“Not cutting it” (Circumcision)

NOCUT

Circumcision has endured because of tradition, not because of rationale nor medical benefit. Nor has it ever been successful as an anti-masturbatory measure, which is why it gained prominence in the West 150 years ago.

When a custom remains after its original intent has vanished, it has morphed into a ritual. And ritual is one of the kinder words to describe removing highly-innervated tissue from the most vulnerable members of our species, without any benefit in return. The relic rests in the same vein as coming-of-age rituals and other practices that involve cutting, slicing, burning, and flogging.

Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in 500 boys experience acute complications from circumcision. Even a .2 percent risk is an acceptable amount when there is no chance of reward.

Still it endures because, to most Westerners, that’s the way it’s always been. But the appeal to tradition is a logical fallacy that, were it rigidly adhered to, would have us still with slavery and without women’s suffrage. 

Imagine if circumcision had never been practiced and someone proposed we begin fondling and mutilating the infant genitals. The collective response would be revulsion.  Yet the practice continues today because, well, just because.

Reasons include ensuring the infant conform to religious norms or so that they will look like their father. But faith should be a personal choice and if a father was missing three fingers, no one would suggest lopping off the digits to ensure familial uniformity. A third reason proponents give is because they think it looks unappealing. But that’s only because they are used to seeing circumcised penises.  Were every male intact, proponents would see circumcised members as the freaky outcasts. 

 

Parents deciding to circumcise their sons is distinct from having them vaccinated or given Vitamin K boosters, as these have identifiable benefits.

Chopping off someone else’s body part would mean prison time under any other circumstance, but exception made for the most vulnerable victim. In a depressing display of bipartisanship, the practice remains prevalent among persons of all political leanings.

Conservatives still go for the religion and tradition angles, which is to be expected. Harder to comprehend is the tepid response from liberals, who should be demanding bodily autonomy over the most defenseless of our species. It has been pointed out that  we should never make Junior hug an aunt just because she’s visiting for Christmas if the child doesn’t wish too. Yet, somehow this mindset does not extend to control over the most private part.

With no medical benefit, circumcision is a solution in need of a problem.  Proponents sometimes cite hygiene, but this is no more logical that lopping off our ears to prevent dirt from accumulating within.

One seemingly more valid reason is the chance of reducing HIV infection. But this is an untruth and based on studies that make such basic mistakes as assuming all transmission was due to heterosexual sex. Also, if the studies were correct, and the practice provided STD protection, there would be a wide difference in infection rates between the circumcised and intact.  

 

“Hosanna split” (Hypoxia)

NUNSURF

An image that makes periodic social media rounds purports to show God’s majestic handiwork in the form of keeping two distinctly colorful bodies of water separate.

In the post, a wowed, anonymous person declares, “The two bodies of water never mix with each other, allowing the Gulf of Mexico to retain its clear, blue color. Simply amazing! That just proves that their (sic) is a GOD!!!! Who else can let WATER meet and touch but NEVER mix together???? #illwait.”

While she is willing to wait, we won’t spend time here imparting a lesson on circular reasoning or affirming the consequent. Rather, we’ll jump right into the science.

The image shows a dead zone, called hypoxia, off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas in 2015. This unintentionally-manmade phenomenon occurs when high levels of nutrient runoff make their way into the Mississippi River. This causes tremendous amounts of nitrogen to be disbursed when the river empties into the Atlantic Ocean. These nitrogen levels cause overgrowth of algae and other vegetation that deplete much of the oxygen from the water, kills fish, and causes the adjoining bodies of water to assume different colors.

Don’t plan your vacation around seeing this. Dead zones change each year based on a weather conditions, wind speed, and a water’s nutrient level. This means there is no permanent divide between the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

When it does occur, it’s mostly because the majority of the ground in the Mississippi’s watershed is farm land. Seventy percent of the nutrient loads that cause hypoxia result from agricultural runoff that occurs when rain washes fertilizer from the land into a stream or river.

Additionally, urban areas that border the Mississippi continually deposit treated sewage into the river. Between the rural and urban contributions, about 1.7 million tons of nitrogen and phosphorous are deposited, and this is crucial for phytoplankton growth.

However, this also leads to ecological harm. It causes massive phytoplankton blooms to occur, which in turn leads to a large increase in zooplankton that feed on them. Large amounts of dead phytoplankton and zooplankton waste then accumulate on the ocean floor and the decomposition of this matter depletes oxygen in the area faster than it can be replaced. Put another way, if this is God’s doing, he’s displaying his wrath, not his wonder.

“Abrogated battery” (Electric cars)

Corbin_Sparrow

During my ninth-grade year, I spied a classmate driving, well, it’s hard to say what it was. Other than to call it a contraption so hideous it seemed a mutant offspring of a golf cart, Yugo, and lunar rover. It looked so bad that he felt the need to offer a proactive apology/explanation that it ran on electricity.

His father had procured a small fleet of them, with dreams of making his fortune from a technology that would render the internal combustion engine as obsolete as the engine had made the horse and buggy.

Even with the much spiffier electric cars of today, such futuristic fantasies have never materialized. There have been issues with a short driving range, few re-energizing stations, and a dearth of mechanics who specialize in the breed.

The cars are also blamed for environmental ails by people who don’t care about environmental ails – that is to say, right-wing types who resist any threat to the oil and gas industries. 

With Tesla Motors now offering a reasonable alternative to traditional vehicles, we should take a closer look at claims that electric cars are worse for the environment than ones that operate on internal combustion.

The central argument is that since electric cars require an oversized battery, whose manufacturing has to be done at a separate locale than the rest of the car, another factory gets added to the mix. Further, the mining needed to procure the battery’s components adds another process. This all requires infrastructure, transportation, workers, and logistical support.

Therefore, the usual car manufacturing, combined with the battery production, more than doubles greenhouse gas emissions. Since the electricity required to charge the behemoth battery comes from a traditional power plant, electric car drivers still stamp their carbon footprint like everyone else, but are worse violators because of the battery production’s consequences.

The infrastructure argument is correct in the short term. But over time, if everyone used an electric car, it would prove beneficial because it would mean humans had moved from a fossil fuel infrastructure to an electric one.

When a traditional car and its electric counterpart leave the factory, the latter’s production has produced more greenhouse gases than the former. But by the time the cars are scrapped or otherwise reach their end, the car powered by an internal combustion engine will have contributed twice as many greenhouse gases to our environment.

The reason an electric car still contributes to environmental damage is because fossil fuel power plants  generate most of the electricity that power those vehicles. So the more electric cars that there are, the more often there is an initial uptick in ecological harm. But eventually that is more than overcome by the lack of fossil fuels burnt.

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted that having one large power plant fueling many electric cars means electrics on even the dirtiest grid are still far cleaner than internal combustion cars. He added that generating the electricity accounts for about 70 percent of an electric car’s total contribution to greenhouse gases.

The number a miles a motorist has to drive an electric car before he or she has made up for excess greenhouse gases from manufacturing the car varies widely, depending on the vehicle and whether a grid is powered by renewables or fossil fuels.

Dunning calculated that the number can range from 3,700 to 39,000 miles. But whenever a car passes that number, it is more environmentally friendly than an internal combustion-powered vehicle, be it a Tesla beauty or the abomination my classmate dared to be seen in.

“Iraq star” (Baghdad battery)

ISTARTWO

The Appeal to antiquity fallacy is most commonly associated with alternative medicine, but it also makes appearances in pseudo-archeology. The fallacy latches itself to a romantic notion that peoples long ago mastered technologies that we associate with the modern day. Take, for example, an Iraqi clay pot that some believe was used as a battery a thousand years before such an advancement was thought to exist.

The object in question is a small fired pot whose top has broken off. Around the broken rim are asphalt remnants, suggesting the jar’s top had originally been sealed. Inside the jar rests a hollow tube of thin copper rolled into a cylinder. At the top sits a thick asphalt plug that fits snugly into the tube.

The National Museum of Iraq housed this “Baghdad Battery” until the artifact was looted following the U.S. invasion of 2003. Archaeologists agree that it comes from sometime during the Parthian period or the ensuing Sasanian Empire. This makes the pot about 1,600 years old, give or a take a couple of centuries. If it functioned as a battery, that would make it, by several hundred years, the first such device.

The idea of it being just that was the notion of Wilhelm König, an assistant at the museum, who speculated that the jar could have been a simple battery used for electroplating pieces of art.

There are similar copper cylinders in the museum, many of which contain fragments of long-decomposed papyrus, suggesting they were used to contain and protect scrolls. For reasons unclear, König supposed that this one particular jar might have been used as a battery instead. He experimented by constructing some versions that employed terminals, wiring, and an electrolyte fluid. König’s devices managed to achieve small voltages.  

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted that extracting voltage from an object like the Baghdad Battery is quite easy, as a basic battery requires nothing more than ordinary items. All the experimenter requires are two different types of metal, and if placed in an electrolyte liquid, an electrical current will flow from one piece of metal to the other. Common household items and foodstuffs will do the trick.

While König’s conjecture was that the battery may have been used for electroplating jewelry or bits of art, other people have different ideas. Some think the battery could have been connected to a religious statue, so that when a worshiper touched it, they would receive a holy shock from a deity whose name is lost to history. Another conjecture holds that its mild shock helped with pain relief.

However, overwhelming evidence suggest it is a scroll jar. Almost any object could be repurposed. I was in a hotel once in need of a spoon and no such utensil was to be found, nor a fork or knife, nor even a beverage stirrer. I ended up using a coffee filter housing to scoop my food. As Dunning wrote, “The fact that something can be used as something else does not mean that it was ever intended that way.”

To this artifact specifically, there are other reasons so suspect it was never a battery. First, it would have lasted as such for a short duration as to be useless. The electrolyte fluid would need to be replaced continually. Second, the object lacks terminals, and batteries need negative and positive ones that are accessible for connecting wires. If rigged as a battery, this one would have had the terminals under the fluid level and inaccessible beneath a seal. Finally, no conductive wires have ever been found that would indicate the ancients knew anything bout wiring. And lacking wires, there would be no method of connecting a battery to the device that housed it.

Beyond these points, this is the only “battery” of the time period ever found. There are no written records or artifacts showing its development beforehand or improvements after. So it is either a clay jar consistent with all the others of the time or a completely isolated innovation that used a technology that made one appearance, then lay dormant for hundreds of years.

“Stoned Age” (Protohuman psychedelics)

FF

There are various hypothesis as to how humans became the dominant species. Perhaps the least-known and least-supported of these is the suspicion that our distant ancestors used natural psychedelic compounds that led to societal advances and bodily adaptations.

To the best of my knowledge, the idea has zero support among anthropologists and archeologists. It seems limited mostly to psychedelic proponents, the most prominent of whom is Terence McKenna, who outlined the idea in his book Food of the Gods.

Specifically, he wonders if as we became bipedal and made our way from the Horn of Africa to the savannah, we consumed psilocybin, which formed naturally on the ground. According to the tale, this fomented an ability to think abstractly, to develop toolmaking and fire-building skills, and fostered the first use of rudimentary language. As to why the likes of gazelles, primates, and other animals who had equal access to the compound had no corresponding advancements is left unexplained.

On another topic, McKenna attributes the tripling of brain size that took place in upright hominids over three million years to regular ingestion of psilocybin. He does this while claiming science offers no other explanation. First, even if that were true, it would merely be a secular variant of the god of the gaps fallacy. Secondly, anthropologists and archeologists have a good idea of why this trebling of the cerebrum and related parts occurred. 

They attribute it to the evolution of the opposable thumb and to cooking food, which made the victuals more nutritious. Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted, “Anthropologists have cemented these ideas with the expensive tissue hypothesis, which provides a metabolic and biochemical explanation for how protohumans were able to afford the greater energy requirements of a larger brain on the same basic energy budget, by reducing the relative size of the gut which became possible once food was being cooked to make its nutrients much more bioavailable.”

The brain and digestive systems require the most energy to function, and we see the results of this is humans and other animals. There exists a negative correlation between brain and gut sizes. As one shrinks, the other grows, and vice versa.

Dunning used the cow as an example, noting that our bovine buddies “consume only grass, a terrible diet virtually devoid of nutrition. So it needs four enormous stomachs and a great long digestive system, all energetically expensive tissue, leaving it with a tiny brain.”

We, by contrast, eat a far more energy dense diet – including a lot of cow meat and milk – and this enables the human digestive systems to be small and fuel-efficient. That leaves plenty of energy to fuel the brain, which is why it is of ample size to see the folly in a hypothesis predicated on stoned apes. 

 

 

 

“On Gard” (HPV vaccine)

BELT

Gardasil, a vaccine which prevents Human Papillomavirus cancer, is sometimes eschewed even by those who normally embrace vaccination. Some parents ensure that their children are fully inoculated, with this one exception. 

But Gardasil’s safety record is excellent and the refusals are based on a misinformation campaign. The HPV vaccine is part of a regimen that makes is less likely to contract one type of cancer. Avoiding smoking and excessive sun and alcohol, along vaccines and a reasonable diet and exercise program all play their part in optimal health.

With regard to HPV, it causes nearly five percent on new cancers, the same as tobacco. Skipping the vaccine, then, creates unnecessary risk. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that 11- and 12-year-olds be vaccinated against it.

But since HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease, some religious parents feel that allowing the vaccine will cause their child to be promiscuous. But this is no more reasonable than thinking that skipping the vaccine will cause chaste behavior. Then there are those who think their children are too upright to fall prey to temptations of the flesh. This assumption about their offspring’s behavior is matched only by their inflated sense of their parenting skills. Moreover, the horrific but plausible idea of the child being sexually assaulted should be enough to override this line of reasoning.

The Skeptical Raptor cited a Gardasil safety study of 200,000 young women, which showed no “evidence of new safety concerns among females 9 to 26 years of age secondary to vaccination with HPV4.”

In another study of almost 1 millions girls and young women, HPV-vaccinated subjects were compared with those who received a placebo. The authors concluded that the study “identified no safety signals with respect to autoimmune, neurological, and venous thromboembolic events after the HPV vaccine had been administered. 

Additionally, an eight-year clinical trial comparing HPV to a placebo showed no difference in adverse results.

Points to the contrary consist mainly of anecdotes over data, offenses to religious sensibilities, and whispers (or shouts) about the evils of Big Pharma. In other words, not much science and research going on.

There are no legitimate, evidence-based objections to Gardasil, which research has repeatedly shown to be safe and effective. Studies published in authentic medical journals, highlighting work done by experts in the fields of epidemiology, virology, infectious diseases, and cancer research, all bear this out.

“Pushing it” (Applied kinesiology)

MUSCLES

Pseudoscience refers to misusing or remarketing scientific terms in order to give undeserved credence to an untenable position. One such example is applied kinesiology. The second word in this phrase is a legitimate medical field, the study of movement.

By applying, so to speak, another word to the phrase, an area with no scientific backing attempts to coopt this legitimacy. Applied kinesiology is a putative muscle-testing technique based on the supposition that the way a subject’s muscles respond to being pushed, pressed, and prodded tells the practitioner what ails the patient.

The field assumes the existence of unproven concepts like chi, meridians, and a universal intelligence which runs through nature, to include the human nervous system. Proponents believe that muscles reflect the flow of chi and that resistance reveals the health of the subject’s bodily organs and what nutritional deficiencies afflict them.

The original applied kinesiologist was George Goodheart, who claimed his technique could evaluate nerve, vascular, lymphatic, and digestive systems. The key was the flow of an undefined and undetectable energy along equally non-existent meridians.

Energy is the most frequently misused word among alternative medicine practitioners. It serves as a placeholder that substitutes for any meaningful term or function. In science, energy means “measurable work capability,” and using this phrase instead of energy will reveal just how silly and shaky such claims are.

For example, this site informs its readers that, “Kinesiologists test specific points along the Chinese acupuncture meridians to discover areas of stress/imbalance in the body, mind and energy systems. Then, by using one or more of the many balancing methods – including chakra balancing, sound, color and more – you will be able to balance the body’s energy.”

Using the scientific definition of energy would leave us with this phrase: “Kinesiologists test specific points along the Chinese acupuncture meridians to discover areas of stress/imbalance in the body, mind and measurable work capability systems. Then, by using one or more of the many balancing methods – including chakra balancing, sound, color and more, you will be able to balance the body’s measurable work capability.”

When subjects go to have their measurable work capability adjusted by an applied kinesiologist, the practitioner will consider weak muscle responses to be an indication of illness. Which muscles correspond to which organ or allergy varies by practitioner, which makes for a pseudoscience giveaway.

My astigmatism has been correctly diagnosed and treated by a half dozen optometrists in multiple states and countries. By contrast, a person whose left elbow responds poorly to pressure may be said to have pre-diabetes, gout, or celiac, depending solely on which applied kinesiologist is pressing the arm.

So it’s unsurprising that repeated double-blind studies have shown applied kinesiology to be no better than chance at diagnosing a condition. Any seeming successes are owed to post hoc reasoning, the cyclical nature of some illnesses, and the ideomotor response. The latter refers to how expectations can lead to infinitesimal, unconscious motor movements. Because the person is unaware of this, he or she attributes the movement to an external force. This can be spooky when glancing at a Ouija board, a revelation when holding a dowsing rod, or a diagnosis when at the applied kinesiologist.

Practitioners think they are applying the same amount of force each time, but their beliefs are causing them to apply more or less, depending on their subconscious expectations. Similarly, subjects believe they are applying the same amount of resistance each time the applied kinesiologist pushes, but expectations will alter this.  The difference is subtle, but enough to make a difference. Therefore, the technique seems to work. But anybody could do it. It’s just that nobody should. 

 

 

 

 

 

“This is your captain shrieking” (Ghost plane)

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On Dec. 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines flight 401 went down in the Florida swamps, killing 101 of the 176 people on board. The crash itself was indistinguishable from similar tragedies, but the legend that grew from it was most unusual.

Lore holds that plane parts from the ill-fated craft were installed in other airliners, which were seen carrying apparitions of the deceased pilots and passengers. Most often it was the ghosts of pilot Bob Loft, copilot Bert Stockstill, and flight engineer Don Repo who were said to be observed on these ghostly rides. The airline parts were seen as akin to organ donations, still living on as part of another.

While most ghost stories have various incarnations and a murky genesis, this one is known to have stemmed exclusively John Fuller’s book The Ghost of Flight 401. At the time of publication, this work claimed there had been sightings of these apparitions for four years, starting when an Eastern Air Lines 1011 – the type of plane that crashed in the Everglades – made its way to Mexico City.

Three flight personnel onboard saw the face of Repo, who warned the trio about a fire that would break out on the flight. A post-landing inspection indeed revealed that a fire had damaged an engine, and the next time the aircraft went airborne, another engine fire necessitated an emergency landing.

Fuller claimed that Repo’s voice talked the crew through all this. The cockpit voice recorder, however was nowhere to be found, which would seem to put a hole in this extraordinary claim. But according to Fuller, this is instead evidence that it was whisked away by the airline to cover up the story. In usual conspiracy theory think, the lack of evidence was not seen as lack of evidence but as evidence of a hush up.  

In the years that followed, pilots and flight attendants made frequent sightings of Repo and Loft, with the pair offering pointers on how to maintain the craft. According to the legend, the ghosts always appeared on aircraft that contained equipment salvaged from Flight 401.

Fuller claimed Eastern tried to repress any evidence of spirit encounters, going so far as to destroy any plane logbooks that made reference to them. He also wrote of an unnamed mechanic who discovered workable plane parts that had been removed from planes once it was learned they had been on the flight that crashed.

Assigning no name to what would be a key witness matches Fuller’s modus operandi. He litters the book with anonymous sources and claims that cannot be examined. An Eastern representative told author Robert Serling, “We spent weeks trying to locate anyone who claimed to have seen a ghost and couldn’t find one person.” Serling also learned that not one part was salvaged from the wreckage to be used on another airplane, irrespective of whether the craft was carrying animated deceased spirits.

Unlike Fuller, Serling wrote an entirely credible book about Eastern Air Lines history and in so doing, tacked down the crew from the fabled Mexico City emergency landing, and found no corroboration of a Casper appearing to warn and guide them. Serling learned that the entire story stemmed from a comment the pilot on this flight made when asked how he managed the landing with just one engine. He joked that Repo’s ghost may have been of assistance. Fuller ran with that one line and rather than turning it into a halfway decent movie, penned a collection of libelous tripe.

“Chip shot” (Bill Gates and coronavirus)

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In a Yahoo News/YouGov poll, three out of five U.S. adults were at least open to the possibility that Bill Gates plans to use any COVID-19 vaccine as an avenue to implant microchips in people and track us – as opposed to just using the device in their pocket that they answered the survey with to do it.  

To state what should be obvious, the technology to track people via a vaccine is nonexistent. Writing for Slate, June Hu noted that while there are injectable microchips, they are incapable of tacking the recipient. Our husky periodically escapes and when she ends up with an animal control officer or veterinarian, her implanted microchip lets the person who found our wayward hound know what my telephone number is. But neither I nor anyone else can use the chip to locate where she is.

In order to track a dog, human, or cyborg, the person desiring to do so would need to receive information from a source, such as a cell tower. This would further necessitate that the chip house a battery, which in turn would need a way of being recharged. And even if this technology existed, the required chip type could not be delivered by way of syringe.

Since the supposed plot is impossible, where did they idea that anyone want to implement it stem from? Billy Binion touched on this is as essay for Reason. While there are multiple versions, the most popular holds that Gates not only wants to chip us with a vaccine, but that he created the virus to make this eventuality possible.

This may be because of TED Talk Gates he delivered in 2015, during which he warned about the dangers of being unprepared for pandemics. This was hardly a shocking revelation, as it was true 10, 100, and 1000 years ago,  and will continued to be true until science finds a panacea and the anti-vax movement withers completely.

Still, to a paranoid conspiracy theorist – perhaps a redundant phase – this was evidence that Gates had caused the coronavirus. To be clear, they hold that an evil that will be clandestinely unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace was publicly announced by the one committing it.

That he is backing COVID-19 vaccine research is seen not as altruism but as a means of funding his nefarious agenda. Some attempt to bolster this belief by citing Revelation and its references to the Mark of the Beast, with the chip being the item that one must have to buy or sell. 

Bunion speculates that the idea may have stemmed from a substantial misreading of what Gates said about keeping accurate numbers on how many patients had recovered from the virus once a vaccine is discovered. He said. “Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered.”

How this discussion of possibly having digital records of recovered COIVD patients morphed into a mandatory surveillance-enabling microchip is left unexplained by the theorists.

 

 

 

“? and the Contrarians” (Just asking questions)

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The most hardened conspiracy theorists make reckless, baseless accusations based on wild conjecture that represent the most extreme examples of begging the question, which is when one assumes their premise to be true without offering supporting proofs.

Then there is a less-stringent type of theorist who paints themselves as being merely curious or skeptical. And if that’s what a person is genuinely being, fine. Good, even. But asking questions can be different than seeking answers. The latter may involve genuine research and querying sites and sources one holds in low regard. Most importantly, it means being willing to arrive at a different conclusion than what you might wish for

This week, I saw an offensive and absurd meme which insists that the George Floyd tragedy was staged. The “evidence” is an assertion that the officer is resting the bulk of his weight on his free knee and that the police license plate has no numbers or letters other than “POLICE” in large characters across the breadth of the plate.

The answers to these issues could be found by seeking out physiologists or the Minnesota DMV. But those making such assertions make no such attempts. They merely pronounce victory over the brainwashed sheep and ignore any evidence that would come out during trials or investigations and assume an impossibly-large stable of crisis actors to pull of the ruse.

If an answer were to be offered, those posting such memes would reject the response, regardless of the science, the evidence, or the credentials of the speaker. We are nearly two decades removed from 9/11 and some people are still “just asking questions” about melting steel beams or how a passport could avoid incineration. These types portray themselves as open-minded and, by default, anyone who disagrees with this approach to be closed-minded. After all, who could be against examining and “just asking questions”?

But again, people who use this phrase are generally not actually just asking questions. Rather, they are disingenuously phrasing a hardened belief as a question while trying to maintain a façade of being reasonable and open to truth.

An anonymous Logic of Science blogger wrote, “Good questions stem naturally from known facts and evidence. In other words, they have a basis in reality.” Bad questions, such as those related to the Floyd tragedy, are without evidence and just unfettered conjecture being crammed into a predetermined narrative.

The blogger demonstrated the difference between a genuine question and one which only aims to make the speaker seem curious. He used an example from his field of herpetology. Regarding why aquatic turtles emerge from water to bask on rocks and logs, there have been suggestions that this action might be related to temperature, immune functions, or parasite cleanings.

“All of these are good questions…based on our existing knowledge of biology,” he wrote. But suppose someone ambles along and posits that maybe the shelled creatures are seeking escape from interplanetary interlopers who have invaded their lake.

“That would be a bad question, because it’s not based on any known facts. There is no reason to think that aliens are involved, and we’d need good evidence of the presence of aliens before it would be rational to even consider the possibility that they are involved.”

Indeed.  Yet the conspiracy theorist response such dismissals is to declare the other person to be in on the plot, scared of the truth, or trying to hide something.

But since there is no rationale for thinking aliens are chasing turtles or that Floyd and his murderer props in a ruse, these ideas can be discounted out of hand. Christopher Hitchens nailed this one when he declared, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

So wondering how COVID-19 came to be is a natural thought and could even be the first step in the Scientific Method of trying to find a cure.

However, asking, “Did Bill Gates orchestrate the coronavirus so that he could microchip us all” is a poor question. There is no evidence to suggest Gates devised the virus or wants to use the resulting vaccine to track our movements. Persons arrive at such conclusions by taking a circuitous route of cherry picking disparate points and ignoring the Law of Truly Large Numbers.

The “just asking questions” crowd rarely issues such interrogative statements in good faith or for genuine dialogue. Anyone who asks if Bill Gates is going to microchip us via a future vaccine has already answered their own question.

There is nothing wrong with asking a question if one will examine the evidence and accept where it leads, but that’s not usually the case. I have presented strong evidence to the contrary when persons have asked if HAARP is controlling the weather. The response was not to thank me for the enlightenment, but rather a galvanizing of their beliefs. They were “just asking questions” based on those beliefs, not on wanting to know.