Category Archives: Science

Faith-Based and Evidence-Based Thinking

The controversy between evolution and creationism is only one example of the distinction between faith-based and evidence-based thinking. In this modest essay, we’ll attempt to distinguish between the two. Your Curmudgeon knows nothing about psychology (or sociology, or theology) so it’s likely that experts in those fields will find fault with this essay. Nevertheless, we’ll give it a try.

We’re all capable of thinking in either mode, but some people prefer one and regard it as supremely preferable the other. The faith-based way of thinking about the world seems to be the first way humans did things. Thousands of cults have arisen to provide reasons why things are the way they are. But evidence-based thinking was always present to some extent. It had to be or we couldn’t have survived. Poisonous herbs were avoided, useful activities (e.g., agriculture) were adopted, boats had to be watertight, etc. But along with such evidence-based activities, faith-based thinking flourished.

The surprising thing — at least to us — is that when evidence-based thinking successfully explained how certain things happened (lightning, disease, etc.), faith-based reasoning not only persisted, but was preferred by a large portion of the population. Why? Tradition? Tribalism? Laziness? A warm and fuzzy feeling? We don’t know.

Both thinking methods have “filters” to keep out what are believed to be bad ideas. You know how fact-based thinking works. It’s the essence of the scientific method, one of the finest achievements of the Enlightenment.

Those who engage in evidence-based thinking want data — verifiable data — that isn’t merely someone’s subjective experience based on his dreams or revelations received in a trance. Even if the data contradicts what may be a pet theory of ours, we’ll go with it and abandon (or at least revise) the now-superseded theory. Data is paramount, and our personal desires and preferences are irrelevant — see Advice for Creationists.

Faith-based thinking also uses filters to screen out undesired evidence and beliefs. For a good description, see Morton’s demon, described by its discoverer like this:

Morton’s demon was a demon who sat at the gate of my sensory input apparatus and if and when he saw supportive evidence coming in, he opened the gate. But if he saw contradictory data coming in, he closed the gate. In this way, the demon allowed me to believe that I was right and to avoid any nasty contradictory data.

For the typical, walking-around creationist, flat-Earther, UFO probe enthusiast, or other goofball cultist, Morton’s demon may allow him to pursue something that appears to be a normal life. The person affected, despite his delusions, may never know that he has failed to live a truly informed existence. Such people are like those Japanese soldiers that were sometimes found in the jungles of remote Pacific islands, decades after the war ended, unwilling to admit defeat. There’s a Wikipedia article on the phenomenon: Japanese holdout. In the case of creationists, it’s not military zeal or fanatical patriotism that motivates them — it’s an advanced case of Morton’s demon. See also Discovery Institute: The Die-Hards.

But the question arises: Don’t evidence-based thinkers sometimes reject useful ideas that are faith-based? Our answer may be controversial, but we think the proper response is “No.” We don’t reject the ideas that people get from their trances and dreams. But we put them aside and don’t accept them or seriously consider them until they can be objectively verified — see Bring Me An Angel Detector!

Also, there are some unverified ideas that are at least in principle verifiable. But unlike faith-based beliefs, such ideas don’t originate as revelations. Dark Energy is a good example. String theory is another. Those aren’t rejected. Rather, they are considered as potentially useful scientific ideas. Things like that prevent us from breezily summarizing the difference between faith-based and evidence-based thinking as the difference between fantasy and reality.

That’s all we can say at this point, but you probably have your own insights to offer. We look forward to them.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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AIG Proves That We Went to The Moon

You’ve all heard at least some of the Moon landing conspiracy theories that have been floating around for decades. How would you react if you encountered one of those Moon landing denial people? There’s always the Buzz Aldrin rebuttal, which we greatly admire, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to endorse his method.

To our great surprise, the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — appear not to be Moon landing deniers. They just posted Did We Really Land on the Moon?, in which they not only say that we did land on the Moon, but they explain how to rebut the deniers.

It was written by Danny Faulkner. Here’s AIG’s biographical information about him. They say he taught physics and astronomy until he joined AIG. His undergraduate degree is from Bob Jones University — an impressive credential indeed. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Many people remember watching on TV the remarkable events of July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Or did they? Not according to those who believe in the moon landing conspiracy. According to this theory, men never walked on the moon — NASA faked the Apollo moon landings.

Before we proceed, try to imagine your Curmudgeon’s experience reading this AIG article. From the title through that opening paragraph, we assumed that AIG thinks the Moon landings were a hoax. Why wouldn’t we make that assumption? They deny the theory of evolution, the age of the Earth, and almost everything else learned by science that contradicts the bible — so why wouldn’t people like that deny that we’ve been to the Moon? Well, the bible doesn’t say we can’t go to the Moon, but it certainly doesn’t suggest that such a thing is possible. Besides, the Earth was made for us — not the Moon. [Addendum: There’s also the fate of those who tried to build the Tower of Babel to reach to the heavens.]

But AIG surprised us. Danny says:

Over the years, a number of books about the supposed hoax of the Apollo moon landings have proliferated. The climax of these activities may have been the 2001 broadcast of the Fox television network documentary, Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? These books and this documentary film present all sorts of evidence in support of the conspiracy theory. Many of these are easy to refute.

It’s the same with creationist websites. Let’s read on:

There have been numerous attempts to debunk these sorts of arguments, albeit with little success, because the moon landing conspiracy theory continues to gain followers.

AIG doesn’t see the parallel to their own situation, and that’s what makes this so entertaining. Danny continues:

But conspiracies seem to have an odd attraction for many people, for many other conspiracy theories abound. People appear naturally to be attracted to conspiracies. Conspiracies certainly are far more interesting than the possibility that things are as they seem.

The analogy with creationists’ belief in a Darwinist conspiracy is obvious, but Danny seems oblivious. This is splendid irony! Here’s more:

The Apollo moon landing theory has gained some traction among Christians too. Since so many scientists are wrong about the origin and age of the world, it may be that many Christians assume that the same scientists are wrong about landing on the moon too. Sometimes it seems that scientists want to stamp out any dissent on certain issues, such as evolution. This heavy-handed approach can look a bit conspiratorial, so Christians may be justified in being at least a bit skeptical about many things.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The scientists are lying about evolution, so why not the Moon landings too? And why doesn’t AIG join the Moon landing deniers? Get ready, because Danny has an explanation:

It is tempting to give a detailed rebuttal of many of the claims made by those who support the idea that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax. However, that has been done many times already.

As with creationism. Come on, Danny — why do you think Moon landing denial is different? Here it comes:

There is a much more straightforward approach. Two of the twelve men who walked on the moon later were born again Christians, Charlie Duke, and the late Jim Irwin. Both of these dedicated Christians wrote books in which they shared their testimonies and their experiences as astronauts. To doubt the Apollo moon landings amounts to accusing two Christian brothers of lying about the biggest thing that ever happened to them, of course apart from their salvation.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! There are numerous Christians who have no problem with evolution — see the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations supporting evolution — but Danny ignores them. And now we come to the end:

The biblical standard for establishing such a matter is two or three witnesses [scripture references]. These two Christian astronauts certainly suffice as reliable witnesses, so we can be assured that the Apollo astronauts indeed walked on the moon.

There you have it, dear reader. That’s your proof. Verily, no one can deny that we went to the Moon.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Klinghoffer Is Thrilled About Kepler-438b

You know about the Kepler mission to discover potentially habitable extra-solar planets. We wrote about in Kepler Mission: Searching for Earth-like Planets.

Creationists don’t like it. Over at the Discovery Institute, they have their faith-based doubts that any planet other than Earth could support intelligent life. Their scripture is a book co-written by Discoveroid Guillermo Gonzalez: The Privileged Planet. But science is oblivious to the preferences of creationists. At the start of this year, PhysOrg reported Eight new planets found in ‘Goldilocks’ zone, in which they said:

Astronomers announced today that they have found eight new planets in the “Goldilocks” zone of their stars, orbiting at a distance where liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface. This doubles the number of small planets (less than twice the diameter of Earth) believed to be in the habitable zone of their parent stars.


The two most Earth-like planets of the group are Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b. Both orbit red dwarf stars that are smaller and cooler than our Sun. Kepler-438b circles its star every 35 days, while Kepler-442b completes one orbit every 112 days. With a diameter just 12 percent bigger than Earth, Kepler-438b has a 70-percent chance of being rocky, according to the team’s calculations.

That was good news for those of us who grew up reading science fiction and watching Star Trek, although it’s blasphemy for creationists. But we just got some bad news about Kepler-438b. PhysOrg posted this a couple of days ago: Radiation blasts leave most Earth-like planet uninhabitable. It says:

The most Earth-like planet could have been made uninhabitable by vast quantities of radiation, new research led by the University of Warwick research has found. The atmosphere of the planet, Kepler-438b, is thought to have been stripped away as a result of radiation emitted from a superflaring Red Dwarf star, Kepler-438.

Well, okay. There’s one less habitable planet to dream about. Not a problem, really. More are being found all the time, and it’s not as if we were about to launch a ship to go there. For creationists, however, the recent news is cause for rejoicing. Look what was just pasted at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog: Fare Thee Well, Kepler 438b.

It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

That was fast. Excitement about the “most Earth-like planet ever,” the potentially habitable and therefore hypothetically inhabited Kepler 438b, launched in January with an announcement at the American Astronomical Society meeting here in Seattle. Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics bore the good news.

Klinghoffer quotes from an article written back in January, when it was thought that Kepler-438b looked promising. Then he gets to the latest news:

That’s over, it seems, just ten months later. As we learn now, it seems more probable that this “most Earth-like planet [is] uninhabitable due to radiation.”

What’s Klinghoffer’s reaction to the latest news? He says:

I note this with no malice toward the likely sterile and desolate exoplanet.

Isn’t that sweet? He continues:

A habitable or, even more so, an inhabited planet elsewhere in the cosmos would be very exciting news. We neither need it nor fear it. If life were seeded across the stars, though that certainly seems not to be the case, it would be neither here nor there for those who recognize the evidence for design in biology and cosmology.

Did you follow that? If life were common out there, it’s no problem for intelligent design. But if life exists only on Earth, that too is okay with intelligent design. Their “theory” is so wonderful that it doesn’t make any testable predictions. It can accommodate any evidence that may come along. Here’s more:

Presumably, life driven by biological information on another planet would call for an inference to design just as it does on Earth. Tell me how the logic would differ because of a transfer of venues across some number of light years?

Hambo would be devastated if we found an inhabited extra-solar planet, but the Discoveroids are more clever. Because their litigation strategy requires that they avoid relying on Genesis, they can be more flexible. It doesn’t matter to them what may exist out there. Their magical designer — blessed be he! — is responsible for anything that may ever be found. What a great theory!

Klinghoffer concludes by telling us how pathetic the theory of evolution is, when compared to intelligent design:

Materialists, on the other hand, need extraterrestrial life. They need it very badly. Life cannot be uncommon. It must spring up easily. Just add sunshine! For them, the demise of this most hopeful of exoplanets is sorry news.

So there you are. Those who would like to live in a galaxy with numerous habitable worlds are a bit disappointed about Kepler-438b, but we’ll get over it. Klinghoffer’s reaction, however, is totally bizarre. He thinks we’re crushed. Meanwhile the creationists are celebrating at Discoveroid headquarters.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Rev. David Rives — The Bible Knows Best

The Drool-o-tron™ aroused us with its sirens and flashing lights. The blinking letters of its wall display said WorldNetDaily (WND). The Drool-o-tron™ had found the latest video by the brilliant and articulate leader of David Rives Ministries.

Our computer was locked onto this headline at WND: Remember: Father Knows Best. The actual title of the video is Superior Knowledge in Every Way. The rev reminds his fans of the old radio show and later TV series titled “Father Knows Best.” He says that title is true! And the bible knows best because it’s the word of god.

He declares that the bible contains more accurate science, history, and prophecy than you can find anywhere else. Where science seems to disagree with the bible, we must remember that science is always being revised, but the bible is never wrong!

Hey — he’s right. Science books are constantly being revised. You wouldn’t consult a science book from 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago. We want the latest edition because science is always changing. But the bible never changes!

The rev is wearing one of his bible-boy suits without a necktie. He’s the cutest rev you’ve ever seen! The video is shorter than his usual 90-second presentation — it’s only a minute long. But what a minute! This one is a life-changer! Go ahead, click over to WND and watch it.

As we always do with the rev’s videos, we dedicate the comments section for your use as an Intellectual Free Fire Zone. You know the rules. Okay, the comments are open. Go for it!

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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