“Guarding of the change” (Antikythera Mechanism)



Some pseudoscientists belittle science for its ability to adapt to new information. For instance, Ken Ham wrote, “I’m glad the Bible’s not a textbook of science as it would change all the time.” In fact, the Bible does change, as the first chapter of Genesis has plants being created before humans, while the subsequent chapter transposes that order. Then in the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus said he came to fulfill Judaic law, while the seventh chapter of Romans changes this so that the messiah’s coming instead freed persons from having to follow it.

But getting back to science, adjusting one’s thinking to square with new research and evidence is perhaps the field’s most defining hallmark. While Ham ridicules scientists for their suppleness, other pseudoscientists take the opposite approach and portray scientists as hostile to change and threaded by new ideas. A creationist blogger at thetruthofjudgement.com wrote, “Evolutionists are not comfortable with people objectively looking the evidence and coming to their own conclusion, and instead prefer to brainwash kids.” Upping the hyperbole even further, Mike Adams wrote, “Big Pharma is terrified that you might discover a simple, powerful truth: You can prevent, reverse and CURE serious disease yourself without doctors, drugs or surgery.”

Neither of these assertions contained evidence that ran contrary to standard scientific positions. If they had, scientists would evaluate the claims and test them. And despite the insistence that terrified scientists quake at the notion of new ideas, we will see that it is usually pseudoscientists who are most resistant to altering their views.                                                                                                       

Consider interpretations of the Antikythera Mechanism, which was found in 1900 as part of a long-ago shipwreck in the Mediterranean. At 2,200 years old, the device altered the timeline of technological history. It displays a complexity and precision of calibration that archeologists initially thought did not appear in machines until a millennium later. The device is so sophisticated that it almost certainly is the result of incremental progress, yet no similar device has ever been uncovered, nor has any reference been to it been found in ancient scientific or mathematical journals. This is not surprising since the difficulty of producing one would likely have necessitated that it by made in tiny quantities, with few corresponding instruction manuals.

The mechanism incorporated a series of brass gears and dials that mounted in a case. Its inscriptions indicated it to be an instrument for predicting eclipses, moon phases, and planetary positions. It was also capable of nifty tricks like mathematical calculations and letting the users know when the next Olympic Games would be. It could reasonably be called the first known computer and would have been the latest smart phone of its day. A modern reconstruction of the device can be seen here: tiny.cc/lqrsly

It is unclear who used it, though Brian Dunning at Skeptoid suspects it was for the elite. The labor required to create it would have dictated that it be available only to the affluent and influential. Despite this, it may still have served a public good. An article in Nature noted that “Calendars were important to ancient societies for timing agricultural activity and fixing religious festivals.”

When cranked, the Antikythera Mechanism’s main gear would turn many subordinate smaller gears to reveal the desired feature, such as key dates, moon phases, and eclipses. The eclipse dates came with a corresponding color that likely represented a specific omen. For all the advances of the civilization that created the mechanism, they were still subject to superstition, much as how one can find an online astrologer today.

This is an instance where reality is fascinating, yet pseudoscientists insist on fabricating a still more amazing narrative. Those favoring a more elastic interpretation deduce that since no other known culture had the mechanical acumen to construct such a device until 1,000 years later, the Antikythera Mechanism must have been crafted by aliens. Or Atlanteans. Or time travelers. Or time traveling alien-Atlantean hybrids.

Working against the alternate hypotheses is that the instructions are in Greek, rather than in whatever type of script aliens or Atlanteans would have devised. While the find did alter the technological timeline, this speaks to the adaptability that science is known for. Such discoveries are welcomed by most scientists, especially the ones who make the find. Scientists do not fear new evidence and conclusions, but welcome them if they pass the requisite tests.

In the case of the Antikythera Mechanism, anthropologists and archaeologists gained a better understanding about the development ancient technology. It is a validation of the Scientific Method and stands in contrast to the pseudoscientific method of plugging in gaps with one’s pet cause.  

For instance, theancientaliens.com wondered, “How could the Greeks of the first century achieve this amazing feat when they were still using crude iron and bronze tools? There is only one possible explanation. Beings with advanced knowledge…created the device or gave the knowledge for its creation to someone during the first century B.C.”

Meanwhile, atlantisevidence.com lists the mechanism as one of its top 10 pieces of evidence for the lost continent. Unlike the affirming the consequent example in the previous sentence, this website doesn’t even offer even a feeble, supposed proof of a connection between Atlantis and the Mechanism, it just asserts there is one.  

Finally, in Time Travel: A New Perspective, J.H. Brennan acknowledges only two possibilities: That a time traveler created the mechanism in the modern day and took it with him to ancient Greece, or that he went back in time and created it there. He then presumably made a layover in 1980 to purchase Apple stock.

In lieu of one piece of evidence, discovery, or research, Brennan offers the logical fallacies of an argument from ignorance and affirming of the consequent. He wrote, “Nothing we have found in modern physics denies the theoretical possibility of time travel and prehistory seems peppered with sufficient anachronisms to allow some credence to the data.”

As these examples show, it is the pseudoscientists who most reject evidence that doesn’t fit their narratives and who show the least adaptability – two traits they regularly try and project onto scientists. As Dunning noted, “When confronted by a discovery, stopping at the supernatural explanation is guaranteed to lead you nowhere.”

“Graham’s crackers” (Ancient advanced North American civilization)


In Magicians of the Gods, Graham Hancock argues there once existed a North American civilization that was more advanced than the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Babylonians, despite predating all of them. Using “magic” and “gods” in the title of a book purporting to contain groundbreaking science could be seen as a red flag, but let’s acquiesce to the cliché about not evaluating a tome by its front and examine what’s inside.

Hancock asserts that around 13,000 years ago, a comet took out most members of a civilization that had achieved great strides in engineering, industry, mathematics, medicine, agriculture, astronomy, infrastructure, and education.

Nanodiamonds strewn across our continent do suggest a comet hit in the time and place Hancock is saying. According to Science, nanodiamonds only occur when sediment is exposed to extreme temperatures and pressures, such as what occur in explosions and impacts.

But there is a problem with trying to extrapolate this evidence for the comet into it being proof that it annihilated a great, previously unknown people. That’s because the obliteration would have been so complete that it eliminated any trace of bones, teeth, tools, pottery, clothing, homes, temples, aqueducts, implements, writings, drawings, paintings, and everything else. As catastrophic as the asteroid was that took out the dinosaurs, the terrible lizards still left behind fossil calling cards of having been here. And no stegosaurs or pterodactyls kept farm animals, wore robes, employed eating utensils, drew well water, or devised roadways. An advanced civilization would have done all this and more, yet no remnants, not even a shard or fragment, exists to support the notion that these people existed.

Hancock insists there were a few human survivors, but that they then “travelled the world in great ships and settled in key locations,” which is pretty much any place Hancock could find a monolith to shoehorn into his narrative. These locales include Indonesian pyramids, Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, Baalbek in Lebanon, the Sphinx, and Mesoamerican temples. He credits his wondering tribe of intellectual giants with being responsible for these grand structures and overseeing their planning, construction, and gift shops.

In addition to being great monuments to a past civilization, they also have relevance to the future, Hancock says. Through his interpretation of inscriptions at these sites, Hancock deduces that, “Within the next 20 years, Earth faces a catastrophe a thousand times worse than the detonation of every nuclear weapon on the planet — a collision with the remnants of a comet big enough to end all life as we know it.” For support of this interpretation, he offers no astronomical observation, but rather a long-ago prediction by the medicine men of Canada’s Ojibwa people, who foretold, “The star with the long, wide tail is going to destroy the world someday when it comes low again.’

He cites similar soothsayers from other cultures, such as early Zoroastrians who warned of a “fierce, foul frost” and “fatal winter,” which Hancock insists will follow in the asteroid’s wake. There’s still more doom and gloom: “Everywhere they went these Magicians of the Gods brought with them the memory of a time when mankind had fallen out of harmony with the universe and paid a heavy price.” He fails to explain what harmony with the universe is, but does stipulate that the price will be another killer comet. Not just any comet, but a remnant of the original. In what would be the worst sequel in Earth’s history, Hancock warns that a 20-mile fragment of the one that hit 13,000 years ago will slam into our planet and kill most of us.  

Hancock’s case is primarily the argument from ignorance, as he treats an inability to explain alternate hypotheses as a vindication of his position. For instance, with Göbekli Tepe, it is unclear how hunter-gatherers erected 50-foot, multi-ton stone pillars. Archeologists and anthropologists, being scientists, say, “I don’t know, let’s find out.” By contrast, a pseudoscientist declares, “I don’t know, therefore (fill in blank with my favorite superstition) did it.” In Hancock’s case, he wrote that Göbekli Tepe is proof that “some as yet unknown and unidentified people somewhere in the world had already mastered all the arts and attributes of a high civilization more than 12,000 years ago and sent out emissaries around the world to spread the benefits of their knowledge.”

Where Hancock differs from most doomsayers is that others offer a specific method to remedy or at least mitigate the impending disaster. There is a god one must repent to, there are survivalist supplies to purchase, there is a cult that offers sanctuary, there is a place to congregate while awaiting rapture, there is a mass suicide to partake in that will reveal a higher plane. With Hancock, though, we get only this vague reassurance: “The technology already exists to sweep our cosmic environment clean of potential threats and to ensure that we do not become the next lost civilization.” Conspicuously absent from this isolated optimism of Hancock’s is precisely what technology we have or how to employ it.  

Michael Shermer wrote, “Hancock has spent decades in his vision quest to find the sages who brought us civilization. Yet decades of searching have failed to produce enough evidence to convince archaeologists that the standard timeline of human history needs major revision.”

Hancock blames this rejection on persecution from the establishment, a standard pseudoscience ploy. Specifically, he claims that scientists wish to see incremental, easily-observed, gradual change as opposed to catastrophic or sudden explanations. Yet science has embraced the latter notions with regard to the Pompeii, the slaughter of Stone Age hunter-gatherers by competing tribes, dinosaur extinction, the universe’s origin, and how the moon came into existence and how it became cratered.

This week, findings in Morocco suggested that the starting point for homo sapiens may need to be moved back 100,000 years and relocated from the Horn of Africa. If further research bears this out, anthropologists will adjust their thinking about where and when mankind Mankind originated. Far from being stodgy and unbending, scientists are excited by discovery and they relish dialogue. The reasons Hancock has been rejected are: 1. The total lack of archaeological evidence for ancient advanced North Americans; 2. No proof being offered of an asteroid’s imminent impact, and; 3. Seers being listed  among his key sources.



“Assume the simple position” (Occam’s Razor)


I have been doing this long enough and with enough frequency that if one read a post a day it would take a year to finish the blog. I heartily encourage this activity, but for readers lacking the time or ambition, I can sum up the blog’s contents as being an endorsement of Occam’s Razor. This is the notion that, all other things being equal, the solution that makes the fewest assumptions is usually the correct one. Closely related to the Razor is the notion of the burden of proof, which states that the person making an assertion is required to provide evidence for it and not merely challenge listeners to disprove it.

Carl Sagan famously noted that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Suppose I amble into work late and my co-workers wonder why. One postulates that I may have encountered the road construction they had. They were there, it happened to them, they know I take the same route, so that seems a likely reason. But another wonders if I was delayed by persons on horseback engaged in a medieval war reenactment, which had taken place over the weekend on a family farm. A third co-worker speculates that I may have slipped into a wormhole where aliens detained me to obtain skin and blood samples before releasing me back onto my usual route.

The first choice requires just one assumption, that I had encountered the same construction as my co-worker had. From there, the number of assumptions increase. The equestrian excuse would require that the reenactment went beyond the scheduled date and took place in a locale other than its designated point. The final explanation would require assuming the existence in Moline of both wormholes and aliens and assume I had encountered both on my commute.

Anyone espousing the third option would have the highest difficulty level since it employs the most assumptions to reach its conclusions. Still, such attempts to shift the burden of proof and bypass Occam’s Razor happen all the time.

O.J. Simpson’s defense team attempted to shift the burden to the prosecution by trying to make it prove that Nicole wasn’t killed by Colombian drug dealers who mistook her for Faye Resnick. Judge Lance Ito disallowed this line of reasoning, owing to a total lack of evidence. “Prove it wasn’t drug dealers” is not a valid defense argument and such reasoning is not critical thinking.

While the number of assumptions is important, so too are the quality of those assumptions. The Simpson trial, like most criminal cases, had prosecutors assuming  the defendant’s guilt and defense lawyers presuming his innocence. But there was no reason to think drug lords were targeting Faye Resnick, much less confusing her for Nicole Brown Simpson, as this required more assumptions than concluding that the relevant evidence included a trail of O.J.’s DNA leading from the crime scene to his vehicle and residence, his history of abusing the victim, and bloody shoe imprints. 

Now let’s apply this to science. A blogger at logicofscience.com wrote about authoring a paper on the diet of a turtle species. In his research, he collected the shelled creatures, had them defecate in a bucket, then examined the feces. There, he found a variety of plants, insects, and crawfish. The conclusion was that these turtles ate a variety of plants, insects, and crawfish, since this explanation required the fewest assumptions.

The biology blogger noted he could have instead deduced that “someone went out before me, captured the turtles, force fed them crawfish, then put the turtles back into the pond.” Or he could have assumed this force feeding was done by aliens. But theses options would require unfounded assumptions, the latter necessitating a step beyond even the middle choice. Such conclusions are usually instances of begging the question, where speakers reach the conclusion first, then attempt to buoy that conclusion with unproven premises.

No one takes issue with the science when it involves reptile diets or other noncontroversial topics that leave world views and favored industries untouched. But if the scientific conclusions do impact those areas, there are those who seek to dull Occam’s razor, beg the question, and contort themselves in order to finagle around the evidence.

Young Earth Creationists, for example, insist all animals and plants were destroyed in a worldwide flood 5,000 years ago. This means that in the YEC scenario, all corals today would had to have started growing around the time the Pyramids were constructed. But corals grow about a foot a year under ideal conditions. The Great Barrier Reef would have taken more than 500,000 years to reach its current size.

For corals to have gotten as large as they are today, if they only started growing 5,000 years ago, they would had to have grown at a rate many times more than  has ever been observed. The standard YEC response is that perhaps growth rates were much faster in the past than they are now and that the rate has slowed down exponentially since, for reasons unknown.

They employ the same thought process with being able to see stars millions of light years away. This proves Earth has been around at least as long as it has taken the most distant starlight to reach us. But the YEC answer is that maybe the speed of light has not been constant. The coral and starlight responses are both instances of ad hoc reasoning backed by no evidence. It requires assuming that an aspect of botany or astronomy is much different from what has ever been observed or recorded. It is also begging the question. They begin with the assumption that a worldwide flood wiped everything out 5,000 years ago, then try to make all evidence (or in these cases, speculation) fit that assumption. They go from conclusion to evidence, whereas science works the other way.

A third area of creative deduction by YECs centers of alternating layers of light and dark sediment that accumulate in lakes. The different colors are the result of seasonal changes, with light layers made in winter and dark ones made in the summer. Some lake centers feature millions of these layers, so we can draw one of these conclusions:

  1. A set of two layers forms every year in these lakes. Some lakes contain millions of layers. Therefore these lakes are millions of years old.
  1. Layers were formed during the flood, through an unknown mechanism. By a second unknown means, floodwaters sorted the particles into alternating layers of sediment, then the layers managed to form only over lake beds, and did so at a rate of 10 layers per minute, rather than two per annum, which is the only rate that has been observed.

The YEC takes on these occurrences requires rejecting all data and scientists’ understanding of the natural processes involved. Their response to the scientifically-deduced facts are to offer unsupported ad hoc speculation that proposes unknown and unworkable mechanisms. They fail to manage even the first step in the Scientific Method, observation, because no one has observed the phenomena they claim are occurring. As our turtle excrement-collecting blogger noted, “If we grant creationists the ability to create unknown mechanisms in order to derive interpretations that match their pre-existing biases, then an infinite number of interpretations become possible. It is always possible to generate an ad hoc argument, which is why Occam’s Razor is so important. It tells us that the solution that makes the fewest assumptions is usually the correct one.”

That is why almost all conspiracy theories collapse under the weight of Occam’s Razor. Some anti-vaxxers claim that pharmaceutical executives pay immunologists to say vaccines don’t cause autism. Here, we have two options:

  1. Ethical scientists reach their conclusions through sound research.
  2. These hundreds of researchers from multitudinous institutions and companies are being paid to falsify data. Moreover, none of these hundreds who are in it solely for ill-gotten gain have been lured away by wealthy anti-vaxxers offering to pay them more.

This shill accusation is similar to the charge leveled at climate scientists. On this issue, the two primary competing options are:

  1. 99.8 percent of the 12,000 peer-reviewed papers published in the last five years have attested to anthropogenic global warming, so this is likely happening.
  2. Anonymous elites are paying these thousands of climate scientists to reach this conclusion and fabricate data, yet this plan is being foiled by oil company executives and Facebook posters exposing the plot.

Again, from the logicofscience: “Ask whether there is any reason to think the scientists are corrupt other than the fact that you don’t like their conclusions.”

Going back to the Sagan quote, if one is going to assert the scientific consensus is wrong about climate change, the Big Bang, evolution, vaccines, or GMOs, it is insufficient to offer, “Were you there when the universe began?” or “Follow the money trail.” The burden of proof is on the speaker to provide clear, well-researched, and reasoned evidence for their position.

In some instances, there is no damage other than to the listener’s intelligence. Ancient Aliens attempted to branch into evolutionary biology by suggesting extraterrestrial visitors may have altered dinosaur DNA in order to have them develop into smaller creatures like birds and coelacanth.

In other instances, the misinformation is fatal. Anti-vaxxers mistakenly cite improved sanitation and nutrition as the reason for the decline in infectious diseases over the last century and a half. While those were welcomed health advances, when it comes to disease eradication, here are the two choices offered:

  1. Vaccines work by mimicking disease agents for the real deal, which is why instances of the diseases plummet after vaccines are introduced, and spike when vaccination rates fall.
  2. The introduction of vaccines has coincidentally occurred at a time when the impacts of improved sanitation and nutrition were beginning to be seen. This benefit has extended to countries with deplorable sanitation like India. This has even effected airborne diseases like rubella, which are impacted by sanitation and nutrition improvements by an unknown means. A decline in vaccine rates does not impact disease; rather there has been a coincidental reduction in sanitary and nutrition benefits for unknown reasons when vaccine rates go down. The reason all this is not universal knowledge is because nearly every immunologist is pumping out fabricated propaganda to discredit sanitation and nutrition improvements and cover for vaccines, which actually cause disease.

Those who embrace the latter idea also cotton to the idea of a repressed cancer cure. But which requires the fewest assumptions: That oncologists have been unable to find a panacea for a disease that has more than 100 variations, or that they have, but are eschewing everlasting fame, untold fortune, worldwide adulation, and the chance to spare them and their loved ones, in order to continue enriching the pharmaceutical industry, which has yet to figure out there is more money to be saved in selling that cure?

Meanwhile, 9/11 Truthers talk about the hijackers having little flight training and Tower 7 collapsing despite not bearing a direct hit. They hypothesize that Flight 93 was shot down, insist that a missile hit the Pentagon, and make repeated references to jet fuel and steel beams. However, even if all their claims were valid, it would no more indicate guilt by the Bush Administration that it would cause blame to fall on Islamic terrorists, communists, the Irish Republican Army, or the few remaining Branch Davidians. Which requires the fewest assumptions: That a wealthy and committed terrorist leader with the means and stated desire to pull of such an attack did so, as indicated by passenger phone calls, conversations between hijackers and air traffic control, and flight manifests; or that it was all an elaborate hoax that included WTC security workers, victim’s family members, the airlines, Pentagon witnesses, BBC reporters, and even Philippines police officers, who in 1995 uncovered and turned over to the FBI evidence of what became the 9/11 plot?

One final example, focusing on Bigfoot, which has two primary options. Which of these contains the fewest assumptions?

  1. A complete lack of verifiable evidence strongly suggests its non-existence.
  2. A sustainable population of eight-foot bipedal apes has lived, bred, hunted, and roamed from the Northwest Territories to the Bayou for two centuries without once being shot by a hunter, hit by a vehicle, or leaving behind a corpse, skeleton, fur patch, or excrement.

It is not on me to disprove an ad hoc rationale about a troop of lumbering beasts mastering stealth and adroitly avoiding human contact at all cost. The burden falls on those who make these assertions the centerpiece of their Sasquatch Science.

“Rock it, science” (Science basics)


There are some areas of science where there is no real dispute. Some of these are issues are life-and-death, others are a little less serious, and some are downright goofy. But in all these subjects, denial of the evidence embodies the rise in anti-science sentiment.

Those of us on the other side should be ready with the facts because we never know when and where we may need to use them. This points here will be elementary, but they can still come in handy if needing to educate a science neophyte, a hardened opponent, or someone being contrarian for the sake of being so.

I want to be clear that science changes when warranted by the evidence and any information contrary to what will be presented here should be considered if it is the result of following the Scientific Method and submitting for peer review.

Late last year, Lorrie Goldstein urged his Twitter followers to ask liberals to explain the science behind climate change and then “watch the fun.” Reader Karen Geier took up the challenge, though the answer likely provided Goldstein with little of the anticipated amusement. I am borrowing liberally from her response to address the first of our seven topics.  


Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor, allow visible light to pass through, but absorb infrared light. This is akin to a windshield that lets light shine through but traps the heat from that light.

The warmer atmosphere then emits still more infrared light, which is usually re-absorbed. This causes energy that gets to Earth to have an even harder time leaving. Hence, Earth’s average global temperature increases, producing climate change.

Since the Industrial Age began, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 40 percent and methane has increased by 15 percent. The average global temperature has increased 1.4 degrees since 1880, with two-thirds of that warming coming since 1975.


Contrary to what you may have heard, evolution has no relation to Marxism, morality, or societal collapse. Rather, it is the change in inherited characteristics of biological populations over time. These changes are mutations in the DNA sequence of a cell’s genome and they create variation among members of a species. Favorable mutations are more likely to survive and reproduce, while unfavorable ones to get squeezed out. Within a few generations, the unfavorable mutations may be gone completely. The process of holding onto traits that enhance survival and reproduction is known as natural selection.

Evolution has been observed in petri dishes and is the reason why a flu shot is given each season. Other evidence is found in the geologic column, as the farther down it scientists go, the simpler fossils are that they find.  

Another piece of evidence is Richard Lenksi’s ongoing e. coli experiment. Lenski began tracking genetic changes in 12 initially identical a sexual e. coli populations in 1988. The populations are now in their 60,000th generation and Lenski has observed a wide array of genetic changes in all 12 populations.

More proof comes in animals that exist only on isolated locales like Palau, Madagascar, Iceland, and Tasmania. Then there are transitional fossils like Lucy, Archaeopteryx, and Tiktaalik. Not only are there transitional fossils between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and birds, reptiles and mammals, and apelike animals and humans, but the fossils occur in the precise Geologic Column strata that one would expect to find them.

Still more evidence are similar anatomies and nearly-identical DNA sequences between species, such as humans and chimps sharing 98 percent of their sequence. Also, traits of one animal may be present in the embryonic state of another animal, even across classes. One example is gill slits in human embryos, which suggest common ancestry with fish.  Similarly, vestigial traits such as a whale’s pelvic bone are evidence of the sea dweller’s descent from a land animal.


Vaccines work by mimicking disease agents and stimulating the immune system to build defenses against them. When a bacteria or virus enters the body, immune cells produce antibodies to fight the antigen interloper and protect against further infection.

Our immune system produces millions of antibodies daily, vanquishing antigens so efficiently that we don’t know this battle is taking places. But the first time the body faces a particular invader, it can take a few days to produce an adequate response, and for nefarious invaders like Whooping Cough or the measles, that’s too long.

Unless, that is, one has received a vaccine, which is composed of dead or weakened antigens. These antigens are incapable of causing an infection, but the immune system doesn’t know that, so it marshals antibodies to fend them off. Then if the real deal ever comes along, the body unleashes an immediate response.


Genetically Modified Organisms are plants that are altered by the splicing of genes and the insertion of DNA from one species into another. The goal is transfer properties that have agricultural benefit, such as drought-resistance, pest-resistance, better taste, more nutrition, or a longer shelf life. 

Genetic modification carries no risk that doesn’t apply to other food production methods. For instance, regardless of the method in which it is cultivated, any plant can cause cross pollination. Compared to traditional plant breeding, there is less risk of concentrating natural toxicants through genetic modification since far fewer genes are transferred.

A 2014 review of 1,783 studies by Italian scientists showed there is no credible evidence that GMOs pose any unique threat to the environment or the public’s health.

The four unnatural methods of potentially improving seeds are selective breeding, interspecies breeding, mutagenesis, and genetic modification. The first three methods affect 10,000 to 300,000 genes and the resultant food product is not tested. GMOs, by contrast, involve one to three genes and are tested for safety before they are allowed to go to market.  

Genetic modification has given us insulin, saved the Rainbow Papaya by making it resistant to a pest that would have wiped it out, and produced Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice that would save Third World children from blindness if bureaucratic obstacles to its distribution could be overcome.  


When a jet engine spews out hot, humid air into a cold atmosphere with low vapor pressure, condensation results. The water vapor coming out of the engine quickly condenses into water droplets and then crystallizes into ice. The ice crystals are the streaking clouds that form behind the engine.

How long they linger depends on the atmosphere’s humidity. When the atmosphere is more humid, the contrails linger, but when the atmosphere is dry, the contrails disappear more quickly. It’s similar to seeing your breath on cold days, as the breath is visible for a shorter duration on dry days.

Even if there were dangerous chemicals being released on the populace, the high altitude from which they are dropped would cause them to dissipate and to spread over such a large area that the amount that any one person would ingest would be insufficient to do damage.


Geocentrists say Earth remains stationary while all heavenly bodies rotate around our planet. But even at warp speed, Neptune would be unable to complete a rotation of Earth in 24 hours. Meanwhile, Jupiter and Saturn would need to approach the speed of light to complete a daily orbit, meaning they would be demonstrating relativistic length contraction. They would appear as a thin vertical object rather than a spheroid. In a geocentric solar system, Earthlings would be unable to observe stellar aberration, the perceived yearly change in the positions of stars.

A key proof was provided by Leon Foucault’s pendulum. The French physicist suspended a weight from a wire and set it swinging. He had included a pen below the weight, and this pen drew a line in a circle of wet sand. An hour later, another line intersected with the first one at an 11-degree angle. This change in consistent with a rotating Earth, as is the fact that the angle of this intersection will differ depending on which latitude a Foucault Pendulum is employed.

Then we have the Coriolis Effect, which causes hurricanes to rotate in different directions depending on what hemispheres they are in. It also impacts satellites, missiles, and long range artillery shells. This effect exists only because we are on a rotating planet. Also, an earthquake with a magnitude of nine or greater can shift enough mass to subtly alter the course of Earth’s rotation, which would be impossible if there was no rotation to change.

Finally, Venus and the sun could not both orbit Earth while moving farther away from each other. Yet the planet’s size and brightness depends on its phase. In the heliocentric model, Venus is largest and shiniest when it’s closest to Earth and smallest and darkest when it’s on the other side of the Sun, and this is consistent with what astronomers observe.  


Those espousing a flat Earth are probably engaged in the most blatant science denial of all the camps, so they are the least likely to be rehabilitated. Still, here is the evidence if you have the means and willingness to address the subject with them.

The best evidence are the abundance of photos of a round Earth. Other irrefutable pieces of proof are the International Space Station, satellite TV, Global Position Systems, Felix Baumgartner’s leap from the edge of space, and the cell phone company satellites which enable Flat Earthers to post their screeds on the Internet.

There’s much more. Yachtsmen and commercial sailing ships going solely east or west end up back where they started. Flat Earthers will try to bring up the lack of north-south navigation to prove, well, I’m unsure what exactly. But even this point falls, how shall we say, flat, because north-south navigation was accomplished by Ranulph Fiennes in the early 1980s.

Then we have temperature differences by season, which is consistent with a spinning planet tilted at 23.4 degrees and which is hit with a nearby star’s rays at a more direct angle in July in the Northern Hemisphere and in January in the Southern Hemisphere.

Other evidence: It being light in the Americas while it’s dark is Asia; Earth’s shadow on the moon during eclipse; Seeing the top of ships first when they come over the horizon; The farther one travels from the equator, the closer stars are to the horizon; If you put two sticks in the ground a few feet apart, they will produce shadows of different length; The higher up you are, the farther you will see; The moon’s appearance is different in the Northern Hemisphere than it is in the Southern because the angle from which it is being viewed is different. As one example, in the Northern Hemisphere the first-quarter moon looks like a D, while in the Southern Hemisphere it looks like a C.

Finally, a flight from Sydney to Santiago is 7,000 miles and takes 12 hours. A flight from Sydney to Dallas is 8,500 miles and takes 17 hours. On the flat Earth model, Santiago is much farther from Sydney than Dallas is and it would require traveling at nearly double mach speed to make the flight from Chile to Australia in that time. That could make for some serious contrails.

It is frustrating that the points made here need to aired. But we must continue the fight until our cooling Earth is filled with a vaccinated, GMO-fed people who know  their round, spinning planet is populated with the results of natural selection.

“Absolutely lipid” (Statins denial)


There exist among us those who advocate rejecting all medication in favor of “natural cures,” which are neither, and who implicate physicians and pharmaceutical executives in an alliance to pump patients full of needless, nefarious medication. Some of these potent pills and potions are said to kill people by the millions, which if true, would quickly leave the malevolent medics with no one left to prey on. If there was a conspiracy to sell medication that was without value, it would make more sense to sell placeboes that could be made much cheaper and which would avoid poisoning the customers.

Statins are among the drugs cited by believers in this conspiracy. Statins are lipid-lowering medications that reduce instances of cardiovascular disease among those most at risk. The anti-statin brigade includes the usual suspects, Mike Adams and Joseph Mercola, as well as a new one to me, Leonard Coldwell. The latter claims to have concocted a cure for cancer that is 92 percent effective. If so, there is truth to the hidden cancer cure conspiracy theory because Coldwell has yet to make his treatment publicly available.

Coldwell calls statins a mass murder method that invariably hardens the liver and slices 20 years off your life. In a lengthy retort, the SkepDoc Harriett Hall wrote that statins actually lengthen lifespans for those most at risk for cardiovascular disease, while lowering cholesterol. Coldwell agrees with the last part, but argues this is detrimental since he considers high cholesterol beneficial. But Hall noted, “You don’t die of either too much or too little cholesterol. You die of heart attacks and strokes, and reducing high cholesterol levels reduces your risk of those events.”

Coldwell claims that 250 being considered a normal cholesterol level is an arbitrary number dreamed up, but it actually came from measuring cholesterol levels in large populations. Those studies found that those with higher cholesterol levels were more likely to have heart attacks, and 250 is where the increase in risk was noticed.

Instead of scientifically-researched, tested, and proven statins, Coldwell recommends fending off heart disease with two bananas on an empty stomach. He cites this as a natural cure, even though the bananas we eat are remarkably unnatural, having been modified from a tiny, green, barely edible pod into today’s scrumptious elongated yellow fruit. And while regular consumption of fruits and vegetables promotes good health, there is no evidence for Coldwell’s claim that two daily bananas is an especially potent foe of cardiovascular disease.

Coldwell claims that Big Pharma spokespersons have described statins as a magic pill that will ward off heart attacks and other cardiovascular ailments. Hall shot down this strawman, noting that the medical establishment considers statins to be “drugs with risks and benefits, and the benefits have been determined to outweigh the risks.” It is not magic, doctors know how it works, and know it will work better for some than others.

Mercola and Adams both write that cholesterol has no bearing on heart disease and that statins will impair many biological functions and cause muscle pain. However, Hall’s PubMed search produced more than 30,000 articles on statins research, and a 2016 review of these studies by the Lancet found statins reduce the rate of heart attacks and strokes in at-risk patients by as much as 50 percent.

Of the 30,000 papers, Adams and Mercola cherry-pick a few isolated passages that suggest low cholesterol levels may be associated with higher death rates among the elderly. But the papers also noted this was not a causal relationship. People in their 90s often die for reasons unrelated to low cholesterol.

Critics sometimes label statins as overprescribed and while this strictly speaking is true, it is the result of a medical shortcoming, not a furtive attempt to enrich pharmaceutical executives and their lackey physicians. There is no way to know which patients will benefit from statins, but it is logical to treat anyone who may be at risk of heart attack and stroke. Consequently, many patients will take statins without seeing their risk of cardiovascular disease reduced. While the treatment won’t benefit everyone, those who do benefit do so greatly.

The detractors also highlight the drug’s possible side effects, but according to Hall, only one patient in 50,000 will develop a serious condition as a result of taking statins, and those usually disappear when the medication is discontinued. The critics also gloss over the fact that the side effects of bypassing statins can include premature death.

“Arbour missed” (ADHD denial)


Nicole Arbour has become a minor Internet celebrity by videotaping rants about groups of people who are different than Nicole Arbour. Blacks, the overweight, and feminists have all been on the receiving end of her mocking monologues. Her most recent assault is on ADHD sufferers and their parents. The gist of her railing is that the disorder is make-believe and that unfit parents should be spanking their little hellions into line.

In actuality, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been a known clinical condition since at least the early 1900s. In his takedown of Arbour, skeptic blogger Emil Karlsson noted there are more than 30,000 articles about ADHD in PubMed.

Biological factors that contribute to ADHD include genetic variants of neurotransmitter receptors and transporters as well as differences in executive function that are related to memory and attention. Environmental factors may include brain injury, premature birth, and heavy lead exposure during pregnancy.

Arbour offers no research or a different interpretation of data. Rather, she is content to reject outright a swath of parents, make evidence-free claims that cola and cereal cause ADHD symptoms, and offer erroneous anecdotes. For instance, she claims the first person to describe ADHD eventually rejected his initial finding and concluded the disorder was nonexistent.

She is referring to Leon Eisenberg, who contributed to psychology’s understanding of childhood behavioral conditions, but ADHD had been identified 20 years before his birth. Second, Eisenberg never claimed ADHD was fictitious, he only thought psychosocial factors were more important than biological ones in causing the disorder.  He therefore thought that pills to control the condition were being overprescribed. Most importantly, even if Eisenberg had said ADHD doesn’t exist, that wouldn’t make it true and wouldn’t override what the tens of thousands of papers and decades have research have shown.

Another Arbour claim, one frequently espoused in the anti-ADHD camp, is that the disorder is over-diagnosed in the United States. Critics will point out that six percent of US children are identified as having ADHD, nearly 10 times what is seen in Europe, particularly France.

It is true that most American children diagnosed with ADHD would not be similarly labeled in France, while a child not diagnosed in France might be in the United States. But this is because the countries use different diagnostic systems and analyze different factors in making the determination.

In Europe, a child must show a sustained inability to adapt due to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. In the United States, a child needs to show substantial impairment in just one of these categories.

Arbour uses the disparity when trotting out hackneyed claims of a Big Pharma conspiracy. Like most alleged conspiracies, it collapses under the weight of the ever-increasing number of participants who would need to be involved and stay silent for it to work. This one would have to involve pediatricians, school nurses, teachers, and psychiatrists working in concert to continue a sham for the benefit of shadowy pharmaceutical executives. Also conspiring would be parents such as Cristina Margolis, who blogs on issues related to ADHD.

In her response to Arbour’s characterization of parents like herself as lazy, coddling miscreants “who give kids drugs,” Margolis related her experience of being married to an ADHD sufferer and being the mother of one.

She noted that one of Arbour’s many mistakes was dismissing ADHD boys and girls as being nothing more than typical, hyper children. Margolis pointed out that hyperactivity is only one type of ADHD, with inattentiveness and a combination of the two being the others.

“Not all children with ADHD are hyper. ADHD affects people differently,” Margolis wrote. “When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, more coexisting conditions can arise as well, such as depression, anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, and bipolar disorder. My then 6-year-old daughter told me she wanted to die. ADHD, depression, and all the other coexisting conditions are nothing to belittle and make fun of.”

This is not the first time that a public response has been warranted following a misinformation piece about the disorder. In 2015, blogger Matt Walsh labeled ADHD a myth, which prompted a detailed reply from Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine and president of the New England Skeptical Society.

Perhaps the most fundamental of Walsh’s errors was using “disease” and “disorder” interchangeably while failing to define either. Novella wrote, “ADHD is certainly not a disease. That term should be reserved for entities that involve a discrete pathophysiological condition. But in medicine, there are also clinical syndromes, disorders, and categories of disorders.”

Novella further explained that brain disorders are different than problems with organ systems that rely only on the health of cells and tissue: “Liver disease is largely caused by pathological processes affecting liver cells. However, brain cells also have other layers of complexity to their function, the pattern of connections, and the biochemical processes that underlie brain processing. To add another layer of complexity, part of the function of the brain is to interact with the environment, including other people and society. Because of this, medicine uses the concept of mental disorder to define a clinical entity in which a cluster of signs and symptoms relating to thought, mood, and behavior cause demonstrable harm.”

ADHD specifically is “a disorder of executive function, which is a definable neurological function that localizes to the frontal lobes. Executive function is what enables us to pay attention…and to inhibit behaviors that are not socially appropriate. Medication for ADHD improves function and outcomes and is cost effective.”

Walsh’s piece conspicuously lacked any of the technical terms and explanatory passages contained in Novella’s post. For instance, he wrote that because there is no magic line where the amount of hyperactivity and inattention crosses the threshold from normal to problematic, there is no disorder. That is the continuum fallacy and would be like arguing that because there’s no set number of drinks a person can have per week to go from a casual imbiber drinker to a lush, there are no alcoholics. While not referencing the 30,000 PubMed papers, Walsh did highlight three doctors who agree with him, displaying a cherry-picking acumen that would impress the most robust climate change denier.

Back to Margolis, she wrote that the disorder is a lifetime sentence, but that it can be controlled with diet, accommodations at school, and medication: “I hoped our daughter would respond well to treatment without medication, but she was one of many who needed more help. That is what ADHD medication is: Help. With her medication, she is excelling in school and extracurricular activities, making friends, and has gained self-confidence.” Margolis thus describes her daughter as “thriving,” while Arbour calls her “a zombie.”



“Creative types” (Creationist categories)


While the conflict between creationism and science is frequently played out on talk shows, in court rooms, and at state school board meetings, there are different branches of creationism and they vary significantly in how much they run counter to science.

The most anti-science of the branches is the one we hear from almost exclusively, and this makes sense. Proponents of these beliefs are the ones whose worldview is most threatened by cosmology, paleontology, biology, and geology, so they are the ones most likely to object to these subjects being presented. They do so loudly and incessantly, and are not content to preach it, they want government agencies and schools to teach it.

While this branch is the only one openly hostile to science, none of the other branches have contributed anything to our understanding of any scientific field. Floating ideas to the fellow-minded at a church coffee is as close as they come to having their ideas peer reviewed. The hypotheses we will examine cannot be evaluated by the Scientific Method, as they are neither testable nor falsifiable.

The most basic distinction is between Old Earth and Young Earth Creationists. The former accept the scientific age for the age of the universe and, depending on their subcategory, may embrace evolution, geology, and anthropology.

Here are the eight primary types of creationists, in descending order of how their views are compatible with science:

FIGURATIVE INTERPRETATION. Here, Adam and Eve are allegories, not people. They are emblematic of humans and our strengths, cooperation, doubts, foibles, and perseverance.

Noah’s ark is about Mankind’s fall and redemption, not a literal tale. The talking donkey in Numbers is not a fact but a fable that contains a life lesson. Exodus outlines the relationship between authorities and the governed and is not historical document about Mount Sinai tablets, a burning bush, and Israelites wondering for 40 years in the desert. The figurative approach does get around difficult questions, such as how Israelites could spend those 40 years marching around and camping, without leaving behind one piece of archeological evidence testifying to their wandering journey.

The figurative interpretation does not precisely consider the Bible mythology because the god behind this is still real and is probably the one who inspired the authors. The tales are still considered to serve a divine purpose.

Ancient Jewish religious leaders regularly told tales that were never meant to be taken as literal, but were rather precautionary, instructive, or didactic in nature. They were meant to help readers grow, adapt, and learn. With the figurative interpretation, the Torah and subsequent books are comparable to other ancient Jewish tales and are literary devices with a means to an end.   

One can embrace this position without sacrificing one molecule of scientific literacy. The figurative idea is the one most attractive for a Christian struggling to reconcile their faith with science, or for a scientist interested in adopting or maintaining Christianity.

THEISTIC EVOLUTION. This is the belief that instances of evolution which have been and continue to be observed are guided by the biblical god. The Pope has endorsed this idea and theistic evolution accepts the geologic and biologic records, positing they are the results of divine intervention, done by a god who created and controls our world and its processes.

Theistic evolution allows and embraces scientific research and permits the acceptance of new information. If all creationists were in this camp, there would be very little conflict between them and the scientific community. The latter might find supplementing science with Yahweh no more valid that crediting the Zoroastrian deity, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or pondering that this is all a novel being penned by a supremely advanced Nibiru alien. But since established science is accepted and new discoveries encouraged and celebrated, there is no meaningful dispute.

Additionally, theistic evolutionists are OK with a universe that is 13.7 billion years old because, Ken Ham’s protestations to the contrary, biblical authors never wrote that Earth is 6,000 years old. Some believers arrived at that figure by calculating biblical genealogies, then adding the six creation days and a day of rest to them. Most Young Earth Creationists are content to say “5 to 10,000 years old” though the especially enterprising Irish archbishop James Ussher arrived at a quite specific creation date of Oct. 23, 4004 BCE, at 6 p.m. Safe to say, he wasn’t a theistic evolutionist.

The theistic evolution category allows a fair amount of leeway. For example, Genesis states Man was created in God’s image, yet none of us know what this deity is supposed to look like. Maybe he resembled a single-celled organism, in which case those organisms being at the lowest level of the Geologic Column would be consistent with Adam being created during the first week.

EVOLUTIONARY CREATIONISM. In this view, Adam and Eve were the first spiritually aware humans. Human creation is not precisely literal, as their predecessors were created by God, then through evolution, the descendants reached a stage where they could speak, comprehend good and evil, grasp the concept of God, and understand divine instruction. This position accepts the geologic and biologic records, but is emphatic there was a literal Adam and Eve, though they came to be in the same way as all early humans.

At this point, there is nothing that specifically rejects science, but we see the first example of being insistent on one instance of Biblical literalism, i.e. the existence of Adam and Eve.

PROGRESSIVE CREATIONISM. While Adam and Eve were literal in the previous category, they were evolved beings. In progressive creationism, they are considered the result of a special creation event. Progressive Creationism accepts the geologic record, and much of the prehistoric biologic record, including the age of dinosaurs. However, Adam and Eve were created separately from other animals. This is where the separation between science and faith becomes noticeably stretched. This category rejects the biological link between early hominids and humans that is evident in the fossil record. It also ignores or rationalizes away the fact that humans and chimps share 98 percent of their DNA.

DAY-AGE CREATIONISM. In this hypothesis, the six creation days are actually six geological epochs. If you don’t slam the door on Jehovah’s Witnesses, they may get around to mentioning this belief, as it is the organization’s official position. For scriptural support, they reference a verse that says, to God, a thousand years is like a day.  

There are some major problems with Day-Age creationism. For one, since the creation account has plants coming before stars, it would require ferns and the like to exist for millions of years with no light source.

Day-Age creationism also stipulates that all land animals were created separately from, and have no descent from, any sea animals. This would leave no answer for amphibians or transitional fossils that have features of both seafaring creatures and terrestrial beasts, like Tiktaalik. The evidence for whales and hippos having common ancestry is rejected, not owing to assessment of new discoveries, but because the Watchtower tract says to do so.

This belief does accept the evidence for the age of the universe and there is no inherent geologic conflict here, but the denial of biology is becoming stronger.

GAP CREATIONISM. This holds that there were 4.5 billion years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. This model attempts to marry the age of Earth with Genesis literalism. In between furtive hotel visits, Jimmy Swaggart advocated this model. Gap Creationism states that after God created the heavens and Earth, a VERY long time followed, during which nothing worth being documented occurred.

From a consistent-with-science standpoint, this has the redeeming quality of being OK with astronomy, cosmology, and geology. But whereas day-age creationism begins to deny some evolutionary basics, adherents to this view must completely toss biology aside for the Bible. In this view, living organisms could have come into existence only a few thousand years ago.

At this point, we will move to the Young Earth Creationists. There are only two groups in this camp and they have just one piece of common ground: That there were no astronomical bodies 7,000 years ago.

OMPHALISM. Not all that different from The Matrix, as our world is mostly an illusion. This branch takes its name from the 19th Century book Omphalos, which is  Greek for navel. Omphalism refers to the belief that Adam and Eve had bellybuttons, giving them the false appearance of having gotten here through natural rather than supernatural means.

Adherents accept every scientific measurement regarding the age of Earth and all discoveries of biology, cosmology, and astronomy, with the quite relevant caveat that all discoveries are deceptions and God is merely making living organisms appear evolved or making the universe seem to be 13.7 billion years old.

Scientists will arrive only at the conclusions God wishes them to see. More detailed explanations may include God making the stars with the light already in transit or maybe the stars being God-induced hallucinations. The erosion and upheaval that would seem to explain mountains are instead deceptions and Cosmic Background Radiation is a mirage.  

Some consider it all a test of faith, i.e. God put dinosaur bones there to see if we would believe the paleontologist or the preacher. The Omphalism hypothesis is a form of “Last Thursdayism,” a thought experiment which ponders that everything may have been created a few days ago with all of us having false memories instilled in us.

YOUNG EARTH HARDLINERS. Here we abandon all pretense of anything remotely scientific, reasonable, rational, or evidence-based. Young Earth hardliners  embrace an alternate version of reality which jettisons most known science. They are truly creationists, as they have created an artificial explanation for why the universe and all its inhabitants are 6,000 years old. They have no concern for proof, research, or observation and no use for the Scientific Method or peer review.

Becoming a Young Earth hardliner means abandoning nearly everything Mankind has learned about cosmology, geology, biology, paleontology, oceanography, chemistry, astronomy, and anthropology. Only physics might escape unscathed.

Radiometric and carbon dating, dismissed. Speed of light, untrue. Geologic column, doesn’t exist. Written records by ancient Egyptians before, during, and after the Flood, fraudulent. Lucy, archaeopteryx, and Tiktaalik, all misinterpreted or fabricated by scientists.

The only nod to science most of them make occurs when evolution is literally observed, such as in a Petri dish or the case of the Florida lizard whom zoologists documented developing a new toe pad. In such instances, they concede that these changes occurred, but insist that a series of such changes has never, and will never, lead to speciation.

They consider fossils to be Flood victims and insist the fossilization process took just 200 years. The Grand Canyon and other geologic features were carved out by the same Flood. The Creation Museum features a triceratops wearing a saddle.

The Answers in Genesis mission statement is that no science is correct if it contradicts the Bible. Which is enough to raise the question of why they mess with their laughable attempts at scientific explanations on their website instead of just posting the Bible.

They frequently answer criticism by stating that believers and nonbelievers have different worldviews. While this might be a rare AIG accuracy, it says nothing about which side is promoting scientific truth, and is merely to dismissing dissenting views and evidence with an ad hominem.

Don’t take my word for all this. Here are examples lifted from Young Earth hardliner websites:

Blueletterbible.org on cosmology: “If Scripture says the world is 8,000 years old, then the world is 8,000 years old, no matter what science might say.”

Answers In Genesis on radioactive dating: “No geologists were present when most rocks formed.”

Institute for Creation Research on biology: “Life did not develop by natural processes from inanimate systems but was specially and supernaturally created.”

Discover Institute on abiogenesis: “Studies of the cell reveal vast quantities of biochemical information stored in our DNA in the sequence of nucleotides.  No physical or chemical law dictates the order of the nucleotide bases in our DNA, and the sequences are highly improbable and complex.” This is a longwinded way of saying, “God did it.” This appeal to incredulity is one of the logical fallacies most committed by Young Earth hardliners.

While this is by far the most extreme branch, they are also the most committed and are the ones getting tax rebates while practicing religious and sexual orientation discrimination in hiring, and getting tax money to build the Ark Encounter. They are the ones trying to get creationism taught in public school biology class and the ones convincing state school boards to adopt stances that require districts to suggest that evolution, cosmology, and astronomy are not true.

While they hurl much venom at atheists and scientists, anyone in the previous seven creationist categories is labeled a heretic and possibly worse than an unbeliever (keeping in mind what they think of unbelievers). At the Creation Museum, Christians who have a different interpretation of Genesis than Ken Ham are portrayed as the devil in snake form. This serpent delightedly notes that if it can convince someone that the Flood was a myth or that dinosaurs came before man, then maybe it can convince them that Christ is not the savior.

While these types can employ the genetic fallacy to dismiss what an atheist or Omphalist says, they run into serious trouble when the Bible contradicts their teachings. In Genesis 1, God makes plants before he makes man, but in Genesis 2, this order is reversed. Your choice, Ham, which of those Biblical accounts is a lie?