The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for May, 2012

Yet Another Failed End-of-the-World Prophecy

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 28, 2012

Just in case you didn’t hear, the world was supposed to end yesterday (May 27th, 2012).  At least, that’s according to self-proclaimed “last apostle in this age” Ronald Weinland, who predicted that the apocalypse would be preceded by World War III with most of Earth being laid waste by a nuclear war.  And, of course, Weinland (like so many other doomsday prophets) pointed to his interpretation of the Bible as evidence of the End Times…

MAY 27, 2012

Written on April 29, 2012

As readers of this site know, May 27, 2012, is the time that I have stated as being the date Jesus Christ will return as King of kings over all government on this earth. For such an event to come to pass, the Trumpets of Revelation must all sound, the United States and dollar collapse, the ten nations of Europe arise to fulfill the final revival of the Holy Roman Empire, and Russia with China must unite against Europe in WWIII.

As an aside, readers of this site should also grasp that as far as prophecy is concerned, ten nations in Europe have already combined in association with one another to the degree that the mixture of clay and iron is fulfilled. All that remains is their entrance into a final war, a prophecy that can be fulfilled quickly, as this posting will cover.

How is it possible or even conceivable that all these things can happen in such a short time? And what if none of these events have occurred as late as five, four, or even three days before Jesus Christ is to return? Is it truly reasonable that Christ is coming on May 27th? No, it is not reasonable, not within the parameters of man’s thinking. When this date was given just over three and a half years ago, it was not reasonable to people then, and now it has simply become that much more unreasonable.

But as the last apostle in this age, and as God’s end-time prophet, I am still telling people that this is true and that a short-lived WWIII is now at our doorstep. Due to this strong conviction, the Church of God – PKG is putting all its resources into promoting this final message of Christ’s impending return in order to complete the “work” that God has given us to do. This “work” is nearly complete. As my previous post was written over two months ago, this may well prove to be my final one, since there are only four weeks remaining in this age. …

Folks, as the saying goes, this is deja vu all over again.  Here we are, on the day after supposed armaggedon, and there’s no nuclear holocaust, no fire raining down from heaven, no Rapture, and no return of Jesus Christ.  In fact, things seem to be moving right along just as they were yesterday and the day before that (and so on…).

Need I point out the obvious, yet again?  The obvious being that every single time one of these religious fundamentalists rants about the end-of-the-world, they end up being wrong.  And, for the record, over the course of human civilization, there have been a LOT of these failed predictions!

Which begs the next obvious question: why does anyone bother to listen to these so-called “prophets” anymore?

 

Posted in doomsday, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Addressing Birthers: Turning the Tables and Outright Mockery

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 24, 2012

In the last few days, the political process in the great state of Arizona has been made a mockery of by one of its own highest elected officials, Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett.  That’s because Bennett mentioned last week in an interview that due to “outstanding questions” regarding President Obama’s citizenship, he might have to withold Obama from the Arizona ballot in November’s presidential election.  He stated that while he personally believed that Obama is a U.S. citizen, he also had a duty to “investigate” because he kept getting emails (about 1200 of them) demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship.  Essentially, a bunch of birther conspiracy theorists pestered Bennett, and he went off on this fool’s errand as a way of appeasing these nutbags in the base of his own Republican party.

But the joke’s on Bennett, because not only did the state of Hawaii address his concerns (by providing solid evidence, yet again, that proves Obama was born in the U.S.), but it did so by turning the tables on Bennett and his fellow birthers:

Hawaii’s Now Asking Birthers to Prove Who They Are

Ken Bennett, Arizona’s secretary of state, is the latest person to question the President’s birthplace, although he’s doing it the way people do when they want to call it into question but don’t want to seem like a loon. Bennett, a Republican who perhaps coincidentally is planning to run for governor in 2014, said on a radio show last week that he’s looking into the issue, and that it’s “possible” he might keep Obama off the Arizona ballot in 2012, not because he thinks the President isn’t a “natural-born citizen” but because some other people say they think that and so he’s gotta look into it. …

… In the meantime, though, he’s just waiting (apart from his other secretarial duties) for Hawaii officials to provide verification. He said on the show that he was puzzled it took them eight weeks to respond to his request, and when they did respond they still didn’t give him what he wanted.

Instead, they asked him to prove who he was:

On Thursday, Bennett said he sent his request to Hawaii officials eight weeks ago but has yet to get the proof he was hoping for…. In the weeks since then, Bennett said, Hawaii officials have forced him to provide proof that he is who he says he is. They asked him to send them copies of the Arizona laws that prove the secretary of state really is the person in charge of handling the ballots. Admittedly, Bennett said they told him they were “tired of all the requests.” But he is continuing anyway.

Oh my, that’s embarrassing!

This is why, whenever I get into a discussion with birthers, I first insist that they prove – to my satisfaction – that they are citizens of the United States by giving me a copy of their birth certificate.  You can just imagine how happy they are to hear their own stupid arguments turned back at them :)

But it gets even better.  Apparently, Bennett was using the fact that he received so many requests (about 1200 or so via email) about President Obama’s citizenship as justification for this colossal waste of time and resources.  So how can one respond to such a wimpy excuse for backpeddling out of such a dumb position?  Answer: outright mockery…

Mitt Romney: Is He a Unicorn? More Than 17,000 People Want Ken Bennett to Find Out

Is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a businessman? Or is he really a unicorn?
At the time of this post, more than 17,000 people would like Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett to find out.
In response to the 1,200 “birthers” who asked Bennett to verify with the state of Hawaii — yet again — that President Obama has a birth certificate there, the left-wingers would also like Bennett to check out their conspiracy theory.
“I understand you are considering kicking President Obama off the ballot because some people continue to raise questions about his birth,” the petition to Bennett says. “Well, I believe it cannot be proven conclusively that Mitt Romney is *not* a unicorn. A unicorn would not be qualified to be president. Thus, I hope you will apply the same standard to Romney, and investigate the unicorn question.”
Indeed, Romney has never denied being a unicorn, and the left-wingers say it’s possible Romney’s hair could be covering up a unicorn horn. …

Ridiculous?  Of course it is – but that’s the whole point!  Once you have set the bar so low by trying to kowtow to the level of birther conspiracy mongering, you might as well open the door to ludicrous inquiries such as that above about the Romney-Unicorn.

Congratulations, Mr. Bennett!  You’ve earned this:

Posted in conspiracy theories, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Election 2012 and a Reminder that Pollsters are B.S.

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 22, 2012

As we ramp up for yet another frenzied political season where, no doubt, there will be much drama and mudslinging, I’d like to leave you all with this one thought: for the most part, political polls and pollsters are bullshit.

This article does a good job explaining why…

Pay no attention to the pollster behind the curtain

There are many ways to keep score on whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney has better odds of winning the general election, which is almost exactly six months away. Here at The Signal, we are fervent evangelists of the political prediction markets, where people place real money on the line to bet on the winner. These markets proved to be more prescient than polls in the Republican primary.

Many journalists prefer to stick to reporting on raw daily polls. While these surveys offer valuable information, it is dangerous to read too much into the daily fluctuations, especially this far in advance. Currently, Rasmussen has Romney leading Obama 49 to 44, while Rueters/Ipsos has Obama leading Romney 49 to 42. This disagreement is due to several common sources of error that occur on any poll. Averaging several polls to get an aggregate figure, as RealClearPolitics does, helps ameliorate these errors.

Upcoming work by Bob Erikson of Columbia and Chris Wlezien of Temple, recently presented at the Midwest Political Science Association conference, demonstrates a second problem with following the daily polls too closely. The researchers looked through past presidential elections, aggregated the national polls, and created the most effective forecast based on that data. They found that, even when properly aggregated and averaged, national polls do not have predictive power at this point in the cycle. … [emphasis added]

You can read the entire article to get the gist of how untrustworthy most politically-oriented polls can be, but I think it is said even better by skeptical magicians Penn & Teller :)

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Discovery of Earliest Mayan Calendar Throws 2012 Doomsday Claims into Doubt

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 18, 2012

No doubt, unless you’ve been living in a hole, you have heard about the supposed end-of-the-world coming this December 21st, 2012 – at least, that’s what some New Age whackadoodles and apocalyptic doomsayers would have you believe.  Why do they believe this?  Because, according to them, the Mayan calendar predicts it.

Unfortunately for the doomsday prophets, the Mayan calendar predicts nothing of the sort.  Take, for example, the fact that recently the discovery of the world’s oldest Mayan calendar seems to have thrown the whole “Mayan 2012″ prophecy of armaggedon into serious doubt:

Nevermind the Apocalypse: Earliest Mayan Calendar Found

Image source

The oldest-known version of the ancient Maya calendar has been discovered adorning a lavishly painted wall in the ruins of a city deep in the Guatemalan rainforest.

The hieroglyphs, painted in black and red, along with a colorful mural of a king and his mysterious attendants, seem to have been a sort of handy reference chart for court scribes in A.D. 800 — the astronomers and mathematicians of their day. Contrary to popular myth, this calendar isn’t a countdown to the end of the world in December 2012, the study researchers said.

“The Mayan calendar is going to keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future,” said archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas, who worked to decipher the glyphs. “Numbers we can’t even wrap our heads around.” …

Oops.  That’s embarrassing.  So the Mayan calendary doesn’t predict the apocalypse?  Why exactly is that?

… The Maya recorded time in a series of cycles, including 400-year chunks called baktuns. It’s these baktuns that have led to rumors of an end-of-the-world catastrophe on Dec. 21, 2012 — on that date, a cycle of 13 baktuns will be complete. But the idea that this means the end of the worldis a misconception, Stuart said. In fact, Maya experts have known for a long time that the calendar doesn’t end after the 13th baktun. It simply begins a new cycle. And the calendar encompasses much larger units than the baktun.

“There were 24 units of time they actually could have incorporated into their calendar,” Stuart said. “Here, we’re only seeing five units and they’re still really big.”

In one column, the ancient scribe even worked out a cycle of time recording 17 baktuns, the researchers found. In another spot, someone etched a “ring number” into the wall. These notations were used to record time in a previous cycle, thousands of years into the past. The calendar also appears to note the cycles of Mars and Venus, the researchers said. Symbols of gods head the top of each lunar cycle, suggesting that each cycle had its own patron deity.

“There was a lot more to the Maya calendar than just 13 baktuns,” Stuart said. …

Of course, another reason to doubt the claims of the doom-mongers, despite the structure of the Mayan calendar, is the fact that no matter what the source for the supposed end-of-the-world prophecy, every prophecy of this nature in the past has had one thing in common: THEY HAVE ALL FAILED SPECTACULARLY!  This includes at least one high-profile prediction from last year!

It’ll be interesting to see what the doomsaying believers have to say on December 22nd, 2012 when we’re all still here :)

Posted in doomsday | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Skeptical Teacher to be Interviewed on Darkness Radio – LIVE!

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 14, 2012

I know I’m posting this a little late, but I wanted to let you all know that I’m going to be interviewed tonight (Monday, May 14th) live on Darkness Radio at 11:00pm CDT.  If you recall, I blogged some time ago – almost two years – about a very interesting discussion I had with paranormal investigator Dave Schrader at Convergence 2010 on the topic of “ghost hunting”.  Despite the fact that Dave’s a believer in ghosts and the paranormal and I’m a skeptic, we hit it off and he invited me to be on his show so that I could give my perspective as a skeptic… well, it took awhile, but tonight’s the night! :)

If you can catch the show, please click the Darkness Radio icon below to listen live.  Otherwise, try looking it up on the Darkness Radio archive afterwards.

Darkness Radio 

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“We Are Star Dust” – Symphony of Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 12, 2012

Astrophysicist and science/skeptical activist Neil deGrasse Tyson is working on a re-release of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and this nicely autotuned Youtube video clip from melodysheep clearly shows why he is the right person for the job :)

Posted in scientific method, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Bishops Decide to Declare War on Women Early… by Attacking the Girl Scouts

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 11, 2012

Oh dear evil Jeebus.  As if the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops – also known as the 21st century Inquisition – hasn’t done enough damage attempting to drag us back into the 19th century with their recent, moronic attacks against birth control and women’s reproductive rights, they’ve decided to go a few steps even further down the rabbit hole.  They have decided to declare war on women early… before they’re even women… by going after the Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts under scrutiny from Catholic bishops

NEW YORK — Long a lightning rod for conservative criticism, the Girl Scouts  of the USA are now facing their highest-level challenge yet: An official inquiry  by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At issue are concerns about program materials that some Catholics find  offensive, as well as assertions that the Scouts associate with other groups  espousing stances that conflict with church teaching. The Scouts, who have  numerous parish-sponsored troops, deny many of the claims and defend their  alliances.

The inquiry coincides with the Scouts’ 100th anniversary celebrations and  follows a chain of other controversies.

Earlier this year, legislators in Indiana and Alaska publicly called the  Scouts into question, and the organization was berated in a series aired by a  Catholic broadcast network. Last year, the Scouts angered some conservatives by  accepting into a Colorado troop a 7-year-old transgender child who was born a  boy but was being raised as a girl.

Some of the concerns raised by Catholic critics are recycled complaints that  have been denied by the Girl Scouts’ head office repeatedly and categorically.  It says it has no partnership with Planned Parenthood, and does not take  positions on sexuality, birth control and abortion.

“It’s been hard to get the message out there as to what is true when  distortions get repeated over and over,” said Gladys Padro-Soler, the Girl  Scouts’ director of inclusive membership strategies.

In other instances, the scouts have modified materials that drew complaints  — for example, dropping some references to playwright Josefina Lopez because  one of her plays, “Simply Maria,” was viewed by critics as mocking the Catholic  faith.

The new inquiry will be conducted by the bishops’ Committee on Laity,  Marriage, Family Life and Youth. It will look into the Scouts’ “possible  problematic relationships with other organizations” and various “problematic”  program materials, according to a letter sent by the committee chairman, Bishop  Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Ind., to his fellow bishops.

The bishops’ conference provided a copy of the letter to The Associated  Press, but otherwise declined comment. …

This is really starting to piss me off, and it makes me want to buy an assload of Girl Scout cookies in response to this B.S.  And then I want to get a bunch of friends together to put on a very public display of eating those cookies in front of a Catholic church in protest.  Sound like a plan?

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Judge Proposes Cutting Ten Commandments Down to Six

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 10, 2012

For many years now, various fundamentalist Christian groups have been attempting to post the Ten Commandments (which version?  Good question…) in public buildings, using the lame argument that they serve a “secular purpose” as a way of skirting lawsuits for violation of church-state separation.  Well, now those folks have been hoisted by their own pertard :)

Image Source

Cut Ten Commandments down to 6?

Judge Michael Urbanski suggested a possible compromise to the issue that has been raging in the Giles County school system.

By Laurence Hammack 981-3239

Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday.

Would that neutralize the religious overtones of a commandments display that has the Giles County School Board in legal hot water?

That unorthodox suggestion was made by Judge Michael Urbanski during oral arguments over whether the display amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by a student at Narrows High School.

After raising many pointed questions about whether the commandments pass legal muster, the judge referred the case to mediation – with a suggestion:

Remove the first four commandments, which are clearly religious in nature, and leave the remaining six, which make more secular commands, such as do not kill or steal.

Ever since the lawsuit was filed in September amid heated community reaction, school officials have said the display is not religious because it also includes historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

“If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn’t it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let’s go back and just post the bottom six?'” Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

“But if it’s really about God, then they wouldn’t be willing to do that.” … [emphasis added]

I think this judge is a genius.  He’s asking the obvious question which clearly shows the motivations of these fundamentalists: to use public institutions to force their religious beliefs upon the rest of us.  Up until this point, the fundamentalists have tried to have it both ways, using the wiggle room argument of a “secular purpose” as a wedge.  But I think that’s the point of what the judge here is saying: to deny them any wiggle room at all. They must either step up and admit flat out that they had (and still do) a religious intent when displaying the Ten Commandments, and thus risk being on the losing end of a costly lawsuit; or they must accept the compromise, and thus risk encurring the wrath of their constituents. This lame attempt on their part to play coy and try coming up with an ad hoc “secular purpose” after the fact won’t fly with this judge.

They only have themselves to blame for getting into this position in the first place. If they bothered to follow the First Amendment Establishment Clause in the beginning, they wouldn’t have this problem; but nooooo, they had to try pushing their religious beliefs.

Quite frankly, they deserve the smackdown coming their way.

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cognitive Dissonance in Partisan Politics: The Case of Gas Prices

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 9, 2012

In a follow up to my recent posts (here and here) on the issue of rising U.S. gas prices and how the President and Congress really have little power to affect them, despite the belief by some that they do, I heard an excellent piece on NPR this morning about this very subject.  Of course, in NPR fashion, they went a bit deeper and actually started to discuss in a scientific fashion why it is that Republicans are blaming President Obama for higher gas prices now whereas a few years ago it was Democrats blaming then President Bush for higher gas prices.  Check it out…

Partisan Psychology: Why Do People Choose Political Loyalties Over Facts?

Charlie Reidel/AP — President Bush and then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry shake hands at the end of a presidential debate in 2004 in St. Louis. Researchers want to better understand why partisans’ views of the facts change in light of their political loyalties.

When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can’t.

But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president’s control.

The flipped perceptions on gas prices isn’t an aberration, said Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan. On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard. …

Click here to read the entire story

Posted in economics, politics, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

One in Seven People Think the World Will End in 2012

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 4, 2012

Straight out of the “What the f**k?!” files comes this little gem about people’s beliefs concerning the supposed end-of-the-world…

One in seven thinks end of world is coming: poll

Credit: Reuters/Argely Salazar

(Reuters) – – Nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10 percent think the Mayan calendar could signify it will happen in 2012, according to a new poll.

The end of the Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, on December 21, 2012 has sparked interpretations and suggestions that it marks the end of the world.

“Whether they think it will come to an end through the hands of God, or a natural disaster or a political event, whatever the reason, one in seven thinks the end of the world is coming,” said Keren Gottfried, research manager at Ipsos Global Public Affairs which conducted the poll for Reuters.

“Perhaps it is because of the media attention coming from one interpretation of the Mayan prophecy that states the world ‘ends’ in our calendar year 2012,” Gottfried said, adding that some Mayan scholars have disputed the interpretation.

Responses to the international poll of 16,262 people in more than 20 countries varied widely with only six percent of French residents believing in an impending Armageddon in their lifetime, compared to 22 percent in Turkey and the United States and slightly less in South Africa and Argentina. … [emphasis added]

I want to just make note of the bolded text above: apparently, according to this poll, over one-fifth of the population of the United States – the most advanced and powerful industrial nation on the planet – believes in this 2012 end-of-the-world hooey.  Oh… my… FSM…

Wow, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  But one thing’s for sure: I predict that we’ll be here in 2013 to show that this Mayan doomsday prophecy is just a load of crap; and I say that not just because NASA recently crushed these stupid prophecies.

After all, people have been predicting doomsday for thousands of years, with supposed divine revelation or prophecy to back them up, and all that time there’s been one thing common to all those predictions: they’ve all been dead wrong.

I have just one question for all of these people who claim to believe “the end is near”: Can I have all your stuff? ;)

Posted in doomsday | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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