Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nigerian "Christians" torturing their own children

This is sickening. Nigerian “Christians” are torturing and ostracising their own children because someone told them they are witches:
A female child from Oron Council of Akwa Ibom State was tortured and bathed with hot water and thrown into the forest to die by his family for allegedly possessing strange powers. Another was tied to a stake in a goat's house for two weeks by his father because a prophet in his church proclaimed her a witch.

In Nsit Ibom, another was tortured and eventually chased out of home by his uncle, who believed he bewitched and killed his parents.

"Churches have strong influence on people and some church leaders get some parents to sheepishly believe that their kids are witches and wizards. This is the focus of most of these churches, which have departed from preaching righteousness and salvation of souls to stigmatisation of children as witches and wizards.

"In fact, it has gotten to a stage that if you do not spot witches and wizards in your church, you are not seen to be spiritually powerful and you may lose some of your members," Itauma explains.

...we see children who have been horribly mutilated, and in one case left brain damaged after having had a nail driven through her skull; others appear withdrawn and tearful after being rejected by their families and threatened. We also see the hostility of aggressive and angry adults against the charity workers who challenge the witch teaching and offer support to children living rough.

The first pastor we meet is the rolex-wearing Bishop Sunday Ulup-Aya, who makes children drink a strange “poision destroyer” medicine made up of “African mercury”, his own blood, and pure alcohol.

I’m using quotes when describing the Nigerians here as “Christians”. By almost anyone’s standards – except their own – these people are committing atrocities. The only reason I mention it at all is simply to make one point: why aren’t western Christians up in arms about this?

Don’t tell me about persecuted missionaries. Don’t tell me about nasty evil Muslims/atheists/whatevers. Don’t breathe a word to me about what you think about McCain or Obama. Especially, don’t you dare to speak to me about a higher moral ground. These misguided people are committing pure evil, and while the western Christian church does nothing, it has no moral or ethical legitimacy whatsoever.

I have no doubt at all that no western Christian would accept them as part of the worldwide tradition of Christianity. The fact remains that they are calling themselves Christians. They are mutilating their own children and leaving them to die in the name of your Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an urgent moral obligation on all Christians to categorically denounce this, and to take whatever action is possible to stop it.

Don’t send missionaries to the Philippines. Send them to Nigeria to talk to these “Christians” and point out to them the bleeding obvious: there is no such thing as witches and it is wrong to torture your own children.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The universe is a bad prop?

It’s been theorized for a little while now that the universe consists of only 4% matter as we know it, with the remaining 96% made up of dark matter and dark energy.

“Dark” matter and energy are so-called because they are not visible to us through telescopes, whether we’re looking in the visible light spectrum, the radio spectrum, or anything else. By inference, they don’t interact at all with the electro-magnetic spectrum. They are theorised to exist because:

In the case of dark energy – without this energy pushing the universe apart, galaxies would not be accelerating away from each other at the increasing rate that has been observed. Dark energy is calculated to make up 74% of the known universe, based on how much of it is needed to be flinging the galaxies apart. Everything else in our current physics framework predicts the shape and size of the universe quite nicely, except for this one puzzling phenomena of the expanding universes.

To me, “dark energy” sounds similar to the “cosmological constant” that Einstein threw into one of his equations fairly arbitarily without being able to explain exactly what it was or why it was there, except that without it his equations simply didn’t describe a static universe. (A static universe is one that is neither expanding nor contracting and was, at the time, thought to be how the universe was.) If you think this sounds intellectually just the teeniest bit dodgy, then you’d be right. Einstein in his later years called the cosmological constant his “biggest blunder” and appeared to regret having tossed it in without having a better explanation for it. However, the consensus now seems to be that we do not have a static universe, but an expanding one. To my layman’s eye, here we are again in almost the same place, with a different label for similar phenomena required to make the theory correspond to the reality.

Dark matter is theorised to exist as there are gravitational phenomena, such as the speed at which galaxies rotate, which cannot be explained without there being much more mass than can be observed. Dark matter is thought to comprise 22% of the universe, again based upon how much of it there should be to explain the observed phenomena.

Dark matter has a bit more evidence going for it than dark energy, as black holes are a perfectly well-accepted part of our modern physical framework. Black holes haven’t been directly observed – by definition, they can’t be, as they swallow any light that comes hear enough, so they can only be observed indirectly. The indirect effects on nearby light and matter have been observed often enough that there isn’t any real debate about whether they exist. So, we already know of one phenomenon that is for-real dark matter.

In addition to the invisible “dark” matter and energy (“Luke! Come to the dark side! I am your… missing mass? Hey, what sort of line do you call this?”) there is the recent finding that I canvassed briefly in my last post, namely, that 95% of the mass of atoms has now been verified as not being mass at all, but merely a phenomena arising from sub-atomic energy and movement. The universe as directed by Baz Luhrmann, if you will – not much content, but the colour and movement is breathtaking.

I was thinking this was remarkable enough, until I happened across this article in Discover Magazine that explains this sub-atomic energy and movement could correctly called be “quantum fluctuations” So, 95% of the mass we experience is actually, at base, quantum fluctuations. Whoah, to quote the Keanu.

So, if we tie this back to dark matter and energy, it could be theorized that 95% of the dark mass of the universe is… anti-Baz Luhrmann energy. Non-colour and movement. The Steven Wright of the universe – apparently as unimpressive as anything, but boy, it has an effect.

What’s more, the same Discover article reminded me that the 5% of mass that isn’t included in the “Luhrmann” phenomena is theorised to perhaps be a product of the Higgs boson, which the Large Hadron Collider is purpose-built to try to find. No-one yet knows whether traces of the Higgs boson will be found by the LHC or not, but either way the consequences for our worldview will be profound.

So, without the Higgs boson, we have a universe that looks like:

74% dark matter – which could be 95% dark energy also.
22% dark energy.
4% “real”mass as we know it – except it isn’t, 95% of it is quantum fluctuations.

However, if we separate out the energy and dark energy components of matter and dark matter, we get:

74.0% dark energy
20.9% dark quantum energy masquerading as dark mass
1.1% actual dark mass
3.8% quantum fluctuation energy masquerading as visible mass
0.2% real visible mass

Look at that again. Of the universe we think exists, only 0.2% is actually observable and conforms to something like our common-sense notions of what “solid” is.

0.2%. Two parts in a thousand. Nine hundred and ninety-eight parts we have very little idea about and will never directly perceive. What’s out there (and in here)? Who knows? How would we ever find out? Don’t think too closely about this – you may get frightened.

If the Higgs boson is demonstrated to exist, then it will also have been demonstrated that the Entire. Solid. Universe. is nothing but an illusion, created by the happenstance spin and flow of quantum particles.

Man, this place was built on a low budget!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Einstein more right than we knew

Every time Einstein's theories have been tested, they have supported his work. He himself said "No-one can ever prove me right - but one experiment can prove me wrong." Today is not that day.

It's been found that at the sub-atomic level, 95% of the mass of an atom is not mass, but energy and movement of sub-atomic particles:


This Theory of Special Relativity (not to be confused with Einstein's Theory of General Relativity - yes, there are two theories of relativity!) states, essentially, that mass and energy are interchangeable. The energy equivalence in a given mass is desribed by the famous formula above: it equals the mass times the speed of light squared - which is quite a lot! If one gram of matter was spontaneously converted to energy in an uncontrolled fashion, it would realise 898,755,178,736,817 joules, which would be an explosion more than 16 times as powerful as the Hiroshima atomic blast. Be careful with that matchbox...

I'm so proud of the human race that we can find out things like this. It's just astonishing to think that, at a level we will never directly perceive, 95% of the mass of every atom is just... energy and movement. (It goes to show you that quite a lot can be done by frantic arm-waving...)

Einstein was a truly remarkable man. I must admit to some mental reservations, however. His theory does not explain why when, on Mondays when I am tired and slow, I don't weigh any less than usual. Pfft.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why the internet filter is a BAD THING

CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Federal Government today announced details of its new Traffic Regulatory and Control System (TRACS) that will drastically slow down and hinder the road system for all Australians, in response to a few poorly-conceived concerns that cars are being driven by potential paedophiles.

“Look, it’s a fact that people are driving, using their cars on public streets and highways, with the aim of committing acts at their destinations that are illegal or immoral,” the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Road Network, Senator Stephen Conroy, said today. "People have told me that. I can't name any of them, but they have, really. I think it was some guy down at the RSL. Okay, it may have been the same bloke who talks about Martian lizards ruling the world - have you met him? - but that doesn't mean he doesn't know what he's talking about."

“It’s appalling that our public infrastructure is being perverted in this way," Senator Conroy continued, frothing gently at the mouth. "Obviously it’s too late to turn back the clock and return to the horse and buggy, as great as that would be. But the Federal Government can and will put controls in place to make sure everyone is using their cars wisely, and not going anywhere that I personally don’t approve of. Like the TAB or the pub.”

Senator Conroy announced that the Government’s plan will include a Road Safety Family Guardian located at the exit of every house’s driveway to check a driver’s intended destination when they back their vehicle out onto the street. The destination will then be transmitted to a central base, which will check it against a list of 1,300 banned destinations. “These destinations contain material that is just disgusting. We have no idea who lives there, though, despite having their address, and even if we did they're in a different jurisdiction, which of course means we can't do jack shit. We just have to stop people going there,” said Senator Conroy, in defiance of all common sense and international extradition agreements.

Drivers will also be required to pass through a centrally-located checkpoint in each capital city, where they will be required to satisfy the newly-created federal Roads and Traffic Authority that they are not attempting to go to one of the banned destinations.

Motorist groups are outraged, saying that travel times will increase up to 500% under this system, so that a trip which previously would have taken ten minutes could take almost an hour.

Senator Conroy said that "The central checkpoints, where destinations will be verified, will ensure that cars are not being used to access child pornography in Australia." However an independent analysis shows that half to two-thirds of the blacklisted destinations would in fact be legal , if police were to be bothered with the issue instead of being distracted by actual crime.

Drivers will need to opt out of being banned from going to a secondary list of up to 10,000 “unwanted” destinations. The criteria for determining whether a destination is “unwanted” have not been made public.

“It’s not that we think that most Australians are criminals,” explained Senator Conroy to reporters, while motioning a poorly-hidden SWAT team away from the cameras. “We just think that children need to be protected from being exposed to this material. Every time a person exits their driveway, there is a risk they could – inadvertently or not – expose their children in the back seat to unwanted material.” Senator Conroy did not respond to questions about what 'unwanted' actually means and who defines it, how many Australians drive a car with a child as an active navigator, what would happen when a child was not actually in the car, or how the system would help people who don't even have children, but did say that anyone against the system was obviously a lover of kiddie porn themselves.

Spokesman for motorists’ group I Will Drive Where I Damn Well Please, Tim Lamb, pointed out that there were serious flaws in the proposed TRACS system. “All anyone needs to do to bypass it is to go out their back door instead of the driveway. Or go off-road, if you have a four-wheel drive. There are countless other ways to evade these so-called ‘Family Guardians’. I bet any kid could think of a few,” he added. Mr Lamb demonstrated the effects of TRACS by spending half an hour to get to the end of his street, after ending up in a protracted argument with the Guardian at the exit of his driveway, who confused ‘Kidda Place’ with ‘kiddie porn’.

“This will cost a packet to implement, it’ll hurt the economy, and is just plain nonsensical,” said Mr Lamb, “besides being contrary to every bit of road freedom that Australians have enjoyed for decades. Our existing system is fine. Criminals already get caught – paedophiles are arrested almost every week. The policing of the anti-child abuse laws, which we all support, is targeted and effective. The TRACS system is neither targeted or effective, and will do nothing for the average person going about their business except slow them down and subject them to unnecessary harassment.”

Senator Conroy could not be reached for comment on Mr Lamb’s statements. A departmental spokesman said Senator Conroy was stuck in traffic and was not expected back in the office before Wednesday.

Take action NOW.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is Obama the Antichrist?

This question is seriously being asked. By Newsweek.

Okay, this isn't a question which requires a lot of in-depth research to answer. I'll give you a hint. Study the pictures below.

Barack Hussein Obama:

The Antichrist:

For the still-don't-get-it crowd:



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now's your opportunity

What’s the best argument you have for your faith?

I’m genuinely interested. I read a lot on the atheistic side because that’s where I place myself. However sometimes it can be like being in an echo chamber, and I’m not learning much that’s new to me. A recent critique (by Rupert Murdoch, I think, but don’t hold me to that) pointed out that using the ‘net as a main source of news and information was that a person is likely just to visit those sites that reinforce their own biases, and that our exposure to new ideas was being lowered. I think that’s a legitimate concern.

So I open this up to anyone who wants to outline their reasons for their faith. Why is it that you believe what you do? What is the argument that you would use if trying to convert someone else? (These could be two different things. Do either, or both.) It can be specific to your religious denomination, or just in reference to a “God” in general. No restrictions. I probably won’t reply to your statements – I’m just genuinely interested. I don’t know of any good arguments for faith, so if you’ve got one, now’s the time to roll it out for me. You don’t need to keep it short – take whatever space you need to make your case well.

To ensure you feel as free as possible to make whatever arguments you like, I undertake not to reply, or initiate a debate, unless specifically asked. I’m making this invitation simply in the spirit of intellectual curiosity, not to start another debate. If you want one, you can have it, but I'm not opening the gate to that unless asked.

Also, have a think about what it would take to convince you that you’re wrong. If you flip that around, then it could be the base of a good argument in favour of your beliefs. If, however, your immediate response is “There’s nothing – I know I’m right,” then go away right now: reason is a closed book to you and you have nothing to say that will interest me in the slightest.

(What it would take to convince me I’m wrong? Oh, there are lots of things that would work. I’ll go into them in a future post, maybe. There are too many to go into right now.)

You may wish to use this as an opportunity to try to convert me. Go right ahead. If you do, though, then there are some things that are unlikely to impress me. I’m not saying you can’t use whatever arguments you like – it’s your dime – but just be aware that these tactics are profoundly unlikely to convince anyone.

1. Arguments from authority.
2. “The Bible/Koran/Jamie Oliver says so”. That’s just a variation on point 1, and don’t get me started on the reliability of the Bible.
3. Arguments from incredulity. “Isn’t that amazing? And because I can’t imagine how that happens, it must be God!” Bzzt. Wrong. Because we don’t yet have the scientific basis for fully understanding a phenomenon – or you don’t personally have that knowledge – in no way logically requires the existence of a God to explain it.
4. Logical fallacies of any description.
5. “I just know I’m right.” Yes, and I believe I’m right, and millions of Muslims/Buddhists/pagans/Zoroastrians etc. “know” they’re right as well. So what? As an objective argument, this fails on every conceivable level.
6. “Millions of people can’t be wrong!” Yes they can. See point 5 above – as all those points of view are contradictory, then necessarily millions of people are wrong.
7. “If you came to church, you’d see.” I do go to church. And that’s where I hear some of the silliest stuff I’ve heard in my life. Case in point: someone said recently “I’ve often wondered why you don’t get immediately Raptured to Heaven when you convert. It’s because we’re left here to witness to others!” Actually, being swept up to Heaven in a flash of light as soon as you converted would be a very effective demonstration of the truth of your faith. A moment’s reflection by that person would have shown the weakness in their argument.

There are others, but let’s just get on with it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Game over

Yes, gloating is unbecoming. But you know what? Screw it. I'll be an adult tomorrow.

Source unknown.