Pseudoscience

The Science of Fooling Dumb People

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Pseudoscience is believing in things that claim to be scientific, in the absence of any scientific evidence. What is in us that drives this obsession with believing in things that make no logical sense? Dianetics, astrology, flat earthers, holocaust deniers: all of these are silly beliefs to hold and I cannot understand why anyone would. Is it a lack of education? Are people just trying to troll people by saying they think the earth is flat like a pizza? What are these people thinking? I’m going to look into Scientology specifically.

Scientology

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Scientologists believe some crazy shit, even for religious folks. Among many things, they believe humans are temporary form, inhabited by your infinite self – not solely unique among religions. A being named Xenu (pictured above), who was the dictator of the Galactic Federation, brought his kin to Earth – which was then named Teegeeack– 75 million years ago on what is essentially an airplane, killed them with hydrogen bombs and their thetans cause spiritual harm to human beings. You sign billion year contracts, guaranteeing that your future incarnations will also be indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology. This church robs people out of millions of dollars, and strings them along with nothing but more and more nonsense and secrecy, used to keep the carrot on the string so they keep spending more money to achieve the next OT (operating thetans) level.

They believe that humans evolved from clams, all psychiatrists are demons, and that any critic of Scientology can be harmed in defense of the church – also not uncommon among religious types. If an elite member of of the church misbehaves, they get taken to The Hole, a prison where it’s reported that you get all kinds of strange punishments. It has been reported that you may be forced to stand in a trash bin while being sprayed with water, cleaning toilets with toothbrushes, and sleeping on a cement floor with bugs all around.

And this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. All of these things were written by a man who wrote an insane amount of science fiction novels. We know this for a fact, and yet people choose to believe anything he’s written down as some sort of historical account of the universe. Leah Remini, among many others, have gotten out of the church and gone on a sort of crusade to bring light to what actually goes on in the church, especially the higher echelon. She reports missing people, and being held ‘captive’ after questioning things like Tom Cruise’s behavior.

If someone were brought up in this brain-washing church, I can understand why someone would have no other choice but to believe. Everyone in the church acts as a watch-guard to the other members, and must report any misbehavior. Similar to North Korea, this forces everyone to not want to step out of line, because all eyes are watching. It’s almost genius. But it’s the folks who choose to adopt Scientology late in life that confuse me.  What do people think before signing their soul away for a billion years?

Flat Earth Society

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Now this is another one that confuses me greatly. I’m nearly certain that a lot of folks claiming to believe that Earth is flat are just trolling people. I certainly hope that a decent number of folks who presumably have a high school  education would believe that we live on a large pizza-like object floating in space. They seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of physics, in thinking that all of the water would move to the ‘south’ end of the planet because of gravity. Flat Earthers also believe that there is some kind of giant ice wall in Antarctica, which marks the edge of the planet. How do these people explain how you could fly west in one direction continuously and land in the same spot? We don’t live on the face of a coin, folks. Why would we have time zones?

I think these people have demonstrated that they have no clue what they’re talking about. Of course the Earth seems flat because we have no sense of scale. As you travel along around the globe, of course it would appear flat, because we’re so small that we cannot see it. But when you fly in an airplane you can actually see the curvature of the Earth. They also claim that no photos of the whole earth have ever been taken, which is demonstrably untrue, but they refuse to accept any evidence to the contrary. Why are all of the continents not on the same plane in these photos?

What the hell, people?

It’s nearly impossible for me to wrap my head around how people believe these things. I don’t have the mental energy to commit to these thoughts any more. Are people really doing it just to annoy others?

Is it easier to just be dumb?

 

 

Sundays

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Sunday: the alleged day of rest, but is usually spent recovering from binge drinking due to the fact that Monday shall come once again. I’m just as guilty. A few months ago, I gave up drinking, because I realized I was pouring alcohol into my emotional problems. Not a healthy relationship with the substance. And that’s on me. I don’t preach to anyone to stop drinking, I just cannot stop drinking once that first drop of liquor touches my lips. If only marijuana was legal, society would be much better, I feel. It’s not like we live in a sober society anyway, so this ‘war on drugs’ is completely arbitrary. No news there, but it’s obvious that a lot of people don’t want to be sober all the time, and they want to escape reality. Is it because alcohol keeps you dumb?

I really wish I could locate a job that I really want to go to every day. I’ve always had a soft spot for writing, but it’s quite a lofty dream to hope to make any money at that. I just got my hands on a desk for my computer, finally. Now i’m sitting much more comfortably and not having constant back pains. Before this, my computer was set up on the main television in the living room, and I was hunching over the keyboard on the floor, or – sometimes- an upturned laundry basket. Not good on the spine, especially one with preexisting problems.

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My search for a better, more meaningful life continues on and on. I spend my Sundays like most: regretting the fact of what tomorrow is. Another day meaningless day wasted being unhappy with where we are. How do people do the same career for 50 years in a row? Am I just wired differently? Or have I just not found that one thing? The idea of doing a job for that long sounds like an absolute nightmare. Even something you enjoy grows old if you do it for 50 years. When is it acceptable to take a chance and try something new?

On Getting Healthy

I’ve been trying to quit smoking and get back into exercising lately, and man is it hard as hell. It’s no wonder parents put on weight. Between, work, spending time with the kids and spouse, it’s challenging to find time to exercise. I know, if you’ve got enough motivation, you can force yourself to get up earlier, or whatever, but working third shift like me and trying to get sleep in there sometime, makes it quite challenging.

I’ve managed to keep the smoking between 0 and 3 cigarettes a day, which I’m fairly proud of. As a pack-a-day (at least) smoker, this is a big adjustment. I’m keeping the cravings at bay with a vape rig, but it’s just not the same. I feel that a lot of non-smokers just don’t get that. There’s more to the habit than just the nicotine addiction.

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On that note, I did some exercise on the rowing machine this morning before taking my eldest boy off to his last day of kindergarten. I can’t believe he’s going into first grade already… where did all the time go? He’s gotten so big already, and I’m enjoying seeing him grow. I suppose he’ll be off to college in the blink of an eye. Does that feeling ever go away?

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Also, I began the high fat, low-carb keto diet this morning and so I’ll probably be keeping a daily diary of how the cycle of that goes. Eating no carbs and sugary sweets will be tough, I can tell already. But I’m determined to lose some extra fat, so I’ll be doing keto along with exercise at the gym and yoga at home. I went through a bulking up phase about a year ago, with heavy lifting, but I think I would like to cut back down to around 190lbs. I did some rowing this morning, as I said, and I think it might be my new favorite exercise. I’ll be tracking my calories and macros daily to endure the pounds begin to come off, and I’ll probably post daily as the effects of the keto diet kick in. I’m going to be eating lots of eggs, fish, and avocado.

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Randomness

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You wanna have a religious experience? Go out into the woods, and take what Terrence McKenna called a ‘heroic dose’.  Smoke weed and contemplate the universe. It’s humbling and everyone should do it. It puts us in our place in the cosmos. We’re on a floating rock, hurling through infinity and people want to argue about shirts.

Folks these days need to be humbled to existence. We’ve been “dulled by the anesthetic of familiarity” as Richard Dawkins says.

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Witness your child being born. Seeing my children for the first time changed my, all 3 times it’s happened. Incidentally, on average, I have a child for every 8.666 years of my life.

The world is full of such beauty which would seem designed, it is the result of billions of years of Darwinism. Of course the planet seems so perfect for our form of life because we’re here to contemplate it.

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Isn’t it about time we stop locking people in cages for having a fucking plant? If an adult is permitted – or required- to go die for his country, he should be permitted to smoke cannabis. The hippie in me says the government keeps it legal because weed changes the way you think. Alcohol keeps you dumb. Just ask that folks don’t get behind the wheel, as with every other substance that is legal which impairs people.

The fact that cannabis continues to be a Schedule 1 drug is absolutely absurd. ZERO medical uses? Quit fucking with us, government. I’m not going to claim that cannabis cures cancer or anything, but there’s no doubt that it helps cancer patients. The government doesn’t want it to be legal, because of the consciousness-raising effects.

Okay, I’ll take my tinfoil hat off now.

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Returning to the natural beauty of our planet, I’ve begun showing my son The Lord of the Rings films, of which I recently purchased the blu-ray extended edition boxset. Seeing all of the beautiful areas that are used to represent Middle Earth, but which actually exist is such a treat.

In watching these films again, I’m always amazed at Peter Jackson’s ability as a director, not to mention the hundreds of other people involved in production. If you’ve never seen the behind the scenes documentaries where you get to see the artists making all of the work from WETA, you definitely need to. It’s amazing.

We made it through the first half of Fellowship, and when asked what they thought my boys said “I like it, but it’s kind of really long!”  You have no idea, my boys.

Religion and Kids

“Religion teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not knowing.”
-Professor Richard Dawkins

It’s bullshit to force religion on your, or any, children. I recently had a lengthy discussion with a Jehovah’s witness, a 20 year old gentleman who seemed fairly sane and intelligent, but believes in the virgin birth, resurrection, and creationism. He also believes that Earth is approximately six thousand years old, and humans used to live to hundreds of years of age. When asked why he was a witness, he replied “My whole family does it.” Children can’t muster an intellectual defense against complex idea like religion. I spoke with the Jehovah’s witness for nearly two hours and he claims to have done research and come to the conclusion, despite the overwhelming evidence contrary to his beliefs, that he believes in miracles, the effectiveness of prayer, the whole package. Most of my questions as usual were met with the usual theist cop-out statements like “all the answers are in the bible”. Instead of being able to answer anything in a simple sentence, they avoid giving any concrete explanation. God moves in mysterious ways. Is it more likely that one man rose from the dead and was born of a virgin or that someone lied or was mistaken?

Using religion to strike fear into children, bribing with promises of heaven or blackmailing with threat of eternal punishment is not something a child needs to be haunted with. One wouldn’t look at a child and think that kid is a Republican. It sounds silly to even state in a hypothetical manner. So why is it acceptable to call a child a Catholic, Islamic or indeed, an atheist?

A child’s natural tendency is curiosity, and we should be encouraging that. They should to be taught to question everything. Everything they read, hear, and see. My wife and I are trying to instill this in our kids. If my kids grow up and want to join a faith, I’m not going to disown them. I would hope that they would have come to the conclusion to join a faith of their own free will, though, not because we forced them. This “I do it cuz that’s the way my daddy did it” mentality needs to stop. My kids will certainly have to put up with me grilling them with questions over why they chose to become religious.

The fact that the bible was written by peasants at a time when people were “even dumber than we are now” (David Cross) and translated and re-translated and edited by kings and people with agendas seems not to bother believers.

I have a real problem with “faith” because it is basically saying “I’m choosing to believe in things that go completely against established science”, and as a Get Out of Jail Free card for anything they have no logical answer for. Theists love to take advantage of gaps in knowledge in the scientific field as evidence in favor of God, claiming that since we can’t explain it now, therefore it cannot be explained, hence: God exists. These people know God exists with as much certainty as I’m sure fairies don’t. Presumably theists don’t believe in Zeus or Allah, so what’s wrong with taking it one god further?

There’s no denying that religion has some benefits. It offers a sense of community for those in need, charity, and claims to have all the answers. Which is comforting, I suppose, to people who are rightfully terrified by the infinite beauty and mystery of the universe. But that doesn’t make anything in any holy book true. And you do not need God to be a good person. People can be moral, compassionate, and charitable without the existence of a higher power. We’re capable of so much more, and don’t need God to do it.

Dark Souls

Recently I finished a play through of FromSoftware’s dark fantasy role-playing game Dark Souls, and I have to share my thoughts on how great the game is. This isn’t an uncommon opinion of course, but Dark Souls does so many things correct that I think the games industry should learn from.

Dark Souls released in 2011, following the release of FromSoftware’s cult hit Demon’s Souls. Having changed publishers, FromSoft had to develop a spiritual sequel to Demon’s Souls. Many players enjoyed how the games were refreshingly punishing; death has consequences and you hand isn’t held the whole time. The games’ director Hidetaka Miyazaki is often asked to comment on the difficulty of the games, and his answer is always that the difficulty was never the point. The games aren’t hard for the sake of it, this is a tactic used to draw you into the world and be cautious. It can also be used to punctuate big moments, like the fight with Ornstein and Smough.

Dark Souls begins with the player character waking up in the Undead Asylum, and getting freed from their cell by Oscar. This gives an in-game reason for you to listen to his request to fulfil the Undead Prophecy- dodgeroll some powerful beings to death and link the fire. This brings up one of the things that Souls games do very well, which is the fact that they try to have in-game explanations for everything. You have to suspend disbelief about magic, and demons and all that, but otherwise things in the world behave in a sensical manner.

Once the player arrives in Firelink Shrine, the beauty of the design begins to show itself. The game isescribed as “metroidvania”, which stems from Metroid and Castlevania, which emphasize an open world structure, and often opening up shortcuts or new ways to traverse the world. The level design in this game is really commendable and something I think any aspiring level designer should experience. Firelink is your hub, and most of the areas in the first half of the game are connected to it somehow. All a continuous world, unbroken by loading screens. Early on in the game, it is impossible for the player to warp around, meaning, when you want to get somewhere you have to walk there. This is why those of us who play the games go on and about the level design. Another part of the genius of Firelink is the way various npcs found around the game return to Firelink for a rest. But most of them return for a while, but then leave and can be found elsewhere in the world. This gives an amazing feeling of realism. Their function as a vendor to the player isn’t the only reason they exist. They have their own goals, outside of helping the player.

Punishing but fair. This is the best way to describe a Souls game. Upon discovering a new boss, you’ll probably die a few times but once you get their attack patterns down, you’re ready stomp some demon ass. There is a rush when you finally beat a boss that’s been giving you a hard time that not many games can accomplish.

The Lord Vessel, guarded by the game’s hardest bosses Ornstein and Smough. This functions as a bottleneck in the game. If the player can overcome Ornstein and Smough, the designers know they can throw tough things your way. Admittedly, after the Lord vessel (which allows the player to warp around) the level design takes a step down. Since the player can warp out of most areas, this means that the levels tend to end in ways that force the warping.

Games always fall victim to deadlines, of course, but it would be great to see what might have been if Dark Souls hadn’t been forced to rush its release.  The later levels, that people find lackluster, might have been some of the best in the game. Overall, people play a souls game for an experience greater than the sum of its parts. The combat is very satisfying, but it’s not deep the same way a Devil May Cry is. The attack animations are slow and uninterruptible. Bosses can be very frustrating, but a massive relief to finally overcome. The atmosphere is very bleak, which helps benevolent characters like Solaire shine even brighter.

My rambling point is: go play the fucking game. It’s great and everyone should experience it for themselves. Get past the wall of difficulty and you’ll have yourself one of the best gaming experiences ever.

Trump’s Behavior

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Today Presidnt Trump announced his withdrawal from the climate change plan with France. The only other two countries that did this are Syria and Nicaragua. Good fucking job, America. What is wrong with wanting to protect the rock on which we fucking all live? It is getting harder and harder to be proud to be an American. We should stand as an example, not the laughing stock of the world.  It seems like a majority of Trump supporters are completely oblivious to what the Dear Leader is doing. How can anyone, besides the super rich, claim to be happy with the results since he took office? Do they hate the other side that much to just ignore everything that is happening? They voted in and are supporting someone who is passing doing things that are against their best interests. If, say, Hilary Clinton had gotten in office and there was suspicion of collusion with Russians, or anyone for that matter, would they just let it go the way they are with Trump? No. I’d wager my vital organs that it would not be ignored if it were a democrat in office. He fired the person leading the investigation into his alleged collusion with Russia. Isn’t that suspicious to anyone?

Thanks to Trump’s Twitter account we get a glimpse into what he is really like, thanks to things like his “covfefe” tweet. I wonder how many prior presidents would appear so stupid if they had Twitter during their presidency.

“Just living this #Watergate covfefe!”

That aside, Trump is basically doing nothing that he promised in his campaign. How is this allowed? Why is there not an uprising? You can’t just do that. He promised better, cheaper healthcare, and available to all, but now it seems they’re trying to make healthcare even more expensive and difficult for the middle and lower class to get. He is a con man, and America was fooled by him, but at this point it isn’t funny anymore. Trump has no idea what in the hell he’s doing, and it’s costing us all.

We’re going backwards. Oil fracking, building walls, ignoring climate change, sexism, racism, religion, these are all things of the past. This dumb, tribalist attitude is something I hope we can get over as a species.

Just imagine a world where we all worked together…