Archive for February, 2008

I graduated from a Christian college. However, they weren’t a Bible college – they were scientifically literate. While I don’t believe in Christianity, I do have to give them credit for getting the science right. Of course, that earned them the ire of certain Christian groups which accused them of being too liberal. About the time that I was there, a minor controversy was sparked when one of the professors wrote a book saying that the universe was old, and man evolved. I don’t think his ideas weren’t controversial among the faculty, but it was with the parents. (It must be rough trying to be a scientifically literate Christian professor, with so many Christians being touchy about evolution.) I generally got the feeling that professors had to do a balancing act – teach the real science, but don’t piss off the parents.

Anyway, I was looking through a mailing I received from my old college tonight. I noticed a short excerpt about book created by two professors at the college titled “Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design & Evolution”. Curious about what they might say, I googled it and found the website for the book. Much of the discussion was couched in very tame, conciliatory language to reconcile science and religion. (Of course, it might still spark controversy with the parents, because many people are unwilling to budge on the issue.) I’m sure Ken Miller would agree with virtually everything they say. It’s good to see Christian institutions avoid dogmatic insistence on creationism or intelligent design. They even talk about evidence for common descent of all life, including whale evolution and human evolution from apes. On the common descent of cats:

Psuedogenes are broken or non-functional genes. Mammals have sweet receptor genes that allow them to taste that certain foods are sweet. It was recently discovered that in cats one of these sweet receptor genes is a pseudogene. Because cats have a pseudogene instead of a functioning gene, cats cannot taste sweet flavors. For most mammals the inability to taste sweets would be a bad thing because foods that taste sweet are high in energy. But since different cat species mainly eat meat, they are not particularly harmed by the inability to taste sweets. Scientists believe that long ago a common ancestor of lions, tigers, house cats, and other cat species had a mutation that turned their sweet receptor gene into a pseudogene, but this did not harm them because they were already eating mostly meat. This pseudogene was then passed down to all their offspring. If cats were created separately, without common ancestry with other mammals, there would be no particular reason for cats to have a sweet receptor pseudogene. But if God created cats using the mechanisms of evolution and common ancestry with other mammals, then it makes sense that they might have such a pseudogene.

All of this is strong evidence for common ancestry and is consistent with the theory of evolution. When scientists construct family trees of different species based on similarities of genomic organization, introns, and pseudogenes, they get a tree that matches the family tree built by comparing similarities in ordinary genes, and this in turn matches the family tree built by studying fossils.

Here’s an excerpt from the section on abiogenesis:

Supporters of Intelligent Design argue that even the simplest living organism is far too complex to self-assemble. They argue that it is very improbable that a living cell could form simply out of chemicals interacting with each other without the aid of some sort of intelligent being to guide the process.

What are the chances that a simple living cell might self-assemble on the early earth? Again, the answer to that question depends on the assumptions made. We could imagine a warm pond of water with various simple organic molecules dissolved in it and then calculate the probability that millions of the right molecules will randomly collide together to spontaneously form a living cell. The probability of that happening is extremely low. (This scenario is sometimes compared to the probability that a tornado will go through a junkyard and spontaneously assemble an airplane.) Scientists long ago rejected the idea.

Today scientists have different theories about how the first cell might self-assemble, step-by-step, out of simpler pieces. For example, organic molecules could have been concentrated by geographical features such as ponds that repeatedly evaporate and then refill. Mineral clays could have helped form long chain molecules and held them in place long enough to assemble into larger structures. Deep underground fissures, regions near volcanoes, or deep ocean hydrothermal vents might have provided more likely environments for life to form. Given our current state of knowledge, these scientists conclude that we don’t know enough yet to calculate whether abiogenesis is probable or improbable. Once again, the problem is too difficult. We hope that scientific research over the next several decades will provide a better answer.

As long as science does not have a definite conclusion, it would be best to exercise some humility and caution. It would be reasonable for supporters of Intelligent Design theory to say,
* “Scientists at present do not have a good, detailed explanation for how first life could self-organize without outside intelligent intervention.”
* “We believe that abiogenesis is very improbable and that future scientific research will convincingly show that it is very improbable.”

However, it seems like a bad idea for supporters of Intelligent Design to say,
* “We are certain that scientists will never find a good explanation for how first life could self-organize.”
* “We have proven that it is very improbable.”

It would be reasonable for critics of Intelligent Design theory to say,
* “Scientists at present do not have a detailed explanation for how first life could self-organize, but they have some theories that might be true and are worth investigating.”
* “We believe that future scientific research will convincingly show how it happened.”

However, it seems like a bad idea for them to say,
* “We are certain that scientists will find a good explanation for how first life could self-organize.”
* “We have proven that it happened.”

In another article on our website (“Are Planetary Orbits Stable?”) we told a story that comes from the time of Isaac Newton and Pierre de Laplace. During those decades it was scientifically uncertain whether the orbits of the planets in our solar system were stable over very long periods of time or whether the orbits were unstable and needed to be corrected (perhaps by some sort of divine intervention) every few centuries or so. Not very many people alive at the time would have been aware that this was an unanswered scientific question. But if they had been aware, some Christians at the time might have preferred that scientists prove that the planetary orbits were stable because it seems like “better design.” Other Christians might have preferred that scientists prove that the planetary orbits were unstable because it gives more direct evidence for God’s existence and governance of nature.

Today it is scientifically uncertain whether or not abiogenesis is possible. That would seem to be proof of God’s existence and intervention in the natural world. If God is going to miraculously intervene at some point in the history of life, the very beginning of life would be an obvious place. God could do a miracle once to get life started and then use the natural mechanisms of evolution to develop all the species. But other Christians would prefer that scientists eventually prove that abiogenesis and the evolution of complexity are possible because it would show that God designed an incredibly clever system of finely tuned natural laws.

While it’s reasonable for Christians to have preferences one way or the other, it’s important to remember that our belief in God does not rest on how the science turns out. If the scientific claim of Intelligent Design theory turns out to be true and abiogenesis is impossible, then we can stand in awe that God intervened to organize simple molecules into complex creatures. If the scientific claim of Intelligent Design theory turns out to be false, we can be equally in awe that God designed an astonishing system of natural laws in which living organisms can self-organize out of simpler pieces.

I suppose someone could point out that they are really playing it safe by praising God for the outcome no matter what happens, at least they’re not being dogmatic about the science and they are keeping Christians’ minds open to other possibilities. I also happen to agree with virtually everything they said (minus the parts about God), and think it’s a reasonable position for theists to take. It’s also an interesting contrast with the kinds of rhetoric we see coming out of groups like AIG and the Discovery Institute, and a reminder that this is a three-way battle within Christian circles.

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PZ Myers’ recent post, which included a creationist mangling whale evolution, reminded me of this series of videos:

Parts 1-3:

The author of these videos has made a lot more. Right now, there are seventeen videos in the series.

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Barak Obama is the Antichrist?

While looking over the latest posts in Fundies Say The Darndest Things, I found this quote:

I go to church sometimes but I am not as religious as I would like to be. My niece is convinced that Obama is the anti christ. She quoted from the Bible different things about how people would act and how the anti christ would fool people….scary! I am not convinced ,but it is kind of strange how people are screaming at his rallies .. screaming they love him is kinda different! What do you all think? Could he be?????

The thing is: this idea isn’t all that uncommon. Do a google search on Obama + antichrist, and you’ll come up with 191,000 hits. Much of this seems to be based off of the fact that Obama is a good public speaker, religious (but not part of the religious-right), and they don’t like him. (Read: the antichrist is tricky – he knows how to use religious language to seduce people into voting for liberals.) Obviously, we need another George W. Bush – based on his fumbling of the English language, there’s no way he’s an evil antichrist-level mastermind.

Kinda stupid that voting in this country is disrupted by the avoidance of prophecies that aren’t going to come true. Additionally, fundamentalists never seem to recognize the fact that Christians of every century saw their world colored by the book of revelations, and ignorantly named the antichrist over and over. But, who needs an informed democracy?


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Maybe the reporters just really screwed up the reporting here, but ScienceDaily is claiming that a majority of Americans doesn’t think nanotechnology is morally acceptable: “In a sample of 1,015 adult Americans, only 29.5 percent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable.” They go on to say that europeans are more likely to see nanotechnology as morally acceptable (54% in the UK, 62% in Germany, 72% in France). In fact, I’m surprised that those numbers aren’t 100% everywhere. I had no idea nanotechnology was the least bit controversial. The article says that religion is somehow playing a role, and that nanotechnology is tantamount to “playing God”. (A phrase which is thrown around a lot, but I still don’t understand why medicine isn’t “playing God”.) Hopefully, this will fade away like complaints about artificial insemination did (although the Catholic Church apparently still calls it “morally unacceptable” even when it involves married couples).

On a related note, China is planning to expand their nanotechnology research. Meanwhile, the West is being held back by poorly thought-out religious concerns?

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Caroline Crocker was a professor at a community college a few years ago. She taught Intelligent Design in her biology class. Subsequently, she didn’t have her contract renewed. Not surprisingly, she showed up in the movie Expelled. The IDists have been trying their best to make her look respectable and victimized. Well, recently, some of her powerpoint slides got leaked onto the internet, making her claims to innocence and respectability seem pretty hollow. Here’s a nice little mash-up of the information about Crocker. (The images are from Crocker’s talk.)

IDEA Center Press Release: “Dr. Crocker has top academic credentials, and she received rave reviews as a professor working with students at George Mason University before the university ousted her because she mentioned intelligent design in a class.”

Right – she got ousted because she “mentioned” intelligent design in class. (roll eyes) See slides below.

Former Student: “I ended up having to drop her class just because of her attitude and her teaching methods. She has this pompous I’m-right-you’re-wrong type of personality and she seems to play favorites. I learned later from someone in the class that I had dropped that not one person got an A. Pick another teacher if you can.”

Idea Center Press Release: “Caroline Crocker is the ideal person to come on board as the first Executive Director of the IDEA Center,” said Casey Luskin, co-founder of the IDEA Center.

Former Student: “She doesn’t know the material she teaches. She is unclear and changes her mind often. She doesn’t know how to answer students’ questions. Grading scale is out of wack; watch out for her subtracting points out of nowhere! Most exam questions are not on the material she lectures on. She uses a different textbook and not the assigned book.”

Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture: First there was the monkey. He sat on the left side of the picture, it was a happy chimpanzee, and to the right sat a brooding person. And between the monkey and the person was an arrow with the point aimed at the person, with a question mark over the arrow. This is how Caroline Crocker began her lecture in “Introduction to Biology” course 101 at the George Mason University … By the end of the first hour the nice, secure world of the students was thoroughly messed up, since they had now learned something entirely new: no, wrong, humans did not descend from apes. Most of the students even found that convincing. The university administration quickly sent Caroline Crocker the pink sheet.

She wasn’t “quickly sent … the pink sheet”. She didn’t have her contract renewed. And I highly doubt that “Most of the students even found that convincing.”, rather, I’m sure most students either had their theistic worldviews strengthened or realized they were dealing with a professor on an ideological crusade.

Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture: Without her one could discard the whole controversy as the latest episode of the American freak show: the Americans are nuts, that’s nothing new, there are all kinds of crazy people there … they are all sort of fat, dumb and Bible-believing … With Caroline Crocker the story gets more complicated. She is neither fat nor dumb, she has a PhD in biology, has written books in pharmacology and taught at excellent universities. One cannot simply shrug her off as crazy, one must take her seriously, one must hear her out, one must think things through with her. That is unpleasant, strenuous and confusing.

It is, indeed confusing – obviously, she has no ideological axe to grind. Take this next slide from her lecture as an example. Obviously, it’s the Darwinists who are involved in spin.

Just the facts. For example, it’s important for students to know the “fact” that Darwin was a “rich kid who enjoyed partying, drinking, and gambling.” (What, she left off the part about killing babies and being a pimp?)

Coral Ridge Ministries: I was so careful when I wrote that lecture not to be partial in any way. I was very careful to make sure that I would talk about point by point the evidence that the book would put forward for evolution and then talk about point by point the experiments and say “Well, you know, there’s a problem here.”

Nature: “Caroline Crocker says that she hadn’t meant to start a controversy when she mentioned intelligent design while teaching her second-year cell-biology course at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, last semester…. Crocker tells how she has been barred by her department from teaching both evolution and intelligent design. “It’s an infringement of academic freedom,” she says…. She maintains that the talks help students to think independently about ideas such as evolution. “My goal is to teach students to think for themselves,” she says.”

Right – think for themselves. She presents a lot of bad information, and holds control over their grades. It’s odd that Crocker would even try to present an image of even-handedness. Oh right – that’s the IDist way: lie to the press to make yourself appear more sympathetic.

Here’s a quote from Caroline Crocker’s website (inappropriately named “IntellectualHonesty.info”):

Caroline Crocker’s website, “IntellectualHonesty.info”: “[Caroline Crocker] believes that we must be courageous enough to look the scientific evidence in the face and assess it in as impartial a manner as possible even if it means giving up dearly-held philosophical viewpoints… She promotes logic and right thinking, rather than emotion and knee-jerk reactions, when assessing the information gathered… It is a fact that ad hominem attacks and the banning of certain thoughts stand in the way of the advancement of science.”

Oh, the hypocrisy. She describes Darwin as a “rich kid who enjoyed partying, drinking, and gambling” and “failed at medical school” and then condemns ad hominem attacks.

If it’s all about the evidence, then why does she promote such obvious falsehoods as:

Christianpost: Crocker denies teaching creationism at George Mason University. Rather, she contends that she taught only one lecture on the evidence for and against evolution and did not even mention creationism.

“What I really wanted to do was in an intellectually honest manner give the evidence for evolution, but also the question about evolution – the scientific critiques – that’s all I did,” Crocker said.

See – she did it in an intellectually honest manner. She taught both sides – the “evidence for and against evolution”. By the way, what is this “evidence for” evolution that she teaches?

Washington Post: “There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution,” Crocker said. Besides, she added, she saw her role as trying to balance the “ad nauseum” pro-evolution accounts that students had long been force-fed.

Oh right – she doesn’t teach anything that supports evolution. She merely claims that she does because it makes her look more fair and sympathetic.

I especially like the quote at the end of this slide. It quotes Werner Von Braun, a rocket scientist. And we all know rocket scientists are the smartest people in the world – they know about everything:

Washington Post: “Crocker said, [microevolution is] quite different from macroevolution. No one has ever seen a dog turn into a cat in a laboratory.”

That’s an “intellectually honest” critique, isn’t it? Nevermind the fact that turning a dog into a cat in a laboratory would be indicative of magic or a divine miracle, and would never be predicted by evolution. But, we’re supposed to believe that she just presents “the scientific critiques”?

One has to wonder: as a microbiologist, did Crocker get all of her information about paleontology and larger lifeforms from creationists?

WashingtonPost: The theory of intelligent design holds that while the evolutionary forces of random genetic mutation and natural selection may shape species on a small scale, they cannot account for the kind of large-scale differences between, say, chimpanzees and humans.

In other words, they hold that a few beneficial mutations can occur and spread through the population over a small amount of time, but that many beneficial mutations cannot accumulate over a large amount of time.

Does she even know what the evidence for macroevolution is? Does she attempt to answer the question of why we find identical genetic errors in humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas – assuming we don’t have a common ancestor?

WashingtonPost: [Crocker’s husband, Richard believes] she has become the victim of scientific authoritarianism. It is one thing to believe his wife is wrong, Richard Crocker told me, and quite another to deprive her of her right to speak.

It’s unclear why this amounts to “[depriving] her of her right to speak”. She works for the IDEA center – a pro-IDist group. She gets paid to speak. If anything, she has been “deprived” of her “right” to get paid by a college while teaching students in their classrooms poor criticisms of evolution. I think that’s censorship because everyone should have the right to get paid by colleges to teach kids whatever they want. (It should be added that the college denies not renewing her contract because of ID.) So remember: if you ever sign a contract to teach at a university and you teach ID, then the university will be required to renew your contract forever – or else be accused of attacking free speech.

So yeah, the Darwinists have “[deprived] her of her right to speak”. (Please ignore the fact that she lists speaking fees on her website as $1000, $1,500, or $5000 for four talks.) The evil Darwinists have taken away her constitutionally protected rights! (Fees do not cover travel expenses, which must be covered by the client.)

Caroline Crocker’s website: Caroline Crocker is the Executive Director of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, as well as being self-employed in the Washington DC area as an author, speaker, and private tutor. She is working on her first non-academic book, Science Censored, on her experiences as a full time university lecturer who strove to present Darwinian evolution from an intellectually honest viewpoint.

Caroline Crocker’s website: “[Caroline Crocker] is a popular speaker on issues of science and faith, addressing school, church, and other audiences. Dr. Crocker has also written magazine articles and been extensively interviewed for media, such as books, newspapers, T.V. and movies.”

“Deprived of her of her right to speak” just ain’t what it used to be. But, then neither is honesty, apparently.

IDEA Center Press Release: I am excited about helping students in IDEA Clubs to investigate intelligent design in an intellectually honest manner,” said Dr. Crocker.


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One of the absurd ideas of Christianity is the whole notion of having a personal relationship with God. In many cases, Christians will believe that God is talking back to them or guiding them. In my late teens (growing up in a fundamentalist family), I couldn’t help but notice how frequently ‘God’s instructions’ tended to be bad advice in hindsight. I had also seen different Christians come to different conclusions when they prayed for God’s guidance. I came to the conclusion that ‘God’s instructions’ were little more than the deep feelings of whomever was praying mixed with thoughts about what God would instruct someone to do (and that was influenced by their own beliefs about God – was God primarily concerned with justice and righteousness, or was he mainly concerned with loving people). Hence, judgmental Christians tended to get “instructions from God” that were more judgmental. Loving Christians tended to get “instructions from God” that were more loving. Most Christians were smart enough to stay away from specific predictions about future events because those could be proven false – and what would that mean for their faith?

Well, Pat Robertson, always confident that he hears God’s voice, made yet another failed prediction. Amazing that these people never learn from experience, isn’t it?

FOX News, January 03, 2007: Pat Robertson’s Dire Prediction

Today on the show we talked about New Year’s predictions, specifically from evangelist Pat Robertson. His big prediction is that a major terrorist attack will happen somewhere in the U.S. after September of this year and it will affect millions of people. He says he received word from God about this event. He’s put out predictions before — some right and some wrong. Hopefully he will not be right about this one.

Breitbart, January 2, 2007: Robertson Predicts ‘Mass Killing’

In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson predicted Tuesday that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in “mass killing” late in 2007.

“I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to be nuclear,” he said during his news-and-talk television show “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “The Lord didn’t say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that.”

Failed again. It’s amazing to think that three million people volunteered to work for his 1988 presidential campaign, and that he finished second in the Iowa caucus, getting 25% of the vote and beating George H.W. Bush. Heck, I remember Robertson being my parent’s favorite candidate.

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Scientology Protests

The “official” scientology protests were today. Apparently, over 200 people showed up in LA to protest their headquarters. I don’t think it will have any effect on the people inside (it’s probably more likely to produce a bunker mentality and a visible enemy for their leaders to rail against), but it is a good thing to raise people’s awareness of the crimes and ridiculous claims of Scientology. The internet has been a good way for getting the bad information about scientology out into the public. Without it, many people would have no way of getting any information on scientology except through the “church”.

The Point of Inquiry podcast had an interview with Tory Christman (ex-Scientologist, member for 30 years). Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. I sort of think the host, D.J. Grothe, sounds too much like a reporter striving for “balance”, and it seemed like he wasn’t really thinking through some of his questions or opinions about scientology. Oddly, he sometimes seemed rather sympathetic towards scientology (though he claimed he wasn’t). And, Tory Christman’s interview was decent (but not great) – and I say that because I already knew most of what she had to say. My guess is that she doesn’t prepare for interviews – rather, she just kind of talks about whatever comes to mind during the interview.

What she does talk about:
* Tory was a high-level member of the church.
* The “church” would give her tasks to do, but were very secretive about the big picture (even though she was a member of 30 years).
* The church tried to shutdown a newsgroup frequented by ex-scientology members, and had been trying to clear all information about scientology off the internet. They are very anti-free speech.
* Scientology members were either not allowed onto the internet, or had to use a kind of “net-nanny” software that would filter their access to information about scientology. (Someone recently took apart this piece of software and found a list of the “bad terms” scientology was filtering.)
* The church bans members from reading certain books.
* She gave very large sums of money to the church (including a large inheritance). The churches “auditing” process costs enormous amounts of money, and it’s the only way to progress upward in the church. Scientology is very good at separating people from their money. For example, it’s reported that Tom Cruise gave $5 million to the church, Kirsti Alley gave $5 million to the church, and Nancy Cartwright (voice of Bart Simpson) gave $10 million to the church.
* She says that living in the church of scientology is like living inside The Truman Show – lots of facade, and members don’t realize it.
* Says scientologists spread lies about her in order to discredit her.
* Says that one of the destructive aspects of scientology is the belief that people should not take psychiatric medicines. Tory suffered seizures without her medications, and states (elsewhere) that she nearly dies trying to get off of her medications. According to the scientologists, the reason she was having seizures was because her mother was a “suppressive person” – and then prevented her from having contact with her mother.
* Scientologists often declare critics of the church “suppressive persons”. Suppressives are viewed by members as disruptive for a scientologist’s spiritual journey. SPs are essentially the devil to scientologists. The declaration that someone is “suppressive” often breaks up families and prevents existing members from having contact with former members. Thus, leaving the church means leaving your entire social network – friends, spouses, family, etc. who are still members. (Elsewhere, Tory says that the internet provides a valuable service to ex-scientology members who have been ripped from their entire social network. The internet allows them to find other ex-members, form friendships, and provide them with support during that lonely time.)
* Hubbard claimed scientology would erase the “reactive mind”, giving members a “a perfect IQ, a perfect memory, no pains”.
* Scientology involves “love bombing” – a classic cult technique where new members are showered with attention and love by existing members. The new members are so drawn in by the acceptance and love, that they stay in the cult.
* They mention Hubbard’s statement (a few years before Hubbard formed scientology) that the best way to make money was to start a religion.
* She never had any skeptical conversation with any member of scientology during her 30 years as a member.
* D.J. Grothe says that he has been overwhelmed with scientology literature and phone calls inviting him to visit their center ever since he ordered the book “Dianetics” a year ago (for research purposes).
* Lisa McPherson was kidnapped by the church when she attempted to leave scientology. She was locked away in a church building, and died two weeks later – apparently from starvation and dehydration.

What she doesn’t talk about:
* Scientology’s teachings that people who criticize scientology are guilty of horrible crimes (murder, child-abuse, etc), and the reason they attack scientology is because they risk being exposed by scientology. A phrase I’ve heard over and over from people who have had conversations with scientologists is “what are your crimes?” Even the actress Jenna Elfman reportedly attacked people this way:

Roecker [who was wearing a T-shirt making fun of scientology] says Jenna [Elfman] repeatedly said “What crimes have you committed?” and began screaming at Roecker, “Have you raped a baby?” as motorists on Los Feliz Boulevard drove by in snarled traffic. (Link)

Compare and contrast with these videos:
* These creepy scientologists in Florida (on the other side of the country) making almost the exact same accusations (“What are your crimes”) in this video. They accuse him of murder, beating his wife, molesting children, etc.
* This video of a scientologist accusing a protestor of being involved in pedophilia and beastiality

This is a classic “shutdown” technique used by cults – it allows the cult member to avoid actually having a discussion about scientology with someone who doesn’t believe, and it causes the cult member to see the critic as “poison” – effectively shooting the messenger.

* She didn’t talk about the sneaky recruiting techniques used by scientologists: sending “councilors” to New York after 9/11, sending “councilors” to Virginia Tech after the shootings, setting up “stress test” centers in New York to draw in pedestrians while masking their affiliation with scientology, tricking the government into supporting scientology-based anti-drug treatments, and setting up fake anti-psychiatry museums.
* A group of scientologists were convicted of attempting to infiltrate the FBI in order to “clean up” any files about scientologists, and search for dirt on enemies of the church. L. Ron Hubbard spent his last years as a felon on the run because of this.
* The auditing process (which is one part counseling, one part confessional) costs lots of money, but requires that people reveal the deepest, most intimate actions and thoughts. This is the way one “progresses” both in rank and spiritual development in the church. Reportedly, the church records all of these sessions and threatens to use them against former members.
* New members are sometimes subjected to extremely long “counseling” sessions that leaves them emotionally raw and vulnerable to the church.
* Scientologists have been known to picket the houses of people who are critical of scientology.
* The church of scientology often sues it’s critics to silence them. They sued the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy in 1996 over alleged lies about scientology, took over the name, and then pretended to be an objective organization who criticized cults while promoting the “benefits” of scientology. (The scientologists seem to do this quite frequently: setup front organizations that don’t appear to be affiliated with the church, and then sneak in scientology or promote scientology in various ways.)

In this video, Tory Christman talks about Hubbard’s stated goals of scientology: completely discrediting all critics of scientology, taking over the media, taking control of key political figures, etc. Hubbard also wrote a “fair game” document where he states that enemies of the church may be “may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any scientologist without any discipline of the scientologist. May be tricked, sued, lied-to, or destroyed.” Hubbard later wrote a cancellation of the “fair game” document, but secretly issued a cancellation of the cancellation. (I believe these were documents seized during the government investigation of Hubbard’s conspiracy against the FBI.) She says that when she was part of scientology, she was spending $7,000 for a 12 hour auditing session every six months, and had to constantly control her thoughts to avoid doing or thinking anything that would cost her more money for auditing. She was told incredible stories about high-level scientologists performing miracles like healing broken bones. She was even told that scientologist powers were responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall. The church told her that reading the internet made people go insane – which was a sneaky way to keep scientologists from reading anything on the internet. Meanwhile, the church was incredibly frightened by the Operation Clambake website which was created by one of their former members. At the very end of the video, she talks about secretly buying a plane ticket to leave town – but, mysteriously, scientologists know her every move, and they show-up at the airport to confront her.

In the video, “Secret Lives: L. Ron Hubbard” (embedded below) – people who knew Hubbard talk about him and his life. Predictably, Hubbard had a big imagination and strong tendency to make-up tall-tales about himself (always self-aggrandizing, of course). Soon after writing Dianetics, Hubbard began making grand claims about his “science of the mind” – that people using his methods could correct their eyesight, cure schizophrenia, and even regrow lost teeth. While his con worked for a while, he kept getting badgered by claims of fraud. According to people around him, he was most interested in power, and his ultimate goal was to become the leader of his own country. At one point, he visited Zimbabwe to explore the possibility of making it a scientologist nation.

As the years progressed, he became increasingly cruel and suspicious towards his followers – essentially becoming a petty dictator. He began writing orders that allowed for nasty attacks against the “enemies” of scientology. He came to believe that various governments had formed a cabal against him, and assigned a group of followers to infiltrate governments (code named “Snow White”) and discover the plot. Hubbard’s emotional state began to worsen, and he created a directive that certain individuals were to be consigned to the RPF, which involved working under slave labor conditions. They were allowed very little sleep or freedom, kept separate from the rest of his followers, and not even allowed to talk to his main group of followers. When Hubbard’s son (who was a senior member of the organization) turned out to be gay and attempted to commit suicide, he was consigned to the RPF. Hubbard’s teachings were supposed to cure homosexuality, but had failed. His son committed suicide two years later.

He created a plan to take-over Clearwater, Florida (which has been largely successful), and began making large sums of money from the businesses, but he descended further into phobias and emotional instability. By this time, Hubbard’s “Snow White” plot was discovered and 9 scientologists (including Hubbard’s wife) were convicted by the US government. His last few years were spent in hiding. He became a recluse, scared of meeting anyone, and descending into madness comparable to Howard Hughes. Ironically, he was the exact opposite of the superman that scientology was supposed to turn people into.

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The SkepTick gave a talk a few weeks ago, and, just for fun, he copied down some predictions for 2008 that PsychicNikki had put on her website. One section was titled “Death Watch/Health Watch” – with names of people who might have a higher chance of dying that year. A few days later (January 22), Heath Ledger died. Returning to PsychicNikki’s website on the 23rd, he discovered Ledger’s name added to the “Death Watch/Health Watch” predictions for 2008. Even worse for her, the google cache of her website still showed Ledger’s name missing from the list.

Psychics: showing that they can predict the future by retroactively changing their predictions. And when her website claims that she’s “in the top 1%” of psychics, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true.

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Spoof of the Anonymous / Scientology video:

Spoof of the Tom Cruise / Scientology video:

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I stumbled on this little diagram today. It’s a chart made in 1918, and it describes periods of history from a pseudo-Biblical perspective – even claiming that the antichrist would appear in the year 2000. I say “pseudo-Biblical” because it seems to be based on the perception that significant Biblical events happened every 1,000 years, mixed with the Bible’s use of seven = divine, mirroring of the seven days of creation, and the “one thousand years is a day” verse.


I especially like how he puts “Dark Ages” as an event in 1000 A.D.

Growing up, I saw a lot of this pseudo-intellectual BS. In particular, I remember one Christian who caused a buzz in fundamentalist churches in the late 1980s. He thought he knew when Jesus would return, so he wrote a book and sent it out to churches all over the US. It’s called “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988”. 300,000 copies were given away to churches across the US, and 4.5 million copies were sold.

Beginning in the early Spring of 1988, a 56-page booklet entitled, 88 REASONS Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988 began to be mass-distributed across America. The basic premise of the book was that between the dates of September 11 and 13, 1988, the Rapture of the Christian Church would occur. (Link)

I especially liked how the author of the booklet began by saying “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.” (Gee, that sounds suspiciously like what a young earth creationist would say about creationism.)

I find it amusing to see this level of sincere self-delusion coupled together with all their best rhetorical arguments arguing for something that isn’t true. It’s like a miniature version of religion itself – a delusion within a delusion.

I remember a lot of “end times” preachers claiming (based on the New Testament) that the “end times” would occur within 40 years after Israel’s independence in 1948. (And before that, they said 40 years after 1918.)

Not all Christians are caught up in this rapture-mania, and some have soured on the idea of predicting “the end times”, but lots of big preachers continue to preach it, and the “Left Behind” series sold 55 million copies. You can even checkout the Rapture Index – which is a little bit like the “Terror Alert” chart – updated weekly and telling you if the end is near. (As of yesterday, we’re at 164, which is four points above “Heavy prophetic activity”, and into the highest category: “Fasten your seat belts”.) Do fundamentalists even have a long-term memory? It’s like they’re living inside 1984: “we were always at war with oceania”.

Update: I happened to find a recent post about the well-known end of the world prediction for 2012 on gia’s blog. She mentions some past predictions (like the Concerned Christians Cult that predicted Denver would be wiped off the map on October 10, 1998). I can’t help but think it would be fun to put together a little web-based daily calendar showing anniversaries of “end of the world” predictions from years past, just to mock them. Something along the lines of:

Today’s Date: Friday, October 10, 2008
Apocalyptic Predictions for this date:
Concerned Christians predict the destruction of Denver, CO on this day in 1998. Happy 10th anniversary.

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