Guglielmucci and a reality based world…

I was watching the trainwreck of Guglielmucci’s life unfold tonight on the news. Here are some of the stories behind this, here, here and here. A minister from Hillsong appeared on TV and was being interviewed, usual stuff about how suprised he was, how no-one saw it coming and hows he’s a sinner etc. etc. He also mention no-one ever questioned the story of the cancer.

And this is the problem with living a faith based life. It is difficult to question anything because as soon as you start to question where do you stop? So people are brought up on trust without basis, faith that elders can do no wrong, faith that what you are being told is true. It’s all faith. And that’s the difference between science and reality versus religion. Religion works best in a reality free environment.

“They have said to me that he is very ill. They are assessing where reality stopped and fantasy kicked in and what’s caused all this,” he said.

I’ll hazard a guess where the answer lies and sure enough, a few lines above we have…

“.. He was raised in a Christian home; we’ve never brought that stuff into our home.”

The kid was raised in religous household. This is where adults tell children fairy stories, just like any other household, except that they then say some of these stories are real. And they take their children along to churches where other adults tell the same fairy stories and they are basically brainwashed not to question what they are told. It’s at this stage that the fantasy has kicked in because if the easter bunny isn’t real but an invisible sky fairy is, then we are well on the way to fantasy land.

Now before I get accused of taring all Christians with the same brush, I’ll jump in and say “Yep!”.

You simply can’t have your cake and eat it too. If your going to be honest about reality you can’t pick and choose which facts to believe and which to ignore. And in the case of the pentacostal like churches the sort of people who inhabit these groups seem all too willing to believe. I watched the crap they stream out, the youth groups and the reality adverse advise of sex, drugs and life in general. The followers all suck it in. Its link to any reality based on actual humans or research? Sadly lacking.

In the same way they lap up the fantasy from their preachers they lapped up the fantasy from Michael Guglielmucci. Why would they ever question one of their own? They are not encouraged to question, not encouraged to seek evidence for a belief. And already the post-hoc justification and rationisations have come out, it was the porn that did it. I’m barely waiting for the claim that satan or some other fantasy character was involved in blinding people to the truth.

Checking out the blogs from a few years ago is ‘interesting’. Here’s a typical one about when he was diagnosed.

when i heard he was sick, i laughed… not because i am happy he is sick, but because while he was at our church he was healed of:

Glandular Fever
Blood Clot in his brain
Brain Tumor
Burst Ear Drum

God is so going to get the glory for this one… just like the other ones. But keep praying!

Well, god has got his glory for this one.

I’ll leave the final words to Michael himself, from his hit single, which pretty much sums up this little train wreck and what has caused it. Belief in a sky fairy does not trump reality. Reality is something to ignore at your peril, and reality is best understood by asking questions.

I believe you are more than enough for me
Jesus you are all I need


Chinese Olympic competitors and their age?

One new thing I have learnt this Olympics is that gymnastic competitors need to be 16 years old this year. I’m sure it used to less 20 or 30 years ago but 16 is what it now is.

A few people had noticed, well I imagine *quite* a few people, that the Chinese team seemed to have set up camp near a spring of eternal youth. In other words some of their competitors looked mighty young. It’s hard to tell with teenagers, and I have two of them, how old they are just by looks and so I didn’t really think much of it. Maybe they were particularly youthful looking, who knows, and really who cares. However last night while channel surfing I stumbled across the 10m platform diving and heard the commentators mention the 16 year old girl weighed 28kg. I usually associated “girl”,”16 years old” and “28 kg” with the words ‘anorexia’ or ‘bulimia’ and not ‘incredibly fit Olympic athlete’. I assumed that maybe she was very small and so today through the magic of the Intertubes I checked on who she was. Her name doesn’t matter, you can work it out if you want to, but she is listed as being 137cm (4’6″) and 28kg (62lbs). “Aha”, I thought she *is* short, and then I wondered what her BMI was. Now BMI can’t really be used for kids and the Nintendi Wii Fit has caused a few issues, for example here, because it uses BMI as a measure of fitness.

However it’s a quick calculation and I expected a low number, which is what fit kids usually have…but not that low… Now having seen kids grow and dutifully filled out our growth charts for our own children and gone through throug the usual worry about lack of growth periods etc. I guessed that growth charts might well exists for Chinese kids. Now, I have no idea if Chinese kids are taller or shorter than Ozzie kids, and lets’s face it, who cares, but I thought I’d at least get some growth charts possibly more appropriate than what I have.

Yet again through the wonders of the Intertubes I came across “Growth Charts for Chinese Children“. and not surprising they look pretty much the same as western kids. Funny about that when you’re all the same species. The next step was to put on the chart where this athlete currently is. The results are below.

Now I realise that China has 1.2 Billion people to choose from so you’d expect that they might choose some smaller people to minimise the splash entry however if you look at all of the preliminary competitors for the 10m diving you will see the 2 Chinese competitors, and one other, stand out like sore thumbs. If you then generate a graph of heigh versus weight for 19 competitors you get to see what sort of height and weight the rest of world choose for their competitors for the 10m event. The rest of the world has at least China’s population to choose from, (we’re ignoring most of the 3rd world here), and so I’d expect a fair spread that encompasses little miss “X” in the graph above. It doesn’t.

Something is not adding up? I think China has some explaining to do as to where they have found a supply of superfit midget people. And they’d be wise to get their ducks in a row before someone comes along with an age test a bit more scientific that looking at a passport. If we’re willing to test people for gender how about we test them for age? Either that or just scrap the age requirments.

The above information is about a diver, someone who doesn’t need to meet the age requirement so I can’t see a reason for fudging the age description but the question still stands, what’s going on when someone is so far away from normal and the olympics is about normal people doing their best.


The Joker in a Tarot card?

After lasts weeks entry for the Skeptics Circle, many days after, my Tarot card set arrived. Even though it wasn’t any use for the article I had wanted a set just to get familiar with some of the ideas in Tarot and how it is used. As such I was after a nice set of cards so they were at least worth something in an artistic way. I had stumbled on an Art Nouveau themed deck and I was pleasantly suprised by the look of cards which was by Antonella Castelli. All quite attractive until I flicked through to card 15, “The Devil”. Below is what I saw..

I think most people who have seen “The Dark Knight” will instantly recognise the face and pose..

Spooky Mulder…

Anyway, many thanks to the people who read the post and especially those who linked to it. On that day we had more viewings than we usually get in a month.


93rd Skeptic’s Circle: A mystical reading with Master Woo

The pungent aroma from the incense burners are slowly filling the room as Master Woo prepares this weeks reading. The oil lamps burn dimly, shadows flickering and dancing on the woven cloth walls. Two low chairs sit hunched over a low table, covered with a gilded woven cloth. Master Woo prepares the cards, slowly shuffling them and concentrating on the question. “Ten plus random tales and the desire for a coherant story, skillfully linking them together”. This surely is a test on the Tarot! 78 cards, 10 of which will be chosen using the Celtic Cross spread, itself comprising of 10 locations, each with their own chapter in the answer that will be soon revealed. Firstly, the spirits will need to be considered, will they be willing to help without leaving the inquirer a gibbering wreck?

“This covers him”

The first card is drawn, the substance of the question, the present. We have the Page of Wands, symbolising a lively and intelligent child. This card can represent many phone calls and invitations…such as when you have a sick child. I see health issues with children and TheExtras brings us Shotgun Therapies, an article on aspects of childrens health. Furthermore a shotgun approach is pretty much how this entire reading will probably go.

This crosses him”

The second card will present obstacles to the question. And a dilema we surely have, how to choose the cards to match the stories the stories to match the cards. If only we could be like a god, all-knowing, all-powerful or all-good. The card is turned, the 2 of cups is revealed. Depicting love , harmony and partnership and the balance of male and female. Such concepts surely remind us of the needless waste of time the dilema a god would have if given the choice of just two of these super powers. From Greta Christina we have a piece about this exact dilema.

“If there were a religion in which God were any two of the following — all- powerful, all- knowing, or all- good — what would that religion look like?…Which brings me to my actual point: Most religious believers don’t act as if they believe their God is all these things.”

“This crowns him”

The 3rd card is turned and the Pope appears. Unfortunately the card is reversed and the spirit of rebellion is about to enter. It would appear the many have been using the Lords name in vain and he’s already issued warnings warnings about this stuff. However the Skepbitch and “Thank Fuck it’s Friday” brings us up to speed on the use of the word “God” in common phrases. Things could be worse, we could mention the name of “he who must not be named”. For those who saw me wearing a Cthulu tee at TAM6 they can now be purchased here.

“This is beneath him”

The 4th card represents the recent past and drawing the next card we have the Chariot. You have put in a lot of hard work and you about to be rewarded. Taking up the challenge we find Hyphoid Logic reporting on a story on the negative energy of skeptics making the world better , or not if you live outside the reality based world. It would appear that us skeptics still carry with us much negaitive energy that can easily quash any psychic energy. Without any props like cards or goats entrails we are the endless suppliers of negative energy.

“This is behind him”

Now the fact that this description for the 5th card doesn’t match the image above should be of no concern at all. No siree, since when has consistancy been a strong point of Master Woo? The ten of wands appears, a card concerned with hard work. In fact, concerns may be raised about whether it’s even possible to achieve ones goals! And talking about hard work and the likely failure (of digestion) leads us to a story from Skeptico about on wheatgrass, the stuff cows eat and turn into crap and humans can’t.

“This is before here”

Fresh influences, new people and future events is represented by the 6th card of the Celtic Cross. The Queen of Swords is turned, an intelligent and perceptive woman who is rational and logical. She is also covered in dark fur, chases laser pointers and reads science fiction. (Hey, the cards from EBay didn’t arrive in time so some of this may be made up.) PodBlack Cat brings us magical moving pictures of her Puss-in-Boots travels to the mysterious east. a.k.a Brisbane, Australia.

“Yourself”

The 7th card of this spread represents the present state of mind. (Ed: Errr?, slowly getting drunk?) The five of wands is revealed,reversed. A sign of litigation? Well, that doesn’t fit in with the link/answer I already have make sense so reading a bit further we have this represents an inner turmoil or inability to reach a conclusion. Reduce to Common Sense brings us a questioning of Five portions a Day. Why not six or seven? Is there something magical about five. Perhaps not. OMG, what should be all be eating? It’s all too confusing.

“The House”

This card will represnt the inquirers surroundings so let’s see what happens.The Sun. Happiness and vitality are about to enter our (pool) life. Ah yes, and what do we find in houses, especially the bathroom but razors! Slicing with Occam’s Razor brings us an article on a rather dubious pond treatment, in an apparent attempt to deal with too much sunlight making your pool have more things living in it than one would desire.

“Hopes and Fears”

The ninth card will bring us guidance on our hopes fears and expectations regarding the question. Considering we have now made it to completing 9 out of 10 links things are generally looking up! Flipping the next card off the deck brings us the six of Pentacles although it is reversed, indicating financial loss. To quote my guide, “this could be through stupidity…”. With this in mind Redonkulous Redundancy has some interesting information on the cost of CAM. It would seem that many people are throwing away perfectly good money on BS, suprise, suprise. If those people had only used the Tarot they could have protected themselves from such a blantantly obvious subtle scam.

“What will come”

The tenth card, The Devil, reversed. This card can symbolise the abuse of power, money or personal charm. Of all the woo in the world CAM is probably the one that is symbolised by this card. We can handle the Bigfoot believers, UFO nuts and other assorted cranks with a happy smile. However the one area where the worst of human endevour grows like a putrid mold is CAM. Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes brings us a piece on his contributing to the Wiki4CAM wiki. However in the days following his post I see the woo merchants have simply piled on the crap. So how will people know what’s true or not? “What will come” probably refers to the unending shyte we see from CAM.

Holford Watch has a nice long article on the Q-Link and other woo. Modern snake oil, more of what’s coming. More stupid ideas about physics is highlighted on Science after Sunclipse. Journals run the adds and the book is full of woo. Is this more of what will come, the blending of psuedoscience and the reality based world.

As the smoke slowly clears or not if you live in Beijing from the cards, we bring to a conclusion this weeks reading. Master Woo is quite sure all that has been revealed will be found to be true. One more card is turned to determine the fate of the 93rd Skeptics Circle. Ooooh, what a coincidence, just like the others. πŸ˜‰

For the archive of previous Skeptics Cirlce’s see here. The next Skeptics Circle will be hosted by

Reduce to Common Sense on August 28th.


Firepower scam

To many of us, this scam is about as surprising and the sun rising in the east this morning. What is surprising, but probably shouldn’t be, is the number of people who fell for it. Some of these people should have known better based on what the product was claiming, all should have known better using simple common sense.

When something sounds too good to be true it usually is.

“He said it’s going to be bigger than Microsoft, and I thought Whoa!” – investor (courtesy of ABC four corners)

[This scam: Make claim unsupported by any scientific evidence that you can improve fuel efficiency by a lot, at least 10%, using various methods. Set up a company and sell shares, promising that you have or are about to have valuable contracts from various companies that will use this product. Collect money as people buy shares believing the lies you tell. Run away with money.]

When this happens it is always prudent and wise to spend a bit of time investigating what is actually being claimed. However in this particularly scam it would appear that due diligence was rarely seen. How people can throw around hundreds of thousands of dollars and not have a clue is really beyond me. Perhaps my life experiences are clouded by not having more money than sense. And having more sense is surly no guarantee of gaining more money.

However in this particular case the incredible lack of anyone able to investigate the claims is truly astounding. It would appear that one person, out of the hundreds, if not thousands involved, questioned this company and raised the issue with ASIC. The rest were just sucked in and lost a packet.

The whole issue with fuel efficiency and getting more clicks for your buck really took a leap after the oil crisis in 1973. At this time a whole pile of people tried “inventing”, and advertising, and scamming their way to riches by offering amazing claims over fuel consumption. Lets face it, the vast majority of us use petrol and our cars a lot and it’s a major bill each week. How nice it would be to save 10% or more on petrol bills? There is a huge latent market for this sort of scam and generally most people know only how to operate their car and have no need, or desire, to know how it operates. The fuel efficiency of cars varies from 16mpg to over 40 mpg over the common cars currently on the market. With these figures in mind, literally, it’s not hard to imagine your 30mpg car getting 33mpg, or better. Or perhaps going from 20 to 30 mpg? Let’s face it, who really knows why you get 20mpg in the first place? That level of knowledge (hint: it’s covered in mechanical engineering) simply isn’t common knowledge. As such it’s not too much of stretch to imagine it’s possible.

However, when someone makes a specific claim, ideas move from being unknown or hypothetical into being a testable fact. It’s either true of it’s not. In this situation it is reasonable, in fact compulsory, to expect the person making the claim to be able to justify a claim with proof. And in the case when they want you to hand over cold hard cash, proof that he isn’t simply a lying scam artist. Such a thing has been known to happen.

However in the real world issues like facts usually get second shift to personal stories, anecdotes and friendships. Humans are a social creature and it’s simply natural to trust what someone in your own ‘tribe’ is telling you. This behavior has been very successful and it’s quite likely humans would not be here to be scammed if social trust had not been so successful in our history. However when humans developed this trait our ‘tribes’ had only a few hundred people and it was easy to check up on what people said and expose any freeloaders and liars. Public humiliation worked and it was difficult to be annonymous.

However in the 20th and 21st century this has all changed, radically. Our ‘tribe’ has grown through the millions to the billions and the checks and balances in social trust simply do not work anymore. In such an environment freeloaders and scammers can easily have free reign if people do not do more than they usually would, which is to trust people who are friendly. Which is where critical thinking and skepticism come into play. In modern society being skeptical of claims from strangers needs to be a regularly exercised behavior. This avoids the real problem of getting scammed yourself, along with all your friends you told about it.

Friends don’t let friends get scammed.

Unfortunately is seems nearly impossible to teach people critical thinking skills once they leave primary school. Having such skills relies on having the ability to question other people ideas, being educated enough to know how to ask useful questions and how to interpret information. However our present schooling systems seems hell bent on generating people who don’t question. And once people leave the education system there is very little chance to pick up these skills. It’s like it’s not cool to learn, or to question things or to educate oneself by reading. Compliance and social norm are the intellectual shackles that condemn someone to a passive life of consumer ignorance.

It would be interesting to see how many people who were scammed regularly read…anything. Do they understand that knowledge is basically free and you can find things out? If you have a question like, “Does this work?”, that it is actually possible to find an answer? Or perhaps the question was never asked? Most things in the world do “work” and just assuming yes is generally a good approach for most of life, it sure is easier. And if a trusted friend can give you a quick answer then what more is there to know?

One answer to this question is “The little black book of scams“, put out by the ACCC. It’s free and it’s by the people who pick help pick up the pieces when these scams occur. They are also responsible for trying to minimise these scams but like the Skeptical movement, they too are playing a game of catch up with the woo merchants generally one step ahead.

With hind site, targeting sporting people was a pretty clever idea. Especially putting some of the funds back into sponsorships. That’s a clever way to gain trust, by supporting something these people are passionate about. Generally these people have careers where critical thinking isn’t required and where word of mouth can be just as important as facts, or in this case more so. I think we’d find a larger than average percentage of alpha males, people with strong egos who are not likely to think that they, or their friends, they could be fooled. They also come from a background where playing games and entertainment can lead to a good life. No need for any bookwork,research or investigation into most things. You and I might have kittens anguishing over the details of a white goods purchase or home loan but if you have this amount of money to throw around then I can well imagine that being highly critical of your day to day spending is not high on your list.

And the sad fact is, these are exactly the sort of people who should get coaching on looking after money because they are seen, with good reason as this case proves, as a soft touch. It’s self apparent but worth pointing out, none of them showed enough critical thinking skills to prevent to loss of a large amount of money. They could all start by reading the ACCC’s “Little book of scams”. But if that’s too difficult for only 24 weekly payments of $199.95 I’ll teach them critical thinking for one hour a week. And compared to what they can loose, I think that’s a bargain.


Weird but good chemistry video

From a link on New Science we have this video from Europe.

Good effort, more please.


Phoenix Mars Mission – Astounding..

Phoenix Mars Mission –

Above is a photograph that to some people people seems a bit familiar. In some ways it is similar to the shots from 40 years ago of Apollo craft returning to earth after completing a successful trip to the moon . (Yes, I know they had three chutes.)
However the same concept now has a new dimension. The above image is the Phoenix spacecraft descending to the surface of Mars , supported by its chute. The beginning of a very new mission. This incredible photograph was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Think about that for a moment. One spacecraft is taking a photo of another spacecraft as it lands near the north pole of an alien world. The ability for that to happen hundreds of millions of kilometers away from earth is very, very impressive. I’d rate it as one of the most impressive photos ever as it neatly summarizes the level of technology our civilization has achieved.
Over the next few weeks and months this craft will be examining the Martian surface to determine if it has supported life and could support life. Here’s a link to the relevant page on the Phoenix site. My bet is that it will be able to support and still does, only bacteria but hey, that’s pretty good. The big question will then be what came first, life on Earth or life on Mars? Or, unlikely as this may be, did they develop independently? If the latter occurs then the Fermi Paradox will have just become a lot more paradoxical and we’ll all need to have a sit down and a good think about what that means.

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