Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Spiritual" = "emotional"

Many people will use words like "spiritual" and "spirituality" like they were common everyday words, like it's completely clear to anybody what they mean. However, try to ask someone what they mean by "spiritual", and you might find out that, even to their own surprise, they cannot clearly define it. (In a significant amount of cases they will even retort something like "you know perfectly well what it means", rather than trying to answer.)

I just had an epiphany: When for example reading any text that uses eg. the word "spiritual" (that's not just discussing said word in a rational skeptic manner), simply substitute it with the word "emotional". Suddenly all that text starts making much more sense!

For example, "that was a very spiritual experience" = "that was a very emotional experience."

"My spirit was moved" = "my emotions were moved."

"She's a very spiritual woman" = "she's a very emotional woman."

"You couldn't even begin to understand the spiritual world" = "you couldn't even begin to understand the emotional world."

It just fits so perfectly!

(And that's really what "spiritual" means: Emotional. It's all about feelings and emotions, nothing more. All those sentences start making a lot more sense this way.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fabricating ignorance

As commented many, many times, argument from ignorance is extremely prevalent in religion, ufology, new age, and all kinds of pseudoscience: The fact that science doesn't know something is taken as evidence of your favorite explanation.

Many pseudoscientists, however, go even farther. It's not enough for them to take things that we genuinely don't yet have an explanation for. No, they have to take things we know quite well how they work, and pretend that we don't. Just making the claim is enough to make many people believe that's so.

Example: "Science has no idea why water is the only substance that has a lower density when it freezes."

Present this claim to a fan audience, and they will swallow it without even a hint of skepticism. Just because a charismatic person is making such claims will automatically suspend any disbelief or skepticism in their audience.

In fact, there are two errors in that example. Firstly, water is not the only substance that has a lower density when it freezes. Secondly, we know quite well why water behaves in that manner. (Basically, the water molecules take more space when frozen because they rearrange themselves in a crystalline shape, and they rearrange themselves like that when frozen due to their electromagnetic properties.) Yet, how easy is it to sneak in not just one, but two errors like this, and have a gullible audience swallow it without question?

This is especially jarring nowadays when you can do fact-checking extremely easily by googling. We are today amazingly privileged in this manner compared to people of just 20 years ago who had no such resources at their disposal. Back then it could well take you a full day, or several days, to find the facts that you can find today in a couple of minutes from the comfort of your home. Yet people are still too lazy to do that.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Prove the existence of God without the Bible"

Sometimes some skeptics seem to be a bit off track when demanding evidence for the existence of a god. While not extremely common, it's not extremely unusual to see something like this:

"Prove the existence of God without referencing anything in the Bible."

There may be good intent in this, but imposing that restriction is completely unnecessary, really. If someone wants to try to prove the existence of a god using the Bible, then they can go right ahead. Using the Bible to do that is one of the weakest possible ways of proving that. It's completely useless.

The existence of something is not proven by reading some words in a book, no matter what those words are. You can literally write anything you want, and it proves absolutely nothing. Existence of something is demonstrated via direct observation, measurement and testing, not by the words of some book.

Every single argument that could be made from the Bible, even if they were true, would still not prove the existence of a god. For example, a common argument is that the Bible presents some information that was impossible for the people of the time to know. While that's demonstrably untrue, even if we granted that claim for the sake of argument, it would still not prove the existence of a god. Why? Because we don't know the source of that information. Even if it was indeed impossibly advanced knowledge, we would have to first determine where they got that knowledge before jumping to a god. Jumping to a god would be a non-sequitur, an argument from ignorance.