Rep. Louie Gohmert proves the existence of God.

Well, we had a good run my fellow atheists, but there comes a point when you have to admit you’ve been beaten and that moment is now. You see, Republican Louie Gohmert has come up with the ultimate proof of the existence of God. What fools we’ve been!

Check it:

OK, so technically this isn’t really Louie’s argument, but something he heard from some dude named Bob Murphy out of Texas. In case you didn’t watch the video clip — you should, it’s short and stunning in its stupidity logic — here’s what old Bob had to say:

“Ya know, I feel so sorry for atheists. I do. You know, think about it. No matter how smart they think they are, an atheist has to admit that he believes the equation ‘nobody plus nothing equals everything.’ How embarrassing for an intellectual to have to say, ‘Ya, I believe that. Nobody plus nothing equals everything.’

“Well, you couldn’t get everything unless there was something that was the creator of everything, and that’s the Lord we know”

headdeskI think neither Mr. Murphy nor Rep. Gohmert have talked to very many atheists. Perhaps there’s a few out there who might make such a statement, but I can’t think of any off top of my head. It’s certainly not what I believe because it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of some of the better known theories on how the Universe came to be.

How many times does it have to be said that the Big Bang theory does not say there was nothing prior to the big bang? Everything that is in the universe now was there at the beginning all scrunched up into a very tiny point called a singularity. There is no need to assume that everything came from nothing because, according to the theory, there wasn’t nothing. We still don’t know everything there is to know about the start of the universe because the closer you get to the moment of expansion the more general relativity and quantum mechanics start to fall apart in their ability to describe what things were like, but the theory overall has a lot of evidence backing it up such that accepting the idea of everything has always been there all smooshed up until it exploded into the universe we see today isn’t any more far-fetched than accepting the idea some all-powerful being willed it into existence.

If you’re going to insist on the idea that there was “nothing” prior to the universe then we can turn to theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss who has argued that it’s quite possible to get something from nothing and wrote a whole book about it called A Universe From Nothing. In it he explains exactly how such a thing is not only possible, but probably inevitable. I’ve written about Krauss and his lecture about this several times in the past and if you want to watch a video of his lecture you’ll find it in this previous entry.

There’s also the option to just admit that we don’t know how the universe came to be and that the evidence it was willed into being by a creator is unconvincing. Just because we don’t know the answer to the question that isn’t a good reason to presume that God(s) had a hand in it.

But the thing I really want to point out about Rep. Gohmert’s little anecdote is how shallow the thinking he’s using is. Some blowhard puts forth a strawman argument that doesn’t actually represent anything I’ve ever heard any atheist say and Gohmert acts like it’s wisdom carved on stone tablets from on high. It doesn’t make an argument in support of the idea of a creator God, it just tries to paint atheists as illogical hypocrites. It ignores all of the other possible explanations for the existence of the universe for a cheap shot at a despised group of people. Of course, he’s preaching to the choir who don’t need any convincing that a God popped everything into existence because reasons we’re too puny to comprehend. Ha ha! Those dumb atheists think they’re so smart when really they’re super stoopid! Ha ha!

Guess how convinced I am by that argument.

Happy July 4th, 2014!

The mighty Mackinac Bridge.

The mighty Mackinac Bridge. Click to embiggen.

I haven’t posted anything in awhile so I thought I’d at least throw up a small entry hoping everyone has a safe and enjoyable July 4th celebration. That’s for my fellow Americans, obviously. You folks in other lands probably don’t join in on this most gratuitous excuse to light off tons of sky explosives. Or maybe you do. I’m always up for a good excuse to set off explosives.

I’m on vacation and Anne and I just got back from a couple of days up at Mackinac Island. I’d not been there since my early teens and she, despite being a life-long Michigander, had never been so we decided to head up and stay at a very expensive hotel on the island proper: The Stonecliffe. We got a package deal that included round trip ferry tickets, one round trip horse-drawn shuttle to and from the hotel, complimentary breakfasts, and the room itself which had a very nice view of the Mackinac Bridge from our third floor window. We were supposed to take a boat tour of local lighthouses when we got to Mackinaw City, but it was canceled due to high winds. Which, considering how green around the gills Anne was looking after the very bumpy ferry ride over, is probably for the best. It was akin to riding a good log flume and Anne had forgotten her Dramamine.

Just a few of the zillion or so bikes moving through downtown at any given time. Click to embiggen.

Just a few of the zillion or so bikes moving through downtown at any given time. Click to embiggen.

The island is interesting in part because there are no automobiles allowed other than a handful for emergency services (fire, ambulance, etc.). If you want to get around the island you either walk, employ a horse of some fashion, or ride a bicycle. Anne and I are still working on getting into the habit of walking and our hotel was a couple of miles further into the island from the downtown area near the shore so we took the hotel shuttle back and forth rather than trying to walk it as we didn’t want to be unable to walk once we got there. I’d guess the stretch of shops and attractions is at least a mile or so long and we walked up and down it a couple of times over the day and a half we were there so we definitely got our exercise in.

It was fascinating seeing all the horse drawn carriages and flatbed service vehicles. The island’s UPS person had his own wagon that he pulled around with the items he had to deliver, but he was still dressed in his traditional brown uniform. It definitely gives you a good idea of a time period before cars became ubiquitous and how much slower life was as a result. The trip to and from the hotel into town was 25 to 35 minutes depending on how many folks the horses had to haul. It was much quicker if you used a bicycle.

Random tourists and more bikes outside of Doud's Market.

Random tourists and more bikes outside of Doud’s Market. Click to embiggen!

Speaking of which, this island would be paradise for bike enthusiasts like George Wiman. The number of people on bicycles is just amazing once you get into mid-morning and beyond. The amount of horeshit all over the place is pretty amazing too, though the teams of people who clean it up do a surprisingly good job at it. Still, if we ever have to go back to a car-less society, I vote we stick to bicycles and not horses. You can bring your own bike to the island (we saw a number of folks in far better shape than we doing  just that) or you can rent them from any of a dozen vendors at fairly reasonable prices. The island is quite hilly so you’ll want something with at least three gears to make going up those hills a bit easier. They had every kind of bike you can imagine for rent including tandems and those third-wheel extensions that allowed a child to sit behind an adult and contribute to the effort. We didn’t rent bikes this time out, but we’re planning on going back and doing so next time.

So that’s a small update on what I’ve been doing over the past few days. Needless to say, my legs are very sore from all the walking. Not to mention being on the third floor of the mansion/hotel we stayed in that doesn’t have an elevator. We had a good time and if you’ve never been to Mackinac Island then I would highly recommend it. One thing I was fascinated with is the idea of living there year-round which there’s about 500 people who do just that. They had a DVD on sale about living there during the winter which made it seem very idyllic, but the handful of folks we talked to said it could be pretty rough. There’s a period of time where there’s too much ice for the ferries to make the trip, but the ice bridge hasn’t quite formed yet so unless you fly out (there’s a small airport on the island) you’re pretty isolated. Oh, but what a place to be stranded! The homes are amazing and the view is wonderful.

Here’s a few more photos to close this entry out:

The Engineer Guy on why the Dvorak keyboard failed.

Being a professional computer technician in general, and a blogger in particular, I spend a lot of time with my hands on a keyboard. Specifically a QWERTY keyboard. I taught myself to type quickly using a minimum of fingers long before I had a proper typing class in high school and, to this day, I still tend to type using a mish-mash of proper and improper techniques that looks bizarre to anyone who watches me type.

I have always used QWERTY keyboards and even though I’ve seen a Dvorak keyboard once or twice in my lifetime, I’ve never tried to use one myself. It’s always been a curiosity that you occasionally hear mythical tales about how much better it supposedly is over QWERTY, but seeing as QWERTY works fine for me I’ve never felt the need to try one. Which brings us to this interesting video by The Engineer Guy who talks about the Dvorak keyboard and the myths surrounding it:

I have to say that a 5% improvement in typing speed wouldn’t be enough for me to make the switch. My blogging is probably the most typing I’ll tend to do in a day and my speed is already faster than my thoughts can keep up with most of the time so being 5% faster wouldn’t really benefit my output any. Plus there’s the hassle of learning an entirely new keyboard layout when I am, fundamentally, a lazy person. Still, I found the video interesting and thought I’d share it with you in case you might as well.

Dr. Oz will never let your health get in the way of his ratings.

dr-oz-memeThe popularity of celebrity doctors always baffles me. Whether its Dr. Phil — whose license to practice psychology has been retired since 2006 — or, more recently, Dr. Oz.

In all fairness I have to admit that I’ve only ever watched a few episodes of Dr. Oz and those were mainly because someone else was watching it at the time, but that was enough to call into question any medical advice he has to offer. You see, he’s really big on “alternative” medicines and diet pills and he promotes them heavily on his show. Stuff like raspberry ketone or green coffee extract both of which he has proclaimed as “miracles in a bottle” on his show and both of which haven’t been shown to do jack or shit when it comes to weight loss. However, the lack of scientific evidence beyond a sketchy study or two isn’t enough to prevent Dr. Oz from promoting them heavily.

At it turns out, these outrageous claims by Dr. Oz have been egregious enough to land him in front of a Senate subcommittee that’s looking into the whole green coffee extract nonsense. There he was grilled by Senator Clair McCaskill, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. She did not go easy on him:

“When you feature a product on your show, it creates what has become known as ‘Oz Effect,’ dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products,” the Senator explained. “I’m concerned that you are melding medical advice, news and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.”

via Dr. Oz Grilled By Senator Over “Miracle” Weight-Loss Claims – Consumerist.

It’s a fair statement and you’re probably guessing that Dr. Oz ended up feigning ignorance or trying to claim the products really do work. Nope, he admits that — at best — the products he promotes as “miracles” are crutches that can not replace proper diet and exercise:

Dr. Oz openly admitted that the weight-loss treatments he mentions on the show are frequently “crutches… You won’t get there without diet and exercise,” and that while he believes in the research he’s done, the research done on these treatments would probably not pass FDA muster.

“If the only message I gave was to eat less and move more — which is the most important thing people need to do — we wouldn’t be very effectively tackling this complex challenge because viewers know these tips and they still struggle,” said the doctor. “So we search for tools and crutches; short-term supports so that people can jumpstart their programs.”

In short, he knows better. As he should if his medical degree is legitimate in any sense of the word. McCaskill wasn’t letting him off the hook so easily:

Sen. McCaskill quoted three statements that the great and doctorful Oz had made about different weight-loss treatments on his show:

•(On green coffee extract) — “You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found the magic weight-loss for every body type.”

•(On raspberry ketone) — “I’ve got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat” (raspberry ketone)

•(On garcinia cambogia) — “It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

“I don’t get why you say this stuff, because you know it’s not true,” said McCaskill. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?”

At this point the good doctor defended his claims on the basis that he believes the products in question do work despite the lack of any reason to do so and then admitted that his claims result in scam artists jumping to sell this crap to everyone dumb enough to listen to him, often using his likeness and statements to endorse it:

“I do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show,” responded Dr. Oz, who acknowledged that statements he’s made in the past have encouraged scam artists and others looking to make a quick buck on people looking for an easy way to lose weight.

“I do think I’ve made it more difficult for the FTC,” he continued. “In the intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language. I used language that was very passionate that ended up being not very helpful but incendiary and it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.”

Call me old fashioned, but when you’re making medical claims I would think you would want to avoid “flowery” language. However, this raises another point: The intent of Dr. Oz’s show isn’t to give you sound medial advice. It’s to entertain you. He feels he has to engage his viewers by making outrageous claims because apparently the truth won’t get him the ratings that really pulls in the big bucks.

“My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience and when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I wanna look — and I do look — everywhere… for any evidence that might be supportive to them,”

In short, he’s selling false hope. He’s willing to promote whatever quackery he can find that offers the smallest of hopes based on the flimsiest of evidence. Sure, that’ll probably make you feel good, but it isn’t doing you any favors. He’s perpetuating nonsense that does nothing but lighten your wallet. The worst part is, he knows it. A lot of the other pseudoscience bullshit peddlers out there at least have the excuse that they’re not really doctors or trained in medicine. Dr. Oz is and he admits that he knows better, but that won’t get him the ratings he needs.

Theories on God.

2013-05-22-The-Miracle

By Jonathan Rosenberg over at Scenes From A Multiverse

Jonathan posted this comic last year and I’ve had it bookmarked forever waiting for the proper post to use it on and then I decided it deserved its own post. It’s eerily similar to actual conversations I’ve had with True Believers™. You should go read Scenes From A Multiverse a lot. It’s quite good. Though there are some comics I don’t quite grasp. Probably because I’m not as smart as Jonathan is. Still, it’s worth reading even those.

Amazon just launched Prime Music.

PrimeMusicI love Amazon Prime. We signed up for it a year and a half ago and it’s been worth every penny. Between the large collection of TV shows and Movies we can stream for free and/or rent and the free two-day shipping, it’s paid for itself in a matter of weeks. Now Amazon has made it even better with the launch of Prime Music.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member you can now listen to over a million songs, without ads, on almost any device, at no additional charge. You can even download the songs to your mobile device to listen in places without Internet access. I think the only thing you can’t do with them is burn them to a CD, but if you want to do that it’s pretty easy to purchase the MP3 you just listened to.

This won’t completely replace Pandora for me because the point of Pandora is to be exposed to stuff I might like that I don’t know about and Prime Music doesn’t appear to offer a similar function. Still, it’ll come in handy when I decide that I really like some group I’ve just been newly exposed to and want to hear a whole album from them. Plus I can make playlists of stuff I haven’t gotten around to buying yet. If you’re a Prime member you should check it out.

This is a familiar scene at dinner time in the Jenkins’ house.

heywhatchaeatin

Don’t tell me what to read.

funny-Jack-Nicholson-careRuth Graham over at Slate thinks it’s shameful that adults are reading fiction aimed at kids:

Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books.

As The Fault in Our Stars barrels into theaters this weekend virtually guaranteed to become a blockbuster, it can be hard to remember that once upon a time, an adult might have felt embarrassed to be caught reading the novel that inspired it. Not because it is bad—it isn’t—but because it was written for teenagers.

I have two words for Ms. Graham: Fuck you.

I don’t read a lot of fiction because — and this is something I’ve said many times in the past — I’m very picky about what I read and I have the bad habit of judging books by their covers. The vast majority of my personal library is composed of non-fiction books, usually of a scientific bent. There are, however, authors whose books I will buy without even asking what they’re about simply because I’ve enjoyed their work in the past. Some of them are “young adult” authors such as J.K. Rowling. I don’t care if they’re not aimed at my demographic, I only care if I’m entertained by them. It’s the same reason I often go see “kids movies” like How To Train Your Dragon or Toy Story or Kung Fu Panda even though my own kid is now 23 years old.

Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this. I know, I know: Live and let read. Far be it from me to disrupt the “everyone should just read/watch/listen to whatever they like” ethos of our era. There’s room for pleasure, escapism, juicy plots, and satisfying endings on the shelves of the serious reader. And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.

Again, fuck you. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve never completely grown up, but I’m of the opinion that if someone is enjoying what they’re reading then we should probably be happy they’re reading at all. My wife reads all manner of vampire and werewolf stories from authors I’ve never heard of that to me all look like the same story over and over again, but she’s happy reading them. Meanwhile, I tend to buy every book Neil Gaiman puts out regardless of whether it’s aimed at kids, young adults, or adults. I don’t understand the popularity of shows like American Idol, but I’m not going to begrudge someone’s enjoyment of it. Especially when I occasionally tune in to watch a kid’s show like Adventure Time.

I’m a huge fan of Mark Twain, but I’ve never read any of his classic stories. I have read a lot of his essays and talks and magazine articles. I’m a fan of his in spite of not having read the things he’s most famous for. The other night I realized I had a book containing a collection of his stories that included Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I have no idea where I got it, probably a gift from someone who knows I’m a Mark Twain fan, but there it was and for the first time I opened it up and starting reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Interestingly enough, in the preface to the story Mark Twain had this to say:

Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.

I wonder what Ms. Graham would have to say about that? Tom Sawyer is considered a literary classic and yet Twain says he aimed it at children. Should I be embarrassed to be reading it now that I’m 46 years old? I know some who might argue I should be embarrassed that I’m haven’t read it sooner.

Perhaps I’m not very sophisticated about the entertainment I consume. If so, then so be it. I often dismiss “serious” movies because they don’t have enough explosions for me to spend the money to see them in theaters. I generally don’t give a shit which ones win “Best Movie” at the Oscars because it’s often stuff that bores me to tears. I don’t pay attention to the New York Time’s Best Seller lists. And my musical tastes are often off-kilter to what’s popular.

I’m not ashamed by any of that. I don’t see why others should be about what they’re into. And anyone who thinks I, or anyone else, is worthy of being looked down on because I’m not into the same shit they are can go fuck themselves.

OH HOLY HELL! The KNEES! The KNEES are EVERYWHERE!!!

An example of the threat to man's holiness! Just look at it! Being all sexy and shit! Who wouldn't think impure thoughts with that being shoved in their face by those wicked vixens!

An example of the threat to man’s holiness! Just look at it! Being all sexy and shit! Who wouldn’t think impure thoughts with that being shoved in their face by those wicked vixens! Where’s my fainting couch?!?

Pity poor Pastor Martyn Ballestero for he is traumatized on a regular basis. The source of his torture is the scandalous sight of naked knees at church where they tempt the menfolk from the path of righteousness.

They’re Everywhere!! | The Ballestero Blog

They never used to be seen in Pentecostal Churches, but they are now. If they were ever seen in church in the old days, an embarrassed apology was made. But not any more!

Now, they come to many church and do not mind being obvious about showing up. They seem to enjoy the attention they attract, too.

Some of the time they come to church and no one notices them when they walk in, after they finally sit down. Then it’s like, they say Boo! and get your attention. They sure know how to catch folks off guard.

Damn those sneaky knees with their seductive caps baring it all in such a wanton display of lust! And all that noise making with the constant “boo”ing that interrupts my sermons and gives me awkward boners that make the baby Jesus cry!

I remember them never being seen in church anywhere years ago. But now, they’ve evidently got religion and so they come to almost every service.

In the old days, someone would try to help them hide from if they came, and make sure they stayed out of sight, but no effort is being made anymore. They seem to enjoy being seen in church. More and more of the folks are becoming comfortable around them.

[…] It used to be a problem when they showed up anywhere, especially church. But now, they’ve even come to church with some preacher’s wives and daughters. Go figure.

Clearly the solution to this problem is to insist that people leave their knees at home! Or, better yet, people should never acquire knees in the first place. All they ever do is spread temptation everywhere they go. Oh why can’t we go back to Victorian times when knees — and women —  knew their proper place?!?

It’s good to know there are holy men out there who are standing up against the encroaching scourge of uncovered knees. Why just imagine what would happen if we let this slide? Next you know folks will be wearing shirts with sleeves that stop above the elbow! That’s just crazy!

Today’s I Feel Old Video: Kids reacting to an Apple II computer.

The Fine Bros. are at it again. Tormenting today’s youth with the technology of yesteryear. This time out they sit a bunch of them down in front of a venerable Apple II computer to see if they can make heads or tails of it:

I can’t blame the kids for not appreciating the Apple II. It was a pain in the ass compared to the Commodore 64, but I admit to having some bias in that regard. I’m pretty sure they’d have had just as hard a time figuring out a C64. Especially if they had to use a tape drive instead of a floppy drive, but at least the games would’ve been a lot better. And in color!