I’m Baaack.


It’s time to end the most recent blogcation and resume regular posting. This piece originally dates from 2010.11.21 after my first blogcation had ended. My anger has largely abated, except when vulnerable people get hurt or defrauded, and my disillusionment regarding the failures of skeptical thought leaders in their endorsement of the infamous Conceptual Penis Hoax of Lindsay and Boghossian. Hopefully, I’ve migrated to a skepticism more robust and better informed than before. But I do think less of these individuals as serious skeptics than I once did. Things change, and so too my views. This post has been updated where needed.

We live in an angry society which in some quarters values blind faith over thinking, with political and ideological polarization between right and left, religious fundamentalists and everyone else, and a notable rise in public rejection of science and credulity toward pseudoscientific claims.

In times of uncertainty, especially with the current status of the economy, people tend to more easily entertain irrational ideas, and worse, accept them as fact. It’s become common for many to behave as though irrationalism is the new reason.

Skeptics are motivated by a number of reasons for their being what they are, whether a passion for science, the value of truth and reason, simple doubt, the need for the promotion of better education, and any number of other reasons. But skeptics can also be motivated by anger, and a few wear this openly while others are no less honest but more discrete in expressing it.

Even the late Carl Sagan, in his masterpiece The Demon Haunted World, at times showed a subtle frustration at the proliferation of nonsense in the last decade of the 20th century, which has only been aggravated in the past 19 years and shows no sign of abating any time soon. He wasn’t abrasive about it, but he expressed a frustration that I suspect all of us feel.

The causes of this anger come easily to mind; loved ones lost through the denial of adequate medical care caused by the pursuit of quack remedies, and the crushing despair that follows false hope; children or adults hacked to pieces or burned alive in the name of superstitious beliefs in witchcraft and magic; botched exorcisms that kill far more people than any imaginary demon ever could; intelligent but vulnerable people who lose thousands in return for the worthless services of psychics; political obstructionism in dealing with major environmental problems based on anti-scientific denialism; the short-term educational and long-term economic consequences of the encroachment of sectarian religious ideologies in public schools and science classes.

These things alone are enough to make anyone angry, and yes, especially me. The people who promote the claims we skeptics oppose sometimes get angry as well, but with much less real moral justification – they are angry because skeptics are costing them customers, cutting down on their book royalties, keeping more people than they’d like away from their seminars, retreats, and churches, and reducing their clientele for whatever untested or failed “alternative” medical modalities they promote – skeptics have bit by bit eroded their celebrity, their influence, and worst of all, their bottom-line, by showing people how to how not to be taken in by the nonsense.

The propagandists of unreason often have the upper hand, since they aren’t in any way constrained by the limits of intellectual honesty, logic, facts, evidence, or even reality. They have the liberty and the incentive to make sh*t up as they please, and they are very effective at persuading people to believe them, considering that their claims, often not even arguments, only assertions, make headlines and grab ratings for the credulous and journalistically sloppy media outlets that promote them.

But sometimes skeptics win, like with Kitzmiller vs Dover in 2005, or the successful deconstruction of the 9/11 conspiracy film, Loose Change, in an issue of Popular Mechanics.

But it’s far from over. In truth, it will never be over. Ever.

It sickens me to the core of my being to see people cynically lied to, used, robbed, defrauded, hurt, even killed, all for somebody’s stupid, blind, dogmatic sectarian doctrine or reactionary ideology. Nothing that we think, believe or do is without real consequences.

There’s work to be done.

Ts. Tk. Tts.

Ubi Dubium… | Buzzwords of Nonsense


This post has been retitled, updated, and cleaned up grammatically on 21/10/2018 from the original, though the actual content and meaning are in essence the same. Enjoy. ~Troythulu

Those who promote nonsense as fact, and there are many, often use marketing techniques, saying that that their claims are “hidden,” “secret,” or “suppressed” knowledge, that some sinister, nebulous “they” don’t want you to have.

It’s really nothing more than a cynical selling point, included and not limited to terms like “natural,” “organic,” or my favorite, “holistic,”that last used in promoting alleged alternative medical treatments.

Let’s face it, this makes whatever idea or claim being sold look much sexier than the same not dressed up with a conspiracy theory or vague obscurantist buzzwords, and this makes it more appealing for those vulnerable to the sales pitch.

*Ahem*

Why do often smart people often fall for vague jargon that has no real meaning? Why do even smart people succumb to non-smart ideas and claims, even dangerous products or useless treatments?

I think there’s a number of reasons at play, and I doubt that it easily boils down to a simple answer, since people tend to be interestingly complex individuals with equally interesting and complex minds.

Now then….

People often consider vague and meaningless words and phrases to have deep meaning, and since we are a species that loves narratives, being storytelling animals, we tend to see patterns and attribute agency where they sometimes do not really exist.

We subjectively impose meaning to the meaningless, often without even being aware that we do it, and so fool ourselves into thinking that the meaning we give it comes from without rather than from within ourselves

The brain has been described as a belief engine – we see patterns and give them meaning whether those patterns and that meaning are really there or not as a way to explain what seems to happen around us, unthinkingly.

But one does not have to be mentally ill, poorly educated, or stupid to do this – it happens to all of us, simply because of how our brains operate, using simple rules of thumb that sometimes serve us well, and sometimes not.

In seeing the brain as an incredibly complex machine rather than an otherwise useless shell or mere interface for a mystical soul, it becomes obvious that a world in which everything not currently understood is a deep supernatural mystery unfathomable by science, is a lot less satisfying and interesting.

Pseudoscience and most paranormal claims seem to me more a failure of the imagination, and they lead to a worldview in which our sense of the truly wonderful in the world is dulled by bombardment with the same increasingly mundane claims and worn-out talking points by those riding the coattails of science without being willing to play by its rules or do its work.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

I’m Baaack.


I’ve decided to rerelease this post, with minimal editing for clarity, at its original date of publishing in 2010, the end of my first blogcation. My views on the rationality, or its lack, of faith, my views of skepticism, of humanism, and of my nontheism, have evolved since then. So too has my then-naivete of the darker sides of tribalism and cults of personality involving certain skeptical thought leaders, and I hope that some of that naivete has grown by now to a more robust skepticism. My views of unproven, disproven, and untestable claims have also evolved, with the major outcome being more rigor and less anger, except when and where vulnerable people get hurt.

~ Troythulu, 2019.5.12

We live in an angry society which values blind faith over thinking, with political and ideological polarization between right and left, religious believers and nonbelievers, and a notable rise in public rejection of science and credulity toward pseudoscientific claims.

In times of uncertainty, especially with the status of the economy in this country, people tend to more easily entertain irrational ideas, and worse, accept them as fact. It’s become common for many to behave as though irrationalism is the new reason.

Kriss, in a blog post (Click Me Here), discusses this very thing, and how it applies to the rise of atheism in the last decade in opposition to the ascendance of religious conservatism and its active promotion of religious privilege worldwide.

Skeptics are motivated by a number of reasons for their being what they are, whether a passion for science, the value of truth and reason, simple doubt, the need for the promotion of better education, and any number of other reasons. But skeptics can also be motivated by anger, and a few wear this openly while others are no less honest but more discrete in expressing it.

Even Carl Sagan, in his masterpiece The Demon Haunted World, at times showed a subtle anger at the proliferation of nonsense in the last decade of the 20th century, which has only been aggravated in the past 10 years and shows no sign of abating any time soon. He wasn’t abrasive about it, but he expressed a frustration that I suspect all of us feel.

The causes of this anger come easily to mind; loved ones lost through the denial of adequate medical care caused by the pursuit of quack remedies, and the crushing despair that follows false hope; children or adults hacked to pieces or burned alive in third-world countries in the name of superstitious beliefs in witchcraft and magic; botched exorcisms that kill far more people than any imaginary demon ever could; intelligent but vulnerable people who lose thousands in return for the worthless services of psychics; political obstructionism in dealing with major environmental problems based on anti-scientific denialism; the short-term educational and long-term economic consequences of the encroachment of sectarian religious ideologies in public school science classes.

These things alone are enough to make anyone angry, and yes, especially me. The people who promote the claims we skeptics oppose sometimes get angry as well, but with much less real moral justification – they are angry because skeptics are costing them customers, cutting down on their book royalties, keeping more people than they’d like away from their seminars, retreats, and churches, and reducing their clientele for whatever “alternative” unproven or disproven medical modalities they promote – skeptics are bit by bit eroding their celebrity, their influence, and worst of all, their bottom-line…by showing people how to think for themselves and how not to be taken in by the nonsense.

The propagandists of unreason often have the upper hand, since they aren’t in any way constrained by the limits of intellectual honesty, logic, facts, evidence, or reality. They have the liberty and the incentive to make sh*t up as they please, and they are very effective at persuading people to believe them, considering that their claims, often not even arguments, only assertions, make headlines and grab ratings for the credulous and journalistically sloppy media outlets that promote them.

But sometimes skeptics win, like with Kitzmiller vs Dover in 2005, or the successful deconstruction of the 9/11 conspiracy film, Loose Change, in an issue of Popular Mechanics.

The current political turnout in the U.S. will not be conducive to making us rationalists warm and fuzzy nice-guys, so it looks like sleeves will need to be rolled up, because it’s far from over.

It sickens me to the core of my being to see people lied to, used, robbed, defrauded, hurt, even killed, all for somebody’s stupid, blind, dogmatic doctrine or ideology. Nothing that we think, believe or do is without real consequences.

There’s work to be done – I’m glad to be back in the ring, peeps.

Point by Point: Electric Universe Theory



Here’s a little exchange I found on an online forum between an Electric Universe advocate and a critic of same. The names have been deleted to protect the guilty. The grammar, punctuation, and text is verbatim.

[1A] Instead of gravity being the main power behind the universe, Electro-magnetism is.

[1B] This would be true if it weren’t for the existence of electric dipoles. Positive and negative charges have this quality of cancelling each other out, so the overall electric force in the universe, on large scales, is very small.

[2A] It asserts that the power that drives the sun is charges plasma…

[2B] This is almost true. The Sun is a neutral plasma. The electric universe “theory”, though, claims that the power of the sun is generated on the surface, which just isn’t possible. The densities are too low, and the temperature too, to explain the Sun’s energy output.

[3A] …and that an electric current runs from star to star, through galaxy’s, and even through the universe itself.

[3B] This would be observable. Its not observed. Therefore, it’s not true. We certainly see solar and stellar winds, but they’re always in an outward direction. Spray two water hoses at each other and see how much “current” you get.

[4A] It offers a new explanation for what we call black holes. That, they don’t exist. And what we actually see is converging lines of force.

[4B] This claim doesn’t even make any sense. Electric field lines “of force” can only converge on charges. If there are charges, they’ll feel that force, and be accelerated. Accelerated charges give off radiation and therefore are no longer “black”. We’d be able to see these things. More importantly, the electric universe doesn’t account for things like gravitational red-shifting around black holes, which we’ve observed. It fails every observational test it’s ever been subjected to. The model is bunk.

[5A] Yes, the idea that space is actually filled with billions of charged plasma particles instead of actually being a vacuum.

[5B] The problem is that space is actually filled with billions of uncharged particles. We’ve mapped the Milky Way using neutral hydrogen. If space were filled with a plasma, it would eat away at neutral objects, and we wouldn’t see any neutral Hydrogen. Again, it fails the test.

[6A] Stars are powered externally by this “Universal current”, and the tails of comets are electrical discharges… It’s pretty interesting.

[6B] Unfortunately, we already have a model for how stars work, and how comets tails come into being. These models fit the observations. The Electric Universe does not. I mean, please show us this “universal current”. It should be radiating like a mo-fo.

[7A] I am accepting this cosmological model over the Big Bang Theory (BBT). It offers easy explanations for things people had to invent (Neutron Stars, Black Holes, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and other things ) To explain what they were witnessing in space.

[7B] Easy, but fundamentally wrong explanations. I can offer you an easier explanation of gravity than General Relativity: Everything is held together by giant invisible springs! The only problem is that I’m wrong! Neutron stars have been explained. The physics behind them is very sound. It’s called Quantum Mechanics, and it’s the same theory that engineers have used to build the computer you’re using right now. Dark Matter is a blanket term for “too much gravity”. We see too much gravity. We suggest there’s unseen (“dark”) matter. People are now looking for what this matter could possibly be. Dark Energy is another blanket term. We see too much energy. We don’t know the source (i.e. it’s “dark”). There you have dark energy. Dark Matter and Dark Energy may be uncertain things, but the fact that the Electric Universe fails is not. It doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

I would be much more impressed by this ‘theory’ if it actually had real evidence in support of it, added to our understanding of astrophysics instead of denying it, made genuine testable predictions exceeding those of conventional cosmological theory, and explained the universe better than standard astrophysical theory does, and didn’t consist only of arguments attempting to refute trivial anomalies that the proponents of electric universe theory constantly claim as being in support of their idea, as if by discrediting standard astronomy and astrophysics that their doctrine wins by default, committing the false dichotomy fallacy.

As it stands, I am not at all impressed, nor amused, since EU theory proponents lack any real knowledge of the science they try to undermine. Even the physics they claim to advocate they fail to grasp, which elicits much pathos from my bleeding heart. How sad..

If You Claim ….


This piece has been rewritten and updated since its original posting date of mid-2009. This has been mostly to expand text and to shift emphasis from beliefs to claims, which I think most rightly demand skeptical scrutiny over belief, which is more personal and subjective. Claims can be shared intersubjectively, after all. (8/5/18) ~Troythulu

The following was inspired by a post by Skepdude on the Skepfeeds blog…Enjoy.

If you claim that the pyramids of ancient human civilizations were built by aliens or Atlanteans, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that conventional explanations for unusual phenomena are always contrived and implausible because you don’t understand them, you’re wrong.

If you claim that believing something really, really hard makes it true, you’re wrong.

If you claim that objective truth or reality doesn’t exist, and that this is objectively true or real, you’re wrong.

If you claim that cold reading, hot reading, the Forer effect and the Ideomotor effect are myths because they are used to refute psychic powers or some other personal favorite claim, you’re wrong.

If you claim that superstition and magical thinking are always and everywhere healthy and needed for humanity’s long-term survival, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that the Iron Age religious rules you follow metaphysically apply to everyone on Earth, including those of us not of your religion, you’re wrong.

If you claim that ancient myths are literally true historical accounts even with no validated corroborating accounts from independent sources, you’re wrong.

If you claim that electromagnetism and not gravity is the principal large-scale binding force of the Cosmos, given the evidence, you’re wrong.

If you claim that the laws of physics are different on Earth than they are in space, you’re in all likelihood wrong.

If you claim that invoking a conspiracy to dismiss a telling lack of evidence for a crank theory is logically valid, you’re wrong.

If you claim that human evolution was influenced by ancient astronauts from the stars, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that the planets Nibiru or Tiamat actually exist and can or will cause catastrophic disasters on Earth, given the lack of evidence for these planets as claimed, you’re wrong.

If you claim that those who don’t believe in the paranormal are in fact deeply afraid of it or wedded to naive materialism, you’re probably wrong.

If I claim that I cannot possibly be wrong about any of the above claims, then I’m probably wrong, and likely to look very silly should any of them turn out to be in fact true … but I’m not holding my breath on that.