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This is a rewritten version of an earlier post –

These three phenomena cover a wide array of activities and beliefs but share the same broad sense that they break away from what could be considered to be ‘natural’ and move towards trying to produce or support events that cannot be explained unless there is an unsupported theory behind the curtain. They use a selection of common defences in order to make sure of their own continuation, these are claims that are often made outside of the sorts of other logic and reasoning that perhaps every other part of our lives are subjected to. If I were to claim that I was in fact the best stock broker in the world (I know that in these times of financial melt down that most likely is not a difficult claim to make) then you would expect me too to back it up with at least something. If however, I were to claim to have the ability to speak to a family member of yours who has died, if I were really good at reading you and had been through some sort of education which might include Barnum statements & showmanship, I could actually make you believe that I was doing it. Based not on my actual ability but because you are vulnerable (primed even) and you were brought up in a society where even the slight possibility of these things being real means something to you! These three things which I will refer to as general superstitions rely on at least these five common defences that have to be in place or they will simply fail. There are two wider questions; are such superstitions true (the answer is no) and why do they even exist at all, of course these have very complex answers. Part of the reason behind this post was a promotional video for the Centre of Inquiry which describes superstition as ‘uneducated answers’ and how science makes it possible to have educated ones. Still I think it should go further; superstitions are failures in reasoning, as René Descartes promoted – reason & rationality are the sources of truth and the guarantors of progress.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/superstition/the-common-defences-used-by-superstitions-religion-and-sometimes-conspiracy-theories-rational-thinking-pushed-aside/

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There is an old Irish saying, religion is the superstition of fools and I cannot help but think that should be religion is the religion of fools! I will give religion one point though, not that I’m actually keeping a record of points awarded or anything, at least for the most part it is perhaps a clearer distinction to where certain thoughts or behaviour come from, this is certainly not as clear when you consider luck for example. That is to say if you hate gay people then it comes completely justifiable once the understanding of a religious belief becomes apparent, even though such a position is easy rejected under the broad label of a modern society. If you believe some things are lucky and others are not, then it’s a little more difficult to see the thought process that has gone on in order for that to be justifiable to anyone especially to those that believe it. I think that I will start off with Superstitions since under my own broad definition this includes Luck, horoscopes, homeopathic medicine, anyone that argues they can speak to the dead, faith healers, Reiki, card reading and anything that can come up along those lines. I want to argue that these things have never been proven to work, at all, from what I hear people argue it works as there is a kind of feeling that it does. Rather than simply putting my focus in to that, I want to answer the question of what harm these things can do and the investment which is placed within these superstitions. In general I am not celebrating despair, rather extreme levels of hope which can be achieved by removing these things from people’s minds. If anyone points the finger at me saying that I am trying to remove their hope I wish to comment that this is not the case, there are real benefits to abandonment and also real empowerment to be taken back from both superstitions & religion.
www.blacksunjournal.com

I like this analogy; if you go and get health care treatment in America and increasingly in Western European countries as well, once your condition is found out the burden of deciding on treatment is pushed back to the person who is ill, this is not the issue of consent which should always happen unless it is agree that you no longer can give it, it is a list of treatments that you can pick. This comes from the fear that doctors or hospitals might be sued if they get things wrong and you suffer in this event. This might sound really good, still consider who is more likely to make mistakes a doctor with at least 7 years of training who is at heart a professional or a sick person who knows next to nothing about medicine? It might seem an empowering notion to go through after all what is bad about choice, nothing and it does give the ill person a sense that they are in control of the situation. Even so you can see why this is illogical and perhaps wrong; a doctor who might make a mistake is always in a better position to make decisions than a sick person who is more than likely completely unaware of what is involved in the medical treatments offered. It is these supernatural things that create their own inbuilt despair as the same thing is happening, things like Reiki, faith healers and homeopathy give people who are ill or suffering the feeling of control over their own lives, still do we ever consider the possibility that an ill person is no good at deciding what one of these treatments will be best for them? Who is to say that Reiki will work and faith healing will not. This might seem like an overlaboured point to make but it is not as empowerment and control is so important to us. This leads me to the next objection; the level of hope that is given to people by these superstitious treatments often falls short of expectation, so they create despair often. Richard Dawkins puts this best by saying that people in India are choosing scientific medical treatment over useless superstitious treatments in overwhelming numbers, mean while in the west we are stuck in the reverse!

There is no evidence to suggest luck, horoscopes, homeopathy, Reiki or the other things ever work or are real reflections of the world. If these things are not based on truth, then it is perfectly possible to reduce them down to personal feelings and ‘I thinks’, this is a move towards the metaphysical. There is no evidence to suggest that someone’s metaphysical feelings are real, you might have really strong personal feelings that black people should not share the same space as you, that is just racist and if we end up deciding what is true based on our personal feelings then to me that is just a judgement call and ultimately dangerous to us all. The human brain is an amazing inability to decide what is true or not. Let’s take the case of 9/11 where almost 3000 Americans died, this is sad and deserves our action in every way. Only three days later, exactly to the minute after these attacks 3,300 Americans had died as a direct result of cigarettes, a further 1,100 would die every single day for the rest of the year (Chris Jordan). Since these terrorist attacks the American budget for health care has been reduced in real terms and homeland security has been increased by a significant amount, even though if a small percent of the homeland security budget was direct at healthcare prevention it could save more people. Of course we must stop terrorists, I am not suggesting we don’t, still is an example of how sometimes we can worry more about the things that are not really all that much of a threat to us. We think that smoking cigarettes is a choice, it might be in the start but often turns out to be an addiction, still we assume that it is controllable thus making it a safe known rather than perhaps an unsafe unknown. We have an error in our understanding when it comes to threats to safety of ourselves and the people we care about. In order to remove judgement from within our personal feelings we must check science and in order to remove errors in our understanding, even at national level, we must come to understand what logic is showing us – these create true things unlike personal feelings!

I use the word investment when we are talking about superstitions; this describes the situation the best since I don’t think that you walk into these superstitions not giving up things, this could be time, energy, money or your mental ability to cope in a rational way. Please keep in mind the idea of truth when I talk about these things here. When I talk about luck, I assume that most people do things that they hope will result in good things happening to them still when they don’t do these things it can often result in changes in thoughts, behaviour and a great deal of anxiety. The loss we make is great, we change our thoughts with the end result being irrational thinking, we change our behaviour as a result making us do things that are not justifiable and if we put our hope into something that is not true how can it be anything other than despair. Let’s go to Reiki for example, the process where someone puts their hands over your body and it heals you magically, people put time and often money, our hopes and often ill people go there in order to receive treatment. I think it is dishonest to say that you can treat someone when there is no evidence that you can, it scares me that someone can do Reiki who could possibly not be going through proven treatment or spending the time & money into going for a nice massage that would make their life better without the false hope. Of course both luck and Reiki can provide us with something but at what cost to ourselves. All these things chip away at the thing we call science and that will harm everyone in the end, you move the mind set away from the logic and towards the irrational. If you think that computers, vaccines, antibiotics, Cognitive behavioural treatments, MIR scans, X-ray scanners either at airports that keep you safe or at hospitals, possible fusion energy in the future, gene therapy, disease, chemical & infection control and much more are not only useful but saving people’s lives every single day, then how can you reject what all these things that are based on rational and reasoned thinking. To accept superstitious rubbish is the full face rejection of science, there is one proven thing that has improved & saved the lives of millions of people – science. There is nothing that as caused more suffering and death than superstition, and this brings me to the biggest one of all time, Religion!

www.issr.org.ukReligion is not based on the hope that there is a supernatural being rather extreme fear that there is not, with the wish that belief is not wasted. Religious people see the same evidence that God is not real as the rest of us; still it suits their needs to promote the irrational idea, it is indeed a real problem and why should anyone settle for this? Either you make the decision to give your life, mind or often death over to someone else or you do not. The debate should never be about morality or the evidence that a certain religion is either right or wrong, the evidence is clear for all to see. Focus should be on the implications of belief, we should not be scared into religion since it is our only hope in explaining things, I even reject this idea, it ends up explaining very little. If the result of belief is anything negative then it must answer for this, many people claim to be good Christians unless you are homophobic, racist and don’t agree with the idea of women’s rights then you are not a good Christian at all, this is God’s word and you cannot pick what you want from the bible. Religion can make people do the upmost stupid things, there justifications comes from faith even though morality tells us that these things are wrong and I am not talking about extremists that blow themselves up, I am talking about the everyday believers here. Bringing up your child in just one religion is child abuse, you have no evidence that you are picking the right religion so how can you justify placing rules & guide lines for a child without knowing whether it is right or not! Mutilation of children’s genitals is wrong no matter how many metaphysical feelings you, as a parent, might have. I object to religion on so many grounds, you can read some of it on my blog or go look on the internet for yourself. Now let us turn to science.

A lot of crap science is out there and this is not the result of science at all, rather people claiming that something is science when it is not. So I will give you a little rule to remember; if you come across something that is claiming to be science in order for you to check whether it is or not, ask yourself under what conditions could this be completely wrong! If you can’t work out how it could be wrong then it is not science, for example a new drug that helps people with depression this can be proven false if it is found not to work correctly. The creationist’s argument that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark umm… dinosaurs lived before humans and around 64 million years ago? Ok you know that or you think the earth is only 4000 years old. I think you get the picture there is no condition in the creationists approach that allows me to say that would be false thus it is not science. If you go up to anyone that claims to be a true scientist and ask them the most important factors are the fact it can be wrong is the most significant, followed by peer review, reason and reliability of both method & result. You might not understand it at all but if you wanted to then you could go out and repeat the experiments of science. The method is always published within the peer review in order so others are able to find the same findings. Other than that it is a rational & reasoned response, not always but the things that go to create general laws or known facts are checked and the feedback loop checks them well so you can take from it that they are true things. To me the wonders of science far surpass that of anything else, the beauty of the surface of Mars or viewing atoms through powerful electron microscopes, how can anything else challenge these things? The hope that science brings is also amazing, around the time of the Enlightenment was a period were humans took control of the world they found themselves in, no one should ever want to lose that power, it is so important to us. I have gone on about how useful it is, I will end with this; it is thanks to science that I am still alive and that most of us are, we don’t owe science anything but we do owe the method of thinking that allow humans to think, imagine and create the things that saved so many people and that will save many more in the future. You should feel optimistic about the future; with science and its reasoned thinking we can do almost anything we can dream.

I have written about science and religion so far, I hope to write more about the things I consider as Superstitions soon. I decided to write this post now since I felt ready and confident about these issues. I have really enjoyed the journey that has being going on with me in the last six months, I hope it will continue. It is a little sad though that my posts offering insults about religion seem to get more views than anything else, so if you are reading this and have not done so already, please go read a science post. Thank you for reading my blog!

A little more on this matter….


Michael Shermer – Why we should think before we believe things. I like this man, he also thinks that intelligent design is the end of the conversation and science is an attitude rather than anything else. He discusses UFO and other things along that nature. Humans tend to see patterns and use their cognitive abilities to make sense of unclear data, this does not, as he suggests, be the end of investigation or be used as evidence. Our brains change the things we perceive into a workable pattern and this is what is happening, the more difficult it is to hear or see something clearly the more likely it is we will start to see with our brains and not our eyes.

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www.issr.org.uk/ Science Vs ReligionThis kind of also answers the question about why I write this blog. I think that it is a sensible question to ask and the reason is that I first started this blog was when I came across the work of Richard Dawkins, I agreed with what he said. That is not why I still continue, the reason is that for a lot of the time I think that science is misunderstood and for that matter perhaps logic too! Here was me thinking that some sort of Religion could be in place without it bothering the rest of us, Dawkins introduced the idea that ‘truth’ with religion being very much outside in the dark. Science has had to deal with truth and being a postgraduate currently studying science, I have had to deal with truth as well. Science is not a stable thing, it’s messy and a lot of the time it is acknowledged that science can only explain certain things under certain conditions. Science and Religion both create their own concept of what is true in the world.

The temptation might be here for you to think that both science and religion offer different versions or accounts of the same things, you’d be right in part of course. Still there is a big difference, science has or never could directly challenge religion, at least not in its true form, as the whole point of science is not to create a version of reality rather to simply show it as it is. Religion does create a reality, whether it is a kind God who is listening to your wishes or informing you what would be the “Christian” thing. Science exists to help you decide what you could do; Religion exists to tell you what you should. The most fundamental difference I have found is that as an individual you can pile into Science, you can easily go out to test its reasoning as well as add to body of knowledge it creates, it builds up over time and with validation the truth moves. In Religion people tend to pile out of it, they go to a place to hear and see things and then they take that knowledge away which is said to be true. Science offers the tools of investigation whereas religion simply offers a version of the knowledge, you might argue here that science also offers a version of knowledge and you would be correct. The point is that it never stops there and the body of knowledge is moving and responsive, the real difference is the process of reason rather than the presentation of information. If you stand in science, you’d see a useful set of tools and knowledge to which is more often than not will benefits people’s lives. It has never ending questions to which you might never get the answers too or you might get one question answered to only have the process produce a whole new set of questions. If you stand in religion and ask the question ‘Why?’ it’s because of God and that ends the conversation.

Please see my earlier post titled “Why does science still grow when it can be so wrong? Why did science happen and take hold in Europe?” it explains in more detail some of the issues that I have discussed here. Both Comte and Durkheim authored in their own ways three types of understandings or worlds, the first was that of Custom & habit. The second being that of the God ultimate and the last being that of logic & reason. Rather than being able for an individual to exist in two or more of these worlds, they instead moved from one to the other and this was the result of human progress. In this poor example, people used to bury their loved ones in a certain manner and this built up in each generation to include certain rituals. Even me starting at burying is one jump too soon, it could be once when people died they were left on the ground but insects and animals used to eat the bodies so someone thought that putting them in the ground would stop those insects and animals. So this was adopted and happened in the next generation, this is a building up process and this is what happened in the first world. In the second world, the first was removed because now whole societies would bury their dead in the same way and this include, almost at a national level, a set of rituals prescribed for each event plus a new understanding of why we do it this way, God. You could not accept the irrational & illogical version of the second world, say believing in God, and then also buy into the rational and logical third world. They are incompatible to each other at a fundamental level; the third world demands the removal of the second.

I could say that types of religious scientists lived in an earlier time where science had not really developed but that is not really true. Science is there, according to Comte and others, to get at the natural laws which govern the world which we live in. Steven Nadler describes God as nature, everything that happens in nature also happens because of God if you believe in God that is. I hope that confused you a little because its then a true reflection of what actually happens. I would like to bring up David Sloan Wilson here now, as his idea of the practical and factual realism helped me understand why scientists can be religious. In factual realism we deal with truths as far as we can understand them, this is a true reflection of what actually is going on and with any hope these understandings are removed from agenda. Science attempts to deal with factual realism and how do we know this? Well, if you ask yourself and others what happens after someone dies you would get a range of different answers some from faith and others from personal feelings. From this we can see there is no fact or truth from these statements since some could be right others of them could be wrong, you have no way of knowing which one is actually the right answer. When was the last time an X-ray suffered from this problem? Well never unless the machine was broken to which it could be fixed in accordance with the knowledge of how it works. So factual realism is very important and so far most of what I have talked about is based on this notion of science.

Practical realism is a lot more interesting, it states that knowledge that we have, even if not based on fact, works because it allows us to get on with our everyday lives. If we think that doing something which in turns makes us lucky and benefits us by having a successful day then all I can say is that it exists & is worthy of our attention, it’s not based on fact still it allows us to take control of seemingly random events. It does provide benefits including filling in some of the gaps in how we understand the world. In this way scientist can defer to practical realism in order to make sense or fulfil a need. This has been seen to be true in terms of science, in all its forms, when science interlaces with those still using in part their practical realism. So even though religion is outside what is required for belief in science, it still can be present at times. It is particularly easy for scientists not involved in areas that would question Religion, such as a chemist it seems more likely they would have a religious perspective rather than a biologist with connections with evolution. Although this is not always true! One thing I have noticed is that scientists that argue from a religious stand point offer bad science in re-turn. If we go back to how societies bury their dead if all you believed in was science, science does not really offer any help or comfort and religion seems to score one in this department. The structure of religious ritual is universal in a lot of sets or groups of people and this structure appears to be useful. It is in these great unknowns where science is not the light; religion can be the candle even though we never really know if it was the right thing to do.

A little more on this matter…

TIME magazine

Intelligent design has been reject as a pseudoscience, still the debate between Collins and Dawkins is very interesting presented in this TIME article, both come as scientists but only Collins has belief in God. There are many from the scientific corner who are outraged to the insult upon rationality when arguments are presented by intelligent design (ID). Dawkins suggests that the most powerful building block of ID is in fact within the name, design, once we can understand the life on earth was not designed then we remove the whole concept of God from the table. Collins on the other hand offers the idea that Genesis cannot be subjected to the tools of science and furthermore, we simply cannot understand Genesis at all.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1555132,00.html

The answer to the question is rather a muddy perhaps not!

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