was impossible, only for it to be understood as perfectly possible later when our knowledge base has broadened and our understanding has increased. It seems your pronouncements that interstellar travel is either impossible or nigh-impossible are based upon a belief that scientific understanding now is as good as it’s going to get. It would be a very brave man indeed who would assert that we’ll never conquer interstellar travel, and if one acknowledges that it might happen one day, there is no reason to suppose that, on some far-flung world, it may already have happened already.

    “These “documentaries,” of course, are nothing more than dramatised re-enactments of claims made without any proof.”

    Really? So all the documentaries on UFOs which show bizarre objects whizzing through the ether are not showing real footage? It’s all been DRAMATISATION and RE-ENACTMENTS? Wow, this must be the conspiracy theory of the century.

    “There’s a snag, however. No one will offer any testable evidence whatsoever.”

    Apart from the hundreds of scientists and other witnesses who not only claim to have been witnesses, but often to possess hard evidence which they are happy to present if they are granted freedom from prosecution? And what about the material which has already been tested and found to be either of non-terrestrial origin or genetically mutated?







    So, to say that, “No one will offer any testable evidence whatsoever” is simply untrue. Now I’m not suggesting that more detailed, thorough testing wouldn’t help – of course it would – and this is exactly one of the things the Citizens Commission on UFOs is fighting for.

    “As far as ET is concerned, there is still an absence of evidence for extraterrestrial visitation…”

    No; just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This is one of the “logical fallacies” you repeat to the point of monotony.

    “You are using logical fallacies again, but I’ll help you out here.”

    That’s very kind of you. Let’s see how you measure up…

    “The first one is called “shifting the burden of proof.” Those who make the claim that aliens are here have the responsibility of proving their claims…”

    Well, only if they want to. I hope they do, and many have, but you can’t make them do it at the point of a gun. Oh, and by the way, “shifting the burden of proof” is not a “logical fallacy”.

    “it is not up to me or anyone else to try to disprove them.”

    Well, that doesn’t seem to deter you from trying.

    “And I don’t think even you really agree that it should be otherwise, if you give it some thought.”

    Well, I’ve given it some thought, and I’m really not bothered either way.

    “For example, would you really rely on your own reasoning in a real-life situation?”

    It depends on what the situation is.

    “You’ve used a courtroom analogy before, so I will do the same.”

    I thought you preferred laboratories to courtrooms, but carry on…

    “If someone (or a lot of people) told me you were a criminal who mugged old ladies in your spare time, I wouldn’t believe it anymore than I believe aliens are holed up in Area 51.”

    Well, thank you for that.

    “But what if you were arrested, charged, prosecuted and jailed with the same standard of evidence against you that there is available for the existence of aliens? Would you protest?”

    Well, if I was innocent I would.

    “Would you think you were being dealt with unfairly? After all, just because the evidence for your guilt has not been revealed by the authorities and presented in court, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, does it?”

    Well that’s true, but the lack of the presentation of the evidence may well affect the outcome of the trial. And in any case, YOU are the one who keeps insisting that the evidence doesn’t exist just because you haven’t seen it. (See above).

    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all.”

    I’ve been trying to tell you that for years, but you still keep insisting that there is no evidence ET has ever visited us even though you have no objective or conclusive way of making such an assertion.

    “I’m a sceptic and I might even speak out publicly about such a travesty of justice and logic, but maybe not if you truly believe that the general population should accept an extraordinary claim without evidence. Who’s to say the evidence isn’t there?”

    Evidence is evidence. You either have it or you don’t. To demand “extraordinary” evidence to support “extraordinary claims” is cherry-picking, for “extraordinariness” cannot be measured and depends solely on the disposition of the perceiver.

    “I don’t have to prove that aliens aren’t here…”

    Very true.

    “but you are trying to shift that burden onto me.”

    Yes I am, in a way, for you are making a claim that is not merely an opinion, but a dogmatic assertion. Your assertion is that, “nor is there even any physical evidence that can be tested.”

    Now that is a dogmatic, unequivocal assertion. You’re expressing it as a statement of fact, and I have every right to ask you how you were able to ascertain it. How did you go about ascertaining that there is no physical evidence? Can you prove that there is no physical evidence being kept secretly from public scrutiny? No, you can’t, so all I’m saying is that you have made a dogmatic claim that has not been proven – the very thing you become apoplectic about when those whom you malign as “the Woo brigade” allegedly do it!

    “It’s poor reasoning, and in our hypothetical court case I think you would understand it if you found you could be punished without evidence of any wrongdoing on your part.”

    But here’s the difference. There are credible, well-respected witnesses who want to step up to the plate with both testimony and/or evidence. You should be supporting their efforts. But instead of taking a “wait and see” posture, you’ve already determined that no such evidence exists before you’ve even had the chance to see it. Now THAT is Bad Thinking.

    “As for evolution, as I said in my post, not only is the evidence there and easily accessible, there are many people promoting it for all to see. No one is hiding it. Creationists, however, cannot be engaged in “constructive dialogue” as you put it – if creationists could be reasoned with, then there would be no creationists.”

    That has to be the poorest excuse for not engaging someone in dialogue I’ve ever heard. What a circular argument. “If they were worth talking to they’d already agree with me, but they don’t agree with me so they aren’t worth talking to.” What arrogance.

    “If you want to argue that science has got it all wrong, then you need to show why it is wrong – which you can’t, because you don’t understand science and how it works.”

    Well, I’ve never said science “has got it all wrong” and to be frank you haven’t a clue how much I do or do not know about the sciences. All you have is your own opinion.

    “Those scientists you don’t name, but who you say oppose evolutionary theory tend not to be involved in the biological sciences anyway.”

    Unlike the ones mentioned here…
    http://creation.com/creation-scientists

    That’s just another logical fallacy you use here – the appeal to authority.

    So…all your alleged knowledge of the sciences…you gleaned without listening to any authorities in the relevant areas? You’ve never once quoted an authority on any subject? Fascinating. Didn’t you just quote Carl Sagan?

    “Also, as I have pointed out to you before, saying that hundreds of astronauts, military people and so on all say the same thing is also a logical fallacy – the appeal to popularity. The number of people who believe something is irrelevant.”

    Well, it isn’t a “fallacy” of logic – it’s simply a fact. These hundreds of people are not just “believing” in something – they’re testifying that they have knowledge of crucial importance regarding the UFO issue. This is no more an appeal to popularity than it is to say that hundreds of scientists believe in evolution – it’s just a fact.

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    • Mike, I think I’ve identified a new logical fallacy – “Argument by Youtube.” As you often do, you have linked to online videos as if it means anything. You must think that drivel like Ancient Aliens, UFO Files and similar nonsense are real documentaries. They aren’t. (“Pseudo-documentary” is an apt term to use here.)

      Things like the Atacama Humanoid (a mummified human foetus) and the Star Child (a deformed human) have been shown for what they are by real science. The same goes for various UFO claims that have been proven false, but which the same programmes still promote. And you too are still promoting them.

      You can reject or ignore science if you choose, but it is still the best method we have to find out about objective reality. It’s not a perfect system, but it is testable, self-correcting and more reliable than any other method of inquiry. Personal experience and beliefs are not scientific, they are inherently unreliable and misleading.

      Your link to “creation scientists” is a link to people who are trying to use science to support their personal beliefs. Many of the people on that list are regarded as cranks, especially where the science they do is unrelated to the biological sciences, or if they used to do actual science in the past. Belief is very powerful, and almost always overrides a person’s logic.

      I’ll just make one more point here. I’ll be as specific as I can, because you clearly put a lot of effort into reinterpreting everything I say in a way that stretches far beyond my original meaning. I will modify my earlier statement about there being no evidence for alien visitation – which I also modified to say that there is no testable evidence, which I also had to modify to say that no evidence is available, then no testable evidence has been presented. I suppose I did ignore the so-called evidence that has been produced, but that evidence, like your video links above, is complete and utter rubbish that has been debunked over and over. It takes a stretch of the imagination to regard it as evidence of any kind, but OK, it’s evidence, albeit one level above pure fantasy. But when evidence has been disproven, the next step should be to discard it and move on. We’re still waiting for real evidence, while the same old nonsense is being constantly recycled.

      Oh, and the “appeal to popularity” is still a logical fallacy. Evolution is a well tested and confirmed theory that stands on its own merits. It isn’t true because lots of scientists believe it, they believe it because it is true. Your lots of military personnel believe something, but they haven’t produced any confirmatory evidence. Youtube videos don’t count as evidence.

      Similarly, the appeal to authority is a fallacy, but if I quote a scientist’s words (Carl Sagan in this case) it is to clarify or illustrate a point, not to prove a claim must be true because someone else says so. Albert Einstein said that E=MC^2; it’s true, not because he said so, but because it is a fact.

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  4. You also took me to task on my Islamic faith. Here’s my response:

    “Or are you now going to change your religion to Christianity just because it is the largest religion in the world in terms of followers?”

    Now you’re just being silly. If I’d adopted that attitude, I’d never have left the Christian religion in the first place, would I?

    “You are one of about 1.5 billion Muslims on a planet of seven billion people, 5.5 billion of whom think you are following a false religion…”

    Really? I have friends who aren’t Muslims but they don’t think my religion is false; some of them are of the opinion that there are many “roads to God”, and that just because they don’t embrace Islam that doesn’t make it wrong; it’s just not right for them. Can you reference your claim that all non-Muslims think that Islam is “a false religion”? Who determined this, and what methods did he or she use? Or is this just another one of your scatter-brained assumptions?

    “so why not go with your own version of logic: just pack it in.”

    But I’ve never claimed that the most popular religion is the right one. What on earth gave you that idea?

    “Join another religion…”

    Why, when I’m perfectly content with the one I follow?

    “…or become an atheist…”

    That would be difficult, as I believe in God.

    “…or in other words become an “infidel,” which is what you are in the eyes of the followers of every other religion anyway.”

    So let’s get this straight; everyone outside of Islam has labelled me as an “infidel”. Are you serious?

    “But to you, they are infidels. Oh, well.”

    I think you need to research the term Infidel and its origins. It was originally a term used by CHRISTIANS to describe a) MUSLIMS or b) people of no faith at all. To Muslims, an infidel is simply someone who has not embraced Islam – it does not mean they are an enemy of Islam. I can only be an infidel in the eyes of Christians, not in the eyes of anyone else.

    “When it comes to evidence, your “interpretation” does not have equal status with scientific investigation.”

    You could well be right – you’d have to judge on a case-by-case basis. If you’re saying that my “interpretation” of something can never have equal status with scientific investigation”, I’d disagree. There was a time when scientific investigation “proved” the world was at the centre of the universe. I’d disagree with that notion, and confidently assert that my new view beats the old scientific view into a cocked hat. Science isn’t always correct, and – much though this shocks you – people have the right to assert that sometimes science gets it wrong.

    “Science deals with testable evidence, not faith.”

    Uhuh…

    “All scientific theories are falsifiable (otherwise they wouldn’t be scientific), so you’re welcome to go ahead and do it if you can. On the other hand, creationism is not falsifiable – anything that can’t be explained is just attributed to a miracle…”

    Oh, come on, you know that isn’t true. I know loads of Muslims, Jews and Christians who openly admit there are many, many things they don’t know, but they don’t automatically attribute them to miracles.

    “….or that it’s one of those things that God has simply chosen not to reveal and so on.”

    Maybe, maybe not.

    “There’s always an untestable get-out…”

    Well, if you look for one there is, but much of the time people simply admit, “I don’t know”.

    “so, no, creationism is not science.”

    I admit that much of what is passed off as Creationism may not be scientific, but as history testifies much of what was once passed off as science turned out to be completely unscientific as well. Just because creationists sometimes get things wrong, that doesn’t mean that the basic platform of their belief is invalid.

    “In any case, there are thousands of religions and thousands of creation stories.

    Yes, I know. I’ve got a sack-load of books about them.

    “Science, however, is unified…”

    I don’t think so. Look on Youtube and you’ll find them fighting like cats and dogs – just like religious people.

    You really are living under the delusion that science is just one, big happy band of brothers, aren’t you?

    “ and the laws of physics apply all over the world and across the universe.”

    As far as we can determine, that’s true, but it’s an untestable proposition.

    “Then again, here’s a conundrum for you.”

    I can’t wait.

    “Do you believe the Earth is stationary and that if it were round, as science says, it would be impossible to fly to, say, China?”

    I believe that the earth is spherical (which both the Bible and the Qur’an testify to). As for “Muslim clerics”, you seem to think that when a cleric says something that he represents the thoughts of all Muslims. They don’t. Our authorities are the Qur’an and the aHadeeth – not the opinions of clerics. To give equal weight to the opinions of clerics alongside the words of God in the Qur’an is one of the gravest sins a Muslim can commit. It’s known as “shirk” in Arabic, and I’m sure your lack of understanding of it will become truly apparent in the next few paragraphs.

    Here’s a Muslim cleric explaining (on Galileo’s birthday) that the Earth does not orbit the Sun (so it’s the other way round), and it is stationary. He has also said in the past that astronauts have not landed on the Moon. And so on.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-muslim-cleric-claims-the-earth-is-stationary-and-the-sun-rotates-around-it-10053516.html

    Personally, I disagree with him, but as a Muslim yourself, do you agree with him?

    No I don’t. I happen to agree with this Muslim scholar who says the earth certainly isn’t flat:

    “Would you dare to disagree with him? In certain parts of the world today, anyone who disagrees with Islamic authority can expect a death sentence for his trouble, so what is your position on the subject?”

    I knew you’d get there at some point. Let me attempt to dispel your ignorance. You are mixing up a number of different subjects including Islamic belief (Aqeedah) Islamic law (Fiqh) and Islamic theological jurisprudence (Sharia). The schools of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali are the main ones, and they agree on all major issues. When it comes to many minor issues, if all four schools agree then we are asked to consider seriously whether they may indeed be correct as we do respect the opinion of scholars. However, if there is no clear guidance in the Qur’an or the aHadeeth then we can still hold to our own opinions. In areas where there is no unanimity of opinion between the scholars of all four schools (as in this case) we are not beholden to accept any of them. We may embrace one, or none. (Obviously, we couldn’t embrace more than one). Scholars are just that; scholars. They are not lawyers or judges, although their expert opinion may be considered if necessary.

    To me, there are far more important things to judge a man by than his opinion that the earth is flat. Adolf Hitler believed the world was spherical, but do you seriously think I’d rather have him as a neighbour? Make fun of this Islamic scholar if you like, but he’s entitled to his opinion no matter how unconventional it may be. I completely disagree with this scholar regarding the shape of the earth, but that doesn’t make me a bad Muslim. More to the point, it doesn’t make him a bad Muslim either. Disagreeing over the shape of the earth doesn’t rate very high on our list of priorities when we judge the worth of others. As the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) said in his final sermon, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor has a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab; also a white man has no superiority over black man nor a black man any superiority over a white man except by piety and good deeds.” In Islam we’re taught that it’s how we treat others that’s important – not how closely we cling to conventional scientific thought.

    To be a Muslim, we are required to accept the following:

    First, we say, “Ash-hadu an-La illaha ill Allahu, Wahdahu La Sharika lah, wa ash-Hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa Rasoolu. (‘I bear witness that no-one is worthy of worship but Allah, the One alone, without partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger)

    Secondly, we accept these five basic principles of Islamic belief, including the aforementioned Shahada:

    1. Shahada: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger.
    2. Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
    3. Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
    4. Sawm: fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan
    5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able.

    Beyond these things, we make our own determinations, and your scurrilous assertion that to disagree with a scholar on something like the shape of the earth might end in decapitation is absurd. In Islam we have no spiritual hierarchy; no Prelates, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons… not even an equivalent of the Pope. There are countries in which the rulers misuse Islam and exact punishments for no good reason. This is not the fault of Islam; it is the fault of those who misuse it for their own ends. Just as no one would blame “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland on all Christians, it is equally absurd to blame all Muslims for the crimes of a minority.

    “… in Islam there appears to be a different methodology.”

    Of course there is, for it is based primarily on theology – but it is a theological sharia which we do not believe is antithetical to true science.

    “Do you agree with this person who is an authority on Islam…”

    No I don’t. However, unlike some I’m always prepared to listen to others and treat them with respect no matter how erroneous their ideas may seem to be initially. I know of some ultra-orthodox Jews who claim dinosaurs never existed, and that Satan scattered fake fossils around to delude people into thinking they did. Daft though this may seem to most, you won’t catch me sniggering like a schoolboy and ridiculing them. I don’t think that’s how mature people should behave.

    “…or take the risk and say outright that he’s got it wrong.”

    What “risk”? Are you trying to peddle the line that all Muslims cower in the shadow of a bunch of tyrannical scholars who’ll chop your head off as quick as looking at you? Muslims are free to disagree with each other whenever they want. If they go beyond purely theological issues and disobey the laws of the land they live in then they’ll probably be punished accordingly, but to suggest I’m running some sort of “risk” by disagreeing with this scholar is ridiculous.

    “…and more to the point, why he is wrong? You are so confident that you know what science is all about, I would love to see you challenge this cleric; quote actual science to him – you know, demonstrate to him Newton’s laws with the associated mathematics that explain the orbits of the planets and the inverse square law of gravitation. It explains mass and its relationship between the Sun and the planets and even the movement of comets as they travel through the solar system. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Halley and others worked it out hundreds of years ago, but a modern day Muslim cleric thinks he has just trashed it all.”

    Well, you’re the scientific expert, so why don’t YOU challenge him? You’re always telling me how little I know about science and how much you know…so I think you’d be far better qualified, don’t you? Why don’t YOU send him a link to your blog and tell him how you feel about his theories directly? Why use me to fire your sceptical bullets for you? Better still, why not do what I do and what he has done, and identify yourself publicly? It’s easy to take a cheap shot at the man when you’re hiding behind your keyboard, but at least he’s had the courage to identify himself. I have more respect for a man who expresses unorthodox opinions publicly, than for someone who lets rip at others whilst hiding in the shadows.

    I personally don’t know ANY Muslims who agree with him, and I’m confident we’ll all still have our heads in place tomorrow morning. As a fellow Muslim I love him dearly, but when it comes to his ideas about the earth being flat I believe he’s wrong. What angers me about your approach is that you are insinuating that to disagree with him might end in one being decapitated. It is people like you who feed the false notion that anyone of authority or influence in Islam wields tyrannical power of life and death over those who disagree with them. That’s rubbish. The truth is that you are completely ignorant of Islam, Islamic law, Islamic theology and Islamic theological jurisprudence. Worse, those who believe your tosh will only have their negative views of Islam reinforced for no valid reason. Did it ever cross your mind that the reason he was given leave to express his views publicly was because they are so unusual and not embraced by the vast majority of Muslims? Further, think about this:

    Despite the fact that his views are so heterodoxical, he was still given the freedom to express them. If Islamic “clerics” are so tyrannical, how is it that HE didn’t have HIS head chopped off?

    “But maybe you, too, think that mankind never landed on the moon: I know from reading your website that you are very much into conspiracy theories (Muslims weren’t involved in 9/11; the Sandy Hook massacre didn’t happen; & etc.)”

    Let me tell you something about 9/11. Before I became a Muslim, I was absolutely convinced that Islamic radicals were responsible for 9/11. Non-Muslim friends of mine, ironically, were sure I was wrong and tried to convince me that Muslims had nothing to do with it. For TWO YEARS after I embraced Islam I openly stated my belief that radicalised Muslims were responsible. No one tried to chop my head off. Then, after carrying out a detailed examination of the evidence, I slowly concluded I’d been wrong and that radicalised Muslims were not responsible for 9/11. I changed my mind on the basis of the evidence. The evidence was the testimony of architects, pilots and others who openly testified that the accepted story simply couldn’t be true. I’m not “very much into conspiracy theories” as you posit, but I think there is some truth in a few of them, including Sandy Hook.

    “Think about this, Mike: you are a recent convert to Islam, but are you recognised as a Muslim Scholar?”

    No, and I have never claimed to be. On two occasions, when I have been asked to lecture at universities, I was described as a “scholar” on the promotional material. On both occasions I insisted that the word was removed before the leaflets and posters went to print.

    “… you aren’t a scholar in the ordinary sense.”

    I agree.

    “He has authority within Islam that you do not.”

    You really don’t understand the relationship between fiqh, sharia and aqeedah. Until you do, you’ll never grasp the differences between (and nuances of) “authority” and “influence”, etc. You bandy words like “scholar”, “cleric”, authority”, etc around with cavalier abandon, and you patently don’t understand that in Islam these have very precise meanings. Even your use of the word “convert” is completely inappropriate, and any Muslim with even a basic understanding of his or her faith could tell you why. Before you pontificate on Islam again, I’d suggest you do one of two things. First, go to your local mosque (there are three quite close to you) and ask someone to explain the basics of Islam to you. Alternatively, read some of the following:

    Islamic Rulings Regarding the Qur’an (Al Hidaayah, 2002)

    The Creed of the Four Imaams (TROID, 2006)

    Differences in the Ummah (Maulana Ludhviani – Zam Zam, 2002)

    Fiqh-us-Sunnah (As SayyidSahiq – International Islamic Publishing House, 1996).

    You may thing you’re a sharp kid on the sciences, but when it comes to Islam you’re punching way above your weight, and it shows.

    “He bases what he says on the Quran…”

    No; he bases what he says on a particular rendering of Qur’anic Arabic which is not shared by the vast majority of scholars.

    “…which, you must agree, has absolute authority.”

    The Qur’an has absolute authority. One person’s particular interpretation of it does not.

    “You cannot challenge that – or can you?”

    I think I’ve just explained myself clearly on that issue.

    “Then again, you, like he, has what you and he would call “revealed knowledge.”

    Mmmm…I’ll give you a guarded “yes” to that statement – for now. It depends what you mean.

    “So is the Earth stationary, orbited by the Sun because the Quran says so?”

    Actually, the Qur’an doesn’t teach that the earth is stationary. It teaches that the earth orbits around the sun and that the moon orbits around the earth. If you want to know what the Qur’an really teaches about astronomy, cosmology, etc, try reading The Bible the Qur’an and Science by Dr. Maurice Baucaille ((Al Falah, 1993), A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam by L. A. Ibrahim, (Darussalam, 2009), The astonishing Truths of the Holy Quran by Iftekhar Hussain (Ta-Ha, 1996), An Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran by Abu Yassir Qadri (Al Hidaayah, 1999), The Qur’an and Modern Science by Dr. Maurice Bucaille (IDCI, 2013) and The Quran and Modern Science – Compatible or Incompatible? by Dr. Zakir Naik (IDCI, 2012). Astonishingly, none of these authors had their heads chopped off for not believing the world was flat.

    All you have done is cherry-picked one Islamic scholar who holds a minority opinion in Islam (just as it is elsewhere) and tried to make out that he is not only representative of mainstream Islam (which he isn’t), expresses ideas explicitly taught in the Quran (which he doesn’t) and seems to wield some sinister authority to make nasty things happen to those who disagree with him (absurd). What you have done is as reprehensible as if I was to say that a Christian astronomer who claimed the moon was made of green cheese was somehow representative of all Christians. Even by your standards this is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    “And if you believe that is true…”

    Which I don’t…

    “…then where do these aliens of yours come from? Science obviously doesn’t apply anymore.”

    Well, they come from somewhere. They may come from other worlds (the Qur’an allows for this view and tentatively hints at it, actually.) Or, they may be creatures of inter-dimensional origin. Or both. But they come from somewhere. If you can give me a solid scientific reason why they simply couldn’t have visited here, I’d like to hear it.

    “Before you get all paranoid…”

    I’m a Muslim. It’s usually people who get paranoid about us when they read inflammatory, anti-Islamic trash on the internet.

    “…let me be clear: you are entitled to your religious beliefs…”

    Why, thank you.

    “and I support the right of you and every person to act on their own conscience within the law.”

    Mmmmm…..

    “But all religions are anti-science to a greater or lesser extent.”

    How do you know? Have you studied every one?

    “…whether you like it or not, science works.”

    Of course it works. I’m not anti-science. I just reserve the right to interpret things differently, that’s all.

    “You are entitled to your opinions and your beliefs, but if you want to assert that science is wrong, then you are going to be challenged to prove that assertion.”

    But I’ve never asserted that science is wrong. I may not agree with your understanding of what makes good and bad science, but I certainly don’t believe that “science is wrong”. In any event, people like you can challenge people like me all you want. If we want to respond, we will. If we don’t think that responding is a valid use of our time, we won’t – and you’ll just have to live with that, I’m afraid.

    “One more thing: I did use a generalisation when I described those who deny evolution as uneducated fools.”

    Okay. Thank you for acknowledging that.

    “You reckon that such a term demonstrates the shallowness of my character?”

    Well, let me think about that. Maybe I’d have been better saying that it demonstrates that you are arrogant and rude.

    “On the other hand, you have been very specific with the insults you have thrown at me in the past. In lieu of any sound arguments of your own, you have routinely told me I am of “low intelligence,” “bereft of logic,” an “idiot,” my character is “shallow,” even, and much else. What does that say about the depth of your own character? If you can do it, why can’t I?

    Well, you may have a point there, and if I’ve thrown gratuitous insults at you and lowered myself to your level then I apologise unreservedly. That’s my bad. But let me add something. If you look at the instances where I’ve done that you’ll find that it’s been in response to something equally acerbic if not worse. Being nasty isn’t my default setting. But if I’m to be honest, I’d have to say that yours is. It takes very little for you to hurl insults at those who are a) religious, b) believe in creationism or the paranormal, or c) disagree with mainstream science. You’re rude, ignorant and condescending to such people and you know it. You’ve openly admitted that it isn’t worth talking to people who disagree with you, which about says it all, really. What you say in your blogs is often thought-provoking even though I may not agree with it. What I usually get riled up about is not what you say, but the vicious way in which you say it. Unfortunately, you just don’t seem to see this as a problem. And that’s your bad.

    “And as a final irony, that last paragraph includes a deliberate logical fallacy that I would have pointed out to you had you committed it yourself. Here’s your challenge: name that fallacy! I’ll offer you the same terms you offered me some time ago when you challenged me (a challenge I won but which you, as self-appointed judge would not accept); I will allow you a couple of days (48 hours, actually) to name the deliberate fallacy, or at least find an educated person who can help you out. If you can’t, then I will post the answer here and then do a new post dedicated to that particular error of reasoning. And at least the answer to my little poser is definitive, unlike your tortuous torturing of the English language to get yourself out of a self imposed trap of your own making. Pity we didn’t have an independent arbitrator then, but in this case there won’t be any dispute. (Except from you.) That paragraph is an illustration of what is bad thinking when used by people like yourself, but it’s good rhetoric.”

    As if I could be bothered. Knock yourself out. I don’t post here to play games. In any event, why should I respond to your challenges when you refuse to respond to mine? I’ve asked you on many occasions to have an open debate with me in front of a live audience, but you signally refuse. Now that you seem to have decided to cross swords with me on Islamic theology (I’ll refrain from referring to you as a “self-proclaimed expert”) perhaps you might reconsider. As you are clearly running scared when it comes to debating the paranormal with me in public, perhaps you’d like to debate my Islamic beliefs instead?

    No, I thought not. That keyboard of yours is just too much of a security blanket, isn’t it?

    Like

    • Again, Mike, you are interpreting what I have said into something that bears no resemblance to my intended meaning, but I suppose it must make sense to you. I’ll just address some of the more significant points.

      First of all, you are playing about with semantics again. I am not “taking you to task” about your Muslim faith, and you’re too touchy about it. Maybe you’re a tad insecure about it. You’ll say you aren’t, but that’s the way it comes over.

      The word “infidel” is a general term used mostly by religious people to describe someone else who does not accept their faith. It can also be used to describe someone who has no religious faith. It is sometimes used interchangeably with the word “sceptic.” I used that word in particular because it is, in many respects, just a generic term that has (or should have) no sinister implications.

      It’s certainly not as sinister as “kaffir,” a word used by your Muslim brethren in Iraq and Syria (and elsewhere around the world) as they go about God’s work. (Maybe their interpretation of the Quran is different from yours, but you’ve suggested many times that one person’s interpretation of “evidence” is as valid as any other’s. They have their own interpretation, obviously.)

      Here’s something else you don’t know about science: science does not “prove” anything, nor does it claim to. Unlike every religion, where the followers do claim to have (revealed) knowledge, science is not so sure. You have said elsewhere that Muslims will never change their beliefs, and I’m sure you’re right about that, but in the everyday world of reality, scientists will change in the light of new evidence (and I say “evidence,” not “proof”). It’s true what you say – science has got it wrong in the past; it was said by some individuals who had not given it any considered thought that it would be impossible to fly to the Moon (or do a lot of other things), but that was before science found out it could be possible and actually did it within the laws of physics. But there are certain laws of nature that have been verified over and over again, tested to their absolute limits; they are laws of physics that simply cannot be overcome.

      Then again, maybe you are correct: faster than light travel might be possible; inter-dimensional travel might be real, and maybe time-travelling hunting parties went back in time to shoot Neanderthals (which you stated to be a “fact” in one of your recent Wraithcrap columns, even though the skull you mentioned was not even a Neanderthal at all). And if you want to be really pedantic as you so often are, you called it a skull; it is actually a cranium. I called it a skull just because it’s a general term that most people understand without worrying too much about precise terminology.

      One of the problems with your unsubstantiated claims, of course, is that there is no way you can confirm them. Science, however, challenges itself all the time; scientists disagree and argue with each other as they search for new knowledge and an understanding of reality. Eventually, they might reach a consensus when the evidence becomes overwhelming, but when a new hypothesis is rejected, it is not because it does not fit in with a pre-existing ideology. People elsewhere in the world are being killed daily because what they do or say does not fit in with a particular ideology; they are killed because what they do or say is deemed to be un-Islamic.

      Fortunately, being unscientific does not attract a similar punishment. Maybe criticism and sometimes even laughter and ridicule come your way, but you know that you can criticise science without the slightest threat to your personal safety. And maybe you even feel brave about it; let’s be honest here: many people refrain from criticising your religion openly because they actually worry that they might have a violent backlash. And it does happen. People are being killed because of it.

      Did I say above that you “wouldn’t dare”? Like my comment above, I was not suggesting that you would be in any danger of violence – at least your “interpretation” of what you think I think might come your way if you disagreed with a Muslamic scholar. If you were to disagree with your local Imam, you might or could be mildly chastised and re-educated about that particular aspect of Islam and then everything would be alright for you after you are instructed on, and accept, what you are told you must or must not believe. I don’t think you would be beheaded for it (not in this country, anyway, unless some individual Muslim decides to take it upon himself to do so, and some have been known to do that). Nevertheless, I don’t think you will ever say to your Imam that any scientific findings that contradict your religion should now be accepted by Islam. You wouldn’t, er… how shall I put it – be so unwise as to challenge your established authority. If you ever do question your religion, you might just find that some people from your religion will soon be around to question you.

      And where did you get that beheading and decapitation business from, anyway? I didn’t say that. That’s your interpretation of what I said, and it is wrong. [Note to self: prepare a new blog post to illustrate the bad thinking involved by people when they unconsciously translate what they hear or read into something that fits their personal prejudices.]

      The cleric I referred to is only one of many who insist that the Sun orbits the Earth, and there are many children of Muslim parents around the world who are being taught that (not to mention children and their teachers who are killed on a large scale by your religious brothers – Boko Haram – in Nigeria at the present time). But we live in a world that is heavily dependent on science and technology, without enough people around who understand it. Will any space agency in the world employ a “rocket scientist” who believes that the world is flat and that the Sun sets into some muddy water somewhere in the west? No one ever launched a vehicle into space with the power of faith. (Oh, hang on, let me guess… you’re going to tell me I can’t prove that it hasn’t actually happened, aren’t you? Quite honestly, no, I can’t, but I can be convinced if you (or anyone of any religion whatsoever) can just demonstrate it.)

      You’re entitled to your beliefs and I am not trying to change them. You are welcome to believe whatever you are told to believe, and I have no interest in interfering with whatever your religious observances are within your own religious community. But when you publish extraordinary claims that are to be read by the general population, you put yourself in the marketplace of ideas; that’s where claims are challenged and have to stand or fall on their own merits.

      Like

  5. Mike Hallowell

    “First of all, you are playing about with semantics again. I am not “taking you to task” about your Muslim faith, and you’re too touchy about it.”

    No I’m not. It isn’t being “touchy” to defend your religion against nonsense. And it is nonsense, as I’ll demonstrate presently.

    “Maybe you’re a tad insecure about it. You’ll say you aren’t, but that’s the way it comes over.”

    Please point to any sentiments I expressed which “came across” as insecurity.

    “kaffir,” a word used by your Muslim brethren in Iraq and Syria (and elsewhere around the world) as they go about God’s work.

    Mmmm…but you don’t say what they mean when they use that word, I notice. Kaffir simply means “disbeliever”.

    “Maybe their interpretation of the Quran is different from yours…”

    In regards to their use of the word “kaffir?” What’s your evidence for that? Can you show me any examples of where Iraqi or Syrian Muslims have questioned the traditional interpretation of the Qur’anic use of “kaffir”? You also need to state whether they’re Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya, etc. of course, as that makes a huge difference.

    “but you’ve suggested many times that one person’s interpretation of “evidence” is as valid as any other’s.”

    Really? Where? I’ve suggested that people are equally free to interpret evidence differently, but to say that one person’s evidence is as valid as any other is oxymoronic. Only the correct interpretation can be valid. If I’ve said this “many times” you’ll have no trouble coming with examples. If – and I repeat if – I’ve ever said that, then it can only have been in a moment of absence. Give me your “many” examples and I’ll willingly apologise.

    “Here’s something else you don’t know about science: science does not “prove” anything, nor does it claim to.”

    Well, they’re still debating that one(some say that science can prove and disprove ideas), others that it can only disprove them, etc. Further, even scientists talk about “scientific proof” sometimes. Your ideas about falsification are also not universally accepted either. http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php

    “Unlike every religion, where the followers do claim to have (revealed) knowledge, science is not so sure.”

    Well, not every religion claims to have “revealed knowledge” so you’re wrong about that. But in any case, if science can never “prove” anything and “isn’t so sure” about things, why do you flail so heavily those who disagree with orthodox scientific thought? You’ve said – despite your denials – that there is no evidence that ET visitations have occurred on earth. As I’ve pointed out, that is an impossible position to justify. It seems that some sceptics like to pick and choose when to get all assertive.

    “You have said elsewhere that Muslims will never change their beliefs…”

    You’ll have to reference this quote, I’m afraid, as I’m pretty sure it either doesn’t exist or it’s been taken out of context. Actually, Muslims change their beliefs every day about lots of things. That’s why Islam has such a respectable base of scholarship; we discuss things, and in the light of new reasoning or evidence we may change our mind about things. Two days ago I expressed an opinion to another Muslim which was based upon my understanding of three aHadeeth. He kindly showed me another two which allowed me to see the first three from a different perspective. Guess what? I changed my mind about something. The only things that are inviolate are the basic pillars of Islamic belief and other beliefs which can naturally be extrapolated from them. Muslims have different opinions about many issues – that’s why each Madhhab exists – the main four and the hundreds of smaller ones – because they don’t agree on everything. If they did, there would only be one, not many. Reference the quote and I’ll get back to you.

    “It’s true what you say – science has got it wrong in the past; it was said by some individuals who had not given it any considered thought that it would be impossible to fly to the Moon (or do a lot of other things), but that was before science found out it could be possible and actually did it within the laws of physics. But there are certain laws of nature that have been verified over and over again, tested to their absolute limits; they are laws of physics that simply cannot be overcome.”

    But that’s what the “we’ll never get to the moon” scientists said. And what the, “the earth is at the centre of the universe” scientists said. They believed that the evidence to support them was unassailable – at that time. You see, that’s the thing about science; there are things that may seem to have been tested to their absolute limits – but then you find that the boundaries weren’t where you thought they were and you hadn’t tested something to its absolute limits at all. Now I know some very respectable scientists who openly posit that interstellar travel may one day be possible. The problem may not be the laws of physics, but rather our incomplete understanding of them.

    “Then again, maybe you are correct: faster than light travel might be possible; inter-dimensional travel might be real…”

    Agreed. Maybe these things are possible. I’d go further and say that I think they are possible, but I’d also be the first to say that my opinion is not based solely on science.

    “And if you want to be really pedantic as you so often are, you called it a skull; it is actually a cranium. I called it a skull just because it’s a general term that most people understand without worrying too much about precise terminology. “

    I see. So you can call it a skull and its okay, but if I call it a skull it’s an error.

    “One of the problems with your unsubstantiated claims, of course, is that there is no way you can confirm them.”

    Well, that’s your perception. But why is that such a problem? Scientists – like people of faith – have made hundreds of claims later found not only to be unsubstantiated, but to be wrong. What do you want? A world in which anyone who makes any sort of claim that cannot be substantiated by science is seen as a “problem”? If science doesn’t actually “prove” anything, then all it can do is make claims. Unless, of course, you’re a scientist…

    http://www.iflscience.com/physics/physicist-claims-have-proven-mathematically-black-holes-do-not-exist
    http://www.learning-mind.com/japanese-scientists-prove-that-auras-actually-exist/
    http://www.techtimes.com/articles/36119/20150302/feast-and-famine-diet-could-extend-lifespan.htm

    “Science, however, challenges itself all the time; scientists disagree and argue with each other as they search for new knowledge and an understanding of reality.”

    People of faith do this all the time, too.

    “Eventually, they might reach a consensus when the evidence becomes overwhelming, but when a new hypothesis is rejected, it is not because it does not fit in with a pre-existing ideology.”

    So people really shouldn’t be criticised for accepting it then, should they? And who makes the decision to “reject” a hypothesis? Is a vote held? And how does one measure “overwhelming”? At what point on the Scale of Overwhelmisation does a hypothesis qualify for rejection?

    “People elsewhere in the world are being killed daily because what they do or say does not fit in with a particular ideology”.

    Sad but true.

    “…they are killed because what they do or say is deemed to be un-Islamic…”

    Would this be the Islamic terrorists who carry out less than 2% of the terrorist attacks in Europe?

    http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/01/08/3609796/islamist-terrorism-europe/

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/14/are-all-terrorists-muslims-it-s-not-even-close.html

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/terrorism-security/2015/0113/How-many-Muslim-extremists-are-there-Just-the-facts-please

    Or the ones who, according to the FBI are even outnumbered in the USA by Jewish extremists and who are only undercut by Communist extremists in their lack of terrorist activity?

    Or the ones who DON’T carry out almost all – 99.6% – of the terrorist attacks in Europe? I don’t hear you railing against those others.

    http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=124185

    In fact, Muslims do not even carry out the majority of terrorist attacks globally, despite the fact that this is the idea some media outlets perpetrate. What interests me is that you went from “People elsewhere in the world are being killed daily because what they do or say does not fit in with a particular ideology” to, “…they are killed because what they do or say is deemed to be un-Islamic…”

    Well, at least you’re arguing from the general to the specific, so at least you got that right – but I notice you do not say “SOME people” are being killed for doing or saying “un-Islamic things”. You just said, “People elsewhere in the world are being killed daily because what they do or say does not fit in with a particular ideology, they are killed because what they do or say is deemed to be un-Islamic…” A lesser-educated person could very well think that such obnoxious behaviour was only displayed by Muslims and no one else, given the lack of qualification in your assertion.

    But I think you make a fundamental mistake – or at least, I must conclude that you do judging by your desire to focus on Islam alone without reference to other religions. So ingrained in the public consciousness is the connection between Islam and terrorism that any Muslim who resorts to any form of violent activity is at risk of being condemned as a terrorist. Muslims who fight against brutal oppression in their homeland are never referred to as freedom-fighters. They are terrorists. Muslims who defend themselves against tyrannical, despotic neighbouring countries are called terrorists. Muslims engaged in civil wars within their homelands are always terrorists – no matter which side of the fence they’re on. Sometimes this instinctive desire to equate arms-bearing Muslims as terrorists is taken to absurd levels – even when there aren’t any Muslims involved at all. When Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 crashed into the sea, one news anchor announced the incident and followed up by saying, “Up to now there is no evidence that this tragedy is the work of Islamic extremists.” So, even when Muslims aren’t involved, the subtle link is formed in the minds of listeners that there might be a link – we just don’t have any evidence: yet. When one separates those Muslims who bear arms for other reasons from those who do so purely for reasons of terrorism one can see that the true number of “Islamic terrorists” goes into freefall.
    But let’s work with the theory that you weren’t referring to terrorism, but simply to the brutality carried out domestically in some Muslim countries. If that’s the case, i think there’s still a flaw in your thinking and it comes not just from your awful ignorance of Islam in all its aspects, but also from your failure to differentiate between Islam and Muslims. One should never judge a religion by the behaviour of its followers. One should judge it by what it teaches. I fully agree that, even in spite of media distortions, there are people who claim adherence to Islam who carry out acts of violence which have no theological, legal, moral or political justification in our faith. All thinking Muslims condemn them outright. In Islam, the laws which permit capital punishment are very strict and have all sorts of checks and balances attached to them. If some countries go beyond what Islam permits then that is not a problem with the practice of Islam. It is a problem caused by the failure to practice it correctly.

    “Maybe criticism and sometimes even laughter and ridicule come your way, but you know that you can criticise science without the slightest threat to your personal safety.”

    Well, here’s the difference between you and I. I criticise when I think criticism is due. So, I presume, do you. However, unlike you when I criticise others I do so under my real name so that others know who I am and, if they so desire, can fire bullets back at me. (Hopefully metaphorical ones). Whether any threats to my safety are real or merely perceived is irrelevant. If anyone wants to threaten me they know who I am. You, on the other hand, don’t run any such risk because you hide your true identity. You can say whatever you like, and the best anyone can do is to criticise a pseudonym or moniker. The whole world could condemn you, but your status would be unaffected because the real person behind the focus of such condemnation is hiding in the shadows. So, when it comes to personal safety, I really don’t think you’re in a position to lecture me, do you? Brian Paget once blogged anonymously, but then he was called out for it, and he did the right thing. He outed himself. Much as Brian might disagree with me on many issues, I’ll give him this: Brian has the courage of his convictions. If I share nothing else with him, I share the fact that we’ll both stand up to be counted. For that he has my respect. You’ve yet to join the club, as we all know.

    “And maybe you even feel brave about it…”

    It’s nothing to do with bravery – unless, perhaps, you want to class having the courage of one’s convictions as “brave”. It’s more to do with integrity. Long before you started to focus on my Islamic beliefs, and restricted yourself purely to criticising my belief in the paranormal, you still blogged anonymously. I’m certainly not aware of any Paranormalist Extremists who go around killing sceptics, but that didn’t stop you hiding then even when you couldn’t point to your criticism of Islam as an excuse.

    “…let’s be honest here: many people refrain from criticising your religion openly because they actually worry that they might have a violent backlash. And it does happen. People are being killed because of it.”

    Just as thousands of Muslims have been killed in Gaza, hundreds in Burma…thousands of Christians killed in Ireland during the Troubles…thousands killed by the Tamil Tigers (who are still league leaders in the “suicide bombing” stakes)…I’m not justifying the actions of those who step outside of Islamic law and kill others unjustly, and if you look on the Internet you’ll see scores of debates between Muslims and others, and to date I don’t know of any debaters who’ve lost their lives because they criticised Islam. One claimed an attempt on his life had been made, and he ended up in clink when it turned out he’d fabricated the whole thing. The only thing Muslims ask for is respectful criticism, which, personally, I think is only fair.

    “Did I say above that you “wouldn’t dare”? Like my comment above, I was not suggesting that you would be in any danger of violence – at least your “interpretation” of what you think I think might come your way if you disagreed with a Muslamic scholar.”

    Well, just what did you mean, then, if you weren’t hinting at a threat of physical violence? And wouldn’t you know it, no sooner do I refer to the concept of respectful criticism and you go and insert the word “Muslamic” into your comment. This is a disrespectful term we’ve seen employed by very unsavoury characters indeed. It is linguistically nonsensical and highly unlikely to impress any Muslim friends you might have. Why you chose to employ it only you can say. If you can’t provide a justifiable explanation for your use of this term, then I think I’ll be justified in viewing it as nothing more than a cheap slur. Well, we’re used to it.

    “If you were to disagree with your local Imam, you might or could be mildly chastised…”

    Oh dear. Just when I think I’ve correctly assessed your paucity of knowledge regarding Islam you go and surprise me. This is a quintessential example which makes Muslims roll their eyes in despair. In Sunni Islam an Imam is simply the person who leads his fellow Muslims in prayer. He has absolutely no inherent authority. If I lead one of the five daily prayers at my mosque, then I’m Imam at that time. If a Muslim is criticised or chastised by an Imam, the fact that he’s an Imam is purely coincidental. Imams are not like Christian priests or pastors who “run” churches and are given special privileges. Unfortunately, people like you don’t understand this and thus the myth is perpetuated. Paid Imams who are employed full-time in that position enjoy the same rights as any other Muslim. They may be given other duties by the mosque committee or council, but these are discretionary and they do not carry any inherent authority.

    In fact, to abuse one’s position in Islam in such a way is haram, or forbidden. In Islam there are strict protocols about how criticism is to be meted out and under what circumstances. All criticism – theological, personal or whatever – must be based upon the Qur’an and Sunnah – not because of any perceived authority or on personal opinion. So, if an Imam criticised me for anything, it would have to be based purely on Islamic teachings and principles. Never mind, let’s see where you’re going with this…

    “and re-educated about that particular aspect of Islam.”

    In Islam, we don’t “re-educate” others. Change has to come from within, not because of external pressure. We may reason with others, but we are not allowed to cajole. The Qur’an teaches that “there is no compulsion in religion”, and, “To you your belief, and to me, mine”.

    “and then everything would be alright for you after you are instructed on, and accept, what you are told…”

    I see; so your perception is that “everything will be alright for me” providing I “accept what I am told”. This is the very sort of implication which tarnishes true Islam and makes people think it is a “Do this or else” religion. It isn’t.

    “…you must or must not believe.”

    But that’s the whole point. In Islam we are forbidden to tell others what they “must or must not believe”. It’s one thing to tell a person that what they believe is or is not in accord with the fundamental teachings of Islam, but to tell them that they must or must not believe it is forbidden. The choice must always lie with the person concerned.

    “I don’t think you would be beheaded for it (not in this country, anyway, unless some individual Muslim decides to take it upon himself to do so, and some have been known to do that).”

    Well, you’re right, but given your hopelessly distorted view of Islam I’ll have to put this down to a lucky guess.

    “Nevertheless, I don’t think you will ever say to your Imam that any scientific findings that contradict your religion should now be accepted by Islam.”

    Well, I’ve never found any yet, so it’s a moot point. However, once again you’re guilty of horribly misunderstanding Islam. Perhaps the best way I can illustrate this is by the very example you raised; a scholar who denies that the earth is spherical. His interpretation of the Qur’an may have led him to sincerely believe that the earth is flat. Most Muslims would interpret it differently. Now although his opinion may be heterodox, if it does not directly contradict the Qur’an he is fully entitled to it. The disagreement may, for example, hang upon how one interprets a specific word of Qur’anic Arabic. Both interpretations may be valid; it simply depends on which one makes the most sense to you. The contradiction is between two particular interpretations of the Qur’an; not between a personal opinion and the Qur’an itself. This may seem pedantic to you, but it makes a whole world of difference to Muslims when they engage each other in theological debate. Your continued use of an “Imam” in your scenario doesn’t make any sense within an Islamic context. If I kept offering you vignettes about science, but continually referred to one of the characters involved as a train driver, say, or a shopkeeper, wouldn’t you eventually start to wonder what on earth the relevance of the person’s profession was if it had no bearing on the issue at hand?

    “You wouldn’t, er… how shall I put it – be so unwise as to challenge your established authority.”

    Well, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly Imams HAVE no “authority” other than that “established” by the Qur’an and Sunnah. So…er…how shall I put it – your assertion is completely nonsensical. Just to test the waters on this one, I told an Imam what you’d said and asked him what he thought. His reply: “That doesn’t make sense. What authority is he speaking about? Was he not speaking about the Qur’an?” I told him no, you were speaking about his supposed established authority as an Imam. There was a pause, and then he said, “I really don’t understand…what does he mean, ‘my authority’?” Clearly, he couldn’t even understand the concept of an Imam having some sort of “established authority” as the idea is alien to Islam and unknown to him. I then checked with a scholar to see if he’d ever heard of such an idea. Unsurprisingly, he hadn’t. I then checked with another authority – a hafiz – that is, someone who has memorised the entire Qur’an by heart, and asked him whether there was any Qur’anic or other Islamic basis for saying that an Imam could be any sort of “authority figure” in Islam or have any kind of invested or established authority inherent with his position. His answer: “Absolutely not”. Now of course, some cynical souls may suggest that I’m making all of this up. Well, if you’d like to meet with them personally over a pot of tea and ask them yourself, you’d be welcome. I can guarantee that you’ll be perfectly safe and at complete liberty to disagree with them. Just let me know.
    My suspicion is that you’re just shooting in the dark and making all sorts of unjustified assumptions about the role of an Imam. A slightly more charitable view would be that you’re confusing the status of an Imam within Sunni Islam with the role of a Shia imam; they’re different. Whichever, it’s patently obvious, yet again, that when it comes to Islam you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

    You know, you claim that you weren’t intimating threats of physical violence to myself, but it’s clear from the above quotations that you are: “You wouldn’t, er… how shall I put it – be so unwise as to challenge your established authority.” And, “If you ever do question your religion, you might just find that some people from your religion will soon be around to question you.” Well, that shows how much you really don’t know about Islam. One of the first things we’re taught is NEVER to accept anything just on the words of another person. One of my closest friends told me, when I first embraced Islam, “Don’t accept anything blindly. You have to prove it to yourself. It’s no good accepting things on the say-so of others. Even great scholars can make mistakes.” A Muslim who never questions anything should ask himself some very searching questions.

    “And where did you get that beheading and decapitation business from, anyway? I didn’t say that.”

    You’re right, you didn’t specify the mode of execution.

    “ That’s your interpretation of what I said, and it is wrong.”

    Okay, I accept that. Now perhaps you can tell me what form of capital punishment you did have in mind if it wasn’t decapitation.

    MTF>>

    Like

  6. Mike Hallowell

    “Note to self: prepare a new blog post to illustrate the bad thinking involved by people when they unconsciously translate what they hear or read into something that fits their personal prejudices.“

    What, you mean in the same way you, “unconsciously translated what you heard or read into something that fitted your personal prejudices and preconceptions about the role of an Imam“?

    “The cleric I referred to is only one of many who insist that the Sun orbits the Earth, and there are many children of Muslim parents around the world who are being taught that.”

    Can you cite your sources for this statement? I’m intrigued. It doesn’t change anything, for our religion isn’t based upon astrophysics, just as I wouldn’t make negative comments about Christianity because some Christians happen to believe in the flat earth idea, which they do, incidentally. There are many scientists who believe in creationism…does that make all science bad in your view? Of course not; they’re simply exercising their right to hold a minority opinion; something that seems to discomfit you severely.

    “not to mention children and their teachers who are killed on a large scale by your religious brothers – Boko Haram – in Nigeria at the present time.”

    Don’t refer to Boko Haram as my religious brothers. They aren’t. In any way whatsoever. Now I’m starting to wonder whether you’re simply making a pretty naked attempt to have me look guilty by association. I decide who to class as my “religious brothers”, and I don’t appreciate you trying to do it for me.

    http://www.arabnews.com/news/567611

    “ But we live in a world that is heavily dependent on science and technology, without enough people around who understand it.”

    Which has nothing to do with Islam.

    “Will any space agency in the world employ a “rocket scientist” who believes that the world is flat and that the Sun sets into some muddy water somewhere in the west?”

    First, I don’t have the slightest interest in who any “space agencies” employ. The Qur’an doesn’t teach the world is flat, the vast majority of Muslims don’t believe it and it seems to me you’re desperately searching for something – anything – to pin on Islam to suggest that it is inherently unscientific. You should remember that Islam has made some of the greatest contributions to the sciences in the history of mankind. It is not a teaching of Islam that the world is flat. It is a belief held by a small minority of Muslims. There’s a world of difference.

    Next, I was wondering how long it would be before you brought up the old chestnut about the sun setting in a muddy pool in the west. Again, this simply demonstrates your ignorance of Qur’anic Arabic. Here’s an offer: Put together your case that this is what the Qur’an teaches and I’ll put together the case for the defence that it doesn’t. Let’s get together in front of a live audience and let them decide. The last non-Islamic “scholar” I saw who tried to argue this point with a knowledgeable Muslim was completely trounced. Still, if you’re up for it, give it your best shot…

    “No one ever launched a vehicle into space with the power of faith. (Oh, hang on, let me guess… you’re going to tell me I can’t prove that it hasn’t actually happened, aren’t you? Quite honestly, no, I can’t, but I can be convinced if you (or anyone of any religion whatsoever) can just demonstrate it.)”

    Well, I’m not aware of any vehicle being launched into space with the power of faith, but it’s a fascinating idea. Think of how environmentally friendly THAT would be, eh? However, I could never “prove” this to you as science can’t prove anything, right? By the same token, that means you can’t prove to me scientifically that it never happened, either, so it doesn’t seem your argument is going to go very far, does it? I mean, you ask me to “demonstrate” it, but then I’d have to do that scientifically, at which point you’d be duty-bound to point out to me that science can never prove anything.

    “You’re entitled to your beliefs and I am not trying to change them.”

    Why thank you, and nor are any of the Imams I know, either.

    “You are welcome to believe whatever you are told to believe…”

    I think you’ve got me hooked up with the wrong religion there, Swifty. In Islam we aren’t told to believe anything. It’s un-Islamic. Unlike many educational establishments, where kids are pretty much told they have to believe in orthodox scientific dogma if they want to get anywhere.

    “and I have no interest in interfering with whatever your religious observances are within your own religious community.”

    Wow, we’re all sitting here breathing a deep sigh of collective relief.

    “But when you publish extraordinary claims…”

    And your method of calculating what qualifies as “extraordinary” is…?

    “…that are to be read by the general population…”

    We aren’t making anyone read anything. If people don’t want to read the Qur’an that’s their choice. That will sadden a few Muslims, but it certainly won’t anger them.

    “you put yourself in the marketplace of ideas; that’s where claims are challenged and have to stand or fall on their own merits.”

    And we can all make up our own minds about what “stands or falls”, right?

    “Mike, I think I’ve identified a new logical fallacy.”

    I’ve identified loads in your post, but I’m always glad to consider others.

    “Argument by Youtube.”

    I see. So before we move on, would I be right in thinking that this would be trying to establish something by linking to YouTube as opposed to simply demonstrating something already established? Just a thought.

    “As you often do, you have linked to online videos as if it means anything.”

    Well, linking to a YouTube video may indeed mean something – it depends on the context. Let me explain. I asserted that a Citizens’ Commission on UFOs had taken place in the USA. That’s a fact, plain and simple. I posted links to YouTube not to establish that the Commission took place – it did – but simply so that people could evaluate for themselves the discussion and the arguments put forward. What was wrong with that? Linking to YouTube is something that can be used – or abused – but there is no inherent “logical fallacy” there. What is “illogical” about posting a link to a YouTube video to graphically illustrate something in detail?

    “You must think that drivel like Ancient Aliens, UFO Files and similar nonsense are real documentaries. They aren’t. (“Pseudo-documentary” is an apt term to use here.)”

    Well, much though it may surprise you, I don’t believe everything I see on those documentaries either. You can try to devalue them by calling them “drivel” and “pseudo-documentaries” if you like, but it’s pretty obvious to me that a “pseudo-documentary” would pretty much be anything that put forward ideas you didn’t agree with. That’s another difference between you and I. With you, it seems like “all or nothing”. Something is either all bad or all good. You seem to lack any powers of discernment; the ability to watch a documentary or read a piece of text and select that which makes sense to you whilst ignoring the rest. I watched an excellent documentary on YouTube yesterday. It forcefully put forward the theory of evolution. I didn’t agree with its basic premise, but it was excellent nevertheless. Why? Because it contained a wealth of information that any thinking person would find useful and informative. You don’t have that kind of discernment. To you, anything which cuts across your entrenched ideas is simply “drivel”. It’s a shame, because your commendable love of science is completely overridden by your narrow-mindedness, intolerance of those who think differently and withering scorn of those who hold unorthodox views. You can’t simply disagree. You have to insult at the same time. You use crude epithets about those who believe in the Paranormal. You insult Muslims by making a host of false claims about them and Islam as a whole.

    “Things like the Atacama Humanoid (a mummified human foetus) and the Star Child (a deformed human) have been shown for what they are by real science. “

    Actually, the debate about both of these cases is still going on, and your appeal to “real science” is subjective. “Real” to you, is whatever suits your preconceived opinions.

    “The same goes for various UFO claims that have been proven false, but which the same programmes still promote. And you too are still promoting them.”

    Some UFO events have indeed been proven false, some even hoaxes. If you cast your mind back, I devoted an entire column to castigating those who perpetrate such hoaxes. However, I have never continued to “promote” a UFO event which has been proven to be demonstrably false. Further, many of the sightings purported to be false are only false in the minds of intransigent sceptics. But hang on…did you just say, “proven” to be false? How was their falsity “proven”? Obviously not by science, as science can’t “prove” anything, right? So, I’m forced to conclude that some other kind of criteria must have been employed. What were they? If non-scientific criteria or means can be used to “prove” or “disprove” something, why can’t they be used to “prove” the existence of ET? I’d really like to hear your explanation of what seems to be a double standard on your part.

    “You can reject or ignore science if you choose…”

    I choose not to reject or ignore it.

    “…but it is still the best method we have to find out about objective reality.”

    Apart from the non-scientific methods you say have been employed to “prove” the falsity of some UFO events, I presume.

    “It’s not a perfect system…”

    But if it isn’t perfect, why should people be ridiculed for rejecting some of the things science currently teaches?

    “…but it is testable, self-correcting and more reliable than any other method of inquiry.”

    Well, yes, if you’re talking about things which are actually testable by science, of course. However, once you stray into the realm of spiritual and religious belief science is wanting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stretch that far. I can “test” the room temperature with a thermometer, but it would be useless as a means of “testing” the degree of someone’s faith. It’s the wrong tool for the job. I think the “logical fallacy” here – if I may borrow your phrase – is to assume that if something can’t be tested by science then to believe in it is evidence of some sort of deficiency on the part of the believer. Some of us simply choose to believe that there are realities beyond the bounds of scientific testability. It doesn’t make them bogus; it simply means they aren’t scientifically testable. You can’t scientifically deny the existence of something that isn’t scientifically testable. Logically, at best you can say that it “may not exist”, although you’re also perfectly at liberty to go further and express an opinion that it “does not exist”. If you want to promote science, then go ahead; that’s fine. However, I think you should also leave people of faith alone to believe what they wish without insulting or belittling them.

    The Qur’an says; “Say: ‘Oh, you who disbelieve! I do not worship that which you worship, nor do you worship that which I worship….to you your religion and to me mine.’” (Surah 109:1-6)

    This is one of the Islamic principles which we believe can bring harmony amongst people instead of fomenting discord. It’s also one of the reasons why your accusations about Imams wielding “established authority”
    are so contrary to the truth. We can reason with others, but at the end of the day we need to let go and let them believe what they wish to without trying to make them feel stupid for doing so. It’s better to see the good in a person and encourage it when you can. If they can’t accept what you believe, then let them be. Promote your own ideas all you want, but try to show a little respect for those who think differently.

    “Personal experience and beliefs are not scientific, they are inherently unreliable and misleading.”

    You could be right – sometimes. However, if personal experience and belief aren’t scientific, then they aren’t testable – and even if they were, you admit yourself that they couldn’t be “scientifically provable” anyway. Here’s the problem: If those beliefs are neither testable nor provable, then they are also beyond assessment. How can you assert that something is “inherently unreliable and misleading” when you can’t test it, prove it, disprove it or assess it? To make any sort of judgement you have to step outside of the realm of science and employ a completely different set of criteria, and those criteria are primarily experiential. And if you don’t trust experiential criteria in the first place then you’re lost. All you can do then is express an opinion – which you’re entitled to. Just as others are entitled to theirs.

    “Your link to “creation scientists” is a link to people who are trying to use science to support their personal beliefs.”

    Yes, just as you use science to support yours. If you’d then argue, “No! I stick with the facts!” they would say exactly the same. In the final analysis you’re left with two groups of people who interpret the evidence differently, and being on the side of the majority is no indication that you’re right or wrong.

    “Many of the people on that list are regarded as cranks…”

    Well of course they are – by people who don’t agree with them. But that’s no indication of being on the right side either. I’ve heard people call those who live on council estates “yobs”, members of the Labour Party “working class trash”, Conservatives “posh snobs” and Mormons “religious nut-cases”. Just saying something doesn’t make it true. You may call creationist scientists “cranks”, but name-calling proves nothing.

    “ especially where the science they do is unrelated to the biological sciences, or if they used to do actual science in the past.”

    Mmmm…but if you look at that list you’ll see that not all the scientists on it fit those criteria, do they? So I guess you’ll have to find another way of knobbling them…

    “Belief is very powerful, and almost always overrides a person’s logic.”

    And there it is – but it isn’t always true, is it? I mean, logically I accept that the Tyne Bridge exists. I also believe that it exists. Belief isn’t overriding logic there, for both point to the same conclusion. You believe in the theory of evolution. You also accept it on the basis of what you see to be factual evidence. From your perspective, there is no conflict between belief and logic there. But what about situations in which there is a conflict? Why should logic be the preferred option? Defunct scientific ideas which now seem quite nutty with the passage of time once seemed perfectly logical. Why? Because the “logic” of the time was based on preconceived ideas. Unfortunately, those ideas later turned out not to be so “logical” at all.
    The Oxford Dictionary defines logic as, “Reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity.”, which is fine, as long as you have your “principles of validity” straight. These would not, I presume, include the following faux pas:

    http://orphadeus.angelfire.com/galacticextinction/scientific-howlers.html

    “I’ll just make one more point here. I’ll be as specific as I can, because you clearly put a lot of effort into reinterpreting everything I say in a way that stretches far beyond my original meaning.”

    With respect, the real problem is actually interpreting what you say in the first place as so much of it is filled with non-sequiturs, inaccuracies and devoid of any valid “meaning” whatsoever. Your excruciatingly twisted concept of Islam is but one example, which is why this comment is way longer than it needed to be as I have been forced to correct so many inaccurate and insulting assertions.

    “I will modify my earlier statement about there being no evidence for alien visitation…”

    This should be worth a peek…

    “…which I also modified to say that there is no testable evidence, which I also had to modify to say that no evidence is available, then no testable evidence has been presented.”

    None of which you would have had to do, of course, if you hadn’t made such an assertion in the first place, which you had no hope of producing evidence for.

    “I suppose I did ignore the so-called evidence that has been produced, but that evidence, like your video links above, is complete and utter rubbish that has been debunked over and over.”

    I see. You do not specify which bits of the evidence have been “debunked”, so I presume you must mean all of it. I must also presume, then, that the results produced by the laboratories that tested the anomalous implants removed by Dr. Roger Leir have been “debunked” – and you can show us where?

    And the Citizens Commission on UFOS? What was “debunked” in regard to that? The military personnel. scientists and astronauts who have testified before Congress and numerous Commissions and hearings… what has been debunked there? Their honesty? Their testimony? Cite your sources. Show me – or more specifically, your readers – exactly what it is that you claim has been “debunked”.

    “It takes a stretch of the imagination to regard it as evidence of any kind…”

    What exactly is “it” that stretches your imagination? Be specific. When highly-respected pilots, astronauts, scientists and politicians say they are prepared to testify to something that you find hard to believe, does it really “stretch your imagination” or does it make your sceptical stance start to wobble in regards to the UFO enigma? You mentioned my supposed penchant for conspiracy theories, and yet you seem to believe in the greatest conspiracy theory of all time – that hundreds of credible witnesses have somehow been duped or are engaging in a plot of gargantuan proportions to deceive the public. You don’t like it when I mention all these witnesses who are straining at the bit to tell what they know and inevitably resort to your usual tub-thump of “Show us the evidence!” When they then say, “Well, that’s exactly what we WANT to do” you then fall back to your next line of defence – that eyewitness testimony can’t be trusted anyway. The problem you have is that they aren’t just talking about lights in the sky, here – they’re also talking about highly classified government projects related to the UFO phenomenon, hard, physical evidence kept in high-security establishments and detailed knowledge of attempts to hide the truth from the public that ET visitation is very real and has been acknowledged at the highest political level for decades. And that’s just for starters. Then you have scientists and physicians from numerous countries who have acknowledged that they have physically examined ET remains, military personnel (some highly decorated) who personally witnessed a meeting between a former President of the United States and extraterrestrial visitors (corroborated by evidence other than just eye-witness testimony)…the list is almost endless, and, yes, it sounds pretty amazing – even unbelievable to some, I fully acknowledge. However, what seems even more amazing to me is the idea that all of these people are making it up. Whether you believe them all or not, don’t you at least think that when such a large number of respectable and professional witnesses all tell the same story that they at least deserve to be heard no matter how incredible it seems to you? Have you ever considered that there’s just the remotest possibility that you could have misjudged this issue, and that these hundreds of professional witnesses – including many of the scientists you so slavishly revere – may just know something that you don’t? No, of course not, for you find it stretches your imagination too much. It’s just all too taxing, isn’t it?.

    “but OK, it’s evidence, albeit one level above pure fantasy.”

    So what you really mean is that it isn’t evidence at all, even though you haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to your claim that it has all been “debunked”.

    “But when evidence has been disproven…”

    Disproven by what? Not by science, which can neither prove or disprove anything, not by eyewitness testimony, which is almost always unreliable…so just what, then? What exactly is the evidence you speak of, and exactly how was it “disproven”?

    “…the next step should be to discard it and move on.”

    And I think most people would be prepared to do just that – when the evidence is really disproven, of course, and we still need to hear from you just how that has supposedly already been accomplished – in every single case. Every year there are not just thousands, but possibly millions of UFO events globally. Now if even one – just one – of those cases has not been debunked then your assertion is false. So, either your assertion is false, or you are in possession of some method – unknown to the rest of the world – of establishing not just that every single event is “not proven” but has actually been debunked – a far different thing.

    “We’re still waiting for real evidence, while the same old nonsense is being constantly recycled.”

    Don’t you ever get bored with making these same, broad, sweeping generalisations without ever pointing to specifics?

    “Oh, and the “appeal to popularity” is still a logical fallacy. Evolution is a well tested and confirmed theory that stands on its own merits.”

    So you say.

    “It isn’t true because lots of scientists believe it, they believe it because it is true.”

    And the Creationists would say they believe in their theory because it’s true, of course.

    “Your lots of military personnel believe something, but they haven’t produced any confirmatory evidence. Youtube videos don’t count as evidence.”

    Well, let’s see if that’s really true. The whole purpose of the annual Disclosure Project conferences and the 2013 Citizens’ Commission on UFOs was and is to ask Congress that the many witnesses who claim to have the evidence you speak of be allowed to present it. This includes, but is not limited to, scientific evidence. It seems incomprehensible to me that they would be fighting so hard to receive immunity from prosecution so that they can present their evidence if they knew all along that it didn’t really exist. The YouTube videos are evidence – evidence that the Citizens’ Commission really took place and that the witnesses really exist. Or, are you suggesting that it never took place at all and that the whole thing was just an amazing exercise in CGI deception? If you accept that the Citizens’ Commission really took place, then in what sense are the YouTube videos not proof of that fact? Before you answer, remember – you specifically pointed to the videos relating to the testimony of military personnel, not videos which show lights in the sky.

    “Similarly, the appeal to authority is a fallacy, but if I quote a scientist’s words (Carl Sagan in this case) it is to clarify or illustrate a point, not to prove a claim must be true because someone else says so.”

    I see. But when I do it it’s an appeal to authority. You say you quoted Carl Sagan to “clarify or illustrate a point”. So why not just use words of your own? Why quote Carl Sagan? Because it was an appeal to authority, that’s why. I’d also like to point out that you have an entire page of quotes from authorities on your blogsite. Why have them there? If you don’t need or want to appeal to authority, why not just post a page of your own quotations?

    “Albert Einstein said that E=MC^2; it’s true, not because he said so, but because it is a fact.”

    Okay, so if you aren’t appealing to authority, why mention that Einstein said it?

    Finally, I’d like to make two quotations of my own, regarding the existence of ET/UFOs, although I’ll stop short of claiming they are any sort of appeal to authority:

    “Mike – read the post again. I didn’t say, dogmatically or otherwise, that there is no evidence.”
    Swifty

    “The evidence for evolution is there for everyone to examine; the evidence for alien visitation is not”.
    Swifty.

    I rest my case.

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  7. Mike, my post was a few words short of 1,100 in total. Your reply so far is just shy of nineteen thousand! You’re drowning, not waving.

    My post didn’t mention you or Islam, yet here you are, fighting a battle with me that exists only in your own imagination. I’m not going to be suckered into an extended, and needless, confrontation about the rights or wrongs of your religion in particular; I prefer to take a more global view about religion in general: references I make to any particular religion are made when they are germane to the issue at hand. Your defensiveness looks like insecurity on your part. You’re trying very hard, but your obvious sincerity exceeds your ability (or your qualifications) to argue intellectually, academically or knowledgeably about logic, science or even religion.

    Oh, and for pity’s sake, try to learn the difference between “practice,” and “practise.” The former is a noun, the latter is a verb. Don’t use them interchangeably; it’s bad grammar. (If your future writings change according to my advice then I will accept that at last you have learned something from me. Alternatively, you can carry on as usual using that same grammatical error just to spite me, but at least you will know that you are wrong even if you will not admit it. Please check that dictionary of yours that you keep quoting selectively to everyone that disagrees with you on some minutiae or other.)

    Like

  8. Mike Hallowell

    “Mike, my post was a few words short of 1,100 in total. Your reply so far is just shy of nineteen thousand! You’re drowning, not waving.”

    I see. First, if you don’t want such long responses posted, then say so on your page. Secondly, much of what I post is simply quotations of your own writing before I comment on them. Thirdly, the only reason my comments need to be so long on your page is that, more than any other blogger I know, you fill your posts with so many inaccuracies which beg to be corrected. Look at your comments on Islam, for example; barely a single sentence free of errors and completely inaccurate assertions. Do you apologise when you make them? Of course not, but if you don’t like me pointing them out, then do some proper research before reaching for your keyboard.

    “My post didn’t mention you or Islam, yet here you are, fighting a battle with me that exists only in your own imagination.”

    Well, you didn’t mention it in your initial post, but you WERE the one who introduced it into the discussion in your first comment – right here:
    “The number of people who believe something is irrelevant. Or are you now going to change your religion to Christianity just because it is the largest religion in the world in terms of followers? You are one of about 1.5 billion Muslims on a planet of seven billion people, 5.5 billion of whom think you are following a false religion, so why not go with your own version of logic: just pack it in. Join another religion or become an atheist, or in other words become an “infidel,” which is what you are in the eyes of the followers of every other religion anyway. But to you, they are infidels. Oh, well.”

    So, although I don’t consider myself as being in a “battle” with you, the argument certainly isn’t one “that exists only in my own imagination”. YOU were the one who introduced the issues related to Islam; a scholar who happens to believe the earth isn’t spherical, your specious and completely bogus assertions regarding the role of an Imam, etc. etc. etc.

    “I’m not going to be suckered into an extended, and needless, confrontation about the rights or wrongs of your religion in particular;”

    Then why did you introduce it into our dialogue in the first place, then, before shamelessly trying to blame me for it? If you didn’t want to be “suckered” into a discussion about the rights and wrongs of Islam, why did you go right ahead and post so many Islamic “wrongs”: The sun setting in a muddy pool…the scholar who says the world isn’t spherical…the “established authority” of Imams…Boko Haram…threats to the safety of those who disagree…I could list more. YOU were the one who raised the very confrontational issues you now say you don’t want to get “suckered into”. You were the very person who suckered yourself by raising those issues in the first place!

    “I prefer to take a more global view about religion in general: references I make to any particular religion are made when they are germane to the issue at hand.”

    Well, you were talking about the fact that, “the number of people who believe something is irrelevant”. You could have illustrated your point in any number of ways, but instead you went off on a bizarre tangent and predictably suggested that I change my religion on the basis of your observation. I can see the analogy, but why use one related to Islam? Don’t accuse me of trying to “sucker” you into a discussion about Islam when you were the one who started the ball rolling. My guess is that you now want to bail out of any such discussion because you demonstrated your complete and embarrassing ignorance of my faith. Are you going to admit you were wrong about those points, or go on trying to justify them when anyone with even a basic knowledge of Islam could see how hopelessly wrong you were? Going by your past track record, you’ll do neither and just ignore them and hope no one will notice.

    “Your defensiveness looks like insecurity on your part.”

    Its not “insecurity” simply to defend something. You defend orthodox scientific thought dogmatically, but it doesn’t mean you’re “insecure” about your stance. Wrong sometimes, maybe, but not necessarily insecure.

    As for my grammar, you’ll have to excuse the odd slip, I’m afraid. My neurological disorders sometimes make me confuse words which are audibly the same but textually different. For future reference, I also have a problem when using numerals, and ever bigger problems with homoeoteleuton and hyphenisation. I also occasionally confuse the letters “p” and “a” and for some strange reason occasionally transpose the letters “o” and “j” when they are adjacent to each other. The various editors I write for are aware of this and understand my problem. In addition, some errors are just that; errors. I’ll apologise for the latter, but not for the former. I’ll leave it to you to find the errors in your own writing.

    “You’re trying very hard, but your obvious sincerity exceeds your ability (or your qualifications) to argue intellectually, academically or knowledgeably about logic, science or even religion.”

    Well, when it comes to religion – specifically Islam – I think you’ve demonstrated admirably that you’re punching way over your weight. I’ve pointed out a host of wincing errors you’ve made about Islam. You’ve yet to point out a single error I’ve made on that topic. So; put your money where your mouth is and tell me; where have I made a single factual error whilst arguing about that? For years I’ve written for theological and religious publications on both Christianity, Islam and other faiths. In fact, I’ve just put the finishing touches to two book manuscripts detailing the history of the earliest Christian communities and have had both reviewed by scholars, one of whom is writing the foreword for the first volume. It’s a subject of which I have considerable knowledge – and if you doubt it, then take me up on my offer to engage in a live debate and we’ll see just who has the greater expertise. And, seeing as you were the one who introduced religion into the dialogue, just what are your qualifications to speak with authority on the subject? All we’ve seen from you is one of the most misinformed critiques on Islam I’ve ever clapped eyes upon. Yet, we see not a single apology from you. Not a word of regret. You simply spin out a shed-full of complete nonsense without the slightest sign of shame.

    I’ve pointed out many gross errors that you’ve made – where are mine? And are you going to apologise for your gross errors regarding Islam? No; you simply ignore your mistakes when they’re pointed out to you. Or are you going to defend them and tell me where I was wrong when I contradicted you? Let’s see…we could start with the issue of the “established authority” you say Imams have. I’ve proven completely that your assertions, and those connected to it, were utter tosh. Will you apologise? Or defend the indefensible? I await your reply – oh, and while you’re on, you might also want to explain the two contradictory statements you made, and which I posted at the end of my last comment. That was something else you chose to ignore, too. Just as we’ve come to expect.

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  9. Mike Hallowell

    PS: If you don’t have any qualifications or expertise writing and lecturing on theology or religion, would you then describe yourself as a “self-proclaimed expert”? And if you wouldn’t describe yourself as an expert at all, just what possessed you to post such nonsense about my faith? And if you do have expertise in the field, how did you get it so badly wrong regarding Islam?

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  10. Mike Hallowell

    Which still leaves my question unanswered. Seeing as you’re such a stickler for the facts, how did you get diatribe about Islam and Muslims so woefully wrong? I mean, you do admit that you got your facts almost completely wrong, don’t you? Or are you going to suggest that your understanding of Islam, Sharia, Imams, scholars. etc. etc. is correct and that its all the Muslims on the planet who really don’t understand their religion as well as you do? Tell you what; take just one of the factual inaccuracies you made regarding Islam – and which I called you out on – and demonstrate that you were right all along. No? Thought not….

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