Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reader questions on magic and abortion

Some more reader questions.  The email I received is in blue.  My comments are in black.
"I recently engaged in a debate over religion. Me an Atheist, he a devout Catholic, were not going to sway each others opinions, so not too long into our debate we agreed not to agree. My opponent in this debate raised two issues that I didn't quite have a solid answer for. Maybe you can help.

1)The issue of magic, There is evidence of people who possess mental powers, such as ESP or mental telepathy."

There is?!  I really don't think so.  If there are people like that, they should contact James Randi for their $1 million.  Remember, the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'evidence'.

"There is evidence that people, (maybe a Mother who knows her Child is hurt) have unexplainable mental powers that reach beyond our laws of science."

Would he care to present some of this evidence?  Has he?  I didn't see any of that in the scientific journals, he should alert them immediately!  Look, mothers worry a lot.  My mother has, very literally, thought I was dead on at least one occasion that I know of, and probably many other times that I don't.  She went so far as to call my friends and tell them there was "no hope".  In fact, I was perfectly fine.  Why isn't that cited as (anecdotal) evidence that there is no such connection?  Because the few times a panicky mother thinks her child is hurt and it is will get all of the media attention and books written about it.  Let's see how this works in a controlled experiment.  James Randi has done an experiment like this with a British man who claimed he could read the thoughts of babies.  The man attempted to win Randi's $1 million by proving he could do it.  He agreed to the terms of Randi's experiment.  He was in one room, the babies in the other.  The guy failed the test with flying colours! (I'm searching for the video on YouTube, but can't find it at the moment.  There are a lot of Randi videos.)

"This isn't really a religious question, just an unexplainable event that does happen from time to time that religious people try to tie the whole "soul" thing together as an unexplainable organ in the human body.
2) Abortion, this one is religious as well as social. When exactly does the fetus become a human being? I do not have a solid answer and I am pro-choice."

Nobody has a solid answer to this.  It's a sliding scale of development.  Check my previous post, in which I actually addressed this point and gave my opinion.

"I have every other religious belief debunked as poppycock, but these two need a little polish,
Thank you"


Feki said...

1) I do not understand how arguing on behalf of clairboyancy and magic will help the case of catholicism, but whatever.

Mostly, it is a matter of either heightened perception (eg. cold reading) obtained through discipline and training or simple stats: you predict rain all the time and eventually you'll be right.

2) And when does a chicken stops being an egg? I'd say not until the egg hatches!

You could revert with a question... when does "god" implant a soul in the fetus? Most likely answer would be "exactly at conception", but then... what happens when the zygote splits? does it mean twins have half-souls in them? And if souls are implanted after the zygote splits (week 4)... is it ok to get an abortion before that?

Sorry, this last bit is not much help, but I always like to point out the inconsistencies of religious beliefs.

It'll sound stupid but I consider that a human life starts at birth (in some cases as early as 26 weeks), that is whenever the product leaves its mother's womb and becomes a separate, independent being. However, I believe it is extremely important to consider the risks of interrumping pregnancy in advanced stages and the emotional consequences for the mother/family.

If theists were right and zygotes were actual human beings then there must be several thousand "persons" stored frozen in fertility clinics in the US. But theists only seem against abortion, not against artificial production of "would-be-people", in spite that many will end up flushed down the toilet.
This is another typical christian double standard.


sandiseattle said...

Well I'll say I don't know much about magic, but I do know this: Randi's $1M challenge is a farce. Nobody but the most naive could believe he will ever give out that money.

Admin said...

Really, Sandi? How can you say that? Has anybody even passed his test? If they did and didn't give the money, that would be newsworthy and worthy of a lawsuit! Or has anybody passed any scientific test at all on these subjects? If they did pass a scientific test, it would be in the science journals. Alas, it's not, because they haven't. Do you know why?

James Randi used to have a TV show in the UK. Time after time, people came on the show, making various claims about things they can do. And they all failed the tests. They're as fraudulent as the faith-healer that Randi exposed.

By the way, did you see my response to your comment about the effects of being a secular country?

Admin said...

I find it pretty funny that Sandi would say that, when nobody has passed the Randi test to begin with. I believe Randi has even offered to put the money into escrow, to be released to the winner upon passing the test. That part might not be true, but it's what I remember.

That psychic lady, Sylvia, has refused to even be tested. First she claimed that he didn't even have the $1 million. When he sent her legal documents saying that he did have it, she still refused to be tested. Do you know WHY, Sandi? Because Sylvia is a fraud! Even if she never got the million, how good would it be for her business if she could pass the test? Imagine the publicity! Hell, even I'D CALL HER if she could pass a scientific test (or two).

I'm open to the possibility of psychic abilities, I really am! But show me that they're not just frauds!

I'm guessing you're not going to be swayed by this reasoning, because if you asked of proof of claims, you wouldn't be a Christian in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I've been following this blog for a while and figured I'd pipe in for a bit.

I did a little research on James Randi and found the official rules here:

Rule #9 establishes that $10k of the prize money will be given to an independent party, and upon the success of the person claiming supernatural powers, the money will be surrendered by the independent party. The rest is to be payed in "negotiable bonds" by a New York investment firm.

Sounds fairly legit to me, but that is irrelevant: as the admin said, anyone able to prove he or she has any kind of supernatural power scientifically in controlled circumstances would instantly be famous, and would have people from all over the world begging to see them.

Off topic, but what brought me to this site a while back was a search for answers to questions posed by my mother, an agnostic convinced that ghosts exist, and swears she's seen them.

We got into somewhat of a debate today over the supernatural, and she claimed two personal ghost sighting claims. One of which could be easily argued as glare or a reflection on a window, the other seemed to match perfectly details from a scene of The Haunting, a show my sister and she watch occasionally, and that I happened to be watching that day as well.

What really frustrates me is that she's been accusing me of being closed minded for rejecting these stories for a lack of evidence supporting them. I respond with "Do you believe every story involving ghosts you hear? If someone told you they were abducted and experimented on by aliens, would you believe them if they were sincere?"

She, of course, said no, stating there were secular explanations for most of those happenings, but what she seems to be arguing now is for the "ghosts of the gaps." If it can't be explained, must be spooks.

I consider myself open minded, but I require a substantial amount of evidence to move me from disbelief. I wonder what exactly about certain stories make my mom, and theists as well, believe them without evidence, while others they can tell are just stories. Thats what turned me to secularism from Christianity, when my questioning of certain aspects of the bible was met with "Well thats just a metaphor for ___. Its not literal." which made me wonder, if you're to agree that one extraordinary claim of the bible is just a story when it's fairly insignificant to your overall belief system, then how can you accept another, similar extraordinary claim that is significant to your overall belief? Its like agreeing that bricks from company "A" are just red-colored sugar cubes, while continuing to build your house with them...

Sorry for the long post, I needed a break from my chemistry work :p

Jim said...

Now, I may be off base here, I am quite tired, but if someone were a psychic, wouldn't that make him/her a witch? And the church couldn't stand for that. Because what do you do with witches?

(Say it with me)

Burn them!

ANTZILLA said...

I'm an Atheist, however I don't want to be. I'd much prefer a world of magic, than this boring cause and effect world we live in.
Maybe I should have some of the mushrooms Moses had to make magic "real".

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should have some of the mushrooms Moses had to make magic "real".

Hehe, I remember one day a group of my friends (half atheist, half Christian, and one Buddhist), were talking and somehow got on the subject of religion, at which point someone proposed that we think about the bible as if Jesus were actually a reference to a hallucinogen (at which point half our group got up and left..)

Funny thing is, some of the bible stories and practices of Christians actually started making more sense. Especially the easter holiday.

I must say though, I don't quite see things the same way as Antzilla. "Magic" is a nice concept, but to me the world is beautiful and complex enough as it is. Taking something as potent as Moses Shrooms would severely distort reality, and we'd lose our ability to see the world for what it really is. Do you really want to be in the same boat as Ray of Comfort?

Jim said...

Truth be told, I would love whatever Ray Comfort is taking. To see a banana as that awesome an object, you gotta be taking some good shit.

ANTZILLA said...

LOL Anon, that post was sarcasm.
I think people Want to beleive in supernatural things that much they make them "real" to themselfs.

If the events in the bible actully did take place. Hallucinations and Schizopheina would explain most of them. I mean Moses was told Gods name from a burning bush, come on what was he on?

Admin said...

I want believe in these things! I'd love for there to be more to the human experience than there is. We have a pretty interesting one now, but isn't more better? Supernatural powers make for interesting movies and stories, and I think they would enrich our lives. But that doesn't mean that I can put on blinders and say that these things are real, when no real evidence suggests they are.

All who have claimed them have failed tests, refused to take them at all, or been proven as frauds. I'd have to be STUPID to think these things are true just because I want them to be true!

I also want it to be true that I'm next year's 'Sexiest Man Alive', as named by whatever magazine does that. I want to believe that I am the most desirable man on Earth, and that beautiful young women will show up at my door for a screw, with my girlfriend acting as willing photographer. But that don't make it so, now does it?!

Anybody who thinks that way is a sad individual. On that note, check my next post, already written but due for posting on March 28th. I auto-delayed it because I'll be on vacation at that time, and want to give y'all some fresh meat. You'll see how sad and (willingly) deluded some people are.