“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.

“Great white spark” (Cargo cults)


Many publications have claimed to have news available nowhere else, but the Weekly World News delivered. No other periodical gave us fantabulous headlines like, “Man in Amazon kidnapped by tribe of Al Jolson lookalikes.” Or employed a cranky columnist who complained, “Today’s Christmas toys aren’t dangerous enough.”

But when the paper profiled a tribe of Pacific Islanders that worshipped Don King, it fell short of what reality was offering in terms of being unbelievable. There are genuine cargo cults more bizarre than a fictitious one centered on an unscrupulous boxing promoter.

One such cult is on Vanuatu, an archipelago 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. The nation is so remote and obscure that few persons other than geography geeks (such as your author) had heard of it until the TV series Survivor spent a season there.

One might assume that Prince Philip’s announcement this week that he was retiring from public life would be of no concern to those on Vanuatu. But at least for residents of the village of Ionhanen on Tanna island, it is causing significant angst. It means their god won’t be coming home.

These villagers believe the Duke of Edinburgh was born to a mountain spirit on Tanna before floating to a strange, distant land, evidently taking advantage of a disembodied entity’s travel capabilities. Once there, he married an immensely powerful woman. Villagers await this son’s return, not unlike another religion I can think of.

The idea of a floating spirit marrying into wealth, power, and privilege dates to around 1960, but it became associated with Prince Philip when he and Queen Elizabeth II traveled to Vanuatu in 1974, and Ionhanen villagers noticed the extreme deference with which he was treated by politicians.

A local leader with the most excellent moniker Chief Jack paddled a canoe that greeted the royal yacht and he later observed, “I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform and knew then that he was the true messiah.”

More recently, some villagers were convinced that Cyclone Pam slamming into Vanuatu in 2015 presaged a future visit from Prince Philip, though the announcement from Buckingham Palace this week seems to preclude that. Many persons who would scoff at the notion of linking a cyclone to a potential Royal visit will assert that natural disasters which befall the United States are the result a raging god offering his commentary on gay marriage. Indeed, post hoc reasoning is among the centerpieces of most religions.

Prince Philip worshippers are part of a handful of remaining cargo cults, most of them in the South Pacific. While they date to as far back as the 18th Century, the majority sprang up in World War II, when soldiers and sailors exposed islanders to technology and products far more advanced than anything they ever knew existed. This included matches, mirrors, radios, canned food, soft drinks, and Walkie Talkies, to say nothing of airplanes and automatic weapons. In many cases, the arrival of pale-skinned guests and their accompanying manna seemed consistent with longstanding myths about past wonders and prophecies of a divine return.

For instance, the sails and masts of Capt. James Cook’s ship resembled images of the Hawaiian god Lono. Plus, he arrived of the day of this deity’s annual festival, so Cook was literally treated like a god. On his return trip, however, the masts and sails had been damaged by storms, which greatly enraged the islanders. Cook tried to explain what had happened, but what kind of lame deity is unable to control the weather? Disenchanted believers pummeled Cook with clubs, knives, and rocks.

Conversely, it was the man-god doing the damage when Cortes met the Aztecs. He arrived on the date the Mesoamericans were expecting Quetzalcoatl to return from the Abyss and reclaim his land. Hence, a terrified Montezuma obsequiously gave into every one of the Spaniard’s demands and whims. It did no good, as Cortes eventually slaughtered his worshippers, continuing a ghoulish godly tradition that includes slaying first-born sons and drowning nearly every living being.

When Cook, Cortes, or U.S. service members arrived, islanders were seeing men who were very different from themselves in appearance, dress, and conduct. These unexpected, inexplicable travelers also seemed capable of multitudinous miracles and their arrival seemed to have been forecasted. With all this, the notion that it was supernatural seems understandable. Then, post hoc reasoning caused the belief to strengthen. In the 75 years since American fighters arrived on the islands, some of South Pacific nations have seen the construction of airports, universities, and hospitals, none of which their ancestors knew existed 100 years ago. Thus, the prophecy that strange beings were going to arrive and usher in unprecedented prosperity seems fulfilled.

This might seem to be a quaint quality of a simple people who sleep in huts, travel by canoe, and harvest food by hand. Yet it is almost identical to when U.S. Christians consider modern developments to be confirmation of their scriptures. For example, some posters to Matt Walsh’s Facebook page wrote that Earth Day fulfills Romans 1:25 (“They worshipped and served created things rather than the creator.”) Others maintain gay marriage advocates were portended by Isaiah 5:2, which reads, “Woe unto them that call evil good.” Still others cite any strange, though explicable, astronomical features as a vindication of Luke 21:25 (“There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars.”) Pacific Islanders living in primitive conditions and multimillionaire televangelists reveling in tax-free luxury are both manifesting the Forer Effect, where something is deemed valid because it has personal meaning.

When victorious service members left the South Pacific, rudimentary landing strips and ports were built in hopes of enticing the gods to come back. Some Islanders built replica airplanes out of bamboo and leaves, thinking this might attract the real thing. Even 72 years later, some still expect their gods to return. With that duration, it may seem that these folks have had a long wait, but by religion standards, they’re rookies.

“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?

“Micro-fish” (Macroevolution denial)


The position of anti-Darwinians is, ironically, an evolving one. Tennessee infamously banned the teaching of human evolution in public schools, resulting in the John Scopes conviction that was overturned. That law and those like it remained on the books until the Supreme Court struck them down in 1968.

With this defeat, politically-active creationists tried a new tactic of calling for equal time. This is a sound notion when there are genuinely competing ideas, such as what exist in string theory, the makeup of dark matter, and the rate of the universe’s expansion. And creationism fits nicely into comparative religion and philosophy classes. But it lacks the hallmarks of science, as it is unfalsifiable and untestable. Evolution, by contrast, can potentially be falsified every time there is a geologic dig. The field would be turned upside down if a mallard fossil were found alongside fossils of 3-billion-year-old amoebas in the Geologic Column. It can also be tested, which is what’s happening in Richard Lenski’s ongoing e. coli experiment at Michigan State. There are mountains of scientific data relating to evolution and none that pertain to creation. That, along with public school creationism being considered an endorsement of religion, led the Supreme Court to strike down equal time attempts in 1987.

Because that ruling noted Louisiana was attempting to promote a specific religion, creationists rebranded themselves as Intelligent Design advocates. Their new argument was that organisms’ complexity and axiomatic signs of design meant this all had to have been guided by a higher power, but that this could be any god, goddess, or unknown force. This was a disingenuous absurdity that no one believed. The façade was so transparent that the Discovery Institute’s publication outlining this nouveau strategy had Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” on its cover. This attempt to squeeze Genesis through the back door of public schools was shot down by another Supreme Court ruling in 2005.

The next tactic was the fraudulently-named Louisiana Science Education Act, which called for “supplemental” material to be used. This was intended to give ostensible legal cover for teachers who violated the Supreme Court rulings. The act mentioned evolution and climate change as allegedly “controversial ideas.” Climate change was added so that something besides evolution would be mentioned and the law wouldn’t solely reference religion. It also helped that climate change is the other prominent area in which cultural conservatives most soundly reject the science. There is no reason for such laws, as all sides are presented when there is genuine controversy, such as with aforementioned string theory and dark matter.  

This latest gimmick is on shaky legal ground at best, but has yet to be challenged in court. A substantial problem is that organizations like the ACLU or the Freedom From Religion Foundation are usually deemed to have insufficient standing to sue in such cases. A parent or student usually must be the one to do so, and most Louisiana teens and adults are just fine with the Abrahamic god being promoted with tax dollars. To be challenged, there would have to be a parent or student willing to risk the ostracism, abuse, threats, and physical attacks that would likely be foisted upon them.

Creationists also show nimbleness outside the political arena. When On the Origin of Species was first printed, there was apoplectic shock from some members of the religious community. Preachers unleashed a torrent of outrage on this unspeakable blasphemy. How dare there be any challenge to the first chapter of Genesis! God created all animals in their present form and that’s that.

But then biologists began seeing confirmation of Darwin’s ideas. Biological populations were changing over time, they were adapting to their environment, and they were keeping genetic mutations that proved advantageous. This included camouflage, slighter build in birds that allowed for faster migration, and even aesthetic changes that made them more appealing to potential mates. Allele frequencies consistent with genetic mutations and natural selection were documented. Single-cell microorganisms were seen mutating in a manner that increased chances of long-term survival. Biologists became increasingly aware of endemic species and began mapping branches of common descent based on fossil records and comparative biology. Evolution was and continues to be observed. If wanting to see it in action in a Petri dish, click here: http://tiny.cc/40zojy

Faced with literally seeing evolution occurring, creationists had four choices. They could mimic R.E.M. and lose their religion. They could dismiss the observed evolution as satanic trickery, a tact favored by Theodore Shoebat and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun. They could embrace the science but insist that God is its source, which is done by biologist blogger Kelsey Luoma. Or they could concoct a haphazard ad hoc hypothesis that tries to drive a wedge between microevolution and macroevolution. This final option will be our focus for the rest of this post.

The idea is that small changes are acceptable but not big ones. For example, the extinct lizard hylonomus may have adapted to its environment by evolving a more efficient toe pad, but a very long series of such changes could not have led to humans. In fact, creationists draw the line at the lizard’s ancestors ever becoming any other species, though they don’t quite define what that means. Answers in Genesis writes that the ability to breed is probably a defining characteristic, but clarifies that there may be exceptions, so they give themselves cover either way.

In truth, there is no microevolution or macroevolution. There is only evolution, the change in inherited characteristics of biological populations over time. Luoma wrote, “The only difference between micro and macroevolution is scope. When enough micro changes accumulate, a population will eventually lose its ability to interbreed with other members of its species. At this point, we say that macroevolution has occurred. Random mutation and natural selection cause both micro and macro evolution. There are no invisible boundaries that prevent organisms from evolving into new species. It just takes time.”

The counter idea started with Frank Marsh in 1941, following his creative interpretation of Hebrew texts. He deduced that God had created “kinds,” a term that neither he nor his likeminded creationists have ever bothered to define. This leaves ample room for interpretation, but as much as I can tell, they base it on appearance and the ability to breed. They also seem to allude to “kind” being very roughly comparable to the biological category of Family. The only steadfast rule is that humans are the only animals allowed to occupy their “kind.” Despite sharing 22 of 23 chromosome pairs with chimpanzees and having an almost identical bone structure to other apes, people get their own category, owing to creationists’ special pleading, desperation, and arrogance.

Marsh called this new pseudoscience field baraminology. Baraminologists have never drawn up a tree or diagram to explain how it works, so it’s a guess which “kind” each animal should be placed in. But it seems to rely mostly on similar features. For example, they would consider all horses to be of one kind, and this would likely include donkeys and zebras.  But while these equines might be somewhat similar in appearance to a giraffe and have an even vaguer resemblance to a hippopotamus, it is unlikely that the baraminologist would put these other animals in the same “kind” as horses. That would be getting terrifyingly close to Darwinism.

For 25 years, Marsh had the baraminology field to himself, but it picked up adherents when the idea of fitting 10 million creatures and their 15-month food and water supply on an oversized ship seemed untenable. By saying that each fortunate duo that boarded Noah’s ark is the ancestor of 10,000 different types of animals, the amount of space needed is greatly reduced.

One example of how this works is to put all cats in one kind. This leads to an incredible irony. Folks who mostly reject evolution will enthusiastically embrace a hyper version of it in which two felines who stepped off Noah’s ark 5,000 years ago are the ancestors of all tigers, jaguars, pumas, lions, bobcats, lynxes, ocelots cheetahs, panthers, cougars, saber-toothed cats, and your pet calico Fluffy. While evolution this fast could occur with artificial selection – it did with dogs – applying it to natural selection would require assuming it takes place exponentially faster than it does. It also means ignoring the fossil record and the worldwide distribution of big cats. For instance, it does not explain how panthers would have gotten from Turkey to Brazil.

Some theories have small gaps in them. By contrast, baraminology is a gaping, sucking hole with a tiny amount of theory thrown in. Those who created, expanded, and defended the field have never defined it, quantified it, explained it, nor offered any illustrations, graphs, trees, or publications that would demonstrate how it works or help anyone make sense of it.

At the other end of the spectrum is Dr. Jerry Coyne, biology professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. He says macroevolution is supported by embryonic forms, the fossil record, and “dead genes.”

Mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish are all in their own biologic class, but look so similar before birth that it sometimes takes experts to tell them apart. Also, traits of one animal may be present in the embryonic state of a separate animal, even across classes. For example, human embryos have gill slits that disappear before birth. This implies common ancestry with fish and as the branch split, different traits were either further evolved or became vestigial. In another example, whales have a pelvis remnant that is pointless for aquatic travel but which would have served their land-roving ancestors well.

Besides these clues, there is also the fossil record. Coyne wrote, “We have transitional forms between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and birds, reptiles and mammals, and between early apelike ancestors and modern humans.”

It’s not just a matter of what, the when is also important. Again, per Dr. Coyne: “Those transitional forms just happen to occur at the proper time in the fossil record. Mammal-like reptiles – the transitional forms between reptiles and early mammals – occur in the sediments after reptiles were already around for a while, but before easily-recognizable mammals come on the scene. It’s not just that they look intermediate, but that they lived at the right time for demonstrating a true evolutionary transition.”

Then we have “dead genes,” Coyne’s term for stretches of DNA that don’t produce a product, but are largely identical to working genes in other species. “These are likewise evidence for distant ancestry between ‘kinds,’” Coyne wrote.

Examples he cited included humans having three dead genes for egg-yolk proteins, which are still active in our distant cousins of the reptilian and avian persuasions. In another instance, whales and other cetaceans have hundreds of dead olfactory-receptor genes, which implies a terrestrial origin for these ocean-dwelling mammals.  These genes are active in deer and even the most desperate baraminologist would not put Bambi and Willy in the same kind.

Creationists demand being able to see molecules-to-man evolution in real time and when this is not possible, they will declare this a “gotcha” moment. But just as DNA is better evidence than an eyewitness during a trial, we can see macroevolution in the form of transitions between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals, reptiles and birds, and ground-bound mammals and whales.

The attempt to bridge the vastly disparate ideas in Genesis and On the Origin of Species is called theistic evolution. It has few fans among either biologists or creationists, particularly the Young Earth subset. But I would like to acknowledge Luoma, the theistic evolutionist I quoted earlier in the post.

First, she wrote that macroevolution has been observed in three instances involving finches, mice, and flies. In these cases, separate breeds branched off and within a few years, the resultant organisms were incapable of breeding with the original population. Her full article is here: http://tiny.cc/hv3ojy

Second, Luoma has a biology degree from a legitimate institution and accepts scientific evidence without first checking to see if it squares with Genesis. She is content to credit God with “perhaps creating and sustaining the process by which new species are created.” This is a superfluous addition that lacks any evidence, but it sure beats science denial. She accepts the science, promotes the science, and calls for only science to be taught in biology class.  

Luoma describes herself as “an evangelical Christian and student of biology who is very interested in resolving the conflict between faith and science.” There is no conflict, as that requires two hostile parties. The assault is unilateral. No scientists or skeptics are trying to force churches to teach Darwin. The only aggression comes from creationists and politicians who try to get their religion and science denial taught in taxpayer-funded schools.

While a literal reading of Genesis cannot comport with biology and astronomy, Luoma would gladly teach biology on Friday, then worship God on Sunday. If creationists would follow her lead, the issue would be resolved.

“Devil may scare” (Satanic Panic)


There is Sasquatch, Yeti, Nessie, and dozens of less-celebrated cryptos. But the most enduring monster whose existence has yet to be verified is Beelzebub, the devil, Lucifer, Apollyon, Satan, the Dark Lord. This many-monikered beast, unlike the rest of the monsters, is indirectly responsible for much misery.   

Now, for being the embodiment of evil, the cloven-hoofed one has never harmed anybody himself. But there have been some who committed atrocities in his name, such as Richard Ramirez who went on a spree of break ins, rapes, and murders with an inverted pentagram tattooed on his palm. There were a few others who did similar deeds, but the most frequent satanic byproduct are baseless accusations made against someone.

That took place in 17th Century Salem and continues today with Pizzagate. I saw one online poster who claimed that 800,000 children are snatched each year by Satanists. She was basing the figure on information provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited children. But she was basing the reason for their disappearance on negative evidence, wild speculation, and filling in the sizable gaps with her agenda. While about 2,000 children a day are reported missing, this figure includes children who show up 45 minutes later to announce they had taken the scenic route home from school. It includes those who got hurt while hiking and are rescued four days later. It includes runaways, children who are abandoned by their parents, and those who are kidnapped by noncustodial mothers or fathers. Just 1.4 percent of missing children are taken by strangers, and most of these kidnappers worship another deity besides Satan or no deity at all.

So even if five percent of the kidnappers were Satanists, this means that six children are year are taken by devil worshippers, not 800,000. The poster had made the preposterous claim to bolster the case for her belief in Pizzagate – a tale twisted and bizarre even by the ridiculous standards of conspiracy theorists. This theory has expanded to potentially include any pizza joint, any business adjacent to a pizza joint, and anyone even once patronizes these establishments. All this is said to be part of a nationwide kidnapping and child rape ring, led by Lucifer his satanic sidekicks, Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.

This is a new twist on an ancient idea. The devil figured prominently in Paradise Lost. New Testament writers blamed him for sending a herd of pigs over a cliff and for causing people to fling themselves into a fire. He even appears to win an argument with the archangel Michael over an unspecified issue regarding Moses’ corpse in Jude –  perhaps the most unhinged, bizarre, paranoid, threatening, rambling, and doomsday-desiring book in the Bible. And though it was likely due to a translation error, Satan makes one cameo in the Old Testament when God permits him to destroy Job. The horned one even takes the blame for future carnage and calamity, in Revelation.

But our focus will be relatively modern. Anton LaVey penned the Satanic Bible in the 1960s and become a cult celebrity. He played the devil in Rosemary’s Baby in the 1970s, a decade that also gave us The Exorcist, the Omen, and cattle mutilations that some pegged on Satanists.

In 1972, Mike Warnke wrote a book in which he claimed to have previously been a satanic high priest, a position from which he witnessed mandatory blood sacrifices, ritual rape, and child abuse. A few years later, Michelle Smith wrote Michelle Remembers, in which she insisted the she recalled seeing children kept in cages, adults having fingers sliced off, and even baby sacrifices. Neither Warnke nor Smith could provide any names and were unable to lead police to any perpetrators, victims, or corpses. This set the tone for what was to come: Over the top claims followed by panic and sometimes false convictions, but never a capture of any felonious Satanists.  

Onto the 1980s, lowlighted by Geraldo specials and the almost-requisite inclusion of the adjective “satanic” before the phrase “heavy metal band.” This even though for every genuinely satanic band like Deicide, there were 100 Judas Priests, for whom 666 was just another number. And for all the panic about devil worshippers, the damage was actually being done by child-molesting Catholic priests and Christian televangelists caught in a series of scandals.

A few wayward derelicts may have dabbled in the dark arts and performed a few silly rituals, but most were doing it for the thrill of being iconoclastic outcasts, not because they were truly evil. For instance, when I was 20, I saw a truck that had been spray painted with the slogan, “Kill For Satin.” It had been thrown on there by a hoodlum who was either linguistically-challenged or who was showing unusual featly to smooth fabric.  

To be clear, there were about half a dozen murders attributed to demons’ minions in the 70s and 80s, but this was uncovered by means of traditional law enforcement and confessions, not from the revelations of someone privy to the inner workings of satanic cults or from daytime talk show investigations.

On SNL, Jon Lovitz portrayed a devil who made failed attempts at wickedness, while the Church Lady chastised her guests for being under Satan’s spell. Indeed, much of this had a comic edge to it, but there was a much darker side that featured ruined many lives. Not ruined by satanic cult members, who killed very few, and who certainly represented a microscopic percentage of the homicidal maniacs. Rather, innocent lives were ruined by the collective hysteria of parents, press, and prosecutors. The result was the loss of freedom for innocent persons accused of kidnapping, torture, sexual abuse and murder.

This Satanic Panic was an example of a moral panic, which Blake Smith of Skeptoid defines as “a cultural event wherein people become hypervigilant to a threat to the status quo and tend to throw reason and rationality out in favor of seeking protection from the perceived threat at all costs.”

A recent moral panic example would be last year’s glut of clown sightings. Past examples include the 1920s Red Scare, which was a virtual Commie lovefest compared to the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joseph McCarthy hearings 30 years later.

With regard to the Satanic Panic, it promoted the notion that organized cults of Luciferians were clandestinely controlling childcare facilities and using their positions to molest, murder, dismember, and torment. 

The most infamous case was the McMartin Daycare trial. Judy Johnson’s 2-year-old son had a reddened rectum and trouble using the toilet, two facts which convinced her he was being molested at the daycare center. Other parents were asked to look for evidence this was happening to their children as well.

Toddlers barely old enough to talk were coached into giving the “correct” answer and, eager to please adults, did so. The paranoia was so extreme that Johnson even claimed her son had reported seeing daycare members fly about the room and many persons believed this. There were reports of secret tunnels and rail tracks beneath the daycare center that would transport the children to other buildings to be tortured and molested. Hot air balloons were offered as another means of transportation, though this would seemingly be superfluous for someone who could fly. Despite the ease with which such ideas as hot air balloon rental and subterranean transportation could be checked out, this wasn’t about logic or facts, it was about fear and revenge.

None of the McMartin defendants were convicted and some were never even formally charged, but some still spent years in jail, unable to pay the seven-figure bail amounts that were also part of the panic. It was at the time the longest, most expensive trial in U.S. history and it was all based on such notions as flying satanic daycare workers.

This injustice was not enough to slow the paranoia. Dan and Fran Keller spent 20 years in prison after being convicted of molesting children at their daycare center in Oak Hill, Texas. Transportation again figured prominently in the case, with the victims allegedly flown out of the country to be molested in a satanic orgy perpetrated by Mexican soldiers before being shuttled back in time to be picked up by their parents. Other claims were babies used as shark food and children being forced to watch the sacrificial slaughter of kittens and puppies. The Kellers were released when the doctor who had provided the only physical evidence at their trial recanted.

In both daycare cases, children ages 2 to 5 were asked leading questions and praised when they gave the desired response. They were even allowed to mix with each other in between giving testimonies and were encouraged to collaborate and come to shared conclusions.

A bizarre false confession led to another conviction, this time of Paul Igraham, whose daughter accused him of sexual abuse. Imgram was a committed Pentecostal who had no memory of the alleged attacks, but surmised that a demon must have seized control of him.

So when his daughter claimed to have been in ceremonies in which 25 babies were sacrificed and in which she was raped 800 times, he figured it must be true and that the devil made him do it. There was no physical evidence or other witnesses despite these horrors being allegedly being perpetrated by a large cult over many years. No matter in the era of the Satanic Panic, and Ingraham spent two decades in prison.

While these devilish tales took place in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Pizzagate shows that the notion still has life. When it comes to getting people to act irrationally and believe the farfetched, few things can match the fear that the devil inspires. As our spray painting buddy would put it, “Satin rules!”




“Helicopter apparent” (Abydos temple image)


Pharaohs received luxurious accommodations during their lifetimes and even nicer surroundings once they died. In the case of 13th Century BCE ruler Seti I, a  mortuary temple was built for him in Abydos.

This site would be little-known outside of Egyptology and anthropology circles were it not for a creative interpretation of part of the inscription on its walls. Some consider it evidence that ancient Egyptians had conquered flight in the form of helicopters. Here is the image, seen in the top row, second apophenia manifestation on the left:


The image could also be said to resemble a locust but no one is going to recruit fervent supporters with that kind of hypothesis. Few of the believers credit the Egyptians with inventing the helicopter, but feel this was the work of extraterrestrial beings, time travelers, Atlanteans, or Nephilim. The seeming flying machine is an example of an Out Of Place Artifact. These are apparent anachronisms that believers in time travel, creationism, ancient astronauts, Atlantis, or Alternate Chronologies use to bolster their claims. These artifacts usually have a reasonable, scientific explanation, but if they don’t, it still requires implementing the Appeal to Ignorance fallacy to credit the artifact as evidence for one’s belief.

The temple was both a manifestation of and monument to Seti’s ego. He began constructing it to honor himself and to have a place for his followers to worship him and Osiris after he died. Seti never finished, with that job falling to his son, Ramesses II. This slacker young’un did lazy work that including hasty chiseling, plastering over old inscriptions, and making modifications using plaster infill. This altering of the original inscription, along with erosion, made the image what it is today.

Where some see a helicopter, Egyptologists see a filled and re-carved titulary, which is a common site in pharaoh temples. However, there may be a bit of fraud at work as well. The photos that appear on believer sites look to have been digitally altered to make the inscription (or helicopter) look more uniform than it is. Unretouched photos appear to show more clearly  that one name has been carved over another.

A substantial strike against the notion of flying pharaohs is that the machine that would carry them is seen in this temple no place else in ancient Egyptian literature, artwork, or hieroglyphics. Egyptians built the Sphinx and pyramids and made great advances in agriculture, justice systems, and written language. They were proud of all this and to think they would have managed flight without celebrating it their art and historical records is unlikely. Additionally, aircrafts require fuel, specialized parts, and factories and there is no evidence any of those existed in Egypt 4,000 years ago.

Also, Seti I led his country in several wars and this technology would have allowed Egypt to conquer anyone while suffering no casualties. There would have been no reason to not use this capability then, nor any reason to abandon the technology.

The case that the hieroglyphic helicopter is instead a carved-over name is substantial and there are innumerable examples of the same practice at other sites throughout Egypt. In this case, the naming convention of Ramesses II was carved over his father’s and, combined with four millennia of wind, sand, and neglect, created an image somewhat resembling a helicopter.

My position as a skeptic is a strong reason for me to embrace this explanation. But I will concede another incentive. Unless ancestry.com has led me astray, Seti I and Ramesses II were my ancestors, 119 and 118 generations back, respectively. That means I have a case for getting my name carved into the walls.

“Judgement daze” (Prophecy News Watch)


Post hoc reasoning occurs when a person wrongly assumes that because two events happened in succession, one caused the other. This is fallacious thinking because it fails to consider other factors that might be involved. Post hoc reasoning is common in alternative medicine because of the fluctuating nature of many pains and illnesses, and because persons are more apt to try unorthodox methods when the discomfort is peaking. That’s why reflexology, Reiki, and aura cleansings have plenty of glowing testimonials but no double blind studies or control trials to support these anecdotes. Post hoc reasoning is also regularly employed by horoscope readers and ghost hunters.

But the most extreme example I’ve come across is from prophecynewswatch.com. This website focuses on U.S.-Israeli relations, most often in the form of dire warnings of what will befall America if it betrays its Middle Eastern ally. After the U.S. declined to use its UN veto on Security Resolution 2334 on Dec. 23, the website posted a story headlined, “10 previous times America faced major disaster after attempting to divide Israel.”

Whether the U.S. had tried to divide Israel in these instances is debatable, but our focus here is on the claim that such actions led to American harm. We will go over a few examples and the entire list is here if you are hard-up to kill some time: goo.gl/iKcGl7.

The ominous article wastes little time in getting to the post hoc reasoning. In the third sentence, author Michael Snyder warned, “Over the past several decades, whenever the U.S. government has taken a major step toward the division of the land of Israel it has resulted in a major disaster hitting the United States.”

Besides post hoc reasoning, this is also example of subjective validation, which is when something that is routine seems profound because it has personal meaning. Also at work is selective memory. Snyder thinks the U.S. has betrayed Israel, so he will be looking for signs that Yahweh’s wrath has been unleashed, and he will remember it if he thinks this has happened. But he will not remember instances where the wrath is seemingly withheld, nor times where wrath was seemingly leveled without a recent rift in U.S.-Israel relations. For example, there was no anti-Israel activity in the days immediately preceding Space Shuttle explosions, the Beirut barracks bombing, the King and Kennedy assassinations, or 9/11.

As to the disasters that did befall the U.S. for being insufficiently obsequious to Israel, here is some of Snyder’s list:

  1. January 16, 1994. President Clinton met with President Assad of Syria to discuss the possibility of Israel giving up the Golan Heights. Within 24 hours, the devastating Northridge earthquake hit southern California.
  2. January 21, 1998. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the White House but received a very cold reception. President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refused to have lunch with him. That same day the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, sending the Clinton presidency into a tailspin from which it would never recover.
  3. September 28, 1998. Albright was working on finalizing a plan which would have had Israel give up approximately 13 percent of Judea and Samaria. On that day, Hurricane George slammed into the Gulf Coast with wind gusts of up to 175 miles an hour.
  4. May 19, 2011. Barack Obama told Israel that there must be a return to the pre-1967 borders. Three days later, an EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo.

California earthquakes, Midwest tornadoes, and Gulf Coast hurricanes occur every year and require no invoking of the supernatural. They are explicable through what we know about meteorology and geology. And Clinton survived the Lewinsky scandal to serve out his second term, and while the revelation might have been a personal embarrassment, it was not a national disaster. This, however, is a minor point. The main point is that Snyder offered no evidence that any of these incidents were the result of foreign policy or of being an ungracious dinner host.

To demonstrate how fallacious his thinking is, let’s look at some times where the U.S. worked to benefit Israel, only to befall disaster shortly thereafter.

On May 14, 1948, the U.S. became the first country to recognize Israel. Later that month, the Columbia River dike broke, killing 15 persons and leaving thousands homeless in Vanport, Ore.

The U.S. supported Israel during the Six Day War from June 5-10. 1967. Less than two weeks later, a Mohawk Air Flight plane crashed in New York, killing 34.

The Nixon Administration provided massive resupply support to Israel in the Yom Kippur War from Oct. 6-25, 1973. On Oct. 10 of that year, Spiro Agnew resigned. A few days later, Nixon ordered  the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox. This led to the first calls for his impeachment and eventually doomed his presidency.

Writing about the recent veto declination, Snyder noted the president had previously used it and the U.S. benefited. “When Barack Obama blocked a similar resolution that France wanted to submit for a vote in September 2015, it resulted in America being blessed, and we definitely have been blessed over the past 16 months,” he asserted, conspicuously lacking to give even one example.

The 16 months in question featured the Pulse Nightclub massacre, the Flint water crisis, 13 dead in a California tour bus crash, multiple innocent civilians killed by police, and eight innocent officers killed in retaliation. There was also Hurricane Matthew, which killed 26 Americans. Two hurricanes made the author’s list of times the U.S. suffered for forsaking Israel, yet one also occurred during a time he said we were being blessed for adequate kowtowing.

Snyder also ignores when good fortune occurs in the wake of abandoning Israel. His list included Oct. 30, 1991, when Bush the Elder opened the Madrid Peace Conference, bringing Israelis and Palestinians together for negotiations. Snyder noted this was followed by the “1991 Perfect Storm” which killed 13 people and slammed waves into Bush’s Kennebunkport home.

However, the rest of 1991 also brought Terry Anderson’s release, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, indictments of two Pan Am Flight 103 bombing conspirators, and David Duke’s gubernatorial race defeat.

Snyder is so determined to cram disasters into his narrative that he ascribes Hurricane Andrew making landfall to the Madrid Peace Conference being moved to Washington, D.C., the day prior. However, this move came after weather forecasters had already said Andrew was barreling toward Florida.

Snyder closes by writing, “Barack Obama has cursed Israel by stabbing them in the back at the United Nations. According to the Word of God we should be cursed as a nation as a result. And as surely as I am writing this article, we will be cursed.”

I too can prophesize and according to the Scroll of Skepticism, Snyder will count the next unrelated disaster as fulfillment of his prediction.